I’ve long been a fan of The Four Agreements after randomly picking up the book years ago. In fact, I had no idea how profoundly this self-help bestseller would change my outlook on life and the stories that shaped me.
I had the opportunity recently to hear author Don Miguel Ruiz and his sons, Don Miguel Ruiz, Jr., and Don Jose Ruiz talk about the legacy they have created through their literary work and the wisdom they bestow through their simple message of love and an understanding that we are all the sum of every choice we have ever made.
Four Agreements to Live By
Let’s start by putting the four agreements out there:
- Be impeccable with your word.
- Don’t take anything personally.
- Don’t make assumptions.
- Always do your best.
Simple enough, right? When we think about each agreement we should make with ourselves, they make total sense. Logic tells us, yes! Right hand, shake left hand. Deal done. In real life, however, straying from these pacts of self-government happens more often than we would care to admit.
For the senior Ruiz, who was a surgeon before his career took a sharp turn, it was about bringing meaning to the direction of his life and understanding why we keep making the same mistakes over and over again. “It’s as if we never learn from our mistakes,” he says. “These four simple agreements have the power to change the story of our lives.”
Be Impeccable With Your Word
The whole process begins with understanding what we believe about ourselves. Words are extraordinarily powerful and choosing each one carefully makes a difference in self-understanding. Are you delivering your words with love or not? Are you telling yourself you’re less than adequate or fall short in areas of your life?
“You create your own personal hell or heaven with your word,” Ruiz explains. “The story that you create about yourself is the one you have to live in. Misuse of the word is how we pull each other down and keep each other in a state of fear and doubt.”
Don’t Take Anything Personally
For those of us who seek vicarious self-worth through the approval of other people, the second agreement – don’t take anything personally – is a heavy-hitter.
When we assume meaning behind other people’s words or actions, we inadvertently take on their stories about us. And honestly, you don’t play the lead role in their story. Get it? Then get over it and focus only on the decisions and words that shape your story.
“I tried to be perfect,” Ruiz says. “I started looking for perfection. And I started judging everyone else from that place of perfection. But nobody is perfect. And we believe that nobody is perfect. But is that true?”
Now he has me cocking my head to the side like a confused puppy as he poses the question, “How is it that everything that exists is perfect, except humans?”
Don’t Make Assumptions
Ruiz answers that question as quickly as he poses it. The truth is that everything that exists is perfect, and we are all perfect in the eyes of God, or your creator, but you may not believe it because you feel safe in your self-imposed identity or story.
“All of my life I behave in order to please everyone around me. And everyone has a completely different opinion of me. Now, when I create that image of myself, I try to be good enough for myself.”
Making assumptions in relationships of any kind is asking for trouble. Remember, you don’t play the lead role in someone else’s story. So don’t assume they understand where you’re coming from on an issue unless you’ve had that discussion. They may not see things the way you do.
Ruiz suggests that the best antidote for making assumptions is to simply ask questions. Ask. Be clear. And free yourself from someone else’s emotional drama or baggage.
Always Do Your Best
As Ruiz explains, “You can have all those great ideas, and you can manifest what is in your mind by taking action and by always doing your best, no more, no less. But your best is always changing.”
By simply agreeing to always put your best effort forward, it takes away the burden of perfection and replaces it with authenticity. You no longer have to live with other people’s opinions of you because you know you’re always doing your best. It’s such a liberating concept.
Adds Ruiz, “What’s the big deal? The big deal is in the mind and the story that we create in our minds, which is where all the drama of humanity exists.” By clearing away the drama, we live in a state of love.
Create Your Dream
Judgment is nothing more than in illusion. When the old story is gone, the new dream will come. “If you learn too listen to yourself, you will know the truth,” Ruiz says. “To always do my best is to always love myself unconditionally and to see myself for who I am. I am a living being that has complete freedom to go any direction in life.
“We are all one,” he continues. “The only thing separating us is a point of view.”