The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz has been sitting on my bookshelf for some time having been gifted to me a few years ago. However, I was nudged to read it after hearing it recommended in a recent discussion. Curious about the what the four agreements were, I spent a few hours reading it on the weekend and was pleasantly surprised by the simple yet powerful code of conduct it shared about how we are to live our lives. I know you must be thinking- what is this code of conduct and how is this relevant to me? But stick with me, I am going somewhere.
Whether you are a Christian, Muslim, Buddhist or identify as Agnostic or Atheist, you all have some core beliefs that you live by or that guides your actions. These core beliefs or code of conduct provide the fundamental principles and standards by which you live your life. And while the code of conduct offered up in The Four Agreements is not fundamentally new and you probably practice one or all of them in some way, when applied together, they have the potential to transform your life and lead to new experiences of increased freedom, happiness, and love.
According to Ruiz, every aspect of our lives, culture, religion, language, values, and belief systems are based on a series of agreements that already existed before you were born. As children, you didn’t have the opportunity to choose what you believe or did not believe in, you didn’t even choose our own name. Instead, you learned to agree with the information passed on to you from other humans such as your parents, teachers, and other authority figures in your society.
Because of this process which Ruiz called “domestication”, children grow into adults who learn to adhere to the agreements which form their belief systems. When you obey the agreements, you are rewarded and when you go against them, you are punished. The agreements teach you everything- what a “woman” is and who a “man” is. And you also learn how to judge yourself, judge other people and judge your neighbors. You also learn to pretend to please those around you because of the fear of rejection. You create an image of how you should be to be accepted by everybody.
In so doing, you become someone you are not, punishing yourself when you don’t follow the rules according to your belief system and rewarding yourself when you are a “good girl or a good boy.” The result is that you abuse yourself by not practicing self-love and by practicing self-rejection when you try to measure up to an ideal of perfection. And no one abuses you as much as you abuse yourself.
Ruiz further explained that while there are thousands a of agreements that you and I have made with ourselves, other people, with God, with society, with your partner and your children, the most important agreements you will make are the ones you make with yourself. In these agreements, you tell yourself who you are, what you feel, what you believe and how to behave. And the result of this is your personality. In those agreements, you say- this is what I am. This is what I believe. I can do certain things and some things I cannot do. And these are the many agreements that make us suffer, that makes us fail in life.
So, what can you do about these agreements? According to Ruiz, if you want to experience true fulfillment and happiness, you must find the courage and will to break the agreements you made that are based on fear and claim the personal power that each of us was born with. Each time you break an agreement, the power you used to create it returns to you – allowing you to change the entire system of your old agreements. And this is the personal power that you will need to adopt the four new agreements which will help you transform your life.
The Four Agreements
- The First Agreement – Be Impeccable with your Word: Speak with integrity. Say only what you mean. Avoid using the words to speak against yourself or to gossip about others. Use the power of your word in the direction of truth and love. This agreement urges you to remember that your words are powerful. And like a double-edged sword, they have the potential to speak life or death into your life and that of others. Ruiz explained that the human mind is fertile where seeds are continuously being planted. The seeds are opinions, ideas, and concepts. So, what words do you use to speak to yourself? Are they kind? What words do you sow to your children- are they seeds of love, confidence, fear or doubt?
- The Second Agreement -Don’t Take Anything Personally: This agreement states that nothing others do is because of you. What others say and do is a projection of their own reality, their own dream. When you are immune to the opinions and actions of others, you won’t be the victim of needless suffering. So do not to place your trust in what others do or say. You only need to trust yourself to make responsible choices. When you truly understand this and refuse to take things personally, you can hardly be hurt by the careless actions or comments of others.
- The Third Agreement-Don’t Make Assumptions: According to Ruiz we all tend to make assumptions. The problem with assumptions is that we believe them to be truth and act accordingly. We make assumptions about what others are doing and thinking, we take it personally and then we blame them and react by sending them emotional poison with our words. Rather than doing that, this agreement encourages you to find the courage to ask questions and to express what you really want. Communicate with others as clearly as you can to avoid misunderstandings, sadness, and drama.
- The Fourth Agreement- Always Do Your Best: This agreement is about the action of the first three. It encourages you to commit to doing your best regardless of circumstances. Your best is going to change from moment to moment; it will be different when you are healthy as opposed to sick. Nonetheless, simply do your best, and this will help you to avoid self-judgment, self-abuse, and regret. When you do your best, you don’t have to worry about the results. Embrace the mistakes, learn the lessons, and accept yourself.
I’ve read many books this summer, but this book resonated with me differently than the others. Not only was it deep and full of ideas that challenged my own thinking, but it made me think about the agreements I have made with myself, in my different relationships and roles (personal and professional). And while all four agreements were powerful, the one that gave me pause is the Third Agreement – Don’t make assumptions.
I know that making assumptions is wrong and that when and where I do it, I am projecting my fears, insecurities, doubts, and expectations on others. I also recognize that I also treat many of my assumptions as truth and act accordingly. Afterall, most of us create stories and narratives in our heads that justify our positions on a issue to help us make sense of situations we are facing. These assumptions are potentially damaging to relationships as we defend our positions and try to make the other person wrong. In so doing, I sometimes take what people say and do personally- making it about me. And sometimes, this might cause me to react emotionally, negatively, and unwisely as I fail to truly consider other people and their perspectives.
I am not particularly proud of this pattern of behavior, and I resolve to do better. This book reminded me yet again that it is always better to ask questions (however uncomfortable) than to make assumptions, because assumptions sets us up for suffering. I also know that it can be hard for us to ask for what we want, and to communicate our needs. But, we can’t assume that the people around us know what our needs are and then judge them when they fail to meet our expectations. Everyone has the right to tell you no or yes, but you always have the right to ask and vice versa.
So, today I commit to breaking with my old agreement of making assumptions and to create a new agreement to communicate openly and clearly and free of emotional poison. I also hope that (by reading this article), you take an opportunity to consider how these four agreements apply to how you operate in your relationships and interactions with others and make the changes that will transform your life for better.
So over to you, which of the four agreements resonate most with you? What agreements have you made with yourself and others? What old agreements do you need to break. What new agreements will you make? Comment and let me know .
Until next Remember, ItsALearningLife!