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Four agreements for happiness

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In my spiritual journey, I’m always looking for a good self-help book based in spirituality and have been reading a lot of books by authors such as Paulo Cuelho, Eckhart Tolle and Lao Tzu. Recently, I discovered a book titled “The Four Agreements” written by don Miguel Ruiz, which is a spiritual self-help book based on the ancient Toltec wisdom of achieving happiness.

Since the book inspired me and changed my life even more, I wanted to meet the author and his family, who have written other spiritual books I’ve read as well. I did a Google search and found the website for don Miguel Ruiz and saw they were having a conference in San Diego. I attended the workshop, which was the first weekend in March, where I was among probably 50 others to hear the Ruiz family present and discuss the book.

It is based on Toltec wisdom. Toltecs were pre-Cortez indigenous people of Mexico before the Aztecs who believed all humans are dreaming all the time. More on the dream theory later. don Miguel was a medical doctor from Mexico living in San Diego. In 1997, he wrote “The Four Agreements: A Toltec Wisdom Book.” There is a section on domestication, but I won’t get into that, I am only discussing the four agreements humans should make with themselves in order to achieve personal happiness.

In this column, I will go through each agreement and give a brief description. With anything personal, these agreements can be tailored for your life and how you choose to keep them.

Be impeccable with your word.

The definition of impeccable comes from the Latin impeccabilis, meaning without sin. What the author means by your word is the things you say every day. The word is powerful. In the Bible, John 1:1 states “In the Beginning was the Word, And the Word was with God and the Word was God.”

Being impeccable with your word is not using your word against yourself. If someone comes up to you and calls you stupid, they aren’t using their word against you, they are using it against themselves. How do you want to use your energy in life? Do you want to do good with it or do evil with your word? One man, Hitler, in 1939, brought the whole world to war with the word. Also, gossiping about others isn’t being impeccable with your word. For good or for evil — it is your choice.

Don’t take things personally.

That same insult as used in an earlier example, if someone says something mean toward you, don’t take it personally. It says more about them than it does about you. In that same respect, if someone gives you a compliment like “You look so handsome today,” don’t take it personally.

While it is nice to receive these compliments, your self-worth shouldn’t be dependent on them. If you are keeping the agreement, then you don’t take anything at all personally. If you take things personally, you tend to get offended. What people think of you shouldn’t matter to you, it is just their perception of you.

Don’t make assumptions.

Just like the old adage says, “Don’t assume anything or you will make an … out of you and me.”

One example one of the presenters gave us was one night he and his girlfriend at the time didn’t do their nightly phone call ritual. He said after a couple of hours passed, he had run down a “list” of possibilities of what she could be doing. Finally, he said, he jumped to the conclusion that she was with another man.

He went on to say that when she finally arrived home, she had two bags of his favorite food, Thai. However, his mind was not thinking food — they had an argument and split up.

He told us that in his therapy session later he was describing that story and the therapist asked what she had in her hands. He replied, “Thai food...” and it dawned on him just what had happened. He made an assumption and broke up with his girlfriend without asking questions first. Moral of the story: Ask questions before jumping to conclusions.

Always do your best.

This is the agreement that drives all the others. I will leave this one to your discretion.

If you adhere to these agreements, then you will find personal happiness. I did. One piece of advice that I’ll pass on from one of the presenters: He said to not make the agreements into four conditions. That means if you’re practicing these and for one time you take something personally, acknowledge it and move on. Don’t tell yourself “Oh, I’m not worthy because I took something personally.”

I have accepted, myself, that I am a man who takes things personally, but I’m doing my best to not do that. As with anything in life, do your best — that’s all you can do.

“The Four Agreements: A Toltec Wisdom Book” is available on

Paul Evans is a spiritual guide, writer, missionary and father who lives in Wilson County.