Activity 6 - The Seven Agreements in SDL

Wednesday, 05 January 2011 08:53

Maurice Gibbons (c) 2008 Personal Power Press International

Games have rules or there is no game at all. Similarly, self-directed activities can be a mess, too. We can go through the motions of self-direction and make little, if any, progress, or we can even become very skilful at unpleasantness, intimidation and crime. We need to distinguish positive from negative self-direction, and to separate successful from unsuccessful self-direction. These are the seven agreements that we make with ourselves in order to develop, to become productive, and to be successful at whatever we choose to do. They are the “rules” of success in SDL.

The term “agreement” refers to a commitment that you make with yourself. So, in the first agreement, for example, you have to decide if ‘I agree to be intentional in my life.’

By making these agreements, we each commit ourselves to the process of becoming fully developed people working at the top of our game in activities that we find compelling. Each agreement requires two decisions. First, do you think that the agreement is a legitimate rule of self-direction? And second, do you accept this agreement as a personal guideline?

The questions and choices following each agreement in purple type are ways of helping you to learn, decide, and remember. Focusing attention, spending enough time, and using the concept in some way are all important to internalizing new ideas. The questions are for your use only. This is designed to teach these ideas but is respectful of your right to decide for yourself.

If we abandon the rules in golf and hit anywhere we want, there is no game any more. I hope you will decide that all of these agreements are important guidelines for all that you do, and especially for all the self-directed activities that you pursue.

1. Be Intentional.

Make your life unfold with purpose and design. We have a choice between being like the pinball or the arrow. The pinball’s path is decided by bouncing off anything it runs into, while the arrow is aimed at the target and flies straight at it. This program is about a journey in which we chart a course and follow it until another direction proves to be a better choice. It is about taking charge, making decisions, setting goals, and laying out plans to achieve them. It is about choosing a target and hitting it.

It is also about becoming the kind of person who is able to think, feel and act in a take-charge way, because being intentional is not a single act but rather a way of being in the world. We need the attitudes of success as well as the skills to achieve it. We have to believe that we are capable of managing the activities we have set out to achieve.

In my life, I am most like...
a. A pinball___ b. An arrow___ c. Something in between___


Do you think you want to be more intentional in your life?
a. Yes____ b. No_____ c. Maybe_____

What could you do to be more intentional? [Answer in your journal]

I commit myself to be intentional in my work and my life.


2. Take Responsibility.

In self-direction you are the only one responsible for what you do and how it works out. The key here is to take 100% responsibility for yourself. You decide what to do. You decide how to do it. You take action, and if there are problems, they are your problems to be solved by you.

Full responsibility means no excuses, no alibis, and no blame when you decide to pursue an activity but meet difficulties and falter. It means no whining, avoidance, quitting, or denial when the going gets tough or obstacles appear in your path. When you take 100% responsibility, it means standing independently, not leaning or depending on others to look after you and your interests. There is strength is self-direction.
Full responsibility means that you are in charge of your work and your life and what happens is up to you, too. Solving is learning of the richest kind; it is learning from experience and is the essence of self-direction. It is also communication to others that you carry your weight rather than try to pass it on to them. There is pride in self-direction.

Do you agree that it is important to take 100% responsibility for yourself?

a. Yes___ b. No___ c. Undecided___

Are you ready to take responsibility for yourself and your work?

a. Yes___ b. No___ c. Undecided___

What are your thoughts on this agreement? [Record them in your journal]

I take 100% responsibility for my work and myself.


3. Know Yourself.

In self-direction, all the decisions about what we will do and how we will do it come from within us. The better we know this person—ourselves--the better our decisions can be. When we know ourselves well, we also have the opportunity to change ourselves, and with that change to become more aware, more competent, and more caring. In fact, self-direction is a cycle of development: we become more aware and make more authentic decisions; we make authentic decisions and become more aware of ourselves.

Knowing ourselves means turning inward. Many people say that the universe within is as extensive as the universe around us, and that as we turn inward, we become explorers of that universe. If we do, we can start by examining the familiar planets within us, our perceiving, thinking, feeling and remembering. In the asteroid belt lie our basic concepts, values, beliefs, and our ideas about ourselves. In the near stars are our strange abilities to ponder, visualize, and create. Then, still seen but unexplained, are the mysteries; intuition, inner knowing, and the yet unknown. By exploring these dimensions of ourselves we not only come to know ourselves better, and to function better, but we can also begin to improve all of these inner operations.

The brain, the apparent seat of knowing, is a wonderful instrument, full of potential for self-directed learning. It is self-examining and self-organizing, and it performs a vast array of functions. The brain is plastic not fixed and can learn how to learn, its conscious functions can all be improved, it can be changed by our thinking, its function does not need to decline. It is the engine of self-direction and one aspect of knowing ourselves is to learn how to fly it, to solo in self-operation.

