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The Four Agreements: What is The First Agreement?

don Miguel Ruiz’s globally-acclaimed The Four Agreements promises its readers the path to a truly free life. Let’s explore what exactly the four agreements are, starting with the first agreement and how you can live by it.
by Amy Leonard | Apr 16 2020

Following a near fatal car crash, don Miguel Ruiz decided to change his entire lifestyle. He transitioned from repairing the brain to repairing the mind and spirit, leaving his career as a neurosurgeon to become a spiritual teacher. With his mother’s help, Ruiz sought his own path to awareness. He studied the shamanic traditions of his ancestors, the Toltecs, an indigenous people of Mexico who preceded the Aztecs.

What are The Four Agreements?

His studies of this ancient Mesoamerican wisdom, particularly concerning personal freedom, lead Ruiz to create the Four Agreements; four pillars upon which you should build the life you wish to live:

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

Short, simple, snappy, right? Not quite. They focus on the idea that we have “domesticated ourselves”, living by rules and expectations taught by society, not chosen ourselves. In order to break free from this we must establish new agreements with ourselves. It is this core idea of learning, self improvement and thinking outside the norms that makes The Four Agreements a perfect fit for some Blinkist fans.

In order to incorporate the agreements into your life, you need firstly to understand them. Let’s start at the beginning with the First Agreement.

What is the First Agreement?

“Be impeccable with your word.”

The first agreement is the most important of the lot, according to don Miguel Ruiz, however, also the most difficult to adhere to. To understand its meaning, it is important to know that the word “impeccable” stems from Latin, meaning “without sin”. Reading it in this context, Ruiz does not mean everything you say must be perfect or flawless. Put simply, it means that you should never use your word against yourself or other people.

“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 Miguel Ruiz

Repetition Creates Reality

Humans are creatures of habit. If we repeat things enough then they become real for us. If we set an alarm at 6am every morning and force ourselves out of bed, eventually our bodies will learn and we will wake up naturally at 6am. If we want to learn a new language, we repeat and repeat those unknown sounds until we can suddenly string them together into sentences.

Ruiz points out that the same applies with the words we use about ourselves.

“Your word is the power that you have to create […] It is through the word that you manifest everything […] What you dream, what you feel, and what you really are, will all be manifested through the word.”
— don Miguel Ruiz

If we continually tell ourselves that we are not good enough, not strong enough, not thin enough, using our words against ourselves, we are making an agreement and abiding by it. By repeating this negativity we are making it our reality.

Ripple Effect

It isn’t just our own reality that is affected by our words. If you say something negative about yourself to someone else once, perhaps they will forget it, or dismiss it as self-deprecation or modesty. However, if you continue to say negative things about yourself in front of or to them, their opinion of you can also be influenced.

Imagine you are an electrician and you keep talking about how bad you are at your job in front of your friends. One day, one of your friends has an electrical outage in their apartment. Naturally, they want it fixed safely by a skilled professional. How likely do you think it is they will call you?

Double-edged Sword

Ruiz emphasizes how powerful our words are. They have the ability to set us free by allowing us to express ourselves. They allow us to connect with others, to communicate ideas and thoughts. However, when we use our words carelessly against others they can turn into chains that weigh people down.

Think of a time someone made an off-the-cuff remark about you, whether as a joke or in anger. Got it? The fact that you can remember it means it stuck with you. Maybe it didn’t hurt you but if you remember something that didn’t, imagine the pain of remembering something that did. Something you say in the moment without much thought can sting and leave a scar without you even realizing.

Living by The First Agreement

Once you understand the meaning and importance of the first agreement you can start to incorporate it into your life. Think about your words before you say them. Ruiz connects those words to your own happiness, advising you to choose wisely—and to choose positivity.

“How much you love yourself and how you feel about yourself are directly proportionate to the quality and integrity of your word. When you are impeccable with your word, you feel good; you feel happy and at peace.”
— don Miguel Ruiz

The kinder your words are, the better you will feel. Rather than constantly judging and criticizing yourself, try praising yourself by reaffirming the good things you see in yourself.

It is a sentiment that still resonates now, over twenty years after The Four Agreements was published and praised by Oprah. In the last year, we’ve seen a rise in people realizing the importance of kindness to oneself, of self-compassion and self-care. There are books, blog posts, meditations, yoga courses, spa packages, beauty products and everything in between that claim they will help you to be kinder to yourself. At the time of writing, there are 25.8 million Instagram posts that bear the hashtag #selfcare, 39.7 million for #selflove, and 7.2 million for #bekind.

In a time when the world as a whole is questioning the underlying functionality of its systems, now could be the perfect time to break your old agreements and start living by new ones. If abiding religiously by The Four Agreements seems a little over the top, then at least take what you can from this first one.

No product can compensate for the words you use about yourself. True calm and happiness can only come from within. Maybe don Miguel Ruiz can help you with that, or maybe some of Oprah’s other favorite spiritual books like The Power of Now, The Untethered Soul or A Return to Love are more up your street.

Whether it’s from the perspective of spirituality or mindfulness, happiness or philosophy, there is a library of help on offer at Blinkist. If you finally have the time you’ve been dreaming of to be a little kinder to yourself, why wait?

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