The power of The Four Agreements
When I was first recommended the book, “The Four Agreements” by Don Miguel Ruiz about eight years ago, I was mildly intrigued, but not enough to read it. I humored the person, saying something like “Oh, I’ll check that out!” but I knew I wasn’t going to do that. However, as the years went on, I found that more people who got to know me would end up recommending the book to me. I would think to myself, “I should really read this book,” but whenever I had the opportunity to do so, I seemed to always have other things on my mind.
“The Four Agreements” kept making an appearance in my life in one way or another. I knew it was a fairly short read and something about that made me wary of the book’s credibility. However, I couldn’t deny that people I respect and look up to had found value in it. One day I was bored watching a YouTube video and “The Four Agreements” was mentioned. I decided to finally seek out the book and once and for all find out what it’s really about.
“The Four Agreements” is a powerful read and caused me to reanalyze the way I perceive myself and the world around me. In this post, I’m going to break down the core messages contained in this book as well as what specifically stood out to me. I’m going to challenge myself, as well as you, to adopt these agreements in 2021.
First of all, what is an agreement?
Growing up, we were taught about the world around us using our native language. We were taught words, and these words would be used to further describe the experience of reality. A word is simply what we collectively agree upon to represent something in our shared consciousness. The power of the word is something that the human species drastically underestimate. What makes up our perceived world are the laws that we agree on inside our minds, many of which begin with words being told to us during our youth, or what Ruiz calls our “domestication”.
During our domestication, we were fed with multitudes of diverse information. This information was reinforced into our minds with a punishment-rewards system, the same way animals are domesticated. We took all this information in and subconsciously decided what we agree with. I agree that the sky is blue, that winter is cold, and that if I touch a hot stove, I will be burnt. I agree that if I misbehave, I will have to deal with the consequences. I agree that if I do as I’m told, I’ll be rewarded. Many of these agreements were introduced to us using the power of words during our domestication.
Words shape our reality. If a child is told they are ugly growing up by a distressed parent, the child may agree with this since it came from somebody they trust and love. The child will then grow up with this belief that they are ugly, regardless of how beautiful they may be, and in their mind, it will be true. Words are quite literally magic. Ruiz describes an example as follows: “I see a friend and give him an opinion that just popped into my mind. I say, “Hmmm! I see that kind of color in your face in people who are going to get cancer.” If he listens to the word, and if he agrees, he will have cancer in less than one year. That is the power of the word.”
An agreement is what we decide in our minds is true about ourselves, others, and the collective dream that is this world around us. We use these agreements to determine the laws inside our minds and ultimately, how we will live our lives.
AGREEMENT 1: Be impeccable with your word
At first, I interpreted this as meaning always be honest and have integrity; do what you say you’re going to do. This is correct, but also incorrect. Let me explain.
First, here is Ruiz on the word impeccability:
“Now let us see what the word impeccability means. Impeccability means “without sin.” Impeccable comes from the Latin pecatus, which means “sin.” The im in impeccable means “without,” so impeccable means “without sin.” Religions talk about sin and sinners, but let’s understand what it really means to sin. A sin is anything that you do which goes against yourself. Everything you feel or believe or say that goes against yourself is a sin. You go against yourself when you judge or blame yourself for anything. Being without sin is exactly the opposite. Being impeccable is not going against yourself. When you are impeccable, you take responsibility for your actions, but you do not judge or blame yourself.”
To be impeccable with your word means to not misuse the powerful word. During our domestication, we didn’t question things as much and were much more susceptible to black magic. Now that we are adults, we have the opportunity of deciding which words we will agree with, whether they come from other people or ourselves. If somebody calls me ugly and I am hurt by this, it suggests that I on some level agree with them. When they called me ugly, what happened was I proceeded to call myself ugly inside my mind. This is a misuse of my word. If I've already made the law inside my mind that I am attractive, then I will be immune to such an insult, and be impeccable with my word.
Honest and integrity is something I value and is included in my agreements. So when I am dishonest, I am misusing my words and therefore not being impeccable with them. However if I feel I am morally justified in being dishonest, perhaps in a situation where survival or freedom is at stake, I will be dishonest and do the opposite of what I say I will do. I’m still being impeccable with my word in this scenario if I have not gone against myself. This is why being impeccable with your word means more than following through on what you say you will do.
Being impeccable with the word means to use the power of your words- especially the words you use with yourself- in a positive way that doesn’t sabotage or go against yourself.
