Summary of The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz

  • Post category:Summaries
  • Post last modified:September 18, 2023

Summary: 9 min

Book reading time: 2h12

Score: 9/10

Book published in: 1997

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  • Never be mean to yourself.
  • Don’t take anything personally.
  • Don’t make assumptions.
  • Always do your best.

Table of Contents

What The Four Agreements Talks About

The Four Agreements was written by Don Miguel Ruiz. It explains that your life will transform once you stop talking bad to yourself, stop taking things personally, stop making assumptions, and always do your best. It taught me the importance of the relationship you develop with yourself and how it impacts your life.

It’s a good book, easy to understand.

The only problem is that it deals with fixing negative thoughts instead of with the causes of negative thoughts.

For example, when it tells you to stop judging yourself, it doesn’t say enough about the reasons why you do it.

That’s too bad.

Still, I highly recommend it.

You can buy the book, but to be honest, the summary will suffice.


Get the book here.

Summary of The Four Agreements Written by Don Miguel Ruiz

The Toltecs

The Toltecs were a nation of scientists and artists. Don Miguel Ruiz, one of their descendants, shares in the book what they had uncovered.

Toltec pyramid
Toltecs pyramid.


Three thousand years ago, when looking at the stars, one man had a dream. He understood that everything in the universe was made out of the same thing: light.

He called the stars tonal and the light between the stars nagual.

What creates harmony and space between the two is life.

image 17
Tonal and Nagual.

Life is the force that makes everything possible.

When a human looks at the stars, light is perceiving light (since everything is made out of light).

Light is perceived when it reflects on something -> matter is a mirror.

Everything is a mirror. How you perceive the world is a mirror of yourself. It’s an illusion.

The world of illusion is called the dream. The dream is smoke. It doesn’t allow us to see what we really are.

Who we are is pure love, pure light.

The man tried to tell people about his discovery, but no one could understand. They stayed stuck in the dream and could not see reality.

The dream is the image we build to represent everything we are perceiving. We all dream, constantly.

We use attention to focus on certain things we want to see. At school, teachers attract our attention to put information in our minds.

We learn what we should do, and what we should not do. We learn what is good, and what is bad.

None of this, though, was chosen by us.

You didn’t choose your religion, or school curriculum. And yet, you learned it and adopted it.

We learned that when we did something we could not, we had to be punished. We did something good, we had to be rewarded.

The reward for good behavior is attention. We love attention. We want more of it. So we start doing stuff to get attention – we start to please others by acting like someone we are not.

This happens during a domestication process – acting the way we are expected to act.

The domestication process.
The domestication process.

When we are old enough to understand that, we rebel and say “no”.

But the domestication force is often stronger.

So strong that at some point, we domesticate ourselves.

We reward ourselves for good behavior and punish ourselves for bad behavior.

This system becomes a law we use for ourselves without questioning it.

The law spoken about in the four agreements.
How you create your law.

Every time we “break the law”, the part of our mind that judges everything, judges and punishes us.

The part of our mind that receives the judgment is called the victim. The victim says “it’s true, I am bad, I am not attractive, I am not worthy of love”…and the judge agrees.

This whole process is based on beliefs.

Whatever goes against your “law” will make you feel weird when you do it. That weird feeling is fear. You are afraid to break the law because you believe it has to be true.

Unfortunately, it’s wrong.

When we punish ourselves, we do so for no reason.

From a societal standpoint, this is normal.

Fear rules the world. Society has accepted it.

From an objective standpoint, this is madness. Our society is a violent place ruled by fear. From a religious standpoint, it resembles hell as described in the texts.

Since we live in hell, we search for beauty and peace in the external world because we are incapable to live it inside, because of this law that blinds us. We cannot see who we truly are.

And we cannot do it because we are scared to be rejected, and not getting any attention anymore.

We try to be good enough to receive attention, and by doing so, we create an image of perfection. If we don’t fit it, we self-reject. We create the idea that we are not good enough. We can’t forgive ourselves for not being perfect.

