My book club recently chose to read the Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz and I have to admit that when I first started it, I thought, “dear god, there are going to be some members of the group who are going to think this is a load of hooey-gooey horsecrap.” (The first chapter leans pretty far into the la la la side of things.) But once I got past some of Ruiz’ ideas about the “dream of the human condition,” I found four very valuable, very actionable principles to add to my life.
Agreement 1: Be Impeccable with Your Word
What I love about this agreement is that it’s ostensibly about how you treat others. Do what you say you’re going to do, don’t lie, etc., but where it gets powerful is being impeccable with your word towards yourself. Don’t let the self-talk track you run on the inside put you down. Don’t trash yourself for the sake of comedy or to fit in. Choose words that empower you, not words that belittle or betray you.
Agreement 2: Don’t Take Things Personally
99% of what goes on around us has little or nothing to do with us. But because it’s near us and we’re in its orbit, we take it personally. Not taking things personally hit home with me -- I’m single in New York City. Dating here is a challenge, and people do all kinds of things that, if you can zoom out and take a bigger perspective on things, have nothing to do with me.
Agreement 3: Don’t Make Assumptions
I like to operate under the saying “if you’re going to make it up, make it good.” I still think that concept applies, but Ruiz is encouraging us not to make it up at all. Ask questions. Get confirmations. Have conversations. Take risks. Assumptions and expectations go hand in hand, and the lion’s share of disappointment comes directly from expectations. Let go of both, he argues, and your disappointment will decrease.
Agreement 4: Always Do Your Best
This one is a little tricky. On the surface, it seems to be saying that we should strive, yearn, and aim for perfection. But what it’s really saying is that we should do our best in any given situation, and be satisfied that we have done our best. Not compare it to some external ideal of “perfection,” and not berate ourselves for the times when the outcome isn’t perfect. For me, doing my best can mean only giving 85% when 85% is what’s called for. And there is great peace in looking back on my life and knowing that I did the best that I could in any given situation.
We haven’t yet held our meeting on this book, so I’m excited to hear what others have to say about it, but I find the principles simple, and their application varies for me day to day. Could I do better? Probably. But I’m not going to beat myself up over it.