This book is written by Miguel Ruiz, to tell us that freedom comes from within — just like happiness, it is a state of mind. Sadly, human was bound by this old beliefs. Most people live obediently to this “normal way” of living that is based on fear. Reading this book has enlighten me a new way of living. It encourages me to take more actions toward what I really want in life. I began to pay more attention into what I say about myself, about others, to my family, my friends or other people. I try my best to use positive words and avoid being too judgemental on people or things. Personally, I was always aware that our early years in life (some say seven years) are the most important years in our personal development because it will shape our beliefs. Beliefs that we have learned mostly from our parents. Now through this book I realize that I can firmly change my old beliefs peacefully, without having to blame my parents for what they have thought me. At the end of the day, the truth is they only want the best for their children.
Here are my personal summary and notes of this book, based on each chapter:
Domestication and the Dream of Planet
Humans are dreaming all the time: Awake and in our sleep. We are born with the capacity to learn how to dream. We are taught about the dream of the planet by the humans who lived before us. The dream of planet can be summarized as the collective idea about the “normal” way of living life which includes society’s rules, beliefs, laws, religions, cultures, governments, and education. When we were a child, we learned how to behave in society with the help of adults around us that put information into our minds through repetition. We were soon agree with everything they say and surrender to these beliefs. This process is called the domestication of humans by Don Miguel Ruiz.
The process of domesticating children is similar to domesticating pets: We were punished when we went against the rules and were rewarded when we behaved within the rules. As a child, that process slowly implement a habit of fear of being punished and not receiving the reward. That fear pushes us to please others, and soon we pretend to be what we are not and holding back our natural way of expressing ourselves freely.
The domestication process is so strong that we let ourselves to be auto-domesticated: We punish or reward ourselves according to our action toward our belief system. What happened is we let ourselves build two characters within us, called the Judge and the Victim. The Judge is someone that evaluates everything we think and do. The Judge will quickly deliver criticism if the thought or behavior is imperfect according to the beliefs system that we internalize in our childhood. The Victim is someone that receives harsh criticism from the Judge and thinks that he or she is never good enough because of that. This character lets humans feel inadequate, emasculated and sorry for themselves. All these characters are brought up into our lives based on a belief system that we never chose to believe.
This belief system is the dream of planet, and it is ruled by fear, pain and suffering. That society dream is so internalized into us that we ourselves stop dreaming for a better state. It has become our personal dream. We can absolutely dream a pleasant dream if we want to, yet all this time we are blinded by those false beliefs implemented in our mind that set us up for suffering.
Ruiz argued that we should stop trying to please everyone and create this image of how we should be good enough in order to be accepted by everybody. We should realize that perfection does not exist. We should not reject ourselves for not being the perfect image we want to fit in. We should not judge others according to our image of perception as well, because then naturally, they all wont meet our expectations. The sooner we let go of this image of perfection, the sooner we can start to accept ourselves the way we are and accept others the way they are.
In order to achieve personal freedom and live a fulfilling life, we have to break our old agreements and beliefs that are ruled by fear. Implementing The Four Agreements by Miguel Ruiz can help you to transform your life and slowly set you to a personal dream ruled by courage and empowerment.
"Death is not the biggest fear we have; our biggest fear is taking the risk to be alive — the risk to be alive and express what we really are."
The First Agreement: Be Impeccable with Your Word
The first and the most important agreement, yet the hardest one to honor is to set your words into the highest standard. Ruiz argued that our word is a force that create the events in our life. Word is like a two-edged sword: It can create the most beautiful dream or destroy everything around you.
An example of how powerful a word can be was illustrated during 1940s where Adolf Hitler convinced everyone in Germany to start world war based on fear-generated beliefs.
