The Four Agreements
by Damonia Newton
2017 Great Book Essay Contest Winner
Has a book ever been introduced to you and completely change your life around? Well, The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz did exactly that for mine. I was at a point in my life where I was interested in learning more about myself so that I would be able to understand what was going on inside and around me. I’ve always taken an interest in reading books but never read a book that would help me, because I was too involved in helping others- after all, I am a psychology major. When I was introduced to The Four Agreements, I immediately fell in love just by reading the synopsis. The universe was speaking to me and aligned the perfect book to get me started on my self-improvement journey and I was excited to dive in to enlightenment. The four agreements became agreements that I live by and have helped me learn so much about myself and how I interact with others. Ruiz begins by reminding us of all the teachings that we have been introduced to by our parents, schools and religion. The way that we were taught growing up was by people who have been taught the same way and that training gets passed down throughout the generations and it is thought to be the correct way to raise a child. All throughout our lives we are domesticated and must do what our parents, teachers and preachers say are the best things to do. Throughout our lives, we are not often allowed to believe what we want to believe, instead we are forced to believe and follow the rules of others. We are told how to live our lives, what to believe and what behaviors are deemed as appropriate and inappropriate but are not allowed free will to think and do what we please- it is all conditioning. From this conditioning comes a need to want to please others and make them happy by doing what they say is the right thing to do to be praised and rewarded (like pets), rather than be rejected by those we love and care about. Due to this domestication, we begin to have an idea about what perfection is, and we always aim to be perfect – not realizing that our imperfections are perfection. Through four agreements, Ruiz helped me accept myself for who I am, listen to my intuition and have compassion for others to understand them and myself.
The first agreement reminds you to “be impeccable with your word”. At first when reading this chapter I couldn’t help but think that I was already impeccable with my word but as I continued reading I learned that I wasn’t being as honest with myself as I thought. Before reading this book, I had no idea that the words we speak are vibrations that we put into the atmosphere and those vibrations travel and create our reality. Often, I would speak negatively about myself, others and situations without noticing the powers of my words and the effects they had on my reality. When we speak negatively about ourselves, we make ourselves believe that those thoughts are true and it becomes true because whatever we think creates an outcome. It is necessary to speak positivity into our minds to avoid negative outcomes. When I would say “I can’t do this”, I wasn’t aware that I was training my mind to believe that I could not do it, so I couldn’t. We are the masters of our minds, which means we are the masters of our realities and that’s such an amazing concept. After reading, I learned that I must “speak with integrity. Say only what [I] mean. Avoid using the word to speak negatively against [my]self and others. Use the power of [my] word in the direction of truth and love”. I noticed that I wasn’t always being completely honest with people in fear that they wouldn’t like me or that they would be upset about my opinion but I wasn’t speaking my truth. I can’t always try to please others with my words when those words don’t match how I truly feel on the inside. The things that we think and say build our reality, so it’s important to say how you feel and what you think.
The agreement that had the largest effect on me was “don’t take anything personally”! Not to yell, but this agreement is so true and I see it every day through my interactions with others. I’ve realized that people do and say things based on themselves and not me personally. This agreement has changed me so much because anytime someone would say something negative to me I would feel sad and think that I wasn’t good enough. When really listening to what people say, I realize that they are saying things based on what they are thinking and what they are going through. For example, when someone is at work and they have a terrible day because their boss yelled at them, they may think that they are dumb and they may feel inferior, so when they come home they may take it out on their wife and children by verbally or physically abusing them all because of a situation that happened to them that made them feel inferior. Sometimes when people go through things, they subconsciously want to pull people down with them and bring them to their level to make themselves feel better but it doesn’t make them better. When we bring other people up and speak positivity into their lives it can help us in return because we are planting seeds of love rather than fear and hate. A question that I had to ask myself while reading was “why am I taking things personally if I know that what someone is saying isn’t true?” That question made me evaluate how I respond to others and made me think about how I feel about myself. Did what they say affect me because I did believe them? Why did I believe this about myself? These questions made me dig deep into myself and look back at my past experiences. It also helped me build myself up with thoughts of love and positivity because I know how far I’ve come and where I am headed. Also, when someone makes a comment or action I can’t help but to think about the conditioning they’ve experienced during domestication that made them react the way they did and that helps me put things into perspective because I don’t know what someone has gone through in their lives. I have realized that I am not responsible for the actions of others, I can only control my reaction to those actions.
