Learn the life-changing lessons from the Four Agreements – “Live with integrity, speak impeccably, don’t take things personally, and always do your best.”
The much-lauded Mexican author, Don Miguel Ruiz, is known for his best-selling book, “The Four Agreements’’, which has sold millions of copies, and inspired people from around the globe. His book was endorsed by Oprah Winfrey on The Oprah Winfrey Show and spent over a decade on the New York Times bestseller list.
But before becoming an author, Don Miguel Ruiz studied medicine and worked as a surgeon for many years. However, a life-changing car accident nearly sent him to the other side. That’s when he decided to switch gears and become an apprentice under a shaman, learning the ways of the ancient Toltecs.
Who were the Toltecs, you ask? They were an indigenous Mexican culture of warriors that existed around a thousand years ago. Don Miguel took inspiration from the ancient teachings and wrote The Four Agreements.
Don Miguel Ruiz- The Four Agreements
The ‘Four Agreements’ concept has truly inspired people to take an active approach to their lives and change them for the better. In fact, the author’s goal was to lead readers on a transformative journey toward freedom, happiness, and love. Ruiz believes that every action we take stems from the agreements we make with ourselves, others, and life itself. While some agreements may be harmless, others can be rooted in fear, draining us of emotional energy and self-worth and causing unnecessary suffering. Ruiz’s teaching presents the powerful proposition that personal joy can only be achieved by rejecting societal and fear-based agreements that unconsciously shape our thoughts and behaviors. He also suggests
that much of the suffering we experience is self-created, but we possess the incredible ability to transform ourselves and our negative thoughts.
What Do the Four Agreements Teach You?
The first agreement, according to Ruiz, is both the most important and the most challenging to follow. It focuses on the power of language and the need to be “impeccable” with our words. The word “impeccable” comes from the Latin “peccatus,” meaning “sin,” and the prefix “im-” means “without.” Therefore, being impeccable with language means taking responsibility for our actions and refraining from judging ourselves and others. Speaking with integrity and carefully choosing our words are central to this agreement.
The second agreement provides readers with a strategy to deal with hurtful treatment from others. It emphasizes the importance of having a strong sense of self and not relying on others’ opinions for our self-worth. We must recognize that each individual has a unique perspective that shapes their actions and beliefs. According to Ruiz, anger, jealousy, envy, and sadness can diminish once we stop taking things personally.
The third agreement is about avoiding assumptions. When we assume what others are thinking, we create stress and conflict because we believe our assumption is the truth. The solution is to ask questions and ensure clear communication between all parties involved.
The fourth agreement encourages readers to strive towards their goals by integrating the first three agreements into their daily lives and always doing their best. Our best effort will vary depending on the situation, but if we do our best in each moment, we can avoid self-judgment and regret. By living a life free from self-criticism and incorporating the first three agreements, we can experience life without sorrow.
Rediscover Our True Selves – Don Miguel Ruiz
Another important element in his teaching is ‘domestication’, which teaches us how we were socialized to conform to the rules of society. Ruiz compares how children between the ages of two and four don’t shy away from expressing their emotions or showing love. They don’t give a second thought to the past or future, choosing instead to live solely in the present moment. As children, it’s instinctive to relish life, play, explore, and love without fear or hesitation.
But then, as we grow up, our spark of wildness is replaced by conformity. Our parents, teachers, and society start feeding us information, programming us with their own beliefs, including social, religious, and moral standards. They hold our attention, dictate what we should do, and mold us into their likeness. And suddenly, we’re expected to fit into the cookie-cutter mold of what society deems acceptable. We’re taught how to be “good” humans and how to behave according to our gender and social norms. It’s like we’re domesticated animals trained to perform on command, rewarded when we meet expectations, and scolded when we don’t. Our families and society tell us what is right or wrong, good or bad, beautiful or ugly, and we absorb this information as truth, like sponges soaking up water.
By the time we reach our teenage years, we’ve internalized these values and started judging ourselves by the same standards. We become our own jailers, punishing and rewarding ourselves according to the same belief system we were taught. The process of domestication varies in difficulty depending on where we’re from, but in the end, none of us can escape it. We’re all programmed to fit into our particular society’s mold, and it takes a mighty effort to break free from the constraints of our upbringing.
Ruiz further analyzes how, just as the government enforces laws that shape society, our personal belief system acts as a set of laws that govern our thoughts and actions. Whatever we hold as truth within our minds, through our belief system, becomes our reality. Our minds are equipped with an inner judge that assesses everything, from our feelings to external events such as the weather or the behavior of pets. This judge references our personal ‘Book of Laws’ to evaluate our every move and thought. This process can result in a self-defeating cycle where we judge ourselves harshly, leading to feelings of inadequacy and victimization. We try to conform to societal standards of perfection and end up unhappy and unfulfilled because we are unable to meet those expectations.
In reality, much of what we believe about ourselves and the world around us is untrue, leading to needless suffering. Domestication, the process of conforming to societal expectations, takes away our freedom to be authentic and to express ourselves freely. The result is a sense of loss and a search for happiness, beauty, and freedom.
However, by becoming aware of the beliefs that guide our lives, we can begin to break free from this cycle of suffering. Adopting alternative beliefs, such as the Four Agreements, can help us regain our authentic selves and live life more fully. Ultimately, this journey towards self-discovery and liberation can be seen as the greatest gift that we can give to ourselves.
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