Instructions for Life

Do you ever wish life came with an instruction book? I mean every day we are faced with decisions to grapple with; some are easy, some are hard, some seem impossible. Every day we must interact with others; some are nice, some are cold and some are so beat up by life circumstances that they are down right closed off or even mean. Every day we must do the daily tasks as well as put out the fires that the dragon of life breathes upon us.  Every day! So, I will say it again… do you ever wish life came with an instruction book?

Instructions for life
Instructions for life

Are you ready for the good news?

It does.

In October 2012, a co-worker gave me the book that contained the instructions for life and I devoured it over the course of 1 day. It is a small, easy to read book that can be summarized with 4 bullet points. How cool is that? 4 simple instructions to guide your thinking, your actions and your interactions. This book had a really strong impact on me. So much so that when my honey asked me recently if I knew the book, I recited the 4 instructions and then went and found my written summary of them in my journal.

The name of this little book is The Four Agreements: A Practical Guide to Personal Freedom , a Toltec Wisdom Book by don Miguel Ruiz. Here is what the author says…

  1. Be impeccable with your word. Speak with integrity. Say what you mean. Don’t speak against yourself or gossip about others. Use the power of your word in the direction of truth and love.
  2. Don’t take anything personally. Nothing others do is because of you. What others say and do is a projection of their own reality, their own dream. When you are immune to the opinion and actions of others you won’t be the victim of needless suffering.
  3. Don’t make assumptions. Find the courage to ask questions and to express what you really want. Communicate clearly to avoid misunderstanding, sadness and drama.
  4. Always do your best.  Your best will change from moment to moment. Under any circumstance, simply do your best, and you will avoid self-judgement, self-abuse, and regret.

He calls the book  a practical guide to personal freedom, I call it an instruction book for life. After writing all of this down in my journal I wrote “I choose to honor the 4 agreements.”

Choosing to honor the 4 agreements is not a one time deal. Although they are ingrained in my head, I still need to consciously think about them every day. When I catch myself putting myself down or gossiping about others, I remind myself to be impeccable with my word. When I get caught up in negative thinking about what someone did to me, I tell myself not to take it personally. When I start to believe someone should know what I want, I remind myself to not make assumptions. Instead of beating myself up over how I handled a difficult situation or person, I promise myself to do better the next time.

Did you hear about so and so?
Did you hear about so and so?

This book has had such a positive impact on my life, I wish I had read it in junior high school. Now when I struggle with a decision or am interacting with someone who is having difficulties or am personally exhausted from putting out the fire of the day, I have a framework to follow to ensure I am satisfied with how I handle  the situation. And in the event I am not satisfied, I have the tools to evaluate what to do differently next time.

Another tool in my toolbox
Another tool in my toolbox

The 4 agreements are simple but that doesn’t make them easy to follow. They remind me of a test with simple directions I bombed in junior high. The test was like 50 multiple choice questions but only took a few seconds to complete, if you followed the directions. The directions said something like fill in your name and the date and then put your pencil down.

I can’t think of more simple directions. I would like to say I was one of the students who followed them, but NO. I was one of the kids who was wondering why so many people finished the test so quickly. I was probably 5 minutes into the test when I went back and read the directions. Then I sheepishly put my pencil down and waited for others to catch on.

Me waiting for others to catch on…

If you look at the 4 Agreements as instructions for life they are simple to understand but hard to implement. Using them as a framework to follow for obtaining personal freedom is a powerful tool. But most of us don’t get to choose to honor them once and then go a smooth kayak ride for the rest of our lives.

You will come upon rough waters and lake storms during which you might speak negatively about others, to take things personally or to make assumptions. On some days you will take the easy way out instead of doing your best.

I find that using the 4 agreements to evaluate my personal performance in dealing with a specific situation or a difficult person or even simply how I got thru my day makes me a better person. They give me the framework and the words to critique my performance and a platform for choosing to do better tomorrow.

When my co-worker gave me this book, she threw my a life-preserver. I was struggling during a difficult period of my life and was not happy with my circumstances. Choosing to honor the 4 agreements helps me keep my little blue kayak on calm water. Reading this book can help you be the best YOU possible – and that is something to cling tightly to when the skies turn dark and the water gets choppy in the sea of life. I am tossing this little but powerful life-preserver to you. Read it and be the best you possible. If the sea of life is choppy – I have a few other life-preservers ready to toss!

Lake Girl

Are you ready to catch it?
Are you ready to catch it?

6 thoughts on “Instructions for Life”

  1. Thanks, Somewhere I read that Bhudda offered the following (similar) advice:

    Before you speak, ask yourself if it’s truthful, if it’s necessary, and if it’s kind.


Comments are closed.