29 Jan Using “The Four Agreements” to live a better life
by don Miguel Ruiz with Janet Mills
Many times there are things in our lives that we don’t like, that we want to change, but we make the same mistakes, the same choices, expecting that the result will be different. Well, it will not be different. Every action has a consequence or reaction, and when we repeat the same actions, we suffer the same results. Perhaps we cannot see the action or the choices when we make them, but we are always going to see the reaction, the result of what we do.
The only way to change your life is to change your choices, to change your actions.
If there is something in your life that you don’t like, first you have to be aware that it’s the result of a choice that you made. Then if you take one step back and focus your attention on what was happening just before that result, you will find what you did that caused the result you don’t want. Once you find out what action you took, the next step is to forgive yourself for the reaction and change the choice, change the action, and see what the reaction is. If you don’t like the result again, you change it again and again until you have the result you want.
You cannot control what is going to happen around you, but you can certainly control your own reaction. Your reaction is the clue to having a wonderful life. Why? Because what makes you happy or unhappy is not what is happening around you, but how you choose to react to it. If you can learn to change your own reactions, then you can change your habits and routines and change your life.
Imagine that ten years ago you made a big mistake in the eyes of everyone you know. Everyone judged you harshly, and you judged yourself harshly also. But just because you made a mistake, does that mean you should suffer for the rest of your life? This is not fair. Your reaction is that you live with shame, with guilt, and with low self-esteem; your reaction is that you feel you are worthless and you want to end your life, and perhaps you don’t even know why.
Well, take a step back, and you will find out why. It’s because you are still taking the same action, and that leads to the same reaction. You think you are still suffering for what happened ten years ago, but that is not true. The truth is that you are suffering for what happened a minute ago, or thirty seconds ago. The excuse for your suffering is “I made a terrible mistake ten years ago.” The truth is that you judged yourself thirty seconds ago.
If you find that you are living your life in shame or guilt right now, look one step before you feel guilt, and you will see that you have judged yourself. What is the action? The action is self-judgment; the action is self-rejection. The reaction is that you find yourself guilty, and you believe in your guilt. Your faith is there and your faith says, “I need to be punished.” Thy will be done; you are going to be punished.
Now let’s see how The Four Agreements can help you break the old agreement to judge and punish yourself, and create a new agreement to forgive yourself.
Thirty seconds ago when you judged yourself, you were not impeccable with your word. When you judged yourself, you used the word in the wrong way: against yourself.
Thirty seconds ago, you took it personally — something that happened ten years ago! It is a ghost in your mind, it is no longer true, but you took it personally.
Thirty seconds ago, you made a big assumption that everyone remembers what you did ten years ago and that everyone is still condemning you.
Thirty seconds ago, you didn’t do your best because the action you took made you feel miserable.
Now you know you feel miserable because you judged yourself. If you don’t want to feel miserable, then first you have to be impeccable with your word. You really make a commitment to be impeccable. Whenever you have the memory of what happened ten years ago, instead of judging yourself, you can change the action and say, “I forgive myself.” Now you are impeccable with your word.
Second, you will not take anything personally. Even if you made a mistake, and other people react and judge, it’s nothing personal. You know that everyone lives in their own dream.
Third, you don’t make assumptions about what other people think of you. There is no way you will ever know what is in their head or how they dream.
Finally, you are going to do your best. But there is only one way to do your best, and that is by taking action and actually doing it — not saying “I will try.” It’s the action that will make the difference.
The action is first to be aware that if you are unhappy, it is because of an action you took. Second, to use your attention to identify what action you took. Third, to shift your attention to The Four Agreements and apply them to every action. Using this process, every action of your life can be shifted like this: awareness, attention, action–reaction. The result is very powerful.
My suggestion is to keep focusing your attention on making choices that don’t go against yourself. You can measure your choices by your reaction. This choice comes from love; that choice comes from fear. This choice makes me happy; that choice makes me suffer.
The difficult part is to be aware. Everything you learn from the outside dream goes against awareness. But you can practice awareness until you recover awareness. To recover your awareness, you have to break the agreements that go against yourself and reaffirm your commitment to honor The Four Agreements.
You need a very strong will in order to adopt The Four Agreements, but if you can begin to live your life with these agreements, the transformation in your life will be amazing.
The Four Agreements go against the majority of the agreements you have learned in your life. They will help break the code of the program in your mind, but they need to be practiced, and the only way to do that is by focusing your attention. Focus on the agreement you want to change, and use the power of your intent to make a new agreement that you will not believe the old agreement. If you don’t believe something, you agree that it’s not true, and you unlearn that agreement.
For every agreement you break, you need to replace it with a new agreement. If there is an agreement that makes you suffer, and you break it but don’t replace it with another agreement that will make you happy, the old agreement will come back. If you withdraw your faith in the old agreement and invest it in the new agreement, then the old agreement is gone forever and now you believe the new agreement.
Once you learn a new agreement, you don’t need to focus your attention on it any longer; it becomes automatic, and your response is always the same. All the old agreements that rule your life are the result of repeating them over and over again, and the repeated action of using The Four Agreements will break many of the agreements that make life difficult and unpleasant. Of course, it takes a lot of time and courage so create something to remind you to keep your attention on this process and to practice it again and again until you master it.
Once you start, you will see the results, and it gets easier and easier. Eventually, there will come a time when it becomes automatic. Once it becomes a habit, the transformation of your life happens very fast. You see the changes and your self-respect increases, your enthusiasm rises, and self-acceptance returns to your life.
Adapted from The Four Agreements Companion Book: Using The Four Agreements to Master the Dream of Your Life. Copyright © 2000 by Miguel Angel Ruiz, M.D. and Janet Mills. Reprinted by Permission of Amber-Allen Publishing, Inc., San Rafael, California.
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