Achieve personal freedom by following these 4 rules
“We live our lives confined within a set of self-limiting beliefs that condemn us to needless suffering and prevent us from fulfilling our potential” – says Don Miguel Ruiz, a nagual (shaman) of the Eagle-Knight lineage and author of several bestsellers advocating the right to free ourselves from beliefs that hold us prisoners and make us unhappy. Fortunately, as a descendant of the ancient “women and men of knowledge” – the Toltec people – and a spiritual guide as well, the author is in a position to offer the solution: a sort of contract that will give us the chance to make new agreements with ourselves and escape the narrow circle of restrictive beliefs.
What a fascinating life story this Don Miguel Ruiz has! From an outstanding surgeon career, devoted to the exact sciences and to “coolheaded” clinical observation, he took a spectacular turn to teaching “the Toltec Way” (the subject and name of his work, published in millions of copies). His turning point was a near death experience that led him to seek more answers in the ancestral traditions preserved by his family – his mother was a great healer and his grandfather was a nagual who, after he died, continued to teach his nephew in his dreams.
Reality seen through a veil of smoke
According to Don Miguel Ruiz, the way we perceive our own life depends on the education we receive, on our cultural environment (which decides what is right and what is wrong, what is beautiful or ugly), and on how our companions expect us to be (kind, helpful, composed, able to control our anger etc.).
This explains why we constantly interpret and judge reality as if we looked at it through a veil of smoke that distorts the image. This is why we encounter so many difficulties in our lives! Our great mistake resides in taking what “people” expect/ask from us as a reference point, when, on the contrary, the most important agreements we ought to make are with ourselves, taking account of our inner truth, our own true nature. Anyone can make changes; what matters most is to take the minimum amount of time to make them.
“The law” of the four agreements
Since 1997, when it was first published, “The Four Agreements: A Practical Guide to Personal Freedom” has made history. According to this guide, you can achieve personal freedom by following these rules: be impeccable with your word, do not take anything personally, do not make assumptions, always do your best.
1. Be impeccable with your word
“Avoid using the word to speak against yourself or to gossip about others” is the author’s first piece of advice. The underlying principle of the four agreements is the creative power of the word. More specifically, by simply speaking we directly influence our environment. It is a well-known fact nowadays: all small sentences – whether they are pleasant or “toxic” – that we “commit” have the power to recognise or belittle the person to whom we address them.
Miguel Ruiz explains: “The human mind is like a fertile ground where seeds are continually being planted. The seeds are opinions, ideas, and concepts. You plant a seed, a thought, and it grows. The word is like a seed”.
The new agreement we make with ourselves:
“Think before you speak” is an age-old saying. The modern version would be: apply the principles of positive thinking, drive away the insults, the disapproving remarks, the harsh criticism against your spouse, children, friends, apartment neighbour etc., and send them back to the depths from where they lie in wait, ready to bust forth. Surely, you can find topics that are more cheerful, more in tune with the Toltec way! All you have to do is be willing to find them.
2. Do not take anything personally
We are not responsible for what other people do. What others do or say is only a projection of their reality.
The Toltec agreements point out the bad habit of poisoning our existence by taking the beliefs and projections of others for personal attacks on us. Which makes us hit the ceiling: that person only wanted to humiliate us, to offend us! Therefore, we must fight back. Because, you see, we are right. Moreover, for us to be right, the other one must be wrong.
The new agreement with ourselves: Before you consider yourself offended, attacked or mistreated, remember that your point of view is merely personal. Trust yourself, because what matters is your truth, not other people’s truth. The key to not letting the actions and negative comments of others touch you is to accept that they belong to them, not to you. This is the only way you will manage to break the vicious circle of guilt and toxic habits.
3. Do not make assumptions
We all have the tendency to make assumptions about everything and to ascribe certain intentions to others. We make mistake after mistake because we consider our assumptions to be the truth.
“We make an assumption, we misunderstand, we take it personally, and we end up creating a whole big drama for nothing” – says Don Miguel Ruiz. Later on (sometimes when it is much too late to repair the damage we have done to others and to ourselves) we discover that things are completely different from what we thought. It is enough to see our partner or workmate behaving in a way that we believe to have a negative meaning and we will start accusing. In conclusion, making assumptions is the surest way to attract problems like a magnet.
The new agreement with ourselves: communicate with others as clearly as you can in order to avoid dramas and misunderstandings. If you are not very sure what to make of a certain statement, gesture or look, just ask! Pluck up your courage and ask questions, say what you want in a straightforward manner so that everything is crystal-clear. Then accept that the answer you will get may not always be to your liking. Willingness to take risks is one of the keystones upon which you will build your new attitude.
4. Always do your best
Under any circumstance, always do your best – thus you will avoid guilt, frustration and regret. The Toltec agreements remind us that life is constantly changing: “Your best will depend on whether you are feeling wonderful and happy, or upset, angry, or jealous.”(Don Miguel Ruiz).
There are people who go to extremes in their effort “to come forward” and still no one gives them credit. Conversely, there are people who let things happen naturally and we consider them heroes. If so, what is the point in going beyond yourself and doing things “better than anyone else”? You will use up more energy than necessary and at the end of the day you will be just as unhappy. The key to success is to do your best. That is all. There is no need to overdo it.
The new agreement with ourselves: “Doing your best is taking the action because you love it, not because you’re expecting a reward”, Don Miguel Ruiz points out. Therefore, in order to do your best, it is enough to focus on what you really like. When you are happy with your actions, your thoughts, and your words, you let go of the results, because it is not the results that matter, but the sense of self-accomplishment.
“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, and we don’t have frustrations” (Don Miguel Ruiz).
You may also want to read:
7 ways to free your mind of negative thoughts
6 mental reprogramming techniques to change your life
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