The Four Agreements: A Practical Guide to Personal Freedom


In his classic book The Four Agreements, author Don Miguel Ruiz imparts traditional Toltec wisdom about the four agreements we must make with ourselves in order to live our best lives. Below is a review of those four agreements.

The First Agreement: Be Impeccable with Your Word

According to Mr. Ruiz, the first agreement is to be impeccable with your word. This means speaking only truth. And never spreading gossip. This also means expressing only self-love. Mr. Ruiz begins this chapter by emphasizing the power of words. Words have the ultimate power to create, and also the power destroy. To emphasize this example, Mr. Ruiz references the beginning of the Bible where it says that by simply speaking, God created all existence.

By being impeccable with one’s words, Mr. Ruiz states that we will express only love. According to Mr. Ruiz, there are only two main forces in the universe: fear and love. Our words should be used only to express love. Which in turn is truth. White magic. In other words, what Mr. Ruiz calls God.

Conversely, Mr. Ruiz illustrates that our words also have the power to destroy. When we gossip, when we tell another person they are ugly, they will hate us and in turn that will not be good for our own wellbeing. Thus, Mr. Ruiz states that the first, and most important agreement we can make with ourselves is to be impeccable with our words. According to Mr. Ruiz, if we can do this, we will begin to foster an attitude of self-love that will permeate our entire being. 

The Second Agreement: Don’t Take Anything Personally

According to Mr. Ruiz, anything anyone thinks is merely a reflection of their own belief system. As such, what others think has nothing to do with you. If someone gossips about you or talks poorly about you, they are sending you 'emotional poison'. However, if you don’t take it personally and you don’t have to take-in this emotional poison. If you don't you will not be effected by it. 

Not taking things personally also applies to compliments however. Everyone is viewing the world through his or her own lens. As such, whether or not someone is pleased or dissatisfied with you is none of your concern. It is more a reflection of the world they are living in at that current moment. If you make the agreement with yourself not to take things personally you will realize the only opinion that truly matters is your own. If you know deep down that you are a wonderful person, you won’t need anyone else to tell you that. And when someone tries to tell you the contrary, if you do not take anything personally you will not be effected by their attempt.

According to Mr. Ruiz, if you make the agreement with yourself to not take anything personally and you are impeccable with your words, you will break 75% of the tiny other agreements that hold you back. If you truly do not take anything personally, you can walk around the world with your heart open, giving  yourself freely and openly without fear of anyone hurting you because you will be immune.

The Third Agreement: Don’t Make Assumptions

According to Mr. Ruiz, all the sadness and trauma we have ever experienced in our lives was rooted in the fact that we made assumptions and took things personally. This is a profound statement, but if you think about it there is some validity to it. According to Mr. Ruiz, when we make assumptions, we are making things up from thin air in our minds. These conclusion are often wrong. Often times making assumptions in our relationships can lead to all kinds of problems as well. When we assume the other person understands exactly what we are thinking, this can lead to us not asking for what we want, and in turn can cause us disappointment and strife.

According to Mr. Ruiz, the biggest assumption we make is that everyone else sees the world in the same way in which we do. The only way we can realize the actual way others view the world is by asking them. But asking makes us vulnerable. Especially when others ask questions of us. However, if we are to have relationships with others based on understanding, we have to be willing and open to one another.

According to Mr. Ruiz, when it comes to love it is far better to find a person who is exactly the way you want them to be rather than to try to change them. Likewise, if a person wants you to change, they don’t really love you in this moment as much as they could. You must find a person who loves you exactly as you are. As such, we need to be 100% honest with others about who we are in order for them to decide to take us 100% as we are, or not. Likewise, we would also hope someone else would be 100% honest with us about who they are so we can accurately judge whether or not they are the right person for us. In order to find this out we must have the courage to ask questions.

Without making assumptions, our words can become impeccable because we have clear information and can speak only truly. By clearly stating what you want, and having another person clearly state what they want, you can have an emotionally honest conversation which leads to true understanding and lasting peace. 

The Fourth Agreement: Always Do Your Best

Finally, according to Mr. Ruiz, the last of the four agreements is to always do our best. According to Mr. Ruiz, we are ever-changing. As such, our best in any given situation is aways changing too. Doing our best means doing our best in our present state and current situation. It does not mean doing the best we ever have. Rather, it means doing our very best with the state we are currently inhabiting. Sometimes are best will be very high-quality, other times it will not be as much. 

Doing our best means taking action. When we are doing our best we take action simply because we love what we are doing. When at the end of the day you can look back and say to yourself that you did your best, your self-critic will be shut down and you can set yourself free. We do our best because we want to do what we are doing. When you are doing our best simply for the sake of it, we will do our best work. 

According to Mr. Ruiz, God is 'Life in action'. So, according to Mr. Ruiz, the best way to say ‘I love you, God’, is to live your life doing your best. And the best way to say ‘Thank you, God’, is by letting go of the past, and living in the present moment.

According to Mr. Ruiz, the first three agreements only work if you do your best. It’s not possible to never misuse your words, to never take things personally, or to never make assumptions, but if you do your best, over time each of these tendencies will improve. Like anything you wish to master, it takes repetition. Thus, if we are constantly trying our best to achieve the four agreements, we will improve. And if we do our best long enough, we will perhaps one day achieve mastery.

To Sum It All Up

According to Mr. Ruiz, if you can master these four agreements and live them daily, you are going to be 100% in control of your life. It is then your charge to transcend this world of suffering. According to Mr. Ruiz, the four agreements is a way to do this. Simply try every day to get through the entire day without breaking any of the four agreements. If you do, that's alright, just try harder the next day. And if you do that, over time, you will see your life improve dramatically!