Being free: the 4 principles of personal freedom

Who I am
Robert Maurer

Author and references

We all want to be free: free to choose, free from worries, free from social conditioning, free from suffering. Yet we continue to live as "inmates" in a prison without bars, sentenced to imprisonment by the most severe of judges: ourselves. That's why in this article I'd like to explore with you "The four chords“: Principles of life inspired by the ancient Toltec wisdom to finally return to being free.


"Freedom cannot be granted, it must be won."

Elbert Hubbard.

Have you ever wondered what it really means to be free?

No, because we often hear about freedom in our society, sometimes ad nauseam: politicians talk about it, religious gurus talk about it, heck even influencers on Instagram talk about it!

But is what is offered to us true freedom? We are perhaps free when we can ...

  • Get dressed how do we think?
  • Wake up when we want?
  • Eat what goes there?
  • Travel everywhere?
  • To work only when we feel like it?
  • Buy all we want?
  • Say everything that goes through our heads?

Oh God, it wouldn't hurt to have all these… freedoms, right ?!

But is it not a paradox to feel that we are free only when we have gotten determined results or only when certain will have been realized condizioni?

To think for example that we will be free only when we have reached the famous one financial freedom, doesn't it make us slaves to money?

Mind you, as a fucking engineer and also in a bit ambitious, I like to keep my feet firmly on the ground and keep chasing my goals, goals that often have to do with many of the freedoms listed above.

But recently I read an "unexpected" book that made me think about what the real thing is personal freedom.

Feeling truly free often has a lot more to do with ours mental staterather than with our results or external conditions of life.

In short, the worst of failures would be being able to achieve all our goals and then realizing that we still don't feel free.

So let's see how to avoid it ...

The surgeon turned shaman

The book I mentioned a few lines ago is the book of Miguel Ruiz entitled "The four chords".

The author, of Mexican origin, after finishing his medical studies, began his career as a surgeon in Mexico City, where he practiced for several years.

Following a very serious car accident, he decides to give up his medical profession, he moves to the United States and becomes the apprentice of a shaman (in the face of the midlife crisis!).

In 1997 he wrote "The four chords“, Which quickly becomes a New York Times best-seller, where it remains at the top of the chart for well 10 years, selling some 7,2 million copies in the United States alone and many more in the rest of the world.

The book, as mentioned, is ... unexpected: it mixes an analytical approach to the study of the mind, typical of those with a medical-scientific background, with decidedly more mystical passages, inspired by the ancient wisdom of Toltechi, Mesoamerican population of the pre-Columbian era that dominated much of central Mexico between the XNUMXth and XNUMXth centuries.

Between us, before starting to read this text, I had the crap-radar on high alert and scrolling a few pages my putt detector *!% te went off scale more than once.

Leaving aside some… "poetic licenses" of the author, I found interesting i 4 key principles set out in the book and I sincerely believe that applying them consistently in our life can free us from many of our mental chains.

Let's discover these then four chords and what is their origin.

How can we be free if we continue to live immersed in a dream?

The Israeli historian Yuval Noah Harari, inside "Sapiens - from animals to gods: a brief history of humanity", Introduces an illuminating concept in my opinion ...

Both humans and animals are able to perceive the objective reality (for example a tree or a stone) and the subjective reality (e.g. pain or pleasure), but only men have developed the ability to perceive also the inter-subjective reality, that is the set of mental constructs, stories and fantasies, shared by thousands, and sometimes billions, of other human beings (for example money, human rights, nations).

Ruiz uses a decidedly more mystical language in his book, but in fact speaks of the same concept, before introducing the famous four chords.

According to the Mexican author, our world is made up of labels, concepts and social beliefs, but these are nothing but illusions; in fact, therefore, we live in a shared dream.

This "collective dream”It has been imposed on us since our birth through the words, stories and teachings of our parents, our professors and in general the society in which we grew up and lived.

“We live immersed in a dysfunctional dream and human beings are sick with a disease called fear. The symptoms are all those emotions that make us suffer: anger, hatred, sadness, envy and betrayal. "

Don Miguel Ruiz.

This dream is extremely real and tangible for us, these social illusions are in fact for us as concrete as they can be laws of physics.

These rules tell us how things are or should be, they impose on us what we must think of ourselves and of others, in short, they help us find order in chaos.

… And at some point in our life we ​​have agreed with these rules, we have internalized them and it has no longer been necessary for someone to impose them on us from the outside, because we ourselves have become defendants and judges in the endless process that guarantees that these social laws are respected.

Not all of these rules (these tacit agreements) are harmful to us.