Some of us may still latch on to opinions from our parents. We may let them label us, like how we are not being good at sports or writing. Words can enter our mind and change a whole belief for better or for worse and we may believe this for as long as we can remember. This is why it is very important for us to maintain that high standard and be impeccable with our words. One day someone hooks our attention and let us know that we are stupid. We believe what he or she says, and wishing how smart we were. But then we would just reinforce ourselves with that belief: That we are stupid. Until one day someone hooks our attention and let us know that we are not stupid, which let us believe a new agreement and as a result we no longer feel or act stupid. Imagine if we could harness this power for ourselves, by saying things that we only meant for ourselves.
Using your words to the upmost standard will set you free. Don’t let someone else suffer because you plant a belief that is against that person. For example, if you tell your children to stop playing piano because he or she is horrible at it, then most likely the child will feel that he or she can’t play a piano. A child could be discouraged and forced to suppress his or her dream to play piano because of misused words. Why would you want to do that?
Be very careful about the words you were gonna say, either to yourself or to others.
Implement positive thoughts for yourself or others. Why let yourself suffer from restraining beliefs? Use the word in the correct way: To share happiness, to transfer positive energy, to encourage others, to give joy and spread kindness.
"Being impeccable with your word is not using the word against yourself."
The Second Agreement: Never Take Things Personally
Don’t take things personally as it lets you to be trapped in the state of selfishness because we make the assumption that everything is about “me”. All people live in their own dream and mind, they do what they say because of themselves, and when we take things personally we make the assumption that they know what is in our world.
What people usually say or opinions they give are according to agreements they have in their own minds. It is their view that comes from the internalization of the belief system they receive.
If you take things personally, chances are you will feel offended and you will naturally try to defend yourself. We tend to make something big out of something to little just because we take things too personally. We should not reject ourselves for that matter however, because as a human it is natural to feel things. What Ruiz argued here is that by controlling what things you want to take personally, you can build this shield that lets you continue your personal journey to freedom and achieve the things you really want in life.
"…nothing they think about me is really about me, but it is about them."
Why is this important is because along your journey there will be several key persons in your life or some people that intentionally or unintentionally spread negative energy, restrictions and limitations for you to achieve your dream. However, if we remember to avoid taking things personally, we soon realize that they are simply dealing with their own fears and insecurities or beliefs and opinions.
Our point of view is no one’s truth but ours. It is something that is personal to us. This agreement applies both ways: To both negative and positive opinions about us or our point of view. This include the necessity to not taking what ever opinions we have about ourselves — because they are not necessarily true! Ruiz argued that our mind lives in more than one dimension, that there may be times when we have ideas where it does not originate in our mind.
The mind has the ability to talk to itself, but it also has the ability to hear information that is available from other realms. Some part of mind is speaking and some part of mind is listening, think of what’s gonna happen if we let thousand parts of our mind all speaking at the same time. Some part of our mind can disagree with each other and that is the reason we hardly know what we want, how we want it and when we want it. It is too noisy sometimes in our own mind.
The ability to see other people as they are without taking it personally, will set us free from suffering. People are lying to us because they are afraid. People are stopping us to do what we want because they feel like they can’t do it. Most people are afraid that we will discover their lack of perfection. According to Ruiz, there’s nothing that can hold you back if you manage to make this second agreement a habit. You will avoid many upsets in your life. Some people can say bad things to you and when you don’t take it personally it only makes themselves feel worse. This agreement will break you from the needless suffering in life.
Trust yourself to make responsible choices, not in the hand of other people.
"You are never responsible for the actions of others; you are only responsible for you."
The Third Agreement: Don’t Make Assumptions
Never make an assumption if you want to build a healthy relationship with anyone. You can’t change a person. If a person wants to change it is only because they want to change, not because you can change them. If you have to change a person to be in love with him or her, that means you don’t really love him or her. That person must also love you just the way you are.
Manage your expectations in a relationship through effective communication and avoid making assumptions at all costs. One of the way to keep yourself from making assumptions is to ask questions. Miscommunication is the root cause of most problems between human. Clear communication would solve most of human problems. Making assumptions is the root cause for vague communication.
