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:
- Be impeccable with your word.
- Never take anything personally.
- Don’t make assumptions.
- 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!
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.
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.