I’ve just finished reading The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz. It’s a simple little book that makes for quick reading and a lot of pondering and I’ll be discussing it with the members of my leadership tribe over the next few weeks.
Most interesting to me was the first chapter on how we humans are “domesticated” and taught stories, beliefs and values that become our unconscious reality as we grow into adults. Ruiz calls these the “agreements” that rule our lives. We learn to be the people that others want us to be and “live our lives trying to satisfy other people’s demands.” We judge ourselves and others against these expectations — often harshly — and we try to change ourselves and others to fit these expectations. Ruiz argues for rejecting those agreements that don’t serve us and replacing them with new agreements so that we can be more free, starting with the four in the book.
The Four Agreements as summarized on the book jacket are:
- Be Impeccable with Your Word – Speak with integrity. Say only what you mean. Avoid using the word to speak against yourself or to gossip about others. Use the power of your word in the direction of truth and love.
- Don’t Take Things 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. Ruiz argues that “there is a huge amount of freedom when you take nothing personally.”
- 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, misunderstanding, sadness and drama.
- Always Do Your Best – Your best is going to change moment to moment, it will be different when you are healthy as opposed to sick. Under any circumstance, do your best, and you will avoid self-judgment, self-abuse and regret.
I have work to do on each of these. For the short term, I’m trying to be aware of my tendency to “go into my head” and judge myself and others. I’ve been telling that voice to stop, just stop, and instead focus on being present and letting of assumptions and judgments. I’m consciously trying to write a different story in my mind when I start to take things personally or make an assumption about why someone has behaved in a certain way. And when I’m not sure, I’m asking rather than guessing or assuming. I’m hoping that with enough practice these will become new habits and new agreements for me. And maybe I’ll be a little less domesticated!