Amazon: Four Agreements
I really liked the ideas in this book. The context was a bit “out there”. You really do have to approach this book with an open mind to get the most out of it.
The Four Agreements are:
- Be impeccable with you word
- Don’t make assumptions
- Don’t take anything personally; and
- Always do your best
The biggest takeaway for me was applying this to yourself. Be kind to yourself. Love yourself. It’s the negative stories that we tell ourselves that have the most devastating effects. The stories we tell ourselves play out in our relationships with others and the actions we take. These stories are created over many years of “domestication” and it’s only with awareness that we can recognize them, replace them and move on.
The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz
Interesting reading. Ruiz speaks about the whole world being in a dream. The dream is created by humans. He goes on to talk about the “domestication of humans”. That’ is an intersting concept and I can see where he’s coming from. He’s basically saying that we have all been conditioned (domesticated) by our surroundings. Our parents condition us from birth – if we do something they approve of, they say “good boy”. If we do something they disaprove of, they say, “bad boy”. But what they approve or disapprove of is a result of their own conditioning. And this is passed on from generation to generation. And of course, we all pick up our own conditioning from other sources – friends, teachers, books etc.
The first agreement is, be impeccable with your word. The word is a double-edged sword. On one side is the truth and on the other side is lies. The word is informed by our judgements. The common use of the word is against ourselves – self-destructive language and negative self talk. If you do something silly, you might take some heat from the people around you. But there is nothing more destructive than the grief you give yourself when you are on your own. We use abusive language against ourselves all the time. And we interpret small subtle uses of language by other people to mean negative things against us.
It gives the example of a mother who gets home from work with a headache. Her daughter is as happy as larry, singing, dancing and making and make lots of noise. The daughter obviously doesn’t know how the mother feels. The mother ends up errupting and giviing out to the daughter. The daughter takes that to mean that she is a bad singer and singing makes her mother angry. She carries this with her for the rest of her life.
I had a similar experience in primary school… I used to love writing. The weekly essay was my favourite part of the week and I loved just making up a story. And I got a lot praise for the crazy stories I used to come up with. This praise spurred me on. Then we changed teacher after a summer break. The first week back, we were giving an essay and I gave it my usual treatment. Well when the teacher corrected it, she went to town on it – red pen everywhere! “You can’t do this…. you can’t say that”. It really put me off. And I gave up trying. I stopped making an effort in English. About seven years later I was preparing for my leaving cert. I was failing English so my parents sent me to grinds. Well that teacher was incredible – he had such a passion for English that was infectious. And he didn’t criticise – he challenged respectfully, he listened, he treated you like an adult. He used his word impeccably. And I gained a passion for reading and learning!
The second agreement is, don’t take anything personally. I was particularly interested in the idea that you shouldn’t take anything that you tell yourself personally. That is what can hamper you. It leads to all sorts of inner conflict. Take for example, me putting up short videos of me drumming on Instagram or even the YouTube drum lessons. I am afraid that people won’t like it, that people will judge it. But really that’s me taking my inner-dialogue personally. As a result of that, I’ll be worried when I see certain people – I’ll think they’ll judge me the same way I have judged myself. And that will affect how I behave with those people.
Another interesting point on that was not to take anything personally – positive or negative. We so immediately zone on on the negative side. But it’s important not to take positive comments to heart either. They are just other people’s opinions and their versions of reality – this changes from person to person. You just need this be content with yourself.
The third agreement is don’t make assumptions. This is something I was thinking about this morning. How the assumptions I make affect my relationships. The old saying is true, “to assume makes an ass of u and me”.
Here is one particular passage that I liked:
“We make the assumption that everyone sees life the way we do. We assume that others think the way we think, feel the way we feel, judge the way we judge, and abuse the way we abuse. This is the biggest assumption that humans make. And this is why we have a fear of being ourselves around others. Because we think everyone will judge us, victimise us, abuse us, and blame us as we do ourselves. So even before others have had the chance to reject us, we have already rejected ourselves. That is the way the human mind works.”
The forth agreement is always do you best. I like this one. I’ve been meditating for the last few months and this principal has been quite powerful. If you are truly present, you are doing you best. I find that everyday routine tasks are good reminders – showering, shaving, getting dressed, cooking, cleaning. if you cultivate quality in those little moments, quality becomes habit – your natural default position. So when you are engaged in a more complex task, you give it your full attention. You don’t get distracted. You stick with it until it’s done.
I have started using the four agreements as daily affirmations. I really like them because they’re so broad and as a result I think they are a more effective trigger for your self-conscience. “I am impeccable with my word” could be “I don’t gossip”, “I love myself”, “I always give positive praise”, “I don’t complain”. It could be anything! And you’ll feel differently each day so the affirmation will mean something different each day but they are core principles.