The Fourth Agreement: Always do your best
First published in 1997, Don Miguel Ruiz’s book The Four Agreements has since sold millions of copies. The book consists of four principles to guide you to living a life of love and happiness. This is the fourth in a series of Reflections on the Agreements, which are as follows:
The Four Agreements
- Be impeccable with your word
- Don’t take anything personally
- Don’t make assumptions
- 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.” Toltec Spirit page
The fourth agreement, ‘Always do your best’ comes with this above statement.
As most of you reading this probably know, your relationship with yourself is your primary relationship and determines the quality of your relationships with others. If you are mired in regret about the past or overly concerned with what may happen in the future, you won’t have much energy to give to others in your life.
But if you follow this fourth agreement and always do your best in any moment, whatever that best is in that moment, you will be able to be free from the shackles of regret as well as from anxiety about the future. You will be more able to take loving care of yourself and develop a healthy and loving relationship with yourself throughout your life. And from this will flow all your other healthy and loving relationships.
The important thing to remember here of course is that your best will change. And that being a perfectionist is something slightly different from always doing your best, and it is not what we want to aim for. Perfectionism is a dangerous territory and one usually entered into by someone who has a strong underlying sense of never being good enough and is driven by this. Given no human being is perfect, being a perfectionist will likely set you up for the very things this agreement wants you to avoid: self-abuse and self-judgement.
So recognise that sometimes you may be going through a difficult period in your life. You may be transitioning into a new level of being-ness and having to shed a whole bunch of things about yourself that are no longer working for you. So be gentle with yourself as your best is always going to be and feel different. If you are going through a transition like this, then your best might be to really take gentle care of yourself and perhaps not force yourself to ever greater heights of achievement in that particular moment.
Practising ‘Always do your best’
1. BE CLEAR WITH YOURSELF: Know what your values are, and what it is that you are about.
- What is really important to you in this lifetime?
- What are your passions?
- Where are you headed and why are you headed there?
- What are your most cherished goals and dreams?
- What character traits do you most value in yourself and others?
This is a good starting point for this resolution. Take a piece of paper and answer these questions.
2. WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO YOU TO ALWAYS DO YOUR BEST?: It is important here to acknowledge our relationship to ourselves and how it is going. If we are a people-pleaser and looking for external validation of our worth, sometimes our best may not really be in our best interests! So, remember that always doing your best includes thinking and caring about yourself at least equally as much as you think and care for others. Remember the airplane rule: put the oxygen mask on yourself before you help others!
3. DO YOUR BEST AND THEN LET GO OF THE RESULTS: Living a harmonious life is all about being in the present moment and being more process-focussed than outcome-focussed. So we may do our best at work, or in our relationships with others, but the results of our efforts are not within our control. Our efforts in a project at work may feel wasted when the project is shelved. Our investment in a relationship may feel foolish when we realise that that person is not for us. But the outcome is never our concern. We do our best with the knowledge and understanding we have at that moment, and then we let go of results.
Congratulate yourself whenever you do your best, knowing that you have given your full energies to whatever was in front of you! Give yourself a hug and be loving to yourself.
Be Kind to Yourself and Know That This is Not Easy
So, we have come to the end of our series on The Four Agreements. You may be interested enough now to buy the book and study it more deeply. Remember that living the Four Agreements is not easy. It means we need to do the work of investigating what our old un-spoken, un-acknowledged agreements and assumptions about life are and questioning them, before we are able to fully commit to living according to the Four Agreements.
But if we are able to do this, guaranteed our relationships and our experience of life will transform for the better.
Has this Fourth Agreement, ‘Always do your best’ resonated with you? How do your put this one into practice in your daily life?
Michelle is a writer, musician, meditation and yoga teacher based in Melbourne. She teaches mindfulness courses and leads yoga retreats. She runs her own business called Inner Alchemy and is available as a coach and mentor.