12 Rules for Life – Part I
6 min read

12 Rules for Life – Part I

I’ve recently reread 12 Rules for Life and wanted to make an extra effort to understand all 12 rules in a way that I will be able to explain them to others. To understand something so that you can explain it to others in a way that they understand it as well as a way deeper form of understanding than summarizing something or just acting out what you’ve learned. Having a blog, I naturally share how I’ve understood them and what I took away from the reread with you. If you have understood any rule differently please let me know, I’d love to discuss them!

Rule 1 – Posture, Routines, and increased Serotonin

If you are judged of little worth by others or yourself, serotonin is restricted. That makes you more reactive and puts you in a state of hyper-responsiveness and alertness which burns a lot of energy and resources – which is normally called stress. Serotonin decreases with each defeat. Low serotonin means decreased confidence, more response to stress, more energy expenditure, less happiness, more pain and anxiety, more illness, and a shorter lifespan. If you are under too much stress you expend a tremendous amount of resources and will be more likely to impulsively jump on any possibility of pleasure.

In contrast, high serotonin leads to increased health and well-being, independent of factors like wealth. Routines can serve as a way to reduce the complexity of the world and increase the simplicity and predictability of your daily actions, thus leading to fewer sources of stress and more stability. Serotonin can also be increased by beneficial posture and by facing the demands of life voluntarily thus responding to a challenge, instead of bracing for a catastrophe.

Rule 2 – The need to venture into Chaos to Learn and Grow

We like to stay in order, but we need to venture into chaos to learn vital things. That way we can make the world better and give our lives meaning. To differentiate between good and bad we can consult our consciousness and make the future better instead of worse. Because we know our vulnerability, we often mistreat ourselves and don’t make things better, with catastrophic results for us and others. That’s why we need to take care of ourselves properly and plan a life, a “why”, so we can bear our “how”.

Rule 3 – Best Friends

Be careful about whom you try to help.

Not everyone is a victim, some want to exploit you. If you see people as victims of unjust circumstances you strip them of all responsibility for the past and the power to change their future. Thus, it is important to find out why someone is in trouble and not to be uncritically compassionate, because you helping someone can be pointless. We may still do it though to conclude about ourselves that someone that self-sacrificing in helping someone – that has to be a good person. Wait until it’s clear that the person you want to help truly wants to improve.

Are you so sure the person crying out to be saved has not decided a thousand times to accept his lot of pointless and worsening suffering, simply because it is easier than shouldering any true responsibility? Are you enabling a delusion? Is it possible that your contempt would be more salutary than your pity?
-Jordan Peterson[1]

Choose friends that are good for you.

Good friends will support your upwards aim and will not tolerate your destructiveness. They will encourage you when you do what’s good for yourself and punish you carefully when you don’t. In that way, they will bolster your resolve to do what you should. “You should choose people who want things to be better, not worse.”

Bad friends don’t want the best for you. Between you and then there will be a silent agreement to sacrifice the future for the present without calling each other out about taking the easier path and indulging in momentary gratification, so it’s easier to forget about it – but everyone knows what’s really going on. It’s easier moment to moment, although nothing but hell in the long run. These friends will become jealous, withdraw their support or presence, or actively punish you when you succeed or do something pristine. They may want you to fail, so the gap between them and you can be reduced.

That’s because your improvements cast their faults in even dimmer light and reveal the inadequacy of the present as well as the promise of the future, which disturbs others in the depths of their souls, where they understand that their cynicism is unjustifiable. You remind them they ceased caring about making life better.

The person who tries and fails, and is forgiven, and then tries again and fails, and is forgiven, is also too often the person who wants everyone to believe in the authenticity of all that trying.
-Jordan Peterson[2]

Why is it important to spend time with friends who want the best for you?

Because “to fail, you merely have to cultivate a few bad habits. You just have to bide your time.” Do nothing and your life will deteriorate slowly over time.

Rule 4 – Aim at the Betterment of Being

By changing the present, we can make the future better, otherwise, we wouldn’t act at all. The question is what “better” means. It means better for me, my family, my friends, and better in a manner that makes today better, tomorrow, next week, next year, a decade from now, hundred years from now, and forever. It means aiming at the improvement of Being.

This can only work if you genuinely want your life to improve.

How do you do that?

First, take stock of all your faults honestly. Your internal critic can guide you towards those. Then do a tiny little thing today that will make tomorrow better. Don’t tell yourself “I shouldn’t need that to motivate myself.” Instead, ask yourself what would entice you to be motivated to do that, pay attention, and listen for the answer, do the thing, and then reward yourself with whatever you promised yourself. To do that you need to become conscious of your desires, articulate them, and prioritize them. In that manner, find something that bothers you that you could fix, that you would fix, and then fix it.

Attend in that manner to the day.

Perhaps happiness is to be found in the journey uphill and not the fleeting sense of satisfaction awaiting at the next peak.
-Jordan Peterson[3]

Rule 5 – Don’t let anyone do anything that makes you dislike them

Why would you want to do that?

Every small thing that occurs every day makes up your life. Time spent the same way over and over again adds up to an alarming rate. Thus, small things that annoy you matter, because they make up a big part of your life. If those small annoyances aren’t addressed, they lead to resentment. But because they haven’t been addressed – here’s a great video about that – a subtle turning away will begin which leads to familial warfare conducted underneath the false façade of normality and love. You want to prevent that.

How do you do that?

Pain is more potent than pleasure, and anxiety more than hope.
-Jordan Peterson[4]

You have two options:

You either object to behavior that you dislike, or you encourage likable behavior – or both.

If you object, you need to be able to say “No”. In the final analysis “No” means: “if you continue to do that, something you do not like will happen to you.” Otherwise, it means nothing. You need to be able to set boundaries and ultimately walk away to let “No” be respected as “No”. Thus, you need rules to prevent dislikable behavior. Here are two suggestions for rule-setting: first, limit the rules. Bad rules drive out respect for good rules. Second, use the least necessary force to enforce those rules.

If you encourage likable behavior you pay really close attention to which behavior you want to encourage, and you immediately reward likable behavior with something that is neither inconsequential nor so large as to devalue future rewards.

Finally, this isn’t only about what you want. It’s in your own interest to be reminded continually to think and act properly. When we drift people that care for and love us can nudge us in that manner back on the path. So we better have people like that around!

That’s it for now! I’ll post more about the other rules next week in another blog post. Again, I gladly discuss any and every rule and my interpretation of it, so get in touch here or on social media!

Thank you once again for reading and stay on the Meaningful Path.

  1. Jordan Peterson, 12 Rules for Life, p 79. ↩︎

  2. Jordan Peterson, 12 Rules for Life, p 76. ↩︎

  3. Jordan Peterson, 12 Rules for Life, p 94. ↩︎

  4. Jordan Peterson, 12 Rules for Life, p 131. ↩︎

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