Lessons Learned from Don Miguel Ruiz (The Four Agreements)

Jan 23, 2023

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We live with agreements, whether we acknowledge them or not. There are sets of rules and expectations to which we adhere in order to satisfy the demands of others. We’ve learned to act in accordance with these agreements, to be liked or to fit in, to live, show up and interact with other people in an acceptable manner.

In this episode, I discuss the existence of these agreements, specifically four agreements, as don Miguel Ruiz outlines in his short book, The Four Agreements: A Practical Guide to Personal Freedom (A Toltec Wisdom Book). I particularly like this book because it brings these societal and familial agreements into perspective so we can examine them – and ourselves – more closely. And I want to share with you some ideas and quotes from don Miguel’s book, as well as my own thoughts about the concepts.

“If we don’t like our life, we need to change the agreements we have with ourselves and with others.” – Dr. Sara Dill

What You’ll Learn

  • Types of agreements
  • Be impeccable with your word
    • Kind and necessary
  • Don’t take things personally
    • Their thoughts, feelings, experiences
    • People lie, so do you
  • Don’t make assumptions
    • Tell stories to ourselves
    • Ask questions, make requests
  • Always do your best
    • Show up as yourself

Contact Info and Recommended Resources


The Four Agreements: A Practical Guide to Personal Freedom (A Toltec Wisdom Book) by don Miguel Ruiz

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About don Miguel Ruiz

don Miguel Ruiz is a renowned spiritual teacher and internationally bestselling author of the “Toltec Wisdom Series,” including “The Four Agreements,” “The Mastery of Love,” “The Voice of Knowledge,” “The Four Agreements Companion Book,” “The Circle of Fire,” and “The Fifth Agreement.” The Toltec Wisdom books have sold over 12 million copies, and have been published in 46 languages worldwide.

don Miguel has spent the past three decades guiding students to personal freedom through his profound insights regarding the nature of human reality. His newest book, THE ACTOR, is part of the Mystery School series written with Barbara Emrys, and was published in November 2020.

The youngest of thirteen children, don Miguel Ruiz was born in rural Mexico to parents who were healers and practitioners of ancient Toltec traditions. As a young adult, he graduated from medical school in Mexico City and practiced neurosurgery with his older brother in Tijuana. A near-fatal car crash forever changed the direction of his life, however, causing him to leave medicine and to examine the essential truth about life and humanity. With his mother’s help, and through her ancestral teachings, he discovered his own path to awareness, which evolved into a deep understanding of the physical universe and the virtual world of the mind.

Combining Toltec mythology and scientific perspectives, don Miguel has been able to merge ancient wisdom with modern physics and practical common-sense, forging a new philosophy for seekers of truth and personal authenticity. His landmark bestselling book, The Four Agreements, contains practical steps for long-term, personal transformation and has been read by millions around the world.

First published in 1997, The Four Agreements has since sold over six million copies in the United States and seven million worldwide. It has been translated into 46 languages, appeared on the New York Times bestseller for nearly ten years, and was the 36th bestselling book of the decade. Don Miguel is also the author of The Mastery of Love, The Voice of Knowledge, Prayers, and the New York Times bestseller, The Fifth Agreement, a collaboration with his son, don José Ruiz. Each of his books are international bestsellers.

The wisdom don Miguel has brought to the world has earned him respect around the globe. He has dedicated his life to sharing his message through practical concepts in order to promote transformation and ultimately change lives for the better. Don Miguel is the recipient of numerous recognitions, including a U.S. Air Force ‘challenge coin’ engraved with “The Four Agreements.” He is the recipient of an Honorary Degree in Cultural and Social Education from the American Cultural Institute of Mexico and referenced as a “national treasure” in his native country. He lives in Nevada.

