Wondering what ancient Mesoamerican beliefs could possibly teach you about business and life in general? Well, you’re up for a surprise.

In this article we are going to present a short summary of The Four Agreements, a fascinating book by Don Miguel Ruiz. But first, some words about why you should care.

Don Miguel Ruiz is a Mexican author who creates his own unique writings on ancient Toltec wisdom, and his work is popular with people who are interested in ancient teachings and self-enlightenment.

Ruiz attended medical school to become a surgeon, and then practiced medicine for several years. This ended when he was involved in a near-fatal car accident. The incident made him look at his life and realize that he wanted more than just success and material wealth. Ruiz moved to the U.S., and became the apprentice of a shaman.

Ruiz looks at the human mind from a scientific as well as a spiritual standpoint, and in 1997 he published The Four Agreements. This book was a New York Times bestseller for more than a decade, and he has written several other bestselling books including The Mastery of Love, The Voice of Knowledge, and Prayers. He has also collaborated with his son, Don Jose Ruiz, to write The Fifth Agreement, which is another New York Times bestseller.

The Four Agreements has sold around 7.2 million copies in the U.S alone. Ruiz has written this book using Toltec wisdom (and a healthy dose of common sense) to show that we should strive towards personal freedom from the restraints that society – and our own minds – place upon us.

So, what did the Toltec know, and how can their ancient wisdom as told by Ruiz in The Four Agreements help us?

Societal Rules and Agreements

The Toltec lived in central Mexico, and their traditions were those of education and passing knowledge down to the next generation. The Four Agreements shows how the Toltec concepts and ideas can help us realize our full potential as well-balanced and happy people, and how to remove the weight of other people’s expectations of us.

Ruiz tells us that we are all taught strict rules as children, which we make ourselves live by as adults. The society we live in imposes many things upon us, including the collective ‘dream of the planet’. The rules of this collective dream are impressed upon us by our parents, schools, religions and other influences. We learn how we are meant to behave through this, and what we should believe and accept as normal. Ruiz says that because we didn’t choose these rules and agreements, we should question why we accept and live by them.

As children, if we rebelled or behaved “badly” we were punished by parents and other authority figures for not following the rules. When we were “good”, we got attention and praise from parents and others.

The Four Agreements shows us that there is a different way. By breaking free from the societal structures and expectations, we can make new agreements for ourselves.

  1. The First Agreement is to be impeccable with your word, and never use it against yourself or others. What does “impeccable” mean? In this context, it comes from a Latin word that means “without sin”. Being impeccable with your internal language means not judging or blaming yourself. Simply having those thoughts means you’re sinning against yourself. You need to change this, and start telling yourself how great you actually are, and giving yourself some TLC.

    A key point is that we should remember is that the words we choose to use are powerful – they can liberate or enslave you and others. How many times have you told yourself you’re stupid, or no good at something? Every time you do this, you are making an agreement and choosing to stick by it.

    Your words transform the way you think, and affect the opinions of others, so choose them wisely.

  2. The Second Agreement says that you won’t need to take things personally if you have a strong sense of yourself.

    When people are rude to us, it can often stay in our mind for too long, and we constantly repeat the words in our heads. When you take things personally, you begin inadvertently agreeing with the slight and making it yours, even if it had nothing too do with you.

    The reality is that nothing people say or do to you is actually about you – it’s all about them.

    When you get upset by something someone said to you, it’s about your own fears and experiences, which makes it essential to deal with this.

    Overcoming this issue means you have to know who you are, because then you don’t need to have other people’s acceptance, and nothing they say will hurt you. Everyone looks at the world from a different viewpoint, and you should also recognize your own perspective in this.

  3. The Third Agreement tells us that instead of making assumptions, we should ask questions instead.

    We often jump to conclusions and make assumptions that are wildly wrong. If you say “hi” to a friend, and they don’t reply, you would perhaps make the assumption that they were mad at you without any real evidence.

    When you have trouble understanding something, you assume you know what it means. When things become clear, you can see that it means something else entirely.

    We also make assumptions about ourselves, such as whether or not we can do a particular task well. We might think we can, fail, and then feel bad for overestimating our abilities. In reality, we may just have needed to ask more questions to make it a success.

    You need to replace assumptions with questions instead. This can be difficult, but it’s the only way to get the answers you need.

  4. The Fourth Agreement shows you how to put the first three into practice. This agreement is to always do your best, even if your best constantly changes.

    If you were told to always do your best as a child, it was actually sound advice. Doing your best depends on the situation you are in, and is not a one-size-fits-all thing. On certain days your best will be world-beating, and on others maybe it’s just a struggle to get something positive done, but you do something.

    To do your best, you should do things because you want to, not because of external motivation like a paycheck. Doing a job that you dislike just for a salary is difficult and joyless, and is sometimes the reason you will end up drinking and partying at the weekend, just to forget your frustration.

    If you love the job or task you’re doing, you’ll do your best without even trying. Your work will feel effortless and you’ll perform much better. This final agreement will help you to increase the power of the other agreements, while freeing yourself from old patterns.

The Takeaway Message?

The key message of this book is that from the moment we’re born, we are made to conform to society’s rules. This stops us from finding our true selves, but by using the ancient Toltic wisdom it’s possible to replace societal rules with the Four Agreements.

Why not try to break one of the hundreds or thousands of agreements you have right now? Perhaps you tell yourself that you’re no good at painting – break out the watercolors and have fun creating something. By gradually following the process, you can change things gradually for the better.

Read The Extended Summary in Blinkist

There is a more in-depth summary of The Four Agreements on Blinkist. You can find it by clicking the link below. Blinkist is an online service, which presents condensed and easily digestible contents of non-fiction books in 15-minute summaries called “blinks”. You can also get an audio version for Blinkist Premium subscribers.

In the blink for The Four Agreements, you’ll find out:

  • Why you should rebel against the collective dream of society, and what that even means?
  • What are some real-life examples of problems as well as solutions to those problems using ancient Toltec wisdom?
  • How do you break away from your old, pre-programmed agreements and find true personal freedom?

Click the link below to visit the Blinkist summary of The Four Agreements, which has structured sections and easily gives a sense of the whole book:

The Four Agreements on Blinkist ›

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