There is a book called The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz that I read for the first time years ago. Essentially, he lays out four ideas--agreements you make with yourself that are the road map to being your best self. What resonated with me when I first read it is the simplicity of each agreement. Each one is just a few words, very straightforward and easy to understand. However, in application they are deceivingly difficult (a phrase I love that I learned from my coach).
I recently read this book again and this time I could so clearly see my running life in these agreements. I understood, once again, how running has been one of the best teachers I've ever had. It has put me, literally and figuratively, on a happier and freer path:
Agreement #1: (and the most important one, according to the author) Be Impeccable with Your Word
For me this means just do what you say you're going to do. And tell the truth. When I started working with my coach I made a very conscious decision to tell him the truth. I'm not prone to lying, but it would have been very easy to bend the truth or leave out details and tell him what I thought he might want to hear--I had a lot of respect for him and wanted to earn his approval. But I knew that the only way for him to really be able to help me was for me to put everything on the table, so I was impeccable with my word right out of the blocks. We built trust that way and, in turn, he was able to tell me the truth about things, like when I wasn't doing what I said I would do or when my attitude was in the toilet. Long story short, I cleaned up my verbal act, which shaped the thoughts in my head, which, no big deal, changed my life. So yes, I agree with the author: if you are going to just pick one agreement to focus on, this one gets my vote.
Agreement #2: Don't Take Anything Personally
I get this in life, but I had never thought about this in terms of running. I think this speaks to those negative messages I sometimes send myself: you ran that faster last time; you used to be good at this part; why did I crush this a week ago and today it was like moving through mud? Don't take anything personally sometimes means don't take me personally--or whoever that voice is inside trying to knock me off my game. Clear your head, do your work, and know that some days and training blocks are better than other days and training blocks. Don't take anything personally and you won't carry that negative narrative you're making up into the next workout. In running and in life, not taking things personally equals freedom for me.
Agreement #3: Don't Make Assumptions
Sometimes I will see something on social media, or read a tone in a text or an email, and I will make a whole picture out of the pieces I have, filling in the holes with assumptions. Some of my lowest moments in running have come from assumptions about myself and my abilities (or assumed lack thereof), and my assumptions about other runners and their lives and experiences. Agreement #2 and Agreement #3 often get tangled together, but both can be traced back to veering away from the facts, and both can be solved by staying in my own lane. Plus, you know what they say about assumptions: they make an ass out of u & me. It's human nature to fill in the gaps with a story to understand a situation, but when we do we run the risk of those assumptions hardening into data, and we believe them to be true. Not making assumptions can save me from a lot of heartache--heartache based on things that never existed in the first place.
Agreement #4: Always Do Your Best
Such a great little adage, but what does it even mean? I think the criteria for always doing my best is clearly stated above: Be Impeccable with Your Word, Don't Take Anything Personally, and Don't Make Assumptions. It makes running lighter when I employ these agreements and it makes life much lighter, too. Because this is not only a formula for living my best runner life and my best life in general, but it's also a formula for living a kind life--kindness that's offered to myself and then, inevitably, to the world around me. And I definitely can agree to that.