The following comes from my favorite book, “The Four Agreements” by Don Miguel Ruiz, a spiritual teacher from Mexico.
My father gave me this book when I was 21 and it had a profound effect on me. While it isn’t really saying anything new, it is the simplicity of it that makes it so powerful.
The Four Agreements:
- The First Agreement: Be Impeccable with Your Word
- The Second Agreement: Don’t Take Anything Personally
- The Third Agreement: Don’t Make Assumptions
- The Fourth Agreement: Always Do Your Best
Since then I have been trying to implement The Four Agreements into my life. They are simple agreements to understand but can be quite challenging to adhere to every day.
I always recommend friends to read it. At less than 100 pages it’s not a big commitment of your time either.
Ruiz introduces the book with an explanation of the domestication of humans.
“Children are domesticated the same way that we domesticate a dog, a cat, or any other animal. In order to teach a dog we punish the dog and we give it rewards. We train our children whom we love so much the same way that we train any domesticated animal: with a system of punishment and reward. We are told, ‘You’re a good boy,’ or ‘You’re a good girl,’ when we do what Mom and Dad want us to do. When we don’t, we are a ‘bad girl’ or a ‘bad boy.’”
The four agreements is a guide of how to break down a lot of this social conditioning and live the life that is true to you.
The First Agreement – Be impeccable with your word
This is the first and also most important of the agreements. Without implementing this, the other three become much more difficult.
Definition of the word impeccability: “Impeccability means ‘without sin.’ Impeccable comes from the Latin pecatus, which means ‘sin.’ The im in impeccable means ‘without,’ so impeccable means ‘without sin.’ Religions talk about sin and sinners, but let’s understand what it really means to sin. A sin is anything that you do which goes against yourself. Everything you feel or believe or say that goes against yourself is a sin. You go against yourself when you judge or blame yourself for anything. Being without sin is exactly the opposite. Being impeccable is not going against yourself. When you are impeccable, you take responsibility for your actions, but you do not judge or blame yourself.” – D.M. Ruiz
Ruiz states that gossip is like poison infecting our word. It adds nothing positive and thus he asks to avoid partaking in it.
If colleagues or friends are gossiping just ignore it. Don’t add fuel to the fire. It goes back to focusing on you and what you are doing. Not wasting your time, worrying about other people’s problems and lives.
Another way to be impeccable to your word is to not use it against yourself through guilt or shame. This is big, how many times do we beat ourselves up over things.
“The human is the only animal on earth that pays a thousand times for the same mistake. The rest of the animals pay only once for every mistake they make. But not us. We have a powerful memory. We make a mistake, we judge ourselves, we find ourself guilty, and we punish ourselves with this guilt again, again, and again. Is this fair?” – D.M. Ruiz
The Second Agreement – Don’t take things personally
“Whatever happens around you, don’t take it personally… if I see you on the street and say, ‘Hey, you are so stupid,’ without knowing you, it’s not about you; it’s about me. If you take it personally, then perhaps you believe you are stupid. Maybe you think to yourself, ‘How does he know? Is he clairvoyant, or can everybody see how stupid I am?’” – D.M. Ruiz
Again similar to the previous points. How many times have you found yourself getting upset or angry because of what someone said or how he or she looked at you?
When someone lashes out at you, realize they are not angry at you specifically; it could be for a number of reasons; stress, anxiety, issues from their past or they’ve just had a bad day.
“Nothing other people do is because of you. It is because of themselves.” – D.M. Ruiz
When you take this approach you spend less time thinking about other people’s actions, which frees up time for the more important things in life.
“When you make it a strong habit not to take anything personally, you avoid many upsets in your life. Your anger, jealousy, and envy will disappear, and even your sadness will simply disappear if you don’t take things personally.” -D.M. Ruiz
The Third Agreement – Don’t make assumptions
“We have the tendency to make assumptions about everything. The problem with making assumptions is that we believe they are the truth. We could swear they are real. We make assumptions about what others are doing or thinking—we take it personally—then we blame them and react by sending emotional poison with our word. That is why when we make assumptions, we’re asking for problems. We make an assumption, we misunderstand, we take it personally, and we end up creating a whole big drama for nothing.” – D.M. Ruiz
Have you ever worked yourself up into an anxiety under your own assumption that something bad is going to happen? I know I have.
Ruiz states that we are all living in our own “dream” or reality. Some actions you perceive negatively from someone else is from your perspective or “dream”.
The person who you thought was angry may be completely oblivious to what has just happened. Meanwhile you have been unnecessarily stressing yourself out for no reason!
“The way to keep yourself from making assumptions is to ask questions. Make sure the communication is clear. If you don’t understand, ask. Have the courage to ask questions until you are as clear as you can be.” – D.M. Ruiz
The Fourth Agreement – Always do your best
“There is just one more agreement, but it’s the one that allows the other three to become deeply ingrained habits. The fourth agreement is about the action of the first three: Always do your best.” – D.M. Ruiz
If you truly do your best, how can you get angry at yourself?
So often we get angry and frustrated about how different things work out in life. Whether it’s a project at work, an exam or a missed lift in the gym. If you truly did your best then you cannot do anymore!
“Who stops us from being free? We blame the government, we blame the weather, we blame our parents, we blame religion, and we blame God. Who really stops us from being free? We stop ourselves.”
“All of these old agreements which rule our dream of life are the result of repeating them over and over again. Therefore, to adopt the Four Agreements, you need to put repetition into action. Practicing the new agreements in your life is how your best becomes better. Repetition makes the master.” – D.M. Ruiz
So the key here is becoming aware of your actions and thoughts. We all break The Four Agreements many times each day.
It took you many years to get to where you are today; your beliefs, your morals, ethics and how you react to situations.
It’s going to take quite some time to break these habits and implement The Four Agreements.
Being aware when you realize you are breaking an agreement; then following The Four Agreements day in, day out, over time until they begin to replace your old habits.