How "The Four Agreements" Changed My LifeJune 18, 2019
A friend of mine gave me a copy of the book, “The Four Agreements” a number of years ago, when he saw I was going through a difficult personal time. He said, “this book will literally change your life. It certainly changed mine.” And he was spot on, as it truly did change my life for better. I have referred to the book in many of my talks since, especially when I am mentoring at-risk teenage boys. And I’ve handed out so many copies as gifts over the years that I should have negotiated a royalty with the publishers.
The author, Don Miguel Ruiz, combines traditional indigenous beliefs from Mexico with modern insights to create four simple rules by which to live your life. These rules are the agreements you are to make with yourself. At first glance the agreements seem so basic that you wonder what all the fuss is about. But as you dig deeper into the logic, you begin to appreciate the wisdom of what Ruiz is saying. And the fact that it’s been translated into 46 languages and sales in the US alone are 8.5 million copies, should also tell you the author is on to something.
The four agreements are as follows:
Be impeccable with your word. “Speak with integrity. Say only what you mean. Avoid using words to speak against yourself or to gossip about others. Use the power of your word in the direction of truth and love.”
Don't make assumptions. “Find the courage to ask questions and to express what you really want. Communicate with others as clearly as you can to avoid misunderstandings, sadness and drama. With just this one agreement, you can completely transform your life.”
Don't take anything personally. “Nothing others do is because of you. What others say and do is a projection of their own reality, their own dream. When you are immune to the opinions and actions of others, you won't be the victim of needless suffering.”
Always do your best. “Your best is going to change from moment to moment; it will be different when you are healthy as opposed to sick. Under any circumstance, simply do your best, and you will avoid self-judgment, self-abuse and regret.”
I have discussed this book with many people over the years and have found everyone has their favourite agreement or one that has made the most significant impact on their lives. Personally, I have always believed in doing my best and I learned early on the value of being impeccable with my word. But making assumptions and taking things personally were two traits that caused me a lot of unnecessary grief and drama.
I used to make a lot of assumptions, which often turned out to be dead wrong. I have found that the damage you are doing to yourself and to those around you by making an incorrect assumption is meaningful. It’s so simple to just ask instead of assuming. Ruiz frames this behaviour quite accurately, “If others tell us something we make assumptions, and if they don't tell us something we make assumptions to fulfill our need to know and to replace the need to communicate. Even if we hear something and we don't understand we make assumptions about what it means and then believe the assumptions. We make all sorts of assumptions because we don't have the courage to ask questions.”
I made this mistake often and mostly in my intimate relationships. I often think about how tranquil my life might have been, had I just asked, instead of brooding endlessly over some false assumption I had made.
Having said that, the one rule that has truly changed my life has been not taking anything personally. Ruiz correctly says, “Gossiping has become the main form of communication in human society. It has become the way we feel close to each other, because it makes us feel better to see someone else feel as badly as we do.” We all do it and don’t realize the damage that it causes to others. I can’t think how many hours I used to spend fuming over what someone had said about me, usually through the rumour mill. That anger was so misspent, stressful and a complete waste of mental energy. I read somewhere that on average, our minds process approximately 60,000 thoughts per day and that every day we are processing 90 percent of the same thoughts from the previous day. So it stands to reason that if our minds are occupied with anger and negativity, we have very little time for positive and productive thinking.
Taking things personally also makes you vulnerable to manipulation by others. “Taking things personally makes you easy prey for these predators, the black magicians. They can hook you easily with one little opinion and feed you whatever poison they want, and because you take it personally, you eat it up. You eat all their emotional garbage, and now it becomes your garbage. But if you do not take it personally, you are immune in the middle of hell. Immunity to poison in the middle of hell is the gift of this agreement.” I have found incredible freedom and peace since I trained myself to either forgive or ignore nasty things that are said about me. It’s like wearing a Teflon suit around your ego.
If you haven’t read “The Four Agreements”, I strongly suggest you pick up a copy. It’s an easy, short read. And I promise, if you adopt these rules, you will change your life.