The Four Agreements, don Miguel Ruiz’s powerful code of conduct for life, describes how we can break free from negative patterns.
The agreements explain how society raises people to conform to a strict set of rules and how, with a little effort and commitment, we can set our own guidelines for life.
AGREEMENT #2: DON’T TAKE ANYTHING PERSONALLY
Ruiz shares that all the agreements that we hold in our minds are based on beliefs we’ve consciously and subconsciously accepted. Together, they form our worldview.
What other people say, what they do, and the opinions they share are according to these agreements, which means that nothing other people do or say is because of you—it’s because of them. Everything others say or do is simply a projection of their reality. It’s a reflection of how they think and see the world around them. They are seeing things from their point of view, which is an opinion that is not necessarily true.
When we take things personally, we start overthinking and analysing, we create emotional suffering for ourselves. This takes unnecessary energy and does not lead to finding answers.
AGREEMENT #3: DON’T MAKE ASSUMPTIONS
Consider the last time you reached out to someone, they read your message and didn’t reply. You assumed they were ignoring you. They simply forgot to reply to you.
“We make assumptions about what others are doing or thinking—we take it personally—and react by sending emotional poison with our word,” is how Ruiz describes it.
The problem with making assumptions is that we end up believing that they are the only truth.
It’s very interesting how the human mind works. Our brains are designed to keep us safe—that’s why we don’t do well in uncertainty. As Ruiz explains: “We have millions of questions that need answers because there are so many things that the reasoning mind cannot explain. It is not important if the answer is correct; just the answer itself makes us feel safe. That is why we make assumptions. If others tell us something, we make assumptions, and if they don’t tell us something, we make assumptions to fulfil our need to know. We make all sorts of assumptions because we need answers.”
Asking takes courage and energy. It is much easier to make an assumption, instant gratification, however, the consequences are lasting and taxing.
We can choose not to take things personally, and thus not become the victim of needless suffering.
Ruiz explains: “As you make a habit of not taking things personally, you won’t need to place your trust in what others do or say. You will only need to trust yourself to make responsible choices. You are never responsible for the actions of others; you are only responsible for yourself. When you truly understand this and refuse to take things personally, you can hardly be hurt by careless comments or actions.”
Find the courage to ask questions – the solution to misunderstandings. Ask questions to eliminate any potential source of confusion. And then listen… Listen to understand, not to justify or rationalise the assumption. This doesn’t just apply to outward relationships, it also applies to the relationship you have with yourself.
When we make assumptions about ourselves, it creates inner conflict. You say things to yourself like, ‘I can’t do this, ‘I think I can do this, and then you discover you aren’t able to do it. You overestimate or underestimate yourself because you haven’t taken the time to ask yourself questions and to answer them.
FOUR SIMPLE REMINDERS
1. Ask – don’t assume.
2. Respond – avoid reacting.
3. Reconsider – think about it.
4. Communicate – regularly.