Why The Five Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz Falls Short
The first agreement is about being mindful of the world that you are creating with the messages that you are sending through communication. His assertion is that all humans are living their life and creating a parallel reality within themselves. Their lives are projections of this parallel reality. These projections create an agreement of what people believe they are and who they are. All of this information becomes what the human believes to be, “knowledge.” It creates a structure of beliefs that become a message for others when spoken out loud and shared. He says the importance of this agreement comes in the meaning of the word, “impeccable,” which is a nominalization. We will discuss what this is later in the paper, but ultimately it means that it can have different meanings to different people. Henceforth, the words we speak must be “impeccable,” meaning that it should be exact, non-assuming, non-accusatory and in accordance to the highest standards. The first agreement is about speaking with integrity, saying only what you mean and not using the power of your own word toward darkness or to gossip about others. It is about using the power of your word in the direction of truth and love but those words mean different things to different people.
The second agreement is about not taking anything that someone does or says personally. This agreement also means that what others do or say is a projection of their own reality or dream and not anything to do with your own. This agreement is about how the realization of this agreement decreases the amount of suffering within people that take what people say and do personally.
The third agreement is about getting away from assumptions that are based on your own imagination. For example, a person could imagine seeing someone wearing a blue shirt and making an assumption that the person is wearing the blue shirt because they like to be sad. The agreement shows that this miscommunication within the person perceiving can cause misunderstandings and needless suffering such as sadness and drama. These misunderstandings can cause distortions and ultimately cause more issues, hence the agreement to avoid assuming or imagining things.
The fourth agreement is about doing your own personal “best”. Doing your best means believing that your own best is good enough, whether or not you or anyone else agrees with you, without judgement, self-abuse or regret. That can remove barriers.
Lastly, the fifth agreement is questioning what others define as the truth, but encourages learning to listen. Notice that this agreement does not say, just listen to everything you are being told or believe in. It encourages readers to keep the curiosity that they were given from youth and to ask questions that lead to a better understanding or personal truth. In other words, listen to why the person is saying it to understand the real messages.
The image of perfection that Don Miguel is portraying is that we as humans are conditioned to believe in right from wrong, good from evil, ugly from beautiful, what’s accepted and what’s not; things of that nature. He goes on to write about how humans are domesticated and that human tendencies are lost after domestication. He introduces the reward/punishment system and shows how this conditions humans to believe in this “image of perfection”. My image of perfection is using the full spectrum of emotion to overcome challenges, obstacles, to find my life’s purpose and to help others do the same. My image of perfection is affected by what Don Miguel is doing, by which we call a “pre-supposition”. A pre-supposition is when certain information or relationships must be accepted as truth. There is a pre-supposition that he makes that the reader is someone who only judges (does not perceive) and always takes things personally. He pre-supposes that humans break their word and that they do not do their best to live up to what others want them to do. There is a pre-supposition he has achieved some sort of enlightened state of mind (“enlightenment”) and is in a position to be making these judgements about other people. Better yet, he is attempting to bind people to these agreements because he thinks it’s the right thing for people to do, to be a “good person”. This is part of the issue that he is presenting as a problem. Unfortunately, he is trying to bind us to his image of perfection (e.g. these agreements). An individual like him, who is making the assumptions that he is about human nature, causes damage and suffering on the world. This is mainly due to the fact that he does not take into account the experience and knowledge that each individual human-being already has in their lifetime or in their previous lives.
What’s interesting is that I do not even recognize this person and I have not established him as any sort of an authority figure just because he is the author of this book. Through my research, he does not have any lineage (besides this vaguely defined “Toltec” religion) to base his assertions off of, based on his experience which equate to more of a bed-time story. This leads me to question, “So what?” and also to ask, “How does this help or hurt me?” Comments such as, “We’re still searching for perfection because now we agree with the rest of the humans that nobody is perfect,” make me believe that he does not want anyone to achieve perfection because he judges it on how others perceive it to be, which is totally asinine. The author is projecting this image of perfection onto his readers, and I do not agree that there is an image of perfection unless an individual wants there to be one. Is he placing obstacles in front of people by asserting this image of perfection? Even examining this makes me unhappy because the definition of perfection is in the eye of the beholder. Every human’s definition of perfection is different, so why should I believe that his perceptions or judgements are more valuable than my own experience? I think it’s important to contemplate what perfection means to me because it will affect what I spend the rest of my lifetime on and what goals I make. Since I don’t consider him an authority, these agreements do not affect me. I just kind of roll my eyes because these kinds of people are becoming more prevalent in today’s society. They are the type of people that believe they have the answers that you are looking for and you can only get them if you spend money on their products. This distortion of what actual “value” is, is what I have a problem with. True value has been around since the ancients. Don Miguel’s superficial consumption-based values are part of the real reason why people feel empty.
