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The Four Agreements: What Is the Fourth Agreement?

In the final article of this series, we take a deep dive into the last part of don Miguel Ruiz’s bestselling book, The Four Agreements and consider what it means in practice.
by Jennifer Duffy | May 21 2020

don Miguel Ruiz’s book, The Four Agreements, was first published in 1997. With an endorsement from Oprah Winfrey, it soon sold millions of copies in the US, was translated into 46 languages, and became a mainstay of the New York Times bestseller list for over a decade.

We’re about to take a look at the fourth of The Four Agreements, but if you want to get a quick overview of the whole book, why not take a look at the first article in this series.

What are the Four Agreements?

The Four Agreements is based on the wisdom of the Toltecs, an indigenous people of Mexico who preceded the Aztecs. Ruiz draws on shamanic teachings and combines these with modern insights to provide a guide to freedom and wellbeing, based around four moral pillars.

  1. Be impeccable with your word.
  2. Don’t take anything personally.
  3. Don’t make assumptions.
  4. Always do your best.

These agreements seem simple and logical, but committing to them takes strong will and patience. We’ve already examined the first agreement, the second agreement and the third agreement, so let’s delve into the fourth agreement, and figure out how the theory can be applied to your everyday life.

What is the Fourth Agreement?

don Miguel Ruiz argues that the most important agreements in life are those we make with ourselves, and so, the fourth and last agreement is a means of helping you adhere to the preceding three.

The key message of the fourth agreement is not necessarily to be the best, but to be your best. As the author points out, your best may not be the same from one day to another. For example, if you are tired, stressed or ill, what constitutes your best on that day will be different to when you feel at the top of your game. He cautions against overworking yourself; if you push yourself past your best, you will wind up overworked and unable to give your all. Therefore, the key to this agreement is in acknowledging where you are at mentally each day, and working within those limits.

Accepting that you’re doing your best on a day-to-day basis is not only a path to finding inner peace, but to stopping those persistent critical inner voices. Obviously, this is easier said than done! The fourth agreement takes practice, but with time you’ll be able to confidently tell your ‘inner judge’ that you’ve done your best.

“If you just do your best, there is no way you can judge yourself. And if you don’t judge yourself there is no way you are going to suffer from guilt, blame, and self-punishment.”
— don Miguel Ruiz

Developing Self-Compassion

There is a sense of compassion in don Miguel Ruiz’s work. He advises the reader to accept that their capacity for work and focus will differ depending on the day, even moment to moment. It will also change during the course of a day, so it’s worth taking the time to consider when you are at your most productive and then plan your schedule accordingly.

“Your best is going to change from moment to moment; it will be different when you are healthy as opposed to sick.”
— don Miguel Ruiz

Making mistakes is not only OK, but essential, and The Four Agreements encourages us to be self-aware enough to learn from them. This re-evaluation is a key part of doing your best and improving yourself. In discussing this step, Ruiz reminds us that everything we have learned, we have learned through repetition. Practice is key

Finding Your Motivation

The author also explores different factors that affect motivation. He shows that doing work you find fulfilling makes a huge difference. He also advises readers to find satisfaction in being productive and in doing tasks well so that you can enjoy the action and the process, rather than working towards a reward.

“You should work hard because it makes you happy, not because of some external motivation.”
— don Miguel Ruiz

If you choose to live by the four agreements and continue to do your best every day, then gradually your best will become even better! Like any habit, it will become second-nature to put the necessary work in, and you’ll want to do your best, not just feel like you should. In the end, this will mean you’re more productive and feel a greater level of general satisfaction.

Taking Action

While it’s easy to think about trying, taking action is the most important step, as that very action will empower you and leave you feeling more engaged. After all, living is action, and as Ruiz says, “The only way to change your life is to change your choices, to change your actions.”

Living by the Fourth Agreement

Self-acceptance is central to the fourth agreement, and by working on cultivating it, it’ll be easier for you to live by the other agreements, too. Part of doing your best is acknowledging that you’re trying and learning new ways of living your life. That sort of change doesn’t happen overnight!

Remember that these agreements take practice and steady work and if you ‘break’ an agreement, you can simply start over and try again. Over time, it’ll become more natural to you and you’ll begin to notice changes in how you live your life. The last agreement in particular is hard to adapt, but don Miguel Ruiz assures us that “this agreement is really going to set you free.”

Accepting your best for what it is and working with your own productivity means you will have more time for your family, your friends, and your personal life. This will ultimately improve your quality of life, especially by encouraging you to stay in the present moment and appreciating each day. If you choose to try living by the four agreements, make sure to be compassionate with yourself. Being your best does not mean being perfect.

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