One of the most famous modern books introducing ancient Toltec wisdom is don Miguel’s The Four Agreements. I’ve been studying and working with the agreements almost every day.
On the surface they are just four simple sentences:
- Be impeccable with your word
- Don’t take anything personally
- Don’t make assumptions
- Always do your best
Below the surface, they are really huge pillars of an entire philosophy of life. Implemented and practiced correctly, the offer a wise, emotionally intelligent, and personally responsible way of living in the world.
What I love most about them is their depth – every day, as I discover more of myself, I find deeper and deeper interpretations of the agreements. New situations and experiences keep teaching me new lessons, bringing me back to these four sentences. They are really incredible.
So a few days ago, I came across a chapter of Napoleon Hill’s Think and Grow Rich. Have you read it? It’s one of those very old, very famous books. I’d heard about it over and over, but never actually sat down with it. I still haven’t read the whole thing, but what struck me was a wonderful section on the chapter about fear.
One of the ways we all sabotage ourselves, is that we make excuses for failing to follow our dreams. The excuses seem reasonable, and so we continue to believe them. This is how we remain stuck.
In order to move forward and actually start living the life you want, you have to become aware of the excuses you make, and begin to question their veracity. As I listened to the list of “Fifty Seven Famous Alibis” in the book, I recognized these excuses in my own mind. (I pasted them below).
The wisdom here is straightforward – in order to live a “no excuses” life, you have to become aware of the excuses you actually use to keep yourself from taking action. If you bring these excuses to light, you can begin to question whether they are really true, and whether you want to keep believing them.
This way you “undo” the strangle-hold they have on you, and then you can give IT (whatever your “it” happens to be) your all. Ta da! And just like that your life suddenly has meaning, and purpose, and passion. (I’m being flippant, but that’s exactly how it works).
And so, it is when there are no more excuses, that you can ALWAYS DO YOUR BEST!! Because if you are afraid to make that call; afraid to take that course; afraid to write that book; afraid to ask for that loan, you aren’t doing your best. You aren’t taking action. You are allowing fear to keep you stuck in place.
I never interpreted the agreement this way before – but now I see it!
The flip side of the agreement, the usual reading, is that you don’t judge yourself for not doing more on any given day. You give it what you can give it, and you are content with yourself. You don’t push past your limits, driving yourself to exhaustion. You don’t disrespect yourself with judgments. You don’t compare your performance yesterday to your performance today. You just do your best, without excuses, every single day. And your output will vary day to day, and that’s ok too.
Which of the Alibis below resonate for you?
IF I didn’t have a wife and family . . .
IF I had enough “pull” . . .
IF I had money . . .
IF I had a good education . . .
IF I could get a job . . .
IF I had good health . . .
IF I only had time . . .
IF times were better . . .
IF other people understood me . . .
IF conditions around me were only different . . .
IF I could live my life over again . . .
IF I did not fear what “THEY” would say . . .
IF I had been given a chance . . .
IF I now had a chance . . .
IF other people didn’t “have it in for me” . . .
IF nothing happens to stop me . . .
IF I were only younger . . .
IF I could only do what I want . . .
IF I had been born rich . . .
IF I could meet “the right people” . . .
IF I had the talent that some people have . . .
IF I dared assert myself . . .
IF I only had embraced past opportunities . . .
IF people didn’t get on my nerves . . .
IF I didn’t have to keep house and look after the children . . .
IF I could save some money . . .
IF the boss only appreciated me . . .
IF I only had somebody to help me . . .
IF my family understood me . . .
IF I lived in a big city . . .
IF I could just get started . . .
IF I were only free . . .
IF I had the personality of some people . . .
IF I were not so fat . . .
IF my talents were known . . .
IF I could just get a “break” . . .
IF I could only get out of debt . . .
IF I hadn’t failed . . .
IF I only knew how . . .
IF everybody didn’t oppose me . . .
IF I didn’t have so many worries . . .
IF I could marry the right person . . .
IF people weren’t so dumb . . .
IF my family were not so extravagant . . .
IF I were sure of myself . . .
IF luck were not against me . . .
IF I had not been born under the wrong star . . .
IF it were not true that “what is to be will be” . . .
IF I did not have to work so hard . . .
IF I hadn’t lost my money . . .
IF I lived in a different neighborhood . . .
IF I didn’t have a “past” . . .
IF I only had a business of my own . . .
IF other people would only listen to me . . .
IF – and this is the greatest of them all – I had the courage to see myself as I really am, I would find out what is wrong with me, and correct it, then I might have a chance to profit by my mistakes and learn something from the experience of others, for I know that there is something WRONG with me, or I would now be where I WOULD HAVE BEEN IF I had spent more time analyzing my weaknesses, and less time building alibis to cover them.