Happy New Year! The year is 2005 and we are well into the 21st century. The future is now! And I say perhaps it's time we started acting like we live in the future. New Year is always a time for resolutions. So, it's time for resolutions that impact the world around us in a positive way. A resolution to exercise more? That's no resolution! That's something we should be doing anyway. A real resolution involves a change in behavior.

There's a great little book called "The Four Agreements," by Don Miguel Ruiz that's full of common sense and homespun wisdom originating from Toltec philosophy. What's great about the four agreements is that they are just as applicable to business as they are to personal interaction, if there should even be a distinction between the two. I'll encapsulate the agreements but this column is no substitute for reading the book. These are agreements we make with ourselves.

First agreement: Be impeccable with your word. The thinking is that words are more than just words, they are a force and with that force we have the ability to affect people. Therefore, it is vital that we are "impeccable with our word," that we do not misuse this power. The book uses Hitler as an extreme example of someone who used the power of words to coerce evil behavior. On a lesser scale, any negative words can be damaging, not just to others but also to ourselves. What do we become in order to think negative things? We become negative forces ourselves. In business dealings, a positive approach to any situation will net positive results.

Second agreement: Don't take anything personally. Ah, this is a hard one! Isn't it easy to take everything personally? Even the way the light turns red just as we approach the intersection must be some cosmic plot against us. The book emphasizes the point that if someone says something that causes you initial response to take it personally, you should realize that it isn't you with the problem: It's the other guy. If someone is, for lack of a better word, mean, it isn't your fault. It isn't confirmation that something is wrong with you. The other person has the problem but unfortunately, chooses to address his own shortcomings by attacking others. Recognize this for what it is and don't take it personally. But there's a twist: We're not supposed to take anything personally, and this includes compliments, as well as insults. A compliment is something we can recognize as someone else being impeccable with his word. You don't need to take it personally because you already know you are a person of quality. The compliment, like the insult, does not confirm anything about you.

Third agreement: Don't make assumptions. Making assumptions can only set us up for disappointment. Don't fabricate expectations about how others are supposed to act or react. Think of how much pain we cause ourselves when we make assumptions about how a co-worker or loved one is going to react or behave and when they don't, we take it personally because we've created a fantasy world based on assumptions. Just the way someone looks causes us to make assumptions. This includes not making assumptions about ourselves. In business, maybe there are jobs that should not be taken. Pride causes us to assume we can do anything. When we communicate with others without making assumptions, it is clear. Communicating this way nurtures being impeccable with your word.

The fourth agreement: Always do your best. This is deceptively simple. What it means is always do your best within the framework of your abilities at any given time. In other words, one's best in the morning is not going to be the same as one's best when one is tired. However, "if you always do your best, there is no way you can judge yourself," Ruiz writes. "Doing your best is taking action because you love it, not because you're expecting a reward. Most people do exactly the opposite: They only take action when they expect the reward and they don't enjoy the action. That is why they don't do their best."

Again, this column is no substitution for the book. It's a short, easy read and something that employers and employees alike can benefit from. We're in the future, now. We need to be impeccable with our word and always do our best.

The amazing thing is that it's all up to us. It's our option to make our future the way we imagine it. And that goes for the construction industry. Have we all really done our best to resolve problems or have we mostly complained about them? Have we all done our best to create meaningful relationships with other contractors and subcontractors? Everyone who affects your business is part of your "team." Create a great team.