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The Four Agreements: What is The Third Agreement?

In this latest look at The Four Agreements, we delve into the third agreement and find how to make it work for the ways we live now.
by Juan Salazar | May 14 2020

The Four Agreements is a 1997 bestselling self-improvement book by don Miguel Ruiz. It distils the lessons Ruiz learned from studying pre-Columbian Toltec traditions into four maxims according to which we should live our lives:

  1. Be Impeccable With Your Word
  2. Don’t Take Anything Personally
  3. Don’t Make Assumptions
  4. Always Do Your Best

Two decades after its publication, The Four Agreements has sold over 8 million copies in the US alone; it has been on The New York Times bestseller list for over a decade, and it has been translated into 46 languages. Blinkist wants to offer its audience of keen learners insight into the self-limiting beliefs that Ruiz says are instilled into our consciousness without our knowledge, and how we can overcome them.

A recap on The Four Agreements by don Miguel Ruiz

The Four Agreements details self-limiting behaviors we incur unconsciously, and teaches us how to correct them, so that we are able to live our lives in harmony with ourselves and with others.

If this is the first article you are reading from this series on The Four Agreements, we suggest you take a look at this detailed overview of the book, and get acquainted with the first and second agreements. Here is a short recap of the four agreements by don Miguel Ruiz:

  1. Be Impeccable With Your Word: The first agreement is based on the assumption that our words frame how we experience our lives, and they affect the way in which we see ourselves and others. The key learning is that we should never use them against ourselves or against others.
  2. Don’t Take Anything Personally: The second agreement is a lesson on how to react when someone is not impeccable with their word. We should not let these situations affect the frame through which we see ourselves and our lives.
  3. Don’t Make Assumptions: We should not assume that others know what we think or what we want, and vice versa. We should communicate our needs and our feelings clearly, and we should ask questions instead of jumping to conclusions when thinking about the behaviors of others.
  4. Always Do Your Best: The fourth agreement is a call to action. It states that we should be the best version of ourselves every day, within the context of our circumstances and our state of mind. This does not mean we should be the best, but the best we can be at any particular moment.

What is The Third Agreement?

”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.”
— don Miguel Ruiz

Have you ever felt that a good friend suddenly starts acting strangely? Have you ever felt fear that you did something to hurt them, but you don’t know what it is? This happens to all of us, and it is only one of the many different ways in which assumptions manifest in our lives, and bring problems with them.

If you’ve been following the first and second agreements, you will have realized that negatively framing our experiences and ourselves through our words will impact our own self-perception. Assumptions can play a destructive role in our lives, because they are misleading. We make them out of our own experiences, but mostly, out of what we think are our shortcomings.

Don’t Make Assumptions

Outlandish assumptions cause problems because they are based on expectations. We assume a situation will unfold in a certain way, or that someone will act as we expect them to, and we are disappointed when they don’t. When we make assumptions, we are completely convinced that our thoughts and feelings are true, and feel misled when they are not.

The difficult part about assumptions is that they are almost never based in reality. They are a product of our imagination, even when it doesn’t feel that way. However, the risk that assumptions pose is not limited to the world beyond our own self. Sometimes we set ourselves up for failure by assuming we can achieve something without even giving it enough consideration. We can be hard on ourselves when we don’t succeed, and without self-reflection, it is easy to go down the slippery slope of negativity.

don Miguel Ruiz believes that we can overcome the negative habit of making assumptions in two ways: first, by being clear in how we communicate, and second, by asking questions when we are missing information.

Question More, Assume Less

According to Ruiz, the way to living life without making assumptions is asking questions, even when it’s difficult. Instead of assuming that something is wrong with your partner, or that your boss has an issue with your performance at work, you should ask them how they feel, or what they think about the work you submitted. Sometimes one question will suffice. Other times, you will have to ask plenty of questions until you find the truth and see it clearly. By asking questions, you’ll get closer to the truth and not feel the desire to assume.

Speak Your Mind

Speaking clearly about what we want helps us and the people we communicate with. To be able to learn whether what we think is right or not, we must take the thoughts that make sense in our heads and prove that they make sense in the ‘real world’, where others interact with them. Sometimes we might even change the way we think about something just by saying it to someone else. Clearly communicating your needs helps others understand them. They may be able to help you realize your vision, or connect you with other people who might be able to do so.

Communication is the underlying principle behind the four agreements, and it is especially important when we try to incorporate the third one into our lives. In the next (and final) instalment of this series, you will learn how to use the lessons learned so far as a tool, and as motivation, to be the best you can be.

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