The fourth agreement: practice makes the master

The fourth agreement: practice makes the master

by don Miguel Ruiz with Janet Mills

When you are ready to change your life, when you are ready to change your agreements, the most important thing is awareness. You cannot change your agreements if you aren’t aware of what you like and what you don’t like. How can you change anything if you are not even aware of what you want to change? But it’s more than just being aware. It’s the practice that will make a difference, because you can be aware, but that doesn’t mean your life will change. Change is the result of action; it’s the result of practice. Practice makes the master.

Everything you have ever learned, you learned through repetition and practice. You learned to talk, you learned to walk, you even learned to write by repetition. You are a master of speaking your language because you practiced. This is the same way that you learned all the beliefs that rule your life: by practice. The way you are living your life right now is the result of many years of practice.

During your whole life you practiced every moment to become what you believe you are right now. You practiced until it became automatic. And when you start practicing something new, when you change what you believe you are, your whole life is going to change.

If you practice being impeccable with your word, if you don’t take anything personally, if you don’t make assumptions, you are going to break thousands of agreements that keep you trapped in the dream of hell. Very soon, what you agree to believe will become the choice of your authentic self, not the choice of the image of yourself that you thought you were.

The first agreement, be impeccable with your word, is all you need to create a beautiful life. It will take you all the way to heaven, but you may need support for this agreement. When you don’t take anything personally, when you don’t make assumptions, you can imagine that it’s easier to be impeccable with your word. When you don’t make assumptions, it’s easier not to take anything personally, and vice versa. By not taking anything personally, and by not making assumptions, you are supporting the first agreement.

The first three agreements may seem difficult to do. They may even seem impossible for us to do. Well, believe me, it’s not impossible, but I have to agree that it’s difficult, because we practice exactly the opposite. All our lives we practice believing the voice in our head. But there is the fourth agreement, and it’s easy. This is the agreement that makes everything possible: Always do your best. You can do your best, and that’s it. No more, no less. Just do your best. Do. Take action. How can you do your best if you don’t take action?

Always do your best is the agreement that everybody can do. Your best is, in fact, the only thing you can do. And the best you can do doesn’t mean that sometimes you give 80 percent and other times you just give 20 percent. You’re always giving 100 percent — that’s always your intention — it’s just that your best is always changing. From one moment to the next, you are never the same. You are alive and changing all the time, and your best is also changing from one moment to the next.

Your best will depend on whether you are feeling physically tired or refreshed. Your best will depend on how you are feeling emotionally. Your best is going to change over time, and as you form the habit of practicing the Four Agreements, your best is going to get better.

The fourth agreement allows the first three agreements to become deeply ingrained habits. Repetition and practice will make you the master, but don’t expect that you can master these agreements right away. Don’t expect that you are always going to be impeccable with your word, or that you are never going to take anything personally, or that you are never going to make assumptions. Your habits are too strong and firmly rooted in your mind. Just do your best.

If you fail to keep one of the agreements, make the agreement again. Begin again tomorrow, and again the next day. Keep practicing and practicing. Each day will become easier. By doing your best, the habits of misusing your word, taking things personally, and making assumptions will become weaker and less frequent over time. If you keep taking action to change your habits, it’s going to happen.

Eventually the moment will come when all four agreements become a habit. You don’t even try. It’s automatic. It’s effortless. One day you discover that you are ruling your life with The Four Agreements. Can you imagine your life when these agreements become a habit? Instead of struggling with conflict and drama, your whole life becomes very easy!

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Adapted from The Fifth Agreement: A Practical Guide to Self-Mastery. Copyright © 2010 by Miguel Angel Ruiz, M.D., Jose Luis Ruiz, and Janet Mills. Reprinted by Permission of Amber-Allen Publishing, Inc., San Rafael, California.

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