What Are The Four Agreements Of Life? Ideals That Will Make You Better

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Have you ever come across a book or movie in your life and thought, damn this was exactly what I need right now?  This is what I thought when I read don Miguel Ruiz’s book The Four Agreements for the first time.

I have seen the book many times before, but never picked it up to read.  After reading it it seemed to connect with so many things happening in my life. It connected with Caroline Myss – The Sacred Contract that Heather was reading, and has led to many great conversations.

In this Catalyst For Change article I will delve into the book The Four Agreements to help you challenge yourself to make an enormous change in your life.

In this article you will learn…

  • Who is don Miguel Ruiz, the author of the wonderful book The Four Agreements
  • How did don Miguel Ruiz learn of The Four Agreements of life.
  • Answer the question:  What are The Four Agreements of life?

Who is Don Miguel Ruiz?

Don Miguel Ruiz was born in Mexico on August 27th 1952, he was the youngest of thirteen children.  His mother was a healer and his grandfather was a shaman. He was expected to follow in the footsteps of his mother and grandfather and go down a spiritual path, instead he chose to go to medical school and become a neurosurgeon.

After he had a near fatal car accident, Ruiz decided he needed to return to his roots and learn more about the moral and spiritual aspect of life. At first learning from his mother and later from a Toltec shaman, Ruiz spent years learning about the spiritual side of his Toltec ancestors.

The Four Agreements Of Life – A Story Within a Story

The Four Agreements is the combination of traditional spiritual wisdom and modern thought. Ruiz starts his book off with a story.  It is the story of how, thousands of years ago, the Toltec people were wise men and women of knowledge.  But over the years they had to hide their knowledge from the invading Europeans, and those Toltecs who were misusing the power they had.

It is only because this knowledge was hidden from people and passed down by naguals (shaman), that we have the knowledge still today.  There was an ancient prophecy stating one day the knowledge would be returned to the people, and don Miguel Ruiz, a nagual from the Eagle Knight lineage was guided to bring it back to life.

Though it is not a religion, it honors all spiritual masters who have taught on earth.  While it does embrace spirit, it is most accurately described as a way of life.

The Smokey Mirror

Ruiz goes on to tell the story of the first human who became aware of what we truly are.  The Human, as Ruiz calls him, was studying to be a medicine man, but didn’t quite agree with what he was being taught.  The Human thought there should be more to life.  

One night, The Human had a dream which transformed his life forever, he realized he, as all humans are, was made of light.  Everything, according to this human, was made of light. As he looked at the stars, he realized the stars did not create the light, but rather the light creates the stars.  Light is the messenger of life, and all that is living is from one living being.

Even though we are made of stars, we are not the stars.

He calls the stars the tonal and the light between the stars the nagual.  Between the two is life or our intentions. Without life nothing could exist. We are all part of the first energy, of God.  Everything is God, and we in the end are merely light recognizing light.

Life is the force of the absolute, the supreme, the Creator who creates everything.

Ok so are you thinking, nope this is too crazy for you right now? Maybe you remember seeing this quote?

See – not so crazy after all!  We are energy and energy is neither created nor destroyed it just changes forms.

We as energy in physical form just can no longer see clearly.  The mirror before us is shrouded in smoke, which hides our true selves. So the life we could lead is obscured from us by the dreams we create.

Dream of the Planet

According to Ruiz, the life we are leading right now is nothing but a dream.  The brain is dreaming 24 hours a day.

  • When we are awake the mind sees life in a linear way.
  • When we are asleep we do not have this constraint and our dreams can change.

Before any of us were born, the people before us created an outside dream; Ruiz calls this the society’s dream, or the dream of the planet.  The planet dream is made up of billions of smaller individual dreams, and we use these dreams to create a dream of the family, a dream of a city all the way up to the dream of all humanity.  

Society’s Dream

Society uses  this dream to grab our attention and teach us when we are children all the rules of society.  They use these rules to help mold us into society’s dream.

Our parents teach us, religious leaders teaches us, and schools all teach us the proper and right way to act to fit into the place and with people we live around.  

