If you’re familiar with Jordan Peterson, it’s hard to come across any of his lectures or interviews and not stay glued to the screen. He speaks with so much passion and convictions— almost like a preacher. But this is precisely why he has had such a huge impact on so many people.
When he says it, you know he means it.
Most of his life advice is full of hard truths, which he articulates precisely and often vulnerably. Peterson sometimes talks from a point of imperfection, sometimes even shedding tears in interviews. His ideas have been quoted by many, his videos, cut, edited, and reposted countless times. Here are 4 of his ideas that can transform your life.
To Improve yourself, think small, very small
Jordan Peterson is especially famous for his idea about putting your room in order, which is the sixth rule in 12 Rules For Life: Set Yourself In Perfect Order Before You Criticize the World.
The idea behind putting your room in order is that the steps you take towards improving yourself should be so small and easy that it becomes embarrassing not to try.
The idea we are used to in the self-help industry is that we should think of and even visualize our best self, and live our lives striving to become that ideal. But sometimes our ideals can torture us, especially if we feel we are not meeting up. It can even lead to self-rejection.
What Peterson recommends is that we only use our ideals to orient ourselves, but the only business we have is making sure we do what’s right today. And to this end, think very small. Are you so bad and lazy that you can’t at least put your room in order?
What to exercise? Decide to do it for just 5 or 10 minutes. And if you still can’t, ask yourself, “Am I really so lazy that I can’t exercise even for just 5 minutes?”
Become a time traveler
This idea comes from one of Chris Williamson’s podcasts with Jordan Peterson, where he asked him how we could make better decisions to improve our lives.
To answer this question, Jordan Peterson likened us to a series of entities spread across time. And the consequence of this is that if we are going to have any chance — or motivation — to do what’s right for us today, we must think of ourselves not just as we are today, but as who we are across time.
In other words, you are not just you today, you are also you when you are 30, 40, or 70. When you act, your habits don’t just affect you today. They affect all versions of you across time. The reason we call alcoholism a bad habit isn’t just because it makes you miserable the moment you drink. That’s just a small part of the problem.
Like other bad habits, alcoholism is terrible for you because it creates all sorts of problems for your future self. First of all, you’ll spend unnecessarily, you’ll waste time drinking and getting sober, you are also likely to end up with alcoholics as friends. It’s a chain that leads to hell.
As Jordan Peterson wrote in 12 Rules For Life, you are not just all that you are now, you are also all that you could be. And you, therefore, have to act in a way that will favor not just you today, but also different versions of yourself across time.
Thinking in this manner will give you a greater feel for the kind of choices you need to make to have your best life.
Don’t think inaction has no price
The 8th rule of Jordan Peterson’s 12 Rules For Life reads, Tell the Truth. And If you’re familiar with Jordan Peterson, you must have heard him say on different occasions that “If you have something to say, silence is a lie.” or, “Everything you do matters.”
They are all variations of the same Idea — both our actions and inactions have consequences.
In another podcast with Chris Williamson, on how to deal with losing friends when you decide to take your self-transformation seriously, Jordan Peterson explained to Chris that losing friends that you’ve grown up with is hard, but staying in the same mediocre relationships and where no one wants to excel is even more burdensome.
And in situations like this, we are tempted to avoid doing anything. “Maybe time will put an end to our friendship as it does for most,” you might think. And maybe you’re right. But what if you’re not? It’s like being in a job you hate but refuse to do anything about it.
If you have any sense of responsibility for your life, you are going to repeatedly find yourself in situations where you’ll have to pick the lesser of two evils.
You are terrified of losing your friends, but you should be more terrified of being in the same place with them, doing the same things. You fear losing the job you hate, good. But imagine yourself ten years from now, still on that job. How does that look?
Don’t assume that inaction has no price. Hiding monsters under the carpet doesn’t make them grow away. They’ll only grow bigger and devour you. As the third rule in Beyond Order reads, “Do not hide unwanted things in the fog.”
To survive, learn to make decisions and trust your judgment
You’ll get to a point in your life where you’ll realize that the answers you are looking for cannot be given to you by your parents. And what most people do at this point is to try and ignore reality. And it’s no wonder why.
It’s comforting, secure, and addictive to always have someone who has all the answers. And we might be tempted to want to hold on even when we’ve already gotten past that point in our development. We all grew up with that feeling of inferiority to our parents, this inferiority that makes us always run to them whenever we face chaos.
But the price we pay for this dependence is retrogression. As Jordan Peterson concluded in his lecture, “If your parents still have final dominion over you, you are not a mature individual yet.” Maturity and growth come from facing the chaos of life with your eyes wide open. Robert Greene summed it perfectly in The 48 Laws of Power:
“The only way to survive is to admit you’re on your own, learn to make decisions, and trust your judgment. Do not ask for what you need… Depend only on your wits.”
Keys to bear in mind
To recap, here are four helpful ideas from Jordan Peterson that you can start applying today:
- Think small to improve yourself
- Act in ways that favor different versions of you across time
- Don’t think inaction has no price
- To survive, learn to make decisions and trust your judgment