Consider this bold statement: If each of us conducted our lives by following a simple code of conduct known as “The Four Agreements,” our lives would be dramatically transformed to a new experience of freedom, true happiness and love.
I know what you’re thinking: yeah right! And I certainly wouldn’t blame you in your skepticism. After all, we hardly go a day in this world without being exposed to overzealous claims or empty promises. Infomercials alone would turn anyone into a cynic with their promises of easy weight loss, magically vanishing wrinkles and instant wealth. Who wouldn’t want all three? I know I would. In fact, I’m still mad at TV pitchman Billy Mays – may he rest in peace – for convincing me to buy that magic liquid-scratch remover for my car. It turns out there was nothing magic about it. It just didn’t work. And if the promises of weight loss and scratch removal have proven too good to be true, why should any of us get lured into searching for contentment and happiness by way of a few simple rules of conduct? Well the answer to that question is acutally quite simple: because it’s a search that costs us nothing to try, and doesn’t even require the effort of dialing a toll-free number.
About a year ago a friend recommended that I read “The Four Agreements,” by Miguel Ruiz. There was no hard sell by this person to do so, just a wink and a nod that suggested, “you might get a lot out of it.” At first blush I was put off by the book cover’s statements of promise:
“A practical guide to personal freedom.”
“reveals the source of self-limiting beliefs.”
“can transform our lives to a new experience of freedom, true happiness, and love.”
Uh, oh, I thought, here we go again, Billy Mays. But then I started reading.
The book describes an ancient philosophy or wisdom that traced back thousands of years to a people in pre-Colombian southern Mexico known as the Toltec, or “men and women of knowledge.” The author, Miguel Ruiz - a descendant of the Toltec people – had initially chosen a life that ignored his family’s traditional Toltec beliefs, opting instead to attend medical school and become a successful surgeon. But after an epiphany of sorts, Ruiz abandoned his medical practice and returned to his family roots of pursuing the deep knowledge of the Toltec way of life.
While the book was interesting in its anthropological description of the Toltec origins, and while the fluid, biblical-like writing style was mesmerizing, that’s not what captured my fascination. For me – and probably for most others who helped make The Four Agreements a N.Y. Times best seller for seven years – the appeal was in the genius of its simplicity.
Setting aside the hyperbole from the publisher’s promotional claims, after reading The Four Agreements I was left to conclude the following: if we just followed these four basic principles, our lives would, in fact, probably be a helluva’ lot better in general. For those still curious, and not willing to wait for their Amazon.com order to arrive, I’ll share the actual Four Agreements below:
1) Be impeccable with your word. Speak with integrity. Say only what you mean. Avoid using the word to speak against yourself or to gossip about others. Use the power of your word in the direction of truth and love.
2) Don’t take anything personally. Nothing others do is because of you. What others say and do is a projection of their own reality, and dream. When you are immune to the opinions and actions of others, you won’t be the victim of needless suffering.
3) Don’t make assumptions. Find the courage to ask questions and to express what you really want. Communicate with others as clearly as you can to avoid misunderstandings, sadness and drama. With just this one agreement, you can completely transform your life.
4) Always do your best. Your best is going to change from moment to moment; it will be different when you are healthy as opposed to sick. Under any circumstances, simply do your best, and you will avoid self-judgment, self-abuse, and regret.
Unlike the infomercials, there are no hidden secrets as to how the Four Agreements will work for us; no “special ingredients” that set it apart from the competition. The Four Agreements are as fundamental and elementary as any set of words can get. I guess what makes these principles so effective has to be the honesty of the statements. They seem to be inarguable truths. And even if we only remember the headlines of each of the Four Agreements, we probably have plenty to work with right there.
But don’t take my word for it. Writing this blog gives me no more authority on the subject than an As-Seen-On-TV pitchman. And for that matter, don’t even take Miguel Ruiz’s word for it. He wrote the book and would have to be somewhat biased about it. Instead, why not try living by the Four Agreements for a week or so and seeing what you think? There’s no phone call to make, no monthly fee, not even postage and handling; just four simple guidelines that – as a friend once suggested to me – you might get a lot out of. There must be something to it, since over 4.5 million copies have been sold. And that was without any help from Billy Mays.