Lately I’ve found myself questioning just about every aspect of my life. From belief structures to habits – this new phase of boldness has empowered me to explore beyond my comfort zone. Lots of this exploration has happened through reading, something I used to take a lot of pleasure in, but lost the habit of when school and work pressures increased. It only makes sense that in this time of new beginnings and re-invention that I’d pick it up again.
My latest (whole) book accomplishment is “The Four Agreements” by Don Miguel Ruiz, recommended by Amy of Expand Outdoors (thank you Amy!). Here I will try my best to do it justice. What you really ought to do is just go buy a copy for yourself, but if you need convincing, here I go…
Before you learn about the agreements, you need to understand what an agreement is: it’s an internal decision to abide by something, done consciously or unconsciously.
The world we live in is run by a set of agreements that were put in place before we were born, and that we don’t have much say in deciding. The society agrees to certain standards of morality and conduct. Narrow that down to our own personal lives and we find smaller agreements that shape our image of others and ourselves. Things that people have said to or about us can cause a new agreement to form. The four agreements are meant to give you the power to shape your world, making you aware of the agreements that are in place, and freeing you to have the kind of life you want.
Be impeccable with your words.
To me this is the one that resonated the most. I grew up hearing about the power of words. My dad is a minister, and the bible has lots to say on the subject. God did, after all, speak creation into existence. This first agreement says something similar: that our words have the power to create or destroy. That they are our magic, a double edged sword of good and evil. Proverbs 15:4 says; “A gentle tongue is a tree of life, but perverseness in it breaks the spirit. (Oh there’s that bible!) Likewise, Proverbs 18:21 says; “Death and life are in the power of the tongue…” The word “impeccable” means without sin – the book asserts words that destroy are a sin. We all know the damage words can do, so much in life is lost because of words. Opportunities missed, chances not taken, friendships lost; the every day impact of what we say on the world around us can’t be mistaken. This first agreement makes for a good place to start. Create the good that you want to see in your world, and stop doing harm. Be impeccable with your words.
Agreement 2: Don’t take anything personally.
Adolescents uniformly suffer from a form of egocentrism called “imaginary audience.” They think that their every move is being observed and judged, when in reality it isn’t. In fact, other teenagers are also self obsessed and rarely pay that close attention to other kids. (How long did it take you to grow out of that phase? Have you yet?)
The author makes a great statement: anything that anyone says to you, good or bad, is said from where THEY are at that moment. It has nothing to do with you. (wtf?)
… let that soak in for a second…
How people behave is a reflection of where they are in their own life. If someone says you are beautiful, they are in a place where you fit an image of beauty they currently hold to. Same for if they call you ugly. It’s not personal. In essence, you render their words powerless and are free to create for yourself the kind of world you want. Don't take anything personally.
Don’t make assumptions.
Answers make us feel safe, and sometimes communicating is scary, so instead of asking for the information we need, we fill in the blanks on our own. I can think of a number of relationships I’ve been in where I made assumptions about a person, and they turned out to be wrong. That in turn ruined the relationship (or changed it big time).
On the other side, often we assume other people will know what we want and need. That sets them up to fail without giving them a chance.
We also make assumptions about ourselves. With as much as I’ve changed and grown in this past year listening to myself has become a priority. Assuming I’m up to something when really I’m not, assuming I’m going to fail when I haven’t even tried yet… all those things that hold you back and drain you can be taken care of by the third agreement: Don’t make assumptions.
Agreement 4: Always do your best.
It sounds like advice my mom gave me in grade school, but the fourth agreement is the capstone on the other three. Do your best. One day your best might be less than it was the day before, but that’s fine. This agreement frees you from an unattainable standard. I would start a diet then quit because I messed up on the second day. Same for a notebook I “ruined” with bad handwriting (yep, overachiever/perfectionist). The standards I’d agreed to for myself were unrealistically high, and my constant failure and self-judgment kept me from, well, being happy. I convicted and punished myself for breaking a rule I imposed. Such silly, needless pain. Simply agree to always do your best.
This book spoke loudly to me because of the things I’ve been learning about myself lately. I encourage you to take a look if you feel like any part of my summary struck a chord. Those things I talk about all the time, action, fear, moving forward, and making life count – the agreements we make with ourselves will either prevent or allow you to make those big changes you want.
Good book - four simple, simply explained principles that intend to chance your perception of life. Recommended. 4 out of 5 stars (what is a star supposed to mean?)