The year is 1997 and I was a naive eleven-year-old with a serious affinity for superheroes, sports, video games, music, and red vines.
Michael Jordan was on his way out of the NBA. Allen Iverson (who was the reason why I wore number 3 in high school basketball) was beginning his massive impact on the sports world. 90’s R&B was a force even though I had no idea what these people were singing about—it sounded good.
Also in 1997, a man by the name of Don Miguel Ruiz published a small book that went on to become a massive best-seller and influence many people with ‘The Four Agreements: A Practical Guide to Personal Wisdom’.
In only 153 pages, Ruiz shares “ancient Toltec wisdom” that is broken down into four concise principles for life.
These four principles can help you achieve freedom and happiness in life. But aren’t those the same things we want when it comes to our well-being?
Couldn’t we use a little more freedom and happiness when it comes to our relationship with food? Couldn’t we use a little more freedom and happiness when it comes to our relationship with our bodies? Couldn’t we use a little more freedom and happiness when it comes to the way we talk to ourselves (I know I could)? Couldn’t we use a little more freedom and happiness when it comes to the way we move our bodies?
Residing in guilt and fear when making choices about your health isn't an ideal way to live.
With all of this said, this book played a huge role in helping me get to where I currently am along with where I'm rapidly moving towards. Here are the 4 agreements of fitness and life.
1st Agreement: Be impeccable with your word
“When you are impeccable, you take responsibility for your actions, but you do not judge or blame yourself” — Don Miguel Ruiz
Being impeccable with your word isn’t using your word for self-infliction which leads to guilt, shame, and halts progression.
Instead, your word is your promises and commitments that you make to yourself. Here’s the other important tidbit, only commit to actions you intend to follow through on because each time you promise yourself something and don’t follow through, you lose confidence and respect for yourself.
With that said, on a day-to-day basis, how is the language that you use toward yourself? What kind of words do you use to describe your reality? Do you say things about yourself that you wouldn’t say to a friend?
Not using empowering language toward yourself is a discreet form of self-sabotaging. Taking control of your emotional and mental world is the first pillar to transforming yourself.
Health, learning, growing and evolving at a fast pace, dancing, impacting people, and writing is important to me. Therefore my commitments need to reflect what's important to me while empowering me to grow each day into the best version of myself. Here are some examples of language I use for my identity.
- I desire to have great health so I can live to my highest self while looking and feeling great naked. Therefore “I’m the type of person that consistently goes to the gym and exercises 30-60 minutes and eats a variety of vegetables and nutritious foods to fuel my body and brain”.
- I desire to have abundant energy so I can make my highest impact felt in the world. Therefore “I’m the type of person who prioritizes my sleep with no room for negotiating”.
- I desire to live in Portugal for spurts of time and need to communicate effectively. Therefore, “I’m the type of person that consistently practices and studies my 2nd language daily”.
- I desire to have supreme confidence to ask any girl at the salsa club to dance with me. Therefore, “I’m the type of person that consistently heads out to salsa clubs to improve my skill level”.
- I desire to have a best selling book that is translated into multiple languages that are at bookstores and helps millions. Therefore, “I’m the type of person who deliberately writes 1000 words a day to become better”.
- I desire to help and inspire a million people in the next decade. Therefore, “I’m the type of person who publishes weekly, consistently seeks speaking engagements, and reaches out to at least 1 person daily so I can impact people the best I can”.
Notice on all of those that the commitment is the action itself, not the specific result because I can’t fully control when it arrives.
I can’t control when I’ll get back down to around 10 percent body fat. I can’t control when I’ll be fluent. I can’t control when I’ll be a salsa Jedi. I can’t control if my next book will be a best seller or even if I’ll get a book deal. I can’t control if my next article goes viral or if the next person I meet changes their life due to something I said.
But I can put myself in the best position for those things to happen through my intentional actions and being impeccable with my word (i.e. my commitments).
Take some time today and write out a handful of commitments to yourself so your brain can start working towards things that you really want.
