In 1997, Mexican author Don Miguel Ruiz changed the way people thought about self-improvement with the publication of his first book, The Four Agreements: A Practical Guide to Personal Freedom. Instead of telling people how to change their habits, he focused instead on a set of spiritual beliefs held by the ancient Toltec people that emphasized the “agreements” we make with ourselves, with others, with society, and with life itself.
According to Ruiz, the most important of these agreements, and often the most difficult to keep, are the ones we make with ourselves. The four agreements as he laid them out are: 1) Be impeccable with your word, 2) Don’t take anything personally, 3) Don’t make assumptions, and 4) Always do your best. Abiding by these four agreements, Ruiz argued, can help us free ourselves from self-limiting beliefs and allow us to be our fullest, most joyful selves.
Particularly when it comes to doing our best, we can choose to center our possibilities versus our limitations, and in doing so, steer ourselves toward positive affirmations versus self-criticism. The hope, Ruiz wrote, is to dramatically impact the amount of happiness we’re able to feel in spite of external circumstances. Here, we’ve rounded up 11 quotes that enforce the importance of doing our best no matter what and finding joy in the process.
How noble and good everyone could be if, every evening before falling asleep, they were to recall to their minds the events of the whole day and consider exactly what has been good and bad. Then, without realizing it, you try to improve yourself at the start of each new day.Anne Frank
You did what you knew how to do, and when you knew better, you did better.Maya Angelou (as told to Oprah Winfrey)
I realized that even if you win three or four times, the next victory will not necessarily be yours without trying.Malala Yousafzai
Watch and pray, dear, never get tired of trying, and never think it is impossible to conquer your fault.Louisa May Alcott
In those things toward which we exerted our best endeavors we succeeded.George Samuel Clason
Be yourself; no base imitator of another, but your best self. There is something which you can do better than another. Listen to the inward voice and bravely obey that. Do the things at which you are great, not what you were never made for.Ralph Waldo Emerson
We can't allow ourselves to be frightened into not living our lives … We have to keep going with the faith that things will get better … And things will get better when we make them better.Oprah Winfrey
My meaning simply is, that whatever I have tried to do in life, I have tried with all my heart to do well; that whatever I have devoted myself to, I have devoted myself to completely; that in great aims and in small, I have always been thoroughly in earnest.Charles Dickens
Wherever you fly, you’ll be best of the best. Wherever you go, you will top all the rest.Dr. Seuss
As long as you try your best, you are never a failure. That is, unless you blame others.John Wooden
I have learned that success is to be measured not so much by the position that one has reached in life as by the obstacles which he has overcome while trying to succeed.Booker T. Washington
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