Finally, we come to Ruiz’s Fourth Agreement – Always Do Your Best. This is the Agreement that most changed my life and really set me free.
Not only does my personality naturally lend itself to high expectations and perfectionism, but I also come from a religious culture of striving for perfection. I’ve always been my own worst enemy because anything less than perfect or nearly perfect has been unacceptable. I believe there are merits to striving for perfection but the detriments are many.
Constantly striving for perfection can lead us to a place of self-disgust, self-disappointment, and feelings of unworthiness. These feelings then generate a need for atoning for imperfection through self-flagellation in many forms – emotional, spiritual, and perhaps even physical.
Doing our best silences the Judge in our heads telling us we’re not good enough.
“When you do your best, you don’t give the Judge the opportunity to find you guilty or to blame you. If you have done your best and the Judge tries to judge you according to your Book of Laws, you’ve got the answer: ‘I did my best.’ There are no regrets. That is why we always do our best. It is not an easy agreement to keep, but this agreement is really going to set you free” (Ruiz, p. 88).
Our best will vary from day to day. If we’re sick, we’re obviously not going to perform as well as we would after a good night’s sleep. Wherever we are in a given day is A-Okay. All we need to worry about is doing our best with what we have that day.
Doing our best also applies retroactively. I can go back in my mind and beat myself up for stupid mistakes I’ve made, especially parenting mistakes. But then I check myself because I realize I did the best I could at the time. When we look at things in retrospect, without judgment, we learn from our mistakes. “Learning from your mistakes means you practice, look honestly at the results, and keep practicing” (Ruiz, p. 88).
Doing our best enables us to draw a line in the sand and start over every day. By constantly focusing on doing our best, we open up a whole new world we would otherwise never venture to discover because we suddenly have permission to f%@# up and it’s okay.
When we do our best, we create a space of self-acceptance. A space where we are safe from the voices of recrimination in our heads that tell us we aren’t good enough, smart enough, successful enough or pretty enough. When we accept that our best is enough, we are free.
Ruiz, D. M. (1997). The four agreements. San Rafael, CA: Amber-Allen Publishing.