Some have practical utility and allow the society we live in to function. Others are extremely dysfunctional, create suffering in our life and do not allow us to be free as we would like.

An example?

One of the most dangerous agreements we have internalized is the one that makes us believe we "never be enough“, Or rather that we must always aspire to something ideal of success and perfection imposed by the company.

And we remain attached to these laws (both the useful ones and the useless ones - if not downright harmful) as if we were mussels clinging to a rock.

We do this because, at times, the suffering we know is preferable to an unknown promise of happiness.

We feel safe and lulled by the familiarity of certain beliefs and, in all honesty, we have not yet found alternative beliefs (better) to cling to.

And this is where i come into play four new agreements proposed in Ruiz's book. Let's start from the first ...

1. Be flawless with your word

The first chord (principle), suggested by the Mexican author to return to To be free, it concerns our internal and external dialogue.

If we want to gain our personal freedom we must first learn how to never use words against others or against ourselves.

In this case the term "impeccable"Must be understood literally, or when we express ourselves we must be" without sin ". However, no religious connotation, here the meaning is the original Latin one: to express oneself without sin (sine peccātum), means to speak without error, without disrespect.

This is especially true for ours inner dialogue.

We will only be truly free when we stop judging and blaming ourselves all the time.

Taking back control of our inner voice means taking back control of our life.

In this regard, if you want to deepen the mechanisms of ours inner dialogue and because we often turn into our worst enemies, I refer you to the free excerpt of my manual Step-by-step self-esteem (APP), in which I explore the 5 types of weakening internal dialogue and how we can get rid of it.

You can download the free extract from the presentation page of the manual. You find it clicking here.

But let's go see the second Toltec agreement.

2. Don't take anything personally

Try to think about it: if someone makes you an unfair criticism (I know, on some social network) and you continue to whimper and mull over it all day, can you say that you are free?

The second agreement proposed by Don Miguel Ruiz is therefore that of never take anything personally.

In fact, the truth is that nothing people say or do to us is actually about us.

There are dozens of (sometimes obscure) reasons why others behave the way they do and these motivations often have nothing to do with us, but a lot have to do with the frustrations and hardships these people experience.

Because remember ...

"Those who make judgments do not define others, but themselves."

However, learning to never take anything personally is not easy, it requires a profound one self-awareness it's a'unshakeable self-esteem.

Fearing the judgment of others and taking it personally is often a sign of unresolved fears and insecurities.

Remembering to apply the second agreement can help us, but it does not exempt us from dealing with our emotional and mental wounds that have not yet been marginalized.

Let's move on to Don Miguel Ruiz's next chord.

3. Don't assume anything

Our mind is ruled by dozens of cognitive bias and often tends to jump to wrong conclusions to save time and cognitive energy.

For this reason, the third chord suggested in the book of the surgeon-turned-shaman is that of never take anything for granted, never assume anything.

For example, if we say hello to an acquaintance on the street and he doesn't answer us, we might assume he's a creep, but the truth is that he just might not have seen us.

Even more serious are the assumptions we make about it ourselves.

Maybe we underestimate ourselves and take it for granted that we are not inclined to a certain activity, or maybe we overestimate ourselves and face bitter disappointments that make us feel bad.

Either way we're taking something for granted that we don't really know.

It is therefore much more useful to replace the suppositions with the targeted questions it's a constant practice.

Only through deepening and experience can we arrive at a direct knowledge of reality.

Never assume anything. Don't be guided by prejudices. Never take anything for granted.

Study, deepen, develop an insatiable curiosity to understand how things really are.

… And we arrived at the fourth and final Toltec agreement.

4. Always do your best

The fourth chord is apparently the most banal, but this is only because it is an invitation that has often been addressed to us, but of which we have probably never understood the deeper meaning.

Always do our best it actually means putting aside all our excuses and keeping our perfectionistic tendencies at bay. In fact, it can happen the day when ...

  • We wake up tired e nervous.
  • We have zero desire to carry on ours academic commitments e working.
  • We would like to throw away all of ours good habits.

In conclusion…

We won't feel our best every day, but we can do our best every day.

As explained in a recent article dedicated to "Non-zero system“, On some days doing our best can mean being able to read even a single page of a book, training at low intensity or meditating for only a few minutes.

It doesn't matter: whatever our conditions, we can always do our best with what we have at our disposal at that moment in terms of time and energy.

Among other things, internalizing and practicing this fourth chord constantly will allow you to apply the other three more easily and will put you on the road to personal freedom.

In this regard, to conclude, I would like to go back to the question with which we opened this article ...

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