Book Review: The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz

  Promoted as “A Practical Guide to Personal Freedom,” The Four Agreements was not my first choice to read in my spare time.  Upon request of a dear friend, I forcibly attempted this 138-page book mustering somewhat of an open mind. Already, I have wasted many years as an idealist, grasping at wishful thinking as a way to truth.  Being a childhood survivor of religious indocrination, I now err on the side of skepticism before embracing any proposal as legitimate.  That preface made, I share with you my thoughts about The Four Agreements.


Not surprisingly, author Don Miguel Ruiz was born into a family of shamanism.  This background led him to explore a path of self-inquiry and ancient ancestral wisdom.  From his experiences, he penned the essay-like Four Agreements, expressing his viewpoint about the self.  


He opens the book with an old tale about a man calling himself “The Smoky Mirror.”  My skepticism nearly gagged at this point, and I was only through the roman numerals of the book pages.  I could already see which direction he was headed.  He launches into a romanticized dissertation about the Domestication of the Planet and ends with a statement of living in heaven on earth.  If that’s not an overused cliché, what is?  Now, we are ready for the life-altering Four Agreements…sarcasm intended.


What are the Four Agreements?


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


Was this a revolutionary message worth 138-pages of my time?  What unique perspective could he shed on these hackneyed topics purported by flashy motivational speakers? I expected disappointment, but I suspended my disbelief initially.  After reading some of the following statements, I no longer took his book seriously.  It transformed from self-help into a humorous description of his biased utopia.


Here are (only) three of the outrageous statements that have no factual basis:


  1. I see a friend and I say, “Hmmmm! I see that kind of color in your face in people who are going to get cancer.”  If he listens to the word, and if he agrees, he will have cancer in less than one year.  That is the power of the word." (page 29)
  2. "Love in action only produces happiness." (page 128)
  3. "The only reason you suffer is because you choose to suffer." (page 129)


As you deduced, this book seemed a shallow journaling of the positive-thinking-movement.  I speculate that the writers of the publicized book, “The Secret,” found a predecessor in this book.  For those who swear by The Secret’s principles, cozy up in your reading recliner with The Four Agreements and a steaming cup of coffee.  Immerse yourself in the pages of this elementary-level read.  Experience those warm and fuzzy feelings while you think happy thoughts and live in that fairytale land of Peter Pan.