How often do you find yourself thinking if I could only change (fill in the blank) about myself, life would be better? Have you been successful in significantly changing something about yourself or the way you live your life? The text, ‘The Four Agreements’ by Don Miguel Ruiz, is a summary of the mastery of transformation. The reward of this life changing knowledge is to transcend the human experience of suffering. It does not infer that transformation is something that occurs overnight. Instead, it supports and encourages that when you do fail in following the agreements, it is important to not feel sorry for or judge yourself, but to just keep going.
The First Agreement – Be Impeccable with Your Word
Consider the power your words possess. They have the ability to create, significantly impact and end every relationship you have. The use of the word impeccable here addresses how we use the word towards ourselves. “Impeccable comes from the Latin pecatus, which means ‘sin’. The im in impeccable means ‘without’, so impeccable means ‘without sin’. A sin is anything that you do which goes against yourself. You go against yourself when you judge or blame yourself for anything. When you are impeccable, you take responsibility for your actions, but you do not judge or blame yourself.” When we blame ourselves over and over again, our self-esteem lowers and results in self-rejection.
If you attack someone verbally, you are sending all that negativity to yourself. Gossip is another form of this we have learned since childhood. Gossip is our point of view that we are trying to impress upon others to affirm we are right. This often will just transfer the negativity and judgment we are feeling to those close to us. Instead, how can you use your words to share your love? To practice this, you must begin with how you speak to yourself. Imagine how you would feel at the end of each day if the majority of your thoughts, words and self-talk were based in love and acceptance.
The Second Agreement – Don’t Take Anything Personally
Start by becoming aware of how you take in the words and actions of those around you. What makes certain words or behaviors linger with you versus others? “You take it personally because you agree with whatever was said. What causes you to be trapped is what we call personal importance. Personal importance, or taking things personally, is the maximum expression of selfishness because we make the assumption that everything is about ‘me’. Even when a situation seems so personal, even if others insult you directly, it has nothing to do with you. What they say, what they do, and the opinions they give are according to the agreements they have in their own minds.” Even when someone says something kind to you, do not take it personally. Why? Because often we will do anything in our power to prove it to them or ourselves for whatever they gave you praise. If you are loving to yourself, you will know this about yourself no matter what others have to say.
“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.”
The Third Agreement – Don’t Make Assumptions
Again, awareness is key here. How many times do we take assumptions as fact? By doing this, it creates the painful cycle of taking it personally, gossiping to others and creating drama and hurt all based on an assumption. To avoid making assumptions, we must communicate, clarify and be curious instead of rushing to judgment. It takes vulnerability to ask what someone meant by what they said or why they said it, but doing so will avoid much more headache and heartache down the road.
Another assumption is that the people closest to us should know what we are thinking or feeling and we shouldn’t have to ask or say what we want. “We make all sorts of assumptions because we don’t have the courage to ask questions. We assume that others think the way we think, feel the way we feel, judge the way we judge, and abuse the way we abuse. And this is why we have a fear of being ourselves around others. Because we think everyone else will judge us, victimize us, abuse us, and blame us as we do ourselves.”
The Fourth Agreement – Always Do Your Best
This last agreement relates to the above three and your intention of implementing them in your life. This by no means is intending to encourage you to strive for perfection. Understandably, the ease in which applying these agreements day to day, minute by minute, will be strongly impacted by your mood, physical health, stress level, etc. And as you continue to do your best, your best will transform as you deepen your practice of separating yourself from false beliefs and unhealthy influences from others. “Just do your best- in any circumstance in your life. It doesn’t matter if you are sick or tired, if you always do your best there is no way you can judge yourself. And if you don’t judge yourself there is no way you are going to suffer from guilt, blame, and self-punishment. By always doing your best, you will break a spell that you have been under.”
If this book summary inspired you, I encourage you to read the text in it’s entirety and journal about how implementing it has impacted your life. Also, in whatever way you can, find a way to remind yourself of these agreements; either by reciting them in the morning, writing it down in your day planner, or post-it note on your mirror. Making a commitment to applying them and simply trying your best will begin the transformation towards self-acceptance and love.