12 Rules for Life by Jordan Peterson Summary and Analysis

Jordan Peterson is a Canadian YouTube personality, clinical psychologist and professor of psychology at the University of Toronto. He grew up in the wastelands of northern Alberta. He earned his PhD and post-doctorate in clinical psychology at McGill University before working as a professor at Harvard University.

In his book, 12 rules for a life, Jordan B Peterson shares 12 principles to improve oneself, be happier, become more responsible… . For this summary, I will try to present these 12 rules and the keys he addresses for each of them.

Rules? Really, more rules? Isn’t our existence difficult and constrained enough without abstract principles that never take our own circumstances into account? Our brain is pliable; it grows in many ways based on our experiences. How can we think that a few regulations will help everyone?

Jordan Peterson’s Perspective

Jordan Peterson is a Canadian YouTube personality, clinical psychologist and professor of psychology at the University of Toronto. He grew up in the wastelands of northern Alberta. He earned his PhD and post-doctorate in clinical psychology at McGill University before working as a professor at Harvard University.

Peterson’s various television appearances for commentary on personality, religion, and cultural Marxism have made him famous. Most recently, in 2016, Peterson posted a series of videos on YouTube that criticized new gender identity discrimination laws. Based on these videos, he has received significant media coverage ranging from criticism to praise.

Peterson has had extensive travels across the world. He’s done a hammerhead barrel roll in a carbon fiber aerobatic plane and examined a meteorite crater with astronauts in Arizona. He has also instructed attorneys, physicians, and business owners in mythology. He has worked as a consultant to the United Nations Secretary General and as an advisor to the senior partners of major Canadian law firms.

About the 12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos

The theme of 12 Rules for Life is discipline, responsibility, freedom, and adventure. Peterson condenses centuries of wisdom into twelve articles based on ancient tradition and groundbreaking scientific findings. Happiness, according to Peterson, is an unneeded objective. Instead, as an antidote to the turmoil of our times, we must seek purpose. To keep our lives in ultimate equilibrium, we must use setup to hack the inevitability of chaos.

Looking for importance is the most efficient technique to locate request. This pursuit for meaning should not be an aim in itself, but rather a shield against the inherent experiences of our world. When you are experiencing this anguish, you may either withdraw out or defy it. Pulling out will allow the haziness we all have to defeat us. Confronting it will let us test those dark driving factors and adjust our goals.

Through writings on abstract ethical ideas, psychology, mythology, religion, and personal tales, the book offers life guidance. Since its release in 2018, the book has been translated into other languages and sold millions of copies.

Rule #1: Stand up straight with your shoulders back.

“So pay attention to your posture. Stop slouching and crouching. Express your thoughts. State your desires, as if you have a right to them – at least the same right as others. Walk straight and look straight ahead. Dare to be dangerous. Encourage serotonin to flow in abundance through neural pathways that are desperate for its calming influence.” – JORDAN PETERSON

Foregoing a key fact might result in agony. Refusing to accept your responsibility for managing endurance might lead to an irreversible casualty attitude. This attitude is becoming more common and is based on the notion that others will take care of your worries. Adopting this method prevents you from looking for meaning in your life. Probably the most grounded people have overcome enormous amounts of pain, suffering, and disaster. Taking responsibility for persevering has enabled them to see the significance. Regardless of our mentality, our physical actions are critical.

Peterson utilizes the metaphor of the lobster inside you to teach you how to advocate for yourself. The lobster and humans have similar neural structures. The lobster’s brain, like the human brain, includes specific sections for social hierarchies. According to Peterson, research show that lobsters that lose their social position by losing battles cease releasing serotonin. In lobsters, a shortage of serotonin can lead to depression. Dominant lobsters took a forceful stance as well, while other lobsters cowered.

The body and mind are inextricably linked. So, try your best to succeed by using appropriate body language. Standing straight with your shoulders back is important for two reasons:

1. It exerts dominance and confidence.

2. It also shows that you accept responsibility.

According to research, even little muscular movements can have an impact on your emotions. When you’re slumped or slumped over, it’s difficult to accept responsibility for your actions. You radiate confidence and a readiness to take substantial action by standing up straight, shoulders back, and feet shoulder-width apart.

