Don Paglia | Marriage and Family Counseling. Constellations Workshops


Tip # 31:

“Give a man a fish and he will eat for a day.  Teach him how to fish and he will sit in a boat and drink beer all day.”

                                                                Author Unknown

Beer drinkers often get a bad rap. If we look a bit closer, however, and get beyond what WE KNOW about beer use and abuse (or, for that matter about any sort of substance abuse) as a way to escape life’s problems, and look at how some of these folks approach life, be it by sitting in a boat and having a beer or two, we might find something illuminating going on. Beer drinkers might actually know something about life. They may understand the importance of occasionally pulling out of the helter-skelter world.  Some call it the “rat race,” and these people withdraw from it in regular doses.

These people may have figured out that life isn’t all about doing great and important things! It turns out enjoying the journey of life itself is more essential. And such awareness comes about from periodically pulling out and “wasting” time.

I’m not promoting drinking beer. Nor is beer drinking necessary for one to slow down life. All I’m saying is that we ought to slow down. This is not the first time I have made this case, or I am not alone in doing so, either. Undoubtedly this will not be my final campaign on this point.

The Four Agreements is a favorite book I pick up every so often to re-read is. Don Miguel Ruiz, the author, draws on his acquired Toltec wisdom to make the case that each of us is born into a blind loyalty that produces our own self-created suffering. This suffering is brought about by the subconscious influences from our society that hook us from birth. He calls this societal agreement.  The Dream.  Ruiz says we all are born into the Dream, that we are engulfed by it, and that we can’t see what we can’t see. We go about living within the Dream without realizing it

The Four Agreements are the antidote to this dilemma. They are a powerful instrument available to us for finding access to enlightenment. They provide us freedom to live powerfully. Each of the Agreements is a specific practice, or discipline, that allows us to become conscious of what we are born into and make us capable of living our life to full potential.

The Four Agreements are:

  1. Be impeccable with your word.
  2. Don’t take anything personally.
  3. Don’t make assumptions.
  4. Always do your best.

Incorporating these four agreements into one’s daily life will radically alter your life in unimaginable ways. In fact, even consistently doing one or two of the agreements will have a radically positive impact. By the way: implementing these agreements into your life is actually way more superior to just beer drinking.

Be impeccable with your word.

Say what you mean. Do what you say. This turns out to be so much more than simply not lying, or just telling the truth. It is about being totally honest and living a life of complete integrity. It is about be truthful to others, as well as, to yourself. It’s an awareness that our words have power, and that we should choose our words carefully. Our words transform the way we think, and affect the opinions of others.

Don’t take anything personally.

Again. This is a hugely transforming shift. We all are prone to take EVERYTHING personally. We’d be best to suspect that whatever one says to us or about us doesn’t have much or anything to do with us. It is about the one speaking.  I have challenged people to say something to me that would offend me or hurt my feelings. Usually they are much too polite to take me up on this. But, the point I am trying to make is that only I am capable of making me feel badly. The other person may strike a nerve with their comment/criticism of me, but it will only penetrate because I already think this negative remark to be true. And even then I may likely not be offended. I might simply reply, “I know you are correct. I know this about myself. I appreciate you reminding me of it as I am eager to address it.”

I have a placard that reads: “Don’t Believe Everything You Think!” Ruiz says that nothing people say or to you is actually about you – it’s about them. When you get upset by something someone said to you, that’s about your own fears and experiences, which makes it essential for you to deal with this. You do not have to believe it. You can check it out and you certainly do not have to become reactive.

Don’t make assumptions.

We are meaning making machines! We go about our day making up various meanings about anything and everything. Then, depending on the meaning we make up, we can become extremely offended or angry or depressed, all the while forgetting we were the one that made up this particular meaning to begin with. Instead of making assumptions, we’d be better off asking questions: “Is this true? Is there another way to see this? How is this helpful?”

Often we often jump to conclusions and make assumptions that are wildly wrong. If you say “hi” to a friend, and they don’t reply, you would perhaps make the assumption that he/she was mad at you without any real evidence. At least check it out before you scratch him/her off your Christmas card list.

Always do your best.

This seems simply enough. Too often we live with a double standard where if someone does something foolish or poorly (our judgment) we are usually willing to cut them a break. We’ll give them the benefit of the doubt. ‘So and so is having a bad day…’ We’ll possibly put their mistake into a larger context and think how this is out of the ordinary from their otherwise quite decent behavior. But, when we do something foolish we often beat ourselves up and think of ourselves as a messed up person. If I tell one lie, I am now a liar! PERIOD.

Also, my best today may not be my best tomorrow. So I don’t need to find fault what my past, only to see where there is room to improve. I now know better, and this present way of being, today, is my new best. Perhaps tomorrow it will no longer be suffice.  Always do your best, even if your best constantly changes. This is called growth.

 The Takeaway:

The moment we’re born we are made to conform to society’s Rules. The agreement to do so is made unconsciously as we want to belong and be accepted. We become enculturated into it over time. The consequence is that we are stopped from finding our true Selves. By using the ancient Toltec wisdom of the Four Agreements we are able to replace those limiting societal rules with better rules – agreements that liberate and free us to live life to the full.