Originally posted on Tuesday, January 22nd, 2008
Has society affected us to the point that we have learned to live our life trying only to satisfy the demands of others or live by other people’s standards because of the fear of not being accepted or good enough? By introducing the theory of ancient Toltec wisdom, in The Four Agreements, Don Miguel Ruiz reveals the source of our discontent by innovatively engaging the reader in a process of seeking a deeper truth—one of claiming our personal power.
The essence of the book focuses on our way of life. From the time we are born, we develop a belief system based on what other people tell us. We learn to live our life trying to satisfy other people’s demands which are often ruled by cultural norms, family norms, and societal norms. Everyone wants to tell us what we are all about. We even go to the point of rejecting ourselves for not being perfect. Ruiz identifies this as domestication–the process of conforming to societal norms. He suggests that most people give themselves away because they don’t believe in their own true self. They let other people judge and manipulate them until they suffer and no longer know who they are. Why? Why don’t we have the courage to look at our own beliefs, look for our own individualism, and identify that we have a purpose? It’s because we are not aware and present.
By revealing the source of our self-limiting beliefs, Ruiz stimulates a need and desire for the Four Agreements. One must be ready to break the agreements that deplete our energy and adopt four new agreements that will help us transform our life so that we may become truly connected, aware, and present.
The first agreement is to be impeccable with your word. This encourages one to speak with integrity and say only what you mean. It is essential to avoid using the word to speak against yourself or to gossip about others. We are challenged to practice this agreement in each moment. So often people say something they wish they would not have, or regret not saying something they should have. Our society thrives on gossip, and often it is the method in which we retrieve new information.
The second agreement suggests we don’t take anything personally. As Ruiz talks about, it is easy to take things personally because we are so critical and judgmental of ourselves. Often we lack self-confidence and become very sensitive and aware of other people’s perceptions and we rely on what others think and say about us. This prevents us from identifying how we really feel as well as making choices based upon our own evaluations and beliefs.
The third agreement advises us to not make assumptions. Ruiz suggests that our lives would be completely different if we accepted this one agreement. We must find the courage to ask questions and to express what we really want. Additionally, we must communicate with others as clearly as we can to avoid misunderstandings, sadness, and drama. In our society, we make assumptions and judgments about everything and everyone.
The fourth and final agreement is to always do your best. Under any circumstance, we must simply do our best to avoid self-judgment, self-abuse, and regret. Growing up, we are taught to do our best in everything we do, but rarely, do we actually honor it. Furthermore, we seldom asses our lives frequently enough to make changes to improve and grow.
In probing into each of these four agreements, one might question their validity. Didn’t we learn these principals in kindergarten? Many of us would like to believe we follow these agreements daily, as they are simple and common principals we should strive to live by. However, as Ruiz points out, these principals actually challenge us daily. They challenge us in the way we interact with people, they way we decipher what to believe, our trust in relationships, and the accountability to ourselves.
Ruiz calls his book “a practical guide to personal freedom.” WhenI picked up the book and first glanced at that saying, I immediately made an assumption thinking to myself “yeah right—it’s just another one of those books on the shelf.” However, after I read through the book I realized I had already broken the third agreement by judging the book by its cover. As I reflected on the four agreements and the message, I recognized it really is a practical guide to personal freedom. It is practical because the agreements are principals that we have known all of our life but for many of us, we have never recognized how often we dishonor the agreements and how integral they are to our personal life.
I ask myself, what if we all were fully aware of the four agreements? Would we really be different people? Would the values of our society and culture change? Perhaps. But more than that, I think we would finally have the courage to look at our own beliefs and how they affect our lives—how they often inhibit us from becoming present. There is a lot of fear that is connected with the inner journey because we are going to learn some things about ourselves that we wish we didn’t know. But it is the inner journey from which the courage to change can start to emerge. By aligning ourselves with the four agreements, we are working from our hearts, the origin of our integrity. Once we have the courage to lead from the heart, the center in the human self where everything comes together, we will come to know who we really are.