The Four Agreements and Me

the four agreements

I first read The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz over a year ago.  My life was changing in ways that ended up for the better, but I felt crappy at the time.  I knew I needed a new perspective on life, many of the old ways I’d been living just weren’t working out very well.  Been there?  Me too.

I saw lots of bloggers and writers talking about these four agreements, so I decided to read the book.  Life changer, guys, life changer.  It attacks common hangups in a simple way.   I re-read this book in between finishing my degree and starting my new career.  I wanted a reminder, and I’m so glad I did.  Without remembering these truths, the insecure, controlling Taylor might suffocate the creative, inspired Taylor.

Without further ado, The Four Agreements:

The Four Agreements

1. Be Impeccable with Your Word

I’ve always understood the importance of not lying, but I never fully grasped the idea of only saying what you actually mean.  I have discovered over the years that I am the queen of saying things I don’t really mean, or saying things passive-aggressively instead of intentionally.  This has gotten me in trouble, and has led me to being the doormat in many situations.  Being impeccable with my word means when I want to say “yes,” I say “yes” – when I want to say “no,” I say “no.”

Ruiz talks about how much power is held in words (The Bible has a lot to say on this matter too).  I love this fact as a writer, but I’m humbled by this fact as a human.  Hitler was good at using words, but he used them for lies and hate.  Being impeccable with your word means you use your words for truth and love, something I try to remember since my job is using words.

Favorite Quote from book: “Use the word to share your love…beginning with yourself.  Tell yourself how wonderful you are, how great you are…Use the word to break all those teeny, tiny agreements that make you suffer.”

2. Don’t Take Anything Personally

This truth takes the cake for me, it’s the foundation of so many of my struggles.  Taking nothing personally is not only about ignoring a bad joke aimed at you.  Taking nothing personally means you realize that people live in their own worlds, or as Ruiz calls them, “dreams.”  What they think and say about you really has nothing to do with you.  It’s a projection of their own reality.

I have received such negative, hurtful feedback for years for being a more liberal, “opened-minded” Christian.  To the point of people thinking there’s no way I could be a Christian if I support gay marriage (aka “marriage”) or read teachings of Buddha.  I took that all personally for so long – “they think I’m going to hell!”  But that’s a reflection of what they believe about their religion, not a direct attack on me.

Favorite quote from book: “Whatever you think, whatever you feel, I know is your problem and not my problem.  It is the way you see the world.  It is nothing personal, because you are dealing with yourself, not with me.”

3. Don’t Make Assumptions

We make assumptions all the time, don’t we?  I don’t think I realized how common this phenomenon was until I read this book.  From the tiniest things to the largest things, we assume all the time.  (My mama always told me “You know what happens when you assume? You make an ass out of and me. Love her for that!)  Ruiz warns that assumptions are what kills relationships.

I felt the true sting of assumptions when I went through my divorce.  Because I believe in being brave enough to share my own story, but kind enough not to share anyone else’s – I haven’t written about the details.  Still, I’d get email after email when it first happened with people assuming lots.  That frustration encouraged me to ask people more questions so I’m not the assumer.

Favorite quote from book: “Making assumptions in our relationships is really asking for problems.  Often we make the assumption that our partners know what we think and that we don’t have to say what we want.  We assume they are going to do what we want, because they know us so well.  If they don’t do what we assume they should do, we feel hurt.”

4. Always Do Your Best

As a perfectionist with a mad case of people-pleasing, this one is important in my life.  We hear “always do your best” a lot in life, but typically it means you have to crack your back to achieve everything we expect of you.  That’s not what it means in this book.  Doing your best means doing no less than your best, but also NO MORE than your best.  All while knowing your best will change from day to day and year to year as circumstances change.

I would drive myself to sickness for many years trying to juggle everything perfectly.  To me, my “best” meant giving every single ounce of myself.  But that was a faulty sense of my best.  Without self-care, rest, doing what I love, or saying “no” to things that did not serve me, I was too run down to actually give my best.

Favorite quote: “If you try too hard to do more than your best, you will spend more energy than is needed and in the end your best will not be enough.  When you overdo, you deplete your body and go aginast yourself.”

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Ruiz develops these four agreements even more deeply and profoundly.  He also discusses “domestication,” the process where we start making agreements with ourselves as children, and not all of them healthy.  Ruiz bases most of his work in the Toltec tradition.  Know that I highly recommend The Four Agreements; it’s made a huge difference in my life.  It can in yours too, I’m sure.

5 thoughts on “The Four Agreements and Me

  • August 5, 2015 at 6:26 pm
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    Oh wow, I really, really, really hate these. Number two is my LEAST favorite. This list was once used against me by a bunch of people who were super rude as a group and then used their own behavior to manipulate my actions into making them look like the victims. That was the first I had heard of them. I think number two is the worst because it basically excuses everyone of everything. Worst case, I can absolutely see it being used to justify rape…I mean, don’t take anything personally, so don’t take assault and battery and rape personally, right? I wish this had never been written, because I think it’s so off base. I think I would go the other way and say, “PLEASE, take EVERYTHING personally! Take everything so personally that you consider every tiny piece of every action you take and you are so totally aware of how you affect the world and how the world affects you!”

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    • August 5, 2015 at 8:42 pm
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      If people used the concept of “don’t take anything personally” against you – they were SO in the wrong and completely missed the point. I”m sorry for that! “Don’t take anything personally” is not a concept that people can EVER use to justify themselves and what they did wrong. In no way is it ever a defense for people who do bad things!!! I don’t see it as excusing people of anything. When people are wrong, justice should be done. When a man rapes a woman, he deserves MAXIMUM punishment every single time. It’s not that we scoff it off and say “oh he didn’t mean anything by it.” I hate rape victim blaming so much it makes my blood boil. But that’s not what the book is implying at all. What it means is – when people say or do evil, I can decide to not let it damage my personhood. I can know I am still worthy, still loved, still awesome. I won’t take what they said or did and let it take my person, my humanity, my worthiness. When somebody says, “you’re ugly,” I can either believe them and let it take some of my personhood away. Or I can realize that they are jerks and probably insecure, that comment doesn’t make me any less “me” or any less. But I can still take action: either confront them about it and stand up for myself or remove them from my lives. (or both)

      It’s not like the old catch phrase “don’t take it personally, man” as in “ignore that I was violent or I was a jerk” – no! – it means, the fact that somebody is mean to me does not mean I deserved it or that they are right. It means they have issues. And that doesn’t let them off the hook! I believe in confronting people who are mean; I believe in going to the authorities when people do illegal things. It just means I’m not going to own their shit. I am going to own me. Does that make any sensel? You are more than free to hate everything he said – though if you read it you may get a clearer picture of what he meant! The book really helped me, and I know so many people who’ve been helped by it too. But everybody is different, right?! :)

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      • August 9, 2015 at 6:23 pm
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        “I can know I am still worthy, still loved, still awesome. I won’t take what they said or did and let it take my person, my humanity, my worthiness. ”
        —>THAT makes sense.

        I was in the book store today, and I saw this book and walked right past it! Maybe I’ll read it someday, maybe not. But your explanation shows me how those others were using it in the wrong way. I’m actually trying to practice it your way right now!

        Reply
  • August 8, 2015 at 6:04 am
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    I love this, Taylor! I just started reading The Four Agreements and this post makes me excited to finish it… I think this shall be my goal for this weekend :) Thanks for sharing :)

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    • August 8, 2015 at 11:25 am
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      I’m sure you’ll love it as much as I did!!

      Reply

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