The Four Agreements: How to Find Lasting Happiness

worm's-eye view of four buildings and clouds

Only love has the ability to put you in that state of bliss. Being in bliss is like being in love. Being in love is like being in bliss. You are floating in the clouds. You are perceiving love wherever you go. It is entirely possible to live this way all the time. It is possible because others have done it and they are no different from you. They live in bliss because they have changed their agreements and are dreaming a different dream. – Don Miguel Ruiz, the four agreements

This book is a classic! No wonder it has been loved by many, and now I count myself among its lovers. I love how simple, profound, and practical the teachings are presented in a concise manner. Don Miguel Ruiz did his best to make every word matter. That’s already the 1st and the 4th agreements in action. Walking the talk!

What are the four agreements?

    1. Be Impeccable With Your Words
    2. Don’t Take Anything Personally
    3. Don’t Make Assumptions
    4. Always Do Your Best

These four agreements are based on Toltec wisdom that has been passed on thousands of years ago. Toltec is known to be artisans of spiritual knowledge who come together as masters (called “naguals”) and students at Teotihuacan, the ancient city of pyramids outside Mexico City known as the place where “man becomes God.”

Don Miguel Ruiz hails from one of the lineages of the naguals and is now passing on the wisdom to the present and future generations, to us.

The Domestication of Humans

The outside dream hooks our attention and teaches us what to believe, beginning with the language that we speak. Language is the code for understanding and communication between humans. Every letter, every word in each language is an agreement.

Would you agree that the language I’m using is English? Yes, probably.

Would you agree that I am cute? Yes, definitely!

That’s how powerful language can be once we agreed with it. First, our attention is hooked. And because energy flows where attention goes, we give power to where we give our attention. That’s how agreements are made.

Don Miguel Ruiz calls this process the domestication of humans, which starts during childhood. As children, we didn’t have the opportunity to choose what to believe in. We just agreed to the information we receive from the outside. Through this domestication, the outside information is stored in us and forms a whole belief system that determines how we live our life.

the four agreements

PS: This has nothing to do with how you live your life, but if you agree that I’m cute, please pass on this vital information to others. Might just change the world!

The Book of Law, the Judge, and the Victim

The belief system is like a Book of Law that rules our mind. Without question, whatever is in that Book of Law, is our truth. We base all of our judgments according to the Book of Law, even if these judgments go against our own inner nature. One by one, all these agreements go into the Book of Law, and these agreements rule our dream.

Because everything that is in the Book of Law has to be true, anything that challenges what you believe is going to make you feel unsafe. Even if the Book of Law is wrong, it makes you feel safe.

Every agreement we make is stored in what Don Miguel calls the Book of Law. Whatever is in our Book of Law is true for us.

Since there’s a law, there are characters in our minds that maintain this law — the Judge and the Victim — roles both played by the ego. Then the ego promises to keep us safe as long as we follow the rules according to the Book of Law (James McCrae describes this as the ego’s job offer in his book, Sh#t Your Ego Says). If you follow the rule, you’ll be rewarded. If you don’t, you’ll be punished.

And then there’s the Victim to complete the drama. It’s what makes us carry the blame, the guilt, and the shame from the punishment we think we deserve for not following the Book of Law.

Don Miguel says it requires great courage to break free from this tyranny. It takes courage to challenge our own beliefs because we agreed with them from an early age and the agreements grew stronger over time.

It’s not easy, but not impossible.

the four agreements


Your whole mind is a fog which the Toltecs called a mitote (pronounced MIH-TOE ′ -TAY). Your mind is a dream where a thousand people talk at the same time, and nobody understands each other. This is the condition of the human mind — a big mitote, and with that big mitote you cannot see what you really are.

That is why humans resist life. To be alive is the biggest fear humans have. Death is not the biggest fear we have; our biggest fear is taking the risk to be alive — the risk to be alive and express what we really are. Just being ourselves is the biggest fear of humans. We have learned to live our lives trying to satisfy other people’s demands. We have learned to live by other people’s points of view because of the fear of not being accepted and of not being good enough for someone else.

Mitote, the Toltec’s term for the condition of our minds. A Course in Miracles calls it the “split mind.” Split, because we know one thing to be really true, but then we believe another. And so there’s conflict. There’s Truth, but it’s covered by fog, filled with beliefs that blind us from seeing who we truly are.

Who we truly are is always free, always good enough. But we have been led to believe that we’re not and we buy into that belief. Then we learn to form an image of perfection so we can be good enough; an image of who we should be so we can be accepted by everybody. We judge ourselves and others based on this image we project.

The problem is we can never fit into that image of perfection because that image is not real. It’s an illusion, a mitote.

