The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz

The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz

The Four Agreements summary

The Four Agreements reveal how our beliefs and behaviors cause unnecessary suffering and rob us of the joy and happiness that is our birthright. Here we’re offered a way of living that’s transformative—harmonious, freeing, and delightful—based on ancient Toltec wisdom.

The Four Agreements notes & quotes

Here are my notes and quotes on The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz. My notes are casual and include what I believe are the essential concepts, ideas, and insights from the book, along with direct quotes from the author.

  • “The Toltec were known throughout southern Mexico as “women and men of knowledge.”
  • They were scientists and artists who preserved the spiritual knowledge and practices of the ancient ones.
  • Ancestral Toltec wisdom is distinguished by the “ready accessibility of happiness and love.”
  • Three thousand years ago, a human studying with his ancestors to become a medicine man didn’t agree with everything he was learning and felt there must be something more.
  • He realized everything is made of light and everything that exists is one living being.
  • “He saw himself in everybody, but nobody saw him as themselves.”
  • “They couldn’t see him as themselves because there was a wall of fog or smoke between the mirrors.”
  • The mind spends time dreaming, whether the brain is asleep or awake.
  • But our dreams are hijacked by society’s dreams.
  • For example, we learn to desire and compete for attention as children.
  • “We learn how to behave in society: what to believe and what not to believe; what is acceptable and what is not acceptable; what is good and what is bad; what is beautiful and what is ugly; what is right and what is wrong.”
  • Fortunately, we humans can use our attention to focus on what we want to perceive.
  • “The outside dream may hook our attention, but if we don’t agree, we don’t store that information.”
  • Children believe everything they hear from adults.
  • This “domestication of humans” creates our internal belief system and teaches us to judge.
  • Children are domesticated like a dog, a cat, or any other animal.
  • Going against society’s rules brought punishment, and following the rules brought reward or attention.
  • So “we pretend to be what we are not because we are afraid of being rejected.”
  • Our intuition becomes lost in domestication.
  • We rebel, but society is powerful, and we are small.
  • Eventually, we give in and domesticate ourselves.
  • The inner Judge uses the Book of Law to judge everything and everybody, including ourselves.
  • The Book of Law makes us feel safe and accepted, so we use it, even when we know it’s wrong.
  • Courage allows us to challenge our own beliefs.
  • “The human is the only animal on earth that pays a thousand times for the same mistake.”
  • The Book of Law blinds us to the truth that everything we need is already within us.
  • Our beliefs create suffering.
  • The Toltecs call our mind fog mitote, the fog of “I am.”
  • “Death is not the biggest fear we have; our biggest fear is taking the risk to be alive—the risk to be alive and express what we really are. Just being ourselves is the biggest fear of humans.”
  • We cannot forgive ourselves for being imperfect. We judge others for being imperfect too.
  • We dishonor ourselves just to please others.
  • We punish ourselves mercilessly for not being what we believe we should be.
“In your whole life, nobody has ever abused you more than you have abused yourself.”
  • How much you abuse yourself is how much you allow others to abuse you.
  • “Self-abuse comes from self-rejection, and self-rejection comes from having an image of what it means to be perfect and never measuring up to that ideal. Our image of perfection is the reason we reject ourselves; it is why we don’t accept ourselves the way we are, and why we don’t accept others the way they are.”
  • Four robust agreements can help break the fear-based agreements that deplete our life energy.

The First Agreement: Be Impeccable with Your Word

  • “What you dream, what you feel, and what you really are, will all be manifested through the word.”
  • Our word is our most powerful tool.
  • Impeccability of our word creates beauty and love and leads to life.
  • Your words can set you free or imprison you.
  • “Impeccable comes from the Latin Pecatus, which means “sin.” The “im” in impeccable means “without,” so impeccable means “without sin.”
  • Sin is doing anything that goes against yourself.
    Impeccability means taking responsibility for your actions without judgment.
  • “We have learned to lie as a habit of our communication with others and more importantly with ourselves.”
  • When we hear an opinion and agree to believe it, it becomes part of our belief system.
  • “The only thing that can break a spell is to make a new agreement based on truth.”
  • We talk incessantly to ourselves and say things like, “Oh, I look fat, I look ugly. I’m stupid, I never understand anything.”
  • Impeccability of word leaves you feeling good, happy, and at peace.
  • Love yourself by reminding yourself how wonderful you are.

