This post is based on the book “The Four Agreements” by Don Miguel Ruiz. Chances are you’ve already heard of this book. It’s been praised from everyone including Oprah, Tom Brady, a variety of Universities and has even had some courses built around these “Agreements” and how to incorporate them in your life.
It goes something like this..
1. Be Impeccable With Your Word
2. Don’t Take Anything Personally
3. Don’t Make Any Assumptions
4. Always Do Your Best
Pretty simple right?
The background story or explanation as to why we need to make these four agreements with ourselves is based on the idea of the illusion called the Dream. Don Miguel Ruiz explains this as kind of a “smoke” hindrance that doesn’t allow us to see what we really are.
“We are born with the capacity to learn how to dream, and the humans who live before us teach us how to dream the way society dreams”.
What Ruiz explains is that the way we were brought up in whatever given society, including the rules we learned or our distinction of what is good and what is bad is based on the human dream that was created over time, by generations of humans. This was passed on by our parents onto us. We were scolded when we did something that was “wrong” and taught that when we do something bad we will get punished, and we were praised when we did something that was acceptable by this “Dream”. Still with me? We learned what to believe and what not to believe. What is beautiful and what is ugly .. it was all before us – all this knowledge, rules and concepts. Already created for us and all we needed was to adapt to it. Ruiz calls this the domestication of humans. With the idea that we get a reward if we do things right, he states that we start pretending to be someone we are not – to please others and to be good enough for someone else in order to get that reward, whether it is attention or being accepted. We learn to please others to a point where we are simply acting.
The Judge & The Victim
“There is something in our minds that judges everything, including the weather, the dog, the cat – everything”
So looking back at this “Dream” that was created for us – as part of this dream we have created our own book of law. What is right and wrong. According to the Four Agreements we have this inner judge that uses this book of law to tell us how to feel, act according to this perceived idea of what is right and wrong – what will be acceptable and what will not. If we go against this book of law, the inner judge says we are guilty and punishment should be in effect. This brings us to the victim.
The victim is the part of us that receives the judgements and carries the guilt, shame and blame. The part of you that goes “Poor me, I’m not good enough, I’m not pretty enough, I’m not smart enough…” The Judge agrees that you are not good enough etc. This is all based on beliefs that we have chosen to believe. These beliefs are so strong that even when we want to believe otherwise, the years that we have spent putting these into effect have made them far too strong for us to fight back or change our way of thinking.
Breaking the book of law creates this thing called fear. It opens up those wounds and challenges you. Because according to your own beliefs, everything in this book of law is set to be true… even if its not, it holds comfort and makes you feel safe.
We simply cannot see that we are free. As Ruiz states, “To be alive is the biggest fear humans have”. We form an image of what perfection is and what we need to do to be good enough. We live in constant fear to be accepted – we adapt our lives according to what is accepted and other people’s point of view with the fear of not being good enough. BUTTT…. we end up not being good enough for ourselves because we will never fit in this mold. This is where the victim loves to come in and help remind us that we are not good enough for falling short of our own expectations. We punish ourselves all the time.
That’s merely an intro to Ruiz’s message – stating that over time we have made these agreements with ourselves, and while it might be hard to re-create a way of seeing things – it is possible. Simply follow through with the Four Agreements and you will create a life for yourself, and that Judge and Victim inside of you? You will quiet them more and more everyday.
First Agreement: Be Impeccable with your Word
“Your word is the power you have to create. Through the word you express your creative power. It is through the word that you manifest everything. The word is a force, it is the power you have to express and communicate, to think, and thereby to create the events in your life”.
An example that Ruiz uses in his book showcases perfectly how the misuse of your word can make a negative impact.
He talks about the story of a mother taking care of her child and her child is singing. The mother is tired and eventually snaps at the child telling her to stop singing because her voice is unbearable and was making her headache a lot worse. Repercussions? The child goes on to believing this for the rest of her life. When she has the opportunity to sing she declines because she believes her voice is unbearable. Meanwhile – that was not the truth. The mother was simply irritated and in the moment expressed herself wrongly.
