The Four Agreements

The Four Agreements is a book written by Don Miguel Ruiz  (Author). He learned from a shaman and has knowledge of an ancient Mexican culture called Toltecs. The book is a practical guide to personal freedom. And it focuses on the Toltecs’ beliefs to overcome self-limiting thoughts that may cause suffering.

The Four Agreements has been a popular book since it was first published in 1997. It gained more popularity after Oprah Winfrey endorsed it in 2001 and 2013. The book translated into 46 languages and sold over 8 million copies in the US. Then it stayed on the New York Times bestseller list for over ten years.

Who is Don Miguel Ruiz?

Don Miguel Ruiz is a Mexican author who writes about Toltec spirituality and shamanism. He grew up in rural Mexico, where his mother was a healer and his grandfather was a shaman. Although his family expected him to continue their legacy, he became a surgeon after attending medical school.

His life changed after he had a near-death experience. This event led him to study ancestral wisdom and undertake a period of self-inquiry. He learned from his mother and completed an apprenticeship with a shaman in the Mexican desert. In 2018, he was recognized as one of Watkins’ 100 most spiritually influential living people.

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Life Lesson One

Ruiz believes that the outside world affects us significantly and calls it “domestication”. Unfortunately, domestication is not usually positive and can make us fearful and judgmental. The outside world punishes us for bad actions and rewards us for obeying. This can make us too focused on rewards. This is not good for us because we should do good things for their own sake, not just for rewards. If we don’t obey, we feel like we’re not good enough.

Ruiz thinks that our biggest fear is not death, but being ourselves. To be truly happy, we must break free from the things that hold us back.

Life Lesson Two

From a young age, we are shackled by social norms that dictate the limitations of our dreams. The collective dream of society influences our individual aspirations. Our surroundings also teach us how to behave, what to believe, and how to distinguish between right and wrong. Our acquiescence to these societal agreements is our domestication, and any rebellion during our formative years is punished and suppressed by those in positions of power.

This conditioning is so deeply ingrained that as adults, we continue to domesticate ourselves. However, it is possible to break free from these shackles and establish new agreements for ourselves. The four agreements provide a framework for personal liberation and the pursuit of individual dreams.

Life Lesson Three

Our behavior is largely influenced by societal conditioning and cultural expectations, leading to what Ruiz terms “domestication.” As a result, we all end up living in a dream where we base our decisions on flawed assumptions about ourselves and judge and blame ourselves and others. We strive to obtain rewards within a system we did not choose.

This conditioning shapes our understanding of ourselves and the world, causing us to live according to internalized rules we’ve learned from our culture, family, and society, rather than our true nature. This dream-state causes us to struggle with our personal reality, self-perception, self-expectations, and judgments of ourselves and others.

However, recognizing that we are living in a dream can empower us to question our beliefs, change our perception of reality, and let go of limiting beliefs and judgments. This newfound awareness enables us to live a more authentic and fulfilling life, free from societal expectations and the inner voice.

Life Lesson Four

To escape the dream state we’re living in, it is possible to restructure our reality without ceaselessly striving for self-improvement and to live a life free from suffering. This requires mastering three skills in sequence:

Firstly, awareness is necessary to recognize the illusions present in our dream-like state and to see them for what they truly are.

Secondly, forgiveness is crucial to accepting the consequences of these illusions, including their impact on ourselves and those around us.

Lastly, action is necessary to dissolve the illusions of the dream and create a more realistic reflection of reality.

By mastering all three skills, we can achieve enlightenment, a state free from suffering, which also referred to as the second awakening.

Life Lessons Five

By accepting the inevitability of death, we can learn how to live our lives. Acknowledging the impermanence of life encourages us to seize the moment and make the most of the time we have. This realization enables us to release our fears and attachments, allowing us to live our lives authentically.

We can break free from societal expectations and live in accordance with our own values and beliefs, rather than constantly worrying about the opinions of others. By prioritizing our own desires and aspirations, we can live our lives to the fullest without fear of judgment or external pressure.

Life Lessons Six

According to Ruiz, our lives are akin to a dream, and it is only through death that we can truly live. However, recognizing this requires a fundamental state of awareness, which can wane over time if left unattended. Therefore, we must both cultivate and sustain our awareness, likening it to a muscle that requires constant training.

To achieve this, Ruiz recommends the practice of meditation and fasting, which he believes are essential for maintaining heightened awareness. He draws inspiration from the Buddha’s teachings, which stress the importance of mindfulness and a plant-based diet. Additionally, Ruiz suggests that indigenous American shaman traditions provide valuable guidance on the consumption of plants, which have played a significant role in shaping human experiences throughout history.

Life Lessons Seven

By developing awareness, you can also develop forgiveness, according to Ruiz. This forgiveness is for our past and present failures, as well as for causing ourselves and others to suffer due to our illusions. It is also about forgiving others for the suffering they cause through their dreams. When we accept the world and those around us, we experience universal love and a sense of relief. This acceptance does not mean we will always meet our expectations, but accepting our mistakes and humanity can help us maintain awareness.


Reaching personal freedom and happiness is the goal of The Four Agreements, a book that presents four principles: always do your best, don’t make assumptions, don’t take anything personally, and be impeccable with your word. The book highlights that societal conditioning can make us judgmental and fearful, but we can overcome these limitations by cultivating awareness, forgiveness, and action. Death is also discussed as a motivating factor to live authentically. Overall, the book emphasizes the importance of compassion and openness, including understanding others’ actions, forgiveness, and not allowing others’ mistakes to hinder our progress.

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