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12 Rules For Life Review, Summary & Guide: Unveiling Peterson’s Wisdom

Diving into Jordan B. Peterson’s “12 Rules for Life” is like embarking on an intellectual journey that’s as challenging as it is rewarding. It’s not just another self-help book; it’s a deep dive into the complexities of human existence, distilled into 12 practical rules. My fascination with Peterson’s work and my background in psychology and philosophy make me eager to share my insights with you.

You might be wondering why you should take my word for it. Well, I’ve spent years dissecting the intricacies of human behavior, both academically and through real-life experiences. My journey has equipped me with a unique perspective on Peterson’s teachings, making me a reliable guide through his thought-provoking ideas.

So, what can you expect to take away from this guide? First, you’ll gain a deeper understanding of the psychological underpinnings of Peterson’s rules. Second, you’ll discover how to apply these rules to navigate life’s chaos more effectively. And third, you’ll learn to appreciate the balance between order and chaos, a central theme in Peterson’s philosophy. Let’s dive in and explore how “12 Rules for Life” can provide you with a roadmap to a more meaningful existence.

Rule 1: Stand up straight with your shoulders back

The Power Pose: More Than Just Good Posture

I’ve found that standing up straight with your shoulders back isn’t just about looking confident; it’s about harnessing a deep, psychological transformation. This advice, quintessential Peterson, dives into the essence of adopting a posture of readiness and dominance, akin to that of the most successful lobsters in their hierarchies. Yes, lobsters. Peterson draws an epic comparison, emphasizing that even these crustaceans know something about winning at life.

How a Small Change Can Spark Big Transformations

Ever noticed how you feel on days when you’re slumped versus those when you stand tall? I sure have, and the difference is night and day. Standing tall has not just changed how others perceive me, but it’s transformed my own self-perception. There’s science to back this up; a study published in the Journal of Psychological Science found that adopting a high-power pose for just a few minutes can significantly increase testosterone levels and decrease cortisol levels, making you feel more confident and stress-free.

Lobsters, Serotonin, and Us: A Surprising Connection

Turns out, the way you carry yourself can literally influence your brain’s chemistry. Lobsters, with their serotonin-modulated dominance hierarchies, serve as a perfect metaphor for this phenomenon. When a lobster wins a fight, its serotonin levels increase, bolstering its posture and status. Losers experience the opposite. Peterson’s point? Like these sea creatures, humans can leverage posture to influence their standing in society and within themselves.

A Personal Journey from Slouch to Power Stance

I’ll be honest, adopting this rule didn’t come easy to me at first. My natural inclination was to retreat into myself, especially in challenging situations. But I took Peterson’s advice to heart, consciously correcting my posture every day. Slowly, I began to notice a shift. My interactions became more assertive, my mood improved, and life’s challenges seemed a bit less daunting. This small change ignited a powerful transformation in my personal and professional life, proving Peterson’s point that the physical and psychological realms are deeply intertwined.

Rule 2: Treat yourself like someone you are responsible for helping

Being a self-help enthusiast, I’ve always been intrigued by the ways we can improve our lives by tweaking our attitudes and actions. Jordan B. Peterson’s second rule, “Treat yourself like someone you are responsible for helping,” hit close to home for me, Mike Piet. It’s a principle that’s not only profound but also deceptively simple in its wisdom.

The Power of Self-Compassion

I’ve noticed that we’re often our own harshest critics. It’s not unusual to hear people berating themselves over minor mistakes while they’d offer kindness and understanding to a friend in a similar situation. This rule challenges us to extend the same compassion and care to ourselves that we’d naturally provide to others. Studies show that individuals practicing self-compassion experience less anxiety and depression. For example, a study by the University of Texas found that participants with higher levels of self-compassion showed greater emotional resilience.

Walking the Talk

In my own journey, adopting this rule was transformative. I started treating my needs with the same urgency and importance I’d give to a loved one’s, and the effect was eye-opening. Suddenly, my excuses for skipping self-care routines or putting off goals felt hollow. If I wouldn’t let a friend neglect their health or dreams, why was it acceptable to do it to myself?

The Ripple Effect

What I’ve learned is that treating yourself with kindness and respect isn’t just about feeling better in the moment. It creates a ripple effect that influences every aspect of your life. Healthy self-regard boosts confidence, improves relationships, and primes you for success. It’s like Peterson points out, how can we hope to effectively help others if we can’t even take care of ourselves?

Incorporating this rule into my life wasn’t just about making a change for the better; it was about acknowledging that I am worthy of my help and compassion. It’s a journey that’s ongoing, but every step brings a greater sense of balance and fulfillment.

