12 Rules for Life by Jordan B Peterson gives you twelve rules or principles for life that you can use to build yourself up for the never-ending struggles and battles of life. These rules will help you to improve your life and make you a better human being.
12 Rules for Life Summary
Life is a game that is full of struggles.
Although there are victories along the way, it’s not a smooth sail.
And unless you have principles to back you up, you will lose the game.
Today, in this article, I’m going to give insights or share the lessons from 12 Rules for Life by Jordan B Peterson.
Let’s dive right in.
1. Keep correct body posture
We have a lot in common with animals.
We want status and position.
We all want a safe place called home.
We want to become an authoritative figure in society and enjoy all the benefits.
And when we do, we defend it with all of our might.
A good posture might help you achieve all that.
For example, when you stand straight with shoulders back, you feel more confident.
A good posture helps you feel good about yourself.
Also, when you look confident, people perceive you as a person who knows his stuff.
When you make a smiling expression, you suddenly start feeling good.
On the other hand, when you make bad expressions, you start feeling sad.
This is how our body language affects the way we feel at the moment.
When the animals of the same species battle each other for their share of resources, only a few animals manage to win.
These animals are usually called at the top of the hierarchy.
The more serotonin an animal has, the more likely it is to win over the others. It makes him feel stronger.
Such animals tend to expand their body.
But when the serotonin is low, and octopamine is high, the animals feel submissive and are more likely to lose.
Such animals tend to contract their bodies.
Peterson talks about lobsters.
Just as we need food, water, and shelter for our survival, animals also search for space and shelter to survive.
But the thing is, resources are limited in nature.
Not everyone can have equal share of resources.
There is an unequal distribution of essential resources.
For instance, lobsters have to compete when space is limited to find shelter.
The lobster who wins the fight gets a hit of serotonin, which increases his confidence.
And the lobster who loses the fight gets a hit of octopamine, which makes him feel weaker.
Hierarchies in nature affect the way we live.
Not only is it present in humans, but also in animals.
The dominant persons in society often get most of their privileges.
For instance, the Alpha guy gets all the girls.
Another instance is, a small percentage of people have most of the money there is.
Peterson calls this the law of unequal distribution.
If you want to become a dominant and influential figure in society, you must learn how to stand straight and pull your shoulders back a little with your chest expanding outwards.
This body posture makes you feel more confident.
Not only do you feel excited, but you look more attractive to others as you project confidence and power.
2. Treat yourself Better
We tend to ignore when it comes to strengthening ourselves as an individual.
For instance, we avoid the prescription given to us by the doctor.
But when it comes to our dog, we religiously follow the prescription.
Why is this so?
Why don’t we care for ourselves as deeply as we do for others?
The author explains this with the story of Adam and Eve.
For those who haven’t read it, let me give a quick overview:
Adam and Eve were the first humans created by God.
God provided them everything they needed to survive in Paradise.
But there was a condition: they were allowed to eat all the fruits from the trees in the forest of Paradise, except the Tree of the Knowledge of Good And Evil.
God warned Adam (before he created Eve) not to eat the fruit from that tree, and if Adam happens to eat the fruit from it, he will die.
But shit happens (cutting the story…😉), and Adam ends up eating from that tree.
Then both Adam and Eve get banished from Paradise to Earth, and left to survive on their own.
After that, terrible things happen. [read more]
Coming back to the question, why don’t we treat ourselves with the same tenacity as we do others?
The thing is that we don’t think that we deserve the best care.
Think of a dog.
Dogs are predators.
A dog is, by nature, an animal that eats other animals.
But despite all that, we take him as a pet and provide care to him.
But on the other hand, humans are self-conscious.
We know when we inflict pain on others.
We know what is good and what is evil. We know things.
We hurt people. We deceive people. We humiliate others.
And that too with consciousness.
The dilemma is, all humans are deeply flawed.
This is absolute as both Adam and Eve messed up despite having everything essential for their survival.
We don’t trust ourselves the way we should.
We loathe our existence.
We feel guilty for our sins and therefore think that we don’t deserve care as other creatures who aren’t self-conscious.
This isn’t the right approach.
Because unless we bolster ourselves up, humanity won’t reach anywhere.
We are important. Every single creature on this planet is important.
