Below is an article investigating a driving force in people's lives, their agendas. There are agendas that people are aware of and then there are those of which they are unaware. It is the latter that causes the mischief that shows up in our daily lives. In this column, we are going to identify some of the typical types of agendas the two of us have seen during the course of working with people over the past 12 years. It has been our experience that when people see what they have been doing mechanically and don't judge what they see, they then have a choice to continue their actions or not. Awareness allows for freedom from the domination of old behaviors. The simple recognition of unaware patterns, if not resisted but only seen for what they are, will free you from the mechanical restraints of these heretofore hidden agendas. The two of us have an agenda of our own. We would like to share it with you. We hope that this column will act as a spring-board from which you can dive into the infinite possibilities of your own life.

With Warm Regards,
Ariel and Shya


People can only see what they already know. What they have no knowledge of does not exist. Minds act very much like computer programs. They function by comparison to the data that is already in the system. There-fore, anything that occurs outside of the program is not recognizable. Back in the late '80s, when the two of us bought our first computer, we also set up our first database. In other words, we bought a program which we could use to keep track of the names, addresses and phone numbers of people wishing to be on our mailing list. When we were setting up the database, we were introduced to a concept called "Boolean" fields. Boole was an English mathematician from the mid-1800s whose algebraic systems have been widely used in computers. In the particular system we purchased it would translate any data entered into a pre-set form. For instance, we could type in the words "ariel & shya kane" and our program would automatically convert it so that the first letter of each word would be capitalized to read Ariel & Shya Kane. Further, the area where the zip code was entered would only take 5 numbers.

The problem was that this formula, while mostly accurate, didn't always work. There were times when an individual's last name was not capitalized, such as the name "den Ouden." Zip codes longer than 5 digits couldn't be entered and foreign zip codes which included letters were rejected also. Because this was an early database program, less sophisticated than the ones we have today, there was no way to override the Boolean fields. Agendas act like Boolean fields. They were pre-set when we, as individuals, were much less sophisticated and they run without the benefit of what we have learned since their inception. Bringing awareness to our automatic programs acts like a complimentary software upgrade. It allows you to keep what works and modify what doesn't and leads to appropriate behavior rather than having to make mistakes over and over which you are powerless to correct. If you are not aware that some-thing exists, it may still exist in reality, but in your experience it does not. For example, six years ago the two of us were in Hawaii with Max, Shya's 85-year-old father. We stayed at an ocean front condominium. From our vantage point, we could see migrating humpback whales spouting and jumping out of the water but Max could not. Then we took him out on a whale watching trip where these enormous creatures came close to the boat. When we went back to the condo, he looked out at the ocean, and suddenly he could see the whales. Now he knew what to look for. We had pointed them out before the boat ride but he could not see them.

There has to be a context created in which to see. People look through what they already know and not unlike a Boolean base program reject what isn't in their pre-set field of knowledge. So if they don't realize there is a whole other paradigm, a whole other reality, a whole other context in which to operate into life, for them it doesn't exist. One might say, "What is wrong with that?" The answer is nothing. However, what you know limits what is possible for you. There is a saying, "If you can dream it, you can have it." But if you don't know the existence of something, you can't even dream it. Ask yourself, "What if there are things I don't know that could radically alter the quality of my life?"

Some of the limitations in your capacity for having an exciting, vital life are your unaware agendas. (Webster's primary definition for agenda is "a program of things to be done.") On one hand, agendas are very useful. They allow us to focus on those things which need to be completed. They allow us to steer a course to a destination. They keep us on track so that we don't get distracted and they allow us to see if we have achieved what we set out to accomplish. But agendas can also limit what we can see, fettering our interactions with others and with our environment. They do this by maintaining a specific arena in which we function or interact because we are driven toward the completion of that goal.

Take for example a business meeting in which two or more people are expressing their particular points of view about a project. One would assume that since these people are working on the same endeavor they would be working as a team to produce the desired outcome. However, it is often the case that each party at a meeting, design session or other communication comes in with a set agenda. The atmosphere is often competitive and adversarial. The outcome of the meeting can oft-times be defined by whose agenda "won" and whose "lost." In addition, if the participants' underlying hidden agendas are to not look stupid or not let a man/woman tell them what to do, then the playing field is littered with hazards to the successful completion of the meeting. It is as if each person's hidden agendas dictate the outcome. Rarely is it harmonious. Body language, loss of attentiveness and tone of voice, etc., can significantly diminish the possibility of positive results.

When you are operating through an unaware agenda, you do not listen to what is being said. When you have an idea or plan about the way a thing is supposed to go, you only see the relevance of what is being said as it applies to your agenda. True listening is a function of intentionally recreating the point of view of another. If you are operating through an agenda, you cannot possibly see another's point of view. You can only see it in relationship, in agreement or disagreement, to your preferences. How many times, for example, have you walked into a store only to be driven away by a salesperson whose agenda to get a commission has him or her pressure you until all you can think of doing is escaping the premises. The sales associate is not seeing you, as an individual. He or she only sees you in terms of the possible fulfillment of a personal desire.

