12 Rules for Life by Jordan Peterson

01 November, 2020
Dr. Jordan Peterson's book 12 Rules for Life highlights four main points: values, one's relationship with oneself, one's relationship with others, and action guidelines. They aren't rules as such, only parameters to use as guides.

Dr. Jordan Peterson is a Canadian psychologist from the University of Toronto. He became popular among young people due to his stance on the Act to amend the Canadian Human Rights Act and the Criminal Code (Bill C-16), as well as for his fun and easygoing way of imparting knowledge. Furthermore, he’s quite the celebrity on social networks, and his book 12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos topped bestseller lists worldwide.

Peterson is a long-time academic with a humanistic spirit and a lot of experience. Still, he explains what he knows in a simple discourse, capable of being processed and adapted by anyone. However, his book contains 42 rules, not 12.

“You can’t make rules for the exceptional.”

-Jordan Peterson-

12 Rules for Life

Within the 42 rules for life, some are directly related to human values. Peterson specifically exalts honesty, solidarity, and gratitude:

  • Tell the truth.
  • Don’t do things that you hate.
  • Pay attention.
  • If you have to choose, be the one who does things, instead of the one who sees others doing things.
  • Avoid arrogance and resentment.
  • Be grateful in spite of your suffering.
  • Nothing well done is insignificant.
A person sitting at a table.

The relationship with oneself

Some of Peterson’s rules for life talk about the axes for maintaining a good relationship with oneself. Actually, these are precepts for being, rather than for doing. In addition, they basically focus on attitudes that are positive for growth.

The rules about the relationship with oneself are:

  • Pursue what’s meaningful, not what’s expedient.
  • Don’t look for the easy or the convenient, but for what’s meaningful.
  • Be realistic.
  • Make at least one thing better every single place you go.
  • Compare yourself with the person you were in the past and not with someone else in the present.
  • If old memories still make you cry, write them down carefully and completely.
  • Treat yourself as if you were someone that you’re responsible for helping.
  • Dress like the person you want to be.
  • Stand up straight with your shoulders back.
  • Don’t hide unwanted things in the fog.
  • Read something written by someone great.
  • Remember that what you don’t yet know is more important than what you already know.

12 Rules for Life – others

The 12 Rules for Life couldn’t be possible without those about interpersonal relationships. This is because a significant part of your well-being lies here precisely. Thus, other people and the bond you establish with them either enrich or impoverish you.

In this regard, Jordan Peterson proposes the following guidelines:

  • Assume that the person you’re listening to might know something you need to know. Listen to them hard enough so that they’ll share it with you.
  • Plan and work diligently to maintain the romance in your relationships.
  • Don’t let your children do anything that makes you dislike them.
  • Don’t transform your wife into a maid.
  • Be careful who you share good news with.
  • Be careful who you share bad news with.
  • Maintain your connections with people.
  • Don’t carelessly denigrate social institutions or artistic achievements.
  • Ask someone to do you a small favor, so that they can ask you to do one in the future.
  • Make friends with people who want the best for you.
  • Don’t try to rescue someone who doesn’t want to be rescued, and be very careful about rescuing someone who does.
  • Set your house in perfect order before you criticize the world.
  • Pet a cat when you encounter one on the street.
  • Don’t bother children when they’re skateboarding.
  • Don’t let bullies get away with it.
  • Write a letter to the government if you see something that needs fixing and propose a solution.
Two friends having fun.

About significant actions

According to Peterson, you must take some actions to create guidelines that lead to a more fulfilled life. Thus, some specific tasks enrich your life and allow you to move to the next level.

For example, these significant actions include:

  • Imagine who you could be, and then aim single-mindedly at that. Don’ allow yourself to become arrogant or resentful.
  • Try to make one room in your house as beautiful as possible.
  • Compare yourself to who you were yesterday, not to who someone else is today.
  • Work as hard as you possibly can on at least one thing and see what happens.
  • Don’t avoid something frightening if it stands in your way, and don’t do unnecessarily dangerous things.
  • Notice that opportunity lurks where responsibility has been abdicated.
  • Be precise in your speech.

Finally, all these rules for life are a way of simplifying certain guidelines for healthy behaviors and making them easier to digest. Of course, they aren’t rules in the strict sense, merely a reminder of patterns that are effective when it comes to self-growth.

  • Carson, S. H., Peterson, J. B., & Higgins, D. M. (2005). Reliability, validity, and factor structure of the creative achievement questionnaire. Creativity Research Journal, 17(1), 37-50.