The first time I read the book ‘The four agreements’ by Don Miguel Ruiz, I was amazed by how short and simple the book was to read. No big elaborate words, no ceremony, just plain and simple: 4 agreements.
1. Be impeccable with your word
2. Don’t take anything personally
3. Don’t make assumptions
4. Always do your best
How different though when starting to work with the 4 agreements. Not that simple at all!
This blog is about my personal journey with the agreements, and my continuous effort to master them.
We are all different, we all think different, and as such, most likely we all have different pain points when it comes to living according to the agreements. For me, the hardest one to master is to not make assumptions, but rather ask questions.
I mean, we all need to make assumptions from time to time, I assume that if I cross the road in front of a big truck that is driving in my direction at speed, I have a very big chance of getting hurt, and so I don’t do that. I do not feel the need to test my guardian angels on it.
Assumptions have the ability though to bring us on very slippery ground when it comes to personal and professional relationships.
My favourite psychological question is ‘think of a dog’. When I think of a dog I think of a butch westie named Arthur, that looks up to me with his big brown doggie eyes. However, I am sure that there are only about 3 to 5 others in the world that think of a westie called Arthur when they think of a dog. This is the problem with assumptions, we all view the world from our own perspective, sometimes forgetting that there is not 1 person that sees the world as we see it. Simply because we are the only ones that do not see ourselves in 3D.
When I teach, assumptions can become essential. Before I even get into teaching new knowledge, I need to ensure that everyone is on the same page as in existing knowledge. In the holistic trade there is little to none ‘hard science’, almost everyone I know that works in my area goes with what feels right and resonates with them, before adding their own touch to it. For me, this is what I love, it allows me freedom of thinking and makes my life journey so very interesting. Because of my work, people may assume I walk around in the forest a lot, barefoot and braless in flowy dresses, hugging trees. Fact is, yes, I hug trees, walk barefoot a lot, however, I love ‘normal’ things, like going to concerts, making spreadsheets and watching Star Wars. Coming from a place where I am often misunderstood, I give it my very best to ask questions before assuming anything about someone. Asking questions and exploring the other’s person’s view often brings about the best of conversation, as you allow them to expose their true views on the matter.
It is something I need to remind myself of every now and then though, and luckily opportunities present themselves constantly for me to practice not making assumptions.
Don’t take anything personally
I must say, working with this agreement has given me the biggest part of inner peace. I do not have to think about why people say the things they say and what they mean to really say to me, and was it that they were hinting at something specific I did when they said something in general. I am tired even writing that whole inner conversation down.
What people say, how they say it, when they say it, if they say it, it is always reflective of the other person and how they view the world. I understand this now, and I live it now.
We all have a little inner child, and the more we feed our inner child with hurt and anger, the more it becomes impossible to step over the things people say or do to us. Believe me, I had fed that inner child of mine up to its nose with hurt, so every time I got into a particular situation, my inner child raised its voice and instantly I went to a place where I did not care about where the other person was coming from, only about what hurt I was carrying.
Now, a few years down the road, and living with this agreement, whenever I see others displaying this behaviour I just want to hug them and show them that live can be different.
If someone ‘insults’ me, I can now ask why they are saying what they are saying, without going into hurt or anger. This is a choice. I can also choose to walk away.
What I notice in others is that they cannot believe that I do not take something personally. Because I do not respond to certain things, they assume I took things personally. When I say ‘it’s cool’, they hear ‘I am really angry’. So, often I find myself in situations now, where people are starting to explain why they said what they said, without me ever having asked about it.
Being impeccable with my word
Here’s the thing with this agreement, I use irony. A lot. It gets me in trouble. A lot.
I am not sure if I am ready to change my ways in this, which makes living this agreement to the core a bit hard. So, I have developed my own interpretation of this agreement, which works for me. For me, being impeccable with my word really means that I generally think about what I am going to say before I say it. I am careful in the way I speak about others, I would rather comment about the positive qualities of someone than say something nasty. I’d rather build something positive than something I have to hide.
I have always been very true to my word. I do not have the skills to lie. If I would tell anyone a lie, it would probably stay with me for a long time. In fact, as I am typing this I am remembering 2 times I lied over the past 10 years, and I am letting it go. The funny thing about this is that I am always completely shocked when someone else lies to me, as I simply don’t expect this. I am not the right person to write about what motivates this behaviour, as I would be making assumptions 😉
So, for me, I use this agreement as ‘do not speak to or about others as you do not want to be spoken about or to’. I like other people that get irony.
Always do your best
For me the main lesson in this agreement is in accepting my own limitations and giving myself a break. My best is never going to be exactly the same every day of every week. What is important it that I have a positive attitude towards the things I do and do them in the best way I can.
I once had a manager that asked me ‘what if your best is not good enough?’. I left, didn’t have an answer. I still do not have an answer for her, my best is my best. And I know that my best is pretty awesome. If I see someone that, despite everything, is giving something their best in that moment, no matter if it is 5% what they could at full energy, I praise them. It is always about the intention. I do not believe many people live their lives trying to do the very worst they can do. If you can say ‘I have given it my best’, you should be proud, no matter what the result is.
So, the 4 agreements, it really is a journey. I do think that since applying them to my life, the quality of my life has improved tremendously. This is why I encourage anyone to try them. Even if you start with just one, one that seems easy to you. See how you fare and let me know.
(I do not think I used Irony once in this blog, but if I did, please do not take it personally)