The Four Agreements

✍️ Author: Don Miguel Ruiz

Rating: 8/10

Book Summary

A very simple and effective way to live your life. A slightly different look at how to live from the ancient wisdom of the Toltecs, the ancients of the Americas. No doubt if you’re struggling with life at the moment this book can help. 

Listen to my short podcast episode on this book below:

OVERALL SUMMARY

I had never come across the ancient Toltecs before. What is striking is how their ancient wisdom crosses over with the wisdom of the west (Stoicism) and the east (Buddhism). There are universal truths that all humans figure out in time. It's like science right. If 3 scientists living in different parts of the world are working on the same problem, they will all eventually come to the same conclusion (if the scientific method is adopted correctly). Robert Sapolsky mentions this in his book where he did some research on Glucocorticoids and thought he was the first to discover it but in actuality, someone else had submitted the same finding a week before across the world! 

Wisdom isn't to be found externally, it can only guide us. If we truly look inside ourselves, become aware, and spend time exploring our true nature, we will all come to the same or similar conclusions. 

However, this is a great starting point. We stand on the shoulders of giants. We have a head start because we can learn from all these wise people over time. And today, you'll be learning from the ancients of the Americas. 


✏️ NOTES & QUOTES

My notes are in bold with the ✏️  next to them


It was not your choice to speak English. You didn’t choose your religion or your moral values — they were already there before you were born. We never had the opportunity to choose what to believe or what not to believe. We never chose even the smallest of these agreements. We didn’t even choose our own name.

✏️  So true. Makes me laugh how religious people defend their beliefs as the only true way. If you were born in another country you would believe something else! Has nothing to do with truth, just up-bringing and conditioning. Believe what you want but don't think that's the "right" way. Foolish. 

 

Children are domesticated the same way that we domesticate a dog, a cat, or any other animal. In order to teach a dog, we punish the dog and we give it rewards. We train our children whom we love so much the same way that we train any domesticated animal: with a system of punishment and reward. We are told, “You’re a good boy,” or “You’re a good girl,” when we do what Mom and Dad want us to do. When we don’t, we are “a bad girl” or “a bad boy.”

✏️  Trying to think of any childhood instances where someone told me NO or "that's stupid/wrong" has stayed with me to this day. Need to have a think, I'm sure there are key moments. I remember stealing money off my mother once to buy balloons and she didn't speak to me for a day or so. I was like 6, one of the other kids told me to do it. Learned not to do that again! (But that's a good thing obviously) 

 

Eventually, we become someone that we are not. We become a copy of Mamma’s beliefs, Daddy’s beliefs, society’s beliefs, and religion’s beliefs.

✏️  Been thinking about this a lot. I am deeply Welsh and proud of that. I have questioned my bias and read a lot of the history from both sides. What it comes down to with me is the fact that a group of people (Welsh) have been treated so badly by the English and taken advantage of for over 1000 years. Remove "Welsh" and "English" and think of it like this. If some big kid (England) was taking advantage of a lesser kid (Wales) all day, every day, and stopped that smaller kid speaking the language of his family, what would you say? Does that smaller kid deserve to grow up and be his/her own person? Speaking his/her own language? Being able to use his/her body to build things for themselves and their family and friends?? Or should that smaller kid be bullied, told to work for the bigger kid, and only make things that benefit the big kid and his/her friends? It's bullying on a national level with Stockholm Syndrome in full effect.  

 

There is another part of us that receives the judgments, and this part is called the Victim. The Victim carries the blame, the guilt, and the shame. It is the part of us that says, “Poor me, I’m not good enough, I’m not intelligent enough, I’m not attractive enough, I’m not worthy of love, poor me.” The big Judge agrees and says, “Yes, you are not good enough.” And this is all based on a belief system that we never chose to believe. These beliefs are so strong, that even years later when we are exposed to new concepts and try to make our own decisions, we find that these beliefs still control our lives.

 

That is why humans resist life. To be alive is the biggest fear humans have. Death is not the biggest fear we have; our biggest fear is taking the risk to be alive — the risk to be alive and express what we really are.

