In 1997, a distinguished surgeon named Don Miguel Ruiz, authored an incredibly inspiring (yet rather small) book that spent over seven years on the New York Times Bestseller List – The Four Agreements.
One of my entrepreneurial mentors recommended the book to me, during a particularly challenging period of growth within my consulting company. Always down for a good read, I immediately ordered the book devoured its golden nuggets of wisdom in one sitting.
While not a very spiritual person at the time (I was raised in extreme fundamentalism, emerged as an atheist as an adult, and eventually found my way back around to New Age spirituality), the impactful concepts of Toltec inspired wisdom shared throughout the book emerged as incredibly applicable to my very millennial career.
So here are four ways in which Don Miguel’s Four Agreements impacted my career:
Agreement #1: Be Impeccable with Your Word
While most of us like to think of ourselves as generally honest people, rarely (if ever) guilty of even the whitest of lies, many of us tend towards telling others what we think they want to hear vs. our truths. Think about it: how many times do you really want to turn down an additional project at work, but instead, you fake enthusiasm and say yes?
I routinely said “yes” to taking on new clients when I really didn’t want to, and incessantly cluttering my calendar with philanthropic activities and social engagements that I really didn’t want to do, but felt “expected” to. By prioritizing being more impeccable with my word, I now hesitate before over committing and ask myself, “Do I really want to do this?” and strive to be truthful with my honest thoughts and intentions.
Agreement #2: Don’t Take Anything Personally
As an entrepreneurs, you get all the flack – a disgruntled customer verbally eviscerates your operation, an angry employee leaves you seething from personal insults…the list goes on and on – and being the target of negative slamming can be challenging.
As a new entrepreneur, I used to take all the negative insults as personal attacks, and all the positive comments as personal fluffers; such dedication to taking everything personally left me being whipped around on a near-constant emotional roller-coaster. Today, I strive to not take anything personally – neither the compliments nor the criticisms, and it’s quite freeing.
Agreement #3: Don’t Make Assumptions
Did that client drop you because you’re a terrible consultant?
Did you lose three customers last month because you price your services too high?
Did your fellow entrepreneur ghost you for the past week because they are moving in on your clients?
Who knows? Maybe, maybe not.
By making assumptions on everything we do not know, we can leave ourselves opened to yet another destructive cycle of inaccurate information that can derail even the most productive of operation. Don’t make assumptions – find out the truth, then conclude.
Agreement #4: Always Do Your Best
In today’s fast paced world, it can be tempting to fall into the trap of never feeling like you’re good enough, as there’s always someone out there better, and that the bar is set way too far from you (or I) to ever reach.
Bullshit. In the game of life, we are only called to do our best – whatever our best may be.
My biggest takeaway from this fourth agreement was that our “best” is a fluid, dynamic, ever changing standard. What’s our “best” when we’re laid up with the flu may be very different than what’s our “best” when we’re fit as a fiddle – and that’s okay.Always do you best – however it’s defined at that point in time – and avoid self-judgement and mistargeted regret.