In his book “The Four Agreements,” Don Miguel Ruiz distills the essence of Toltec wisdom into four principles for living a life of value:
1. Be impeccable with your word.
2. Don’t take anything personally.
3. Don’t make assumptions.
4. Always do your best.
How elegantly simple! But simple wisdom isn’t common practice. While most of us believe we are impeccable with our word, we know others who are not. And most likely, others, from time to time, consider us far less than true with our word.
The Four Agreements are deceptively simple, yet difficult to apply. With practice, they’re extremely effective, providing a way to experience inner peace and happiness.
Each agreement is self-directed. It’s not about what you can do to change someone’s behavior. Rather, these guides teach us how to respond appropriately to others’ difficult behaviors and develop smoother relationships.
So, how do you apply these principles at work? Let’s examine each one.
1. Be impeccable with your word. Speak with integrity. Say only what you mean. Avoid using words to speak against yourself or to gossip about others. Use the power of your word in the direction of truth and love.
2. Don’t take anything personally. Nothing others do is because of you. What others say and do is a projection of their own reality, their own dream. When you are immune to the opinions and actions of others, you won’t be the victim of needless suffering.
3. Don’t make assumptions. Find the courage to ask questions and to express what you really want. Communicate with others as clearly as you can to avoid misunderstandings, sadness, and drama. With just this one agreement, you can completely transform your life.
4. Always do your best. Your best is going to change from moment to moment; it will be different when you are healthy as opposed to sick. Under any circumstance, simply do your best, and you will avoid self-judgment, self-abuse, and regret.
Become more mindful. The next time you begin to gossip, assume something or fail to clarify, stop yourself. If you sense you’re taking something personally, back up and think before you speak. Ask yourself, “How can I make this situation better?”
Instead of trying to change another person, make an impact on someone you can really change: yourself.
Ruiz M. (1997) The Four Agreements. Amber Allen Publishing, San Rafael, CA.