The culture you were born into ascribes a value to things. It has standards for right and wrong, good and bad, etc. All agendas come from our culturally-known base of information. Our social values form our agendas. You can't be in the moment if you are living out of a hidden agenda because they are based in decisions from the past. If we think, for instance, that to be a complete person we need to have children, out of a conclusion that we reached at a very young age when our possibilities were limited by what we knew, then as an adult, we might feel as though we have failed if we don't have children, whether we want them now or not.

Let's talk about "Amy." Amy is a 34-year-old business owner and entrepreneur. She has an agenda to make money and an even earlier agenda to have a child. Both are reasonable and even laudable goals. However, these two wishes, wants or goals, drive her forward sometimes in a positive manner, and at other times to the extreme detriment of having a full and satisfying life. Let's look at both sides of the equation. On some days, Amy may not feel like getting out of bed or making an important phone call. She may prefer watching TV or hanging out with friends to doing a challenging project. The drive to keep going in the face of distractions can be a positive force in her life. Now let's look at the other side. Amy knows that in her heart of hearts she wants to have a child and that she wishes to have enough money to make the raising of her child an easier process. She wants the freedom to hire help, as needed, so she can continue with her business and she also wants to provide for her baby's needs, both immediate and eventual, such as college. She is constantly scanning for a way to make this dream come true. Enter into the picture a person who seems to be the ticket to the realization of these dreams. Enter an employer who wants to possibly buy her business or make her a partner in a venture that may make her a great deal of money if things go the way they both hope. But Amy's desire to fulfill her agenda, to having this be the answer she has been looking for, blinds her to the fact that she doesn't really like this person. She doesn't even like the way this individual does business or treats the staff. She has the suspicion that she will be the next person to be treated badly in this employer's organization but she pushes aside all of these gut reactions and nagging doubts so she can have her dream. The driving agenda closes her off to seeing all the other possible ways of getting what she wants in order to go for what she thinks will produce happiness even at the expense of her self esteem and satisfaction.

Agendas keep you from being appropriate with your life. There are many agendas that people have. These unaware agendas may be conflicting and simultaneous. Here is another example. Drew is a entrepreneur and frequently has business meetings with clients who are looking to buy his products and services. But Drew, as a young child, defined himself by not wanting to be told what to do. If his mother, father or friend made a suggestion or request, he routinely did the opposite. In some ways this behavior may actually have helped to strengthen his stamina to get things done. Drew surprised his family and friends by persevering in the face of terrible odds but it never occurred to Drew that many of the challenges he faced were of his own making.

One Tuesday, Drew has a business meeting with a very important contact. He is supposed to catch a two o'clock train to be at her office on time. But he doesn't begin to get ready to leave until 1:15, which is not enough time to shower, shave, put on clothes, get his supplies and get out the door to catch the train. It is not as if he was busy all morning. Instead, he has stayed in his pajamas, whittling away the hours until he is so pressed that he can only make it on time if there are absolutely no unexpected events such as a phone call he needs to handle or a traffic jam on the way to the train. Drew, unbeknownst to himself, is so locked into his agenda of not being told what to do that he doesn't even want to be told what to do by himself. This dynamic is commonly labeled procrastination. He sets up the meeting time and the time of the train he has to catch but then resists the time constraint because anything that tells him where to go and what to do, even his own schedule, is an anathema.

How many times do we as individuals operate like Drew? There are things that we want to do or achieve and mystifyingly our actions seem to be directly opposed to what we say we want. Let's tease the Drew scenario out a little further. It is 1:20 and Drew is rushing to catch the train. He showers, leaves his pajamas in a heap and rifles through his closet in search of the perfect outfit, discarding this and that until he finds what to wear. Now, leaving a trail of destruction behind him, he rushes back into the bathroom, combs his hair and automatically reaches for his cologne, spraying it liberally. Drew now freezes mid-spritz. He has just remembered that the woman he is going to meet has a severe allergy to scents of any kind. He now is pressured by the time and has to make a decision. "Oh well," he thinks, "it will probably wear off by the time I get there. I can't be late. I need this business contact. I need to be to the meeting on time," and he rushes out the door. Poor Drew. His day is now the recipe for disaster. He really truly wants to succeed in his business and he also really truly does care about the people around him but his unwillingness to be told what to do, which he is unaware of, takes precedence over his adult aim of having a successful business. His resistance to being told what to do is the background, mostly unnoticed, upon which he plays his life. His reaching for that bottle of cologne and his rushing out the door anyway once he realized his mistake, acts out his resistance to having his life constrained by this other person's allergies. Somewhere, he resented being "told" not to wear perfume. He is habituated to automatically challenging anything that seems to impinge upon his rights. Again, this trait has helped him get ahead in his life and business but when this program has run automatically, as it did in this case, it has hindered him as well.

