photo by madhava
Our agreements with ourselves determine how we behave, what we believe is possible and impossible. We have many agreements with ourselves, the only problem is many of these agreements go against us. Self-limiting beliefs rob us of our freedom. We can blame the state of our lives on others, society, or our environment, but we will never be free unless we take responsibility for own freedom.
The agreements you’ve made with yourself can either be an elevator or a cage. Our doubts and fears are not true in themselves. Our deepest beliefs about ourselves and the nature of our world are not true in themselves, but our thinking makes them true in our experience. We can change our thinking and change even our deepest core beliefs.
In the book The Four Agreements, Don Miguel Ruiz offers four simple suggestions to change the agreements we have with ourselves, and recover our personal freedom.
1. Be impeccable with your word.
What does impeccable mean? It means to be without sin (no I don’t mean not committing adultery or coveting your neighbor’s bmw). If you look up the root of sin, you’ll find that it means “to go against.” Being impeccable with our word means we don’t use our word against ourselves. If we don’t like what someone else has to say, we can walk away. But if we don’t like what we have to say to ourselves, we can’t walk away. Doesn’t it make more sense to use our word to go with ourselves, instead of against us? Just with this first agreement alone, we can transform our relationship with ourselves.
2. Don’t take anything personally.
We all have a feeling of “personal importance.” We think that when others do something, it has to do with us. In reality, others actions are based on their own internal world. When we realize that nothing others do has anything to do with us, we become immune to their words and actions. Even if someone shot you in the head, it was nothing personal. It had nothing to do with you, it was because of their own beliefs and fears.
3. Don’t make assumptions.
How many times we do we get upset at our loved ones or friends when they do something that offends us. We think “they should have known.” The truth is, no one knows the contents of our minds. When we make assumptions, we create a whole lot of unnecessary drama. Instead we can ask questions, and have the courage to tell others how we feel. If you’re not sure of how another person feels, ask them. If we have the courage to ask others questions and be open with our feelings, we can save a lot ourselves a lot of pain and suffering.
4. Always do your best.
Realize that your best will be different depending on different circumstances. When you’re healthy your best will be better than when you’re sick. Whatever your situation, always do your best. The first three agreements are about changing your agreements with yourself. The fourth agreement is about putting them into action. If you always do your best, you can free yourself from the judge and the victim in your mind. Even if you fail, you’ll know at least you did your best.
Learning From Great Teachers
Whether they knew it or not, many great thinkers and teachers followed these agreements to some degree. Thomas Edison proclaimed “Hell, there are no rules here– we’re trying to accomplish something.” He knew that if there were too many rules, their creativity would be limited.
Gandhi was a master of not taking things personally. He knew that if he responded with violence, he would only promote more violence. He was able to see that their oppression was the result of their own beliefs, their own agreements.
When I think of someone who didn’t make assumptions, Jesus Christ immediately comes to mind. He didn’t judge others for their actions, he had the courage to ask questions and clarify his beliefs.
Albert Einstein knew that if he failed, there was simply another incorrect possibility eliminated. He could have easily become frustrated and given up. But he used the power of his word to go with himself.
Returning to Uncommon Sense
Most of these agreements might seem like common sense at first glance. But they are entirely the opposite. They are uncommon sense. When I first read this book, I thought “My god, how could I have not realized this before?” It’s so deceptively simple.
Implementing these agreements into your life, on the other hand takes hard work. Make the agreement to practice them just today. The more we practice these agreements, the more we’ll regain our personal freedom. We’ll unclutter our inner world save ourselves a lot of drama. Not only with ourselves, but with others as well.
By practicing these agreements, we can chip away at all the self-defeating beliefs we’ve created within us. We can recover our personal freedom.
Have you been practicing these agreements without knowing it? What are some of the agreements or beliefs you’ve changed that have helped you recover your personal freedom? Share with us in the comments. =)
For more ways to recover your personal freedom, subscribe now:
Michael Henreckson says
Those rules are excellent not just for our own personal well-being, but the way we deal with others. If you stick with your word, you’ll upset others less. If you don’t take things personally, you’ll be much less likely to quarrel with someone over petty things. If you don’t make assumptions on others’ motivations, again you won’t be as likely to quarrel. If you always do your best, it’s kind of like sticking to your word.
And the point of it all is that everyone will be much happier. :)
Evelyn Lim | Attraction Mind Map says
When we break these agreements with our Self, we are becoming dis-connected. That explains why we constantly feel lousy, angry and unhappy. The agreements that you have explained, are self nurturing ones. The more we love and forgive ourselves, the more we are in agreement.
