I’m not a fan of Superbowl, but I’m a big fan of Tom Brady’s approach to making things happen. Now 43, Brady has won seven Superbowls and earned five Superbowl MVP titles, both of which are league records. He’s also overcome adversity in both his professional career and personal life.
When asked how he manages to continuously achieve these kinds of feats, he often cites inspiration from a book called The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz and Janet Mills, which he calls his mantra.
So, I thought it was worth exploring…
The Four Agreements draws from the ancient Toltec civilisation that ruled in Tula, Mexico from around 900 – 1521 AD. Ruiz and Mills use their spiritual beliefs to help readers transform their lives through freedom, happiness and love. Sounds good, right?
It’s based on the idea that a lot of what we’ve been taught as children causes self-limiting beliefs that limit our personal freedom as adults. We‘re taught what we should believe, the rules we should follow and the education we need to be successful. The rewards or punishments we receive as children make us more likely to follow those rules…until they become deeply ingrained beliefs. Yikes.
Here’s how the four agreements can help you live a little freer in today’s hectic world:
Agreement 1: Be Impeccable With Your Word
Essentially this means don’t judge yourself or others. Speak with integrity and choose your words carefully. While it’s the most important agreement, it’s also the hardest to follow. Why? Because as humans we’re pretty good at trash-talking ourselves. This causes limiting beliefs about what we can do, which, if left untended, can lead to depression, relationship challenges and perfectionism.
On the flip side, positive self-talk is a great predictor of success. In fact, telling yourself that you’re doing great is even more effective than reminding yourself how to do the thing you’re great at.
Key takeaways: Recognise and cross-examine your inner critic. Nickname them if it helps, or start journaling about it. Find out why they’re trash-talking you. Remember, feelings aren’t reality. So try to take an objective or neutral view of what’s happening and go from there.
Likewise, the effect our negative talk has on other people can be just as devastating. So be kind to people, too.
Agreement 2: Don’t Take Anything Personally
Speaking of being kinder to others, the second agreement looks at avoiding hurtful treatment from other people. It’s an awful reality that other people can hurt us, but it’s also true that we can compound that hurt with our reaction to it.
To overcome this challenge, you need to have a strong sense of self and identity that can’t be bruised by the views of others. Easier said than done…but a lot easier if you reduce your sense of personal importance and recognise that when people say something hurtful, it’s probably more about them than about you. They are projecting their world view and the agreements that they’ve made with themselves and the world. The hurt arises when you take their world view personally and it conflicts with your own.
Ruiz believes that anger, jealousy and sadness will reduce if people stop taking things so personally.
Key takeaways: If you find yourself taking something personally, remember that the other person is reacting to their own world view, not yours. Equally, your reaction to your hurt is not usually about the words they’ve said, but about the emotion it provokes within your world view.
Agreement 3: Don’t Make Assumptions
What is it people say about assumptions? Something about u and me. Assumptions, the author says, lead to suffering, because we begin to believe that our thinking is a representation of the truth. This causes an inevitable conflict with reality, especially when the truth is eventually revealed.
To avoid this, ask questions and communicate as clearly as possible, which avoids misunderstandings, sadness and drama. It sounds simple, but it’s really not, especially when you consider that miscommunication is consistently cited as a key reason for divorce. It’s not just personal: in business, poor communication costs around $37 billion a year in lost productivity.
Key takeaways: Don’t make assumptions. Instead, ask courageous questions that lead to clarity, understanding and empathy.
Agreement 4: Always Do Your Best
The fourth and final agreement is about how to achieve progress by integrating the first three into your daily life. Always do your best. This will change based on the situation you find yourself in. By adding an element of present tense to this agreement, the author believes that we can avoid self-judgement and regret.
I’ve always lived by the mantra not to be the best but to be my best in any given moment. It means giving yourself permission to fail, and also recognising that you can only do what you can do, with what you know at the time.
Key takeaways: By incorporating the first three agreements and doing the best you can in all areas of life, you can live a life free from sorrow and self-ridicule.
And you can be like Tom Brady.