This book is likely the easiest read, but most useful read that I’ve come across in a long time. It’s certainly worth your time and ripe for an easy Sunday afternoon. So, here are the main points:
1) Be impeccable with your word.
2) Do not take anything personally.
3) Don’t make assumptions.
4) Always do your best.
In and of themselves and taken as a whole, these statements make great life mantras. The first one, however, is deceptive on its face; its meaning is not obvious. Of course, Ruiz intends for us to be truthful; however, he uses the first agreement to stress how important it is to remember that words are powerful and transformative. Therefore, he urges the reader to uses his or her words to uplift and to build. I also believe his objective is to make the reader aware of how each of us has used our words in a counterproductive manner toward ourselves and others. As a training and leadership professional, I often encounter people who are not aware of the information they know. Their perspective isn’t crisp because their day-to-day routine have dulled their senses and clouded their vision. This lack of perception is spot-on with the habit loop discussed Charles Duhigg’s, THE POWER OF HABIT. Essentially, the more frequently we engage in habits or repetitive behaviors, the less conscious we are of those behaviors. In fact, our brains, in a manner of speaking, shut off.
The remaining agreements are flat-footed directives. In particular, #2 calls to our attention that we should not only refrain from taking things personally but that we should also remember that each of us comes to where we are in life amid a cacophony of negative messages and slants derived from our respective life experiences. It is from behind this veil that we see the world; thereby giving rise to #3. Simply put, it is impossible to always understand someone else’s backdrop and to properly intertwine their “stuff” with our own; therefore, it is imperative that we ask questions! Finally, #4 urges us to do our best relative to agreements 1, 2, and 3. Further, #4 encourages readers to realize that such changes in perspective and approach take time to cement and creates a hopeful platform by discouraging harsh self-judgement for short-comings. Instead of judgement, resolve to begin anew each time you observe aspects of your thinking and actions that do not please you.
Although the book’s primary focus is these four agreements, I found that a significant amount of time was spent pushing the reader to work toward living a life free from fear. Ruiz discusses how fear reigns in our excitement and hopefulness. In short, it handicaps us. To this end, he encourages us to confront those things that strike fear in our hearts and to recognize that we can trade our child-like wildness for wisdom which enables us refrain from certain actions rather than living a life of repression spawned by fear.