“Your best is going to change from moment to moment; it will be different when you are healthy as opposed to sick. Under any circumstance, simply do your best, and you will avoid self-judgment, self-abuse, and regret.” ~don Miguel Ruiz
The fourth agreement in don Miguel Ruiz’s book The Four Agreements is to Always Do Your Best. It implies taking action with the first three agreements discussed in earlier blog posts. One of the key lessons in this agreement is that your best will change from hour to hour and day to day. When you are tired or ill your best will not be the same as when you are healthy and energetic. Whatever is going on in your life, you must always do your best, no more and no less. Don Miguel tells us that “when you overdo, you deplete your body and go against yourself, and it will take you longer to accomplish your goal. If you do less than your best, you subject yourself to frustrations, self-judgment, guilt, and regrets.”
In following this agreement, I had to learn to concentrate on the “no more” part of the concept. I grew up believing that to be successful I had to give 110 percent – doing my best meant going above and beyond. I have learned that I just need to do my best and I don’t have to be “superwoman” and go beyond. Going above and beyond did not lead to balance in my life - I was exhausted because I ran from task to task; I was afraid that I was not doing enough. I was tired because I was expending more energy than was necessary. I have high expectations for myself, but I have learned that I just need to do my best at each moment in time. Now I give my best, no more and no less. I’ve slowed down, and I take the time to savor my work and my relationships.
Another key concept in this agreement is that you do your best because you love what you are doing and not expecting anything in return. Some people only take action because they are expecting a reward. You should take action and do your best for the sake of doing the task without expecting a reward. I have found that the best rewards come when I am not attached to expecting a reward. Life is so much more enjoyable! As I continue to follow all four agreements, my best continues to get better.
How does doing your best change throughout your day and week?
How can you do your best – no more and no less?
“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.” ~don Miguel Ruiz
The third agreement from don Miguel Ruiz’s book The Four Agreements is Don’t Make Assumptions. One of the things I learned is that I had a tendency to make assumptions about everything. Much of the drama in my life was rooted from these assumptions because I believed them to be true and then I took them personally. I made assumptions about the actions of others and what they were thinking about me and I didn’t even know if they were accurate. I then blamed them and created drama in my mind.
An example of making an assumption might be that you are out at the store and you see a friend and she ignores you. You then make the assumption that she is mad at you. You concoct a story about why she is mad you and then your ego gets involved and you begin to defend yourself about how ridiculous it is that she is mad over that situation. Then your anger begins to build and you are now mad at her. If you would have asked why she ignored you, it might have been as simple as she didn’t see you or she just received bad news and her mind was focused on other things. But, most people don’t take the time to ask questions and just let the situation fester in their head. Making assumptions happens in the mind and it causes you to create all sorts of “what if” scenarios that get out control and create angst.
Why do you make assumptions? You make assumptions because of fear – you are afraid that something is wrong, that people don’t like you, that others are mad at you, or any other number of reasons. You are afraid to ask for clarification. But, it is always better to ask questions than to make an assumption, because assumptions lead to pain, suffering and worrying.
Most people make assumptions many times during the day and most of them are made unconsciously. You might feel that it is not safe to ask questions; you believe that if you friends or partner really knew you, then they should know what you want or how you feel. The problem with that thinking is that everyone does not see the world like you do. Others have had different life experiences and they view the world in their own way.
The best way to stop making assumptions is to ask questions. You must be authentic and find the courage to express yourself. You need to have clear and open communication with others. If you don’t understand, then find your voice and ask questions until you do understand the situation.
Do you make assumptions about what others are thinking and doing?
What can you do to get clarification when you don’t understand?
