The Fifth Agreement Summary

The follow-up book from the best-selling, "The Fourth Agreement", father (author) and son tandem Don Miguel Ruiz and Jose Miguel Ruiz takes us deeper into the power of the Self and the importance of being authentic and true to gain absolute freedom to be who we are.  

Who should read this?

Anyone looking to see through all the debris in their lives to gain true vision of themselves, in all its purity and uniqueness.

The Fifth Agreement Main Ideas

  • Life is what you make it. We can't control everything (mostly actually) in life but we can control how we react. 
  • "Practice makes the Master" - We should always be making an effort to make living more enjoyable.
  • Symbology and/or the "symbols" (realities, beliefs, rules, language, etc.,) around us tell us what we are and what we're not, what's possible and not possible. However, while these symbols are stuff most of us accept and agree on, it doesn't necessarily mean they're true. Each one views the world in their own unique lenses, which means one symbol won't have the same 100% exact meaning from one person to the next.
  • To live a truly happy and meaningful life, we need to be authentic and look past beyond the symbols and lenses imposed upon us.

Quick Summary of The Fifth Agreement

When we were kids, we viewed the world through the lens of someone who is naturally curious and non-judgmental. As we grow older, however, the symbols/symbology of society “dictate” how we should act or talk. It kind of serves as the “standard” on how we should behave and live our lives.

The problem is, the symbols around us are loaded with societal and cultural norms that are not necessarily bound to absolute truth and authenticity.

For example, a person growing up in a Catholic country will see going to church on Sundays as a “must”, simply because that’s what his or her parents have done and have been doing (together with the people around them). And while that is completely the “right or expected” behavior for such a place or community, it does not necessarily mean the act of going to church should be practiced by all beings in the world on the basis of truth alone.

It simply became that way (for them) because that’s the lens they see the world through since it’s part of the symbols that “dictate” what they should do as Catholics.

These “symbologies” are the programs, norms, knowledge, culture, moralities, that have been passed along from one generation to the next. It tells a person how to be a man or a woman “the right way” based on these beliefs and lenses. These imposed beliefs and “rules” may rob us of the opportunity to choose our own.

For example, telling someone to “do X” because it’s the “right thing” (based on the norms and symbols around them) is not necessarily true or correct and may even be harmful and morally wrong (for example,  cultural/religious beliefs telling someone that inflicting physical harm to another person not following the same beliefs is absolutely OK).

Our minds act like a virtual reality mix of our belief systems. It does not represent an accurate view of the world. It’s laced with our own biases, whether learned or imposed upon us. We should never assume that something is such simply because our mind tells us it is. How you view something is merely your own interpretation based on your personal virtual reality of belief systems.

The answer to breaking the shackles of these old belief systems and symbols is by doing our best. Through practice and healthy skepticism, we can break past limiting beliefs and live happier lives based on who we truly are and not because of how society or “the world” tells us to.

My Personal Takeaways and Lessons from The Fifth Agreement

  • The human mind is but a virtual reality displaying our personal interpretation of the truth. It may be a complete representation of an object or fact, for example, or be the opposite and show a complete distortion.
    We must be impeccable with our words, which in the author’s voice means, “sinless”. Words eventually become actions, so it must be held in truth and clean intent.

  • Be skeptical about things but be ready to listen. Our own view of the truth is nothing but a lens created out of the symbols that we grew up with, taught, and grown accustomed to. This being said, it’s important to remind ourselves that what we believe or think is not necessarily “true”. This act of questioning our own views will serve us towards understanding and developing empathy towards others.

    Don’t take anything personally. Most of the drama in our lives are rooted or caused by how we view the situation, not necessarily as how it is. Assumption is toxic, it clouds our judgment and almost always leads to pain and bitterness. See previous bullet for advice on how to avoid this.

    Strive to do your best. Consistency brings results. If you want change, act.

    Accept yourself for who you truly are, without judgment merely based on symbols imposed upon by others, society, religion or culture. It’s the only way you’ll be truly happy.


My Favorite Quotes from The Fifth Agreement

“Making assumptions and then taking them personally is the beginning of hell in this world.”

“Making assumptions is just looking for drama when there’s no drama happening. And if drama is happening in someone else’s story, so what? It’s not your story; it’s someone else’s story.”

“I respect you when I don't try to tell you how to live your life, how to dress, how to walk, how to talk, how to do whatever you do in your kingdom.” 

“We speak the truth because we live in truth.”

“If you don’t understand something, it is better for you to ask and be clear, instead of making an assumption. The day you stop making assumptions you will communicate cleanly and clearly, free of emotional poison. Without making assumptions your word becomes impeccable.”

“There is a huge amount of freedom that comes to you when you take nothing personally.” 

“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.” 

“If you do your best always, over and over again, you will become a master of transformation. Practice makes the master. By doing your best you become a master. Everything you have ever learned, you learned through repetition. You learned to write, to drive, and even to walk by repetition. You are a master of speaking your language because you practiced. Action is what makes the difference.”

But it is not what I am saying that is hurting you; it is that you have wounds that I touch by what I have said. You are hurting yourself. There is no way I can take this personally.”

“Wherever you go you will find people lying to you, and as your awareness grows, you will notice that you also lie to yourself. Do not expect people to tell you the truth because they also lie to themselves. You have to trust yourself and choose to believe or not to believe what someone says to you.”

In any kind of relationship we can make the assumption that others know what we think, and we don’t have to say what we want. They are going to do what we want because they know us so well. If they don’t do what we want, what we assume they should do, we feel hurt and think, “How could you do that? You should know.” Again, we make the assumption that the other person knows what we want. A whole drama is created because we make this assumption and then put more assumptions on top of it.” 

"The way to keep yourself from making assumptions is to ask questions. Make sure the communication is clear. If you don’t understand, ask. Have the courage to ask questions until you are clear as you can be, and even then do not assume you know all there is to know about a given situation. Once you hear the answer, you will not have to make assumptions because you will know the truth."

“If you can see yourself as an artist, and you can see that your life is your own creation, then why not create the most beautiful story for yourself?”

About the Author Don Miguel Ruiz

Don Miguel Ruiz is a bestselling book author and spiritual teacher. His most popular works are, “The Four Agreements”, “Toltec Wisdom Series”, and the “Fifth Agreement”.

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