The Four Agreements: Book Review

This story originally appeared on the Gents Cafe Newsletter. You can subscribe here.

There I was, in my early 30s, caught in a whirlwind of negative self-talk and daily self-doubt. I was just beginning my personal development journey, learning to reframe my thoughts and striving to grow into the person I believed I was meant to be. With no one around me to confide in, I turned to books for answers. One day, a thoughtful co-worker gifted me a book that would profoundly impact how I interacted with others and, most importantly, how I treated myself. That book was The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz.

The book begins by explaining how societal norms and expectations shape our beliefs and behaviours from a young age. According to the author, this process often leads to limiting beliefs that restrict our potential and happiness. To counteract this, he proposes adopting these four new agreements to break free from the constraints of negative conditioning.

The first agreement, “Be Impeccable with Your Word”, resonated with me as an advocate of being a gentleman. The chapter continued, “Speak with integrity. Say only what you mean. Avoid using the word to speak against yourself or to gossip about others. Use the power of your word in the direction of truth and love”. By speaking with integrity and avoiding self-criticism or gossip, you can cultivate positive relationships and self-respect, with others and with yourself.

The second agreement, “Don’t Take Anything Personally”, is easier said than done, especially as men where we believe so many things can be an attack on our character; it is, however, a reminder that other people’s actions and words reflect their own reality. “Nothing others do is because of you. What others say and do is a projection of their own reality, their own dreams. When you are immune to the opinions and actions of others, you won’t be the victim of needless suffering.” By relinquishing this egocentric perspective, you can achieve emotional resilience and most importantly for me, peace of mind.

“Don’t Make Assumptions”: the third agreement, to be simply put, means to avoid jumping to conclusions and creating unwarranted narratives. Stop adding meanings to things that aren’t necessary and stir up internal conflicts. The book offers an alternative, “Find the courage to ask questions and to express what you really want. Communicate with others as clearly as you can to avoid misunderstandings, sadness, and drama.”

The final agreement, “Always Do Your Best”, ties the other three together, emphasizing effort over perfection. As men navigating life’s many landscapes there are moments where we question if we are indeed doing our best, if we are truly contributing. I challenge you to ask yourself if you’re not measuring yourself against the ruler of perfection. If you believe you are remember this, “Your best is going to change from moment to moment; it will be different when you are healthy as opposed to sick. Under any circumstance, simply do your best, and you will avoid self-judgment, self-abuse, and regret”.

These four agreements should be applied to your everyday life, as they will help you transform your mindset to how you engage others and how you treat yourself. I want to encourage you to have compassion for yourself or as I like to say “Give yourself some grace.” Your journey towards improvement will be continuous: give yourself the room to strive for excellence without succumbing to self-judgment or burnout.

Never miss a story – subscribe now to the Gents Cafe Newsletter, a bite-sized read about men’s lifestyle to enjoy over a coffee or a nice cocktail.