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:
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 u 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.”
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.