Get don Miguel’s book: The Four Agreements: A Practical Guide to Personal Freedom (A Toltec Wisdom Book)

Learn more about don Miguel: https://www.miguelruiz.com

Connect with Sara Dill, MD, The Doctor’s Coach

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I'm Dr. Sarah Dill, and this is the Stress Less Physician Podcast, episode number 50.
Welcome to the Stress Less Physician Podcast. I'm your host, Dr. Sara Dill, MD. Using my unique combination of coaching and mindfulness tools, I will teach you practical ways to reduce your stress level, feel happier at work, and create a better balance between your medical career and personal life. If you are a busy practicing physician who wants to design a life and medical career that feel good to you, you are in the right place.

Hey, everyone. Welcome back to the podcast. I am back home. If you listen to last week's podcast, you know, I was actually in Costa Rica for about 12 days, which was amazing, and it also feels so good to be home again. So I love it and I'm excited to record some new podcasts. What I have been doing is every 10th podcast episode I've been doing a lesson learned or something from either someone I've read widely on or worked with personally or learned from.

And today I wanted to continue that tradition and this is a episode that's gonna focus on lessons I've learned or things that I really like from a writer named don Miguel Ruiz. He has a book, he actually has several books, but the book I really enjoy and what I'm gonna talk about today is a book called The Four Agreements, and I don't know if you've read it or are familiar with it. It actually just came up recently at a dermatology conference I was at, of all things, and one of the speakers referred to it. I always think of it as a little bit woo woo, but not particularly. And I think that the principles here you will see are very complimentary to things I've already talked about on the podcast, things I use every single day in my life, and really is a good summation of things that if you can master, I think your entire life will change. It's simple and yet not easy.

So again, I wanted to talk today about a book called The Four Agreements, and it's by don Miguel Ruiz, and I can put a link in the show notes as well. It's a very short book and it's one that I really like, and so I'm just gonna go through and read some quotes and then talk about it.

The idea of the four agreements starts off with this idea that we've all created agreements - beliefs and ideas, agreements with how we are supposed to live and show up and interact with other people. And so he says, we've learned to live our lives trying to satisfy other people's demands. We have learned to live by other people's points of view because of the fear of not being accepted and of not being good enough for someone else. And I think that's really true for many of us, right? And we are social animals as humans. It's natural to think about other people. And most of us, when we were growing up, we did learn to please and live by the rules of other people, namely our family, and those around us as a survival technique as well.

So I would say there's not always anything wrong with that except when that's our default. And so this idea of really looking at what are the agreements that we've made. Are you living a life? Are you showing up as you, or is it sort of a habitual way of showing as a person or in a way that you don't even like or doesn't feel true to you.

He talks more that there are thousands of agreements you have made with yourself, with other people, with your dream of life, with God, with society, with your parents, with your spouse and your children. But the most important agreements are the ones you made with yourself. In these agreements, you tell yourself who you are, what you feel, what you believe, and how to behave. And the idea of this book is to, again, re-look at those agreements. Notice how we're spending our energy, our attention, and consciously decide what kind of agreements do we wanna continue to create. If we don't like our life, we need to change the agreements that we have with ourselves and with others.

And so that's the introduction to this idea of the four agreements, which he argues is the way to live in your own authenticity and to create a life that feels energizing and in your integrity. So the first agreement, he describes it as, be impeccable with your word. The first agreement is the most important one, and also the most difficult one to honor.

He says, "It's so important that with just this first agreement, you will be able to transcend to the level of existence I call heaven on Earth". So the first agreement is be impeccable with your word. I think this is very complimentary to an idea of what I've heard referred to as mindful speech or the yoga of speech, but it's the idea of only saying things that are true, that are kind and that are necessary.

How often do we say things that are unkind and or untrue and or unnecessary? So those are questions I like to ask myself. He doesn't specifically refer to that in this book, but I think that's the way I describe this agreement. Be impeccable with your word. What he does say is being impeccable is not going against yourself. When you are impeccable, you take responsibility for your actions, but you do not judge or blame yourself. He talks about the opposite of being impeccable with your word would be something like gossip. Where we often are saying things that aren't particularly kind or necessary.