Thanks for a lovely article,
Great post, Jonathan!
I was considering Evelyn’s comment and I think it’s true that something happens to us when we break the deep agreements we have with ourselves. I would maybe add ‘resentful’ to her list of indicators.
JEMi | Tips for Life, Love, You says
The first of these agreements that I started to implement was Dont Take Anything Personally. I forget often but I’m getting better at implementing it. Whenever I do, I am always relieved bc honestly, taking things personally has been a major stressor in my life for a very long time.
Then Always Do Your Best has helped me live in the present moment and not cop out so much with tasks that are less than thrilling. And its funny how doing everything with higher quality makes your feel better about yourself!
1 and 3 are very important as well and there is no time like the present to begin implementing these
I think these def. lead to a much richer life. Deceptively simple is so correct lol!
Great post J-Man!
I’m a firm believer in number 3.
Afterall, “When you assume, you make an ass of yourself.”
Also, I really like that you said always “DO” your best instead of “try”. To me the word try carries with it the possibility of failue, that you don’t give 100% effort. As if you are in the middle with a chance to go one way or the other. I’d rather “do” or “don’t do”. A product of my simplistic thinking I guess ^_^.
Enjoyed this post Jonathan.
These agreements are so simple, but hard to keep. The key is just making the commitment to do your best everyday. By doing that we can break all of our self-defeating agreements more and more each day, until our personal freedom is recovered.
I completely agree. I think the most profound agreement for me has been not going against myself. When I go with myself I naturally keep all the other agreements, including not taking things personally, not making assumptions and doing my best.
I think we have a natural tendency to resent ourselves when we don’t do our best. But the truth is, we’re really all doing the best we can with what we have.
Not taking things personally is tricky. You can always wonder whether or not something someone did had something to do with you. The truth is that we can only work within our own circle of influence. We can only control our own actions. After that, we have to accept others, and not take things personally. Great comment J-Woman! =)
I agree RJ, there is no try for me. Whenever I feel like I’m “trying” I feel like I’m not committed. That’s what the fourth agreement is about, just do your best. The hardest part is realizing that your best will be different at different times. When you’re full of energy your best will naturally be better when you’re tired and it’s the end of the day. I think that’s why it’s important to pay attention to your natural rhythms. Go with yourself, you know?
What a refreshing post! Something I had to learn when I joined the workforce is not to take things personally. Once I learned that, my life became so much easier. Also, I’d like to add to that, as part of not taking things personally, it really helps to always assume positive intent when thinking about your co-workers’ actions and stay focused on achieving company goals.
Andrea Hess|Empowered Soul says
Great reminder of a wonderful book! The first agreement has always been especially precious to me. Maybe it’s because I love language and words (must be the inner writer … :-)), but also because what we say influences our intent and thus what we create in our lives.
Matt @ Face Your Fork says
I have never known Jesus Christ to be the type of person who would ask questions to others and clarify his beliefs (as in, modify them when new information arose). I may be wrong! But it’s just my observation. :P
Nathalie Lussier says
Yes, I agree with you.. particularly with “do not make assumptions” at times they really put us in big trouble.
Loraleigh Vance says
Thanks for the reminder.
I tend to take things personally. Ever since I’ve been knee high to a grass hopper I’ve always heard that I was too sensitive for my own good. It’s been so true.
The behaviors of others often comes from something completely unrelated to me.
Now if I could just remember that!
These four agreements are awesome. They really helped me center around issues that have arised in my life lately. But there seems to be some sort of flaw…
Since the first agreement “Be impeccable with your word” the author is contradicting himself. What I mean by this is the FOCUS.
We should be focusing on the things we WANT right? Sort of what the law of atraction is about. So, for example, if we go to the third agreement “Donâ€™t make assumptions” we are focusing on assumptions. What would happen if we re-wrote these four agreements to focus on the things we REALLY want. I gave it my shot and came up with the restructure as the following:
1.- Be correct with your word
2.- Take things objectively
3.- Make acknowledgements
4.- Always do your best
What do you think?
G Angela says
I fimly believe in the first agreement, and I know the difference it can make to oneself, its all about loving and respecting yourself, that keeps you happy, I am learning to keep the second agreement, by not taking things personally, sometimes its an unconsconcious reaction, but I am quick to shift in order to take responsibility for my own behaviour, the third one is very true assumptions create a lot of problems, and experience is the best teacher, the last one is the best – I believe wholeheartedly, thanks for sharing, enjoyed reading it, thanks for the reminder