Summary of 12 Rules for Life

Summary of 12 Rules for Life

  • 12 Rules for Life (one of my fav’s) is Jordan Peterson’s guide on how to live a better life. It covers why you should stop telling lies to others and yourself, why you should stop doing things you know are bad for you, and how to pursue what is truly meaningful for you. If individuals can take charge of their lives, then society can cure its ills.
  • By finding meaning. This will make your existence matter. Your actions will matter, taking care of your health will matter, having good relationships will matter.
  • Peterson’s discussion is about life and and living it as an individual and society however for this discussion i have paralleled his rules with some health and fitness thoughts
  • Rule 1: Stand up straight with your shoulders back.
    • JP – There is a part of your brain that is constantly monitoring signals to figure out your position in society. How you see others, and how others treat you, affect how you view yourself. If others kowtow to you, you elevate your own impression of status. If others denigrate you, you lower your internal status. If you slouch, you convey defeat and low status to others; they will then treat you poorly, which will reinforce your status. (This can be reinforced in serotonin signaling, related to depression). Fix your posture to get others to treat you better, which will make you feel better and stand tall, thus kicking off a virtuous cycle.
    • RF – A virtuous cycle indeed. I read once “posture is a second by second proposition”  and i think this means it is something we must be constantly  aware of. For reasons above and for healthy movement and living. Not only will you feel better within yourself but you will move better if you come from a base of optimal posture. A great way to achieve this is with a regular yoga practice and appropriate strength training. “Healthy body, healthy mind”.
  • Rule 2: Treat yourself like someone you are responsible for helping.
    • JP Many people are better at filling prescriiptions for their dogs than themselves. Similarly, you may self-sabotage yourself daily – by not taking care of your health, not keeping promises you make to yourself. Peterson argues that you do this because of some self-loathing – that you believe you’re not worth helping. Instead, you have to believe that you have a vital mission in this world, and you are obliged to take care of yourself. Nietzsche: “He whose life has a why can bear almost any how.”
    • RF This aligns with one of my favorite quotes “Health is a necessity for the duties and the pleasures”. It is only by looking after yourself first can you truly be your best for yourself and those around you – partner, children, family, peers and your community. Self-sacrificing has a limited return on investment and self loathing is a downward spiral whereas self-improvement is a gift that keeps on giving and gets you an upward spiral that anyone close to you can benefit from. Getting fitter and healthier is a prime example and opportunity to exercise (yes pun) this principle.
  • Rule 3: Make friends with people who want the best for you.
    • JP Surround yourself with people who support you and genuinely want to see you succeed. You will push each other to greater heights; each person’s life improves as the others’ improve. They won’t tolerate your cynicism, and they will punish you when you mistreat yourself. Don’t associate with people who want to drag you down to make them feel better about themselves. Don’t accept charity cases by helping people who don’t accept personal responsibility for their actions. People who don’t want to improve can’t be helped.
    • RF Sounds like he’s saying to hire a great personal trainer! So much of the above is what we intend to help people with.
  • Rule 4: Compare yourself to who you were yesterday, not to who someone else is today.
    • JP With mass media, it’s easy to compare yourself to the best of every field (looks, wealth, marriage, career) and think of yourself as miserably outclassed. But modern society is so complex that everyone has different goals – which makes comparing to other people pointless. Drill deeply into your discontent and understand what you want, and why. Define your goals. Transform your goals into something achievable today. If it’s not within your control, look somewhere else. Let every day end a little better than it started. If you do this correctly, you’ll be unconcerned with other people, because you have plenty to do yourself.
    • RF Beautiful. Life’s not about competition. It’s about contribution and you get to choose where you want to spend your energies and why! At Focus – we are always helping people with self-improvement and that is mostly an internal process which leads to external gains – not an external goal for the world to be concerned with. The world doesn’t care  – you don’t need to care what others think. Powerful goals come from personal internal reasons. Make sure you know why you want “to be 5kg lighter”. A number is so arbitrary and yet wanting “to be a better mum” is powerfully moving.
  • Rule 5: Do not let your children do anything that makes you dislike them.
    • JP Children test boundaries of behavior to learn the rules of the world. As a parent, your purpose is to serve as a proxy for society. You must teach the child what is acceptable, and what isn’t. Children who receive no/incorrect feedback will learn the incorrect boundaries of behavior. They will be poorly adjusted and rejected by society, which will severely hamper their happiness. If you don’t teach children the rules, society will punish them for you, far less mercifully. Set the rules, but not too many. Use the minimum necessary force to enforce the rules.
