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Purpose: The Four Agreements

The Four Agreements
Wild and woolly in the time of COVID-19 - the perfect time to revisit an old favourite
The Four Agreements and Your Sense of Purpose

I bang on a lot about developing a sense of purpose and the idea of personal responsibility. Especially when it comes to your health caper. It’s such an integral part of my coaching practice that it features as the first section on the Wheel of Health.

In the context of today’s topic, I’m specifically talking about fostering your internal locus of control as a way to stop comparing yourself with everyone else. Because I know some of you are really struggling at the moment.

I want to share a very special and potentially even paradigm-shifting little book with you – The Four Agreements. It’s one of my personal favourites, and one I frequently share with many of my AIP Reset participants.

The Four Agreements: A Practical Guide to Personal Freedom by DON Miguel Ruiz

First published in 1997, this little book has been a New York Times bestseller for over ten years. It has sold over 9 million copies. It has been translated into over 40 languages. Not too shabby.

In this slim little volume of just 138 pages, author don Miguel Ruiz talks specifically to the source of self-limiting beliefs that work to rob you of joy and create needless suffering. Using his knowledge of Toltec wisdom, in The Four Agreements, Ruiz gives you (and me) a personal code of conduct or roadmap to follow. One that is easy to understand, too.

want to know why this wee book is so powerful?

It’s because it provides a practical framework for those of us with chatty and critical inner voices to ask what is really important. And, it achieves this simply – just by having you make four teeny-tiny agreements. With yourself, and nobody else. A kind of personal contract – one that can be 100% private.

Nobody else ever needs to know about it. Unless you want to share, of course.

And – speaking from personal experience – if you commit to this contract with yourself, wonderful things can happen…

  • you may find yourself trying that thing you’ve always wanted to do
  • you may find it easier not to ‘sweat the small stuff’
  • you may find you can release toxic relationships that weren’t serving you
  • you may find you free yourself up to new experiences
  • you may even find that you create space in your over-active mind to focus on other things
Here’s my Jo-take on an abridged version of the FOUR agreements for you…
1. Be impeccable with your word.

A few years ago, I wrote about how I talked to myself. It was born out of the realisation that I spoke to myself in language I would never in a million years use on a fellow human being. Not even one I didn’t like very much.

I wonder what kinds of words do you use when you talk to yourself? Do you exaggerate or stretch the truth with your inner dialogue? Do you say hurtful, bitchy and nasty things to and about yourself?

To be impeccable with your word is to be truthful with others, but even more importantly with yourself. It is to say things that have a positive influence on your mental health; to talk to yourself with compassion. We act on what we tell ourselves is real and our brain doesn’t differentiate between fantasy and reality.

Screening your self-talk and reframing it to be more positive takes work. But, if you only commit to one agreement – this one has the potential to dramatically change your perspective.

It did for me.

The Four Agreements
2. Don’t Take Anything Personally.

When you choose not to take anything personally, you’re quite literally changing the way you think.

The second agreement provides us with a way of dealing with potentially hurtful behaviour from others. Or, perhaps ‘perceived’ hurtful behaviour is a better way of articulating this. When you accept that you navigate this world differently to the next person, then it stands to reason that their behaviour is not your responsibility. It’s theirs alone.

When you commit to this agreement, you also acknowledge that other people’s stuff is not your stuff. It frees you to move on.

Feel that weight lifting off your shoulders? The thing about this second agreement is that it frees up a whole lot of space to focus on your ‘stuff’.  And that can only be a good thing!

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3. Don’t Make Assumptions.

You know what they say about assumptions… That thing about when you ASSUME you make an ASS out of U and ME?

Well. If you’re anything like me, this is easier said than done. But, assuming that you know what other people are thinking or feeling about you is a seriously limiting thought or belief. Unless your particular superpower is reading minds (and I’ve to actually find someone who can do this), when you try to engage in reading the mind of others, inevitably you will more often than not be wrong. This can lead to all sorts of trouble.

There is a way to circumnavigate this tendency and that is to seek clarity before making judgements about what people are thinking.

It does take a bit of work; a bit of changing the channel. It means speaking up. It means not being afraid to ask questions. Scary at first, but in my experience, the worst that can happen is that you may learn something about yourself!

4. Always Do Your Best

This one can be a tricky proposition for those of us suffering from chronic illness.

On the surface, this agreement with yourself seems like a no brainer. Of course, you should always try to be the best that you can be.

But there is a deeper message to doing your best. If you always do your best you turn down the volume on what Ruiz calls your ‘internal judge’. I call it my chatty and critical inner voice.

Surprisingly, it’s hard to find fault if you have done the best you can. Try it and see.

It doesn’t end there, though. The message here is also that you should only do your best, not try to do better than your best. Type A’s, listen up! Pushing yourself too hard can cause a worsening of symptoms, adrenal issues and potentially costly mistakes. And this is super important if you suffer from chronic disease. Recognising that your best will vary from day to day; that you are human (and therefore, fallible); that in some ways you are always doing your best – all of these things fall under my ‘be gentle with yourself’ mantra. And, once you start allowing yourself permission to do this, that chatty and critical inner voice has no oxygen…

For me, don Miguel Ruiz is bang on when he says that if you stop all that judgement, you free yourself from self-reproach and constant criticism and mental pummelling. And, this simple-yet-profound shift in perspective can have a big impact on how you view the world, but also your place in it.

The Four Agreements
Do you think it may be a good time to have a read (or EVEN re-read) of the Four Agreements?
The Four Agreements

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