Mark Thomas Miller's logo

The Four Agreements

August 13, 2018
Don Miguel Ruiz
A self development book without the fluff. It's lucid, actionable, and easy to read.
Get it here →

This book was published in 1997, sold 7.2 million copies, and has been translated into 40 languages. The U.S. Air Force created a challenge coin engraved with the agreements. It was written by a neurosurgeon after a near-fatal car crash.

My notes

Most people are not living their own life, but rather living going through the motions until they die. They're living their lives like society expects. The four agreements help us find and destroy the beliefs make us live like this. They help us follow our own ideals to create a better life.

Remember that you only experience references to others. Think of it this way: if a stranger saw you yelling at someone else, they'd think you were a mean person. But the reality is much more complex. This is also how you experience your friends, family, partner... you can only know them through context.

Agreement 1: Be impeccable with your word.

Don't ever lie to yourself. Say only what you mean. Nothing more. And don't gossip or talk badly about others.

Agreement 2: Don't take anything personally.

Nothing other people do is because of you. It is because of themselves. When other people are angry at you, it is because of themselves. When other people tell you how wonderful you are, it is because of themselves. What other people say and do is based on their reality, not yours. So it doesn't need to cause you any pain.

Agreement 3: Don't make assumptions.

We make the assumption that everyone sees life the way we do. We assume that others think the way we think, feel the way we feel, judge the way we judge, and abuse the way we abuse. This is why we have a fear of being ourselves around others – because we think everyone else will judge us, victimize us, abuse us, and blame us as we do ourselves. So even before others have a chance to reject us, we have already rejected ourselves.

Express what you want as clearly as possible, and don't be afraid to ask questions. Gain clarity in every interpersonal situation.

Agreement 4: Always do your best.

Always do your best, and you'll avoid regret, self-judgement, and self-abuse.

Breaking Old Agreements

We've subconsciously made agreements with ourselves over time. Often, these agreements were shaped while we were growing up, so they are outdated or ill-informed. Since we're now adults, we can now choose what to believe. There are three ways to break old agreements.

The first is to take inventory and replace them with our new beliefs. List the internal thoughts that cause you pain, suffering, or stress. Then, make a new agreement with yourself that pulls you out of that. Some examples of old beliefs that you might want to reexamine are...

  • I should always listen to my parents.
  • I am not in control of what happens to me.
  • Wanting to make a lot of money is greedy.

Another way to break old agreements is to forgive those who have harmed you. As the author says:

We need to forgive our parents, our brothers, our sisters, our friends, and God. Once we forgive God, we can forgive ourselves. And once that happens, we no longer reject ourselves. That's when self-acceptance begins.

The final way is to prepare ourselves for death: to live every day as if it's our last. This is how we truly start to live. It is to be like a child again, but this time with wisdom instead of innocence.

Making Our Own Dream

We get to create our own lives. Our perception of reality is something that we can change at any time. We have the power to create hell and the power to create heaven. Why not dream a different dream?

Imagine that you have the ability to see the world with different eyes, whenever you choose. Each time you open your eyes, you see the world around you in a different way. Use your imagination to see yourself living a new life, a new dream, a new life where you don't need to justify your existence and you are free to be who you really are. Imagine living your life without fear of expressing your dreams. You know what you want, and what you don't want. You are not afraid to ask for what you need, to say yes or no to anything or anyone. Imagine living your life without the fear of being judged by others.