How to not take anything personally

Photo By: Adam Birkett   

Photo By: Adam Birkett


Millions have read and are familiar with “The Four Agreements” by Don Miguel Ruiz.  Of the four agreements, there is one that I find to be the most difficult to follow.  That agreement is never to take anything personally.  This is something that even those of us who try to live a mindful and contemplative life struggle to overcome.  So, let’s examine some methods that we can plant in our mental habit garden and follow his sage advice.


Ask Questions

Perhaps when we hear something said to us or about us that we find insulting, we should ask ourselves from where did this comment arise?  Is it based on anything that might be accurate?  If it is accurate then how can I use this information to improve myself?  How can I turn the negative into a positive?  This is much easier said than done, but we can.  When we want to understand the character flaws that may be present within us the best thing to do is to ask our friends and family.  In other words, we tend to ignore the aspects of our personalities that those around us find difficult.  If we can introspect and see that this criticism is, in fact, accurate, we can use that newly acquired realization and improve ourselves instead of tear ourselves down.  Take in the negative and transform that into the positive.      


Look for the silver lining

This method can work hand in hand with asking questions.  I remember a few years ago one of my business mentors tore me up one side and down the other for not following his advice and not being as productive as he thought I should be.  He lit into me like an angry father.  I left that meeting feeling defeated, and I felt like quitting.  However, one good quality that I still carry with me is that punk rock attitude from my teen years.  I was deflated but at the same time defiant.  I made the wise decision to take a break from myself and get out of my head, so I decided to catch an afternoon movie.  I don’t remember what the movie was, but I remember walking out of the theater feeling much improved.  Getting a break from the obsessive thoughts of failure allowed me to see a silver lining in that dark cloud.  What I was able to ask myself was is he speaking the truth.   Had I not lived up to my side of the bargain?  He had made some valid points.  What he was trying to say was that I needed to manage my days better.  I needed to sharpen my focus.  Since that day I have done exactly that. When I took myself out of the equation and looked at the situation with a different perspective, I was then able to put aside my hurt feelings and see the silver lining.


It’s not you; it’s them

The first thing that we should always remember when it comes to criticism or “personal attacks” is that it usually has more to do with the person saying it than the target of their criticism.  We tend to project and attach our shortcomings on others.  We must remember that we project unto the world what is swirling around in our heads.  Most of which transpires on an unconscious level.  I think of the Confucius quote, “When we see a person of a contrary character, we should turn inwards and examine ourselves.”  Why should we do this?  I have found time and time again that the challenges I have with others are due to unresolved internal conflicts.  The perceived faults of others is a mirror to examine our faults.

Remember Anicca

What is Anicca?  Anicca comes from the ancient language Pali.  It means impermanence.  We should make mental habits that help us to remember that everything is Anicca.  All experiences, events, objects, places, feeling, sensations, and harsh words said to us are Anicca.  All phenomena that we experience is in a constant flux.  It is always changing.  Nothing lasts.  Which for some may be unfortunate.  However, it is the reality of this universe.  Personally, I find it liberating.  I know that no matter what unpleasant event may occur in my life, eventually it too shall pass. 

The only thing that keeps those events or criticisms alive is you.  When you continue to obsess over someone who may have caused you a wrong, at least in your mind, you keep it alive and thriving in the conscious mind and then plant the seeds in your subconscious mind, where it will be replayed in some form in the future.  Let go, or be dragged.  We should sear that Zen proverb permanently into our minds so we can learn to let go and move forward no matter what may transpire. 

I hope you find these helpful.  I need to continue to work on this.  So, if you have any ideas and suggestions, I would greatly appreciate any that you could offer.  Please leave them in the comments section. 


Until Next Time,

Rich Decker – Mindful Accord