And the best way is to take care of ourselves the same way as we do for others.
3. Make friends with right people
Making a lot of friends is fun. But choosing a few good friends is extremely hard.
You must make friends only with those people who have goals and ambitions in their lives.
Friends must be there to help each other reach their goals.
Wrong friends can drag you far away from your goals. They can stray you from the right path.
Bad friends will often try to hide their flaws and never let you reach your true potential.
People make bad friends for so many reasons.
One reason is, they think that they are flawed and don’t deserve to be with good friends.
Another reason is, they sometimes tend to rescue a damned person. They want to help them get out of trouble.
But before helping a person, you must understand why the person you are going to help (by becoming an acquaintance) is in trouble in the first place.
One must ask questions like:
“Does he deserve to be helped?”
“Does he want to become better?”
“Is he in trouble because he failed to take responsibility for his life?”
And if you find that the person is simply wasting his life and doesn’t deserve to be rescued, then you must not help him by becoming his acquaintance.
You are not morally obliged to support someone who is making the world a worse place.Jordan B Peterson
Sometimes people think it’s easy to become friends with good people.
The thing is, it takes courage, grit, and persistence to stand with people who want our best.
They might challenge you. They might punish you.
They might contradict you to keep you on the right path.
But these are the types of people you should be friends with.
You shouldn’t be friends with those who create an inflated fake-image in front of you and don’t give a shit about you.
You must choose your friends wisely. You must choose those people who would stand with you in times of trouble and think in your best interest.
Remember that every person has his flaws, but it depends on how you deal with them.
Think about growth.
Think about people who wish growth for everybody.
Be with them. Become friends with them.
4. Compare yourself to who you were yesterday
Back in the old days, it was easy to be the best in your town. You could easily become a celebrity.
But these days we have the Internet.
Now it’s extremely hard to become great at something and be acknowledged for it.
The Internet has connected us.
Think of it like this, you have practiced day and night and managed to sing decently.
But then you realize that a five-year-old kid can sing better than you and he/she already has 21 Million+ views on Youtube.
And when you compare yourself to him/her, you feel lost.
You start to feel like you aren’t good enough.
But here is the thing, why are you even comparing yourself to someone else who has a different experience than you?
The best approach is to compare yourself to the person you were yesterday.
Instead of worrying about the other person and envying him, you should focus on getting better every day.
In life, there are so many games to play.
And the interesting thing is that no person is good at all the games.
You have to try each game out and find it for yourself.
Your boss might be good at the game of business but he might be a loser at the game of relationship.
When you compare yourself with others, you actually compare how well you play a particular game in comparison to others.
That is why it doesn’t really matter how good the other person is at a particular game. Because one can’t be awesome at every game.
And if you are winning each game, then chances are you’re not growing at all. You are merely winning.
Pay attention to the game you want to become great at.
When you pay attention to something, you kind of start seeing that in an idiosyncratic manner.
You become blind to other things and start seeing opportunities for growth.
Seeing is very difficult, so you must choose what to see, and let the rest go.Jordan B Peterson
5. Do not let your children do anything that makes you dislike them
Kids are hard to control.
Parents find it difficult to punish their kids when they don’t follow rules.
Sometimes parents fear that their kids will dislike them if they punish their children.
They want to establish discipline but fear giving punishment.
Kids don’t realize the right and wrong.
They don’t know much about life and they keep learning as they grow. Therefore, they must be taught by their parents.
You’re not doing your child any favors by overlooking any misbehavior.Jordan B Peterson
Peterson says that both Discipline and Punishment are necessary to nurture kids properly.
Generally, parents let go of little wrong things done by kids, thinking that they are okay.
They act nice and don’t punish them.
And guess what happens?
In the future, those kids face many problems and learn the lesson the hard way.
Playing nice doesn’t always help.
There are three rules you should keep in mind while teaching discipline to children:
Rule 1: “Limit the rules.”
Rule 2: “Use the minimum necessary force.”
Rule 3: “Parents should come in pairs.”
According to Rule 1, you must not impose too many rules on children. Because too many rules can lead to frustration and can limit their overall development.
Teach them a few basic rules and let them grow.
Again according to Rule 2, you should try to use minimum necessary force as too much force can instill hatred towards you.
