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Michelle Turnberg, Published January 06 2012

Turnberg: Only actions we can control are our own

Most of us have multiple meaningful relationships throughout our lives.

Like most of you, I have relationships with family members, co-workers, old friends and people I’m just getting to know. Some connections have come together effortlessly, and others have been unexpectedly difficult. Many of our connections are short-lived; others last forever. Too often, it seems they are more difficult than they need to be.

About two years ago a dear friend of mine recommended a book written by Don Miguel Ruiz, titled “The Four Agreements.” The author suggests four simple ideas that can have a profound impact on how we manage our relationships, which can ultimately add peace and increased happiness to our lives. The four concepts include:

<•> Be impeccable with your word. Say only what you mean.

<•> Don’t make assumptions. Find the courage to ask questions and to express what you really want.

This is so important and such a simple idea. If you’re unsure about something, why not just ask? If we would just communicate with others, think of the misunderstandings, sadness and drama that would be avoided.

<•> Always do your best. Under any circumstance, simply do your best, and you will avoid self-judgment, self-abuse and regret.

I can remember my parents telling me this. How many actually give their best every day?

We are not being asked to perform miracles, we are asked only to give 100 percent. The author notes that our best might change from moment to moment; it will be different when we are healthy as opposed to sick.

<•> Don’t take anything personally. Nothing others do is because of you. When you are immune to the opinions and actions of others, you won’t be the victim of needless suffering.

One of the most freeing ideas I have adopted as I age is the notion that we usually have no control over how someone else feels. We can only control our reaction and how we choose to move forward. It is helpful to understand that some people are not going to be happy with us, or not want to continue relationships with us.

Accordingly, we need to make a conscious decision to look for new relationships that add meaning and quality to our lives.

I have felt like I’ve been swimming in mud several times in my life. Once I realized the only person I can control is myself and my reactions to others, I quickly climbed out of the mud and found myself back in the sun.

Michelle Turnberg writes a weekly column for SheSays.