Don Miguel Ruiz, a Mexican author and a spiritual leader is best known for his 1997 book The Four Agreements: A Practical Guide to Personal Freedom, a Toltec Wisdom Book. Although the Toltec culture left no written records, Ruiz uses the word Toltec to honor a long tradition of ancient indigenous beliefs and teachings in Mexico. Ruiz combines traditional indigenous wisdom with a scientific perspective and modern beliefs in his exploration of the human mind.
In his bestseller, The Four Agreements: A Practical Guide to Personal Freedom, Ruiz advocates personal freedom from agreements that we have made with ourselves and others that cause unhappiness and restraints in our lives.
The Four Agreements
The author says that children believe what adults tell them. Your kids will agree with anything you tell them and accept it as the only truth. For example, if you keep telling your children how smart and great they are, they will believe you. But they will also believe you if you tell them that they are incompetent or unsuccessful. According to Ruiz, kids don’t have another choice but to agree.
However, as we grow older, we learn not to accept all agreements, but to choose the healthier ones. In his book, Ruiz presents four such agreements. These four agreements are:
1. Be impeccable with your word.
2. Don’t take anything personally.
3. Don’t make assumptions.
4. Always do your best.
1st Agreement: Be Impeccable with Your Word
Translated from its origin in Latin, impeccably means ‘without sin’. According to Ruiz, to be impeccable with our word means not to be hurting to ourselves and others but to be truthful and to say things that have a positive effect on ourselves and other people.
What Ruiz considers as a sin is everything that we say or do that goes against ourselves, every negative self-talk or self-judgment. So, being impeccable means having positive self-thoughts and being forgiving to ourselves. Being impeccable with our word doesn’t mean not taking responsibility for our actions. On the opposite, when you are impeccable, you accept responsibility for your behavior but without self-blame or self-judgment.
2nd Agreement: Don’t Take Anything Personally
Ruiz believes that nothing other people say or do is because of us. It is because of themselves. How other people relate to us often depends on their mood, so if we base our self-image on how someone else treats us, we will most likely experience many difficulties. If we take things personally, we will be upset, insecure, and unhappy most of the time.
However, learning not to take things other people say or do personally, will help us become content, happy, and confident.
3rd Agreement: Don’t Make Assumptions
We often tend to assume what other people think or feel about us. However, our assumptions are usually wrong, causing problems with our self-perception, self-esteem, and relationships with others. The best way to fight our assumptions is to nurture clear communication: always ask questions and collect evidence before concluding what other people are thinking about you.
4th Agreement: Always Do Your Best
To achieve your goals and avoid criticism from your inner judge, Ruiz suggests to always do your best. No more or no less. Don’t try to do more because pushing yourself beyond limits may cause mistakes, pain, and disappointment. On the other hand, if you are not trying hard enough, you won’t be able to achieve your dreams. Always keep in mind that ‘our best’ varies from moment to moment, so it’s important that you always try to do your best.
Finally, remember that practice makes perfect: to improve your life and achieve personal freedom, repeat these for rules regularly.