over a year ago, my friend kendall told me i needed to read the four agreements by don miguel ruiz. she had listened to it on audiobook and it was such a game changer for her. she said it was a book she could read/listen to over and over again at various points of her life because it would always be applicable. because i hate reading more than one book at a time (i think i am traumatized by how often i had to do that during grad school), i simply added it to my list. luckily, my trip to spain had the perfect amount of downtime to pour into this book while my handsome waiters at various restaurants across barcelona and mallorca poured me refreshing glasses of rosé.
what are the four agreements?
- be impeccable with your word
- don’t take anything personally
- don’t make assumptions
- always do your best
at first glance, i thought to myself that three out of four did not seem that difficult. the one i knew i struggled with (as most humans do) is the second one – how could i not take ANYTHING personally? i just used caps so you know this is a serious question. it is one thing to not take everything personally but to not take anything personally just seemed crazy to me. i will dive more into that once i breakdown each of the four agreements. before i can do that, i have to highlight this powerful line from the very first chapter – the chapter before we even hit the first agreement.
ruiz wrote: in your whole life nobody has ever abused you more than you have abused yourself. and the limit of your self-abuse is exactly the limit that you will tolerate from someone else.
that line was incredibly powerful both in my personal life and in my professional life. when i thought about it, much of the abuse i have suffered (mental, emotional, verbal) was in fact terrible but the way i treated myself afterwards – the way i allowed myself to be treated by others – that was arguably worse. then i thought about my clients. whether they have reported being hit or called out of their names or touched inappropriately by a family member – while all of that abuse is horrific, the ways in which they abused themselves afterwards was absolutely devastating. when i work with them, we are not just working through the trauma of the event(s), we are then working on how they can learn to treat themselves better by valuing themselves more.
my mom has always said that we teach people how to treat us. i think ruiz was saying the same thing in the introduction of his book. mama knows best.
the first agreement – be impeccable with your word: this is the agreement that comes the most naturally for me even though it is as described as being the most difficult. i know that this agreement was strengthened as a result of being in a graduate program that required so much vulnerability paired with having a slew of clients that would be hanging on to the words i said during session. because words are so powerful (and we are the only animals on the planet that have this gift), there is this responsibility to be cognizant of the impact of our words. while words can build people up, they can also destroy people. it then becomes even more crucial to be impeccable with our word – ruiz describes it as being a way to show love yourself. i could not agree more.
the second agreement – don’t take anything personally: this is a tough one for me. as i have gotten older, i have gotten better about not caring as much about what people say or think about me. according to ruiz, what someone says about you says more about them than you. however, the thought is that is we take what is said about us personally, it is because we agree about what was said. the line that stood out to me was: you eat all their emotional garbage, and now it becomes your garbage. it made me wonder how much garbage i had consumed over the years that needed to be taken out because it was overcrowding this sacred space of mine.
the third agreement – don’t make assumptions: this one seemed the most common sensical to me but i find that people make assumptions regularly. the reason i do not make them too often is because i found that making assumptions leads to disappointment more often than not. this is often because i am giving people more credit than what they have shown me they deserve. the issue with assumptions, according to ruiz, is that we believe our assumptions to be the truth. this is applicable whether the assumption about a person or situation is good or bad. assumptions lead to misunderstandings. i am trying to avoid misunderstandings as often as possible.
the fourth agreement – always do your best: before reading this book, i cannot say i thought this was great advice. now, i know that may seem a bit crazy but i did not think every situation called for my absolute best. doing my best can be exhausting and so i am more selective about when and where i will do my best – i tend to base it on whether or not i think the person or situation is deserving of such. ruiz has a different approach and also acknowledged something crucial – our best will look different day to day. my best on a day where i have slept seven hours after soaking in a bathtub is going to look different than my best on a day where i am running on three hours of sleep and had to spray on extra deodorant because i did not have time for a shower. but here is the key of why ruiz instructs us to always do our best – if we are always doing our best, then there is no room for judgment, guilt, blame or self-punishment. while i have not fully transitioned into always doing my best, i definitely see the benefits of this agreement.
it is a book i would strongly recommend. not only is it a quick read but i believe every person could take something away from this book.
which agreement do you value most? which agreement comes the easiest for you? which agreement is the most difficult for you?