If you think about what I described, being impeccable with your word and just reminding ourselves, our opinion, again, is nothing but our own point of view. It's not necessarily true, right? We might think it's true, but our opinion comes from our beliefs, our own ego, our own perspective. And so if we adopt the first agreement and become impeccable with our word, gossip would be pretty much out. So again, is it kind, is it necessary, is it true? Think about how our interactions with people would change and our interactions with ourselves as well. So, the first agreement: be impeccable with your word.

The second agreement: don't take anything personally. I love this. I have definitely spoken about this. I coach on this. I would say, this change for myself, I'm not there a hundred percent, but I am pretty darn good at not taking things personally. This alone will change your life, I promise. Try it out and see.
And we've talked about this before. Often he says, you take it personally, when someone else says something or does something, because there's some part of you that agrees with whatever was said or done. I love this idea. He says, nothing other people do is because of you. It is because of themselves. It's because of their own thoughts, their own feelings, their own experiences. All people live in their own dream, in their own mind. In some sense, other people are in a completely different world from the one we live in. When we take something personally, we make the assumption that they know what is in our world and we try to impose our world on their world.

"Whatever you think, whatever you feel, I know it is your problem and not my problem" he says. It's the way you see the world and it's nothing personal because you are dealing with yourself not with me. Others are going to have their own opinion according to their belief system. So nothing that they think about me is really about me, but it is about them.

That's one thing I really believe that also really helps me not take what other people say and do personally. It doesn't mean I don't respond to it. It doesn't mean I don't have discussions with people, but I don't take it personally. So again, he emphasizes whatever people do, feel, think or say, don't take it personally.
If they tell you how wonderful you are, they are not saying that because of you. You know you are wonderful. It's not necessary to believe other people who tell you that you are wonderful. Of course, if you like it when people tell you that you're wonderful, this is my edit, you can enjoy that. It feels great, but just know that you can feel that way and think that way about yourself without other people also reinforcing that.

He also says, "Wherever you go, you will find people lying to you. And as your awareness grows, you will notice that you also lie to yourself. Do not expect people to tell you the truth because they also lie to themselves. You have to trust yourself and choose to believe or not to believe what someone says to you." When we really see other people as they are, without taking it personally, we can never be hurt by what they say or do. Even if others lie to you, it is okay. They're lying to you because they're afraid.

If others say one thing but do another, you are lying to yourself if you don't listen to their actions. But if you are truthful with yourself, you will save yourself a lot of emotional pain. Telling yourself the truth about it may hurt, but you don't need to be attached to the pain. He says, if someone is not treating you with love and respect, it is a gift. If they walk away from you, you will find that you don't need to trust others as much as you need to trust yourself to make the right choices.

And again, the last thing he says about this second agreement is, as you make a habit of not taking anything personally, you won't need to place your trust in what others say or do. You will only need to trust yourself to make responsible choices. You are never responsible for the actions of others. You are only responsible for you. So I love that idea of not taking things personally. Again, it is simple, but not easy. And I think the better we get at this, the more easily we can navigate relationships our life, decisions, choices. Because we don't get so caught up in making things mean more than they do.

The third agreement that he writes about is: don't make assumptions. And of course, we all have the tendency to make assumptions about everything. And the problem with making assumptions is that we then believe it's the truth. We make assumptions about what others are doing or thinking. Then we take it personally, then we blame them, and we react right by maybe saying things that are not impeccable: not kind, not necessary, and not true.

So can you notice what assumptions we make? We notice someone's actions and we tell a story about it. That's what we do. We create possibilities as to why they did that or didn't do that, or said that or didn't say that, right? "The way to keep yourself from making assumptions is to ask questions," he says. Make sure that communication is clear. If you don't understand, ask. Also, he says, "Find your voice to ask for what you want. Everybody has the right to tell you no or yes, but you always have the right to ask. Likewise, everybody has the right to ask you, and you have the right to say yes or no."

