You Agreed to This

the-four-agreements

I think it’s time for a reminder:

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

(The Four Agreements, Don Miguel Ruiz)

The First Agreement. Be impeccable with your word. “We have learned to lie as a habit of our communication with others and more importantly with ourselves. We are not impeccable with our word.” Don Miguel Ruiz

We have been taught by many people, past and present, how to use the word. In “The Four Agreements” Ruiz talks about the words of fear used by Hitler to bring mass destruction. He speaks about the “pure poison” of gossip that can destroy a life. And going “against oneself” when you blame or judge yourself. “One fear or doubt planted in our mind can create an endless drama of events.”

These behaviors are learned. This is the hell we speak of and, here, the word is misused. For example, we have all been the subject of gossip. We all know how deeply painful it feels once we know.

We can change this. It doesn’t matter where you come from or what beliefs you have long held. Your history is simply history. It does not have to be who you are today. You have simply forgotten that who you are is simple, pure love. It is that memory that needs to be nourished. It is from there that we begin to change.

Every impeccable word comes from a place of love.

The Second Agreement: Don’t take anything personally. “…by taking things personally you set yourself up to suffer for nothing. Humans are addicted to suffering at different levels and to different degrees, and we support each other in maintaining these addictions.” Don Miguel Ruiz

People will take a word from you and twist it this way and that, chew on it a while, show it to others and then give it back to you looking nothing like it did when you first used it. If you take it back, if you absorb the distortion as if it were your own, you have agreed to take it personally. It had nothing to do with you, but you decided it did. Your heart begins to close up and you question everything. Hence, the suffering.

Don’t allow someone else to be a voice in your mind. You have enough voices of your own. You’ve heard it before: While you sit here chewing on someone’s words or actions, allowing them to cause digestive distress, that person is sitting at home pleasantly drinking a glass of wine not giving you a second thought.

It is never about you. If you are not being respected, say nothing. Don’t engage in debate. Just walk away. Doing so changes the course. It frees you from having to decide if the other person is correct in their judgement of you. You have decided not to take it personally. Walking away is not turning your back on a problem, it is releasing yourself from someone else’s.

The only person you need to trust is yourself. As you begin to trust yourself, your heart begins to reopen. Joy returns and life is forever good.

The Third Agreement: Don’t Make Assumptions. “We have millions of questions that need answers because there are so many things that the reasoning mind cannot explain. It is not important if the answer is correct; just the answer itself makes us feel safe. This is why we make assumptions.” Don Miguel Ruiz

We put a story to everything we don’t understand. You see a good friend across the room at a large event. He looks ‘right at you’. He turns his back on you and doesn’t acknowledge your presence. What’s that all about? How rude! You begin to create a story from a one second action. The story grows and your heart rate rises and your chin goes up in indignation and then, 15 minutes later, there he is… How dare he step into your space after what he just did! He says, “Hey, I’ve been looking all over for you!”

Your partner comes home from work and doesn’t immediately notice that you’re excited. After exchanging words of hello, she goes about changing her clothes, gets washed up and begins working on dinner. Still doesn’t notice. Why is she not noticing I have something to tell? Why doesn’t she ask? Why is everything else so important? She doesn’t give a sh*t! That’s why! Nothing I do matters!! You finally start grumbling and she turns and says “What the hell is wrong with you?!”

Exaggerations? Maybe. But we do it all the time. We create stories because we need immediate explanations. Instead of creating a story that makes sense (He must not have seen me. Let me give her a few minutes to unwind.), our mind tells us that everyone sees life like we do. If they don’t follow our pattern, there must be something wrong. Hours upon hours upon hours are spent fretting over nothing.

We immediately begin making assumptions because we have not learned to ask questions. We assume the other person gets us and will always know what we need. When they don’t, we take it personally and create incredible stories. If we are impeccable with our word, we ask questions to gather knowledge and understanding. Assumptions decrease and pure interaction occurs. We begin to respect each other.

“It’s going to be crowded tonight. Where do you want to meet?”
“I’ve got some great news! Do you want to go get changed first?”

The story changes and there is nothing to assume, no reason to suffer. Ask the question and don’t assume you know the answer.

The Fourth Agreement: Always do your best. “The first three agreements will only work if you do your best. Don’t expect that you will always be able to be impeccable with your word. Your routine habits are too strong and firmly rooted in your mind. But you can do your best. Don’t expect that you will never take anything personally; just do your best. Don’t expect that you will never make another assumption, but you can certainly do your best.” Don Miguel Ruiz

We keep trying to do better and, often, fall short of what we have decided ‘better’ is. This lofty goal isn’t one that was given to us with a reward attached. We chose it and attached another assumption to it. We assume if we do better, life will be better. So we keep striving and struggling always falling short of the precious goal line. When it happens we take it personally calling ourselves failures, stupid, naive. In doing so we are no longer impeccable with our word.

Doing your best does NOT mean being perfect.

What if our best is the point in which we know that something has brought us pleasure? We all – every one of us – want only one thing: to be happy. Being happy simply means to honor yourself. Cut yourself some slack and stop attaching stuff to the outcome (more money, more time, more friends). The more you pay attention to the satisfaction of what you are accomplishing, the more satisfying your life will be.

Your best will change from day to day and it’s important to understand that. Remember, it does not mean perfect. Some days your best will be staying in bed to overcome an illness. On others it will be staying up half the night to take care of your sick child. Most days it will be somewhere in the middle but it should always be about loving what you are doing. No matter what it is, even the ordinary events of our lives – doing laundry, paying bills, driving kids to school – there is joy to be found. Wonderful every day pleasures right there in front of you.

Do your best. No more, no less.

The Four Agreements is a guidebook. Practical techniques that can change your life. I read it more than ten years ago and it feels fresh every time I go back to it. Gentle reminders that, with a little reprogramming, life can be well lived.

From my heart to yours, Diane

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