It would be lovely if life ran smoothly all the time (although possibly also somewhat dull). However it doesn’t and the irritants are often small things, disappointments and crosswords, that linger on our minds. Then as we pick them over they swell out of proportion.

One thing I use to deflate things to their proper size is the four rules. These help me to take ownership of my own role in the situation and allow me to do something about it. And sometimes that something is about accepting a situation and moving on.

So what are the four rules? I first stumbled across them when reading David Cain’s excellent Raptitude blog. If you’re not familiar with Raptitude do schedule some time to have look. I find David’s various 30-day experiments make rather interesting reading (doing the dishes by hand, attacking procrastination, and defensive eating among others).

And I know Carla was inspired by a post about clutter. She working towards having things, not stuff.

It’s in a post about self-help books that actually live up to their name that David mentions The Four Agreements, a work by Don Miguel Ruiz. He explains the agreements while I have taken to using them an abbreviated form.

Putting them to use is simple. When you find an irritant playing on your mind work out which of the four rules you have broken. Did you make an assumption? Did you fail to be completely honest with yourself or someone else?

It’s not going to completely solve your problem (particularly if it’s of a more serious nature). However, I do find helps me to put things into perspective. The rules are short and easy to remember. They’re great with first world problems, communication issues, and small niggles. They make me think about how I need to deal with things in the future. They provide some really interesting food for thought about how my thoughts and behaviour are generally.

So next time you find yourself muttering because there are no teabags left in the jar, or complaining that you ‘had’ to watch the film your friend was interested in. Ask which rule you broke, acknowledge your part, think about how you could deal with it in the future, and move on.