The Four Agreements
Discussion, Life

The Four Agreements

I really enjoyed the conversation last week when we discussed the aesthetics of design. I don’t know if I will have a philosophical or discussion type post every week, but I am inspired this week to open another discussion after recently re-reading the book The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz. Even though it is a small book, I come away with something new every time I pick it up and read it. If you are not familiar, the four agreements are:

The Four Agreements

The Four Agreements

In this post, I am going to focus a bit on each agreement and how I currently view how it applies or integrates into my blogging and quilting life.

Be Impeccable With Your Word

Be Impeccable With Your Word

1. Be Impeccable with your Word: Speak with integrity. Say only what you mean. Avoid using the Word to speak against yourself or to gossip about others. Use the power of your Word in the direction of truth and love.

Did you know that one of the definitions of integrity is “the state of being whole and undivided”?

Personally, I think the hardest part of being impeccable with your Word is applying this to myself. I don’t know about you, but my inner critic (whom I have not-so-affectionately named “my mean voice”) can be very hard on me. When something really triggers my inner critic, and the movie starts to play, it is hard to hear anything else over the noise of my own inner flogging. Learning how to pause and step outside of this cycle is an on-going learning process for me.

Because I know just how hard I can be on myself, I do try to be very positive and uplifting. This is one of the big reasons I am such an advocate for leaving comments on blog posts. I will certainly only say something if I mean it, and I will do my best to use the power of my Word to spread truth and love. And since quilts = love, I think we can all agree that we are adding a lot of positive to the world.

Don't Take Anything Personally

Don’t Take Anything Personally

2. Don’t Take Anything Personally: Nothing others do is because of you. What others say and do is a projection of their own reality, their own dream. When you are immune to the opinions and actions of others, you won’t be the victim of needless suffering.

Hello QuiltCon quilt show rejection!

Honestly, though, I think the best I can hope to strive for in my quilting life is to be really clear with myself about why I am doing something. For instance, I made a quilt that I love and think is beautiful. I submitted that quilt to a juried quilt show. The quilt was not accepted to be shown. That should not decrease my love or feelings about my quilt one iota. So, I need to think long and hard about why I am making a quilt before I get myself into such a sticky situation of gummy emotions. If my main purpose in quilt making is to make a quilt to be accepted into QuiltCon, I will more than likely be setting myself up for disappointment. Instead, if I set my purpose to make quilts that I enjoy and love, then I will feel joyous when I am confident enough to submit the quilt for a juried show, and I will still be joyous regardless of any outcome because I loved making the quilt.

This also applies to quilt making when working with customers! What I find aesthetically pleasing and desirable might not match the vision that my customer has. I need to realize that their desires have nothing to do with me (it really isn’t that they dislike my work, they just really have a vision in mind that they want fulfilled!).

This might just be the hardest agreement for me right now; I care a lot and I confuse caring with taking things personally too often.

Don't Make Assumptions

Don’t Make Assumptions

3. Don’t Make Assumptions: Find the courage to ask questions and to express what you really want. Communicate with others as clearly as you can to avoid misunderstandings, sadness and drama. With just this one agreement, you can completely transform your life.

The bottom line here is communicate! I love the online quilting community because it allows us to communicate with one another to openly discuss our failures and celebrate our successes and acknowledge our flaws.

One of my husband’s favorite things to say right now is, “no one is an expert/professional.” This has come up in discussions between us a lot recently. For instance, we were talking about what it was like for us as teenagers and young adults as we prepared to become independent. I used to assume that one day I would just, you know, be an adult and magically know what to do. It turns out that I took my best stab at a career and it wasn’t meant to be a life-long endeavor for me. Instead, I gained 15 years of experiences, adventures, friends, and memories, and now I am forging out on a new trail.

Always Do Your Best

Always Do Your Best

4. Always Do Your Best: Your best is going to change from moment to moment; it will be different when you are healthy as opposed to sick. Under any circumstance, simply do your best, and you will avoid self-judgment, self-abuse, and regret.

Yes. My best has certainly fluctuated a bit over the past 3 months. In November, I did not have the energy to sew for several weeks. And when I started sewing again, my best efforts consisted of sewing for 30 minutes at a time. I honored that reality and because I did my best to cultivate the space to allow myself to function as best I could, I think I healed in a healthier and smarter way. And it certainly helps me appreciate my new best efforts and the energy I have to be more productive.

This is a great reason to take photographs of our work, because it is fun to go back and celebrate how our best changes. Not to nit-pick previous work, but to celebrate in our growth.

