Several weeks ago I attended a lecture by Dr. Jordan Peterson, clinical psychologist and professor from Ontario, Canada. He has authored 12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos (2018) and Maps of Meaning: The Architecture of Belief (1999).
With a seating capacity of 1,870 at the Paramount Theatre, this exquisitely beautiful landmark was filled to capacity with primarily young men. The atmosphere was electric; the audience eager to take in the rapid-fire lecture for two hours, followed by Q & A.
In my years of college and graduate school, I never saw a professor receive three standing ovations for one lecture. Never. Peterson’s audiences read his books, study his work, and listen to his lectures, interviews, and debates on podcasts and YouTube.
I believe he is one of the most influential intellectuals of this century.
Through political storm in Canada and catching fire on the internet, Peterson challenges listeners and readers to think more effectively. For example, he sees the “development of self-esteem” as detrimental to genuine maturation. Rather, he believes we should cultivate . . .
. . . meaning by producing value, taking responsibility, and knowing that our existence and actions matter. It’s more sustaining to create a meaningful life, rather than to seek happiness.
Here is a very brief summary of 12 Rules for Life. Do not underestimate the value; his message is reaching a hungry, if not starving generation who are seeking psychological and spiritual truth. They are seeking a framework of order to manage the chaos of life.
Rule 1: Stand up straight with your shoulders back.
You instinctively monitor your social position. How you see yourself and how you treat others speaks to how you see yourself.
Slouching conveys defeat and low status to others; they will then treat you poorly, which will reinforce your lower status. Serotonin signaling can reinforce this posturing, thus activating and sustaining depression.
Fix your posture and others will treat us with more respect, thus breaking the sabotaging cycle and elevating your status.
Rule 2: Treat yourself like someone you are responsible for helping.
Self-loathing causes you to not care for yourself. When you understand you are worth helping, you express that in better self care.
Rule 3: Make friends with people who want the best for you.
Associate with those who truthfully uplift you. Seek to improve yourself.
Rule 4: Compare yourself to who you were yesterday, not to who someone else is today.
Get clear about how you want to show up in the world. Measure your success in comparison to who you were yesterday. Change happens in small, but powerful increments.
Rule 5: Do not let your children do anything that makes you dislike them.
Teach children what is acceptable so they will be liked by others. Being liked, they will be more successful. Set the rules, but not too many. Use “minimum necessary force”.
Rule 6: Put your house in order.
Stop doing what you know is wrong, causes you shame, or is cowardly. Say only what makes you strong.
Rule 7: Pursue what is meaningful, not what is expedient.
Avoid the cotton-candy illusion of “happiness”. Think more deeply. Do good. Pay attention. Fix what you are able to fix.
Rule 8: Tell the truth.
Lying is contrary to your true beliefs. Cultivate and act accordingly. Follow the destination of your truth.
Rule 9: Assume that the person you are listening to might know something you don’t.
When you talk, it helps you think. When you listen, you’re helping someone else think. When you truly listen, you will learn something new.
Rule 10: Be precise with your speech.
Being clear in your speech puts order to chaos.
Rule 11: Leave children alone when they are skateboarding.
Avoid being overprotective. Children need opportunities to become courageous and resilient. They need to grow.
Rule 12: Pet a cat when you encounter one on the street.
You suffer. Even in suffering, observe goodness.
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