Ben Nadel
On User Experience (UX) Design, JavaScript, ColdFusion, Node.js, Life, and Love.
I am the chief technical officer at InVision App, Inc - a prototyping and collaboration platform for designers, built by designers. I also rock out in JavaScript and ColdFusion 24x7.
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Ben Nadel at RIA Unleashed (Nov. 2010) with: Carol Loffelmann

The Four Agreements By Don Miguel Ruiz (Thanks Jason Kay)

By Ben Nadel on

While I am still in the middle of Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, I wanted to take a little time yesterday to listen to The Four Agreements: A Practical Guide to Personal Freedom by Don Miguel Ruiz. This book was recommended to me a long time ago by Jason Kay. Shortly afterwards, I purchased a used copy of it at the Strand but never ended up reading it. Then, some time ago I purchased a copy of it off of the iTunes store as read by Peter Coyote and I was instantly hooked. This book is fantastic and has quickly become a sort of mantra for me. I like to give it the occasional listen (it's very short) whenever I feel like my life might be getting off track.


 
 
 

 
The Four Agreements: A Practical Guide To Personal Freedom By Don Miguel Ruiz.  
 
 
 

The Four Agreements is all about creating happiness and the "dream of heaven" here on earth. What Ruiz believes is that based on personal agreements, most people live in state of hell; but, by breaking many of those agreements and creating four new agreements, we can leave hell and enter our own personal heaven - we can have heaven here on earth. The four agreements that he believes will lead to this personal power are (as cited from the book):

Be Impeccable With Your Word: Speak with integrity. Say only what you mean. Avoid using the word to speak against yourself or to gossip about others. Use the power of your word in the direction of truth and love.

Don't Take Anything Personally: Nothing others do is because of you. What others say and do is a projection of their own reality, their own dream. When you are immune to the opinions and actions of others, you won't be the victim of needless suffering.

Don't Make Assumptions: Find the courage to ask questions and to express what you really want. Communicate with others as clearly as you can to avoid misunderstandings, sadness, and drama. With just this one agreement, you can completely transform your life.

Always Do Your Best: Your best is going to change from moment to moment; it will be different when you are healthy as opposed to sick. Under any circumstance, simply do your best, and you will avoid self-judgment, self-abuse, and regret.

What I really like about this list is that it's so simple and so easy to understand and still quite powerful. To me, the agreement that I get most excited about is the first one - Be impeccable with your word. I just get jazzed up at the thought of putting love out into this world. To be honest, I get greedy for it - I start to think, how can I make someone's life better immediately with my word? My word has power and it's a power that yearns to be wielded.

Of course, the flip side to that agreement is not so easy to master; that is, being impeccable with your word when you speak of yourself. I find that it is much easier to express love outwardly rather than to express it inwardly. As such, I find his second agreement, Don't take anything personally, to be the hardest to follow. To follow this you require enough self-love such that you don't have to rely on the feedback you get from those around you. I am not there yet.

But, as hard as the second agreement is to follow, what I like about it is how he frames the opinions of others; everyone sees the world through their own eyes and belief systems. Everyone experiences their own "truth." As such, anything that anyone says to you is actually a reflection of their own lives and beliefs and not a reflection of you. If anyone says something bad about you, this is considered "poison" and is very self-destructive; after all, if someone says something negative about you, you will not like this person and you will harbor feelings of resentment towards this person. This resentment, this poison, is then given back to this person, creating a self-destructive cycle.

I don't care so much about this agreement in terms of other people's point of view - I just like that it makes me very conscious about the cyclic nature of social interaction. It reminds me that any "poison" or "black magic" that I put out into this world will most certainly come back to me in a destructive manner. It is this sort of understanding that gets me all the more excited about his first agreement - be impeccable with your word.

His final agreement, Always do your best, seems imposing at first, but it is actually quite comforting. Rather than taking the mentality that you are always supposed to give 110% effort, he explains that that is simply not sustainable. What is sustainable, however, is always doing that which you are capable of. And, if you fail one day, don't worry - just start again the next day; breaking existing agreements and creating new ones is a long process - not something that can be done over night. The trick is to make this a life long goal towards which you are always working.

The book is very spiritual, but not in an overpowering way at all. Ruiz uses spirituality to support his points, not to make them. I find this balance to enhance the effectiveness of the message, not detract from it. If you have two hours to spare, I would highly recommend that you give this book a listen. I say listen rather than read only because Peter Coyote's voice is soothing and hypnotic. I don't think they could have found a better narrator.

A big thanks to Jason Kay for recommending this book to me! It was truly wonderful advice.




Reader Comments

this book sounds like an excellent read. sometimes audio books can be hard to listen to, but I will definitely have to check this one out.

Reply to this Comment

@Chris,

I agree; I find that sometimes with an audio book my mind wonders so much. But, with this book, I was really pulled in. It's a fast listen too. I think I did it in three days of commuting.

Reply to this Comment

I like number one also. I need to practice not speaking against myself which I often do. I don't gossip about others though, and I often say what I mean, unless someone hurts me or upsets me. When I am hurt or upset I may sometimes use words that will hurt those who are hurting me. Am I the only one who does this though?

Anyway, with this sadness that has overcome me lately, :-( I can definitely use a good read.

Reply to this Comment

@Ben,

#1 is more powerful than most people realize, I think, and I agree with you that it's a "jazzy" concept. It is key not only to maintaining self esteem, but also to just changing people's lives in a day, giving good solid discourse, and not playing with people through our words. As the Bible puts it: "Don't swear an oath or rely on a handshake or a vow, let your 'yes' mean YES and let your 'no' mean NO." That should always be sufficient, but it only works as long we're aware of doing our best (#4) to stand by our word, always.

Thanks for sharing

Reply to this Comment

@Jason,

Glad you like. Its funny, for some reason, when I was reading your comment, I started to think of the movie Scrooged. In it Bill Murray comes to the epiphany that he wants Christmas to be all year cause he gets greedy for the feeling he gets from helping people.

That's a classic movie.

Reply to this Comment

@Jason

You are so right. Words can sure change one's life in a day. When you use a word like the word LOVE which is such a powerful word, many people don't treat that word with respect. Love is certainly not a word to be thrown around, that is one word I don't ever throw around unless I mean it.

Unfortunately, some individuals get a kick out of playing with people by using words to make them believe things that aren't true or to mislead them. That certainly is not a nice thing to do.

But, I definitely like the word "Jazzy" or "Jazzed" definitely an excellent word.

Reply to this Comment

@Matt,

That is a tough question; but, I think one that is not supposed to be overly evaluated. I think it's just a mentality to be in. I think that it does require you to be a bit more introspective, but that is a good place to be moving towards.

Reply to this Comment

Do you know about any informative book on "hazing"?

Actually, I am a human rights activist working against "ragging" (an abusive form of initiation ) in Indian educational institutions. I would like to know about the situation in other countries as well.

Thanks and regards,

Kushal.
http://www.no2ragging.org

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