Don Miguel is saying the same thing that any other pop-psychologist is saying and he is hailed for his originality. He has lifted his sentiments from older religions like Buddhism, Hinduism and Taoism, but they’ve been taken out of context and lack the real healing practices that are inherent in some of those religions. As a business owner, this is not what I want to do. I am not going to take someone else’s work and claim it as my own and out of context. Taking other’s work and claiming it as my own would be “taking it personally” quite literally.
I do not believe other’s opinions are as important as my own, however, when I know that someone in front of me has more knowledge and life experience as I do, then I tend to listen. I do not take it personally when someone disagrees with me. I remember a time when I experienced conflict with someone’s beliefs and my own. I kindly disagreed and moved on. It may have taken me a couple of days to forget about it, but I tried to take what they were saying into consideration because there was a real reason why they shared it with me that I may not have been seeing at the time. I try to believe that everyone is giving either one of the three things in a conversation. One is a gift, like when they are trying to give you something they think can benefit. Another thing that happens between two people is an invocation, or a wish, which is an incantation of bringing something into being. The last thing someone is trying to give could be a curse. When a curse happens, it is usually a last resort to a misunderstanding that occurred down the line. I try not to take these personally and quite frankly, this has not happened in a long time, at least not in front of my face.
I think Don Miguel means that what others do is not because of anything that we personally do. The idea is that what others say and their actions are a projection of their own reality and their own dreams. I can think of some examples of times when I have taken something personally. I am an extrovert and at times, an outspoken individual that, when not listened to, thinks that the other individual does not care about what I have to say. Usually, when I know that someone does not agree with me, I seek to understand where the difference lies, whether it is their own environment or absence of my understanding of them, etc.
The first agreement is powerful because humans create a language to communicate that limits our ability to communicate effectively. We know that body language is a more accurate way of to tell how someone communicates but when we use words to complement our body language, it should, and in my opinion, has to match up with what our actions are. When actions and words do not match up, this could signify that there is a disconnect somewhere. This, besides symbols, is what we use to share our personal stories with, it’s every person’s power of creation or destruction. This creates what Don Miguel says is personal heaven, which he says creates beautiful stories, or personal hell, which destroys everything around you. Words are symbols that create powerful imagery in people’s minds (idea, feelings, story, etc.). He introduces that the word exists because of a force called life or intent, which he probably took from Wayne Dyer from a book called “Power of Intention”. He says it is important because things are manifested through our words. Not sure why he uses the Bible as an example to prove his points, maybe he thought his readers to be fear-mongers or full of guilt? He says being impeccable with your word is to not use words against yourself and that you never betray yourself.
I continue to see the impact of how words impact my own life and lives around me. I have experienced the power of my own word when I was determined to switch careers. I said out loud, “I wish to impact people’s lives in a more meaningful way.” After months of discomfort, I started to see small changes. Soon after, I signed up for classes to become licensed in Massage Therapy. It is quite powerful because I did not imagine saying that out loud would actually do anything. Other people’s words as well have the same kind of power. I’ve experienced how words affect my body. One time, I was cussed at and I felt my stomach begin to hurt. It was probably reflexive, but it definitely had an impact. That person who cussed at me should have used their word more impeccably because I am no longer associated with them.
My honest answer to the question is I believe the fifth agreement was added so that the publisher could make more money on a book that was already a best-seller. This is what anyone who is published by Hay Books, Inc. is there to do, to make more money and to push their own agenda in the disguise of “being a good person”. As explained later in this essay, it is the “new age” spiritual principles and social proof that they are attempting to build within people’s identities (egos).
