The Four Agreements: A Practical Guide to Personal Freedom

The Four Agreements: A Practical Guide to Personal Freedom

After reading online reviews of this book, I decided to join the bandwagon and buy it. This book is literally, as it states, practical. It’s a great read about how and why we may relate to the world as we do.

As you know, I am forever curious about human behaviour, emotion and interaction. I find it fascinating that we can change our habits, perspectives and mindset once we are exposed to a new way of living!

The Four Agreements are as follows:

  1. Be impeccable with your word.
  2. Don’t take anything personally.
  3. Don’t make assumptions.
  4. Always do your best.

I read this book in chronological order. Surprisingly, it helped to read each practical guide in this way. To digest the information and apply it accordingly takes time and patience.

If you’re anything like me, curious about human behaviour and finding ways to improve the way we treat others, I’d definitely recommend this book. Below, we can look at each Agreement and how I personally used them to improve my life. I’ve also included a link to the book so you can try these out for yourself!

1. Be impeccable with your word.

This was an interesting agreement. Ruiz defines this simply as not gossiping about others.

When we’re so engrossed in other people’s lives, it doesn’t give us much space to practice self-awareness or empathy for others. We can get caught in a cycle of rumours about people we probably don’t know too well. What’s the point? Not only is this harmful for others, it sets a negative tone in our own minds.

Say what you mean and mean what you say.

As we are emotional beings, there are many moments that we can lose our cool or spit out the wrong thing at the wrong time. That’s normal. Paying attention to the way we think and speak can help alleviate awkward foot-mouth situations.

2. Don’t take anything personally.

This agreement really hit home for me. Ruiz explains this rule simply: what other people say and do are a projection of their own reality.

When someone would correct my mistakes, it felt like a personal attack. The story re-played in my head: “I don’t know anything, of course I made a mistake. I can’t do anything right.” I struggled with self-confidence and self-doubt. I was told often that I didn’t know anything, so I believed it.

If I could remove the attachment to another’s words, I wouldn’t find myself in this toxic cycle of pain and belittling.

I fought so hard, for so long to begin changing my mindset. Changing a story we’ve told ourselves for years is difficult to say the least. It’s confronting. It will always be a work in progress. But progress is still progress! That’s a win!

3. Don’t make assumptions

Yet another agreement that resonated deeply for me. I was beginning to think that this book could address universal social/personal problems with unbelievable ease.

The way my brain has been wired, unfortunately jumps straight to conclusions.

Although expecting the worst may prepare us for certain challenges, it doesn’t help in daily life.

Assuming the worst about others or ourselves is sabotaging. It can affect how we trust others and maintain relationships.

Instead of making assumptions, ask. Having difficult conversations have been a struggle for me. I will say after years of working through my fears and building up my confidence, asking to clarify something has improved my life exponentially.

It can be difficult to know the line between clarifying a topic/opinion and starting a fire. So tread lightly while putting this agreement in practice. Our laundry doesn’t need to be aired to the general public.

Change first starts with you. So instead of replaying an assumption in your head, remind yourself that there is no evidence for it. If that person/group of people have not expressed their dislike toward you, don’t assume they do. Of course, we can tell through behaviour and social settings how someone may feel toward us. If it is hurtful or toxic, then leave.

4. Always do your best

This agreement was the easiest to digest for me. Growing up, I knew that my best was the only option.

I learned that nobody is perfect. We make mistakes and we may hurt others in the process. I learned that our best may not ever be good enough to some people. That’s okay. Take the lesson and move forward.

Of course, being hard on ourselves isn’t the way to go about accomplishing all our goals. There must be balance between work and play.

Doing your best can look different when comparing to another person, so just focus on living life according to your best ability. Our best effort changes from moment to moment. For example, we cannot expect the same quality of work or productiveness when we’re sick. Be mindful of yourself and others.

At the end of the day, if you know you tried your best, you’re saving yourself from your own and even others’ judgement. No one can take that away from you. Stand tall in your accomplishments!

Have you read this book yet? If so, which agreement did you resonate with most? What did you find challenging?

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For when times are tough.

For when times are tough.

This post is a letter to those who have been, who will, or who are walking a difficult path.

Life is a journey of unknowns. No matter how much we may try to control things, situations may occur that result in stressful, overwhelming, anxiety-inducing times.

Each year, I’ve found that I learn so many lessons. My confidence lies in knowing that I am closer to uncovering a part of myself. The wise, resilient part.

Below I’ve written a “guide” if you will, of things to remind yourself or things to do when times get tough.

this for you

When you feel like you have no choice: It probably feels unfair. Having no say in a situation can make us feel powerless, helpless, even betrayed. If this is how you feel, FEEL it fully. Acknowledge it. But, don’t stay here too long. You do have a choice. The power has always been with you. Take it in your stride. Keep pushing to live your life as best as possible. If where you are right now, threatens your mental, physical or emotional health, get out of there. Start making plans to get somewhere safe. Speak to a professional or a trusted person.