✏️  "The risk to be alive and express what we really are" This is exactly what Bruce Lee was on about. This is the ultimate life goal. To be fully yourself in all areas of your life. 

 

Just being ourselves is the biggest fear of humans. We have learned to live our lives trying to satisfy other people’s demands. We have learned to live by other people’s points of view because of the fear of not being accepted and of not being good enough for someone else.

 

We dishonor ourselves just to please other people. We even do harm to our physical bodies just to be accepted by others. You see teenagers taking drugs just to avoid being rejected by other teenagers. They are not aware that the problem is that they don’t accept themselves. They reject themselves because they are not what they pretend to be.

 

But nobody abuses us more than we abuse ourselves, and it is the Judge, the Victim, and the belief system that make us do this.

 

Self-abuse comes from self-rejection, and self-rejection comes from having an image of what it means to be perfect and never measuring up to that ideal.

✏️  Powerful. I can't say I've self-rejected many times in my life. For that I am lucky. But I can imagine if this is a daily practice of self-rejection in the mirror, at work, with friends, in a r'ship it can cause huge problems. For deeper reading read Psycho-Cybernetics by Maxwell Marx. This will also tie in with the stress response. If we self-reject that will cause a big emotional reaction which will trigger our stress response and if we keep doing this we are at massive risk of cardiovascular diseases, ulcers, and other issues. A huge benefit to stop self-rejection and abuse. Physically and mentally. 

 

The first agreement is to be impeccable with your word.

It sounds very simple, but it is very, very powerful.

The word is the most powerful tool you have as a human; it is the tool of magic.

 

The human mind is like a fertile ground where seeds are continually being planted. The seeds are opinions, ideas, and concepts. You plant a seed, a thought, and it grows. The word is like a seed, and the human mind is so fertile! The only problem is that too often it is fertile for the seeds of fear. Every human mind is fertile, but only for those kinds of seeds, it is prepared for. What is important is to see which kind of seeds our mind is fertile for, and to prepare it to receive the seeds of love.

 

You go against yourself when you judge or blame yourself for anything. Being without sin is exactly the opposite. Being impeccable is not going against yourself. When you are impeccable, you take responsibility for your actions, but you do not judge or blame yourself

✏️  Similar to the Stoics. Take responsibility for your actions. Don't put too much value on the action being perfect or for it to work out. Like the Stoic archer, you can do your best to plan the shot, pull it back and let go at the perfect moment but as soon as the arrow leaves, it's outside your control. Don't judge or blame yourself.

 

Impeccability means “without sin.” Impeccable comes from the Latin pecatus, which means “sin.” The im in impeccable means “without,” so impeccable means “without sin.”

Sin begins with rejection of yourself. Self-rejection is the biggest sin that you commit. In religious terms self-rejection is a “mortal sin,” which leads to death. Impeccability, on the other hand, leads to life.

 

If I love you, then you will love me. If I insult you, you will insult me. If I have gratitude for you, you will have gratitude for me. If I’m selfish with you, you will be selfish with me. If I use the word to put a spell on you, you are going to put a spell on me.

✏️  True. You get what you give. Simple. 

 

Being impeccable with your word is the correct use of your energy; it means to use your energy in the direction of truth and love for yourself.

Whenever we hear an opinion and believe it, we make an agreement, and it becomes part of our belief system.

 

Gossiping has become the main form of communication in human society. It has become the way we feel close to each other, because it makes us feel better to see someone else feel as badly as we do. There is an old expression that says, “Misery likes company,” and people who are suffering in hell don’t want to be all alone. Fear and suffering are an important part of the dream of the planet; they are how the dream of the planet keeps us down.

✏️  One of the big issues. It's very easy to gossip. Catch yourself doing it and stop. It's not productive. 

 

If we adopt the first agreement, and become impeccable with our word, any emotional poison will eventually be cleaned from our mind and from our communication in our personal relationships, including with our pet dog or cat.

 

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.

✏️  True. If you are being yourself days are good, even if they are challenging. 

