Taking as a premise the Four Agreements view of life as a personal dream, I realized that I try to manage other people’s dreams.

No one can make anyone else happy; our happiness is determined solely by our own reactions and choices. So when I go tip-toeing around, trying to be pleasing to everyone, trying to play specific, positive, roles in other people’s dreams, I am doing a whole bunch of work for nothing.

That’s not to say I shouldn’t be polite. But it is to say that I should interact with others without overthinking how they are going to take what I’m saying. It is not my job to stage manage their dreams. It is not their job to cast me in a pleasing role in their dreams.

This, I think, is what I realized without consciously realizing it when I listened to Mel Robbins give a speech. What she was talking about, her 5 second rule, was interesting, but not particularly applicable to me. I don’t have a problem getting out of bed in the morning, or getting started on other things, necessarily. But after her talk, I found myself talking to strangers with more ease and less anxiety about how I would be perceived.

It felt, at the time, a bit like magic. I wasn’t sure why I was feeling more free to interact with other people without worrying about how I would be perceived, but I was. And, because I didn’t know why, the effect gradually faded. Lately, I’ve found myself again trying to come off in certain ways, or nitpicking myself for a perceived failure to say the “right” thing to someone.

Subconsciously, I was taking the advice about getting started and applying it in a different way, by focusing on myself instead of the unknowable thoughts of others. I have no power to force others to think of me in a specific way, so there’s no point in wasting my time and energy fretting about it. I can be polite and be kind without worrying about whether the words I use to convey my intentions are taken by the recipients in the exact way I intended.

The only dream I get to manage is my own, so I might as well invest my energies to make it a good one.

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