Last Updated on January 30, 2023
Jordan Peterson is a Canadian clinical psychologist, cultural critic, and professor of psychology at the University of Toronto.
He is known for his ideas on masculinity, individual responsibility, and freedom of speech, which he presents in his lectures, books, and videos.
His book “12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos” has become a bestseller, and in it, he presents a set of practical guidelines for living a meaningful life. But I am not here to review his book or summarise you his book.
What this post is all about then?
Read this article if you wanna know about the top rules of his life, the rules that make him The Jordan Peterson. Read this article if you’re really interested in knowing him and his ideas on life. There are plenty of book summaries out there and if you’re looking for them, this is not the right place.
However, I have collected the information from his book, videos, and articles. So you might find some references from there.
The book is written in a straightforward and engaging style, and its principles are clear and easy to understand. It has received widespread critical acclaim, and it has been praised for its practicality, wisdom, and insights I hope this article does justice to his wisdom.
So without any further ado, let’s get started.
jordan Peterson’s 12 Rules for Life
peterson’s Rule #1. Stand up straight with your shoulders straight
This rule is about physical posture, and it is based on the idea that how you carry yourself physically can affect your mental state.
When you stand up straight with your shoulders back, it sends a signal to your brain that you are confident and ready to take on the world.
This can help you to feel more positive and energized, and can also make you appear more confident to others.
He encourages people to be strong and look confident as how you behave matters a lot as it affects your mood, your anxiety levels, and whatnot.
Well, that’s a very simple explanation to his rule but see the above image for once, do you observe something? Well, according to Peterson, Lobster and Humans have a lot in common and as we all know, nature speaks a thousand lessons.
So what does Peterson’s Lobster theory say?
Jordan says that aggression is a survival strategy for male lobsters in a world of limited food.
Lobsters that are less likely to initiate fights have lower levels of serotonin and are hence stigmatized as “depressed.” If you’re a human guy and you’re feeling blue, the “natural” thing to do is to try to establish your authority over other people. It does not mean you become cruel and aggressive. It also does not mean you initiate fights, but it means that you should have an aura where someone doesn’t mess with you.
And how do you do that? BY LOOKING CONFIDENT.
According to Jordan Peterson, just by straightening your back and shoulders, you’re acknowledging the weighty gravity of your existence. It’s the conscious choice to make the transition from the disorder of possibility to the comfort of actuality.
As he says, “Quit drooping and hunching around. Speak your mind. Put your desires forward, as if you had a right to them—at least the same right as others. Walk tall and gaze forthrightly ahead. Dare to be dangerous. Encourage the serotonin to flow plentifully through the neural pathways desperate for its calming influence. People, including yourself, will start to assume that you are competent and able (or at least they will not immediately conclude the reverse). Emboldened by the positive responses you are now receiving, you will begin to be less anxious”
peterson’s Rule #2. Treat yourself like someone you are responsible for helping
This rule is about taking responsibility for your own well-being and treating yourself with the same kindness and compassion that you would show to someone else.
By taking care of your own needs, you can develop a greater sense of self-worth, and be in a better position to help others.
When we are taking care of others or dealing with our own problems, it’s easy to forget about our own needs.
Neglecting our own needs, however, reduces our capacity to aid others and leads to lower levels of happiness, motivation, and satisfaction in life. Self-love is the key to gaining confidence and mastery over one’s own life since it allows us to treat ourselves with the same consideration and respect we do for others.
Peterson’s Rule #3. Befriend people who want the best for you
Peterson believes that the people we surround ourselves with can have a significant impact on our mental and emotional well-being.
By having positive relationships, we can improve our mood, gain a greater sense of connection and belonging, and also get support when facing challenges in life.
On the other hand, negative relationships or spending time with people who have negative attitudes or have different values can be draining and make us feel unhappy, stressed and unsupported.
Peterson puts it very well when he says, ““If you surround yourself with people who support your goal of going up, they won’t let you be cynical and destructive.”
Instead, they will praise you when you do good things for yourself and other people, and they will punish you carefully when you don’t. This will make you more determined to do what you should do in the best way possible. Those who don’t want to get better will do the opposite.
A former smoker will be given a cigarette, and a former drinker will be given a beer. When you succeed or do something good, they will be envious. They will stop being around you or helping you, or they will take action against you. They will ignore your accomplishment in favour of something they did in the past, whether it was real or made up.
Maybe they are trying to see if you are really determined or if you are real. Most of the time, though, they are holding you back because your new improvements make their flaws look even worse.”
Peterson’s Rule #4. Compare yourself to who you were yesterday, not to Who Someone Else Is Today
“Talking yourself into irrelevance is not a profound critique of Being. It’s a cheap trick of the rational mind.”
Too often, people compare themselves to others, or to an idealized version of themselves, and come up short.