Living by Example

Perhaps the most powerful aspect of this rule is how it lets us lead by example. When we treat ourselves well, we set a standard for those around us, showing them that it’s not only okay to prioritize self-care but essential.

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

Ever stumbled on the saying, “You’re the average of the five people you spend the most time with”? Well, Jordan B. Peterson really hits the nail on the head with his third rule, “Make friends with people who want the best for you.” This isn’t just about avoiding naysayers or toxic environments; it’s about proactively choosing companions who genuinely root for your success.

Why Your Circle Matters

I remember back in college, I had a mixed bag of friends. Some were incredibly supportive, always pushing me to aim higher, while others… let’s just say they weren’t exactly cheerleaders for ambition. It wasn’t until I read Peterson’s rule that I realized the toll those latter relationships had on my self-esteem and productivity. Research shows that having supportive friends can actually increase your chances of success. One study I stumbled upon cited that individuals with encouraging social circles were 70% more likely to achieve their goals.

Choose Wisely

Selecting the right crowd isn’t about amassing a group of yes-men. It’s about finding those rare gems who challenge you, share your values, and celebrate your victories as if they were their own. After implementing this rule into my life, I noticed a dramatic shift. Suddenly, I was more motivated, my goals seemed within reach, and my confidence skyrocketed. It was as if I had unlocked a new level of potential simply by curating my inner circle.

Not Just Any Friend Will Do

I learned the hard way that not all friendships serve your growth. Some might even hinder it. The key is to identify and nurture relationships with people who see the greatness in you, even when you don’t see it yourself. Peterson emphasizes that this process of selection is critical for personal development and happiness. And from my experience, he couldn’t be more right.

Navigating life’s challenges becomes a tad easier when you have allies in your corner. These are the folks who’ll lend an ear, offer a shoulder, and sometimes, give you the tough love you need to get back on track. They’re not just friends; they’re catalysts for becoming the best version of yourself.

Rule 4: Compare yourself to who you were yesterday, not to who someone else is today

As a self-help enthusiast, I’ve always been intrigued by the ways we can foster our personal growth. Jordan B. Peterson’s fourth rule in “12 Rules for Life” truly hit home for me. It’s about focusing on self-improvement rather than getting caught up in the comparison game.

Looking Inward for Growth

Let’s face it, comparing ourselves to others is a trap that’s easy to fall into, especially in this age of social media. But here’s the thing: I’ve learned that the only person I should be competing with is the person I was yesterday. This mindset shift wasn’t easy, but it was worth it.

The Science of Self-Improvement

Research shows that individuals who focus on personal growth rather than comparison tend to experience higher levels of happiness and satisfaction. This makes sense because when you’re aiming to be better than you were yesterday, you’re on a continuous journey of self-discovery and improvement.

Implementing the Rule

For me, applying this rule meant keeping a journal to track my progress. Each evening, I’d jot down small victories or steps I took toward my goals, no matter how minor they seemed. Over time, these entries became a powerful motivational tool, showing me just how far I’ve come.

The Community Aspect

I also discovered the importance of surrounding myself with people who live by this rule. As mentioned earlier, fostering relationships with those who want the best for you is crucial. When your circle is filled with individuals focused on their own growth, it creates an environment of mutual support and collective advancement.

Embracing Incremental Wins

One of the most inspiring stories I encountered was about a friend who decided to learn a new language. Instead of comparing herself to fluent speakers, she focused on adding just a few new words to her vocabulary every day. Over months, this added up to a significant mastery over a foreign language, proving that small, consistent efforts can lead to impressive achievements.

Rule 5: Do not let your children do anything that makes you dislike them

I’ve always believed that raising kids is an art, but Jordan B. Peterson in 12 Rules for Life lays it out more like a science with Rule 5. This rule might sound a bit harsh at first glance, but stick with me; it’s a gold mine of insights. Peterson argues that it’s crucial to set boundaries early on. Why? Because kids who understand limits early are better equipped to navigate the world successfully.

Setting Boundaries is KeyIt’s not just about avoiding annoyance; it’s about preparing them for the real world. I had a friend who never set limits for his kid. The result? Chaos at home and a child struggling in school. Contrastingly, another friend was clear about the rules and the reasoning behind them. Her children are among the most well-adjusted I know.

Statistics Show the Importance of Discipline. According to a study published in The Journal of Family Psychology, children who experienced consistent boundaries and discipline were significantly better at delaying gratification – a key success indicator.

It’s About Respect, Not Just Rules. When I started applying Rule 5 with my nephews, I focused on mutual respect. I explained why I set certain rules, and you know what? They got it. They even began to apply these principles in their own lives, showing empathy and understanding beyond their years.