 

Be impeccable with your word. This is the first agreement that you should make if you want to be free, if you want to be happy, if you want to transcend the level of existence that is hell. It is very powerful. Use the word in the correct way. Use the word to share your love. Use white magic, beginning with yourself. Tell yourself how wonderful you are, how great you are. Tell yourself how much you love yourself. Use the word to break all those teeny, tiny agreements that make you suffer.

The next three agreements are really born from the first agreement.

 

The second agreement is don’t take anything personally.

Whatever happens around you, don’t take it personally. Using an earlier example, if I see you on the street and I say, “Hey, you are so stupid,” without knowing you, it’s not about you; it’s about me. If you take it personally, then perhaps you believe you are stupid. Maybe you think to yourself, “How does he know? Is he clairvoyant, or can everybody see how stupid I am?”

✏️  haha. The internet trolls probably cause such destruction to people. They take what they say personally. This is very hard to do but if we can stop taking things personally that is a superpower. 

 

Personal importance, or taking things personally, is the maximum expression of selfishness because we make the assumption that everything is about “me.”

✏️  Bang! Agree.

 

Nothing other people do is because of you. It is because of themselves. All people live in their own dream, in their own mind; they are in a completely different world from the one we live in. When we take something personally, we make the assumption that they know what is in our world, and we try to impose our world on their world.

 

That person tried to send poison to you and if you take it personally, then you take that poison and it becomes yours. Taking things personally makes you easy prey for these predators, the black magicians. They can hook you easily with one little opinion and feed you whatever poison they want, and because you take it personally, you eat it up.

But if you do not take it personally, you are immune in the middle of hell. Immunity to poison in the middle of hell is the gift of this agreement.

 

It is not important to me what you think about me, and I don’t take what you think personally. I don’t take it personally when people say, “Miguel, you are the best,” and I also don’t take it personally when they say, “Miguel, you are the worst.” I know that when you are happy you will tell me, “Miguel, you are such an angel!” But, when you are mad at me you will say, “Oh, Miguel, you are such a devil! You are so disgusting. How can you say those things?” Either way, it does not affect me because I know what I am. I don’t have the need to be accepted. I don’t have the need to have someone tell me, “Miguel, you are doing so good!” or “How dare you do that!”

✏️  Very important to take on this. How much praise is also bullshit? So many people getting empty praise from people that throw it about like no tomorrow. But praise is only worthwhile if it's genuine and most of the time it's not. So if most praise isn't genuine and we take all that praise in and we give our ego a party, that's a recipe for disaster, isn't it? 

 

Even the opinions you have about yourself are not necessarily true; therefore, you don’t need to take whatever you hear in your own mind personally. The mind has the ability to talk to itself, but it also has the ability to hear information that is available from other realms. Sometimes you hear a voice in your mind, and you may wonder where it came from. This voice may have come from another reality in which there are living beings very similar to the human mind. The Toltec called these beings Allies. In Europe, Africa, and India they called them the Gods.

✏️  Read that sentence in red 10x. Your thoughts just pop up from nowhere and say the stupidest shit. Sometimes great. Sometimes stupid. Sometimes evil. Sometimes cruel. Sometimes kind. But if you take all those thoughts seriously you will be a wreck. 

 

Wherever you go you will find people lying to you, and as your awareness grows, you will notice that you also lie to yourself. Do not expect people to tell you the truth because they also lie to themselves. You have to trust yourself and choose to believe or not to believe what someone says to you.

 

As you make a habit of not taking anything personally, you won’t need to place your trust in what others do or say. You will only need to trust yourself to make responsible choices. You are never responsible for the actions of others; you are only responsible for you. When you truly understand this, and refuse to take things personally, you can hardly be hurt by the careless comments or actions of others.

✏️  Love this. 

 

The third agreement is don’t make assumptions.

We have the tendency to make assumptions about everything. The problem with making assumptions is that we believe they are the truth. We could swear 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 word.

✏️  Can relate to this a lot! Assumptions are fuckers, aren't they. We swear we know. If you start adding 4 assumptions on top of each other then you're in deeeeeeep trouble. Abort mission! 

