This past week one of my coworkers told me about a book she is reading called The Four Agreements by Miguel Ruiz. Though I haven’t read it yet, it immediately went on my “to read” list and I knew I wanted to write about it. The book discusses the source of self-limiting beliefs that rob our lives of joy and create needless suffering. Ruiz presents a simple but powerful code of conduct learned from his Toltec ancestors that can help us transform our lives to ones filled with freedom, true happiness and love.
I began thinking about what the Four Agreements laid out in this book mean to me. How do they resonate with me? How do they impact my life? How can I live by these agreements every day to increase my happiness and fulfillment in life and to nourish those relationships that are important to me?
Be Impeccable with Your Word
Our words are powerful things. Once we speak something it is forever out in the world and we can’t take it back. We (myself included) often speak without really thinking about our words and how they will affect others. It is so easy to speak out of emotion and get caught up in our fast paced society that is chock full of instant gratification. We expect immediate answers from people just like we get from Google.
Social media has unearthed a whole new level of speaking, “Internet words” as I like to call them. While it can and has been used for good, it can also be used for hate. Almost every day I see hateful things said on social media that no one would dare say to someone in person. People hide behind their computers and fake social media personas and say hurtful things instead of confronting the problems they have in their own lives.
I’m all about sharing opinions and having constructive conversations. Learning from each other and making each other better. It is an important part of life and a successful relationship. But that includes respect for others’ feelings and what they have to say. There is a place and a way to be honest and and share what we feel with others. What matters is how you say it. Think about your words before you say them. Acknowledge their power and the impact they will have on others.
Don’t Take Anything Personally
This one is a hard one for me. I have always struggled with this since I was young. Of the Four Agreements, this is the one I have to work the most at. So how did I become someone who takes things so personally?
I am a people pleaser and have been my whole life. Maybe it’s because I was the youngest in my family and felt like I needed to be the perfect kid to be loved by my parents (this is totally not true in my family, by the way, it’s just a thought on what my young mind might have been thinking at the time). I’ve always been the type to internalize my emotions, not wanting to rock the boat with any of my relationships. When something bad happened I always blamed myself, thought that it must have been something that I did wrong.
This pattern of believing things that happen in life are my fault is not healthy and is something I constantly have to work on. Sh*t happens. That is life. Placing fault on your shoulders for everything is an unnecessary burden that won’t get you anywhere. You are not responsible for the actions of others. That is their problem. You are only responsible for yourself and the consequences of your actions. Taking responsibility for something that isn’t ours to bear will only bring us down, dampen our spirit and stifle the love in our lives that should be free and part of everything that we do.
Don’t Make Assumptions
We aren’t mind readers, so how do we know what other people are thinking? What is the point of even trying? Just like taking things personally, assumptions get us nowhere. It only leads to disappointment.
Making assumptions can be toxic in relationships. We assume that our partner feels or thinks a specific way because of what he or she says or does. But that may be completely untrue. Maybe he or she had a tough day at work or has another burden they are having trouble dealing with. Maybe it is completely unrelated to you! (This is where not taking things personally and not making assumptions overlap…). There are thoughts and feelings behind all of our actions. Talking about those thoughts and feelings in a constructive way, being honest and caring with each other, is the best way to avoid miscommunication and misunderstanding.
Another big thing we do in relationships is assuming our partner knows what we are thinking or want without actually telling them. Your partner isn’t a mind reader. If you want something, ask for it or have a constructive conversation about it. Don’t expect he or she to know what it is if you haven’t vocalized that need. This is important in all aspects of a relationship, from every day things to sexual intimacy.
Create a space of honesty and trust, talk things through and don’t assume your partner knows what you are thinking or how you are feeling. This of course applies to friendships and familial relationships as well, sans the sexual intimacy part of course!
Just Do Your Best
I love this one. In life this is all we can do and all we can ask of ourselves. Just do the best that you can. We aren’t perfect or superhuman, so why do expect so damn much from ourselves? Why do we push ourselves so freaking hard, day in and day out? Why is our best not good enough? We put so much pressure on ourselves to be perfect.
Of course I speak here from personal experience and I ask myself these questions all of the time. Perfectionism is a big part of why I feel this way. I want to be successful in life and use the gifts I have been given to make the world a better place. But I need to abide by my definition of success, not society’s. Success and doing my best does not mean putting my job’s needs before my own or saying yes to everything that is asked of me.
Doing your best is honoring what is best for you and your life, knowing your definition of success and living by those rules. It is also knowing that, at the end of the day, if you tried hard and did the best you could, that is enough.
Peace, love and truth,