I have always enjoyed philosophical books. They offer great insight and inspiration on how to improve my life and how to better approach my work. Along the way, I have discovered that some of the greatest wisdom comes from the simplest lessons.

One of my favorite books, which I revisit when I need to mentally regroup, is The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz. (In fact, I keep my favorite excerpts on my phone for quick access.)

The Four Agreements is based on the wisdom of the Toltec people who flourished in Mexico more than 1,000 years ago. Many of their principles are similar to those used by today's cognitive-behavioral psychologists.

What can the Toltec teach you? Here is a look at each of The Four Agreements, and how you can use them to find greater insight, clarity, and happiness in your personal and business lives.

1. Be Impeccable with your word.

Your words are a statement of your character and values. When you indulge in negative self-talk, or blame, criticize, and gossip, it shows you have little respect for yourself and  others. As Ruiz says in the book, "If I love myself, I will express that love in my interactions with you, and then I am being impeccable with the word, because that action will produce a like reaction. If I love you, then you will love me. If I insult you, you will insult me."

When things go wrong in my business--sales don't close fast enough, or I can't keep up with all of the demands around me--keeping a positive outlook is key. And it always begins with my words.

It's easy to be too hard on myself or blame others. Instead, during trying times, I step back and review the circumstances from everyone's perspective. This give me the insight to find a positive way forward without embracing negative thoughts or speech.  

2. Don't take anything personally.

Ruiz writes that "nothing other people do is because of you. It is because of themselves." You never know what people are going through. Someone enjoying a good day will interact with you differently than someone having a rough one.

Many patrons to my yoga studio often have preconceived notions about their physical and mental limits. Rather than trying to change their minds about yoga and what it can offer, I let them follow their own path. This way I don't embrace their comments or opinions as criticism and let it manifest into negative energy.

3. Don't make assumptions.

As Ruiz writes, "[When] we make assumptions about what others are doing or thinking ... we blame them and react by sending emotional poison with our words. That is why when we make assumptions, we're asking for problems."

My approach to avoiding assumptions is to always pause during tumultuous times and view everything without judgment. It is not always easy, but instead of jumping to conclusions, I can approach the situation with greater clarity and perspective, and thus make smarter decisions.

4. Always do your best.

Simple advice we have heard since our youth, but remember that your best is never going to be the same for every situation--and that is just fine. A lesson that Ruiz shares is the story of a Buddhist master who explains to a man how meditating for eight hours a day instead of two hours won't get him faster results. How is that possible, the man asks? The master points out that if he does his best effort for two hours, he will still have time to enjoy life, and that spending more time meditating will only rob him of those pleasures.

No matter what business I have owned, I've learned that there is no fast track to success. It takes a solid business plan, hard work, and dedication. Yet, I've learned that as long as you give your best at any given moment you will have few regrets.

Life is full of lessons. Sometimes we need reminders of the simpler ones to get back on track (or stay the course). I have found that The Four Agreements are just as applicable in life and business as when they were first created more than 1,000 years ago. Time may pass, but our need for wisdom and guidance never goes away.  

Published on: Feb 22, 2019
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