The author shares several tips for gradually developing a confident posture:

  • Showing strength of character and expressing the substance of your thoughts and desires
  • Dare to say “no”. By stating your refusal without hesitation and by being sincere in your words, you considerably reduce the influence of oppression.
  • Dare to let anger and aggression speak, but always keep a language of truth and encourage to move forward
  • Establish a routine and automate daily actions. Stable and reliable habits allow to gain serenity and simplicity.

Rule #2: Treat yourself as someone you are responsible for helping

Peterson urges individuals to compliment themselves and others for performing constructively and responsibly. He also acknowledges patients who demonstrate real concern and interest in others. Because they are just themselves, they can communicate their emotions. When you are a patient, you just accept your condition. You do not pretend to be someone else.

The “patient” approach teaches you to respect yourself and recognize that you are deserving of assistance. You are as valuable to others as you are to yourself. You play an important role in the unfolding of the world’s destiny. As a result, you have a moral obligation to look for yourself. You must look after yourself, assist yourself, and be generous to yourself. Care for, assist, and be conscientious of yourself in the same manner that you would care for, assist, and be conscious about someone you love and value.

As part of taking care of yourself, you must decide where you will bargain so that you do not become angry, spiteful, or unkind. You must develop your own ideals for two reasons:

So that you may protect yourself against those who exploit you.

So that you may be safe while working and playing.

When you look for yourself, you may start to make sense of your life. Don’t undervalue the importance of your vision and direction. They are unstoppable forces. They have the ability to transform impediments into open roads and enlarged opportunities.

“Strengthen the individual. Start with yourself. Take care of yourself. Define who you are. Refine your personality. Choose your destination and articulate your Being. As the great 19th century German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche so brilliantly noted, “He whose life has a why can endure almost any how.” – JORDAN PETERSON

Rule #3: Make friends with people who want the best for you.

Your pals have a significant influence on your conduct. Their sayings and demeanor frequently rub off on you. This implies they can have a detrimental impact on you through poisonous behaviors.

However, if you surround yourself with others who share your aspirations, they will not accept your pessimism and destructive nature. Instead, they will cheer you on when you do well for yourself and others, and they will carefully discipline you when you don’t. This motivation will help you stay focused.

People that do not want to advance will do the opposite. According to Peterson, managers frequently position low performers in group assignments with good performers. Their purpose is to elevate the latter to the level of their peers. However, evidence indicates that the opposite impact is more typical. High achievers are likely to be demoted to the status of poor performers.

So make an effort to surround yourself with positive people. Look beyond superficial features such as sense of style or financial standing to find the individuals who can assist you in bringing about positive change. Standing among such bright individuals requires fortitude and guts, since you may feel inadequate. Be modest and bold in order to grow as a person.


Find your being

You are a unique entity once you reach adulthood. So be cautious when comparing yourself to others. You have your own set of problems, financial, personal, and psychological. They are a part of your life’s unique and bigger context.

Your profession or employment may or may not be benefiting you. If it does, it is interacting with other aspects of your life in a unique way. As you discover your Being, you must determine how much of your time to devote to your work and how much to other aspects of your life. You must also choose what to abandon and what to pursue. These judgments need close observation, knowledge, thinking, and interaction with others. In essence, you are only scraping the surface of your ideas by doing so. This allows you to make judgments without feeling weighed down by your difficulties.

Avoid comparing yourself to others

We are all wired to compare ourselves to others. When your brain recognizes that you are more capable than others, it produces a hormone called serotonin. When serotonin levels are high in your blood, you feel confident and in command of your life.

However, when someone challenges your social standing and makes you appear inept, your brain inhibits serotonin release. You start doubting yourself and feeling useless.

You are now online with billions of people. This implies that your brain quickly notices how you compare yourself to others. You are more inclined to lose hope when you are exposed to so many superior individuals. You will cease acting and allow your life to devolve into chaos. The most effective method to avoid this is to cease comparing yourself to who you are now. Start comparing yourself to who you were yesterday instead.

“Even a man on a sinking ship can be happy when he boards a lifeboat! And who knows where he might go, in the future. Having a happy trip might just be better than arriving successfully…” – Jordan Peterson

Get your psychological house in order

The most crucial aspect to monitor and enhance is your psychological house. Peterson refers to “taking stock” of your psychological house as comparing yourself now to where you were yesterday. You may examine your progress and determine if you believe you are developing at the appropriate rate. Then you must determine which areas of your psychological home require renovation. Determine if the alterations are aesthetic or structural in nature. Make a list of these areas for improvement and assign them to appropriate repairs.