Wrap Up

Are the four agreements new to you? How else could they apply to quilting and a healthy relationship with our craft and industry?

0 thoughts on “The Four Agreements

  1. JetGirl,
    Hear my applause! I am always So happy when I come across quilters who are willing to let others into their mental process, and how that always involves an emotional component. What we favor depends on whether it evokes an emotional response in us. Not everyone comes to the table with the same experiences or memories, therefore we don’t like the same things. It’s what make us unique. Our art, our quilts, are like bearing a part of our soul and psyche, and it is hard when others feel no excitement to our work. There are communities ‘out there’ that do, and let them be your support. Look yourself in the mirror every morning, and forgive yourself for all your shortcomings. Then, as my mother say, Get out there, Smile, and Take on the world!

    1. Thank you, Julie. It is fun to be part of a community online that is so diverse and supportive. 🙂

  2. I’ve never heard of these but they are welcome! I love your attitude about making a quilt specifically for Quiltcon/just entering a quilt you enjoyed. I am also glad I didn’t go for the former.

    1. When I re-read the book this week agreement two (don’t take anything personally) was really a big light bulb moment for me.

  3. Liz says:

    This really resonates with me, as they are four principles that I strive to follow in my daily life (although I’m unfamiliar with the book). I think my biggest weaknesses are gossiping (which, when I do I try to make sure are things I would say to that person’s face anyway – not that that’s an excuse), and remembering not to take things personally. Thanks for the thoughtful post!

    1. It short book that focuses on the practical aspects of trying to rise above situations by applying these four agreements. Last night I discussed this post with my husband and he immediately applied the agreements to his job, too. It it interesting to see which agreements resonate most with us and which we struggle with the most. And because I have known about the book for a while, it has been fun to watch that change for me, too.

  4. Vicki P says:

    This is excellent advice and a recipe for sound mental health. All of us have struggles, ups and downs, reasons to cringe or celebrate. How we learn to maintain tranquility and peace in our lives makes all the difference. You have found it, and it shows in your posts and in your wonderful works.

    1. Yes, we all have our ups and downs, Vicki. I would not say that I am the picture of perfect mental health. I struggle with anxiety, depression, and a big lack of self-esteem. However, I am working for better mental health, and these tools and tactics for viewing the world are starting to help and work for me.

  5. lalinsocal says:

    thank you for this post! I’ve not read the book, ordered it just a moment ago 🙂 these are all basic truths, but sometimes we (me) need to see it in a shiny cover to remind ourselves on those days when it all gets a little fuzzy. . .

    1. Fuzzy – that is definitely one of my words to describe life sometimes. I hope the book is helpful for you. I am in a different place emotionally / spiritually / mentally / physically every time I have read the book, so I tend to get something new out of it each time I pick it up.

  6. Christine says:

    I am not familiar with The Four Agreements, but am certainly going to read it after this blog post. My husband lives this way, and after a lifetime of being around people who get things done [what they want] via manipulation and always take things very personally, just being around my husband has changed me to behave in healthier ways. I’m looking forward to working harder on these areas in my life.

    Thank you for sharing how this relates to you as a quilter as well. I’ve got a lot to work on!

    1. My husband also has an innate capability to handle things in this manner more readily. And we all have a lot to work on; I’m glad to be making tiny steps in healthier directions myself. 🙂

  7. I really enjoyed reading this post, lots to ponder and will look out that book!

    1. Thanks for letting me know you enjoyed the post. I hope you enjoy the book, too. 🙂

  8. Heather @ Quilts Actually says:

    I’m going to look this book up. I really like these because it is so easy to get down on ourselves or to head down a less positive path. These are great reminders about how to keep our heads up and be more purposeful. Thanks for sharing!

    1. Thanks for reading along, Heather! 🙂

  9. Shauna says:

    I’m not familiar with the book, but it is going on my to read list. I struggle with #2 so much it’s not even funny. But I’ve been trying to get out of my own head more. Great conversation, love your take on them.

    1. Thank you, Shauna. Not taking things personally seems like a daily challenge for me, too.

  10. kittywilkin says:

    This. Is. Fabulous! I have never read The Four Agreements, but I’m pretty sure my husband has, and I *think* we own it. I am keeping it in mind for when my newborn arrives and I have LOTS of sitting/nursing/rocking(reading) time. Your reflections ring so true to me, too. It is so difficult to put aside assumptions and self-criticism, and taking things personally. The whole “noise of the personal flogging” part really struck me. I’m such a personal flogger, yet beating myself up (whether over a flaw, or a failure to “get stuff done”, or anything for that matter) doesn’t serve me or anyone else. I’ve never “reblogged” anything in my life, but I think this post will be my first. Thank you for getting my philosophical, quilty thought process going!