We don’t have a choice in what we are taught but we agree with the information given to us of this dream.  This initial dream we have is so strong even though we sometimes try to pull away from it, it is too strong to resist and we surrender to it with our agreement.

I see the dream of the planet only growing bigger and harder to fight. 

The internet shows a vision for the entire world to see.  If one does not look deeper than the surface all you will see is the advertisements and pictures of “happy” people spending money on things. These material things have no real meaning.  This to me spreads the false dream even more.


As humans we have been domesticated as much as we have domesticated any other animal on the planet. 

We were taught as children to follow the rules and we teach our children the same way we were taught.  To teach humans or animals we use a reward/punishment system.  When you do something right you get rewarded; when you do something wrong you get punished.

As we are growing up this outside dream of the planet is forced on us again and again, and even though we may try to resist it, in the end we agree to the view of life we are shown.  It is with our agreement that we start to believe the reality we are shown, even though it is not the reality in which we would normally choose,

In our own minds now, we have accepted the dream of the planet and our place in it.

The Integrated Dream

We use a society’s view of right and wrong, a religions view of heaven and hell.  We have now become our own judge and our own victim. As individuals we have auto domesticated ourselves. We no longer need any outside source to reward and punish us, we do it to ourselves.  

Raised as a Southern Baptist, but moving away from organized religion in my late teens and early twenties, I thought I had left those ideas behind.  But now in my forties, (Yikes!), I find some of those beliefs still hiding in my mind. The Four Agreements helped show me the reality of how I have been holding on to these beliefs.

The Book of Law

The book of law is now set in our minds.  Each thing we are taught by our parents, churches, friends and societies is now written down in our brains as a set of laws.  Each one of these laws is an agreement we have created with the outside dream of ourselves. 

Having accepted the dream of society as the only existence, we create a picture in our mind of what perfection should be. Then using the Judge in our minds, we punish ourselves for failing to meet this skewed view of perfection. 

We create our own version of hell on earth; we punish ourselves again and again for the same mistake.  

We are searching all over the place for an answer that is already inside of us.  Blinded by a fog the Toltec called mitote we can not see anything beyond ourselves.  The fog is a personal dream we are all having, a dream of life, of the agreements we have made with everything around us.  

Clear the Noise

All these agreements that are in our heads are like having a thousand voices talking to you at once, and you can not understand a single one clearly.  This Ruiz says is the big mitote, the fog that keeps us from seeing our true selves 

In order to progress beyond this fog, we have to start breaking the old agreements that we have set upon ourselves.  The ways in which we speak ourselves and think about ourselves has to change, we must give up the old agreements of what is possible and impossible.  

This may sound easy but it is far from that. 

Breaking these old agreements with ourselves is going to be hard.  After so long living like this, the fear of living without the limiting beliefs, chases us back to the comfort of the abuse we heap on ourselves.

A New Path

When we choose to start down a new path in life, it is not only breaking our old habits or agreements, it is putting something new in its place. 

I’ve found in my life if I don’t replace an old habit with something better it makes the change much more difficult and I find myself taking up a new habit just as bad as the one I am trying to quit.  

When I was quitting soda for example, I started drinking sugar free energy drinks to keep getting caffeine.  Pretty soon I was having three or more energy drinks a day!  My new habit was just as bad or worse for my body as the old.  

What Ruiz offers to us to replace these old agreements is what appear as four simple agreements.  Four agreements to replace thousands of others in our life that no longer serve us.

Sounds simple right?

We can all follow four simple instructions. Totally simple. Just like yoga looks simple and easy to those that have never tried it. 

What are The Four Agreements OF LIFE?

The Four Agreements of life that Ruiz proposes to us appear very simple. They almost sound like playground rules for children, and perhaps they are. 

We are spirtual children in physical bodies learning how to live life after all.  Following The Four Agreements can help you focus on your life and what is important to you.   

So just think of The Four Agreements as playground rules for your growing spirtual self, simple rules that if followed can lead to harmony in your life.