As long as we hold on to that image, we suffer. As long as we maintain the illusion, we’ll never be free.

the four agreements


A sin is anything that you do which goes against yourself. Everything you feel or believe or say that goes against yourself is a sin. You go against yourself when you judge or blame yourself for anything. Being without sin is exactly the opposite. Being impeccable is not going against yourself. When you are impeccable, you take responsibility for your actions, but you do not judge or blame yourself.

From this point of view, the whole concept of sin changes from something moral or religious to something common sense. Sin begins with rejection of yourself. Self-rejection is the biggest sin that you commit.

Impeccability. Ooh! Can you feel the power behind the word just saying it? “Be impeccable with your word.” Don Miguel says it’s the most important agreement and also the most difficult one to honor.

Impeccable comes from the Latin word pecatus, which means “sin” and im means “without.” Therefore, impeccability means “without sin.”

Sin, as we learned from A New Earth, comes from the Greek word that translates to “miss the mark.” Don Miguel interprets sin as anything we do that goes against ourselves. Impeccability is the opposite. It means not going against ourselves.

To be impeccable with words is not to use words against yourself. Because words carry power, it means using them to empower yourself.

When you use words in the direction of truth and love for yourself, you’re not missing the mark. You’re impeccable!

the four agreements

Nothing Personal

When you take things personally, then you feel offended, and your reaction is to defend your beliefs and create conflicts. You make something big out of something so little, because you have the need to be right and make everybody else wrong. You also try hard to be right by giving them your own opinions. In the same way, whatever you feel and do is just a projection of your own personal dream, a reflection of your own agreements. What you say, what you do, and the opinions you have are according to the agreements you have made — and these opinions have nothing to do with me.

Each and everyone is entitled to their opinion. It’s their point of view based on their own belief system, the agreements they have made with themselves. And all of it has nothing to do with you. So we don’t have to take anything personally.

Don Miguel clarifies that nothing other people do is because of you. It is because of themselves. They are imposing their beliefs on others. It is a projection of self-judgment. And judgment is like a poison that people throw at us. When we take things personally, we are taking the poison and make it ours.

He explains that when we feel offended, or hurt by what other people say or do, it’s because there’s a wounded part of us that has been touched. Gary Zukav calls this our “splintered personality” in his enlightening book The Seat of the Soul.

So when we find ourselves triggered by something, that’s our call for healing. Instead of taking things personally, we can ask ourselves why we react as such. That awareness is our key to healing.

the four agreements

Ask, Don’t Assume

The way to keep yourself from making assumptions is to ask questions. Make sure the communication is clear. If you don’t understand, ask. Have the courage to ask questions until you are clear as you can be, and even then do not assume you know all there is to know about a given situation. Once you hear the answer, you will not have to make assumptions because you will know the truth.

With clear communication, all of your relationships will change, not only with your partner, but with everyone else. You won’t need to make assumptions because everything becomes so clear. This is what I want; this is what you want. If we communicate in this way, our word becomes impeccable. If all humans could communicate in this way, with impeccability of the word, there would be no wars, no violence, no misunderstandings. All human problems would be resolved if we could just have good, clear communication.

We can only know ourselves, but we can never really know anything about anyone else. We see everything the way we see ourselves. But we assume that everyone else sees the way we do. We assume they think the way we think, feel the way we feel.

Don Miguel admonishes that assumptions make us misinterpret and misunderstand everything, which only leads to conflict in relationships. There’s a fact about what really happened, and then there’s a story we fabricate in our heads to justify our assumptions. We don’t hear the truth because we hear what we only want to hear.

We have to remind ourselves that apart from our personal Book of Law where we base our judgments, each of us is gifted with a unique emotional guidance system so we cannot tell what’s “right” and “wrong” for others.

Just because other people are taking a different path doesn’t mean they are lost.

the four agreements


God is life. God is life in action. The best way to say, “I love you, God,” is to live your life doing your best. The best way to say, “Thank you, God,” is by letting go of the past and living in the present moment, right here and now. Whatever life takes away from you, let it go. When you surrender and let go of the past, you allow yourself to be fully alive in the moment. Letting go of the past means you can enjoy the dream that is happening right now.

You were born with the right to be happy. You were born with the right to love, to enjoy and to share your love. You are alive, so take your life and enjoy it. Don’t resist life passing through you, because that is God passing through you. Just your existence proves the existence of God.

Puja, a ritual performed in India where they take idols that represent God in many different forms and bathe them, feed them, offer love to them. The idol itself is not important. What’s important is the purpose of the ritual — the way they perform is how they say “I love you, God.”

