You may have read or heard of the book, The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz. If you haven’t, you owe it to yourself to add it to your reading list pronto—yes, it’s that good! I took a class several years ago based on this book, and it remains one of my all-time favorite consciousness-raising programs—and the book one of my absolute favorites. I found the four agreements—which are essentially guiding principles to live by—to be very accessible and brilliantly spot on.
The four agreements are (from the book jacket):
- 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.
- Don’t take anything personally. Nothing others do is because of you. What others say and do is a projection of their own dream. When you are immune to the opinions and actions of others, you won’t be the victim of needless suffering.
- Don’t make any 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.
- 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.
Do our best, no more, no less
I find the 4th agreement, “Always do your best” to be an especially valuable reminder to take inspired action that comes from the best of us, while honoring our fluctuating human rhythms, as well as the ebb and flow of life. After all, it’s humanly impossible to be “on” all the time. As Ruiz says, our best is bound to look different from one moment to the next. Beyond the variance between being sick and healthy, we may feel naturally more/less energized or optimistic from one day to the next, which can have a bearing on what doing our best looks like. To a more serious extent, an unexpected life change (e.g., losing a loved one or employment) may knock us off our balance for some time. When faced with significant setbacks, the best we can manage for a while may not look pretty or seem objectively enough, let alone appearing to be our best. Yet, we can’t do what’s better than the best we can summon within ourselves in good faith at any given point.
Moreover, Ruiz explains why we don’t want to attempt to do more or less than our best (pg. 76 to 77):
If you try too hard to do more that your best, you will spend more energy than is needed and in the end your best will not be enough. When you overdo, you deplete your body and go against yourself, and it will take you longer to accomplish your goal. But if you do less than your best, you subject yourself to frustrations, self-judgment, guilt, and regrets.
To me, one of the most powerful benefits of always doing our best is that it makes us mindful of being minimized by our inner critic—the part of us that’s quick to issue judgments and indictments. Depending on our acquired defensive personality, the specifics of the judgments and indictments vary. Our defensive personality is not the innate nature of our true, authentic self at birth, but rather the facade we subconsciously began developing from early in life to show to the external world in order to protect our true self—and our vulnerabilities—from being exposed and hurt (further).
For instance, as a 3 on the Enneagram, my defensive persona is that of a picture of success. My inner critic draws blood by pointing out all the ways in which I fail or fall short of success. To a 1 on the Enneagram, the face she shows to the world to hide her vulnerabilities is one of perfection. To bring her to her knees, all her inner critic needs to do is to point out all the flaws in what she does that are otherwise imperceptible to anyone else. As still another example, the inner critic of a 5 can easily scare this person into hiding by introducing thoughts of how unsafe it is for him to step out and show his creativity and talents.
Knowing our defensive personality can help us spot our inner critic’s judgments. But even if we don’t know what our defensive personality is, we can still follow Ruiz’s advice to always do our best. This applies to those times when we fall prey to our inner critic’s indictments. We always have a choice to pick ourselves back up and try again—and continue to do our best. In short, always doing our best empowers us to steer clear of victimhood. For instance, if I were to find myself licking my wounds for not having outright succeeded at something, I can remind myself that, not only have I done my best in trying, I can mindfully intend to continue to try and give it my all, whatever that may look like. I’ll look at what didn’t work well and adjust my course of action accordingly.
Always doing our best is a life mastery principle that can truly serve us well to be the best we aspire to be in this life. And, best doesn’t mean perfect or successful all the time—or whatever our defensive self needs us to be. It means we consciously commit to living fully and taking inspired action that expresses who we really are.
Now over to you: What’s your opinion of making an agreement with yourself to always do your best? What do you practice to remind yourself to do your best? Would love for you to share in the comment box below.
Join a group of like-minded peers to do your best in 30 Days To Living Your Best Life beginning on February 7.
Photo credit (gold fish): http://www.freedigitalphotos.net/
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