This goes the same for gossip – You can be upset and mad at someone or simply find it to be a good means of conversation but what you are saying to the other person will impact their perception of that person you are talking about. You will start seeing that person through the eyes of the one who gave you that gossip. We shouldn’t have that control.. Your opinion is nothing but your point of view. Doesn’t mean its true.. it comes from your beliefs, your ego and your own experiences and dream. Don’t spread the poison. Spread your self-love and use your word wisely and impeccably. “You can measure the impeccability of your word by your level of self-love”.
Second Agreement: Don’t Take Anything Personally
This is probably my favorite one. Simply understanding this agreement has done such wonderful things to my life. I’m a sensitive person and I use to live my life thinking that everything that affected me was because of ME and when someone would spread something negative I would automatically let it affect myself.
This my friends is a form of selfishness. Letting yourself assume that everything is about “me”.
“Nothing other people do is because of you. It is because of themselves” .. and it is only merely an opinion.
Back on the topic of poison, when a person is trying to bring you down it is simply them trying to send poison your way.
Taking things personally leads you to being offended right? This leads to you wanting to defend your beliefs and to make something much bigger out of something so little – because you need to be right and make everyone else wrong. It is so beyond you to believe that no one is right.. because you are basing it on a matter of opinion. Whatever a person is trying to project onto you is merely their own opinion based on their past agreements, experiences and whatever they are going through. It is the way they see the world, nothing personal. It is not them that is hurting you, it is the wounds that they have touched by what they have said – you are the one hurting yourself. If you get mad at the person, you are simply mad at yourself. You should not be affected by what someone is saying because it has nothing to do with you. If you are affected, it is your own self – you are getting mad or upset because you are afraid, you are dealing with fear.
“When you take things personally, you set yourself up to suffer for nothing”
Third Agreement: Don’t Make Assumptions
The real problem with assuming, is that we believe it is the truth. We make assumptions as to what others are thinking and doing and start blaming or getting mad at this person or upset when there is nothing to back it up.
“All this sadness and drama you have lived in your life was rooted in making assumptions and taking things personally” … think about it.
We don’t ask for clarification, we assume and we believe those assumptions are real -we only let ourselves see what we want to see, and hear what we want to hear. When we don’t fully understand something – we create a story in our minds.. and when the truth comes out, that bubble pops, and we realize it wasn’t even the truth at all.
This is common in relationships. We assume that our partner knows what we truly want and what we are thinking so we think we don’t have to voice what we truly want.. We assume they’ll do what we truly want and know what we truly think because they know us so well…
“You should have known” This just leads to fighting and misunderstandings with people we are suppose to love.
“We have this need to justify everything, to explain and understand everything, in order to feel safe. It is not important if the answer is correct; just the answer itself makes us safe. Even if we hear something and we don’t understand, we make assumptions about what it means and then believe those assumptions”
We assume everyone around us sees life the way we do- they think and feel the same way we do .. this is the biggest assumption we make!
Fourth Agreement: Always Do Your Best
This one is about acting on the first three.
“You know you’re doing your best when you are enjoying the action or doing it in a way that will not have negative repercussions for you. You do your best because you want to do it, not because you have to do it, you are not trying to please the Judge, and not because you are trying to please other people”
I recently listened to a podcast that was talking about the recipes of success. It mentioned that there was a recipe for everything. You want to make world-class cupcakes? There is a recipe for that. You want to have a successful start up? Someone out there has done it and there is a way to do it. You can follow the steps for anything and everything. You might not succeed right away, but there is a way, and if you keep going at it you will end up with those 5-star cupcakes.
As Ruiz states, “Action is about living fully” – your action is what makes a difference. Don’t expect that you will always be impeccable with your words or that you wont take things personally .. there will be times where you will and won’t. All you can do is to do your best.. and eventually it will come naturally.
“If you fall, do not judge. Do not give your Judge the satisfaction of turning you into a victim”
The first step is awareness… today is the beginning of a new dream!