This leads to feelings of inadequacy and low self-worth and can discourage people from making further efforts to improve themselves. By focusing on one’s own progress, one can see how much one have achieved, and have a sense of accomplishment and pride.
Additionally, comparing oneself to who they were yesterday means looking at the things that have improved, and acknowledging the small steps that lead to growth. By doing so, one can see their own progress and become more motivated.
There will always be someone more attractive, wealthy, powerful, or popular than you in our interconnected and crowded world. In comparison to others, it doesn’t matter how successful you are, you may still feel completely inadequate.
However, according to Peterson, envy is unnecessary as it is impossible to know for sure that another person is better off than you. You’ve learned to aim low and be patient, so you no longer have to feel frustrated. You are learning about yourself, your preferences, and your limits. It’s more important to learn from your environment, pursue your passions, and develop as an individual than it is to win a popularity contest.
Peterson’s Rule #5. Do not let your children do anything that makes you dislike them
“The desire of his parents to let their child act without correction on every impulse perversely produced precisely the opposite effect: they deprived him instead of every opportunity to engage in independent action. Because they did not dare to teach him what “No” means.”
The importance of being a responsible parent, and setting boundaries for children to help them develop self-discipline and responsibility.
The idea behind this rule is that by setting clear boundaries and consequences for inappropriate behavior, children learn to take responsibility for their actions, and they also learn to respect the authority of adults.
This rule also means taking responsibility for our own actions as parents, by making sure that we are setting a good example and being the best version of ourselves.
For Peterson, parents can’t differ between their child’s crying too. Which means that sometimes children show dominance and that can be easily tracked through their reactions. Scared parents think that their child does that because they are sad or hurt. But for Peterson, he does not think that to be true.
He says, “Kids do this frequently. Scared parents think that a crying child is always sad or hurt. This is simply not true. Anger is one of the most common reasons for crying. Careful analysis of the musculature patterns of crying children has confirmed this. Anger-crying and fear-or-sadness crying do not look the same. They also don’t sound the same, and can be distinguished with careful attention. Anger-crying is often an act of dominance, and should be dealt with as such.”
And here’s what Peterson advises. Jordan Peterson says, when there are no ambiguities about behaviour expectations, both children and parents can feel safe and confident.
For the sake of everyone’s healthy social and mental development, there must be unmistakable guidelines for discipline and punishment that strike a fair balance between compassion and fairness.
In a world where everything is unpredictable, anxiety-inducing, gloomy, and sad, clear rules and adequate discipline assist the kid, the family, and society build, preserve, and grow the order that is all that protects us from the terrors of the underworld.
What parents can do?
Here are the four rules laid down by Peterson:
- Limit the rules
- Use minimum necessary force
- Parents should come in pairs.
- Parents should understand their own capacity to be harsh, vengeful, arrogant, resentful, angry and deceitful.
Peterson’s Rule #6. Set your house in order before you criticize the world
“Many, perhaps even most, of the adults who abuse children were abused themselves as children. However, the majority of people who were abused as children do not abuse their own children.” – Jordan Peterson
According to Peterson, the source of all suffering or anxiety or even envy sometimes starts from your surrounding and especially your home.
So, taking care of one’s own life and responsibilities, rather than trying to solve everyone else’s problems or focus on the shortcomings of the world.
By addressing one’s own issues, such as personal finances, family relations, mental and physical health, education and career development, etc, one can be more capable of dealing with the problems of the outside world.
Peterson simply put this in this way:
“Have you cleaned up your life?”
“If the answer is no, here’s something to try: Start to stop doing what you know to be wrong. Start stopping today. Don’t waste time questioning how you know what you’re doing is wrong if you are certain it is. Inopportune questioning can confuse, without enlightening, and deflect you from the action.”
SET YOUR LIFE FIRST AND THEN START CRITICIZING THE WHOLE WORLD.
Peterson’s Rule #7. Pursue what is meaningful, not what is expedient
“People watched the successful succeed and the unsuccessful fail for thousands and thousands of years.”
“Expedient” means taking the easy or convenient path, or doing something to achieve a quick or temporary gain, without considering the long-term consequences or potential downsides.
So for Jordan Peterson, pursuing what is meaningful, rather than what is easy or convenient is far better. He suggests that having a meaningful life is more important than acquiring material possessions since you can never be sure of your wants or needs in this life.
“WHAT IS EXPEDIENT WORKS ONLY FOR THE MOMENT. IT’S IMMEDIATE, IMPULSIVE AND LIMITED.”
Peterson’s Rule #8. Tell the truth, or at least don’t lie
I soon came to realize that almost everything I said was untrue. I had motives for saying these things: I wanted to win arguments and gain status and impress people and get what I wanted. I was using language to bend and twist the world into delivering what I thought was necessary. But I was a fake.Jordan Peterson
Read the above quote for once and meditate on that, I think we all do that in our lives. WE LIE.
