A Good, Happy and Free Life – Living The Four Agreements

One of the reasons for my blog post yesterday on giving credit where credit is due is that The Four Agreements has been coming up again and again lately. Mike Prince of Mobido asked me about it the other night at MashupCamp, I talked about it the other day with Grace Davis at WoolfCamp and I pulled it out the other night to read a few passages. So it seems like a good time to tell a short version of the story of how I came to learn of his work and the good work of one of his students named David Dibble. But first, let me explain what the book is, what it says and why I believe it is so important.

Simply put, I feel he has hit on the core universal truths for living a good, happy and free life. In essence the most important ‘rules’ for being human. When I looked within myself and touched the things that pained me most from my life, I found that without exception, all of the pains and heartaches I experienced were a result of these things. As a systems thinker who excels at pattern recognition, these were perhaps the simplest to see and the hardest to correct. In fact, I sincerely believe that living by these agreements goes against the grain of our socialization and in some regards, against our very nature.

But I know from personal experience now, that striving to live by these principles is indeed liberating and my life is generally happier because of it (though I still struggle daily with #2 and #3).

The Four Agreements (from Don Miguel’s Web site)

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. 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 opinions and actions of others, you wonít 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 with others as clearly as you can to avoid misunderstandings, sadness and drama. With just this one agreement, you can completely transform your life.

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.

When I was first introduced to his work, I was on a VisionQuest in Death Valley’s Owlshead Mountains with two great guides from Rites of Passage Vision Quest. Mike Bodkin and Linda Sartor are beautiful people who really helped me find my center, though I have struggled to remain there as I often live in my head rather than grounded in my heart – but that is another story for another day. A few members of the group I was with mentioned this book and tried to convey the wisdom it contained. It seemed that the interpretation of one of my fellow questers was a bit skewed and as such I missed a great opportunity to really learn from the book for a few months, but eventually it did jump off the shelves of a local Borders bookstore and it changed my life.

As I finished reading it that night, my head was spinning and my heart leapt with joy as I realized that I had finally discovered this important set of life altering insights. Having recently written my little manifesto, The Noble Pursuit, and with Worldcom’s ethics scandal in the news (along with all the others at that time), my first thought was “This is what we need in the business world. I am going to write this book for business.” Late at night the following day, I was searching around the Internet to see if there might be something related, when I stumbled upon David Dibble and found that he had already written that book and it was soon going to be published. I excitedly wrote David an email at like 330am telling him my life story and hoping to connect with him.

He wrote back, we talked via phone and he sent me an early manuscript of the book which I devoured and marked up with lots of other thoughts and ideas. He invited me to one of his early training sessions for New Agreements coaching in San Diego – this was even more transformational than the books. It was an incredibly deep, positive experience that really did lay the foundation for a lot of the philosophy I bring to my work around change management and how businesses should operate from authenticity. In fact, it was his suggestion about how to make email more personal that I follow when I sign my emails “With love”. I had hoped we would have opportunities to collaborate more, but they never materialized really as I was still seeking my path – though he and his lovely wife Linda have always been within my heart.

More recently, as I noted back in December, I had a chance to talk with him when I was trying to figure out what ice breaker to use for our BrainJams event in Menlo Park at SRI. He was kind enough to teach me about the hula hoop exercise which was a big success there as well as in DC. I hope to find the time and space to collaborate again with him on bigger things, though am not sure what those things are yet – I am going to call him tomorrow to see if he might have any more jewels up his sleeve for our Berkeley event, but given the last minute nature of the call, may not even be able to connect with him via phone. Regardless, The New Agreements in the Workplace is still a big part of the knowledge I share through BrainJams and more importantly, the manner in which I share it – from the heart, as a truth teller and always doing my best.

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  1. #1 by Kristie Wells - March 6th, 2006 at 17:13

    You turned me on to this book when we first started dating and I am absolutely better for it.

    I still find myself battling with #3, however, I believe I do this much less than I did in the past – so there is progress, even if it is one small step at a time.

  2. #2 by Maulleigh - April 4th, 2006 at 11:34

    A friend suggested this book to me and I really dug it. I really like the bits about not taking anything personally. That was the best part.

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