This weekend, I finished reading The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz and wanted to share a few thoughts on it.

I enjoyed this short little book and the book had a pretty big impact on me.

Ruiz’s theory is that when we are growing up, we are basically socialized and trained to have certain beliefs and sometimes these beliefs about ourselves can be very negative. Oftentimes, we do not even realize that we have these negative beliefs about ourselves.

Ruiz goes on to suggest that these are the agreements that we have with ourselves and that we live our lives according to these agreements. For most of us, Ruiz suggests, these agreements block us from living our lives to the fullest.

While I have zero training in psychology or psychiatry, I do agree with Ruiz that many of us operate according to self-limiting ideas that we have about ourselves (i.e. “I don’t have a musical bone in my body” or “I’m too ugly for that” to cite just a couple common examples).

Often these self-limiting beliefs are not founded in objective truth but are based on lies.

The solution?

Ruiz suggests that we break these negative agreements with ourselves by adopting Four New Agreements:

The First Agreement: Be Impeccable With Your Word

Ruiz suggests that we should be very careful how we use our words. Since words are how we communicate with others, words carry a lot of power and that power can be either negative or positive. He suggests that ridiculing others or gossiping causes a lot of negative energy and then, all of a sudden, everything is cast in a negative light. This negativity also has the effect of sapping your energy.

Ruiz suggests if you want to have a positive, productive day, try to avoid saying bad things about people or gossiping about them. Ruiz suggests that the focus should be on taking the next right action, which will usually not require saying nasty or rude things to people or about people.

Ruiz also notes that this applies to ourselves too. Many of us have a habit of saying things like “How could I be so stupid?!” or “Well, I’d love to go to that party, but I’m just too fat right now.” Instead of being confident and proud of who we are as a person, we say very rude things to ourselves, which just make us feel even worse and depletes our confidence and energy.

This is especially important when it comes to those we love. We all get upset from time to time and may say things we regret. What if that is the last time we see that loved one? How would we feel about those last words we said? Would it really seem so important then? We would probably feel awful and realize how stupid the whole argument was. Ruiz suggests treating everyone with the same love and caring as if it is the last time you will see them.

In this chapter of the book, Ruiz tells a story about a little girl who loved to sing. It made her so happy. Then one day, her mom was in a really bad mood and the little girl started singing again. Her mom cut her off, told her to immediately stop singing, and told her that she had an ugly voice. She never sang again, even though she loved it so much and even though that was just her mom’s opinion, at a moment when she was angry. This scarred this poor little girl for life and she never wanted to sing again. Our words can have a lasting impact on someone, more so than we even realize.

The Second Agreement: Do Not Take Things Personally

The Second Agreement is to not take things personally. Ruiz suggests that we create our own misery by taking so many things personally. Even when someone says or does something that we find offensive, it is our choice whether to let it bother us or not. Of course, when we have an instant, emotional reaction to something, this is our fight or flight response kicking in, a response that has been developed over thousands of years of evolution to protect us from threats. While it may be difficult, we still get to decide whether to take something personally.

Ruiz says we will be much happier if we do not take things personally. If someone says something very rude, that is their choice to say those things and it probably means that they are not happy with themselves and it makes them feel better to tear someone else down. When we get upset over something, it can ruin our whole day and who knows if it will be our last day?

Ruiz recommends living each day as if it were our last. While this is also challenging, I think it is very wise. How many people have we known throughout our lives who had their own lives cut short due to a horrible tragedy? I have known plenty, unfortunately. Who knows when we could be next?

 

The Third Agreement: Do Not Make Assumptions

The Third Agreement is to not make assumptions. We often make ourselves irritated and ruin many days by making assumptions, many of which are not based in evidence but are false assumptions. Sometimes we spend days ruminating over something, based on a false assumption, only to find out a week later it wasn’t even true in the first place. This is no way to live.

Sometimes our assumptions are based on past experiences. For example, if someone has treated us a certain way in the past, we may assume they are repeating that behavior, even though we don’t have evidence of it in this instance.

Ruiz says that living based off of assumptions creates a lot of unnecessary stress for ourselves and suggests focusing on objective truth as it is revealed. I know there have been times when I have assumed someone was upset with me when it turned out that they were going through a personal situation that was bothering them. I just assumed, because they seemed to be short with me, that it was all about me. Wrong.

We never know all that someone is going through. Sure, some people will be jerks just because they like to be jerks. Fine, they can spend their life in misery being nasty to people. I don’t want any part of that. I want to be around people and do things that make me feel alive, not denigrated.

The Fourth Agreement: Always Do Your Best

Ruiz makes the excellent point that when we say a lot of negative things, when we take things personally, and when we make a lot of assumptions, we deplete a lot of our energy and then cannot do our best. This then creates a cycle of guilt because we know we are not doing our best, whether that is with our relationships, our work, or anything else in life. I tend to agree with this. Negativity is definitely an energy destroyer.

I know for me to thrive in my profession and to do my best work, I need to feel refreshed and have a lot of positive energy. My profession can be mentally exhausting, which can then make you physically exhausted. When I am exercising, eating healthy, and approaching my work with a positive attitude, I do my very best work. I know this to be true from personal experience.

We will not always do our best each day at every task as we are imperfect human beings. However, each day presents a new opportunity to do better than the day before. When we do our best, we can live guilt-free, no matter what the outcome of the project is because we know we did our best. What else can anyone expect from us?

Overall, I enjoyed The Four Agreements. It was a very positive book to read and, at least in my humble opinion, these are good principles to live by. While I usually donate books to the local library after reading them, I will be keeping this one. I have a feeling I’ll be going back to it from time to time, depending on what challenges life may be bringing my way.

Here’s the link to The Four Agreements, through the Barnes & Noble website, should you be interested in purchasing a copy: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/four-agreements-don-miguel-ruiz/1100993587?ean=9781878424310

 

Have a great day!

 

Best Regards,

 

Ryan C. Torrens

Consumer Advocate