Practice this agreement starting from becoming aware of this habits and understand the importance of this agreement. Next, take the action everyday in your daily life. Start small, always.
"Real love is accepting other people the way they are without trying to change them."
The Fourth Agreement: Always Do Your Best
This is what binds all the three agreements together. We should strive to do our best in every circumstance we are in. Personally, I think one of the ways to do this is to choose what you do and remember that you always have an option. The simple idea is that you will try to do your best in what you’re obsessed with. For example, if you play tennis and you are obsessed with Roger Federer’s forehand, then you will most likely to practice it every day.
The important thing to keep in mind is your best is never going to be the same from one moment to the next. Your best will change all the time: Sometimes it will be high quality best and other times it will be average quality best. It will depend on the time of the day, your feelings, your health, etc.
Keep in mind that in the long run, if you always try to do your best, your best will become better than it used to be. Don’t worry about the quality, keep doing your best — no more and no less.
If we are doing something that we don’t particularly enjoy, then there is always a reason to try your best. However, try to find a better reason — any reason — other than money. You are potentially limiting yourself from doing your best in the long run. Try to find joy in what you are doing or find something that resonates with your value. Try out new things to find the right one for you. Because no matter what you are doing, if you try to do your best, rewards will come.
Doing something impactful will create value. People willing to trade what they have (money, time, resources, etc.) for value they’d get. Eventually, profit will come. Remember this when you are doing your work or starting a business. But it is crucial to only think about what impact will you bring to the table.
How do you know your doing your best? When you are doing it in a way that will not have a negative repercussions for you. The main idea here is that it shouldn’t feel like you have to do it. You do your best for the pleasure, because it makes you happy and feel good about yourself. You do your best because you want to do it, not because you have to do it, not because you are trying to please the Judge, and not because you are trying to please other people. Take action means living life fully. The opposite of that is like sitting in front of the television every day because you are afraid to take the risk of expressing who and what you are.
Take action and be present in the moment, live your life to the fullest and let go of your past. Do your best and you will soon find what you are looking for.
"You can have many great ideas in your head, but what makes the difference is the action."
The Toltec Path to Freedom: Breaking Old Agreements
The normal human tendency is to enjoy life, to play, to be happy and to love. As we grow older, we let ourselves be domesticated and caged in this belief that there is this “normal” way of living. We stop letting us express ourselves. We let our inner voices judge our actions or thoughts and letting us think that we are not good enough.
Parents did what their best to train us, but it is normal in human society and you should not blame them for what they did. Stop blaming your parents and yourself for wherever you are right now in life. Start your journey to personal freedom and take back that inner child of yours.
Free yourself from the Judge and the Victim by taking these steps:
Mastery of Awareness: If you are not aware what problem you are having, you cannot solve your problem, you cannot begin to heal yourself.
Mastery of Transformation: Reprogram your mind, in your own way, to remove all the self-limiting and fear-based belief that blocks you from the excitement of living life. Stay open minded, explore alternative beliefs, immerse yourself in literature are several ways to get your transformation journey going. Start small and go step-by-step in approaching the Four Agreements. Be patient with your transformation journey for this is a slow process.
Mastery of Intent: Remember the reason why you are on this transformation journey. If you are making mistakes, recover quickly. You won’t let your habit slip if you remember the reason why you are doing this in the first place. Practice, repetition and consistency is key.
"We can reach heaven while we are alive; we don’t have to wait until we die."
The New Dream: Heaven on Earth
Use your imagination to see the world with different eyes, the way you want it. It is liberating to imagine that you can live your life without the fear of expressing your dreams, without the fear of being judged by others, without the fear of loving and not being loved, without being afraid to take a risk and to explore life.
Feel the bliss in living life as you practice the Four Agreements in your life.
We have the freedom to choose the way we live our life, and we can find many excuses to suffer, but on the other side, we can also find many excuses to be happy. Happiness, like suffering, is a choice. See the happiness and joy you receive from the world. We have the power to shape our destiny and live in a happy world — Heaven on Earth.