How To Apply “The Four Agreements” To Healthy Relationships
Don Miguel Ruiz’s New York Times best-selling book, “The Four Agreements: A Practical Guide to Personal Freedom” is one of my most treasured books. It’s short, easy-to-digest, and addresses some major pitfalls of insecure attachment.
In the next four posts, I’ll break down each agreement, explaining what it is, why it’s important and how I’ve applied it to my life. All four are keys to a healthy relationship and a happier life. My hope for you is that you will start to notice the impact of how you keep and break each agreement in your daily life.
I have included journal prompts (available as a PDF download) at the end of each post to increase your self-awareness and explore the motivation behind your behaviors. Awareness is the first step in the work I do, and this book is a great tool for that.
Why This Book?
Out of all the books I suggest to friends and clients, this is the one I recommend the most. It’s such a foundational book for increasing self-awareness, especially when dealing with insecure attachment. I have read it multiple times since 1999.
Back then I spent much of my time focusing on other people–what they said and did. My constant worry about what they thought of me, and my fear of being judged, suggested I was also able to read their mind. I didn’t realize I was just projecting my insecurities onto what I assumed they were thinking. Of course, I couldn’t ACTUALLY read their mind, but I sure spent a lot of time believing I could… and fixating on it. All that energy was tied up inside me, leaving me lost while grasping for control. I do not miss that!
The Four Agreements helped bring my focus back to me so I didn’t make my life and my problems about other people. It is core to my work, which is why it’s usually the first book I recommend for those starting to explore personal growth and development.
If you’ve read it before, you know its power, and I encourage you to read it again. Each time I pick it up, I discover something new. If you’re a first-timer, get ready for some major lightbulb moments! Healthy relationships are built on these agreements.
The Four Agreements and Awareness
Agreement #1: Be impeccable with your word
Agreement #2: Don’t take anything personally
Agreement #3: Don’t make assumptions
Agreement #4: Always do your best
The purpose of awareness is to observe without judgment. That last part is very important because the point is NOT to beat yourself up for what “looks like” breaking the agreements. It does absolutely no good and just distracts you from what is going on inside. It may seem so important for the world (and you) to see yourself as perfect, but it is impossible to sustain. The goal is not perfection. The goal is never perfection. We are flawed humans, doing our best, and the last agreement hits this point home.
You can only change what you are aware of, so this will be a great exercise in connecting with yourself. To help with your observations, keep a journal to record what you notice each day. I’ll provide some guidance on what to look for through specific journal prompts.
Recording what you observe is very important, and I suggest doing it in short bullet points. You can record it in your own journal or download and print this PDF. No judgment or commentary. Simply write what you observe. If you keep re-reading what you wrote, patterns will emerge. By the end, you’ll be more attuned to the areas of your life where you most often break each of the four agreements.
This work is ongoing; it never stops. I learn new things about myself daily, so hopefully, this exercise is just the beginning of your growth.
The Four Agreements and Healthy Relationships
When you are insecurely attached, healthy relationships feel elusive. This book is a good starting point because each agreement is specific, tangible, and actionable. If you dedicate yourself to these four agreements, your relationships will improve. Absolutely. They help correct many common mistakes:
- Being inconsistent with words and actions
- Holding back from expressing your thoughts and emotions
- Going against what you say you want
- Avoiding or distracting yourself from the truth
- Listening to the stories in your head instead of what’s in front of you
- Attaching to outcomes
- Trying to control other people
- Living in a fantasy instead of reality
- Blaming others
- Punishment and self-flagellation
- Overdoing and over-performing
- Not taking responsibility for your actions
The above behaviors create distance between people. The Four Agreements will help close that space so you can cultivate healthy relationships based on trust and vulnerability.
While I will summarize Ruiz’s main points in each post and give examples from my own life, you will get even more out of it if you read along. And at less than 150 pages, it’s a quick read.
So… I hope you’ll join me in channeling your awareness toward The Four Agreements, one of my all-time favorite books! It’s a huge step toward building happy, healthy relationships.
You can order the book here.