Book Review

The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz

The Four Agreements by don Miguel Ruiz is a fantastic starting point for those new to the realm of self-exploration, self-understanding and self-development. The reason so many of us start on this path is because we are not content with our current state of being and are curious of deeper understandings or simply want to change. It can, however, certainly be daunting and very overwhelming when embarking on this journey of becoming our most highest and authentic self. I remember dipping my toes into meditation and Eckhart Tolle three or four times with months in between before I could digest some of the content or sit still for more than 5 minutes. One book I found very digestible and able to put into action and test immediately was Don Miguel Ruiz’s, The Four Agreements, a practical guide to Toltec wisdom. It is one book I return to again and again on this journey.

Don Miguel Ruiz is a Mexican Nagual, or shaman, and Toltec Master. The Toltecs were considered to be pre-Aztec, living in now Southern Mexico around 10 century AD. Now it is reckoned that the “Toltec Tradition” refers to a secret guild or society, comprised of sages, healers and shamans who were dedicated to preserving ancient spiritual knowledge and wisdom through the Spanish Inquisition. The Aztecs considered them to be the epitome of civilization and revered their knowledge and wisdom.

In recent years, the Toltec Tradition has re-emerged from suppression through the teachings of don Miguel Ruiz and his mother, Mother Sarita. The tradition is not belief based, dogmatic or ritualistic compared to many current traditions and Religions. The Toltec tradition is a modern philosophy of life or way of living, comparable to Stoicism from Ancient Greece and other esoteric philosophies. The tradition offers people a method of inquiry for self-discovery and development easily implemented and tested by themselves. It is a pragmatic way of identifying and releasing the egoic mind, or ego, which can be the cause of most our suffering, and discover the core of unconditional love and personal freedom.

One can learn and shed, through mastering the three spheres of Awareness, Transformation and Intent, their self-limiting beliefs, expectations, agreements and assumptions and fears. Upon which, you become liberated to choose and create a truly authentic, fulfilled, joyous and exciting life.

In, The Four Agreements, don Miguel teaches a powerful code of conduct that enables readers to rapidly transform their self-limiting beliefs, to experience a new life of freedom and happiness. The Four Agreements are;

Be Impeccable With Your Word

The most powerful of the four agreements, the first agreement states we should be impeccable with our word. Why? Your word is the power you have to create. It enables you to express your thoughts, visions and dreams, calling them into existence. Your word has the power to create beautiful, constructive, realities or it can destroy everything around you. One must only look at Hitler to see the destruction caused by spreading fear through speech and propaganda. So speak with integrity. Say only what you mean to say. Avoid using the word to speak against yourself or gossip about others. Use the power of your word in the direction of truth and love.

Don’t Take Anything Personally

This Agreement is one of the harder ones to grasp and implement but for me it was the most powerful. My whole life I took sly remarks or jokes personally and to heart. I internalized a lot of verbal abuse and allowed it to become my view and reality of myself. This lead to low self-esteem, minimal self-belief and confidence as well as anxiety and bouts of serious depression throughout my adolescent years. I overcame a lot of my mental health problems through physical training. However, the most liberating moment came through the realisation and utilisation of the Second Agreement; Don’t Take Anything Personally.

Understand that nothing people do is because of you. Everything someone does is as a result of their internal personal dreams and perceptions. Everyone lives in their own dream, their own mind. They live in a completely different world to ours which has been formulated by their experiences, desires, opinions and attachments. As much as we may know someone, we can’t fully understand their life and vice versa. So if some comments “You look fat in those clothes”, don’t take it personally. They are dealing with their own beliefs and perceptions. You take someone else’s garbage on-board, it will soon become your own. Even external positive feedback can be dangerous if you place too much value or need for it. Ever come across someone who is always looking for approval or praise? Don’t internalise someone else’s beliefs and allow them to become your own. It is one of the most toxic acts one can do for their internal well-being. Since our internal well-being is projected into and creates our external environment, maintaining healthy internal personal beliefs, opinions and perceptions is vital and crucial for creating a healthy, happy, fulfilled life. When you are immune to the opinions and actions of others, you won’t be the victim of needless suffering.