The third agreement Ruiz discusses is “don’t make assumptions”. Often, I find myself assuming things because I like to be in control of everything, and since I want to be in control I like to assume what might happen so that I am prepared for that outcome- don’t do that. When we make assumptions, we believe that that assumption is the truth and sometimes we can be wrong. We cannot control someone’s reactions, so it’s important to release the desire to control and wait for the outcome. Also, when “we make assumptions about what others are doing or thinking – we are taking it personally – then we blame them and react by sending emotional poison with our word. That is why whenever we make assumptions, we’re asking for problems. We make an assumption, we misunderstand, we take it personally, and we end up creating a whole big drama for nothing”. I’ve learned that instead of making assumptions, I should communicate with people and ask clarifying questions to avoid assumptions. I would often assume that people think the same way that I think and when problems would occur I would assume that they were looking at it from the same perspective as me, but often that would not be the reality of the situation.
Lastly, “always do your best”. This agreement was something that my mom would always tell me growing up and looking back now I know that it is an amazing truth. When I do something to the best of my ability, I look back knowing that I put my all into the situation so whatever the outcome is, I won’t look back thinking that I could’ve done more. When we do our best, we are being the best versions of ourselves and expecting the best outcomes for ourselves. When we do our best, the universe sees our effort and can’t help but to match that effort because what you give out is what you get back- it’s the law of attraction. Energy is apparent with our words, actions and intentions, so I always aim to do the best that I can because I want to be the best version of me. The law of attraction teaches us that what we give out into the universe is what we get back. When we give out mediocrity, we get back the same. Also, when we don’t do our best we regret it afterwards and think of all the things that we could’ve done better. To avoid self-judgment and speaking harsh words against ourselves, we should always do our best. It is necessary to keep our intentions pure so that it results in a pure and loving outcome. The outcome may not always be what we expect, but that helps us “…to be aware and learn from [our] mistakes. Learning from [our] mistakes means [we] practice, look honestly at the results, and keep practicing”. I’ve learned that taking action is also doing my best and although I know that, I still find it hard to take the action and live out my dreams in fear of the criticism I may receive.
Don Miguel Ruiz has written many books, but The Four Agreements was the first book that I decided to read and it had a major impact on my life because it changed my mindset by helping me look at things from a new perspective. This self-love and self-discovery journey has been interesting because I’ve learned so much about myself and I didn’t expect that by learning about myself I would learn about other people – but I have. I only desire to be the best version of who I am on the inside and to let go of the fear of judgment from other people because their opinion doesn’t matter and shouldn’t make me hide who I truly am. I have realized that I am the one who stops myself from progressing and from being who I am. I am free to be me, if I allow myself to be me. I have learned that I can be free and wild like trees and animals in the forest. I have also realized my connection to nature and animals because of how free and wild I can be. We can be whoever we want if we allow that to happen and don’t try to fit into the constraints that society tries to convince us that we need to fit into. I create my own beliefs and those beliefs create my reality and I am nothing but grateful for these realizations. I have realized the importance of living in the present moment, rather than thinking about the past or future because that takes me away from the experience of the moment I am in. I want to embrace my true self, which is my inner child that was domesticated to think a certain way and follow other people because I was told that it was the right thing to do. Children live in the moment, they express themselves, they have fun and they are so loving and forgiving. I find it interesting that we grow up but lose those childlike qualities that are necessary throughout our lives. Now that I have learned so much, I know that there are many things for me to learn and I am excited for the rest of my journey because I know that it can only get better from here!