This method will assist your inner critic in being less consumed with his or her flaws and more focused on improving. This is also a vital component of Peterson’s sixth rule, “Get your house in order before you criticize the world,” therefore it is critical.

Rule #5: Don’t let your children do anything you don’t like

Parents must raise their children in a manner that prepares them for adulthood. According to Peterson, this entails ensuring that kids can operate properly in society by teaching the necessary rules. When parents fail to see this, their children are more likely to be rejected by society in a variety of unpleasant ways. This may appear to be a challenging undertaking, as our children are blank slates who will influence future generations. It might be difficult to decide what to put on those blank slates.

Peterson initially invites readers to acknowledge humans’ intrinsic hostility. This is why practically everyone experienced bullying as a youngster. The author feels that raising nice children should be your major focus in order to overcome this aggressiveness. This doesn’t imply you have to become your child’s best buddy. That would hinder you from enforcing the regulations that are required for your child to grow into a better person. Peterson provides the following examples of successful ground rules:

Never use violence, except in self-defense.

Show compassion and respect to others.

Peterson also suggests avoiding cosmetic rules such as:

You must be in bed by 7 p.m. every night.

Mismatched socks are never acceptable.

Parents must learn to assist their children cope with failure and grief in addition to establishing rules that will guide them to a brighter future. These situations are unavoidable and should be seen as learning opportunities. Raise children who want to improve the world. And raise children who strive to better themselves in order to be better able to alter the world.

Rule #6 – Get your house in order before you criticize the world

“If one wishes to live life to the fullest, one must first put one’s own house in order; and only then can one reasonably aim at assuming greater responsibilities.” – JORDAN PETERSON

Before you start complaining about the world or your circumstances, start small and think about your personal situation:

Have you made the most of the possibilities that have come your way?

  • Are you working hard for your career? Or are you letting bitterness and resentment hold you back and drag you down? 
  • Have you made peace with your brother? 
  • Do you treat your spouse and children with dignity and respect? 
  • Do you have habits that destroy your health and well-being?

Have some self-awareness. If you can’t bring peace to your own home, you’re not ready to lead a city. Allow your spirit to lead you. Then observe what happens in the days and weeks after your housecleaning. When you’re at work, you’ll start speaking out. You will begin to express your desires and needs to your partner, spouse, children, or parents. When you realize you have ignored something, you will take corrective action. When you stop telling yourself that everything is alright, your mind will start to clear. Your experience will improve if you stop distorting it with inauthentic activities that do not address the issues un your house.

Rule #7: Pursue what is meaningful (not what is expedient)

Peterson defines “expedient” as “putting off activities we know we should be doing in order to seek short-term gratification.” We do this because life is filled with pain. But there is much more to life than pain. So, try to appreciate life to the fullest by seeking for something significant. Searching for meaning may help you become a better and happier person while also coping with pain.

You might begin by seeking sacrifice rather than immediate enjoyment. This sacrifice must be undertaken for the benefit of others, not for your own. Working long hours to gain a promotion, for example, is not considered a sacrifice by Peterson since your activities are always driven by a beneficial consequence for oneself.

According to Peterson, these modest beneficial effects will help you expand like a lotus flower. These blooms develop slowly from the bottom of a dirty lake. The lotus blooms eventually burst brilliantly in the sunlight. This is how making sacrifices for the sake of others may make your life more satisfying in the long run.

“To ride this fundamental duality is to be in balance: to have one foot firmly planted in order and security, and the other in chaos, possibility, growth and adventure. When life suddenly feels intense, captivating, and meaningful; when time passes and you’re so engrossed in what you’re doing that you don’t even realize it – that’s when you find yourself precisely on the border between order and chaos.” – JORDAN PETERSON

Rule #8: Tell the truth – or at least don’t lie.

Words may be used to alter the world and achieve your goals. This includes lying to others as well as lying to oneself. However, this method is motivated by an ill-conceived aim that disregards the negative consequences.

