When I studied abroad in Costa Rica one summer in high school, a friend introduced me to a book called The Four Agreements, by Don Miguel Ruiz. In the book, Ruiz details four basic principles that can give a completely different outlook on life to someone who commits to practicing each of them daily. They are not easy to follow, but over the years they have become meaningful and helpful for me both personally and professionally.
Agreement 1: Be Impeccable With Your Word
“Speak with integrity. Say only what you mean. Avoid using the word to speak against yourself or to gossip about others.”
Speaking with integrity in all aspects of business is absolutely necessary for success. It is nearly impossible to find a completely honest business, but dishonesty comes at a great cost. Whether that cost is a loss of clients or loss of respect for your fellow employees, keeping truth as the ultimate goal, as Ruiz explains in the book, is our responsibility and shouldn’t be taken lightly.
Agreement 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.”
This is the most difficult agreement for me to follow. When I encounter a difficult situation at home or work, I often blame myself as the cause of someone’s frustration. But Ruiz emphasizes that everyone has their own perception of reality. It is impossible to know the cause of someone’s reaction. Keep this in mind: unless you knowingly did something to wrong that person, it isn’t your fault.
Agreement 3: Don’t Make Assumptions
“Find the courage to ask questions and express what you really want. Communicate with others as clearly as you can to avoid misunderstandings, sadness, and drama.”
Clear communication is at the root of this principle. Miscommunication and assumptions often cause confusion, which can lead to many mistakes and poor business decisions. It takes courage, but combined with being impeccable with your word, communicating clearly can make a world of difference.
Agreement 4: Always Do Your Best
“Your best is going to change from moment to moment. It will be different when you are healthy as opposed to sick. Under any circumstance, simply do your best and you will avoid self-judgment, self-abuse, and regret.”
For any perfectionist (myself included), this agreement is not any easier than the rest. Throughout college, I had a difficult time accepting that papers I submitted were good enough. I often doubted my writing skills and I always felt like I could have studied more for exams. Regardless, I had to accept that no matter the situation I had tried my best at that time. Even in the most stressful circumstances, such as rushing to meet a deadline or prepping for a presentation, it is important to remember that all you can do is your best.
It’s often the most simple statement and actions that make the biggest difference in life, and I feel that The Four Agreements is a great example of a profound, yet simple philosophy. Be impeccable with your word, don’t make assumptions, don’t take things personally, and always do your best – you’ll be glad you did.
Justine Corella is Recruiting Coordinator for Axcient.