But why do we do that? Well, most of the times to show the world how great we are or to please someone. But slowly and gradually we notice ourselves wearing those lies.
And what next? We become MISERABLE. Peterson says:
“If your life is not what it could be, try telling the truth. If you cling desperately to an ideology, or wallow in nihilism, try telling the truth. If you feel weak and rejected, and desperate, and confused, try telling the truth. In Paradise, everyone speaks the truth. That is what makes it Paradise. Tell the truth. Or, at least, don’t lie.” – Peterson
Peterson’s Rule #9. Assume the person you are listening to knows something you don’t
You only tend to learn something when you empty your cup. That’s hard, that’s something you fail at but that’s something that will benefit you.
Once Carl Rogers said and I quote:
“The great majority of us cannot listen; we find ourselves compelled to evaluate, because listening is too dangerous. The first requirement is courage, and we do not always have
If you listen, instead, without premature judgment, people will generally tell you everything they are thinking—and with very little deceit. People will tell you the most amazing, absurd, interesting things. Very few of your conversations will be boring.
Peterson suggests that one should take the time to listen to themselves and the people one talk to.
The pursuit of knowledge is the pinnacle of wisdom. This means that your wisdom isn’t limited to what you know now, but is instead always growing. Socrates was always looking for the truth, which is why the ancient Greek priestess at the Delphic Oracle spoke so highly of him. She said he was the smartest person alive because he knew how little he knew.
Peterson’s Rule #10. Be precise in your speech
The simple explanation for this rule is this:
Be precise in your speech in such a way that you don’t sound weak. However there is another way to use this rule.
When you finally figure out what’s wrong and that vague feeling of unease makes sense, it’s easy to find a solution.
If you try to solve your problem without being clear about what it is, you’re likely to fail, and you’ll fail over and over again until you get upset and angry, which will cause you to make the problem worse.
So, take things step by step.
If something is unknown, try to figure out what it is and give it a name. Once you know what it is, you can come up with a solution.
“To be precise in your speech does two things… it specifies your goal and it reduces uncertainty”Jordan Peterson
Peterson’s Rule #11. Do Not Bother Children when they are Skateboarding
“Overprotected, we will fail when something dangerous, unexpected and full of opportunity suddenly makes its appearance, as it inevitably will.”
The rule states that there are times when it is necessary to let children put themselves in harm’s way in order for them to learn where the boundaries are, how to deal with challenges, and how to build self-confidence.
He seems to be using skateboarding on purpose to stress the importance of finding a middle ground between overprotection and allowing children to develop their individuality.
“If they’re healthy, women don’t want boys. They want men. They want someone to contend with; someone to grapple with. If they’re tough, they want someone tougher. If they’re smart, they want someone smarter. They desire someone who brings to the table something they can’t already provide. And if you think tough men are dangerous, wait until you see what weak men are capable of.“
Peterson’s Rule #12. Pet a Cat When You Encounter One on the Street
So, the last rule. The rule is very metaphorical like the above rules. So what does Jordan Peterson meant by petting a cat on a road?
Here’s what he means:
Even when things are hard, there are short windows of time to do something. A person must take advantage of the chances that come their way.
Focusing on the little things in life, like a fresh cup of coffee, a beautiful sunrise, the smell of a rose, or cuddling with a pet, can help us relax, have fun, and get back on track.
Stop what you’re doing and pet a cat you see on the street. In a world where the noise of bad things can feel like too much, it’s important to notice the good, no matter how big or small it is.
Taking the initiative to do that one brave thing is all it takes to change your life for the better.
Yup the post has ended, but here’s a bonus.
Jordan Peterson’s 42 Rules For Life (His Thread)
42 Rules for Life:— Dr Jordan B Peterson (@jordanbpeterson) April 4, 2022
Overall, the 12 rules for life by Jordan Peterson are meant to guide you on how to live a good life and finding a sense of purpose, and I hope you learn from them.
Also, if you’re planning to read his book then I would certainly recommend that you do. It’s an amazing book and there are a lot of examples that I have left.
So if you’re someone detailed oriented, I would highly recommend.
Are Jordan Peterson’s Rules for Life Meant to Be Followed Strictly?
No, Jordan Peterson’s 12 rules for life are not meant to be taken as hard and fast rules. They are meant to be suggestions for how to live a good life, and each person has to figure out which rules work for them and which don’t.
What Is the Main Message Behind Jordan Peterson’s 12 Rules for Life?
The main message behind Jordan Peterson’s 12 Rules for Life is that life is inherently difficult, but that by taking responsibility for one’s own life, facing difficulties and striving for meaning, one can find purpose in the face of chaos.