Do self-limiting beliefs rob us of joy and create needless suffering? According to author Don Miguel Ruiz, the answer is definitely “Yes!” In his book, The Four Agreements, he shares a unique approach to self help based on Toltec wisdom.
The Toltec were an ancient people that lived in Mexico over 3,000 years ago. They developed a philosophy that offers an interesting way to balance our deeply held but little acknowledged beliefs, expectations, agreements, and assumptions. By learning theses tips, we can live a happier, more authentic life:
1. Be Impeccable With Your Word
“Speak with integrity and say what you mean. Avoid using words against yourself or to gossip about others. Use the power of your word in the direction of truth and love.”
I must admit that I am guilty of saying mean and hurtful things, both to myself and other people. Usually it’s because I get caught up in the heat of the moment, but I recognize that words have power and I need to carefully chose mine.
2. Don’t Take Anything Personally
“Nothing others do is because of you. What others say and do is a projection of their own reality, their own dream. When you are immune to the opinions and actions of others, you won’t be the victim of needless suffering.”
Of all the agreements, this one speaks to me the most, on such a deep level. For most of my life, I literally could not understand why others wouldn’t see my point of view. Only now, at 35-years-old, do I recognize that everybody has their own idea, their own way, their own path. By focusing on myself only and not trying to change them and refusing to let anyone change me, life is so much simpler. This is precisely why arguing is such a waste of time. Nobody is listening, they just want to express their own ideology. Better to agree to disagree and move on. I truly wish I had learned this lesson decades ago!
3. Don’t Make Assumptions
“Find the courage to ask questions and express what you really want. Communicate as clearly as you can to avoid misunderstandings, sadness, and drama.”
I’ve never had a problem expressing my opinion. The problem was that I often had a self righteous attitude and was convinced that others should feel exactly the same. Guess what: my way is only good for me! I’ll offer an opinion if asked, but I don’t push them on others anymore. Big lesson learned.
4. Always Do Your Best
“Your best is going to change from moment to moment; it will be different when healthy as opposed to sick. Under any circumstance, try to do what’s best, and you will avoid self-judgment, self-abuse, and regret.”
My biggest mistake in this area was confusing “best” with “perfection.” I am not perfect, nobody on earth is perfect. By accepting life’s limitations that things can—and often do—go wrong, there is no impossible expectation to live up to. Making reasonable allowances, for myself and others, is a much better strategy.
We can’t change others, we can’t change the world, we can’t change the weather, we can’t change anything at all—except our own attitudes and behavior. By adopting that mindset, no matter what happens in life, good or bad, we don’t have to feel like victims and we can learn to cope in a healthy way.