In The Four Agreements, Don Miguel Ruiz reveals the source of self-limiting beliefs that rob us of joy and create needless suffering. Based on ancient Toltec wisdom, The Four Agreements offer a powerful code of conduct that can rapidly transform our lives to a new experience of freedom, true happiness, and love.
We store information through agreement. When we believe something is true, it becomes an agreement between us and the world. As soon as we agree, we believe it. This cycle leads us to develop rules or “laws” that govern what we see as true. We come to base our judgments and decisions on these agreements and laws. When we, ourselves or others, break our “laws” we experience the negative aspects of conflict or drama.
Agreement One: Be impeccable with your word
To be impeccable with your word means to:
- Speak with integrity
- Say only what you mean Avoid using words to speak against yourself
- Avoid using words to speak against others
- Use the power of your word for truth and encouragement
The word is so powerful that one word can change a life or destroy the lives of millions of people. Some years ago one man in Germany, by the use of the word, manipulated a whole country of the most intelligent people. He led them into a world war with just the power of his word. He convinced others to commit the most atrocious acts of violence. He activated people’s fear with the word, and like a big explosion, there was killing and war all around the world. All over the world humans destroyed other humans because they were afraid of each other.
Be impeccable with your word. This is the first agreement that you should make if you want to be free, if you want to be happy, if you want to transcend the level of existence that is hell. It is very powerful. Use the word in the correct way. Use the word to share your love. Use white magic, beginning with yourself. Tell yourself how wonderful you are, how great you are. Tell yourself how much you love yourself. Use the word to break all those teeny, tiny agreements that make you suffer.
Agreement Two: Don’t take anything personally
Nothing other people do or say is because of you. What people do or say is a result of their own dream world. When we take things personally, we feel offended and react by defending ourselves, creating drama. It is important to understand that people may give compliments or criticism, but what they say is about them and how they feel at that moment and about their own needs. What they say is not just about you. When we avoid taking words personally, we take away the power other people try to have over us. We become immune to manipulation. If you refuse to take things personally, even if someone is trying to draw you into their dream world and is being critical, you can remain peaceful.
Don’t take anything personally because by taking things personally you set yourself up to suffer for nothing. Humans are addicted to suffering at different levels and to different degrees, and we support each other in maintaining these addictions. Humans agree to help each other suffer. If you have the need to be abused, you will find it easy to be abused by others. Likewise, if you are with people who need to suffer, something in you makes you abuse them. It is as if they have a note on their back that says, “Please kick me.” They are asking for justification for their suffering. Their addiction to suffering is nothing but an agreement that is reinforced every day.
Set limits by being impeccable with your word.
Use your words to speak truth and to encourage yourself and others. There are several techniques that can help:
- Use “I” statements.
- Don’t put yourself down.
- Don’t use excuses or blame others.
- Offer any possible alternatives.
Agreement Three: Don’t make assumptions
We have the tendency to make assumptions about everything. The problem with making assumptions is that we believe they are the truth. We could swear they are real. We make assumptions about what others are doing or thinking — we take it personally — then we blame them and react by sending emotional poison with our word. That is why whenever we make assumptions, we’re asking for problems. We make an assumption, we misunderstand, we take it personally, and we end up creating a whole big drama for nothing. All the sadness and drama you have lived in your life was rooted in making assumptions and taking things personally.
Take a moment to consider the truth of this statement. The whole war of control between humans is about making assumptions and taking things personally. Our whole dream of hell is based on that. We create a lot of emotional poison just by making assumptions and taking it personally, because usually we start gossiping about our assumptions. Remember, gossiping is the way we communicate to each other in the dream of hell and transfer poison to one another. Because we are afraid to ask for clarification, we make assumptions, and believe we are right about the assumptions; then we defend our assumptions and try to make someone else wrong. It is always better to ask questions than to make an assumption, because assumptions set us up for suffering.
To avoid making assumptions, it is important to gather more facts about the situation and about our own beliefs. It is also important to gain knowledge about the facts, about how others perceive the situation, and about your own beliefs. Communicate, communicate, communicate!
Agreement Four: Always do your best
Your best is never going to be the same from one moment to another. Regardless of the quality, keep doing no less than your best. Accept your best and recognize that it feels good to give your best because doing your best feels productive and is not based on expecting a reward.
Do your best to live up to the other three agreements:
Be impeccable with your word.
Don’t take anything personally.
Don’t make assumptions.
Action is about living fully. Inaction is the way that we deny life. Inaction is sitting in front of the television every day for years because you are afraid to be alive and to take the risk of expressing what you are. Expressing what you are is taking action. You can have many great ideas in your head, but what makes the difference is the action. Without action upon an idea, there will be no manifestation, no results, and no reward. A good example of this comes from the story about Forrest Gump. He didn’t have great ideas, but he took action. He was happy because he always did his best at whatever he did. He was richly rewarded without expecting any reward at all. Taking action is being alive. It’s taking the risk to go out and express your dream. This is different than imposing your dream on someone else, because everyone has the right to express his or her dream.