Lessons from The Four Agreements

“To be alive is the biggest fear humans have. Death is not the biggest fear we have; our biggest fear is taking the risk to be alive — the risk to be alive and express what we really are.” Don Miguel Ruiz, The Four Agreements: A Practical Guide to Personal Freedom

The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz  is about how you can achieve personal freedom so that you can live a fulfilling life. It’s about  being mindful and being at peace with yourself and other people. The book shares some principles that you can implement to stop overthinking,  stop self limiting beliefs, stop judging others and become a better version of yourself. 

The Domestication process 

Ruiz begins  by pointing out that so many of us struggle to find inner peace because of the way we were raised up. From the moment we’re born, we are taught what to believe, what’s right and wrong by society, our parents and our communities. We are taught to behave in a way that’s deemed acceptable by society. Essentially we are taught to be clones. This is called the domestication process. 

We are domesticated through a reward/punishment system. Whenever we do something regarded as good we get a reward and we are praised (acceptance or a literal reward) and whenever we do something that goes against what we’ve been taught we get punished (rejected). Over time we develop a fear of being rejected and seek to be rewarded all the time (seek other people’s approval).  

We get domesticated so much that eventually we don’t need society, our parents or communities to domesticate us, we end up  domesticating ourselves. We are always looking to fit into an image of ‘perfection’ and when  we can’t  be perfect we judge and punish ourselves (self rejection). For example, when we do something or say something that we feel like we shouldn’t have said or done, we will punish ourselves over and over again in our heads, with thoughts like “you’re so stupid, why did you do that”. I for one am guilty of doing this, are you ? When we do something that we think is ‘wrong’, we will go over it again and again in our heads.

 Ruiz calls this injustice. Paying for the same mistake over and over again is just suffering. We need to realise that we are never going to be perfect. However, It’s possible to live a life free from suffering, Ruiz shares four agreements that we can implement to help us break free from the suffering cycle that we live in. 

Be impeccable with your word 

The first agreement is to be impeccable with your word. Your word is the power that you have to create and it is through your word that you manifest everything. Your word can either be used to create positivity and beauty or it can be used negatively and create hell. It can set you free or enslave you. It can change life or destroy life. Being impeccable with your word means to not use your word against yourself, i.e talking negatively about yourself. When you tell yourself you’re not good enough you are planting negative seeds in your mind and you start to believe what you’re saying to yourself.

Being impeccable with your word also means not talking negatively about others, avoid gossip, lies and other ways you might cause problems because of the things you’ve said . When you are impeccable with your word, you take responsibility for your actions, and you speak with integrity.  It sounds really easy but it’s hard in practise because we usually use our words carelessly.

Don’t take anything personally 

The second agreement is don’t take anything personally. As humans we always make assumptions that everything is about ‘me’. During the domestication process we learned to make everything about ourselves. We think we are responsible for everything, but listen to this, nothing other people do is because of you, it is because of themselves and the way they see the world. 

When we  take things personally, we set ourselves up to suffer and we  allow the beliefs of others to define  our perception of ourselves. We need to know ourselves enough to not believe what others say about us. If you know your own value then you wont need to seek approval from others  or have the need to be accepted. You can be your true authentic self. When you don’t take things personally,  you can live with a great sense of peace because not taking things personally takes away the burden  to interpret other people’s feelings and actions. 

Don’t make any assumptions

We have the tendency to make assumptions about everything. This is because humans have a need for clarity. When we are unsure about a situation or when there are  missing pieces to a story,  we connect the dots ourselves and make assumptions. We make assumptions because we don’t ask for clarification.For example, someone might be pulling faces while you’re talking to them and instead of asking them why they are pulling faces you assume they don’t like you. In reality the person is just thinking about what happened last night. 

Instead of making assumptions, we should ask questions to clarify.  We should communicate with others clearly. Communicating clearly also includes letting people know your boundaries, expectations and wants instead of assuming people know what your expectations are.  Assumptions can be destructive to ourselves and our relationships with others. Question more and assume less. 

 Always do your best 

The fourth agreement is always do your best. When you do your best you avoid self judgment, self abuse and self rejection. When you do your best, there’s no room to judge yourself because you did your best. Note that your best will be different depending on circumstances, it will be different when you’re tired compared to when you’re energetic. Doing your best isn’t about being perfect,  instead it’s about giving things a go to the best of your ability at a given time and moment.  So, always do your best in everything you do, no more, no less. 

Key takeaways: 

  • Learn to define yourself and stop creating an identity of yourself based on the opinions and judgements of others 
  • You can change your life, you don’t have to live a life of suffering
  • Practise the four agreements to find true freedom,  which is the ability to express your emotions freely like a child . Children are not afraid of being themselves nor are they frightened of the future or ashamed of the past. 

These agreements seem easy don’t they ? I’d like to finish this post by challenging you to try to practise these agreements and I hope you get yourself a copy of the book. Remember it takes a long time to change old habits so just take  small steps and you will slowly but surely chip away at old habits. 

I hope you enjoyed this post. Comment down below what your favourite agreement is. 

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