Don Miguel Ruiz’s Four Agreements Applied to Higher Ed. Leadership

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Four Agreements that will change everything

It’s Sunday morning on the 4th of July weekend. I am not supposed to work today but I felt compelled to turn on my computer and tell you about a little book I encourage you to read if you haven’t already. “The Four Agreements” by Don Miguel Ruiz was published in 1997, sold over 8 million copies, and was on the New York Times bestseller list for over a decade.

It’s not new and it’s already well-known, so why am I talking about it, you might ask? If you are familiar with my work, you know that my approach to leadership development is grounded in self-mastery. The best leaders are self-aware and self-empowered. They are not easily rattled by unwanted events and know how to respond intentionally rather than react.

That’s a great goal, isn’t it? A good place to start is to decide to honor The Four Agreements. If you do, you will find freedom and your life will transform immediately. Please understand that you have the power to change how you feel about your job (and your life) without needing anything external to change.

Let’s take a moment to imagine what would change if higher ed. leaders chose to live by the Four Agreements.

1st Agreement: Be Impeccable with Your Word

“Speak with integrity. Say only what you mean. Avoid using the word to speak against yourself or to gossip about others. Use the power of your word in the direction of truth and love.”


No more innocent conversations turning confrontational.

No more unwarranted criticism, gossip, blame, or twisted truths to fit someone’s agenda.

No more words spoken with the intention to hurt, punish, shame, or put down.

No more self-criticism, self-loathing, self-doubt, self-punishment, guilt, regret, or feelings of inadequacy.

Much more appreciation, gratitude, uplifting conversations, support, acceptance, compassion, connection, and loyalty.

2nd Agreement: Don’t Take Anything Personally

“Nothing others do is because of you. What others say and do is a projection of their own reality, their own dream. When you are immune to the opinions and actions of others, you won’t be the victim of needless suffering.”


No more feelings hurt by someone’s words or actions.

No more fear that people may react unfairly.

No more need for validation and approval, since other people’s opinions of you are not a reflection of the truth.

No more attachment to changing what other people do or say.

Much more freedom to focus on service and positive impact, since you are no longer burdened by other people’s judgment.

3rd Agreement: Don’t Make Assumptions

“Find the courage to ask questions and to express what you really want. Communicate with others as clearly as you can to avoid misunderstandings, sadness, and drama. With just this one agreement, you can completely transform your life.”


No more fear of asking questions that might make you look bad (e.g. fear of asking your supervisor for clarifications regarding expectations).

No more waiting for people to give you want you want, when you haven’t asked them directly because you think they “should know”.

No more worrying, catastrophizing, or attributing bad intentions to people.

No more interpreting innocent actions as attack or disrespect.

No more expecting people to know how things make you feel.

Much more clarity, peace, focus, support, collaboration, employee engagement, and performance.

4th Agreement: Always Do Your Best

“Your best is going to change from moment to moment; it will be different when you are healthy as opposed to sick. Under any circumstance, simply do your best, and you will avoid self-judgment, self-abuse, and regret.”


No more letting yourself down, feeling regret, frustration, and self-criticism.

No more thinking you should do more or you should do better.

No more beating yourself up when you’re ill, overwhelmed, or depleted.

No more playing small, dreaming small, and making excuses for why you can’t live your best life.

Much more self-compassion, emotional wellness, health, empowerment, productivity, and success.

What will you choose?

When you don’t like what is happening at work and how it makes you feel, you can either do what most people do, which is complain, criticize, take things personally, make assumptions, or make excuses, or you can choose inner peace and self-mastery. The decision is yours.

Changing old habits and thought patterns require a high level of awareness and commitment. I strongly encourage you to work with a coach to facilitate the process and spare you any confusion, setbacks, and unnecessary pain. Click here if you would like to schedule a time to speak with me about working together.

Imagine what this would mean to you. You will no longer criticize yourself or others. You will no longer worry about what people think of you. You will no longer need anyone’s approval. You will no longer be confused, mislead, frustrated, or disappointed by your own assumptions. You will always do your best, have self-compassion, know that you are doing enough, and have no regrets.

I hope you choose all Four Agreements but even if you start with just one, you will be on your path to self-mastery. At the very least, stop blaming external circumstances and events for how you feel. Realize that you are 100% in charge of your thoughts, your focus, your actions, and your empowerment.

About the author: Dr. Audrey Reille has empowered thousands of professionals through one-on-one coaching, group coaching, speaking engagements, and online courses. Audrey is the go-to coach for leaders in higher education administration. She empowers them to thrive by reducing stress, optimizing strategies, improving professional relationships, and developing a strong and empowered mindset.