Assume you are extremely cautious about what you do and say. When you behave and express yourself improperly, you might learn to feel a condition of internal division and weakness. This is a felt emotion, not a thinking. However, if you drive everything blindly and freely toward one objective, you will never find whether another aim might be more valuable.

If you continue to live by the truth, you will have to accept and cope with the problems that this way of life creates. You will continue to evolve and become more responsible in tiny and huge ways if you do. You will approach your goals with greater understanding, and you will grow even wiser as you identify and fix your inevitable mistakes.

Rule #9: Assume that the person you are listening to might know something you don’t.

Listen rather than judge

A person who pays attention can reflect the crowd. He can do it without saying anything. He allows the speaker to hear himself. This is what Freud advised.

Freud instructed his patients to lie on a sofa, gaze up at the ceiling, let their minds wander, and speak whatever came to mind. This is his free association approach. This strategy was utilized by Freudian psychoanalysts to prevent introducing their prejudices and opinions into the patient’s mental environment.

People will typically tell you whatever they think if you listen instead of passing judgment – and with little dishonesty. People will tell you the most incredible, bizarre, and fascinating details. Few of your discussions will be dull.

What you know now is not enough

“Then listen, both to yourself and to those to whom you speak. Your wisdom then consists not in the knowledge you already possess, but in the continual search for knowledge, which is the highest form of wisdom.” – JORDAN PETERSON

What you know is insufficient until your life is flawless. Disease, self-deception, discontent, malice, treachery, corruption, agony, and limitation continue to threaten you. You are vulnerable to all of these things because you are just too inexperienced to protect yourself. You could be healthier and more honest if you know more. You’d suffer less. You would detect, oppose, and even defeat wickedness and evil. You would never betray a friend or make false promises or lie in business, politics, or love.

Your current knowledge has neither perfected nor secured you. As a result, it is inadequate. This is why Socrates was lauded by the priestess of the Delphic oracle in ancient Greece. Socrates was always on the lookout for the truth. He was the smartest man living, she said, because he realized what he knew was nothing. As a result, think that the person you’re listening to knows something you don’t.

Rule #10: Be specific in your speech

When we have a problem, we frequently want to hide it or hope it will go away on its own. It is simpler to maintain serenity and avoid the worry, despair, and misery that comes with dealing with difficulties. It’s simpler to pretend the problem doesn’t exist than to recognize it does and deal with the consequences.

However, this is not a viable option. As a result, if you aim to achieve something, you must be precise and detailed in your objectives. Uncertain aims can lead to ambiguous acts, which can lead to ambiguous outcomes. You will battle with a vague uneasiness unless you expressly identify it and give it tangible form. You’ll probably discover that you were far more scared than you should have been after you’ve pinpointed the problem. You now have a clear objective to deal with. And specificity enables you to begin confronting the mess.

Rule #11: Don’t disturb children while they are skateboarding

“The fundamental moral question is not how to completely shield children from mishap and failure, so that they never experience fear or pain, but how to maximize their learning so that useful knowledge can be acquired with minimal cost.” – JORDAN PETERSON

Parenting, according to Peterson, determines how children respond to risk in the future. Parents frequently urge their children to participate in hobbies that are less dangerous than skateboarding or rock climbing. The author feels that removing youngsters from these activities will make it harder for them to deal with the hazards of the adult world.

In this chapter, Peterson also discussed gender equality. He feels that gender equality is becoming more popular in current culture. As a result, he emphasizes the distinction between equality of opportunity and equality of outcome. Gender equality is excellent when it entails equality of opportunity, rights, and treatment. However, equality of opportunity should not be sacrificed for equality of outcome. Biology does not support the concept of literal and total equality, according to the 12 laws for life. It may be detrimental since it causes people to go against their natural tendencies.

Rule #12: Pet a cat when you meet one on the street

Peterson agrees that it’s easy to fixate on the worst parts of life. After all, certain instances of pain might be utterly overpowering. He gives the example of his daughter, who has had terrible arthritis her whole life. The simple way out of these difficulties is to become nihilistic or pessimistic about everything. In actuality, this technique is frequently worse than the first pain.

Pay attentive attention to the love and beauty around you to prevent possible nihilism. This might be anything from a sunset to flowers to simply cuddling a kitten. Consider these opportunities to improve their influence. Life is too short to be miserable.

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