2nd Agreement: Don’t Take Anything Personally
“When you make it a strong habit not to take anything personally, you avoid many upsets in your life. Your anger, jealousy, and envy will disappear, and even your sadness will simply disappear if you don’t take things personally.” — Don Miguel Ruiz
Whether it’s in professional settings, relationships, or judgment from your friends—you’ll inevitably experience opinions about something you do.
When I first began to workout, I experienced chatter from friends due to me passing on Friday night college parties so I could be refreshed for my Saturday workout and studying. A handful of friends and family called me “crazy” when I left the pursuit of medicine (first big internet article and more about my decision to leave in case you're curious) behind to pursue my current endeavors.
I have a one-star review on Amazon which could shoot my confidence if I didn’t equip myself with the right perspective (I actually laughed because I'm weird like that).
Odds are, someone has most likely called you crazy, dumb, or something else of similarity—probably this week. However, we must remember that it’s not about us in these situations.
What others say and do to us is nothing more than a projection of their own reality. What they choose to do and say is never about us.
When you become immune to the opinions and actions of others, their negativity and words will deflect off of you just as bullets deflect from Captain America's shield.
With that said, you’ll consistently be tempted around every corner as you attempt to grow and evolve.
“It’s the holidays, why are you eating only one plate.” “Why don’t you have some more drinks?” “You can relax and give it a break, why are you getting the grilled fish?” You don’t have to eat healthy all the time? Just indulge and get the burger and beer.” “Why do you want it all, just be happy with the simple things.”
When you’re trying to make healthy choices and grow, your circle will sometimes give you a hard time because you’re breaking free from the norm and familiarity. Sometimes they’re joking. And if not, still don’t take it personally. Instead, treat them with even more compassion. Remember, they don’t see the world the same as you and that’s okay.
Don’t take criticism, your friends opinion, and especially the “Facebook expert” who seems to know every subject personally. Keep your head down, stay positive, choose the good type of pain, and ruthlessly focus on where you’re going.
3rd agreement: Don’t make assumptions
“We have the tendency to make assumptions about everything. The problem with making assumptions is that we believe they are the truth. We could swear they are real. We make assumptions about what others are doing or thinking—we take it personally—then we blame them and react by sending emotional poison with our word. That is why when we make assumptions, we’re asking for problems. We make an assumption, we misunderstand, we take it personally, and we end up creating a whole big drama for nothing.” — Don Miguel Ruiz
Assumptions leave a lot up to the imagination which leads to worse case scenario thinking. When you’re thinking about your well being, assumptions are dangerous because this can lead to dogmatic thinking when you’re approaching potential solutions for your fitness.
Perhaps you’re making assumptions about which diet will and won’t work for you. Perhaps you’re making assumptions about particular training programs and strategies not working for you. All of these assumptions are creating limiting beliefs.
With all of this said, there’s an easy solution to stop letting assumptions guide you and that is to start asking questions.
Have the courage to ask questions about whatever the situation is in front of you. This diet doesn’t work? This type of workout program doesn't work? And the excuses can go on forever.
But why? Investigate because these type of moments are when you can extract gold from the situation which leads to growing and evolving at a faster rate.
4th agreement: Always do your best
“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.” “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. Everything is alive and changing all the time, so your best will sometimes be high quality, and other times it will not be as good.” — Don Miguel Ruiz
We can’t always control the outcome to situations, but we can control our daily actions.
Abiding by a rule of one percent daily improvement is a great way to keep your sanity while attempting to do your best. Focus on continuous improvement which is achieved through consistent small steps that eventually become monumental feats.
What I’ve noticed over the years with myself and clients is that those who take the consistent but small steps are more successful long-term compared to the ones who attempt large and monumental action because they can’t sustain it long term. Slow and steady always wins.
When you take small but important actions, the resistance isn’t as likely to stop you because while it’s out of your comfort zone, it’s not so far out that you’re feeling highly anxious and fearful.
At the end of the day, it’s a daily battle to abide by the 4 agreements of fitness and life. They are conceptually simple, but difficult in execution once you immerse yourself in the day-to-day world where temptations are abundant.