The Four Agreements for a happier life

Saturday September 29, 2018 Written by Published in Virtues in Paradise

The Four Agreements is a small but powerful book by Don Miguel Ruiz.

He says everything we do is based on our agreements - with the Divine, with other people, and most importantly, with ourselves.


To a great extent, we determine the story of who we are, how we behave, and what is possible or impossible in our lives. He offers four conscious agreements to help us live well:

1.         BBe impeccable with your word. This requires dedicated truthfulness with ourselves and others, and keeping our promises. Jesus says (Mathew 5:37): “Let your yes mean yes and your no mean no.”

I recently had an important teachable moment when my 7-year-old granddaughter became hurt and angry with me for not telling her I would miss our regular evening walk on the beach.

It was thoughtless of me, but I had no idea it meant that much to her. So I told her that any time I knew I wouldn’t be coming, I’d let her know ahead of time. She was still upset and said, “That’s a lie.”

I said, “No, darling, it’s a promise.” One I fully intend to keep.

Since that little blow-up, she’s been more affectionate, chattier, more loving and happier. A small thing that I forgot because I had a meeting that night? Not to her. And it gave me a far more mindful awareness of how essential it is to be impeccable in my word.

It’s also a good reminder to choose what I promise before I promise it! Often people tell us what we want to hear and then forget it. How trust would grow if we always kept our word.

2.    Don’t take anything personally. Martha Graham, founder of modern dance, said: “What people think of you is none of your business.”

Ruiz says everyone lives in their own world, and people’s reactions and accusations have little to do with anything others have or have not done. In my mokopuna’s case, the thoughts in her world matter to me, especially when she lost trust in me.

I also know she had had a rough day and her strong reaction may have had little to do with me. We can only ever do our own part. We cannot change others’ thoughts, feelings or ideas.

Too often they’re “Hector Projector”, putting on us things that are really about them.

To practice this agreement, we need to steadfastly avoid backbiting. Judging others is not our business either!

3.    Don’t make assumptions. Don’t assume you know what someone thinks or feels. Have the courage to ask questions and get clarity.

I call this process Spiritual Companioning where we ask questions to help someone get to the heart of the matter.

“You hate me? What do you hate?”

 To do this it helps to put on a shield of detachment and compassion so you don’t take on the other’s feelings.

Often even the strongest feelings can be resolved and healed through sacred curiosity.

4.    Always do your best. Ruiz teaches us to refrain from judging ourselves or hauling around a load of guilt.

Instead we need to give our best, whatever the circumstances, and we will be content and happy. I think this is something we parents need to cling to when we wince with remorse over mistakes we made with our children.

Weren’t we doing our best at the time?

As Oprah Winfrey says, “When we know better, we do better.” We cannot blame ourselves for what we didn’t know. We can only make this present moment the best we have to give. 

The choice to be impeccably truthful, detached from the reactions of others, keeping an open mind, and giving our best under all conditions frees us from needless pain, to live joyfully in each moment.

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