And so we punish ourselves with drugs etc.

image 20
When you don’t fit your own unrealistic standards, you punish yourself.

Fact: no one ever abused you more than you abuse yourself.

Self-abuse comes from self-rejection, and self-rejection comes from not fitting this image of the perfect person you created in your mind.

Prelude to a new dream.

You have made thousands of agreements with thousands of people. But the most important agreements are the ones you made with yourself.

You have two types of agreements.

The fear-based agreements that take energy; and the love-based agreements that give energy.

When our agreements make us miserable, we need to change them and replace them with other agreements.

Here are four agreements you can use that will change your life.

Chapter 2: The First Agreement

Be impeccable with your word.

This agreement is the hardest one to honor – but also the most important one.

Your words are your power of creation. It is very powerful, as it can create wonders, or kill millions.

The human mind is a fertile garden for ideas that act as seeds. Plant seeds of love; avoid seeds of fear.

Thinking you are stupid is a ridiculous and unproductive seed to plant. Your brain will search for clues to confirm that you are stupid. Your behavior will align with the thought.

Change the seed; think that you are smart; and you will be on your way to acting like you are.

Now, what does impeccable mean? It means without sin. A sin is something you do against yourself.

Being impeccable with your word means never sinning against yourself.

It means only using your energy for truth and love of yourself. It means never being mean to yourself.

Never being mean to yourself means never being mean to others.

When you are mean to others, you make others dislike you, and so they ultimately reject you.

It is difficult to break the agreements that make you mean to others. The best way to do so is to commit to the truth.

People don’t tell the truth anymore. They communicate with gossip, which is poison.

Don’t gossip.

Thinking well of yourself VS thinking badly.
Some plant good seeds, while others grow poison.

Chapter 3: The Second Agreement

Don’t take anything personally.

Taking things personally is agreeing with whatever people say about you.

People that take things personally usually have an ego problem. They agree with what is said because they think everything is about them. It’s not.

No one cares about you. Nothing people do is because of you. People do things because of them.

When someone insults you, they share with you their poison. From the second you agree, you accept the poison they give you.

People interpret reality according to the agreements they made with themselves.

When you say something that gets people mad, they don’t get mad because of you, but because of the meaning they assign to what you said. You touched on something they’re struggling with, but that has nothing to do with you.

It has to do with the agreements they made with themselves.

When they get mad, it’s because they are afraid.

When people aren’t afraid, when they love instead, they don’t experience negative emotions.

So they feel good. Things around them are good.

Whatever people say, don’t take it personally. That includes yourself. Not all opinions about you are true.

You are a wonderful person. When you take things personally, you suffer for nothing.

Don’t expect people to tell you the truth as they also lie to themselves.

As a result, you shouldn’t trust others too much, and never as much as you trust yourself.

When you don’t take anything personally, you become free. No one can put you down.

Remember that the only actions you are responsible for are yours.

People that think everything is about them VS people that do not.
People that think everything is about them VS people that do not.

Chapter 4: The Third Agreement

Don’t make assumptions.

When we make assumptions about the behavior of others, we often assign them intents they didn’t have and blame them for no reason. This causes suffering.

Negative assumptions split people from each other.

Positive assumptions do too. If you assume your partner knows what’s in your head and you don’t express how you feel, you’ll be frustrated as it is unlikely your partner knows what really is in your head.

If you don’t know something, ask. Communicate. Verify. Don’t assume.

Don't make assumptions.
Avoid that.

Chapter 5: The Fourth Agreement

Always do your best.

Always do your best, but keep in mind that the quality of “your best” will change and depend on whether you’re tired, energized, motivated, etc, or not.

Most people don’t do their best because they just do things for a reward. They don’t do it for the sake of it.

As a result, they don’t enjoy it.

If you do things for their own sake, if you try to do them as well as you can, two things are going to happen.

First, you will enjoy doing them much more. Second, you will stop judging and talking badly to yourself because you’ll know that you did your best.

