The Four Agreements: A Practical Guide to Personal Freedom by Don Miguel Ruiz

Summary

Leveraging the teachings and wisdom of the ancient Toltecs, Don Miguel Ruiz takes you on a spiritual and philosophical path of understanding and changing the agreements you have with yourself. He first shows how you are indoctrinated with beliefs that harm your well-being and then teaches you how to reshape those beliefs. The result is that you leave the book with four new agreements that will help you create a life of connection, joy, and fulfillment.

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Key Takeaways

Domestication and the Dream of the Planet

  • “Attention is the ability we have to discriminate and to focus only on that which we want to perceive.”
  • “By using our attention we learned a whole reality, a whole dream. We learned 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.”
  • “To have faith is to believe unconditionally.”
  • “There is something in our minds that judges everybody and everything, including the dog, the cat — everything.” That judge uses our personal Book of Law to make its assessments. And even if that book is wrong, it makes us feel safe, which is why it’s so hard to change your beliefs.
  • “That is why we need a great deal of courage to challenge our own beliefs.”
  • “How many times do we pay for one mistake. The answer is a thousand times.”
  • “There is no truth to find. Wherever we turn our heads, all we see is the truth, but with the agreements and beliefs we have storied in our mind, we have no eyes for the truth.”
  • “Just being ourselves in the biggest fear of humans.”
  • “Humans punish themselves endlessly for not being what they should be.”
  • “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.”

The First Agreement: Be Impeccable with Your Word

  • “Impeccability means ‘without sin’…A sin is anything that you do which goes against yourself.”
  • “Whenever we hear an opinion and believe it, we make an agreement, and it becomes part of our belief system.”
  • “Looking at everyday human interactions, imagine how many times we cast spells on each other with our word. Over time this interaction has become the worst form of black magic, and we call it gossip. Gossip is black magic at its very worst because it is pure poison.”
  • “We create all this poison and spread it to others just so we can feel right about our own point of view.”
  • “You can measure the impeccability of your word by your level of self-love.”

The Second Agreement: Don’t Take Anything Personally

  • “Personal importance, or taking things personally, is the maximum expression of selfishness because we make the assumption that everything is about ‘me.’”
  • “Even the opinions you have about yourself are not necessarily true; therefore, you don’t need to take whatever you hear in your own mind personally.”
  • “Only by making an inventory of our agreements will we uncover all of the conflicts in the mind and eventually make order out of the chaos of the mitote.”
  • “Do not expect other people to tell you the truth because they also lie to themselves.”
  • “The whole world can gossip about you, and if you don’t take it personally you are immune.”

The Third Agreement: Don’t Make Assumptions

  • “We make an assumption, we misunderstand, we take it personally, and we end up creating a whole big drama for nothing.”
  • “Making assumptions in relationships leads to a lot of fights, a lot of difficulties, a lot of misunderstandings with people we supposedly love.”
  • “Your love will not change anybody. If others change, it’s because they want to change, not because you can change them.”
  • “We don’t need to justify love; it is there or not there. Real love is accepting other people the way they are without trying to change them. If we try to change them, this means we don’t really like them.”

The Fourth Agreement: Always Do Your Best

  • “Under any circumstance, always do your best, no more and no less.”
  • “You can even get more than you would have imagined for yourself without expecting a reward. If we like what we do, if we always do our best, then we are really enjoying life. We are having fun, we don’t get bored, we don’t have frustrations.”
  • “When you do your best you learn to accept yourself. But you have to be aware and learn from your mistakes. Learning from your mistakes means you practice, look honestly at the results, and keep practicing. This increases your awareness.”
  • “If you take action because you have to, then there is no way you are going to do your best. Then it is better not to do it.”
  • “Letting go of the past means you can enjoy the dream that is happening right now.”
  • “Everything you have ever learned, you learned through repetition. You learned to write, to drive, and even to walk by repetition. You are a master of speaking your language because you practiced. Action is what makes the difference.”

The Toltec Path to Freedom: Breaking Old Agreements

  • “True freedom has to do with the human spirit – it is the freedom to be who we really are.”
  • “As children, we are not afraid of the future or ashamed of the past.”
  • “The real you is still a little child who never grew up. Sometimes that little child comes out when you are having fun or playing, when you feel happy, when you are painting, or writing poetry, or playing the piano, or expressing yourself in some way. These are the happiest moments of your life – when the real you comes out, when you don’t care about the past and you don’t worry about the future. You are childlike.
  • “Awareness is always the first step because if you are not aware, there is nothing that you can change.”
  • “When we discover that the mind is controlled by the Judge and the Victim and the real ‘us’ is in the corner, we have just two choices. One choice is to keep living the way we are, to surrender to the Judge and the Victim, to keep living in the dream of the planet.” The second choice is to do what we do as children when parents try to domesticate us. We can rebel and say ‘No!’ We can declare a war against the parasite, a war against the Judge and the Victim, a war for our independence, a war for the right to use our own mind and our own brain.”
  • “Now it’s up to you to choose what to believe and what not to believe. You can choose to believe in anything, and that includes believing in yourself.”
  • “The human mind is exactly like this description of infected skin. Every human has an emotional body completely covered with infected wounds. Each wound is infected with emotional poison – the poison of all the emotions that makes us suffer, such as hate, anger, envy, and sadness.”
  • “We can let go of resentment and declare, ‘That’s enough! I will no longer beat myself up and abuse myself. I will no longer be the Victim.”
  • “The problem with most people is that they lose control of their emotions. It is the emotions that control the behavior of the human, not the human who controls the emotions. When we lose control we say things that we don’t want to say, and do things that we don’t want to do.”

The New Dream: Heaven on Earth

  • “Happiness is a choice, and so is suffering.”

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