The First Agreement: Be Impeccable With Your Word

The word is a force; it is the power you have to express and communicate, to think and thereby to create the events in your life.

The word impeccable means “without sin”.  By being impeccable we are agreeing to be true and honest with our words.  Not only with others but with ourselves as well.

I know in my own mind I have had a little voice that sometimes says negative things about myself.  “You are not good enough.” or “You are so stupid, no one likes you.” These words are “sins” against ourselves.  In order to be impeccable you have to change the way you think and speak about yourself and others.

The Second Agreement : Don’t Take Anything Personally

Don’t take anything personally because by taking things personally you set yourself up to suffer for nothing.

When we are growing up we learn to take everything personally.  If someone close to us is having a bad day, we make it about ourselves.  This works the other way as well, when someone is happy we make that about ourselves as well!  

The truth is, nothing people do is because of something you did or did not do, it is because of them.  Each one of us is responsible for our own actions and feelings. What others do is their responsibility not yours.

By not taking things personally we begin to accept responsibility for ourselves.

The Third Agreement : Don’t Make Assumptions

We have the tendency to make assumptions about everything.  The problem with making assumptions is we believe they are the truth.

I think this is one of the hardest for me to break.  Sometimes when I am driving I like to wonder why people are smiling, or looking angry.  Well I’m assuming they are happy or angry anyway!

If I do this with random strangers can you imagine how I am with those around me?  Yikes!

According to Ruiz, all the sadness and drama you have ever felt is because of assumptions and taking things personally.

All of this can be avoided by asking questions when we don’t understand something and communicate to others what we are thinking and feeling.


Action is about living fully.  Inaction is the way we deny life.

Have you ever just felt so drained in life you just sit in one spot day after day watching Netflix?  No matter how much “rest” you get you feel worse and worse?  

By sitting and not doing something we are not doing our best, we are letting life pass us by.

By going out and doing the best you possible can you are affirming your life and your place in it.  Do you always have to be perfect? Of course not, no one is perfect, but by trying our best we are reaching for the best inside of us, we are drawing out the light inside of us.

Path to Freedom

True freedom has to do with the human spirit-it is the freedom to be who we really are.

The Toltec path to freedom can be found following these four agreements.  It is the path that will take you to the freedom that we all are seeking. But like all great changes of the spirit, you have to take the initiative and responsibility for your own change.  No one else can do it for you.

The first step towards the path to growth according to Ruiz is forgiveness.  We must forgive all those from our past, this includes our families, friends and God.  Once you forgive God, you forgive yourself. This will end your cycle of self rejection and put you on the path of finally accepting yourself.

There are three paths we can take to gain the freedom of the Toltec Shamans.

Path 1:  The Dream of the Second Attention

The first way is to fight fear and old agreements one by one.  This path is slow because we have created so many false agreements over the years.  It will take a long time but it will work.

Path 2: The Discipline of the Warrior

The second is to stop feeding the fears we have.  In order to do this you must gain control over your emotions, you must stop the fear controlling your mind.  To do this you must become a warrior for and of your own mind. Fighting the judge and victim inside your head

Path 3: The Initiation of the Dead

This path is the quickest path to finding the freedom of the Toltecs, but also the hardest.  You have to take dealth itself on as your teacher.  You have to face death and embrace it.

Ruiz says the angel of death can teach us how to truly be alive.  We must give up the past to the angel of death and in giving up the past we free ourselves to live in the present moment.

In Conclusion

Ruiz offers some powerful thoughts in his book The Four Agreements, it is deceptively simple at first. 

But the more I read it, the more excited I became, it offers a simplistic view and an easy to understand path of personal change.  He offers solutions that fit with any and all major religions. The Toltec path is not a religious path but spiritual path.  One that can go hand in hand with whatever your personal beliefs are.

For me it offers hope and a way to lead yourself out of the fog of your own mind.  I highly recommend reading this. 

Want to learn more?  I wrote a more in depth review of each of the four agreements.

Read them here:

Be impeccable with your word.

Don’t take anything personally.

Don’t make assumptions.

Always do your best.

The Four Agreements of Life


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