A Story of Transformation. I’ll never forget the turnaround I saw in a neighbor’s kid. Once known for his tantrums, after his parents began implementing consistent boundaries, his behavior improved remarkably. It wasn’t overnight, but the change was undeniable.

Peterson isn’t suggesting you become an authoritarian figure. It’s about guiding them to understand the society they’re part of and their role within it. By doing so, we’re not just preventing behavior that makes us dislike them; we’re helping them become individuals we admire.

Rule 6: Set your house in perfect order before you criticize the world

Diving into Rule 6, Jordan B. Peterson throws down a hefty challenge: Set your house in perfect order before pointing fingers at the chaos of the world. This rule isn’t just about tidying up your living space; it’s metaphorical, urging us to address our internal disarray first. It’s like Peterson is asking us, “How can we attempt to solve the world’s complex issues if we can’t even manage our personal lives?”

Tackling Personal Chaos First

I’ve witnessed—both in my life and in the lives of those around me—how easy it is to fall into the trap of externalizing problems. A friend of mine, let’s call him Dave, spent years blaming his job, the government, even society for his unhappiness. Only when Dave started to introspect, focusing on his patterns of behavior and thought, did things begin to shift. It wasn’t an overnight change, but the transformation was stark. Peterson posits that facing our own issues is the first step towards contributing positively to society’s broader challenges.

The Ripple Effect of Order

Peterson’s idea resonates deeply with a key concept in psychology: the control theory. This theory suggests that taking control of your immediate environment can lead to a greater sense of personal efficacy and subsequently, a more impactful influence on the outside world. An organized space, clear goals, and a disciplined routine—these might seem trivial, but their effects are profound. They ripple outwards, influencing not just our own lives but those of the people around us.

Real-Life Impact

Statistics from a study on personal organization and mental health show a significant correlation between a well-ordered life and psychological well-being. For instance:

Aspect of Life Percentage Reporting Improved Mental Health
Organized Living Space 78%
Clear Personal Goals 82%
Disciplined Routine 74%

These numbers tell a compelling story: when we put our affairs in order, the mental clutter clears up too.

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

In diving deep into Jordan B. Peterson’s “12 Rules for Life,” I found Rule 7 to be a game-changer for me, and I’m betting it’ll be the same for you. Pursue What is Meaningful (Not What is Expedient) is a call to action, urging us to look beyond the easy path and instead aim for what truly matters.

Choosing the Hard Right Over the Easy Wrong

I remember reading about the Marshmallow Experiment in college, where kids who could delay gratification ended up achieving more. This principle is at the heart of Rule 7. It’s easy to go for quick wins, but life’s real rewards are hidden behind challenges that require patience and discipline to overcome.

The Deep Dive into Meaningful Goals

Let me tell you, digging into what’s truly meaningful is like embarking on a personal treasure hunt. Once, I set a goal to write a book, a daunting task overshadowed by easier distractions. Yet, focusing on the meaningful led me to not only finish the book but also experience a profound sense of accomplishment. This reinforced Peterson’s notion that the pursuit of what’s meaningful cultivates a resilient and fulfilling life.

The Impact of Meaningful Pursuits on Personal Growth

Experts like Dr. Angela Duckworth have shown that grit—perseverance and passion for long-term goals—is a critical factor for success, more so than talent alone. By choosing meaningful pursuits, we develop this very grit. I’ve witnessed how setting substantial goals has not only pushed my limits but also expanded my understanding of what I’m capable of.

In the quest for meaning, there’s always the temptation to veer off course towards easier, less fulfilling objectives. But as I’ve experienced firsthand and as Peterson eloquently advises, the essence of a truly impactful life lies in our commitment to pursue what is meaningful. And trust me, the journey, with all its ups and downs, is absolutely worth it.

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

Ever found yourself in a pinch and fibbed your way out? Hey, we’ve all been there. But Jordan B. Peterson’s Rule 8 from “12 Rules for Life” hits different when you realize the profound impact of honesty on your life. It’s not just about not lying; it’s about embracing truth as a cornerstone of a meaningful life.

Honesty: Easier Said Than Done

In my journey, I’ve discovered that being truthful is like lifting weights – the more you do it, the stronger you become. Peterson emphasizes the strength that comes from facing the world with nothing but your truth, even when it’s uncomfortable. I remember a time I had to confess to a major mistake at work. Trust me, the anticipation was torture, but the relief and respect I received afterward were monumental.

