THINKING THINGS THROUGH: Revisiting the Four Agreements

By Chris Wagner

“As children, we didn’t have the opportunity to choose our beliefs, but we agreed with the information that was passed to us from the dream of the planet to other humans.  The only way to store information is by agreements.  As soon as we agree, we believe it.
The only way to break a spell is to make a new agreement based on truth.”

Miguel Ruiz, The Four Agreements

In the late 90’s I heard much buzz about a book called ‘The Four Agreements.’  It caught my attention and curiosity with its simplicity and common sense.  In reading, I found information that both enlightened and  saddened me because I did not have access to this book when I was much younger.  But it came to me better late than never.  It seems worthwhile to take another look at these basic concepts that serve to make everyday challenges a little easier.

They are:

  1. Be Impeccable With Your Word
  2. Don’t Take Anything Personally
  3. Don’t Make Assumptions
  4. Always Do Your Best


Be Impeccable With Your Word

For me the word impeccable has always meant perfect or flawless.  Mr. Ruiz defines it as “without sin.”  Careful works for me.  In this era of constant communication, it’s easy to use words that are careless.  I asked myself what it means to speak carefully and remembered many times when I was not careful at all.  How would changing the words I used (or didn’t use) have an impact on my life?

What I hadn’t thought about until this book was the impact of the words, the way they are said and the looks that accompany them that we are exposed to as children.  This forms our not only beliefs about ourselves, but our self esteem and the way we speak and act in the world.  One of the messages I heard a lot was that my brother was exceptionally good at art and I wasn’t.  This didn’t bother me much because I had little interest in drawing etc.  But all through school, I could never finish any sort of craft type project and always needed help.  Having no confidence in my ability, it was years before I found I could actually create many things.

Seeds planted that grow doubt, anger, competiveness, resentment or any feelings of lack will come into play as long as we hold them as beliefs about ourselves.  As long as we keep that agreement.  And, if I don’t feel good about myself based on my beliefs, then it will be easier to get caught up in gossip, labeling, condescension or sarcasm.    The thing about words is that, once spoken, can never be taken back.

It’s a shame we’re not taught communication skills in school.  When I took stock of mine, it was a wake-up call.  So I began working on improving them and eventually that became a curriculum and a class.  What I realized  is that it takes a willingness to make changes and an awareness of what is and is not working with your own communication

For starters, here’s a simple exercise.

Before you speak, ask yourself these three questions:

  1. Is it true?
  2. Is it kind?
  3. Is it necessary?

These days when “alternative facts” seem acceptable, it’s so important to   carefully choose our words.  Taking the higher road will make always make a difference.

To be continued…