Monday, May 9, 2011

The Four Agreements

Have you ever read The Four Agreements? I did, a long time ago, and had kind of forgotten about it until author Suzanne Brockmann mentioned it during her talk at the Georgia Romance Writers meeting back in March. I own the book, so I made a mental note to pull it off the shelf and re-read it, then forgot all about it again until a long-distance friend brought it up a couple of weeks ago while we were on the phone. So in between snatches of We Are Not Alone and To Kill A Mockingbird and at least six other books I have going concurrently, today I cracked the cover of The Four Agreements.

In this book, shaman and healer Don Miguel Ruiz shares wisdom passed down from his Toltec ancestors. The four agreements are these:
  1. Be impeccable with your word.
  2. Don't take anything personally.
  3. Don't make assumptions.
  4. Always do your best.
Now, when I saw the phrase "Be impeccable with your word," I assumed it was referring to the importance of always telling the truth. But there's more to it than that; this actually has more to do with the way we use words to talk about others or ourselves. The things we say are powerful, and can have very long-lasting effects. I wish I had a nickel for every time I called myself stupid or lazy or fat or ugly or a failure or any one of a thousand other terrible names I would never call anyone else; I would be a millionaire many times over. Sadly, much of this self-perception is based on words that others have used against me. My piano students do the same thing; just this afternoon I had an eight year old boy tell me he isn't any good at the piano and a teenage girl tell me how stupid she is. It was heartbreaking.

This definitely dovetails with my blog post from yesterday and I think this is just another way we all keep ourselves down - with our words. Name calling is abusive and negative self-talk is counterproductive; I am going to call myself on it just as I forbid it in my piano students. From now on, only positive messages are allowed inside these four walls.

Needless to say, I am looking forward to digging into the rest of the book. But I am going to take my time and give this lesson some time to digest before I move on. 

Are you guilty of being less than impeccable with your word? How do you overcome the habits of a lifetime? Have you ever read The Four Agreements? If so, what was the most powerful lesson you learned from it?   


S.M. Carrière said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
S.M. Carrière said...

I am guilty, more often against myself than anyone else. The negative cycle is so easy to fall into and so difficult to claw back out of.

I've a long history of being beaten down by those around me, and I guess it just wore off. I had to make a conscious effort to stand tall and tell myself that I am good, worthy, and will get there.

As soon as I started doing so, I noticed a marked improvement in my life - better friends, better situations, greater satisfaction.

I haven't read The Four Agreements, but I think now I shall.

*edited for spelling error. I am not "goo"...

Pam Asberry said...

It's so true, S.M.; I am pretty sure that I learned a lot of what I believe about myself from others. But that doesn't make it true. Moving forward, I am going to stop myself every time a negative thought pops into my head and replace it with a positive affirmation. I have no doubt it will make a difference. You will love the book. It's short but it's meaty!

KendallGrey said...

I haven't read The Four Agreements, but it sounds like I should. I get down on myself a lot too. My husband gets so mad at me when I do. It's normal to feel bad or think we're not good enough, especially for writers who face rejection on a daily basis. I'm gonna try to do better too, Pam. Thanks for the reminder about how important self-confidence is. :-)

Pam Asberry said...

Kendall, it seems like the hardest working people I know are the hardest on themselves. I can see how the two go hand in hand, but honestly, the whip doesn't make me move faster, and I'm sure it's the same for you, too. Yes, read the book and let me know what you think. And believe in yourself, because there are a lot of us out here who believe in you!

unstoppablestart said...


I recall Suzanne's commentary on THe Four Agreements. Thanks for reminding me to pick it up. And thanks for sharing!

- Lindy

Jennifer Starks said...

You’re right. We need to stop being counterproductive with ourselves. From now on, every time I'm about to say something negative about myself I will insert something good instead. I may not always believe it, but maybe it will go a long way in getting me on the positive track. Great post.

Julee J. Adams said...

You're so right, we need to be reminded again and again that life will go easier and better if we have a positive outlook on life. I'm glad you've found a touchstone that gives a simple truth beautifully. Thanks for reminding us of it.

And next time I'm a whiny little bitch, just give me a few minutes and if I don't stop, smack me up side of the head for my reset button to work. We all need to cut ourselves some more slack.

Pam Asberry said...

Lindy, you're welcome! Thank you for stopping by. :-)

Pam Asberry said...

Jennifer, that definitely sounds like a plan. If our heads lead, I am sure our hearts will follow. Thank you for your comments!

Pam Asberry said...

Julee, if you are ever "whiny little bitch" (and I haven't actually witnessed that kind of behavior from you) I will forgive you. Just like I hope you will forgive me. It's the only way!