The Ripple Effect of a Single Lie

It’s fascinating how one small lie can set off a domino effect in your life. Here’s a stat that blows my mind: according to a study done at the University of Massachusetts, 60% of adults can’t have a ten-minute conversation without lying at least once. But here’s the kicker, every lie requires maintenance. That’s energy that could be spent on building something meaningful.

Living in Your Truth Unlocks Potential

Drawing from personal experience, aligning my actions with my truth has been liberating. Starting my blog was a leap of faith in expressing my genuine thoughts and experiences, and it has connected me to thousands who share my values. Experts like Brene Brown echo this, stating that vulnerability and truth are the bedrocks of connection and growth.

The pursuit of truth, as laid out by Peterson, isn’t just about avoiding falsehoods. It’s about constructing a life that you don’t need to escape from. It’s realizing that honesty not only changes how the world sees you but fundamentally transforms how you see yourself. In the grand scheme, choosing truth helps weave the fabric of a reality that’s not only bearable but rich in authenticity and purpose.

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

As someone who’s always been a bit too fond of hearing my own voice, Rule 9 from Jordan B. Peterson’s 12 Rules for Life was a humbling reminder. It’s not just about being polite; it’s about recognizing the potential for growth in every conversation.

Listening Is More Than Just Waiting Your Turn

I’ll confess, I’ve been guilty of formulating my next argument while someone else is speaking, not truly engaging with what they’re saying. Peterson challenges this approach, suggesting that real understanding and learning come from actively listening. There’s an art to it, really. Every person you meet knows something you don’t—which is astonishing when you start to unpack it.

The Hidden Value in Every Conversation

Statistics show that most of us spend about 60% of our conversations talking about ourselves. But what if we flipped that ratio? Imagine the insights we could gain. One study I came across in the Harvard Business Review highlighted how knowledge is shared more effectively in conversations where participants actively listen to and value each other’s input. This doesn’t mean just nodding along but engaging, asking questions, and truly considering the perspective being offered.

Real-World Application – A Personal Anecdote

Let me share a quick story. Last year, I found myself in a heated debate with a friend over environmental policies. It was a topic I felt passionate about, yet so did my friend from an entirely different angle. Midway through, I remembered Rule 9, took a breath, and genuinely listened. The outcome? I didn’t just learn about a new perspective; I discovered valuable data that changed the course of my argument. This shift from debating to understanding was refreshing.

Experts Agree: Empathy Enhances Dialogue

Experts in the field of psychology echo Peterson’s sentiments. They say empathy isn’t just good for personal relationships; it’s crucial for meaningful dialogue. It turns out, when we truly listen, we’re not just being polite. We’re opening a door to a wider world, filled with ideas and knowledge that can enrich our lives.

Rule 10: Be precise in your speech

I’ve always been a fan of clear communication. It’s something that, believe it or not, can genuinely transform your relationships and professional life. Jordan B. Peterson’s Rule 10 from “12 Rules for Life” tackles this: Be precise in your speech. This rule, at its core, is a powerful reminder of the importance of articulating our thoughts and feelings accurately.

Every word carries weight. I learned this the hard way when a miscommunication led to a major project setback at work. It was a tough lesson in the importance of being explicit about expectations and deadlines.

Peterson points out that precision in language helps to confront life’s chaos. It’s like sharpening a lens; suddenly, everything comes into focus. By being precise, we can better navigate through life’s complexities because we’re clear about our goals and desires.

Let’s dive into some stats. Studies have shown that effective communication is directly tied to high performance in the workplace. For instance, a study by Salesforce found that 86% of executives cite lack of collaboration or ineffective communication for workplace failures.

Experts say that precise communication builds trust. Amy Cuddy, a social psychologist, emphasizes that “when you’re precise in your speech, you’re also perceived as more trustworthy”. This isn’t just fluff; it’s critical in both personal and professional settings.

Imagine you’re hiking and lose your path. You wouldn’t want your friend to vaguely point in a general direction; you’d want specific instructions on how to get back on track. That’s the difference precision makes, aiding in clarity and reducing misunderstandings.

Through personal trial and error, I’ve discovered that being explicit doesn’t just ease day-to-day interactions, it solidifies relationships. People respect and respond better to those who can express themselves clearly.

Incorporating this rule into my daily life has been an eye-opener. I challenge myself to be as clear as possible in every conversation. Trust me, it’s a game-changer in how you connect with others and move through the world.

Rule 11: Do not bother children when they are skateboarding

Let me dive straight into this: Rule 11 surprised me the most out of Jordan B. Peterson’s “12 Rules for Life.” It’s about promoting risk-taking and learning through experience. Peterson argues that protectionism can stifle growth – something I’ve seen firsthand.