The Second Agreement: Don’t Take Anything Personally

  • Taking things personally is selfish because we assume everything is about “me.”
  • People do things because of themselves, not because of you.
  • Believing people who say negative things opens you to being victimized.
  • Taking things personally leads to defensiveness, conflicts, and making others wrong so you can be right.
  • We get mad when we are afraid.
  • When you love yourself, you love everything around you.
  • Don’t take anything personally, even if someone says something positive.
  • If someone says how wonderful you are, they are not saying it because of you. You already know how lovely you are.
  • Your opinions about yourself are not necessarily accurate, so don’t take what your mind says personally.
  • Only by understanding your inner agreements can you make order out of the chaos of mitote.
  • “Humans are addicted to suffering….”
  • “If you have the need to be abused, you will find it easy to be abused by others.
  • Likewise, if you are with people who need to suffer, something in your makes you abuse them.”
  • People lie to themselves because they are afraid, so don’t expect them to be truthful to you.
  • “If others say one thing, but do another, you are lying to yourself if you don’t listen to their actions.”
    Taking nothing personally affords you freedom.
  • If you agree to take nothing personally, you can go anywhere with your heart open without fear of getting hurt.

The Third Agreement: Don’t Make Assumptions

  • We assume we know what others are doing and thinking and believe we are right about our assumptions without asking them. Then we defend our beliefs and make others wrong.
  • Not asking questions creates conflict and resentment, while asking creates clarity.
  • All the mitote in our mind creates chaos, which causes us to misinterpret and misunderstand everything.
  • “We only see what we want to see, and hear what we want to hear.”
  • “It is not important if the answer is correct; just the answer itself makes us feel safe.”
  • We have agreed that asking questions is unsafe. If others love us, they should know how we feel.
  • We assume we are right about what we believe and will defend our position to the point of destroying relationships.
  • “We assume that others think the way we think, feel the way we feel, judge the way we judge, and abuse the way we abuse.”
  • This is why we fear being ourselves; we think others will judge us as we judge them and ourselves.
  • We think our love will change others, but others only change if they want to, not because of our love.
  • When we like someone, we see what we want to see and ignore the red flags.
  • Then, when we get hurt, we justify our emotional pain and blame the other person for our choice to be with them.
  • True love is accepting others as they are without wanting to change them.
  • Find someone you don’t feel the need to change and who doesn’t feel the need to change you.
  • Instead of making assumptions, ask the other person. Knowing the truth will free you from conflict generated by false beliefs.
  • “Taking the action over and over again strengthens your will, nurtures the seed, and establishes a solid foundation for the new habit to grow.”

The Fourth Agreement: Always Do Your Best

  • “Under any circumstance, always do your best, no more and no less.”
  • Know that your best will continuously change from one moment to the next.
  • In the morning, when you’re rested, your best will be more than in the evening when you’re tired.
  • If you push too much, you will go against yourself and deplete your energy. If you effort too little, you will feel frustrated and critical of yourself.
  • Doing your best leaves no room for self-judgment.
  • Many spend their whole lives doing things they don’t enjoy to get a reward. But the reward is only temporarily satisfying.
  • So they escape into alcohol because they don’t like their life or themselves.
  • Do your best because you want to, not because you expect a reward.
  • If you do your best and like what you do, you will enjoy life.
  • When you do your best, there are no regrets, and no one can judge you.
  • Doing your best allows you to accept yourself.
  • Living entirely means taking action. Action is life; inaction, like sitting in front of the
  • TV every day for years is non-life. Non-action comes from a fear of being alive and risking expressing who you are.
  • “Taking action is being alive. It’s taking the risk to go out and express your dream.”
  • “You were born with the right to be happy. You were born with the right to love, to enjoy and to share your love.”
  • Not doing your best denies you the right to be you.
  • Divinity is expressed through you by being alive and loving yourself and others.
  • The first three agreements depend on you doing your best.
  • “If you do your best in search for personal freedom, in search for self-love, you will discover that it’s just a matter of time before you find what you are looking for.”
  • You have the knowledge and know what to do; now you need to do it.
  • Using every power you have to keep the four agreements is worth it, for they will transform your life.
  • You will fall, again and again, just like the author, but each time you start anew, practicing the four agreements gets more manageable and more accessible.
  • Repetition is the source of all learning.
  • And when you fall, remember not to judge yourself.