My formal answer to the question of why the fifth agreement was added comes from page 15, “The fifth agreement is ultimately about seeing your whole reality with the eyes of truth, without words. The results of practicing the fifth agreement is the complete acceptance of yourself just the way you are, and the complete acceptance of everybody else just the way they are. The reward is your eternal happiness.” It was also added to help people unlearn and what they’ve learned through the process of domestication and learn how to understand other people’s stories and ultimately create a dream that you want to live in. Also, in Don Miguel’s words, it was added to attempt to try and be able to listen with more intention, learn what it is that people (story tellers) are telling you and then make your own choices for your life based on what story you are creating.
I will say that this agreement of “Always do your best,” is something that I could take a little more seriously. It could transform my life in that I could be a little less judgmental and trust myself that I am always doing my best, whatever that may look like. Part of me, part of my brain asks, well what does “best” mean? I can learn to shut off that loop in my brain or the “self-talk” that arises and tell my subconscious part of my mind that I’m always doing my best. I bet it will alleviate any stress that I’d like to remove out of my life and allow me to be more kind to myself. It think that may be someone else’s voice in my head telling me that what I did was not good enough. So in the past, I overcompensated because I always had people around me judging what my “best” was. I now know that I have a lot of wisdom, knowledge and value to share. Before, I was always struggling to know what my best was because I valued the wrong things. I valued superficial things, money and other things that kept me from figuring out what my true gifts were. Now, I know when I’ve done my best when things work out now with usually minimal effort and for that I am thankful.
After all, what I find most interesting and powerful in this book is the author’s ability to use neuro linguistic programming and mind control methods in his work to create best-selling books. I also find the most powerful thing I’ve learned is how he uses Dr. Joe Vitale’s hypnotic writing-methods to persuade readers to believe in the power of rhetoric, language designed to have a persuasive or impressive effect on its audience, but often regarded as lacking in sincerity or meaningful content. I believe I can learn from this process on how to successfully market to people through brochures, public-speaking events and other communications that can generate business.
As an example of how people like Don Miguel use rhetoric, they write and speak in a way in which we call, “Guru speak,” which uses something called a “nominalization” as its primary means of pushing an agenda. As defined by Bandler and Grinder, the fathers of neuro linguistic programming, “Nominalizations are nouns yet they don’t refer to objects in the real world. …people don’t even know what [nominalizations] themselves mean, never mind what anybody else means [by them]. When people come to some understanding of something, they assign a certain feeling they call understanding to the concepts that let them know they understand it. There are other feelings that let them know how the concepts are connected. Those feelings become a shortcut, a replacement for the original thought process. When people talk, their minds create linguistic output using nominalizations for the concepts and unspecified verbs for those connecting feelings.” http://www.deep-trance.com/skill-model/nominalisations.html.
This is a commonly used tactic that scam artists, con-artists and sociopaths use to gain power and apparently, it works. In most cases, it achieves their personal ends because it tugs on people’s emotions and tends to set agreements or what I would call, contracts that people bind themselves to because they believe in it or have been told to agree with them.
I do agree that feelings are important, but they in themselves do not actually give any practical processes to solve people’s problems with. Don Miguel uses these nominalizations all over his book. Words like love, God, light, infinite, beautiful, word, impeccable, dream, sadness, etc. are highly charged nominalizations. People who know how to use guru speak use words like these to write books that give people a strong emotional response. Marketers know, especially in cult marketing, that a strong emotional response equates to sales. High sales equates to “success”. Or the more sales, the bigger the bestseller and the more “social proof” that people are accepting instead of the truth. Social proof is when enough people agree to something that is accepted as truth whether or not it really is. These days, if it makes a lot of sales, hits the best seller list, is readily available through television, movies, magazines, websites, it’s just accepted as truth, creating the “social proof”. You can see how these “truths” are then shoved down people’s throats and how something that is really a book on religious philosophy is used as “good business practice” and/or concrete marketing steps. It’s a slippery slope, but learning how it is done can actually help me become a more powerful marketer in my business practice. This has been a great opportunity that I will truly never forget!