His writing sits along spiritual lines, and it has strong influences from Carlos Castaneda. The codes of life Don Miguel Ruiz talks about in this book are so accurate that it’s already been translated into several languages and over 4 million people have read it.
The four agreements, or in other words, the four codes of life, come from Toltec soteriology. Soteriology is the branch of theology that deals with salvation. That’s what Don Miguel Ruiz is going for: to give us what we need to save us from ourselves. Here’s a short summary of his ideas.
1. Being honest, the first code of life
The first code of life has to do with honesty. Ruiz talks about it as a kind of agreement you have to come to with your existence. Here’s how he describes it: “Be impeccable with your word.”
Being honest with your words is about more than not lying. It also involves having integrity in your communication with other people. It means committing your heart, mind, and spirit in the words you choose.
According to Ruiz, words have the power to “bewitch” people. What he means is that they can leave a mark on the people you say them to. They have such a deep energy that they continue to echo even years after you’ve spoken them.
2. Freeing yourself from other people’s opinions
This is how Ruiz explains his second agreement, or code of life: “Don’t take anything personally.” Everyone has their own way of looking at the world. They see things and value them based on that, on their personal interpretation of reality.
So when people talk about you, they’re really just talking about the part of reality that they can see. They’re only looking at their own vision. This is why it’s important to understand that their words are nothing but a product of that, not something that truly involves you.
In that sense, what other people might say about you doesn’t have any real value. There’s no reason to let either their good or bad opinions affect you. You’ll also avoid a lot of unnecessary suffering if you can free yourself from the opinions of other people.
3. Having the courage to express your feelings
Don Miguel Ruiz’s third agreement says: “Don’t make assumptions.” This code of life is about getting you to communicate in a clear, assertive, and fluid way. Creating confusion only brings more problems, nothing good ever comes out of it.
The best thing you can do is never assume you have the truth. And definitely don’t assume you know other people’s truths. Never hesitate to ask when you want to understand something, but don’t.
It’s also important to have the courage to express your feelings in the clearest, most sincere way you can.
This is a way of opening yourself up to other people and reach a mutual understanding. On top of that, it’s a major principle of genuine communication.
4. Give your best to others
The last of the four codes of life says: “Always do your best.” Ruiz is sending the message that the effort is much more important than the outcome. What really makes an action important or valuable is the effort you put into it. It’s not about appearances, usefulness, or what you stand to gain from it.
The goal is for you to give your all in everything you do. Beyond that, you should never let your internal tyrant judge you if you don’t reach the objective you set yourself. The real objective is to try and get better and better. A negative outcome is nothing but a reason to try again.
The only thing you need to excel at is your willingness to give the best of yourself to other people. Ruiz says that the moment you achieve that goal, your life will take a positive turn. It will also help you avoid sickness and suffering.
The four codes of life inspired by the Toltec people are like pillars. You can use them to help you hold up a fuller, more actualized life. In fact, a lot of what they say even lines up with Western psychology. These are ideas that are definitely worth reflecting on.