“Nothing others do is because of you. What others say and do is a projection of their own reality, their own dream. When you are immune to the opinions and actions of others, you won’t be the victim of needless suffering.” ~ don Miguel Ruiz
The second agreement from don Miguel Ruiz’s book The Four Agreements is Don’t Take Anything Personally. For many of us with thin skin, we take everything personally. When someone disparages us or says something mean, we take it to heart and believe it to be true. This happens because what the person has said triggers our old wounds. One of my old wounds is that I am not good enough. So, when a boss or colleague criticized my work, I was crushed and saw it as more proof that I really was not good enough.
Over the years, I have worked on not taking things personally. This is easier said than done, but the more I practice, the better I have become. A few weeks ago in the blog, I talked about human domestication. Ruiz tells us that during domestication you learned to take everything personally because you think you are responsible for everything. But you are not responsible for everything. The most important lesson, that has taken me a long time to learn, is that what someone says about me has nothing to do with me – it is about them. As soon as you understand that what people say about you has nothing to do with you, you will no longer take things personally. Each person is making judgments based on their life experiences, which are different than your experiences. Their point of view comes from all of the programming they received during their life. So what they say is more about them than it is about you – they have not lived your life and therefore cannot know your situation.
You take things personally because you are looking to others for validation that you are good, lovable and worthy. You must learn to look on the inside to know that you are good, lovable and worthy. You have a choice to let your self-worth come from the outside or the inside. Who will you give your power to – yourself or others?
When you follow the agreement to not take things personally, you will become immune to all of the negative energy and suffering that happens when you believe what others say about you. Whatever people say about you, remember not to take it personally. It is never about you!
Do you take what others say about you personally? If your answer is yes, what can you do to not take what others say personally?
When you get offended by what someone says, it is because they have triggered your old wounds. What are the wounds and limiting beliefs you still have that need to be addressed?
“Gossip is black magic at its very worst because it is pure poison… At first it may be difficult to avoid gossip entirely, but eventually you will see how breaking the agreement to gossip will transform your life.” don Miquel Ruiz
Last week we talked about the first agreement to be impeccable with your word from don Miguel Ruiz’s book the Four Agreements. Today, we will expand on that agreement with the focus on gossip.
We discussed that being impeccable with your word is one of the most difficult agreements to keep because your word includes your thoughts, written and oral communication. The other aspect that makes it difficult to keep is to not gossip. According to Ruiz, we learned how to gossip when we were children; we heard the adults in our lives gossiping and giving their opinions about other people. We saw gossip as the normal way to communicate. Everyone was doing it.
If you look at our culture, you see tabloid magazines full of gossip, reality television capitalizes on people talking bad about one another and creating drama, and social media sites are full of people venting about individuals they may or may not know. Gossiping has become our main form of communication. We use gossip as a way to feel close to one another and to feel better about ourselves. Some of the appeal of gossip is that there is a thrill when we feel that we are in on “the secret” about another person. Our ego likes to be “in the know” and feel superior to others. Our ego even loves negative gossip because we feel better about ourselves when we see other people suffer and make the same mistakes that we have – misery loves company.
When we gossip, we are not being impeccable with our word. Gossip is poison and we must stop the spread of it. This is a difficult agreement to break. Awareness is the key. Once I decided to be impeccable with my word, I noticed how many group interactions deal with gossip. I noticed which friends and groups spent more time gossiping. Start to pay attention to when and where you partake in gossip. Notice how it makes you feel when you gossip about others or yourself. Do you feel guilty or sad?
Since gossip is so prevalent in our society, what can you do?
I still struggle with gossip, but continue to pay attention in my conversations. I practice it one day at a time. When I make a mistake and engage with others in gossip, I stop. I don’t beat myself up. I again make the pledge to not gossip. And with each pledge it gets easier and I go for longer stretches of time without gossiping. It is difficult, but I feel so much better about myself when I am impeccable with my word and don't gossip.
How does gossip make you feel?
What can you do to stop the spread of gossip?
