Catherine bought me a copy of The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz, a book that outlines four basic principles that make your life easier to live and help you achieve real happiness. Generally the concepts are probably not new to anyone, but you may or may not have chosen to really believe any of them.
The book begins by explaining the process of domestication, which in a nut shell says that we're a product of our environment. Our belief system isn't really our own, but rather one we learn from our parents, siblings, church, school, etc. We adhere to these rules ("agreements") because not doing so causes punishment, that doesn't feel good, and so we stick with them even if they're not entirely natural.
From there, the four agreements are intended to apply to all that you do to help you revise and evaluate the agreements you've made in life.
1: Be impeccable with your word
By word, he means not just what you say, but what you do. Everything you do and say has to be really you, not a lie that you make up to protect yourself or others. That one hits home not so much for me, because I decided long ago to try and tell it like it is, but for a lot of people I know. They avoid telling the truth, or avoid disclosing things, because they feel at risk, that people will see them a certain way or that some harm will come to them. The big issue I have with that is that the maintenance of dishonesty, or doing things not true to who I am, wear at me in ways that I can't deal. That's why it was so easy for me to make this agreement even before I knew what it was. I have friends that could make their lives infinitely better if they did the same, regardless of the discomfort that may come with it at first.
2: Don't take anything personally
This one is harder for me. As much as I tend to not worry what other people think, sometimes I let things get to me. The idea behind this agreement is that nothing is about you. We all have very different realities and perceptions, and because they don't always overlap, one person's thoughts and feelings are entirely about their reality and perception, not yours. That's very hard to accept sometimes, but it is certainly true. If you believe what others say, it might be because you believe them, and only you can really know you, in your reality.
3: Don't make assumptions
Few things in life are more destructive to relationships of all kinds, whether they be to casual acquaintances or lovers. When you try to fill in the blanks yourself, you never get it right. The classic example he gives in the book is about the spouse that feels if their partner really knows them, then they can anticipate their needs. That's what I call mind reading, and as much as I want to be Professor Xavier, I can't do it. You have to ask questions to achieve clarity. If you can't get the answers you're looking for, then see agreement above.
4: Always do your best
This one isn't as obvious as the title, because "your best" is something that evolves continuously. Sometimes your "best" is actually piss poor, but other times it's above average. If you over do it, you expend energy you don't have, perhaps for some reward that isn't fulfilling to you (like people who work 60 hours because of the paycheck), and then you don't like yourself for it. Or you do something less than your best, and you hate yourself for that too. That's no fun in either case.
It's a pretty good book, and easy enough to read quickly. Like I said, a lot of it is kind of common sense, but reading it is kind of inspiring and gives you a little perspective. It's very obvious that if you really do stick to these four principles in your daily life, you can be happier, no doubt about it.