The Four Agreements - A Book Review

The “Four Agreements” is one of my favorite books. Its principals are foundational toward living a good and pragmatic life. Author Don Miguel Ruiz started his career as a medical doctor. According to the bio on his website, “A near-fatal car crash forever changed the direction of his life, however, causing him to leave medicine and to examine the essential truth about life and humanity.” In 1997 he published “The Four Agreements,” which became a New York Times bestseller for nearly ten years.

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I read this transformative book for the first time last May and it has had a profound impact on reducing drama in my life. The four agreements are as follows:

  1. Be impeccable with your word.
  2. Don’t take anything personally.
  3. Don’t make assumptions.
  4. Always do your best.

At the beginning of this book the author explains how we are domesticated when we are children through a system of rewards and punishments and the impact that this system has upon us. 

The reward feels good, and we keep doing what others want us to do in order to get the reward. With that fear of being punished and that fear of not getting the reward, we start pretending to be what we are not, just to please others, just to be good enough for someone else. We try to please Mom and Dad, we try to please the teachers, we try to please the church, and so we start acting.
— Page 7

Photography by Paul Garrett

1. BE IMPECCABLE WITH YOUR WORD

This chapter is not only about being true to your word with others, it is also about being true to yourself. Think about how this might apply to your life and how often you may or may not be true to yourself? Also realize that words have power. One word can lift you up or tear you down. Be mindful of how you use your words, or how you receive words from others. Words can be forgiven, but not forgotten. Be mindful and kind to yourself and to others. 

You can measure the impeccability of your word by your level of self-love. How much you love yourself and how you feel about yourself are directly proportionate to the quality and integrity of your word. When you are impeccable with your word, you feel good; you feel happy and at peace.
— Page 44

2. DON’T TAKE ANYTHING PERSONALLY

It’s easy to be offended by people when we take what they are saying personally. Often we take their words out of context. We make it about us when at its root there is another explanation. This causes undue suffering and drama that can be avoided by being aware of our thoughts, our words and our emotions along with an honest desire to understand the other person.  

Don’t take anything personally because by taking things personally you set yourself up to suffer for nothing.
— Pages 56-57

 I have had people say unkind things to me when they were stressed out. Through awareness I was able to brush it off and not make it about me. Most fights or arguments are about what the person is feeling deep down. They project their shadow feelings upon us at times. If you understand that it is not about you, but about what is going on deep inside of them, you can actually have empathy for that person and diffuse the situation by how you respond to them.

When we really see other people as they are without taking it personally, we can never be hurt by what they say or do.
— Page 57
 Photography by paul garrett

Photography by paul garrett

3. DON’T MAKE ASSUMPTIONS

This was a big one for me because there have been many times where my ego has made assumptions about another person and had I acted upon them I would have made a fool of myself or created a self fulfilling prophecy. If you care about another person, always give them the opportunity to tell their side of the story without making assumptions.

The problem with making assumptions is that we believe they are the truth. We could swear that they are real. We make assumptions about what others are doing or thinking - We take it personally - then we blame them and react by sending emotional poison with our words.
— Pages 65-66

Assumptions are almost always negative. Negative thinking draws negative conclusions and this leads to problems. To attract the energy that you seek, change your mindset to one of positivity. We can't control other people, but we can control ourselves. Giving the benefit of the doubt and then seeking understanding goes a long way toward building lasting relationships.

All the sadness and drama you have lived in your life was rooted in making assumptions and taking things personally.
— Page 64

Train yourself to practice "the pause" and seek clarity before responding to difficult situations. Have you ever said something and wished that you could take it back? The pause can make all the difference in speaking in a manner that is responsible and conscious.  

4. ALWAYS DO YOUR BEST

This does not mean that you are seeking perfection. Simply put, it just means that we should always do our best at any given moment. This leads to a life of fulfillment and not one of regrets.

When you do your best you learn to accept yourself. But you have to be aware and learn from your mistakes. Learning from your mistakes means that you practice, look honestly at the results, and keep practicing. This increases your awareness.
— Page 81

I highly recommend that you read “The Four Agreements” and put these four principles into action. Since reading this book I have become much more aware of how I impact other people and how they affect me, as well. Through this increased awareness I now know when to pause and consider the circumstances. This awareness makes it possible for me to respond without reacting to situations. How would you like to take the drama out of your life and to have better relationships?

Happy reading,

Paul 

P.S.- You can order “The Four Agreements” from Amazon.com via Libby’s yoga website, which is at yogafitboutique.com. We'd love to hear your comments on what you think of this book. We'd also love to have you join us in our upcoming book club. Our next book in April will be "The Alchemist" by Paulo Coelho. This book is also available through Libby's website.


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