Many of you have read Don Miguel Ruiz’s famous book, The Four Agreements. In his book, he outlines in detail, four “agreements” that we should make with ourselves to have a truly happy life and avoid all the drama that so many people live with on a daily basis. I have recently been applying this to the vegan diet, and have started to live my life as a vegan a little bit differently.
Be Impeccable with Your Word
This first agreement is not just about being truthful – certainly, as the name implies, it does mean to speak the truth at all times – but it also means to speak positively and lovingly … especially to yourself. It’s easy, as a vegan, to get caught up in eating the “perfect” vegan diet – if you follow a raw vegan diet you can’t eat cooked foods, or if you follow Dr. Esselstyn’s diet you can’t eat oil. It’s easy to “agree” with these diets and then use that knowledge to beat yourself up if you don’t follow them perfectly. If you’re not careful, you can find that you feel emotionally worse after being vegan for a while, because you’re beating yourself up all the time! (This is a common occurrence with any type of diet, not just the vegan diet.)
I have broken all agreements with dieting, and instead try to do what is best for myself because I love myself. Sometimes, what is best for myself on a particular day might be to enjoy that gorgeous piece of vegan chocolate cake! But, not every day, and never the whole cake. J Ironically, I’ve dropped a few pounds.
Don’t Take Things Personally
The second agreement is to not take anything personally. For example, if a friend asks you repeatedly about the vegan diet, and you spend hours outlining all the reasons to go vegan, yet she still doesn’t change … don’t take it personally. If you get chided from friends, family and colleagues about being vegan … don’t take it personally. If people on Facebook or TV slam vegans or try to make veganism look ridiculous … don’t take it personally. You get the idea.
Here’s why you should never take anything personally: Everyone has a different background, with a different set of experiences and thus, a different perspective. There are no two people (not even identical twins) who have the exact same perspective on everything. Therefore, when someone speaks negatively about the vegan diet or gives you a hard time for being vegan, there are countless reasons for their feelings … maybe they once knew a militant vegan who was a jerk, or they only know two vegans and they happen to be as thin as twigs, or they are fearful you’re going to try to make them change, etc... But whatever their reason, it has nothing to do with you. Even if they know you well, and look you in the face and say “You’re an idiot for believing all that stupid vegan rhetoric! I thought you were smarter than that!” it still has nothing to do with you. They simply have some perspective (or some defensiveness or some fear or something) about veganism that is making them react violently about it, and guess what? It has nothing to do with you.
Don’t Make Assumptions
The third agreement is to never make assumptions. For example, never assume someone doesn’t want to hear you talk about the vegan diet. And never assume they do! Never assume people won’t want to eat at your house because they’ll have to eat vegan. And never assume they do! The only way to know what someone else is thinking is to simply ask them. You can say, “I’d like to have you over for dinner, but I only cook vegan at my house. Would you like to come over and have a vegan meal, or would you prefer to go out?” No assumptions – you just ask.
Many people can take one assumption and spin out of control: “My new boyfriend won’t want to eat at my house. He’ll hate vegan food. He’ll be hungry and will stop at McDonald’s on the way home. If he stops at McDonald’s then I couldn’t date him anyway. But who could blame him? I don’t cook well. I’ve never been a good cook, even before I was vegan. Probably because my mom didn’t teach me how to cook…” blah blah blah! All of this awful negativity just from an assumption (that is quite likely to be faulty anyway) that “He won’t want to eat at my house if it means he has to eat vegan.” So don’t make assumptions – just ask.
Always Do Your Best
The nice thing about the fourth agreement, Always Do Your Best, is that if you know you’ve done your best, you can’t be upset with yourself if things don’t work out well. For example, let’s say that you give a lecture in your community on the vegan diet. You do your best by practicing many times, but instead, you bomb. It’s okay! You’ve done your best! Although you may wish you had nailed it perfectly, you can let it all go because you know you did your best to prepare ahead of time.
If you are an aspiring vegan, but not all the way there yet, this one is very important for you. Do your best to set yourself up with delicious vegan options, but if you unexpectedly find yourself eating something non-vegan, you can forgive yourself because you know you did your best.
But what if you get down on yourself because you ate a Snickers Bar and knew that you shouldn’t and don’t feel you did your best? It’s important to know that doing our best on one day may be very different from doing our best on another day. If your flight was delayed 4 hours, you’re starving, your boss just called and yelled at you, and a baby is crying loudly right next to you, your “best” at that moment may not be the same as your “best” when you are well-rested, relaxed, happy, and have no timelines for the day. It’s easy to see how an aspiring vegan may fall prey to cheese pizza in the former scenario, and be less likely to fall prey to it in the latter scenario. So, do your very best all the time, and be kind to yourself if your “best” in that moment isn’t your lifetime best.
My good friends know that I have been re-invigorated by re-reading The Four Agreements, not just with my veganism, but in life in general. If you haven’t read it yet, I highly recommend it! It is short, but a very powerful read.
With Love and Ahimsa,