When it looks like your situation will never change: It will. If nothing else, change is inevitable. Whether you act or not, time will pass and change will come.

When time goes slow: Just like change, I’ve come to realise that time will pass, no matter how slow it feels in that moment. Remind yourself: time will pass. You can either make the most of it, or focus on how slow time is going.

When nothing cheers you up: During these times, I make a note to organise an appointment with my psychologist. I also do my best to see family and friends. Speaking to a loved one can be a huge help. Spending quality time with your community/close friends/trusted family can be a powerful healing tool. You deserve to put your mental-wellness as your top priority. There is only one of you in this world!

When a task is difficult and frustrating: Use your resources. Is there someone out there who has done this before? If so, research how they did it. If no one has done that particular task before, research how others have done similar things. Apply the principles. Ask questions. Trial and error. Eventually, you’ll find a way through.

When you feel alone: To be honest, I spend time noticing how ‘aloneness’ affects me. Then, I watch a comedic movie or YouTube video. I try and connect with friends or family. You may feel alone, but there are people who care about you. If reaching out is too much for you now, find online forums like ReachOut or Reddit, where others discuss their experiences that may be similar to yours (be aware of triggers). Even from different countries and cultures. Everyone has problems. Watch Ted Talks, personal vlogs and informational videos discussing these situations. We (as humans) have more in common than you may think.

When you can’t do things yourself anymore: Remember, it’s okay to take a step back. To let go of the reigns. We aren’t super-human. Don’t expect too much of yourself that there’s none of you left. Like I said, there’s only one of you in this world. Unless you’ve been cloned…….

When you feel like everyone hates you/is talking about you: A little trick I use to re-train my brain is to “weigh up the evidence“. Our brains have a tendency to focus on negativity and singular occurrences that make us suspicious of someone disliking us or hating us. Unless there is solid evidence for it, don’t believe these assumptions. There are people who care about you. Whether it’s an online community, your spouse, family or the staff at your local business.

When you can’t figure out people’s negative behaviour: Unless your major passion and life-career is in human-behaviour, don’t spend too much energy wondering. Set boundaries if you need to. You’ve got your own life to worry about. If you’re REALLY curious, read a book about behaviour. Honestly, I’ve learned a lot by reading. If that’s not your style, listen to a podcast or watch YouTube videos on behaviour and how others navigate it. Find ways to live your life according to your own values. Don’t let their behaviour affect yours.

When a job, relationship or friendship isn’t working: Make a change. This is a piece of advice that I’ve taken on from many years ago. If it doesn’t work, don’t give your energy into something that isn’t worth it — change it! Know when enough is enough. Stop taking on the mistreatment – that is not your burden to carry.

When people say you’re selfish for feeling hurt: You are absolutely entitled to declaring, processing and feeling your pain. Do not let another’s words stifle that part of you. Our emotions are innate. We are born with them. If our emotions become an obstacle in everyday life, we can find ways to manage it. Other than that, feeling hurt is in no way, shape or form, selfish.

When someone plays down your success: Make a mental-note not to tell them anything you find pride in. They are not worth your time or energy. Their attitude toward you is their problem.

When someone uses a stereotype to put you down: Don’t take this on as part of your identity. I still have a habit of using my being Filipino as an excuse for being late. This is simply not true. Perhaps I have a problem with time-management and I need to work on those skills. I try my best to schedule each day so I am on time and organised. Remember, most skills in life (if not all skills) can be learned or taught!

If someone says “you don’t know anything – you’re dumb”: Get out a pen and paper. Right now. List down everything you have learned and achieved in life. Getting your license, gaining employment, volunteering, helping others, getting good grades, cleaning your house, graduating, buying property, learning to use a technological device, staying organised, getting out of bed, being persistent, staying positive, mastering any new skill. The first definition that comes up in a Google search is “unwilling to speak”. Unless you are absolutely unwilling or temporarily unable to speak, you are not dumb. You may be speechless from such a ridiculous statement… and I completely understand.

When you feel guilty when good things happen: This is a new obstacle I have just come across. My approach so far has been to confide in a loved one. Sometimes we need a person to be a ‘sounding board’ to process beliefs we’ve held onto for far too long. It’s not until this belief is echoed to us in the opposite way, that we see how harsh it is to feel guilty for good things. Like I remind myself, you deserve good things to happen to you.

No matter what you may be going through, I do hope you’ll able to navigate it a little bit easier soon.

I am sending you strength, hope and the persistence to continue.

What things do you do to encourage yourself to continue forward in life? Share it below in the comment section!

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