If you haven’t heard of or read The Four Agreements, let me introduce you to a book that just might change your life. This book did change my life. This is a very easy and quick read. The author don Miguel Ruiz, states that, “if you can begin to live your life with these agreements, the transformation in your life will be amazing.” I wholeheartedly agree with that statement and feel that this book renewed my spirit. Let’s dive in to what the agreements are and how you can apply them to your life in practical way.
1st Agreement: Be Impeccable With Your Word
You must speak with integrity. Essentially the agreement mandates that you speak with care. When you speak it must not be negative towards yourself or others. That means no indulging in negative self-talk, and no using guilt or shamming language. Additionally, you must not blame, criticize or gossip about others. Speaking with integrity means doing what you say you will, honoring your commitments, and only making commitments that you intend to follow through on.
Practical ways that you can apply this to your every life include; using positive affirmations like, “I am well,” “I am successful,” and “I am worthy of love” daily, stop saying “I’m sorry” for things that are not your fault, and start looking for the positive aspect in things versus the negative to talk about. Seek the silver lining to focus on. Speak the truth in a kind way and with love. Be mindful about your tone, connotation and choice of words. Think before you speak, always. If it will make the situation better, say it, if it will harm or worsen the situation, think twice before speaking or try to re-frame what you want to say. Using “I” statements to describe how you are feeling. Learn talking boundaries like, “when you (insert action or behavior), I felt (emotion or feeling).” Emphasize the action and not the person directly. This tip works well with children too. For example, say, “when you are not listening, I feel frustrated.”
2nd Agreement: Don’t Take Anything Personally
Ruiz says: “Nothing other people do is because of you. It is because of themselves.” Once you truly grasp this concept, you will experience a new level of freedom. What others say to you is a direct reflection of their own perception of their reality. Ruiz writes, “When you make it a strong habit not to take anything personally, you avoid many upsets in your life. Your anger, jealousy and envy will disappear, and even your sadness will simply disappear if you don’t take things personally.” This agreement, when applied, can be life changing.
To apply this to every day life, consider the following. Think about a conversation and how it can go in 2 different scenarios. First interaction: Your spouse had awesome day; which started with a full night of peaceful sleep, got a promotion at work during the day, and had minimal traffic on the way home from work. Everything virtually went well today. They are on cloud nine. How do you think the first conversation of the night will go? Most likely pretty well.
On the other hand, consider the situation in a different light: This time, they could not get to sleep and could not stay asleep for longer than an hour, they were reprimanded at work and got in a fender bender on the way home. Not only did all those stressful things happen, but they also didn’t eat all day, and forgot to make an important call. This would probably put your spouse into a negative state. How do you think they would treat you in that situation? Probably nowhere near as well as the first interaction, right?
Take into consideration others past and present experiences, personalities, mental health status, and other stressors that might be affecting them. Once you realize that 9 times out of 10 people aren’t attacking you, but rather responding to other factors that have nothing to do with you, you can better control your response and direct it appropriately. Others might even take things out on you, but don’t be fooled. When you are immune to the actions and opinions of others, you will no longer fall victim to needless agony, and countless unnecessary conflicts and confrontations.
3rd Agreement: Don’t Make Assumptions
When I read, “we make assumptions about what others are doing or thinking — we take it personally — then we blame them and react by sending emotional poison with our word.” That blew my mind! I had literally never considered that concept. This was one of the easiest agreements to apply. All you need to do to stop making assumptions is to ask more questions. Ask questions until you get a clear and concise answer. Any time there is uncertainty, doubt or confusion…ask a direct question! You will then have the power to respond correctly and with integrity. This is practical in both communication at home and at work.
An example of practical way to apply this at home is when your kid says, “I’m mad at my friends because they are mean.” You could say something general like, “oh love, kids are always mean” and brush it off. Or…maybe try asking some other questions that could help your child and build a loving relationship with them. Questions like, “what do you consider mean?” or “which friends are being mean?” and “do you think they intended to me mean on purpose.” Help children examine their own perspective and keep going until you and your child get to the bottom of the problem and have discovered a solution.
Sometimes you don’t even need to come to a solution, but rather help them cope with the dilemma in a healthy way. They feel heard, understood completely and supported. I’m guessing that this will help your child feel more comfortable in the future. Most likely they will start sharing their problems more often because they know that you will help them sort out the details and help them come up with a solution or coping tools.
At work, this single agreement can work miracles. Others might be off put at first, but essentially if you explain the reason for wanting more details or complete answers, they will come to give you less vague responses going forward. Imagine how many problems you will eliminate for each person.
In some professions, it is critical not to assume. Take for instance the medical profession. As a nurse myself, I never assume anything in regards to patient care. If an order is unclear, that could literally be life or death. Never be embarrassed to ask more clarifying questions and seek definitive answers. Even if you have to ask numerous times and in different ways. There is a saying that states, “you are a fool once if you ask a question, but will remain a fool forever if you don’t.” Words to live by!
Keep in mind that this also applies to how you communicate, be mindful of giving vague information. Clearly ask for what you want and need, stop with the passive language. This is a big factor in your relationship. Instead of saying, “I guess I’ll cook dinner tonight,” say, “I would really appreciate if you could cook dinner or if we could go out to eat, because I’m too tired to cook.”
4th Agreement: Always Do Your Best
Always do your best! You cannot practice the other agreements and do them sometimes or whenever you feel like it, if you truly want change. It might seem like a no-brainer, but trying your best in every situation will give you the best chance at succeeding in whatever it is you are trying to accomplish. Realize that your best will change from day to day. Don’t beat yourself up if you aren’t giving as much effort as you did yesterday, just do your best for today.
Break the cycle
Ruiz also says that “all children are born perfectly loving, playful, and genuine.” Parents teach their children standards of behavior that the children must follow to receive love and avoid criticism. Eventually these standards become internalized into an unconscious set of instructions for living life. According to Ruiz, most of these unconscious beliefs are based on random choice or downright false. Many of them are irrational and unnecessarily limiting. They key to freedom is to become aware of our irrational and limiting thoughts, so that we can replace them with healthy thoughts. The Four Agreements can help parents who are the critical piece in establishing this thinking early on with their children.
You can do this!
In order to get the full benefits of The Four Agreements you must put the agreements into action immediately and repeat, repeat, repeat. This book will help you reclaim control over your life, be more authentic, grow spiritually and live without limitations.