AGREEMENT 2: Don’t take anything personally
This one can be a difficult one to do, but it’s absolutely necessary. People project how they feel internally onto others, especially when they communicate. If I love myself and am currently feeling happy, I am more likely to compliment you. If I hate myself and am currently feeling angry, I am more likely to insult you. It has nothing to do with you, whatsoever. I merely have energy that I desire to transfer, whether it’s good or bad energy.
If we take things personally, we are letting other people dictate our mind’s laws, based on nothing more than how that person was feeling at the moment they used their black magic to put us under a spell. If I am rejected or criticized and agree with the words, then I may decide it’s now a law that “I don’t put myself out there”. Even when people compliment and praise us, we should not take it personally. Ruiz says “When we take something personally, we make the assumption that they know what is in our world, and we try to impose our world on their world. Don’t take anything personally. Even if someone got a gun and shot you in the head, it was nothing personal. Even at that extreme.”
The opinions we have about ourselves inside our minds are still not to be taken personally, because even these are not necessarily true. These opinions could have been rooted in something that goes against me, and therefore, I should use only my agreements as a moral compass. If somebody tells me I am amazing, I know they are not saying it because of me, but because of how they feel internally. I know I am amazing and so it isn’t necessary for me to believe anyone if they tell me this about myself.
To not take anything personally means to not place our trust in what others do or say, but only putting our trust in ourselves. What they say about us is nothing more than a projection of how they feel internally.
AGREEMENT 3: Don’t make assumptions
We tend to make assumptions all the time, whether we realize it or not. Often we will assume that other people know what we want and how we feel, and by doing so, we set ourselves up for inevitable disappointment. When I look at the issues I’ve dealt with in my life and the ones I’m currently experiencing, I notice a lot of them are rooted in me making false assumptions. I didn't express my thoughts and desires because I assumed other people knew them already. Then when people didn’t behave the way I assumed they would, I took it personally and new laws were wired into my mind.
This agreement goes hand-in-hand with the second agreement, “Don’t take anything personally”. If a co-worker does something that I don’t like and I assume it was done with nefarious intent, I may decide that they did this to me because I am stupid, useless, or unworthy. I cannot assume that I know what is going on in other people’s worlds, just as I cannot assume people know what is going on in my world. By choosing to not make assumptions, I am committing to transforming my life in a way that stays congruent with myself and my morals.
To not make assumptions means to recognize that we cannot know what is going on in other people’s minds. By not making assumptions, we will stay true to who we are internally and will speak our needs with clear communication.
AGREEMENT 4: Always do your best
We are our own harshest critics. If we do something that we know is not our best, we become upset with ourselves. The truth is our best is not always the same. Some days we won’t have the energy or the mood to put in the quality of work we usually do, but as long as we always do our best, we allow ourselves to be free from the self-judgment. If we always do our best- no more and no less- then we will be immune to the sentencing of the judge inside our minds.
Consider this tale that Ruiz cited in his book:
“There was a man who wanted to transcend his suffering so he went to a Buddhist temple to find a Master to help him. He went to the Master and asked, “Master, if I meditate four hours a day, how long will it take me to transcend?”
The Master looked at him and said, “If you meditate four hours a day, perhaps you will transcend in ten years.”
Thinking he could do better, the man then said, “Oh, Master, what if I meditated eight hours a day, how long will it take me to transcend?”
The Master looked at him and said, “If you meditate eight hours a day, perhaps you will transcend in twenty years.”
“But why will it take me longer if I meditate more?” the man asked.
The Master replied, “You are not here to sacrifice your joy or your life. You are here to live, to be happy, and to love. If you can do your best in two hours of meditation, but you spend eight hours instead, you will only grow tired, miss the point, and you won’t enjoy your life. Do your best, and perhaps you will learn that no matter how long you meditate, you can live, love, and be happy.”
To always do our best means to put aside fantasized expectations and to simply do what we are doing to the best of our ability. By always doing our best, we will not be subject to toxic laws that our minds can create.
I have faith that implementing the four agreements in my everyday life will bring about a tremendous transformation. If we all used the four agreements on a global scale, this world would truly be a better place with far fewer issues that we deal with daily. My New Year’s resolution for 2021 is to adopt these agreements into my life and to be aware of when I am going against them. As long as I am impeccable with my word, don’t take anything personally, don’t make assumptions, and always do my best, I know I can become the best version of myself possible.
I challenge you to utilize these agreements in your life and analyze how these concepts apply to your personal affairs. I know that there was a distinct reason this book made so many appearances in my life and I’m glad I took the time to digest its information. I highly recommend reading the full book for yourself so you can get the full experience. I am grateful that “The Four Agreements” entered my life and for the opportunity to share its messages with you.
Thanks for reading.