I know I've talked about that before. That's a lesson that I learned first from Byron Katie, is doing this work and not taking things personally and meeting our own needs doesn't mean we don't ask for what we want or need from other people, but it means we don't have expectations or we don't make assumptions. He says, "If you don't understand something, it's better for you to ask and be clear, instead of making an assumption. The day you stop making assumptions, you will communicate cleanly and clearly, free of emotional poison. Without making assumptions, your word becomes impeccable." So you can see how these all tie in together.

He says, "With clear communication, all of your relationships will change, not only with your partner, but with everyone else. You won't need to make assumptions because everything becomes so clear." And I will say that this is true for me in practice. When I ask questions, when I make an assumption as to why someone, say, a patient isn't doing what I told them or recommended or prescribed, I can ask questions. I can find out did it not work for them? Did they misunderstand me? Did I not communicate clearly? Was the medication too expensive? Did they not understand that they needed to use it for two or three months right before they could assess how it was going to be?

If I don't take it personally, and I don't make assumptions, I can actually find out the truth or closer to the truth, which then also helps me not take things personally. So that's the third agreement, don't make assumptions.

And the fourth and final agreement is always do your best. I actually believe that we're always doing our best, but his explanation about this is a little bit different. So the fourth agreement, always do your best. He describes it more as being in your own integrity, doing your best and showing up as yourself.
He talks about action is about living fully. Inaction is the way that we deny life. Inaction is sitting in front of the television every day for years because you are afraid to be alive and to take the risk of expressing what you are. Expressing what you are as taking action. You can have many great ideas in your head, but what makes the difference is the action.

Without action upon an idea, there will be no manifestation, no results, and no reward. He says, "Whatever life takes away from you, let it go. When you surrender and let go of the past, you allow yourself to be fully alive in the moment. Letting go of the past means you can enjoy the dream, right life that is happening right now."

He says, "We don't need to know or prove anything. Just to be, to take a risk and enjoy your life is all that matters. Say no when you want to say no, and yes, when you want to say yes, you have the right to be you. You can only be you when you do your best. When you don't do your best, you are denying yourself the right to be you."

He says there's a seed that you should really nurture in your mind. You don't need the acceptance of others. You express your own divinity. You do your best by being alive and by loving yourself and others. So his idea of doing your best is really doing your best by showing up as yourself, pursuing whatever is meaningful and passionate for you. Not doing things just because we feel we have to, but really acknowledging the choice that we have.

So those are really the four agreements. And again, it's a short book. It's a simple book, and just to recap, the first agreement is always be impeccable with your word. The way I think about that is asking yourself before you say anything, as much as possible, and I fail on this a lot, but I'm getting better. Ask yourself, "Is what I'm about to say kind? Is what I'm about to say true? And is what I'm about to say necessary?" If we did that, and the more I do that, the better my relationships are, and I will say, the kinder I am, the kinder I show up and the more in my own authenticity agreement.

Number two is don't take anything personally. Again, I think that is so powerful and the more you can do that, the more your life will really change. The third agreement is don't make assumptions. That requires very clear communication. And also you will find that it helps you not take things personally. And then the fourth agreement is to always do your best. Again, I think we always are doing our best, but certainly sometimes my best leaves a lot to be desired. And so implementing the first three agreements is one way to enable us to do our best in the best sense of it is to be ourselves to our fullest ability.

That is what I have for you today. I thought this was gonna be a shorter episode than it is, but I guess I found more in this little skinny book than I thought. So good to talk to you all. I hope you are having a wonderful day and a wonderful week, and I will talk to you again soon. Bye.

If you are a busy practicing physician, ready to start feeling less stressed, enjoy work more and learn how to create a more balanced and sustainable medical practice and life, sign up for a consult call with me at Saradill.com. It would be my privilege and pleasure to work with you.

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