As we’ve grown up, we’ve subconsciously made a bunch of agreements (not too dissimilar to the four agreements) with ourselves. These agreements guide our behaviour – they act as an internal compass by which we decide what we do and don’t do. But we never CHOSE these agreements. This book presents us with four agreements that we should make with ourselves in order to live a good life. Replacing our old agreements with these new four won’t be easy, but it may be an important personal shift you can make.
- Be impeccable with your word
- Don’t take anything personally
- Don’t make assumptions
- Always do your best
The Four Agreements Summary
The Toltecs were an ancient civilisation from Mexico, known as ‘the women and men of knowledge’. They were scientists and artists who formed a society to explore and conserve the spiritual knowledge and practices of the ancients. It’s not a religion but more of a spiritual way of living. Don Miguel Ruiz dug back through civilisation to extract the core wisdom and the guiding principles from their way of living.
We have all made a number of ‘agreements’ about how we will go about life. We’ve made agreements with our friends, partners, parents, children, with our God/s, with society more broadly. And of course, the most important agreements are the ones we’ve made with ourselves. All of these agreements we’ve made guide our ‘personality’: they tell us who we are, what we feel, what we believe, and how we behave. In most cases however, all of these agreements were never consciously chosen. Ruiz says that, like farm animals, we’ve been “domesticated” from childhood – we were punished or rewarded based on what we did or didn’t do, and this moulded us to become who we are today. This book shows us that it is possible to break some of the old ‘agreements’ that are no longer serving us, and instead create some brand new agreements that we consciously choose and then uphold day in day out. Whatever your own agreements may be, Ruiz suggests that (based on Toltec wisdom) we should all make the following four agreements.
The First Agreement: Be Impeccable With Your Word
Our word is the most powerful tool at our disposal for creating things. But it’s a double-edged sword: with our word we can create the most beautiful dream, or your word can destroy everything around you. As such, we must be careful how we use our power.
The human mind is like a fertile ground where seeds are continually being planted. The seeds are planted with words (ideas, opinions, concepts) – if we plant bad seeds with bad words, we’re going to get rotten fruit. It’s important to recognise that our ‘word’ is not just the things we say out loud to other people, but also the things we say to ourselves in our own head. So be careful what seeds you’re planting in others in the things you say to them, and very careful what seeds are being planted in your own mind by the voice inside your head.
The Second Agreement: Don’t Take Anything Personally
Imagine someone walks up to you in the street and says, “you’re stupid”. Hopefully you don’t give this person’s opinion any weight and you go about your day unaffected, but it’s easy for us to get dragged down by what people around us say. Don Miguel says that if you take this abuse from a stranger personally and implant it in our fertile mind, then maybe we really are stupid…
We need to realise that most comments and thoughts and opinions of others say a lot more about them than they do about us. If you’re boss lashes out and said your work isn’t up to scratch, maybe she or he has just . been having a rough week at home. If the barista at the cafe doesn’t smile at you, maybe they just got verbally abused by an irate customer and they haven’t fully recovered yet. In any scenario like this, we need to recognise that these aren’t personal – the things that happen to us aren’t always a true reflection of us and our abilities. Don’t take other peoples’ self-opinions and apply them to yourself. It’s important that you recognise that this goes both ways: if someone insults you then don’t take it personally, but also if someone gives you immense praise don’t take it personally and use it as a building block to boost your own ego.
The Third Agreement: Don’t Make Assumptions
Making assumptions is really asking for problems. We take a tiny piece of information then extrapolate it to paint a full picture. If we believe that this picture we’ve painted (based on one small piece of information) gives us a firm grasp of the situation then we’re doomed for disaster.
The biggest assumption we all make is that everybody sees the world the same way that we do. This is an assumption, and it turns out that it’s not true. All of us view the world differently based on our background, our experiences, and our current positions. We need to realise that everybody is looking at the world through their own tinted glasses – while the outlines will generally look similar, the finer details will look completely different from person to person.
The way to combat this is to have the courage to admit that you don’t know, then ask questions. Rather than making an assumption and guessing that you’re probably 30% right (and 70% wrong), be upfront and admit that you’re unsure so that you can get much closer to a 100% understanding. If we get more information, we can truly know something rather than just assuming.
The Fourth Agreement: Always Do Your Best
It seems obvious, of course we should always do our best, but if you think back I’m sure you can pick out something you did this week where you didn’t do your best. This is for the big things: the annual report at work, and speech you’re giving, the performance you’re a part of. But it’s also for the small things: our daily interactions with another human, the way we speak to our partner, the way we enter a room. If we don’t do our best there is a gap between how we perform and how we know that we could perform if we tried our best. We often fill this gap with guilt or regret for not doing the best we possibly could have. If every moment in your life you do your best, then there is no room for regret in our life.
And if one day you don’t do your best? Don’t stress about it, don’t worry about it, don’t replay the moment over in your head. Put a full stop at the end of that day. Tomorrow is another opportunity for you, so make sure that you do your best.
Originally posted here