What is the justification of Jordan Peterson’s 12 rules for life? Just like any set of rules, it’s important not to loose track of the principles that originated them. Let’s give them a look. Hang in there.
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Hi I’m Nick Redmark, I’m a coach-in-training and a psychology nerd, and in this publication I go deep into how to find more meaning in life. If you want more meaning in your life, subscribe to my newsletter to keep updated.
12 Truths About Life by Jordan Peterson, Part 2
Jordan Peterson has a way of getting to the bottom of things, and this is reflected in his new book “12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos”. In each chapter of the book, Peterson explores a deep topic, finds a fundamental truth about life and then extracts from it a practical rule to follow. The rules are the titles of the chapters, so it’s easy to remember them, but the core principles behind them are buried between stories and long reflections. Luckily for you, you can find them extracted in this article.
Truth 4: What You Aim at Shapes What You See
Your goal shapes and orients your perception. If you feel that there is no possible step forward it might be that you are aiming at the wrong thing. Is your aim defined by the achievements of other people? If you knew all the details and variables in the lives of other people you would know that a fair comparison is actually impossible. What should you aim at, then? A good candidate would be something that filled your life with meaning. Peterson asks: “What if it was the case that the world revealed whatever goodness it contains in precise proportion to your desire for the best?” If you orient yourself towards the highest good, the present moment will start revealing ways in which the present moment could be positively transformed by your action. Pay attention, find those things that you could and would fix, and fix them. That will be a step towards the highest good (no matter how small), thus you will experience it as deeply meaningful.
“Attend to the day, but aim at the highest good.”
And if, at the end of the day, you look back at the track you have put behind you since yesterday, your soul might judge it to be enough to grant you a peaceful night’s sleep.
This is why rule 4 is “Compare yourself to who you were yesterday, not to who someone else is today.”
Truth 5: Harhsness Is Inevitable
The world is harsh: it can be “uncertain, anxiety-provoking, hopeless and depressing.” Oh, and it will kill you eventually. To protect you from that there is society. But if you act against the principles that hold society together, it will be harsh to you. As a child you learn to behave in society from your peers, who will be harsh to you if you play unfairly. But you will have this opportunity only if they like you enough to keep wanting to play with you. Your parents have the opportunity and the duty to teach you to behave well enough so your peers will like you enough to keep wanting to play with you and straighten you out. But for that they will have to be willing to be harsh with you when you play in a way that makes them dislike you. Taking on the responsibility for minimum necessary harshness as a proxy for, and a protection from the ultimate harshness of the world is an act of love.
This is why rule 5 is “Do not let your children do anything that makes you dislike them.”
Truth 6: You Are Part of the Reality That You Judge
Suffering is an inevitable part of life. Does this imply that life is corrupt and deserves annihilation? It can seem that way and many have drawn that conclusion.
“How can a person who is awake avoid outrage at the world?”
Remember that you are part of it. Your attitude towards life is significant. If you take revenge on reality for its insufficiency you immediately make everything worse. If you take responsibility for your own insufficiency you will rectify that little part of reality that you can control, and perhaps you will find enough meaning in life to be able to bear its suffering. “Perhaps you will then see that if all people did this, in their own lives, the world might stop being an evil place. After that, with continued effort, perhaps it could even stop being a tragic place. Who knows what existence might be like if we all decided to strive for the best? Who knows what eternal heavens might be established by our spirits, purified by truth, aiming skyward, right here on fallen Earth?”
This is why rule 6 is “Set your house in perfect order before you criticize the world.”
Stay Tuned for Part 3
These are the truths about life that are behind Jordan Peterson’s rules for life 4 to 6:
- What you aim at shapes what you see, so aim at the best possible good and follow what presents itself in front of you (and then compare yourself to who you were yesterday)
- Your children will be exposed to harshness, either your targeted, minimal, loving harshness, or the brutal, devastating harshness of the world (so don’t let them do anything that makes you dislike them).
- You are part of the reality that you judge, so try to rectify that part first (set your house in perfect order before you criticize the world).
Stay tuned for the next 3 truths about life, coming soon.