    1. One of the things I have been thinking about lately is community. I have realized that community is what we make it, and so I have been trying in my personal life to cultivate conversations like these to develop a community of friends and support. I realized that I also value the online quilting / blogging community, and so I have been kind of testing the waters for these kind of broader, philosophical conversations. It means so much to me to know that it might help cultivate the same sense for others. I hope you find the book in your home and the time and space to read through it. 🙂

  11. kittywilkin says:

    Reblogged this on Night Quilter and commented:
    I’ve never reblogged anything before, but this blog post is worth reposting. It really gets you thinking about the way we approach the world, both quilting/blogging and otherwise. Thank you, Yvonne (Quilting Jetgirl) for getting my philosophical quilty wheels turning! I’m going to focus on these agreements from here on out!

  12. Good lessons to remember for us all. I get the sense that you can be pretty hard on yourself. You are talented, you are smart and you are very warm. Amazing traits. I guess my survival tactic for this kind of self criticism is to have my hand is multiple ventures that are pretty varied (yoga, support of our local arts, quilting, knitting, family, work, friends). On a good day one of them is going as well as I would like but somehow that makes all the others Ok? Keep up the fun conversations

    1. Thank you for the kind compliments, Hillary. Yes, I can be pretty hard on myself. I think having varied ventures is a great way to maintain an even keel; it certainly provides different outlets and communities for support and interaction, too.

  13. These are all new to me but they are definitely true. What you say about being our own worst critiques is very true. It took me a couple years of teaching before I finally grasped “Don’t take it personally” as students can say and do terrible things, now I usually try to find why and help them change their perceptions. You are not alone in being hard on yourself, but your work and voice are beautiful.

    1. I really admire teachers; I think they have an inner strength and wisdom born out of many socially difficult and challenging situations. Thank you for your kind words, and I look forward to finding out my own “whys” and perception shifts. 🙂

  14. I had a difficult week and feel a little refreshed to read this blog post, not just for the seeing goals described in the agreements but for the comfort in seeing that some of my basic struggles are not uncommon. I’ve been having long conversations with my husband about not being so influenced by the world (not taking things personally? not assuming others are criticizing me?), and after reading your post I feel a slight reprieve from the stress of struggling to avoid those things. I accept that I’m just “in” it right now, and I’m inspired to check out this book to see how I might use the agreements to reorient my perspective.

    1. I am so sorry to hear that you had a hard week, Daisy. I know that it helps me to know others struggle with many of the same topics that I do.

  15. Laura Links says:

    Great, incredibly thoughtful post (my favorite kind) and my husband and I both agree we need to now buy that book! Thank you.

    1. Thank you, I hope that you enjoy the book. It has sparked many a great conversation with my husband, too. 🙂

  16. bkringel says:

    Such a good post! Found it through Kitty Wilkin’s blog where she shared your post. This is such a good reminder of being gentle with oneself and keeping my priorities and projects true to myself. Thanks for taking the time to share your thoughts.

    1. Thank you so much for stopping by.

  17. I haven’t read that book in years. We have that one as well as the Mastery of Love. Good things are in both.

    1. Yes, Mastery of Love is definitely another good one, Diana!

  18. Kim S. says:

    Thanks for putting this honest and thoughtful post together, Yvonne. I love the way that you tied the conversation back to The Four Agreements (I am so looking forward to checking it out! I love a good book suggestion!), and for admitting to feeling unsure of yourself sometimes. I know I certainly can relate, whenever I put my work “out there.” It’s hard to feel vulnerable, and while I find the quilting community extremely extremely supportive, it’s my own inner voice that tells me that each piece is not as good as what someone else has done, that my production is not fast enough, that I don’t get around to commenting on others’ blogs as much as I’d like to, etc. etc. I’m looking forward to checking out this book for some ideas on how to reframe the thoughts in my own head in a more positive manner!

    1. Thank you so much for visiting, Kim. It really is hard to feel vulnerable, and although the quilt blogging community is amazing and supportive, it still feels scary when I try something new. I really do hope that through conversations like this we can realize how much we all have in common and carry a little more grace and understanding for ourselves, too.

  19. Joanna says:

    Before I quit my job, I was seeing a psychologist for a little while and #2 was something he really tried to get me to understand. One of my co-workers had been in trouble with ‘higher ups’ so ended up with a chip on his shoulder and was acting up and being difficult to work with and when I tried pulling him up about it he then started blaming things on me (like comparing how we don’t work in a Nazi camp so why should he do X job because I can’t force him… and stuff like that).

    It made me start thinking that I’m not doing a good job after all (especially if people are thinking these things ‘behind my back’) but my psychologist pointed out that these people are acting out and saying these things because they are actually disappointed in themselves. It’s not that *I’m* not good enough, it’s that they aren’t (hence: being spoken to by higher ups) so they’re trying to make themselves feel better by trying to bring me down to their level to make me look bad too. It’s not a perspective I’d ever considered before but with our discussion about it, it actually made a lot of sense.

    Now, I try and think about it a lot, especially with job hunting. Deep down I know they’d get 100s of applications and only spend a few seconds looking at resumes and it’s not like it’s the same employer rejecting me the 100s of times I’ve been rejected, it’s a different one each time (or most of the time if the same employer readvertises jobs or has multiple jobs). Still hurts though!

    1. It sounds like you got some really valuable insight and advice, Jo. I don’t know about you, but I can be fully present and aware of these topics, but then something comes up in life and I fall back into the familiar “groove” of previous experiences, and it is hard to remember things like this. It sounds like you are really trying to keep these things present and at the front of your mind, though, which is awesome. I think I am getting better about rising above a situation, eventually, but some day it might be nice not to get sucked in at all!

      1. Joanna says:

        Ha! I’m completely irrational most of the time so those thoughts and reminders only happen when I have a sane moment !

  20. Jasmine says:

    Another interesting topic. These are good things to keep in my and to remember why we are doing what we are. I blog because I love quilting and hope to help/inspire others. It is not a popularity contest, and so important to not take things personally. (Something I have struggled with for years.)

    1. Your comment about “it is not a popularity contest” rings so true for me! I don’t know why I feel such a strong need to please other people, and while I know I am never going to win a popularity contest, I can get myself so worked up sometimes. Thank you so much for visiting and commenting.

  21. Vera says:

    Yes, these are new to me. You not only give us inspiration but some food for thought as well 🙂 thank you!

    1. You are welcome – I hope it is helpful / informative / interesting.

  22. Ruth says:

    Hard not to take things personally sometimes especially when you have poured a lot into a project and its ok to feel disappointed – shows how much you care in the first place but I keep reminding myself different horses for different courses, and its good advice to not take things personally – hard to do but something to try for.

    1. That is a good distinction, Ruth. Emotions aren’t bad – it really is OK to be disappointed, but it is really hard (for me) to keep the disappointment from turning into something much more personal.

  23. Rachel says:

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts! I could certainly stand to remember a few of these myself. One that piece that really made me think was “Your best is going to change from moment to moment”. It seems so straight-forward when you think about it, but apparently it’s hard to remember anyway. 🙂

    1. My community went through a horrible trauma at the end of October, and I ended up getting to talk with a grief counselor for an hour or so. One of the things that I remember most from my conversation with the counselor was to be gentle with myself and to understand that I will be doing my best, but my best would be much different with “grief brain”. There were many times I found myself wandering around the grocery store aimlessly only to get home and find my shopping list in my pocket (that I had thought I left at home). Another friend who is a teacher confided to me that she realized one day that she had not been writing the word “spelling” correctly on her chalkboard for weeks. Being understanding with ourselves and realizing that our best fluctuates is a really important lesson, and it can also help me have a lot more compassion for others, too, I have noticed.

  24. New to me! The one I have to consciously think through is 2, but as long as I can pause for a while and think through it sensibly, I am OK.

    1. Awesome, Carla. It sounds like you are well balanced.

  25. I’ve never heard of the Four Agreements before. What an interesting way of trying to live, and how much better our lives would be if we could do it consistently! Thanks for sharing, Yvonne.

    1. It has been liberating working to apply these practically in my life. A challenge for sure, but it is an interesting practice to try to cultivate these thoughtfully into my daily living.

  26. sally says:

    Wise and inspiring words, I think I must get hold of a copy of this book. Funnily enough, I think I’m pretty good with number 2, which seems to be the most angst causing of them all. But number 4 is a good reminder right now!

    1. Yes, I think that right now your family really needs to remember #4. After the community tragedy I went through back in October/November, I would find myself wandering around the grocery store aimlessly. Then I would get home and my shopping list (that I swore I had not written or left behind) would be in my hand…

I really appreciate the time and thought you take to comment, and I look forward to conversing with you. :)