This Ancient Civilization Wisdom Can Help You Transform Your Life
4 fundamental rules from the pre-Columbian Toltec culture that teach us the power of small habits in reaching true happiness
While we often look for radical ways to start our personal growth path, most of the answers are right in front of our eyes and within ourselves.
The Toltec agreements are 4 pieces of wisdom that illustrate how the Toltec civilization, which flourished in central Mexico between the 10th and 12th centuries, understood the power of small, regular habits.
The 4 Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz — New York Times bestseller for over a decade — takes inspiration from the spiritual beliefs of this ancient civilization to lay down these 4 simple and actionable principles to increase the amount of happiness you feel and reach individual freedom, regardless of external circumstances.
The path to freedom is to let go of fear-based beliefs
The Toltecs’ main message is that we must get rid of society-imposed and fear-based agreements that influence our behavior and mindset in order to find individual freedom.
When we’re born, we don’t choose our language, nor our religion or values. The reason we carry them as our own and pass them on is that we have been under the influence of a domestication process, with a reward/punishment system. When you’re a child, you do as your parents say because you want to avoid being punished.
When we become adults, this system is so embedded in our thinking that we constantly seek other people’s approval. In fact, we become our own judges. Your internal judge will congratulate you or punish you with guilt and shame. And what you inflict on yourself, you allow others to inflict on you, because deep inside you believe that you deserve to be punished.
Of course, some people choose the path of rebellion and don’t fear punishment, but most of us are ready to bury our true nature to please others because we don’t know any other way. The alternative (disappointing others) becomes too scary.
This judge-victim-punishment system is what the Toltecs hold as fear-based agreements.
The 4 agreements that will help you become your true self
Agreement number 1: Be impeccable with your words
Being impeccable with your words means speaking with integrity and carefully choosing your words before saying them aloud. In other words, it means taking responsibility for what you say.
If you spread negative energy, you’ll get negative energy in return
According to the Toltecs, the word, as a symbol, has the power of creation because it can reproduce an image, an idea, a feeling, or an entire story in your imagination. Communication is an energy exchange: if you spread negative energy, you’ll get negative energy in return. But if you speak positive words, you’ll get positive energy.
It’s not an easy task because our belief system has us living a lie in order to please others. As a child, you hear adults speak badly of others to get their way and you think it’s a normal way of communicating, so you start doing the same. You also start to speak that way about yourself.
Impeccability of the word is important because it determines the message you deliver to yourself. And when you start being impeccable with your words, the words of other people won’t affect you as much.
Agreement number 2: Don’t take anything personally
The second agreement advocates the importance of having a strong sense of self and not needing to rely on the opinions of others.
Nothing other people do is because of you. It is because of themselves
Each individual has a unique worldview that forms their own perceptions. A person’s actions or words are a projection of their own reality. Nonetheless, we tend to take them personally and the reason we do that lies in our self-centeredness.
But here’s the truth: nothing other people do is because of us. They live in their own mind. When we take something personally, we make the assumption that they know what’s in our world, and we try to impose our world on their world.
Anger, jealousy, envy, and even sadness can dissipate once we stop taking things personally.
Agreement number 3: Don’t make assumptions
Are you aware that almost everything you tell yourself is an assumption? The third agreement deals with our tendency to make assumptions and how it leads to suffering.
We invent a whole story that’s only truth for us, and we believe it
When we assume what others are thinking, it leads to stress and conflict. How many times did you fight with a loved one because of a misunderstanding that could have been avoided had you not made assumptions? Have you ever been mad at your partner because he didn’t act as you wanted, even though you never actually expressed it and just assumed that they would know?
We keep interpreting other people’s words and actions without asking questions and we think other people will guess our own desires. Because we don’t want to disturb or interrupt, we don’t ask questions and we start making assumptions as our mind needs to draw conclusions. But once conclusions are drawn, it’s very hard to dismantle them.
Gathering the courage to ask questions is a way of ensuring that communication is clear and avoiding misunderstandings that lead to conflict and sadness.
Agreement number 4: Always do your best
The fourth agreement is about living with no regrets.
If you have done your best and your inner judge tries to judge you, you’ve got the answer: “I did my best.”
Your best depends on the circumstances that you may encounter. If you’re sick or tired, it won’t be as strong as when you’re perfectly healthy. Your best will also change over time, but all you need to do is keep doing your best, no more, no less.
Ultimately, this agreement means that if one avoids self-judgment and does their best in every given moment, they will be able to avoid regret and live a fulfilling life.
And if you get used to doing the best you can, you’ll be able to effectively apply the first three agreements. Before you know it, they’ll become a habit that you don’t need to think about anymore.
The Toltecs’ message
The Toltecs teach us that much of our suffering is self-created, but most of the time, we have the ability to transform our lives.
If you’re impeccable with your words, don’t take things personally, don’t make assumptions, and always do your best, you’ll defeat the fear, hatred, judgment, and beliefs that were passed on to you through the domestication process and you’ll be able to find your true self.
Although the four agreements are infinite wisdom, they are often overlooked. But if you manage to make habits out of these simple principles, you’ll be able to transform your life into a new experience of freedom, true happiness, and unconditional love.