 

It is always better to ask questions than to make an assumption, because assumptions set us up for suffering.

✏️  Just ask! Not sure? Ask. Direct honesty and feedback. Assuming = playing in the land of perception. 

 

Often when you go into a relationship with someone you like, you have to justify why you like that person. You only see what you want to see and you deny there are things you don’t like about that person. You lie to yourself just to make yourself right. Then you make assumptions, and one of the assumptions is “My love will change this person.” But this is not true. Your love will not change anybody. If others change, it’s because they want to change, not because you can change them. Then something happens between the two of you, and you get hurt. Suddenly you see what you didn’t want to see before, only now it is amplified by your emotional poison. Now you have to justify your emotional pain and blame them for your choices.

 

Also, that person must love you just the way you are, so he or she doesn’t have to change you at all. If others feel they have to change you, that means they really don’t love you just the way you are. So why be with someone if you’re not the way he or she wants you to be?

✏️  The issue with this is: is everyone who they really are? What if someone is not themselves, for years! I know you shouldn't try and change someone but if you can spot signs of burnout, depression, etc then you can help. But in general, if you don't like their fundamental personality then yeah, good luck! 

 

The way to keep yourself from making assumptions is to ask questions. Make sure the communication is clear. If you don’t understand, ask. Have the courage to ask questions until you are clear as you can be, and even then do not assume you know all there is to know about a given situation. Once you hear the answer, you will not have to make assumptions because you will know the truth.

There is just one more agreement, but it’s the one that allows the other three to become deeply ingrained habits.

 

The fourth agreement is about the action of the first three: Always do your best.

Regardless of the quality, keep doing your best — no more and no less than your best. If you try too hard to do more than your best, you will spend more energy than is needed and in the end your best will not be enough. When you overdo, you deplete your body and go against yourself, and it will take you longer to accomplish your goal. But if you do less than your best, you subject yourself to frustrations, self-judgment, guilt, and regrets.

Just do your best — in any circumstance in your life. It doesn’t matter if you are sick or tired, if you always do your best there is no way you can judge yourself.

✏️  yep! Do your best no matter what. Your best doesn't mean better every day. That is impossible. 

 

Doing your best, you are going to live your life intensely. You are going to be productive, you are going to be good to yourself, because you will be giving yourself to your family, to your community, to everything. But it is the action that is going to make you feel intensely happy. When you always do your best, you take action. Doing your best is taking the action because you love it, not because you’re expecting a reward. Most people do exactly the opposite: They only take action when they expect a reward, and they don’t enjoy the action. And that’s the reason why they don’t do their best.

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 you practice, look honestly at the results, and keep practicing. This increases your awareness.

✏️  So important. When we do our best we accept ourselves. How freeing is that?

 

Doing your best really doesn’t feel like work because you enjoy whatever you are doing. You know you’re doing your best when you are enjoying the action or doing it in a way that will not have negative repercussions for you. You do your best because you want to do it, not because you have to do it, not because you are trying to please the Judge, and not because you are trying to please other people.

 

Doing your best is a great habit to have. I do my best in everything I do and feel. Doing my best has become a ritual in my life because I made the choice to make it a ritual. It’s a belief like any other belief that I choose. I make everything a ritual, and I always do my best. Taking a shower is a ritual for me, and with that action I tell my body how much I love it. I feel and enjoy the water on my body. I do my best to fulfill the needs of my body. I do my best to give to my body and to receive what my body gives to me.

 

If you do your best always, over and over again, you will become a master of transformation. Practice makes the master. By doing your best you become a master. Everything you have ever learned, you learned through repetition. You learned to write, to drive, and even to walk by repetition. You are a master of speaking your language because you practiced. Action is what makes the difference.

 

Four Agreements just for today. Today I will be impeccable with my word, I will not take anything personally, I will not make any assumptions, and I am going to do my best.”

 

Do not be concerned about the future; keep your attention on today, and stay in the present moment. Just live one day at a time. Always do your best to keep these agreements, and soon it will be easy for you. Today is the beginning of a new dream.

Twitter @scottflear

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