Growing up, I had a friend, Jake, who was always on his skateboard. His parents never stopped him, despite the scrapes and bruises. One day, he landed a trick we all thought was impossible. That moment wasn’t just about skateboarding; it was about perseverance and breaking barriers.

Finding Balance in Risk

Peterson emphasizes the importance of letting kids confront danger. It’s how they learn limits and develop resilience. I remember reading a study indicating that children who engage in physical play have better motor skills, social skills, and confidence. I can’t help but agree.

A Lesson in Parenting and Leadership

This rule isn’t just for parents; it’s a leadership lesson. At work, I once led a project that seemed doomed. But instead of stepping in and micromanaging, I let my team tackle the challenges. They came up with a solution I hadn’t even considered. It was a skateboarding moment – watching them navigate through trials and succeed.

Embrace the Scuffs

Peterson uses skateboarding as a metaphor for life: it’s about embracing failure and learning from it. I’ve found that the scars from my endeavors, much like Jake’s from his skateboard, are badges of honor. They represent lessons learned and obstacles overcome.

So next time you see a kid on a skateboard, remember they’re not just playing. They’re learning valuable life lessons. And perhaps, we can learn something from them too – the importance of taking risks, embracing challenges, and always getting back up.

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

As a self-help enthusiast and a fan of breaking down complex theories into actionable advice, I’ve come to appreciate Jordan B. Peterson’s Rule 12: Pet a cat when you encounter one on the street. This rule, surface-level quirky, holds a profound message about finding moments of happiness amidst chaos and suffering.

Savoring Small Joys in a Chaotic World

I remember strolling down the cobblestone streets of Italy, lost in thought over my extensive to-do list, when a lazy cat sauntered across my path. I paused, remembered Peterson’s rule, and reached down to pet it. That simple act shifted my entire perspective for the day. It’s in these small, seemingly insignificant moments that we can find a reprieve from life’s whirlwind, a theme Peterson champions.

The Science Behind the Purr

Experts suggest that interacting with cats can reduce stress and blood pressure, pointing to the therapeutic purr that can tranquillize not just the cat but the human as well. A study by the University of Minnesota’s Stroke Institute found that cat owners were 30% less likely to die of heart attack or stroke than non-cat owners, showcasing the profound impact of these seemingly small engagements.

Finding Light in Darkness

Life is riddled with inevitable suffering, a truth Peterson does not shy away from. He proposes that by appreciating moments of simplicity and peace, such as the unexpected joy from petting a cat, we equip ourselves to face the chaos. This mirrors my belief that by actively seeking out these moments, we’re better positioned to tackle life’s hurdles.

Peterson’s rule is a reminder to embrace spontaneity and find beauty in the everyday. It’s a call to action: don’t just walk past the cat, or the opportunities for joy, that life throws your way. Make the most of the small things; after all, they’re often not so small after all.


So there you have it. Diving into Peterson’s world has been a journey of reflection and discovery. Rule 12 isn’t just about cats. It’s a metaphor for life’s little joys and the importance of not overlooking them. My experience in Italy wasn’t just a random event. It was a reminder that beauty and peace can be found in the simplest moments. Let’s not forget to look around and appreciate these moments. They’re what make the hard times bearable and life truly worth living. So next time you see a cat on the street, maybe take a second to pet it. You never know how much that small act could mean to you in that moment.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is Rule 12 in Jordan B. Peterson’s “12 Rules for Life”?

Rule 12, as discussed by Jordan B. Peterson, advises to “Pet a cat when you encounter one on the street.” It’s a metaphor for finding and appreciating small joys in life amidst chaos and suffering.

How does petting a cat affect your health?

Interacting with cats can significantly reduce stress and blood pressure. Scientific studies have confirmed the positive health impacts of engaging with cats, underlining the benefits of such simple moments of joy.

Why is finding joy in small things important according to Peterson?

According to Peterson, embracing the simplicity of joyful moments, like petting a cat, helps navigate through life’s inevitable challenges. It encourages spontaneity and an appreciation for beauty in everyday experiences, highlighting the significance of finding happiness in seemingly insignificant moments.

Can embracing simplicity really help with life’s challenges?

Yes, embracing simplicity and finding joy in small things can provide a sense of relief and happiness amidst life’s challenges. This approach helps shift perspective, offers a mental break, and can make life’s hardships more bearable by highlighting moments of beauty and peace.

What personal experience did the author share regarding this rule?

The author shared a personal experience in Italy where petting a cat on the street significantly shifted their perspective. This moment underscored Peterson’s rule by demonstrating how such an ordinary act can bring profound happiness and a fresh outlook on life’s complexities.

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