You will also have a secret personal satisfaction when you do your best.

It’s also recommended not to do stuff you have to do. When you have to do something, you won’t do your best because you won’t enjoy it. Always choose to do something.

Remember that the purpose of life is to be happy. You have the right to be happy.

When a monk asked if he would transcend faster by meditating 8 hours per day instead of 4, the old man answered that it would take him twice as much time.

Why? Because the purpose of life is to be happy, which meditation can help achieve. Meditating too much will only create frustration.

This is why you should say “no” when you don’t want to do something, and say yes when you want to.


If you respect these four agreements, your life will transform.

It’s not easy though. When you commit, you may fail. Don’t give up. Never allow yourself to judge yourself.

Just keep on trying until you make it.

It’s worth it.

Chapter 6: Breaking Old Agreements

What is freedom? True freedom is the freedom to be who you really are.

Kids are truly free. Adults aren’t, except when they’re doing something they truly enjoy – their passion.

So why aren’t adults happy?

Responsibilities. Responsibilities force people to do stuff they don’t want to do. It domesticates pretty much 999/1000 people.

Domesticated people are miserable. And the truth is that they are not aware of it.

If you want to be free, you must be aware that you aren’t in the first place.

This is the first mastery of the Toltecs: awareness.

Awareness is the first Mastery.
Awareness is the first Mastery.

The Mastery of Awareness is to be aware of who you are, with all of the possibilities.

The second is the Mastery of Transformation. It’s about freeing yourself from domestication.

Transformation is the second Mastery.
Transformation is the second Mastery.

The third is the Mastery of Intent. It’s unconditional love. Mastery of Intent is the Mastery of Love.

From the Toltec point of view, there are three parasites that occupy your mind.

  1. Judging yourself
  2. Victimizing yourself
  3. A wrong belief system
Someone judging himself, victimizing himself, and with a wrong belief system.
Someone judging himself, victimizing himself, and with a wrong belief system.

These parasites feed off the worst of all negative emotions: fear.

The only way to get rid of these parasites is to lead a war against them. It is to become a warrior.

You get rid of them in three ways.

  1. You attack each fear one by one. It’s time-consuming.
  2. You stop giving into the fear.
  3. The initiation of the dead. You kill your ego.

Let’s have a look at each of them.

The Art of Transformation: The Dream of the Second Attention.

The process of domestication, the period when you inherit the toxic belief system from the outside world, is called the First Attention.

One way to change the belief system is to focus on the bad beliefs and willingly change them.

Here are three steps to do so.

  1. Become aware that the way you perceive reality is completely flawed and subjective.
  2. Choose which belief you want to change, and focus on it.
  3. Adopt other agreements to replace the toxic ones.

Changing is hard. We are addicted to our bad agreements. It will take time and effort.

The Discipline Of The Warrior: Controlling Your Own Behavior

Imagine your mind is like skin. When the skin is in good health, it feels good. But when there is a wound, it hurts.

A wound is an event that triggers anger, jealousy, etc. These emotions are due to fear.

Here’s how you can heal.

  1. Forgive. Not because others deserve forgiveness, but because YOU deserve peace of mind. Forgive your parents, your siblings, your friends, your neighbors, and the Universe.
  2. Then forgive yourself. Once you do, you accept yourself.
  3. Accept the truth, and talk about it. Now that you forgave, the truth cannot hurt you anymore.

The Initiation Of The Dead: Embracing The Angel Of Death

The final step to attaining freedom is to realize we could die at any moment.

Doing so, we stop being someone else. We stop fighting with people. We stop saying mean things.

We understand that Death owns everything and always triumphs so that the past stays the past, and the present can continue.

Chapter 7: The New Dream

Your mind has the power to create hell, but also heaven. It all comes down to the choice you make.

Get rid of the fear, of the negative emotions, and of the bad agreements. Imagine a life free of hate and anger, and full of joy and love.

These things are entirely possible.

Get rid of your old beliefs and replace them with your new beliefs, and watch your life transform.

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