In The Four Agreements, the bestselling book written by Don Miguel Ruiz, he reveals the ideals and tenets of the ancient Toltec wisdom and teachings.
The ancient Toltec people were located in Southern Mexico and they viewed science and spirit as part of the same entity. Their belief was that all energy, material or ethereal, was derived from and governed by the universe. The Toltec teachings were the basis of a way of life and a code of conduct for everyone to follow.
As artists, we can learn much from these Toltec traditions and apply Ruiz’s The Four Agreements to our art businesses. The Four Agreements are in Bold and are Ruiz’s statements, followed by how artists can incorporate these teachings into their art business.
1. “Be Impeccable with Your Word” – In all of your art business dealings say what you mean and mean what you say, as the truth will always prevail. This also holds true when you speak about yourself. We are our own worst critics and we can be brutal with ourselves. If we are not positive with ourselves how can we ever achieve anything worthwhile?
Listen to the “voice” and when it wants to take you down the wrong path or that voice wants you to feel bad about your art, gently correct the voice with your word and your truth that you are a good person, you are successful and that you are a talented artist.
2. “Don’t Take Anything Personally” – When we don’t get that important art exhibition, when we don’t make that certain sale or when we do not receive the recognition that we think we deserve, we take it personally. In those times, our voice begins to tell us all of the reasons why we don’t deserve to get what we want. In reality, those decisions and actions by others, that did not go your way, we're not about you.
Those actions were about them and their reality (whatever that was) and not about you. Once we realize that the opinions and actions of others have no importance to our true selves, we then will not needlessly suffer anymore. This realization then brings us back to our art and our creativity and the fact that we do not have to please others, only ourselves. This is a liberating experience and one that ends up being extremely good for our art!
3. “Don’t Make Assumptions” – When we get into a disagreement or misunderstanding with someone, we are making assumptions about what that person means, based on our beliefs and our experiences. During these times it is important to ask enough questions of the other person in order to clarify the true meaning of what they are trying to convey to you. It is communicating as clearly as possible, not only to understand that person but also to avoid future misunderstandings as well.
In addition, we also need to express our feelings, wants and needs of the other person, otherwise, both people will be making assumptions about the other and that will eventually lead to problems. An artist who does not assume what the other person means or wants should do well in their art business dealings, or at least, they should not have any misunderstandings, angry disagreements, and drama if communications were handled in this manner.
4. “Always Do Your Best” – Everyday we try to do our best in all our endeavors but, depending on circumstances, how we feel at the time and other influencers in our lives, our definition of doing our best will vary from day today. Because of the changes to our definition of the “best”, we then judge the past or project ourselves into the future. By just doing our best, regrets about the past and anxiety about the future are dissolved.
Just being the best artist we can be at that time, is all that we need to be. By accepting our definition of the best self-abuse and unhappiness disappears if we just do our best in each circumstance.
These Toltec statements and truths expressed by Ruiz are good for artists, for anyone in any business and in our personal lives too. We will be better artists and better people if we followed The Four Agreements in our daily lives, to the best of our abilities.