How can we perform puja in our own way? By becoming the best version of ourselves and by living our lives to the fullest.

And this is the basis for the 4th agreement: to always do your best. Don Miguel understands how challenging the other agreements are. But if we do our best to honor those agreements, then we aim for the best of who and what we can be.

the four agreements

He affirms that when we always do our best, we will become a master of transformation. It is by practice that we become a master.

Dream Master

Your life is the manifestation of your dream; it is an art. And you can change your life anytime if you aren’t enjoying the dream. Dream masters create a masterpiece of life; they control the dream by making choices. Everything has consequences and a dream master is aware of the consequences.

“Life is but a dream.” And we get to choose what kind of dream we get to live. There’s the collective dream of the planet, the ready-made dream that the world domesticates us with. Or, we can be masters of our personal dream — a dream where we can live the life we love.

the four agreements

How can we become dream masters? First step: AWARENESS. No change can take place without awareness.

How can we change our lives if we’re not aware that there’s another choice we can make? How can we heal our suffering if we’re not aware that we’re suffering? How can we free ourselves if we’re not aware that we’re imprisoned by domestication?

Don Miguel writes, “True freedom has to do with the human spirit — it is the freedom to be who we really are.” To be who we really are, we have to be aware of who we are not. Knowing ourselves is the key to our freedom.

Like a Scalpel

If we can see our state of mind as a disease, we find there is a cure. We don’t have to suffer any longer. First we need the truth to open the emotional wounds, take the poison out, and heal the wounds completely.

Forgiveness is the only way to heal.

Once you forgive yourself, the self-rejection in your mind is over. Self-acceptance begins, and the self-love will grow so strong that you will finally accept yourself just the way you are. That’s the beginning of the free human. Forgiveness is the key.

“Truth hurts,” because the truth is like a scalpel that opens our wounds, which are covered by lies we believed in.

Don Miguel describes the human mind like an infected skin. If we touch the infected skin, it’s going to hurt. So we try to cover the wounds and protect the skin. The problem is it can only cover the wounds, but it doesn’t cover the pain.

The only way to heal the wounds is to uncover them and clean them with forgiveness.

the four agreements

How do we know the wound has healed? There’s no longer an emotional reaction to the experience we had in the past. It means forgiveness has removed our judgments about it.

We don’t forget what happened, but it can no longer hurt us. We’re being freed from our suffering.

The New Dream

But there is really no reason to suffer. The only reason you suffer is because you choose to suffer. If you look at your life you will find many excuses to suffer, but a good reason to suffer you will not find. The same is true for happiness. The only reason you are happy is because you choose to be happy. Happiness is a choice, and so is suffering.

The world is very beautiful and very wonderful. Life can be very easy when love is your way of life. You can be loving all the time. This is your choice. You may not have a reason to love, but you can love because to love makes you so happy. Love in action only produces happiness. Love will give you inner peace. It will change your perception of everything.

If we look for a reason to suffer, we will find it. If we look for a reason to be happy, we will find it. So why not choose happiness? Why not choose to be happy when all it takes to transform suffering into happiness is making that choice?

the four agreements

Don Miguel reminds us that we can make that choice now. It doesn’t matter what happened in the past. It doesn’t matter what the world calls “reality” because what matters is the reality we choose.

And we can choose to dream again. He wants us to start by imagining the life we desire so much because it is possible.

Imagine that you have the permission to be happy and to really enjoy life. Imagine expressing yourself freely. Imagine the manifestation of your dreams. Imagine living without the fear of loving and not being loved. Imagine all this and more!

“There are those that look at things the way they are, and ask why?”

Dream of things that never were, and ask yourself,

“Why not?”

The Four Agreements: A Practical Guide to Personal Freedom (A Toltec Wisdom Book)


DON MIGUEL RUIZ is a Mexican author of Toltec spiritualist and neoshamanistic texts. His work is best-received among members of the New Age movement that focuses on ancient teachings as a means to achieve spiritual enlightenment. Ruiz is listed as one of the Watkins 100 Most Spiritually Influential Living People in 2014.

Don Miguel is the recipient of numerous recognitions, including a U.S. Air Force ‘challenge coin’ engraved with “The Four Agreements.” He is the recipient of an Honorary Degree in Cultural and Social Education from the American Cultural Institute of Mexico, and referenced as a “national treasure” in his native country.

Learn more at

Other Books by Don Miguel Ruiz

The Fifth Agreement: A Practical Guide to Self-Mastery (Toltec Wisdom)
The Mastery of Love: A Practical Guide to the Art of Relationship: A Toltec Wisdom Book
The Voice of Knowledge: A Practical Guide to Inner Peace

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