NOTE: All unbolded text is taken directly from either “The Four Agreements” or “The Four Agreements Companion Book” by Don Miguel Ruiz, and all credit extends to the author. Bolded text is my personal commentary.
There is just one more agreement, but it’s the one that allows the other three to become deeply ingrained habits. The fourth agreement is about the action of the first three: Always do your best.
When I first began to study the fourth agreement, I noticed that I kept getting hung up on the word “best”. I had a hard time getting past an old belief that doing my best meant measuring up to some standard of perfection. Somewhere along the line, I had adopted the belief that “doing my best” meant “being the best”…which, of course meant that my best was rarely good enough.
Always do your best has nothing to do with being the best. As don Miguel Ruiz explains, it is about fully honouring your life in every moment. The following quote beautifully summarizes the spirit and intention of this agreement:
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. Your routine habits are too strong and firmly rooted in your mind. 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.
In India they perform a ritual called puja. In this ritual, they take idols that represent God in many different forms and bathe them, feed them, and give their love to them. They even chant mantras to these idols. The idol itself is not important. What is important is the way they perform the ritual, the way they say, “I love you, God.”
God is life. God is life in action. The best way to say, “I love you, God,” is to live your life doing your best. The best way to say, “Thank you, God,” is by letting go of the past and living in the present moment, right here and now.
You were born with the right to be happy. You were born with the right to love, to enjoy and to share your love. You are alive, so take your life and enjoy it. Don’t resist life passing through you, because that is God passing through you. Just your existence proves the existence of God. Your existence proves the existence of life and energy.
Your own body is a manifestation of God, and if you honour your body everything will change for you. When you practice giving love to every part of your body, you plant seeds of love in your mind, and when they grow, you will love, honour, and respect your body immensely. Every action, every thought, every emotion then becomes a communion with God.
When you don’t do your best you are denying yourself the right to be you. That’s a seed that you should really nurture in your mind. You don’t need knowledge or great philosophical concepts. You don’t need the acceptance of others. You express your own divinity by being alive and by loving yourself and others.
Doing your best really doesn’t feel like work because you enjoy whatever you are doing. You know you’re doing your best when you are enjoying the action of doing it in a away that will not have negative repercussions for you.
Doing your best is a great habit to have. I do my best in everything I do and feel. Doing my best has become a ritual in my life because I made the choice to make it a ritual. It’s a belief like any other belief that I choose. I make everything a ritual, and I always do my best. Taking a shower is a ritual for me, and with that action I tell my body how much I love it. I do my best to give to my body and to receive what my body gives to me.
- don Miguel Ruiz
On the eve of sharing my first class on the fourth agreement, Always Do Your Best, I was touched by the notion of choosing to make doing your best a ritual in your life. As often happens, spirit guided me to a book. This time I was drawn to one called “A Journey To The Heart”, Daily Meditations on the Path to Freeing Your Soul”. I turned to May 24, the day of the class and the meditation for this day was called “Rituals Connect Us With Faith”. It was so endearing that I share it with you…(I am going to start asking St. Anthony to help me whenever I misplace something) :)
I stopped in at at the Franciscan monastery, a short visit to look around. I bought a keychain, returned to my car, then realized I had misplaced my keys. I went back inside and talked to the receptionist. Just then a short priest joined our conversation. He had a bald head encircled by a short fringe of hair and he wore a flowing black robe. "Let me show you what I do when I lose something," he said. "I ask St. Anthony for help."
The next moment, the priest was spinning in a circle, clapping his hands in a joyful prayer. "St. Anthony, St. Anthony, please look around. Somethings' been lost and cannot be found." He stopped, looked at me, then smiled. "Now you will find your keys," he said. He was right. Within thirty seconds, we found the keys. There were on a counter in a place we had looked twice before. For some reason, we just hadn't seen them.
But I found something more wonderful than my car key. I had witnessed a delightful man expressing pure, innocent joy in a ritual that helped him and others through the days. What are the rituals that are important to you, that awaken joy, innocence, and faith in you? Do you allow yourself to use these rituals freely? What were the rituals you enjoyed as a child, the ones that brought you comfort? Do you remember them? Engage in these rituals. Use them freely. Share them with others, as the priest did with me.
Ritual connect us to faith. They're faith in action. Rituals are reminders of our connection to God. They bring us back to God and ourselves.
- "A Journey to the Heart", by Melody Beattie. Entry for My 24: "Rituals Connect Us with Faith