We can know ourselves well and we should turn inward to address this challenge. The better we know ourselves the better we will be able to direct ourselves.

A. I agree ______________ B. I disagree _______________ C. I'm still out with the asteroids _______________

* When it comes to turning inward, I will recognize if it gets uncomfortable and stop.

Yes ____________ Initials ______________

* I am committed to knowing myself better and to using that knowledge to improve my functioning as a self-directing person.

Signed ________________________

4. Focus Your Attention.

Our powers—our attention, strengths, abilities and passion—are often at rest; some say they are asleep most of the time. Self-direction requires us to gather all of these forces and bring them to bear of the issue at hand. The self-directed person has to be able to shift from neutral to drive, to get into gear and get the project at hand rolling, using everything under the hood to do it.

What does this mean? It means that we are able to bring our attention to bear fully on the object, issue or situation that interests us. And it means bringing our attention to full alert, full intensity. But that is not the end. You are alone at home and you hear a sound and become attentive-alert. You hear a second sound and you double your intensity. When you hear another sound, you engage. That means you are now at “Defcon 3” a stage of heightened alert in which you are engaged with the sound to figure out what it is and if it signals danger. The sound of broken glass and you will likely take action to repel or report what is happening. Attention can also be called on when the tap leaks, a paper is due the next day, or your boss wants you to solve the company’s pirate problem in the waters off Somalia.

You can achieve focused attention but it takes practice, contantly. Practice attention by regularly pausing to focus on something in your environment. Hold your focus on, say, a sprinkler head in the ceiling at the mall. Just hold your attention on it. Turn on all of your senses. Look closely and see every detail. Listen for sounds it might be making; imagine what it feels like to touch. Next, engage; begin to question what it is, what it’s for, how it works, and so on. Force yourself to become absorbed. That is the model of work in self-direction; focused, alert, intense, absorbed. We make ourselves fully attentive when we need to; it is a power we have to be able to turn on when we need the light of understanding and the engine of productivity.

We benefit greatly if we can also focus attention inwardly in the form of visualization, concentration, memory, argument, creation, and a host of other inner abilities that greatly increase our ability to be generative and productive, and enable us to grow.

Here is the test on Focusing Attention. Answer True or False:

1. We pay attention in order to repair our plumbing. ____
2. Focusing our attention brings all of our senses and thinking to high alert. ____
3. We need to become absorbed in the object, issue, or situation. ____
4. We focus attention both outwardly and inwardly. ____
5. Somalia is the centre of focused attention. ____

Answers: F, T, T, T, F. If you had three or more right, give yourself an “A.” If you looked at the answers first....see item #6.

5. Be Productive.

Apply your strengths to the production of results in the form of achievements, products, improvements, ideas, pleasures, change, or personal growth. Self-directed learning is intentional activity, action to fulfill a purpose, and that purpose is whatever results you are seeking whether it’s finding a recipe for frittatas, earning a medical degree, or getting a Latin lover.

One of the keys to productivity is process thinking. When you know what you want to accomplish, or to become, the next step is to find the most effective process for getting the job done. One of your guides will be how you like to work, or how you work best. Another will be how the job can be done most efficiently. Some people, for instance, like to study all about how to do a task, while others like to plunge right in and figure it out; some like to work alone; others like to work in a group. Some people like to find their own way, while others prefer to be shown how to do the job. What is the your process; how do you like to get the job done?

In order to be productive, it’s important to be organized. That means creating a schema of all that is needed to accomplish the task you have undertaken, including the arrangements to be made with others for assistance, permissions, advice, or supplies. Many people recommend planning every step in detail, other people prefer to get started and feel their way into the project, their plan ahead forming and reforming in their minds as they go. The more complex the project and the more people involved, the more planning seems to be essential. It may be, however, that planning helps in a few projects at the beginning, but beyond that being systematic becomes more internalized for many people. We seem, however, to need the mental blueprint for order.

One of the other productivity issues is drive. The leap from the safety of study to the exposure of action is dramatic. Some people never make it, and others fight a constant battle with their own resistance to doing what they want to do. To be self-directed, you must win that battle. This is where having the courage to overcome your fear is critical. Without productivity self-direction is a dance in a closet.

Here is another test. This time choose the best answer:

1. The underlying theme of productivity is

a. Process                   b. Posture

2. There _______________ to process among people.

a. is one approach        b. are many approaches

3. To make a process work, everyone should _____________ to get things done.

a. learn to drive           b. have the drive

4. The greatest problem we face in being productive is _____________to getting things done.

a. our resistance         b. the French Resistance

5. Whether we do it on paper or in our heads, it is important to ___________

a. plan ahead             b. dance in a closet

Answers: a, b, b, a, a. If you looked ahead at these answers, too, they may be wrong.

