The Fifth Agreement by don Miguel Ruiz & don Jose Ruiz | You recover all the power of your authenticity, which is who you really are when you are born.
Let me explain the five agreements according to my own understanding using this metaphor. One key feature of this metaphor that is clear in the rest of these two books is that each person is scriptwriter and director for her or his own movie. Here are the five agreements.
Be Impeccable With Your Word. This sounds like it is about honesty, integrity and authenticity. I have no doubt Don Miguel is in favor of honesty, integrity and authenticity. But that is not what this agreement is about. Going back to the movie analogy, it is saying that if you are going to tell a story about your life, tell a nice story instead of a nasty one. Here is a key passage from The Fifth Agreement: “You’re telling yourself a story, but is it the truth? If you’re using the word to create a story with self-judgment and self-rejection, then you’re using the word against yourself, and you’re not being impeccable.”
Don’t Take Anything Personally. Other people’s movies are funhouse-mirror versions of reality (as is yours). The character in someone else’s movie that has your name typically bears little resemblance either to the character in your movie with your name or to the real you. So take with many grains of salt anything other people think or say about you. Don’t take it personally.
Don’t Make Assumptions. Don’t assume that your movie has a solid grasp on reality. Most people’s movies don’t. And don’t assume you know what is going on in someone else’s move: the real world differs from the metaphor above in that you can’t really go into someone else’s movie theater. The best you can do to avoid fooling yourself is to ask good questions of yourself and of other people to try to figure out the lay of the land.
Always Do Your Best. Unlike some big-screen movie characters, you don’t have superhuman abilities. You will often fail. Be kind to yourself as you try to redirect your personal movie in a two-steps-forward-one-step-back pattern.
Be Skeptical, But Learn to Listen. With few exceptions, everyone’s movie is a very distorted version of reality, including yours. So be skeptical. But as pieces of art, each individual’s movie reveals a lot about where they are coming from and what kind of mental box they have put themselves in. So it pays to listen in order to understand.
The Bottom Line: As I have learned from the experience of being a co-active life coach for a dozen people, most people have a lot of mental chatter that leans toward self-criticism. The typical volume of negative mental chatter is a recipe for an unpleasant—often even hellish—internal daily experience. Internal self-flagellation, while very common, is optional. I’ll write a future post about the book Positive Intelligence, by Shirzad Chamine (which is as clear as The Four Agreements and The Fifth Agreement are enigmatic) in explaining how to weaken your inner judge and make you internal world a little more like heaven than like hell.