Living The Four Agreements, a book by Don Miguel Ruiz, taught me how powerful we are and how much power we give away. These four simple agreements transform life from overwhelming despair, anger and victimhood to more personal power than you’ve ever imagined. The Four Agreements are to be impeccable with your word, don’t take anything personally, don’t make assumptions and always do your best. It’s incredibly simple but not always easy.
My life before Living the Four Agreements
Before reading The Four Agreements, I was what the book called a Black Magician. I said mean, manipulative things and took everything personally. I made assumptions about everyone, and although I always thought I did my best, I often blamed others for my failures and shortcomings. I’m not proud of that, but it’s the truth. My kids or husband made me angry. My family should have known what I wanted because I have them so many hints. I expected them to clean their rooms to my specifications, which I gave them after they fell short of them on their own. It was a recipe for chaos, misunderstanding and constant unnecessary drama, and it was exhausting for all of us.
Be Impeccable with Your Word, the first agreement
The first tenet of living the four agreements is to be impeccable with your word. To do this you speak with integrity, saying only what you mean. You use your words to spread love and truth, also known as white magic, rather than gossiping and tearing others down, known as poison or black magic. This agreement defines impeccable as “without sin”, and sin means speaking against yourself. Speaking against yourself includes blaming anyone else for anything in your life. Your words are your most powerful tool. You can use them to create Heaven or Hell. It’s your choice.
Words as magic
Words cast spells. You can spend all morning applying your makeup, picking your best outfit, making sure every hair is in place and then your frenemy at work says you look tired or points out the blueberry stain on your sleeve and destroys your illusion of perfection. Despite your best efforts, you feel bad. You tell yourself that you’ll never be perfect, you can’t do anything right or some other horrible thing, and you swallow the poison of someone else’s words. While you are responsible for your own impeccability, the next agreement helps you overcome others’ black magic and poisonous words.
The Second Agreement, Don’t Take Anything Personally
The second tenet for living the four agreements is not taking anything personally. Nothing others do is because of you. What others say and do is a projection of their own thoughts and beliefs. When we take something personally, we agree with the statement on some level. If we disagree, their words have no effect. When we learn to release our need for others’ approval, their words or behavior doesn’t affect us. Whether they yell at you, gossip about you or even cause you physical harm, you stay calm and at peace because you know everything others do and say is about them, not you.
How to keep from taking things personally
We all have belief systems that make us feel safe. When others challenge those beliefs, we get scared, defend ourselves and try to impose our views on them. If we challenge others’ beliefs, we see their anger and defensiveness, and we often expend much energy in defending and attacking. When living the four agreements, we practice forgiveness rather than defense. Forgiveness in this sense is a promise to release all anger and attachment to it. Sometimes this also includes an apology even when we believe we’re right, but we value the relationship more than being right.
Making assumptions and the Third Agreement
The third tenet of living the four agreements is not making assumptions. This requires the courage to ask questions and express what you really want. It requires you to communicate with others as clearly as you can to avoid misunderstandings and unnecessary drama. Assumptions happen when we believe we know what others’ point of view and what they are thinking and feeling. Just as no one really knows what we’re thinking, we don’t know what others are thinking and feeling unless we ask. Even then, they may not tell us the full story of what they are thinking and feeling.
How to eliminate making assumptions
One of the most psychologically damaging things we do is to assume that everyone judges and blames us as much as we judge and blame ourselves. By assuming others judge and blame us, we reject ourselves before others actually reject us. When we ask questions, we often find others don’t think about us all that much and when they do, they don’t judge us as harshly as we judge ourselves. If they do, we can refer to being impeccable with our own word and refuse to take the poison they offer. This is how we respect ourselves. In addition, we practice being honest with ourselves and stop expecting others to know what we’re thinking as we stop assuming we know what others think. With just this one agreement, you can completely transform your life.
The Fourth Agreement, Always do Your Best
The last tenant of living the four agreements is to always do your best. The most important part of this agreement is understanding what your best is. Your best is not the same every day. It changes based on how you feel physically, mentally and spiritually. The challenge is to do your best always without self-judgment, self-abuse, regret and without expecting any reward. This is the true essence of living in the moment, enjoying the journey without regard to the destination, a difficult thing in our results-oriented society. The focus of this agreement doesn’t negate goals and goal setting. Instead, it helps you detach from the outcome of any individual action and to focus solely on the present moment.
How Living the Four Agreements Changed My Life
After reading The Four Agreements, I am so much more aware of how I function in this world, and how others do too. I started using different language, and it made a huge difference. My post Change Your Words Change Your Life goes into detail about that, but it was amazing how my life changed when my language changed. Honestly, I still struggle with making assumptions, but I’m getting better, and even when I do make assumptions, I do my best to be compassionate about why people might be behaving in a way I find less than desirable. I’ve learned to be more accountable with my actions and more forgiving when I fall short of my expectations. I still get angry, but not as much, and I’ve learned to ask for what I want clearly. It makes a difference.
Living the four agreements yourself
One of the best things about The Four Agreements is its brevity. It’s merely 138 pages packed with wisdom. I first read it in 2002, and it’s one of those books you go back to over and over again. I lost count of how many times I read it, but each time I learn something new or understand one of the principles in a different way. They sound simple, and they are. Anyone can be impeccable with their word, stop taking things personally, stop making assumptions and always do their best. The key is to do that consistently, so excuse me while I read it once again. I hope you’ll join me, and you’ll email me with any questions or comments at firstname.lastname@example.org. Even better, sign up for our email community below for more information, interesting opportunities and to find the support you need in your own journey. As always, thanks for being you and have a great day.
Like what you see here? Click here for ways to support the Moving Toward Better mission.