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Freedom from Within

Live Like You Can

By Janis McDonald

Did you ever feel that you were trapped inside a jail cell, desperate to escape, yet the key to freedom seemed to be missing? During my life, when certain situations have created “no way out” thinking, I have always wondered, “Why is this happening to me, how did I cause it, and what in the world could I do to free myself?” Thinking life was unfair, being victimized by circumstances, and taking things personally were my default responses that kept me locked up and the key to freedom beyond my grasp. Always on the lookout for the newest guru who guaranteed freedom from my self-imposed prison, I experimented with various spiritual paths, yet the door remained firmly shut.

Happily, ten years ago, I discovered Miguel Ruiz’s book, The Four Agreements, which provided the key to release me from imprisonment of the self. Learning to live life by the Four Agreements has been a long journey of trial and error (lots of errors), yet I firmly feel it is one of the simplest and easiest ways to open the jail cell door.

The First Agreement, “Be impeccable with your words,” takes quick awareness and learning to pause before speaking words that can never be unspoken. Count to 10; stop, look, listen; and take one breath first are tools I have learned to use to slow down my reaction response. “Let me think about it” is my personal favorite phrase that allows me even more breathing room to consider my next step.

“Doing the best I can” is the Fourth Agreement which, if remembered, can be applied to every life situation. Obviously, sometimes certain events are harder than others to allow one to clearly see what the best choice could be, yet my intention of doing my best is always in the forefront of my thinking, helping me filter thoughts and make careful decisions.

The Third Agreement is the most powerful and has the greatest life-changing potential. “Don’t take things personally” can be the hardest suggestion to incorporate, yet once securely remembered and lived, is truly the path to personal freedom and choice, helping us avoid the feeling of being led around by outside circumstances.

The Second Agreement, “Don’t make assumptions,” is the icing on the cake, releasing us from much pain and suffering. Clear language and rigorous honesty are necessary to get clarity about what is really happening or has happened. No matter how challenging it is to begin a conversation, clear communication, even though it consumes time and effort, will preserve most relationships while helping to avoid future pain and misunderstandings.

In the end, the heart of the Four Agreements is to be impeccable with your words. The path to freedom can be found in taking the time to pause before speaking and asking first, “Is it kind, is it true, and is it necessary?” Remembering to remember to live life by the Four Agreements can be a powerful path to personal freedom.

Janis McDonald, Professional Wellness Coach, Private Personal Training Gym, 152 0457. Live Like You Can offers Designing Your Third Act Workshops. Follow my blog at


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