Don’t Make Assumptions

Making assumptions about other’s thoughts or behaviours can be detrimental to our life. This is because we believe our assumptions to be true. We misunderstand other’s thoughts and behaviours on assumptions, we then take them personally and we can end up making a big drama for nothing. Think of a time you held an expectation over someone or assumed they were to behave a certain way, it might have been your friend or partner or work colleague. Now think of what they actually did, it probably wasn’t aligned to your assumption. And now think of how you reacted to their behaviour? You more than likely reacted with distaste or disappointment. This happened all because you made an assumption about an event or someone, you created a dream fantasy about how it should play out for you and when it didn’t go to plan you reacted and created drama out of nothing.

Can you see how making assumptions and holding expectations can affect your life. Holding expectations only leads to disappointment which leads to suffering. This is also the case for yourself as it is for others. If you make the assumption “I think I am able for this” and you end up failing, you will create the illusion that you are not good enough and may not try again. This assumption is a direct source of self-doubt instead of saying “I am able for this” which is a source of self-belief. Even if you fail the first time, you are more likely to try again because of the belief that you are good enough. Had I not listened to the voice of self-belief and create a positive self image internally I definitely would not have been able to see through a lot of critical decisions in my life, all of which have lead to an improved, happier, fulfilled, exciting state-of-living.

“I’m not in this world to live up to your expectations and you’re not in this world to live up to mine.” 
― Bruce Lee

Always Do Your Best

The fourth and final agreement is the one that allows the previous three to become ingrained into your life. Although it may vary moment to moment and situation to situation, always do your best under any circumstance. Everything is changing moment to moment so some days your best will be of high quality and some days it won’t. Think of those days you wake up refreshed and energised. Your best on that particular day will be of superior quality to a day you wake up feeling under the weather, beat down or sick.

As the quality of your best changes day-to-day, the magnitude of your best can also improve over time. My best day now compared to two years ago is monstrously better. I am more productive, more efficient, more organised and healthier than I’ve ever been because I have created a lifestyle based on self-growth, learning and development. I have been able to create routines and practices that optimise my daily life and health whether it’s taking a cold shower in the morning, to increasing my fat and reducing my carbohydrate intake, to doing at least 15 minutes of movement/training, to drastically increasing the amount of podcasts/books/audiobooks I listen/read, to meditating between 10-60 minutes depending on my schedule. Implementing these practices to my life has enabled me to grow and develop physically, mentally and spiritually. This has empowered me to begin creating the life I envision for myself based on helping others become the best version of themselves!

Doing your best allows you to live life with intensity, with excitement. You will be productive, kind and generous towards yourself, your family, your community and everything. When you do your best, you will act because you love or are passionate about what you are doing, not because of the reward or desired outcome. Think about it, how many of us go to work for the money and don’t actually enjoy what they do? They go to work because they feel it is something they have to do. They suffer for the week and live for the weekend escape in the club. That’s all those two days of “freedom” become, an escape from the suffering. Now think of someone who does what they do simply for sake of doing it, without looking for reward. They enjoy and are passionate for it. Sure, the rewards come to them, but they are not attached to the rewards. They simply do the best they can, enjoy life and live without regrets and frustrations.

Can you say you are consciously doing your best in this moment? Sure, we all slip up and fall back into old habits but if you keep catching yourself doing that you can consciously pull yourself back into doing your best and those slips will become less frequent. That is what this game of life is about, striving to do your best in every moment and brushing off the dust and continuing when you’re knocked to the ground.

If you said “no” when I asked if you were doing your best, take a minute and decide that the next action you take, you are going to do the very best you can possibly imagine. Start off small, it might just be cleaning the dishes or making your bed. Start small, do your best and go from there!

"The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is now.”  
―  Chinese proverb

Final Thoughts

The Four Agreements offers reads, as it has personally, the opportunity and way to improving their life on a deeper, conscious level. It exposes one to tangible methods for improving their internal state of being by educating them on the internal, deeper workings of consciousness and the mind. Used wisely, this book is very powerful and has the potential to change your life. It enables you to transform your reality by taking control of your awareness and intent. It empowers you to explore your subconscious and to use your innate human power to create the life you desire.

This book is one of the first I would recommend to anyone wanting to change and improve their life or state of being.