“Society tames the wolf into a dog. And man is the most domesticated animal of all.” -Thus Spoke Zarathustra, Friedrich Nietzsche
The following ideas are a piece of ancient Toltec (a long-gone society from Mexico) wisdom, brought to us by the author Don Miguel Ruiz. As a Toltec nagual (a healer), he wrote The Four Agreements, which you could read in just a few hours. It’s one of those books that has the ability to bring you a rush of peace as you turn every page.
There are hundreds of five-star Amazon reviews for this book, and a few well-written negative reviews that say, “This is all just common sense.” Well, our world might need a little more common sense right now. We strongly encourage you to pick up a copy of this book, because you’ll end up lending it out to your friends and family as soon as you finish it.
WHY WE HAVE AN INNER CRITIC
Day one, you are born. Nice job, you nailed it. But you are now helpless, and so begins the process of domestication. For the next six to eight years, you are like a sponge. You are using your five senses to absorb everything from the world around you. Your parents and society do their best to reward and punish you to help mold your behavior so you don’t become a wild animal.
Who raised you, what lessons you were told, what behavior you actually observed, and how you were taught all have a massive influence on your programming. Sometimes (most of the time?) parents and society don’t do a perfect job. Once you’ve taken in enough information, and practiced enough behavior that makes you feel safe and makes your family proud, your process of domestication is almost complete. You begin to police yourself internally.
There’s nothing wrong with following the rules that help you live a good life within society. (More on rules here.) But that’s not all we do. We beat ourselves up. We constantly criticize ourselves. Don Miquel Ruiz calls this incessant nagging, accusing, internal voice we all have the Judge. Capital J.
UNRAVELING YOUR RULES
Take a moment to recognize your own personal Judge. It will attack you at every weak point. It will try to break down your confidence and your contentment. It’s made to keep you in line. Who knows if that is good or bad for you specifically. But I think we can all agree that it would feel so good to be free from the Judge.
Most of us are insecure. Don’t let anyone’s bravado convince you differently. We judge ourselves more harshly than we ever would our friends. Before you can start to make positive changes in your thinking, you need to realize everything you believe down to your core is from this process of domestication and experience. That has nothing to do with what is ultimately true, just what is true for you.
Your views on money, good living, relationships, health, sexuality, spirituality, and yourself are all products of your environment. It seems quite overconfident to believe that you just happened to receive all the right answers, if there even are any. But once you realize this, you’re left feeling very lost. What are you supposed to believe? How are you supposed to guide your life? Enter religion, government, community, or articles like this. It’s all just our attempt to make sense of it all. We place no judgement here on any of those things. All of our views on these subjects change and solidify through time (based on our personal experience with them, of course). If all of this is so manipulatable, why don’t we start over from the beginning?
WHY THE FOUR AGREEMENTS ARE SO POWERFUL
The four agreements are an attempt to bring you inner peace. They are an attempt at reprogramming. There have been thousands of attempts over the years, so don’t feel too bad if these don’t resonate with you. Look for another path that makes you feel good. But the power of the four agreements is undeniable. You can use them every day in every situation. They transcend “rules”, so you don’t have to toss out any old beliefs if you don’t want to do that yet. If you “agree” with them, and “do your best” to follow them, you can go to sleep every night with a clean conscience. Write them down in your journal, or save and print this beautiful wallpaper we’ve created for you.
THE FOUR AGREEMENTS
Here are the four agreements, taken directly from the book. Let’s go through them together.
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, their own 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 circumstance, simply do your best, and you will avoid self-judgment, self-abuse, and regret.
COMMENTARY ON THE AGREEMENTS
The agreements are applicable from work to family. “Always do your best” helps you recover after a failed sales pitch you practiced for days. “Don’t make assumptions” will help you communicate and ask better questions before you destroy your relationship from insecurity. “Don’t take anything personally” will help you see the world more clearly over time. There’s so much more to this book than this article can explain. Explore deeper.
So, what are you going to do? Perhaps you might pick just one agreement, and watch how many times in your day it might be useful for you. Remember to save this wallpaper image.
Leave a comment: What do you think about the process of domestication? What do you think about The Four Agreements, and what is another agreement you might have made with yourself over time?
I have criticisms for these four agreements, but I understand their intent, and in a simplistic way, they are very helpful. Understanding their limitations and drawbacks only helps to strengthen their lessons.
The one that I had a problem with was, “Don’t take anything personally. Nothing others say is because of you.” One of the online negative reviews said, “So, if you’re fat, and someone calls you fat, you’re just supposed to pretend that’s not real?” But then I realized that’s not what the agreement is about. It’s more like, “Look at this person insulting something about me. Normal healthy people don’t go around doing that. Maybe I’m happy or maybe I’m changing; that’s up to me.”
I totally agree! In the same agreement though, if you are being rude, and someone says you have an attitude problem, are you supposed to blame them for your negative impact? Being held accountable is one of my personal agreements. But it’s subjective, and requires insight, and willingness to try to be better all the time.
Well, if you’re doing your best (as per agreement #4) you wouldn’t be rude in the first place. These agreements very well complete each other and could be useless, if not harmful, if ripped out of their mutual context and used at will.
Hi there, new member here. 🙂
I like this one a lot too. Nothing is about you unless you choose to make it so.
Hey Jordan, welcome back! I read this book recently and it seemed to me to have some similarities to Buddhism’s Eightfold path (do the right thing). Written completely differently, but I find it brings that same feeling of peace. What do you think?
Hey Di, welcome back yourself! Absolutely agree. If we consider “Toltec” a religion, most religions are all saying the same thing and using different words. 😛
This is my first article that I explored and it’s very interesting. Seems like my journey here started well. Unfortunately I am “a domesticated animal” and it’s chaos in my life. I hope that I will have the strength to follow the path because I know this is the way.
The font in that poster is horrible.. I was excited to print it out and hang it at my office, but I can’t hang that one.
Russell, just switched it for you. Check it out now. Whatever it takes to help you live these lessons 😉
Great article! I am new here and I hope that this will be the push that I have been looking for!
Hey Joyce! Welcome. We hope it is too, but the only person in control of that is you. 😉 Whatever you are putting off, find the smallest possible chunk you can do, like clean one dish or do one pushup. You can quit then if you want, but I bet you’ll keep going. An object at rest takes a lot of energy to move, but once it’s moving, your momentum makes it much easier.
What stood out was “you don’t have to throw out old beliefs for this”. It’s usually the incorrect schools of thought that are incompatible with everything else.
Great article Jordan. keep up the good work.
1. Matthew 5:37
2. John 15:18
3. Proverbs 18:13
4. Colossians 3:23
Keeping these ideas in the forefront of your personal mindset would having nothing less than a positive impact on yourself and others around you. Of course you have to be accountable for your actions/mistakes. If you are striving on keeping your word, not taking anything personally, not making assumptions and doing your best you will be moving in the right direction. One I would add is serve others/pay it forward, as I find these mindset leads to a fulfilled existence on most levels in life.