Making Positive Changes [Agreements Tip #3: Additive Agreements]

Two stylized hands clasping, forming a heart. Copyright-free symbol designed by Ravi Poovaiah, Professor, IDC, IIT Bombay.

“The only constant is change.” — Heraclitus of Ephesus, c.535 BCE – 475 BCE

Right now, my life is undergoing some massive changes. I’m not really at liberty to discuss some of them, as they’re not my news, but suffice to say, they affect me and my family profoundly.  One result of this change, is that I’ve taken an immense “swan dive into the unknown” by taking another course (this one called Creative Genius CEO–how cool is that? :)) from my mentor Samantha Bennett.  Tangentially related, I’m participating in the National Obsession With Writing Month (aka WNFIN or NaNoWriMo) by attempting to finish a draft of my Agreements Workbook. So what this means is that you can expect to see significantly more of me in the upcoming weeks, for sure. I may not POST every day, but my goal is to attempt to WRITE (almost) every day on something related to the Workbook, and/or Sam’s course. And I’ll certainly be posting more often.

Therefore, without further ado, here’s the next installment in the Agreements Workbook, Tip #3:  “Additive Agreements, OR New Models for Old Situations,” which  is about providing positive options and positive frames for your Agreements.

As always, if you have any questions or comments about these Agreements Workbook entries, feel free to contact me here, or on my FB Page, Love Outside The Box.

“We might as well enjoy the ride” — James Taylor in “The Secret O’ Life


Here’s hoping your ride is at least as fun as it is full of twists and turns!

~♥ Dawn

PS: Want to talk more specifically about your own situation? I’ll be happy to do a mini-session for you for free. 🙂 Just drop me a line!

PPS: I’m a Really Big Fan (aka Affiliate) of Sam’s, so if you click on one of the links here to go to her website, I might eventually see a little money from anything you might choose to buy from her. But she’s worth it.  Not sure?  Check out one of her awesome poems totally for Free. 🙂


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3) “Additive” Agreements:  New models for old situations

In making effective Agreements, it’s important to “stay positive” in a couple of different ways.  First, in changing any behavior, especially a habitual one, it’s important to know what to do differently.  Otherwise, then the same situation arises, the default behavior will be the habitual one. So what happens when the same situation arises, and you don’t have a new action to substitute for the old habit? Most likely, you’ll do the old thing again, with added shame and guilt in addition to your feelings of failure!  Whee! So instead of that, it’s a great idea to figure out in advance what you’re going to do instead, the next time that thing happens. I call this making the Agreement “Additive,” because it adds new options in place of the old ones.

Another way it’s helpful to stay positive in Agreements is to phrase your intentions in a positive way.  Generally, people who like to do Daily Affirmations [e.g.,] advise that it’s best to frame those as positives, otherwise, you end up accidentally affirming exactly what you don’t want. I have also found this to hold true when making Agreements, which are essentially “relationship affirmations” of a sort — things both/all parties agree to affirm with their thoughts and actions.

So let’s look at this very simple example. Suppose you need to keep the bedroom neater.  It’s tempting to try to write this down as “I/we will stop leaving clothes on the floor.”  However, this isn’t a great Agreement for several reasons:

  1. There is no alternative action.  Where exactly does the laundry actually belong, then, on the bed?  In the bathroom?  Draped over the lamp? If you want it in the hamper, it’s best to say that.
  2. It’s framed as a negative, which will continue to affirm the behavior you don’t want, rather than energetically emphasizing what you do want.
  3. Also, by phrasing it in the future tense, you may never see the results, because they’ll always be in some nebulous future. When exactly will you stop the behavior?  Tonight?  Next week? When you get around to it? Phrasing it as something you are doing now is generally more effective.

So instead, you might try something more like “I/we agree that we will place dirty laundry into the laundry bin immediately upon taking it off.”  That is specific, positive, and timely, and includes a specific action to replace the one you want to change.  All these suggestions apply just as well to more complex or more “charged” Agreements — e.g., those around safer sex, or resource sharing amongst several lovers — as they do to this simple example.


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[© 2012 Dawn M. Davidson, except the song “Secret of Life,” which is © 1977 by James Taylor]

Note that these entries are all rough drafts, and thus are probably missing things like references. If you know the perfect reference to add, feel free to suggest it! I always like to add to my resource collection.

[Next Entry: The Fun Factor in Agreements: Tip #4]

[Previous Entry: Agreements Tip #2c: Have Clear Consequences]

[Return to the Table of Contents for the Agreements Workbook Series]

[Return to the first text entry in the Agreements Workbook series]

2 thoughts on “Making Positive Changes [Agreements Tip #3: Additive Agreements]

  1. Pingback: Create Clear Ownership of Agreements (Tip #5) — Uncharted Love

  2. Pingback: The “Fun Factor” in Agreements [Tip #4] — Uncharted Love

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