6. Develop Character.

The final exam is difficult but it is an important part of your grade and your grades will determine the future you have planned. You have your summary notes in your pocket. The supervisor is standing in the doorway talking to someone in the hall. What should you do, struggle through the exam or look at your notes for the answers you need? What we do, especially in situations like this, expresses our character--who we are, the values we live by, and what we stand for.

In life we face many such dilemmas and decisions, but if we choose to look at our notes, we become ‘the person who will cheat to get what they want.’ If we struggle through, we become ‘the kind of person who will not cheat even when the pressure is on and the opportunity presents itself.’ It is a brief event, but it represents honesty, trust, integrity, and pride. No one else may know, but that is what character is; what you do when no one is watching.

What has this got to do with self-direction? Several things. First, it is unthinkable to become self-directed to better conduct horrendous crimes, or to do anything negative, such as cheat more skillfully on an exam. Our intent is to find out who we can become and what we can accomplish, so we are shooting for excellence and excellence means quality, character, and values. The first question of character is, “What are the values that you live by?” And the second question is, “What are the values that you aspire to?”

Success in self-direction requires character. It takes courage to set an ambitious goal, and even more courage to pursue it. When we do take action and meet problems, only the courageous begin and only the persistent work through to completion. Such characteristics as courage and determination are traits we need to develop in order to be self-directed. By conducting self-directed activities that require those traits we also develop them, we become more courageous and determined because, as Aristotle said, “What we have to learn to do, we learn by doing.”

Quality is expressed in the work we do and how we do it. We can just get the job done, or we can produce the best product we can. It is also expressed by the quality of our performance. We can just get by or perform at the highest possible level. These will be two themes developed throughout this program: the pursuit of excellence in the product and in the performance. In self-direction this is the expression of character.

1. I recognize that to be successful at self-direction I have to develop certain qualities of character, such as, courage and determination.

a. Yes ____ b. No ____ c. Undecided ____

2. In my opinion, performing in a positive way and producing products with positive values is _______ important.

a. Very____ b. Not____

3. In your journal, discuss developments in character that you think are important for you.

4. I will accept the development of character as a theme of my work in SDL.

a. Yes ____ b. No ____ c. Initials ______

7. Become.

Life is an unfolding experience that presents us with both challenges and opportunities for growth at every stage. We are all challenged to learn to talk, to go to school, to develop an identity out of the chaos of adolescence, to leave home, to find our work, to marry and raise children, to become skilful, to retire, to cope with aging and death, and through it all to find meaning. These are all learning situations accomplished through self-direction. The consequences of not accomplishing them are great. These and other challenges like them are givens hard to avoid.

To progress even further, we challenge ourselves. How far we go will depend mainly on the level of challenge we are able and willing to accept. We all live in a sphere of possibility, inhabiting only a small corner of it. The intent of this program is to guide you to inhabit as much of that sphere of you can, to urge you to find out what you can accomplish, and who you can become. We want you to develop as close to your outer limits as you can. But we know that when you approach those limits they will have moved, and you will still be on your way to becoming.

In this program we ask you to progress in all you do. To examine yourself and your work to find those small steps that will take you steadily forward. It is the only real value of testing, to find out how you can do what you are doing better. You will be amazed at your progress, your unfolding into excellence. We call it the upward spiral of becoming. You are already on your way.

* I can see myself steadily progressing both in who I am and what I can do.

I can ____ I can’t____ I am perfect right now____

* In the first paragraph we mention several challenges we all face in the course of our lives. Which challenges are you facing now? Discuss what is happening and what you can do to work through it in your journal.

* It is important to be in the process of becoming the best you can be, doing the best that you can do.

a. I agree ____ b. I disagree ___

* In your journal, make a commitment statement about progress in this program. (You can use the statement above as a guide, if you wish).

[Note: When faced with a learning task, you may want to use the approaches to learning that are demonstrated in these purple sections. Color, questions, humor, personalizing, applying, and commitments are all useful ways to learn and remember—not a complete learning program, but useful.]

Can you close your eyes and name the seven agreements?


Consider these agreements as guidelines to your work in self-direction. This is a kind of table of contents. Many of these ideas will be developed further and applied as we proceed.

Remember that I am being direct is what I say, but I always understand that you will decide if these ideas and practices work for you—that is what self-direction is about. It has to work for you.

The cartoons are by Magi.

Last Updated on Tuesday, 06 December 2011 06:03