The Four Agreements: A Toltec Wisdom Book written by Miguel Ruiz, who came about writing the book after being in a severe car accident, leading to a spiritual experience that eventually led him to desire an understanding of his family’s Toltec beliefs. The novel itself is a look into that wisdom with four key principles to help you take control of your life by becoming conscious of agreements that you’ve made in your life.
Ruiz says that throughout life you make agreements with others such as your spouse, children, society and God – but the most important agreements we make are with ourselves. These agreements are the foundation for how we define ourselves, and Ruiz believes that these agreements are frequently the root of our problems, especially when we set the rules and agreements with others, above our own.
The four principles that Ruiz discusses are The Four Agreements you should make with yourself to re-establish rules you can live by to pursue happiness successfully:
Be Impeccable With Your Word
Don’t Take Anything Personally
Don’t Make Assumptions
Always Do Your Best
The first of the four principles discusses the impact of your words, not only on yourself but to those who surround you. The way you present your ideas and thoughts determines the person you are and the environment you live in. He references our words as “seeds” that go out into the world and come back to us as a “full grown reality”. We can use these realities to create, hurt, or heal and that you should be cautious of the seeds you sow. He also makes note of gossip, and that it is a dangerous use of the word, by comparing it to a malicious computer virus. By adopting and understanding the first of the four agreements, you can begin to become resistant to the emotional impact of the words of others, as well as begin to repair your emotions.
The second of the Four Agreements discusses taking nothing personally. When we are offended, even by small things, it shows a connection with your ego indicating a person’s belief that they are the center of everything. Having such a strong sense of self-importance can be detrimental to one’s ego, and when other people don’t recognize the egotistical persons “importance,” it can lead to hurt. Causing one to feel the need to lash back or defend yourself to prove them wrong, but ultimately this leads to more conflict. He discusses the root of their criticism lies not in your shortcomings, but rather frequently in the other person’s current state of mind as well as their conditioning. For this reason, the second of the four agreements is to take nothing personally.
In the section that covers the third agreement, Ruiz discusses the problems in our mind that lead us to assumptions and misinterpretation of what we see and hear. He states that when we are quick to assume, it limits our ability to see things truly as they are. Ruiz discusses the reasons why we make assumptions and what these assumptions do for us emotionally. He also proposes alternatives to assuming information, such as being more inquisitive. By questioning our surroundings and interactions instead of making assumptions about them, we can begin to construct a more stable relationship with the world around us and begin to repair the damage we’ve done to ourselves by relying on assumptions to interpret the world.
The final section sounds elementary but is central to Ruiz’s principles that lead you to live a good life. He discusses the constant judgment we apply to ourselves, which he deemed as harsh because we judge our lives based on external measurements. Meaning we use the agreements and practices others follow to judge ourselves. He believes that the fourth agreement is of great importance because while you may not always be free to use the other principles, you are always free to do your best.
The book as a whole covers some complex topics, some of which may require re-reading just to ensure that you fully understand the intention of Ruiz’s ideas. But in general, the book provides great insight into some fundamental ways that you can make a difference in your life and work towards feeling better about yourself. The ideas in practice require a decent amount of effort to maintain, but once the agreements become a habit, you’ll find yourself understanding them less as concepts and more as a lifestyle.
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