Also, it is much more effective to go in pairs.
6. Watch yourself before you criticize the world
Life is a cruel bitch.
It’s full of pain and suffering.
This is an irrefutable truth.
The worst thing is that it doesn’t give you any reason to live.
On the contrary, it hits you hard every time you start to stand up.
Every time you give your best and expect good results, life happens.
Life is often different than our expectations.
And due to this people become pessimistic. They blame life for their circumstances.
Why do you think terrible crimes like mass murder happen?
It is because the people who commit terrible crimes believe that life is meaningless.
They believe that death is far better than the life of suffering, and living a life with suffering and believing in a prosperous life is cowardness.
They often justify their actions and choose the path of vengeance.
They try to spite the Creator by committing crimes.
Peterson says that instead of blaming the world you should take responsibility for your life.
And when you will set yourself in order with diligent effort, maybe your life will become better.
Perhaps you will then see that if all people did this, in their own lives, the world might stop being an evil place.Jordan B Peterson
7. Pursue meaningful things in life
Instead of doing things that give you instant pleasure, you should do things that are meaningful.
What is expedient works only for a moment. It’s immediate, impulsive and limited.Jordan B Peterson
Just look at your life and ask yourself how many things you do daily actually have a meaning.
- Does streaming TV shows online make your life any better?
- Does eating chocolates all day make you healthier?
- Does your regular job actually improve your life and make you better every day?
We spend most of our time doing things that give us instant gratification and procrastinate over boring things that actually provide meaning to our lives.
8. Always tell the truth
People lie. Yes, it’s the bitter truth.
People lie for so many reasons.
Some lie to hide their weaknesses. Some lie to impress. Some lie to …
But here is the thing, dishonesty will bite you back.
On the contrary, when you are honest, you gain trust and confidence.
Therefore, it’s always better, to tell the truth. And if you can’t tell the truth, at least don’t lie.
9. Be attentive and listen carefully
If you want to become wise, then you must listen to others effectively.
Nobody is a genius but because of our unique experiences, we know things that the other people don’t.
Contrary to this, the other person we are talking to might know things that we don’t.
Instead of competing with the other person, you must listen to what he says with undivided attention.
But in reality, we often end up wasting our time in proving our ideas and forget to listen to the other person. This must be avoided at all costs.
You should look for opportunities for growth while having a conversation.
10. Be precise in what you say
Shorter speeches are powerful and effective.
You must be precise about what you say.
Strip down all the words from your speech that don’t add any value.
Be precise. Be clear.
11. Let your Children do Challenging things
Skateboarding is a challenging sport.
As a parent, you must not bother your children when they are skateboarding.
When you bother children while they are doing something challenging, you limit their growth.
Let your children learn from failures. Let them figure things out themselves.
Imagine there are two kids, one loves taking risks while the other does only safe things that his parents allow him to do.
Who do you think would be successful?
Chances are the kid who loves taking risks and often tastes failure would become more successful in the future.
12. Pet a cat when you encounter one on the street
This doesn’t mean that you should actually pet every cat you encounter on the street.
By this, the author means that you should embrace all the little things that you encounter.
You must set your attitude right and celebrate all the joys that come into your life.
Also suffering in a way gives meaning to joys, when you suffer you realize the actual value of joy.
12 Rules for life summary infographic
12 Rules For Life Review
This book gives rules that relate to different aspects of life.
Not all the rules will be helpful to everyone, but the rules would be helpful throughout life.
The author has borrowed most of the concepts from the story of Adam and Eve given in the Holy Bible.
There is so much you can learn from that story.
With this book, Peterson shines a light on the principles that will guide you in living a meaningful life.
Also, age-old concepts like Good, Evil, Joy, Suffering, Hope, Paradise, Hell, etc, contribute to the theme of this book.
The thing I didn’t like about this book is that the author refers to the Adam and Eve story almost every time he explains any idea.
Sometimes, while reading this, I even wondered if I should read the Bible instead.
Some stories were not even related to the rule that the author was talking about.
Also, the length of the book could be shorter.
Overall, this book is worth reading at least once in life.
Who should read 12 rules for life summary?
- Anyone who wants to live a balanced life.
- Anyone who wishes to learn the principles of life.
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