Like millions of other Americans, I first read The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz nearly 20 years ago. According to Wikipedia, the book sold over 5 million copies in just the U.S., was a New York Times bestseller for over seven years, and has been translated into 38 languages. Not a bad run for such a small book. But in spite its success, now might be a good time to update those agreements from a SMART perspective. After all, if life is continually changing as Ruiz says, then, “The best path to happiness is learning to change as rapidly as life does.”
Of course, just because we are doing an update and adding to The Four Agreements, that doesn’t mean we throw out the wisdom from the previous four. All these years later, I still refer to one or two of them on a regular basis. It’s also valuable to remember why having the right agreements are so crucial in the first place.
Ruiz teaches what he calls ancient Toltec Wisdom. Similar in some ways to many New Thought or New Age religions, Toltec Wisdom teaches that the material world and all individuals are reflections of “light perceiving light.” Unfortunately, most of us have a very “smoky mirror” clouding our perception so that we’ve forgotten the Source of the light, and instead see merely a “dream” rather than the reality of the Light behind it all.
This dream is pervasive. Instead of seeing the truth behind the light, we all fall asleep or slip under the spell that Ruiz calls mitote or illusion. To make sense of our dreams or illusions, we come up with agreements or beliefs. We then store those agreements, both collectively and individually, until they end up domesticating us into a mass illusion. Rather than thinking for ourselves, instead of claiming our birthright as light perceiving light, we fall deeper asleep to life itself. Like erroneous laws made by unscrupulous leaders, Ruiz says, “The whole dream is based on false law. Ninety-five percent of the beliefs we have stored in our minds are nothing but lies, and we suffer because we believe all those lies.”
So what can we do? Ruiz teaches that first we must be aware of the mitote around us. Then we must challenge the thousands of agreements that we’ve believed before, and replace them with new and helpful ones. Ruiz says, “If we can see it is our agreements which rule our life, and we don’t like the dream of our life, we need to change the agreements. “ Ruiz then lays out the following four agreements as a way to break free away from the mass domestication that most of us have lived under for most of our lives in order to rework pattern and reclaim our power.
#1 Be Impeccable With Your Word. Recognize that every word uttered has transformative power to co-create the world where you live. Use that power in relation to yourself and your world. Ruiz reminds us that, “your intent manifests through your word.”
#2 Don’t Take Anything Personally. According to Ruiz, we only take things personally when we agree, on some level, with what is said, or when we are trying to be right and make others wrong. However, if we don’t buy into what others say, then it has nothing whatsoever to do with us. Ruiz believes, “Nothing other people do is because of you. It is because of themselves.”
#3 Don’t Make Assumptions. Most of us believe our assumptions are correct. Unfortunately, as the saying goes, “Don’t assume! That makes an ‘ass’ of ‘u’ and ‘me’!” Instead, Ruiz recommends you ask questions, get extremely clear about communication and have the courage to speak your truth.
#4 Always Do Your Best. A big part of this agreement is taking action. Regardless of where you are or what the conditions, just do your best and keep moving forward. Fully love and accept yourself, do your best and stay in the present moment.
Taken alone, none of the agreements seem earth shattering, but collectively they can and have changed people’s lives. The success of the book and the message behind it is proof that they struck a chord with people around the world. What I would like to do is add four more SMART agreements to take them even further.
#1 Remember you get to make it up. If every agreement you’ve ever made is stored within you as a belief, remembering that we “made them up” is a huge key to knowing we can change them at any time. By seeing through the illusion of the mitote, we can rework our agreements into knowing a fulfilled and happy life are yours to experience when we take responsibility.
#2 Rightsizing is a path to freedom. By remembering that rightsizing is the act of eliminating the superficial or unnecessary, and embracing what matters most, we find the path to tremendous joy. Rightsizing applies to where we live, how we live and everything we have to give and share with the world.
#3 Happiness is a choice. Studies available everywhere continue to prove that the degree of happiness and life satisfaction is largely under our control. That doesn’t mean that tough circumstances don’t happen to all of us, but that following those events we always have the choice to return to our happiness set-point and live a life of contentment and wellbeing.
#4 Stay awake, aware and mindful every day. If we accept that life is mostly an illusion, one of the biggest obstacles to that is falling asleep to the dream that Ruiz continually refers to in his book. It’s not easy, nor always pleasant, to stay conscious and aware, but it is SMART. Only then can we change those things in our life that are ours to change. As the Serenity Prayer says, “God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.”
Of course, the SMART perspective on any issue is to follow your own personal guidance with all things. In other words, if Ruiz’s agreements or my agreements don’t work for you, then come up with those that fit the life you want to live. Just remember; an awesome life seldom happens by chance. We are all living by our agreements every single day. Let’s make sure they are SMART and awesome.