The Toltec Path to Freedom: Breaking Old Agreements

  • “Everyone talks about freedom. But what is freedom?”
  • If we live in a free country, are we free? Only if we are free to be who we are.
  • Freedom is being who we are.
  • So, who stops us from being free? We do.
  • “The Judge, the Victim, and the belief system don’t allow us to be who we really are.”
  • Our natural state is to enjoy life, play, explore, be happy, and love.
  • The freedom we seek is the freedom to be ourselves.
  • But most of the time, we do things to please others.
  • Because so many of us are domesticated and sick, we think it’s normal.
  • Awareness is the first step toward freedom.
  • Without awareness, there is no change; without change, there is no freedom, joy, or love.
  • A Toltec is un-domesticated, wild, and liberated.
  • Three masteries lead people to become Toltecs: Mastery of Awareness, Master of
  • Transformation, and Mastery of Intent (Mastery of Love).
  • Every time we face our fears, we become freer. But breaking free of domestication doesn’t happen in a day.
  • As you break the more minor agreements, your power will grow until you can face the giant demons in your mind.
  • Many are addicted to being the way they are, addicted to anger, jealousy, and self-pity.
  • We believe the little voice that tells us, “I’m not good enough, I’m not intelligent enough. Why even try? Other people will do it because they’re better than me.”
  • Adopting the four agreements requires repetition.
  • Save your energy because you need it to practice the agreements to reclaim your rightful freedom to be whom you were meant to be.
  • Your emotions determine how you feel and perceive the world.
  • Having compassion for ourselves allows us to forgive others.
  • Forgiving yourself is the end of self-rejection and the beginning of accepting yourself the way you are.
  • “You will know when you have forgiven someone when you see them and you no longer have an emotional reaction.”
  • Losing control causes us to repress emotions. A victim represses; a warrior refrains.
  • Death teaches us how to live.
  • The difference between a free child and a free adult: an adult has freedom with wisdom while a child has freedom with innocence.

The New Dream: Heaven on Earth

  • You have the power to create hell or heaven.
  • With your new knowledge, see yourself living a new life where you are free to be who you are. To be happy and enjoy a life free of conflict within and without.
  • Imagine living your life the way you want and asking for what you need, and saying yes or no to anything or anyone without being judged or judging.
  • A life where you don’t feel the need to be right or make others wrong. You respect yourself and others, and they respect you.
  • You’re no longer afraid of rejection and don’t feel the need to be accepted by others because you accept yourself.
  • Imagine loving everything about yourself, including your body and your goodness.
  • There are countless excuses for suffering because suffering makes you feel safe.
  • When we reject others, we deny ourselves and renounce the divine.
  • “Only love has the ability to put you in that state of bliss. Being in bliss is like being in love.”
  • It is possible to live this way because others have before and continue to do so now.
  • “Just to breathe is enough for us to always be happy, to enjoy life. Just to be alive is enough.”

Related Resources

  • Here is a list of resources, including authors, books, websites, podcasts, and concepts mentioned in The Four Agreements, which might be helpful for further learning.
Thanks for reading.  You can get more insights into the self-limiting beliefs that rob us of joy and create needless suffering in my email newsletter. Each week, I share a popular book summary or an in-depth article with practical ideas on personal freedom and showing up as yourself with courage, curiosity, and self-compassion.
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