“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.” ~ don Miguel Ruiz
In the continuing blog series focusing on the book the Four Agreements by don Miguel Ruiz, today we will talk about the first agreement: Be Impeccable with your Word. According to Ruiz, the first agreement is the most important agreement but it is the most difficult one to keep. You might be thinking to yourself that it sounds simple and not understand why it is the most difficult agreement to honor. The answer lies within the fact that you manifest everything in life through your word. Thoughts become things.
It is imperative to recognize that the word is not just what you speak aloud, but it is also the thoughts you have about yourself and others. It includes the written word and all of the things you communicate in texts, emails and other written communication. The word is a force, it has energy and can be used for good or evil. Your kind words can heal and bring beauty and love and your harsh words can cause pain and suffering. Depending on how you use words, you can set yourself and others free or enslave them.
Don Miguel Ruiz tells us that impeccability means “without sin.” He is not talking about the “sin” that most organized religions discuss. He shares that everything you feel, think or say against yourself is a sin. When you judge yourself or blame yourself for things, you are not being impeccable with your word So, to follow this agreement, you will not judge or blame yourself. You will be mindful of all you say and do and take responsibility for your actions. You can measure the impeccability of your word by your level of self-love. When you are impeccable with your word, you feel good, happy and at peace.
To practice this agreement, pay attention to your thoughts, oral and written communication. Look at how you speak to yourself and others. What thoughts run through your head when you look at yourself in a mirror or see others in the world? Slow down and pay attention to what you are going to say before you speak. One of the key practices I try to follow is asking the following questions by Socrates before I speak:
In many cases, the first two statements are true, but the last is not. It is usually my ego that wants to speak and share a story. By asking these questions, I don’t talk as much and am more likely to be impeccable with my word.
Are you impeccable with your word including your thoughts, oral and written communication?
How can you incorporate the first agreement to be impeccable with your word into your daily life?
“We need a great deal of courage to challenge our own beliefs. Because even if we know we didn’t choose all these beliefs, it is also true that we agreed to all of them.”
~ don Miguel Ruiz
I recently taught a four-week meditation class based on the book The Four Agreements by don Miguel Ruiz. Over the next weeks, I am going to share some of the key points, from the book, in this blog. If you haven't read this book or haven't read it in a while, I highly recommend reading it and adopting the agreements. Ruiz is a master in the Toltec tradition and he shares powerful teachings from the Toltec Wisdom.
One of the first concepts that impacted me was the belief that humans are domesticated just like dogs and cats. As children, we did not have a choice in what to believe. We learned the rules we had to follow based on our culture, society, parents, teachers and adults in our life. We were punished if we did not follow the rules and we were rewarded when we followed them. I learned to please others so that I would be praised and accepted and did not break the rules for fear of being disciplined or judged unworthy. I became so well-domesticated that I no longer needed the adults in my life to punish me. I did a great job of beating myself up and chastising myself for any misdeed I committed. Ruiz calls these beliefs the ‘Book of Law’ and we each have our own set of rules that differs from everyone else. I judge myself and others based on my Book of Law, which causes serious problems because everyone is playing from a different set of rules.
One idea that affected me the most was the fact that I didn’t have a choice about the rules when I was a child. But, now as an adult, I can take time to examine the rules and see what I accept and what no longer serves me. I want to live a life of joy and fulfillment, therefore, I have found the courage to break the agreements that are fear-based and claim my personal power. I will be authentic and no longer say or do things from the perspective of pleasing others. I know from within that I am lovable, worthy and good enough and I no longer will seek approval from others. This isn’t easy and is a work in progress, but awareness is crucial for the transformation.
The Four Agreements will be discussed in future blogs. The agreements are:
During our domestication process, we learned the rules to be a “good girl” or a “good boy.” What were the rules in your house for being “good?” What did your caregivers consider "bad?"
What agreements do you need to break that are fear-based and claim your personal power?
Peggy Steffens is an artist and Chopra Certified Meditation Instructor
My goal is to build a community with like-minded individuals who want to grow, share and learn from one another. Please post comments to enrich the experience for all.