You might think that Drew is an extreme example. Not so. Here are more everyday examples: The two of us were invited to a dinner where some of the guests were vegetarians and the cook was not. The chef prepared baked red peppers, some of which he filled with beef and the others he stuffed with mixed vegetables. But somehow, raw ground beef just "happened" to be in the final vegetarian dinner. Upon looking at this "mistake" he realized that his disagreement with his guests' food preferences were unawaredly displayed in his finished product. A waitress once told us that she had a tendency to forget orders or make mistakes when she disagreed or didn't like the customer's food choice. She surprised herself by seeing that her agenda to be right about her taste in foods was more important than good service, customer satisfaction and the resulting large tips.

We have seen one partner in a couple resist the other's way of doing things even if it destroys the relationship. We have seen people fired from jobs because they refused to follow how the boss wanted things filed or presented because the employee has to do things their own way, even if it costs them their livelihood.

Take a look at any two-year-old. A parent's admonition not to touch something is the same as a command to touch it. Sometimes this age is called the "terrible twos." This is because a child is virtually uncontrollable and has a tendency to do everything that is contrary to what is being requested of them. "No!" the child emphatically states as he or she rushes toward the street and the parent, aware of danger, has to restrain them. Haven't we all as adults seen how we have behaviors that seem to be at war with what we are trying to accomplish in our lives? Hasn't the voice of reason whispered that it's time to get ready to go if we want to catch that train and the other voice in our heads wheedles and whines, "Just five more minutes," until we are so pressured for time that we can hardly make our deadline? That "just five more minutes" conversation may sound suspiciously like the one you had with your parents when they were trying to get you to go to bed.

Drew has tried to analyze why he is often late to important engagements. He has even made resolutions to be on time. So when faced with calling and communicating to his business contact and giving them the option to say, "Don't worry about the cologne," or, "Take a shower and come later," or, "Let's make the meeting another day," he rushes out the door in hopes of it being all right but, in all honesty, knowing that he is bringing a problem with him. "How to fix this?" you might ask. Well, fixing or changing this pattern will lead to more inappropriate actions. Don't forget, his drive to be on time, as if this is the source of his problems, has blinded him to the fact that on time is not always the right or only choice. If, on the other hand, you become aware of your hidden agendas, you will not have to act them out mechanically. With awareness you become free to make appropriate choices in your life.

Some of your "agendas" may actually be inherited traits. We, as individuals, may think we are making personal choices in our lives and be totally unaware that we are actually acting out some familial script that has been handed down, via your family line, as a blueprint for survival. We know a fellow, who breeds Peruvian Paso horses. They are known for their smooth gait and good temperament. We've been told that these traits have been reinforced through generations of breeding. This is true of humans also. Your family has learned to survive via some patterns of behavior which are useful, but only if you do not have to operate through them or rebel against them.

Friends of ours, Laura and Josh, recently had a child. Emma, a beautiful, innocent baby, is growing, absorbing and learning from her environment. We have known her parents for almost 10 years now. During this time we have also seen them grow. We have seen their triumphs and their disappointments. Their life experiences have included births in the family and the death of loved ones. Laura has a particular facial expression when she is upset and crying. Her chin quivers, her lower lip sticks out of its own accord and they make her sadness or upset an endearing, sympathetic picture. When Laura cries, one is compelled to take notice and be sensitive and caring. Well, guess what? Emma, who has never seen her mother cry, has a miniature version of the quivering chin and protruding lip. She didn't "learn" this behavior from her mother. It was a preset survival tool that she has in her infant's tool box of survival techniques.

This article wasn't written in the hopes that readers would be inspired to have the new, improved agenda to become "agenda-less." Rather, it is the author's experience that self observation without self- reproach not only unwires mechanical behaviors, but also leads to an exciting experience of living. In closing, we are going to resist the urge to sum up and draw a conclusion. We would like to propose that the notions we presented about agendas be left open for you to draw upon as possibilities or alternatives to look at your life and your relationship to your environment in a way that empowers you to take control of your actions in day-to-day real-life situations.

Author's Bio: 

Since 1987, internationally acclaimed authors, seminar leaders, and business consultants Ariel and Shya Kane have taught individuals, couples and organizations across the globe how to live in the moment and unwire the knee-jerk behaviors that get in the way of living life with ease. Together for 30 years and counting, people still ask Ariel and Shya if they are on their honeymoon. To find out more about the Kanes, their books, videos & seminars, visit:

The Kanes' newest book "How to Have A Match Made in Heaven: A Transformational Approach to Dating, Relating and Marriage" has won numerous awards, including the Mom's Choice Award Gold Medal, and is now available in English, Spanish and German. Learn more at