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The Four Agreements: What Happens when They Go Wrong (Part 2)

four agreements metal sign

There is no law that makes people follow the four agreements. There doesn’t need to be. The personal anguish we feel when we decide to ignore these dandy guidelines for living is typically penalty enough.

As a refresher, The Four Agreements are outlined in a book by Don Miguel Ruiz. And those agreements are:

  1. Be impeccable with your word.
  2. Never take anything personally.
  3. Don’t make assumptions.
  4. Always do your best.

We already looked at what happens when the first two agreement go wrong in a previous post. Now it’s time to tackle the second set. Ready?

don't make assumptions

Don’t Make Assumptions

Yeah, we know. Making assumptions makes an ASS of U and Me. But some of us do it anyway. And although the pithy little phrase is amusing, the outcome is usually not. An assumption is filling in the blanks, or making up a truth when we’re not sure what the actual truth may be.

Making assumptions is along the same lines as having expectations. When we assume or expect something will go a certain way, and then it doesn’t, we end up annoyed, enraged, or downright devastated. One of my favorite sayings reminds us: Expectations are resentments waiting to happen.

Example of Third Agreement Gone Wrong

An organization asked if I’d like to cover and event to write up a story for their publication. Heck yes, said I, assuming the daylong assignment would give me a hefty day’s pay. The event was, after all, three hours long, involved a three-hour round-trip drive, involved taking tons of notes and spending another three hours writing up an article in all its detailed glory.

Nine hours of work should bring in a pretty good check, thought I, something like $500 with gas money and other travel expenses. Man, I could even cut back on other work for the rest of the week, perhaps take an extra day off or buy a new pair of boots!

I submitted the article with glee. They sent me a check for $100.

The work was done and the pay was non-negotiable. Had I asked about the final rate, instead of assuming it was what I wanted it to be, the story would have had an entirely different outcome. For starters, I wouldn’t have accepted the gig to write it.

fourth agreement do your best

Fourth Agreement: Always Do Your Best

Although this agreement may look pretty simple at a glance, it can actually be one of the tougher ones. That’s because it’s easy to make excuses to skip it.

We can pretend any of our half-baked efforts are the best we can do at any given time, even when we know in our souls that’s not true. We also tend to rush through things we find menial or annoying just to get them done.

Doing a crummy job on any task is going to leave you feeling crummy yourself. Trust me. Whether you’re performing brain surgery or washing a fork, always doing your best will always be worth it. This reminds me of another spot-on saying: How you do anything is how you do everything.

Example of Fourth Agreement Gone Wrong

Alas, the example of the fourth agreement gone wrong contains yet another work incident. You’d think all I do is sit around and work.

In any event, this situation arose in a past job where I was tasked with putting labels and stamps on Christmas cards to send out to the hundred or so clients.

“What crap,” I thought, “a waste of my skills. A blind monkey could do this.” I then grumbled along, slapping a label here, pasting a stamp there, and dribbling coffee here, there and everywhere in my haste to finish this seemingly crappy task as quickly as possible.

When I was done, the pile of cards looked horrible. The blind monkey who could have done the task could have certainly done it better.

Labels and stamps were all crooked and smudged. Envelope corners were bent and speckled with coffee. This outcome was not my best. It was probably one of my worst. My boss wasn’t happy. I felt rotten, mainly because my haughty attitude and actions ended up disappointing one of the best bosses I ever did have.

Even though the task appeared to be a rather minor one, it needed to be done precisely as it reflected on the entire image of the company sending the cards. Yes, many of the cards needed to be redone, although I truly did my best the second time around.

Following the four agreements cannot only save you time and heartache, but it can likewise help ensure you don’t drive 300 miles for measly pay, disappoint your favorite boss, or end up losing your job to a blind monkey who can do your work better than you do.

Want to keep the four agreements top of mind? Check out Four Agreement art.

four agreements art

 

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The Four Agreements: What Happens when They Go Wrong

inspirational magnets four agreements

More than once I’ve heard people say they wished life came with a manual. Well, it kind of does. That manual is the book entitled “The Four Agreements: A Practical Guide to Personal Freedom” by Don Miguel Ruiz.

My mind was so blown when I picked up this tome that I started making art in its honor even before I turned the final page. Living the four agreements affords a fantastic way of life – but remembering to live them is a different story.

The Four Agreements are:

  1. Be impeccable with your word.
  2. Never take anything personally.
  3. Don’t make assumptions.
  4. Always do your best.

One of the ways I ingrain the four agreements into my mind is to recall times when they went wrong, or the misery I felt before I even knew these agreements existed.

Here come real-life examples of the first two agreements gone wrong, with the other two covered in another blog post. Enjoy!

four agreements first agreement

First Agreement: Be Impeccable with Your Word

Words have power. Loads of power. And you can’t take them back once you unleash them into the world. Choose your words carefully. Live up to what you say. And proofread for typos before you publish anything on the front page.

Example of First Agreement Gone Wrong

The front page of the Brooklyn newspaper where I worked ran a mini-feature on a lost subway tunnel tour. The tunnel had been recently unearthed and was now open to the public.

Our front-page story was supposed to have said the tunnel had been “sealed shut” for a number of years. But it instead said it was “sealed shit.”

The lady who gave us the info was convinced we did it on purpose. She was so mad her yelling nearly broke the phone speaker when she called to complain. I still went on the tour, but I didn’t dare tell anyone I was from the newspaper.

four agreements second agreement

Second Agreement: Don’t Take Anything Personally

Someone cuts you off in traffic. Another moves your computer to sit at your desk. A third says you remind him of his dog. No, the world is not out to get you. Even the people who are seemingly saying or doing things that are directed at you aren’t out to get you. People’s actions and reactions are a reflection of the state of their own mind and soul, not yours.

Example of Second Agreement Gone Wrong

Another newspaper story comes to mind here, but one that happened much later when online comments first started getting popular. Those things were nasty from the get-go, and they only got nastier as time marched on.

One online story I wrote resulted in a massive attack from all angles, with commenters calling me names, bemoaning my very existence, and telling me how I should be thrown off an overpass and run over by a Mack truck.

My first reaction was to cry and hide. I was, after all, a terrible person who deserved to be killed by an overpass-Mack-truck combo. But then I started looking more closely at all their nasty words. Many of the commenters referred to me as “he” or “him,” while others were attacking things that didn’t even relate to me, like blond hair or having a pet kangaroo named Sam.

Right then and there I realized that, even when you appear to the target of a slight or attack, it’s not about you. It’s about the other person. They’re the ones with the rage, self-righteousness, intolerance or other issues that twist them into a snit.

You’re really not part of the equation at all. You just happened to stir up their snit-making feelings. So it’s too bad on them – not you!

While this agreement is one of the toughest for me to live, it’s also one of the most freeing. Whew and yahoo when I get it right. And although I did once have blond hair, I never had a kangaroo named Sam.

Check out the third and fourth agreements, now available on a blogski near you!

Check out Four Agreement art if you’re digging the message.

four agreements metal sign
Four Agreements Metal Sign
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