The Four Agreements – Review

The Four Agreements by don  Miguel Ruiz
This was one of the first books on spirituality I ever read. It was actually recommended to me by an entrepreneur who stated it was the book that spurred his own journey into true success in life. I have to admit I was a bit taken aback when I started to read it because it spoke of things I would have been suspicious of.

I was still a bit stuck in my old religious background but had enough curiosity to at least read the article in which he was featuring the book. The thing that “sold” me on reading the whole book was the summary of the four agreements. They sounded more like proverbs than affirmations, as well. Looking back I now understand why.

Here they are in their most basic form:

  1. Be impeccable with your word
  2. Don’t take anything personally
  3. Don’t assume anything
  4. Always do your best


I was still coming out of my narrow religious life so many of the terms and explanations in the first chapters didn’t sit well. Spirits, smoke, hooks, stories… Still, something in its pages resonated with my core being – whatever that part of me that was still growing, seeking expansion. I just didn’t know it at the time.

Don Miguel Ruiz was a trained medical doctor, but not long into his profession, he had a life-changing accident. I remember reading his story and thinking, ‘Why is it that something “big or bad” happens and we “wake up”? Midlife crisis? Nervous breakdown? Near-death experience? Later I came to see this crisis or breakdown as a spiritual awakening. Another opportunity to find the vastness of our consciousness. I didn’t call it that then. I didn’t know what to call it. I just knew Ruiz’s narrative was worth listening to, even if it seemed off to my bigoted psyche. And even if I didn’t understand the first couple chapters, I definitely understood the chapters that explained the four agreements.

The Stories

I think I had heard the explanation of “stories”, like videos, that replay in our heads. Stories from our childhood, school, parents, friends… all these stories make up our lives. These stories guide our lives and directly influence every choice we make. But it isn’t who we are. Who we are is the One who is watching all these stories – not having any particular attachment to any of them. Whether it’s something your husband says that ticks you off, why you get sick at your stomach when you see a snake, why you start crying when you see a sick child…

Everything you see, hear, smell, touch or taste has a story attached to it. A horn honking makes you jump and your heart starts to race because the last time you heard a horn honk you were involved in an accident.

The smell of smoke has you looking all around you for signs of fire.

You feel something slimy and you recoil thinking you touched something rotten like when you were cleaning up after a hurricane.

You smell a sweet spicy smell that reminds you of your grandmother and depending on how you felt about her, it was a good feeling or not so good.

Your partner tells you they want to talk to you about something.. you assume it’s not good. Because the last time someone said those words, it was an old boyfriend who broke it off with you.

Our lives are all about a collection of these stories. And depending on how much we pay attention to them, our lives can be miserable.

Ruiz then teaches you how to overcome those voices or stories which have hooked themselves into our psyche we tell by applying the simple advice of the four agreements:

  1. Be impeccable with your word
  2. Don’t take anything personally
  3. Don’t assume anything
  4. Always do your best

Be impeccable with your word

What would this world be like if each one of us only spoke kindly and with integrity, saying only what we mean? Ruiz contends and this much even Jesus concurred, that the Word is creative or destructive. “In the beginning was the Word…and the Word was God.” John 1

How many times did you say something or someone said something to you that you knew instantly changed the course of your life for the worse. This particularly happens to children by other children or worse, their parents. Off-handed comments like you’re so stupid or you’re never going to look like your sister or some people are just born [you fill in the blank]. That person is forever hooked on that story unless they come across teachings like Ruiz to neutralize them.

If we only ever opened our mouth or thought thoughts that were in the direction of love and truth, there would be no dissension, jealousy, emotional pain.

Don’t take anything personally

This agreement was the one that resonated the loudest when I first read it. The idea that nothing others do is because of you was a foreign concept. Yet somehow my wiser Self knew it to be true. What others say and do is a projection of their reality, not mine. I mean they have had their own stories all their life and I just happened on them in that moment. That girl at work who exploded at you when you forgot the cookies for the meeting was reacting to her own issues/problems – not you. What you did might have triggered it but it wasn’t about you. The time your husband walked out after you ignored his requests to stop spending so much… it was about him.

If you really think about it, life has been happening for millions of years. It was happening before you came. It’s happening now and will continue to happen long after you are gone. To take life personally is rather arrogant if you think about it. Life just is. People just are reacting to life.

Rather than taking it personally, learn to just accept it.

I love the words, “Don’t judge me by the chapter of life you walked in on.”

Don’t assume anything

This is a biggie, too. How would your life change if you didn’t assume anything? Didn’t assume your boyfriend was ignoring you when he was driving by in traffic. Didn’t assume you were being passed over at work because you were black or white, male or female, or some other subgroup. Don’t assume that because your husband is late getting home from work he is either dead or seeing someone else. How free your mind would be if you just let things be what they are – in this moment. Not what you think they are but just what they are.

Always do your best

This seems silly at first glance. Of course you want to do your best. But do you? I’m not talking perfectly. I am talking your best. Do you pick up your stray things off the floor or think, meh – I’ll get them later. Do you quit part way through a project when it gets hard? If you spill, do you clean up as soon as possible or wait till later. If you leave a dent in someone’s car, do you leave a note or hope no one was looking and leave?

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