    • RF As an inspired parent to one year old Aksel and four year old Anja I love this rule. Of course – it’s impossible to uphold but we can try. And we can apply it ourselves and those around us. Maja and I try to learn and apply the best parenting techniques we can muster but i think the best way to show them is by example. We try to be better people ourselves every day and i will expect my children to develop that outlook and practice as they get older….. I just have to watch out when my daughter gets me wrapped around her finger xxx Are you inspiring your kids towards optimal health, fitness and life?
  • Rule 6: Put your house in order.
    • JP It’s easy to blame the outside world, a group of people, or a specific person for your misfortunes. But before you do this, question – have you taken full advantage of every opportunity available to you? Or are you just sitting on your ass, pointing fingers? Are you doing anything you know is wrong? Stop it today. Stop saying things that make you feel ashamed and cowardly. Start saying things that make you feel strong. Do only those things about which you would speak with honor.
    • RF Did he say shut up and get moving? I’m sure I’ve said that to some clients before (in a nicer way of course). This comes down to where your focus is at and if its on the negative it’s usually on things that you think you can’t control or things that are holding you back. Put your focus on what you can control (your own philosophy, attitudes, actions) and it is much more likely you will get the results and lifestyle you desire. We don’t need to be perfect but there are always actions we can improve with regards to our health and fitness. Can you think of any? (exercise more?, eat more naturally? stretch/yoga?)
  • Rule 7: Pursue what is meaningful, not what is expedient.
    • JP Doing good (preventing evil from happening, alleviating unnecessary suffering) provides your life with meaning. Meaning defeats existential angst; it gratifies your short-term impulses to achieve long-term goals; it makes your life worth living. Think – how can I make the world a little bit better today? Pay attention. Fix what you can fix. Think more deeply – what is your true nature? What must you become, knowing who you are? Work toward this.
    • RF “What must you become, knowing who you are?” That’s a stunning and tough question right?! And yet… we are all moving towards some version of ourselves – for better or worse. We may as well choose which version we want that to be and pursue it doggedly. Without expecting or wanting it to be easy. As soon as we start looking for short cuts we are missing out on learning and growth opportunities. Most worthy goals are not about reaching the destination but who we become in the journey of trying to get there. In health and fitness make sure you get the basics right before you start reaching for the magic pills and potions.
  • Rule 8: Tell the truth.
    • JP You may lie to others to get what you want; you may lie to yourself to feel better. But deep down you know it’s inconsistent with your beliefs, and you feel unsettled.You must develop your personal truth, and then act only in ways that are consistent with your personal truth.Lies can be about how much you enjoy your job; whether you want to be in a relationship; whether you’re capable of something; that a bad habit isn’t that bad for you; that things will magically work out.Once you develop your truth, you have a destination to travel toward. This reduces anxiety – having either everything or nothing available are far worse.Act only in ways that your internal voice does not object to. Like a drop of sewage in a lake of champagne, a lie spoils all the truth it touches.
    • RF Whilst you are processing this one i think its worth remembering that we get to choose our truths to some extent. We don’t have to accept all information that is spewed on us and we get to choose the guiding lights we want for ourselves. There are some fundamentals we can all share but knowing what you stand for personally is empowering, motivating and helpful. The first step to self improvement is being honest with yourself.
  • Rule 9: Assume that the person you are listening to might know something you don’t.
    • JP You can’t really learn anything by talking, but you can learn a lot by listening. Having someone listen to you and being understood is a basic human need. So by listening to someone you are giving them a gift as you are helping them fulfill their basic human need to be understood. Truly listening to another person also helps build trust with that person.
    • RF You can learn something from everyone. My dog teaches me how to live in the moment and crap in the grass. (just checking if you’re still reading :-)) My kids teach me how to play … quite similar to the dog really! My wife teaches me how to fold my undies properly in my undies drawer and how to enjoy fine dining. We can learn from other peoples experiences, feelings and efforts if we are open to it and paying attention to those around us. I am very grateful for my job and my clients that i get to interact with great people every day who are interested in improving themselves and have their own personal challenges to overcome. We can all learn from each other if we are attentive


  • Rule 10: Be Precise With Your Speech
    • JP Precision can help remove anxiety. Anxiety can occur when we face the unknown. Perhaps you have a persistent pain in your body. What could it be? Well, it could be nothing or it could be terminal. Or it could be somewhere in between these two extremes. The possibilities cause our brains to race and so our anxiety increases. If you visit your doctor to find out what is wrong your anxiety will reduce no matter how serious the issue. This is because an unknown will become known. If something is bothering you, get precise.
    • RF This one comes a cross a little negative but from another angle we could say – “Be Impeccable of word” (the Four Agreements Miguel Ruiz). