To recap, the Fourth Agreement states,
“Do your best. Never less and never more.”
Under any circumstance, always do your best, no more and no less. But keep in mind that your best is never going to be the same from one moment to the next. Your best depends on whether you are feeling wonderful, happy, upset, angry, sick, tired, or jealous.
Regardless of the quality, keep doing your best — no more and no less than your best. If you try too hard to do more than your best you will spend more energy than is needed and in the end your best will not be enough.
When you overdo, you deplete your body and go against yourself, and it will take you longer to accomplish your goal. But if you do less than your best, you subject yourself to frustrations, guilt, and regrets.
Just do your best— in any circumstance in your life. Let’s look at some examples.
Monday, you get up early. You feel well rested because you had two days off in a row and your body has had time to rest, rejuvenate and heal. Your mind has had time to clear, and you are not loaded down with unsolved problems are cares. You get a good breakfast, you leave for work on time, and you find yourself knocking out projects and checking things off your “to do” list.
You feel rather good about yourself. You find it easy to follow the first agreement to be impeccable with your word. It is easy to pat yourself on the back for a job well done when things are going smoothly.
As a result, you find that when others seem out of sorts or are not having their best day, you can write it off to something that is going on in their lives, and not take it personally as a criticism of yourself.
You don’t make assumptions about how others are feeling or what they want, you ask questions and as a result find that the increased understanding leads to improved relationships.
But Monday night, you find you simply cannot turn your brain off. You keep thinking about the day and find that you are beginning to judge yourself harshly for things you think you missed. You have trouble falling asleep, and by the time the alarm goes off Tuesday morning you have only slept a few hours.
You drag yourself out of bed, down some caffeine and skip breakfast because you think you need to hurry in to work to catch up on what you imagine you have missed. You have begun to beat yourself up because you imagine that your best work was not good enough. You have just stopped using the first agreement, “be impeccable with your word.” You have begun to use angry judgmental words against yourself.
You get to the office and bang your way into the door. The receptionist, unsure of what to say, says nothing. You then violate the second agreement by taking her silence personally. You tell yourself that she realizes you messed up yesterday and is giving you the silent treatment.
You speed to your desk and frantically begin to go over what you did the day before, fearing you have made mistakes you did not catch. You assume that your boss did catch them, and that is why the little red message light on your phone is beeping with a message that the boss wants to see you.
You quickly spiral down into a funk, believing that your best is not good enough, and that you will be fired. You frantically try to put forth more effort, only to find that the work you produce has errors, and in taking time to correct those errors you miss deadlines.
You drag home Tuesday and go over your reminders about living life with the Four Agreements in mind. Reminded of how your day progresses based on what you tell yourself, you regroup and decided to set yourself up for a good night’s sleep.
But the doubts rage on, and you find you do not rest well. So, upon awakening Wednesday you find you are still tired and not really on top of your game. But you decide that you will work those Four Agreements and see what happens.
You are kind to yourself as you gulp your morning caffeine and take deep breaths as you choke down some toast. You remind yourself that you are a good employee. You do good work, and everyone has their ups and downs. You take pride in your appearance and compliment yourself on making the most of what you have.
You get to the office and, despite your fears, speak kindly to the receptionist who smiles and returns your greeting.
You get to your desk and see the red message light blinking and tamp down the anxiety that springs up, reminding yourself that you have no idea what that message is about, and that the best way to manage this is to listen to it and then figure out a plan of action. After all, it could be the boss, or it could be a co-worker inviting you to lunch.
At the end of the day, you realize that even though Wednesday was not as productive as Monday, it was less stressful than Tuesday. And it was because you gave your best and decided that it was good. It was the best you could do given your personal state of being.
And you sleep better, and Thursday goes even better than Wednesday.
And then …. Thank Goodness, it’s Friday, and you realize because you let go of the negative self-talk, the tendency to take things personally, and the assumptions that others are upset or that your life has turned to muck, Friday goes pretty well.
Saturday and Sunday, here we go all over again.
So, for those of you who are still stuck in self-judgment, how do you know when you are doing your best?
You know you’re doing your best when you are enjoying the action or doing it in a way that will not have negative repercussions on you. You do your best because you want to do it, not because you must do it, not because you are trying to please the judge in you, and not because you are trying to please other people.
The first three agreements will only work if you do your best.
- Don’t expect that you will always be able to be impeccable with your word. But you can do your best.
- Don’t expect that you will never take anything personally; just do your best.
- Don’t expect that you will never make another assumption, but you can certainly do your best.
By doing your best, the habits of misusing your word, taking things personally, and making assumptions will become weaker and less frequent with time. If you do your best always, over and over again, you will transform your life from one of unhappiness to one of joy.
If you realize you have not honored one of the agreements today, begin again tomorrow and again the next day. It will be difficult at first, but each day will become easier and easier until someday you will discover that you are ruling your life with these four agreements. And you will be surprised at the way your life has been transformed.