I recently finished reading The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz. It is a practical look at finding personal freedom that reveals the source of self-limiting beliefs that rob us of joy and create needless worry and stress in our lives. A New York Times best seller for 8 years, it is not generally considered to be a “business” book. However, after reading, I couldn’t help but think of the benefits that could be leveraged by applying the same principles to your profession and business. At some point in all of our careers, all business owners have had self-doubt and unhappiness creep into our professional lives. Below I have outlined the 4 agreements Ruiz eloquently describes as his guide to happiness and success. I hope you find them as enlightening and relevant to your business and career as I have.
#1 Be Impeccable with your word.
The first agreement is the most important one and is also the most difficult one to honor. It sounds very simple but it is extremely powerful. Ruiz writes that your word is not just a sound or written symbol. The word is a force: it is the power you have to communicate, to think, and thereby create the events in your life. When you are impeccable, you take responsibility for your actions but you do not judge or blame yourself. Keeping your word and speaking the truth will without question, positively enhance your personal and professional reputation.
#2 Don’t take anything personally
Clearly this one is not an easy one to follow. During the period of our education we learn to take everything personally and believe we are responsible for everything around us. When you take things personally you instinctively feel offended and the reaction is to defend your beliefs and create conflict. When you make it a strong habit NOT to take anything personally, you avoid many upsets in your life. Ruiz believes that anger, jealousy and envy (all unproductive and harmful actions) will disappear.
#3 Don’t make assumptions.
All of us have tendencies to make assumptions in all aspects of our lives. The problem with doing so is that we believe they are the truth. Whether dealing with clients, co-workers, direct reports or upper management, making assumptions in any of those dealings is asking for problems. We assume they are going to do what we want because they know us so well, but in reality, it is impossible for them to know. Making assumptions replace the need for communication. Avoid assumptions by communicating clearly. If you don’t know, ask. If you don’t understand something, it is better to ask and be clear than to make assumptions.
#4 Always do your best
The final agreement is the one that allows the first 3 to be deeply engrained in your habits. Since we are children, we are taught to always do our best, no more or less. However, it is critical to keep in mind that your best is never going to be the same from one moment to the next. We live in a fast paced ever changing world and are emotional beings, so your best will sometimes, will in fact be your best, but other times it will not be as good. Your “best” will change over time. Regardless of the quality – keep doing your best. As you build the habits of the 4 agreements, your best will become better than it used to be!