The Four Agreements: Always Do Your Best

I remember in 2014, when I first became successful.

I was reading The Chimp Paradox by Professor Steve Peters, the same book Ronnie O’Sullivan studied before he won back-to-back World Snooker Championships in 2012 and 2013. Steve Peters defined success as “doing the best you can do at that specific time”. My paradigm of success was decimated, and a new empowering worldview replaced it.

If success is doing the best we can do given the circumstances, success is controllable and achievable. Instead of success being something in the far future, success can be achieved from moment to moment in the small decisions and actions we take. Success isn’t reserved for the elite, it can be practiced by the masses.

Doing the best we can do in each moment leads to progress. It forces us to leave our comfort zone, and over time our best increases in capacity. We begin to snooze your alarm a little less often, until eventually we wake up on cue every day a minute before our alarm is due to sound. We gradually lift more and more weight in the gym until one day we look in the mirror and notice we are a Herculean specimen. We stop lying so much. Our short fuses get longer. We become nicer to be around.

Don Miguel Ruiz, the author of The Four Agreements, explains that doing our best makes us action-takers, and it makes us happy. Most importantly, if we can do our best to keep the other three agreements (be impeccable with our word, not to take things personally, not to make assumptions), we will live a beautiful life.

The Four Agreements: Don’t Make Assumptions

The biggest assumptions humans make is that other people see the world how we see it, believe the things we believe, and feel the things we feel. It’s this shortsightedness and lack of understanding that creates arguments, divorces, and wars.

What if, instead of assuming people know what we want, we told them what we wanted instead? And if we don’t know what we want, how do we expect others to know?!

There’s nothing wrong with asking clarifying questions. When I’m in a sales setting I need to find out what people want as soon as I can, and as clearly as I can. Only then can I suggest a solution that will work the best for them. When I assume that they want everything that I’m talking about, the prospects will actually end up being uncomfortable with telling me what they really want, and the communication breaks down.

The Four Agreements: Don’t Take Anything Personally

In three years of working in door-to-door sales, I realized that there is no way of lasting as long as I have without starting to believe that rejection is not personal.

When I first started in the job I would finish work with no sales and beat myself up for the rest of the evening about it. Everyone said no to me because I sucked at speaking, I sucked at listening, and I sucked at sales. Although this was almost certainly true, it was massively disempowering and my confidence levels were in freefall.

I eventually started getting a few sales and gradually started improving. Fast forward to my attitude today and it is completely transformed. If someone says no to my offering now, I just tell myself that they didn’t want it. Of course it’s a lot easier to say that now, knowing that I have sold close to 300 security systems.

The consequence of having this present attitude is that it’s stress-free. I know who I am and I’m secure in myself. Instead of coming home with the world on my shoulders, I just know that I will put the work in and I’ll get what I get. I’ll make hay while the sun is shining, and just place one foot in front of the other when results aren’t so good. But things will come good.

Taking things personally comes from the need to be accepted, the lack of self-identification and self-confidence. Occasionally, I will knock on someone’s door that will yell expletives, and be physically and verbally threatening. I stay calm, excuse myself from the situation and carry on to the next door. I know it’s not personal. Have they slept? How is their mental health? Is he or she just a terrible person? Whatever the answers are, none of it has anything to do with me. They’ve done what they’ve done because of them.

Say if someone lies to you. You get offended, and it ruins your day, or even your week. But that person probably lies to everyone, including themselves. It’s just part of their character. They’re the common denominator. So who’s really going to suffer in the end?

To take something personally is an imbalance of self-importance. It’s likely that if the same thing happened to someone else, they wouldn’t care the slightest bit (or at least not as much). The fact that it’s happened to them magnifies and exacerbates the situation.

To take something personally is to choose suffering over peace. Next time you encounter a choice to take something personally or not, which will you choose?

The Four Agreements: Be Impeccable With Your Word

The Four Agreements is a book of wisdom from a modern-day Toltec named Don Miguel Ruiz. Toltecs are an ancient tribe from Southern Mexico known for their knowledge and wisdom. Ruiz summarizes the Toltec philosophy through four agreements.

Ruiz says the first agreement – Be impeccable with your word – is the most important and most difficult one to honor.

Language is one of the most powerful tools that determines the course of our lives. Words have the power to create love and share joy, or spread hate and lie about others. Without using our word impeccably it would be extremely difficult to live a life of fulfilment.

An example of the extent that word can be used for evil is the rise of Nazism and the suffering caused by the word of just one man.

A seed is sown when someone first tells a child that they are ugly, stupid, or useless. From that point on, the child looks for evidence to defend this newly formed agreement. If they get something wrong in class it reinforces the belief that they’re stupid. If they anger their parent it reinforces the belief that they are useless.

Luckily these spells can be broken by evidence to the contrary, although it is arguably more difficult to break the spell than reinforce it. That’s why we live in a world where self-confidence, self-esteem and self-love are becoming harder and harder to preserve. The language that’s being used in our environment is the problem.

Gossip is something that occurs so often in normal life. We always want to talk about other people. But gossip is harmful, even if the person we are gossiping about never finds out. It spreads a negative energy and plants new negative beliefs in others. One way that I catch myself gossiping is by asking myself if I would say the same thing about the person I am talking about if they were present in the conversation too.

Even though it wasn’t mentioned in the book I also took this rule to mean: “Do what you say you’re going to do.” I believe that the more extensively a person can turn their words into action, the more fulfilled their life will end up being. Doing what you say on a consistent basis will build trust in yourself, and others will trust you too because you can be relied upon. The discipline and strength required will create the self-confidence, self-esteem and self-love that is a prerequisite for a good life.

Be impeccable with your word.