Agreement #4: Always Do Your Best
In your everyday moods your best can change from one moment to another, from one
hour to the next, from one day to another. Your best will also change over time. As you build the habit of using The Four Agreements, your best will become better than it used to be.
Question: I always try to do my best, but what should I do when someone asks me to do something that I don’t want to do or that I’m too tired to do? How do I do my best when I am exhausted or just need time for myself? I feel like I’m always disappointing myself or someone else.
don Miguel: First, you have to be honest with yourself and see if you want to do whatever someone is asking of you. If you don’t want to do it, and you have the opportunity of not doing it, just be honest and find the easiest way to say, “I will not do it.” Sometimes, of course, this is not possible. You might have a contract with someone, or feel you have to do it because you know it’s going to help you in your life.
Then instead of believing that you don’t want to do it, it’s up to you to change your belief, create desire, and do it. Use your reason, your knowledge, to talk to yourself and say, “Yes, I want to do it,” and tell yourself why it’s good for you to do it, even if you really don’t want to do it. In that moment you will do your best, but first you have to change your mind, change the action, because whatever you do, there will be a reaction.
If there is something you don’t like to do, and avoiding it will only cause a bigger problem for you, then you’re not being impeccable. If you have a problem, even if you don’t want to face it, it is better to face the problem, whatever it is, and do your best. Once you have done that, you don’t have to worry about it anymore.
Question: I have been taking care of other people my entire life. Recently, I decided to put myself first and take care of some of my own needs. As soon as I decided this, the Judge came up and said, “No, no, no. You are being selfish; you should be taking care of everybody else.” Well, that is how I’ve lived my life, and I’ve been totally empty.
don Miguel: People around you are used to you helping them and sacrificing yourself for them. They can ask you for whatever they want, and they know you will do it for them. Well, the day you stop doing that, what happens? Others will tell you that you are selfish. Who is really selfish? Are you, the martyr, the selfish one, or is the one who takes advantage of you the selfish one?
You no longer need to take care of other people, but you believe that you do; it is one of the agreements you have with yourself. You can break that agreement by doing exactly the opposite. By practicing the opposite, many other agreements that limit your freedom will go along with it.
Question: I have been doing my best to improve my life, but every time I start making progress and begin to feel happier, I fall right back into my old habits. Why is it such a struggle?
don Miguel: Because you believe what you know without a doubt, and whatever you believe is what rules your life. People believe 100 percent in what they believe they are. That is why they live their lives the way they do. If you believe you are a loser, what is going to happen? Because you believe you are a loser, thy will be done. Your reasoning mind can say, “I want to be rich, I want to be healthy,” but what you believe is not in your reasoning mind. What you believe is in your “Book of Law,” and your faith is trapped inside that book. Just as a government has a book of law that rules society, your belief system is the Book of Law that rules your life. Whatever is in your Book of Law is your supreme truth. You base all of your judgments on these laws, even if they go against your own inner nature.
Question: I have always tried to do my best in everything I do, but after reading The Four Agreements, I realized that I do it because I’m looking for the approval of other people. Then if I don’t get the approval, I feel victimized, or if my husband makes a critical comment, I feel discouraged and wonder, “What’s the use?” Can you comment on this?
don Miguel: During our domestication, one of the most powerful agreements we make is the need for approval. Because of the need for approval, one opinion can lift us up or completely destroy us. Searching for approval becomes a routine, and that is how the outside dream has power over humans and manipulates us like puppets. We have to ask other people for their opinions: “How do I look? Am I doing okay?”
We need the support and acceptance of others; we need to be good enough for someone else. We even need someone else to need us in order to feel like we have a reason to be alive. What people think about us is so important that we try to please everybody else, and leave ourselves until last.
Doing your best does not mean to try to be good enough for someone else. You will never be good enough for someone else. The truth is that with all your agreements you will never be good enough for yourself either. No matter what you do, it won’t be right. Your best is never good enough because you made those agreements with the Judge who lives in your mind. You will never please the Judge because that Judge is very strict, very strong, and very abusive. There is only one way to silence the voice of the Judge, and that is to make new agreements with ourselves. If we are going to have agreements, let’s have agreements that make us happy.
Excerpted and Adapted from The Four Agreements Companion Book: Using The Four Agreements to Master the Dream of Your Life. Copyright © 2000 by Miguel Angel Ruiz, M.D. and Janet Mills. Reprinted by Permission of Amber-Allen Publishing, Inc., San Rafael, California.