The Four Agreements, a book by Miguel Ruiz was first brought to my attention when I was granted the huge opportunity to interview Oprah Winfrey in 2002.
In the interview, which became more of a masterclass on her life, we covered topics far and wide.
We unpacked the life philosophies of people like Dr Martin Luther King Junior, whose writings had set the tone for Winfrey’s incredible life, and then she spoke about the profound impact the book had made on her.
You don’t walk away from such a powerful conversation without the motivation to seek more for yourself. So I got my hands on the book.
I cannot begin to describe how these unassumingly simple “guides to personal freedom” touched me, how they still ring true for me in my daily interactions. Let me share these learnings with you.
Rule 1: Be impeccable with your word
In an age where we are compulsively interacting with other people in one way or the other, it is imperative that we become good at listening to our inner voice, the most honest and authentic part of ourselves which always rings true. By doing so, and in realising the power of our utterances we can show others that we can be trusted.
When you are honest in your interactions, you don’t have to keep a record in your mind of what you said, to whom and when. You liberate yourself from exposing your energy to negativity.
Rule 2: Don’t take anything personally
The book says the things people do and say to you are almost always informed by the way they are feeling, and by their own experiences. It hardly ever has to do with you. Your reaction to it then makes it about you.
Imagine if every tinge of guilt, or confusion, or contempt you have ever felt at the painful things people say should illicit an unnecessary response, giving it undue power. If you were able to keep this principle in mind, you could quite literally stay rational and calm, even when things done by others are unfair or unwarranted.
Rule 3: Don’t make assumptions
I learned this lesson when, as a young Miss SA, I heard the unassailable Doreen Morris say these very words to Paul, the driver who often would get me to events late, assuming this or that. The thing about an assumption, is that it disempowers everyone involved, by not allowing them to confirm their position.
Rule 4: Always do your best
This is my personal favourite: if you have done your best, that is good enough. We are only human, prone to imperfection by nature. Your best is the standard you should use to determine your performance. Nothing more and nothing less. Your best is circumstantial, and is therefore set to change. It is therefore important to never force ourselves to operate on levels beyond the circumstances, what’s important is to keep giving your best.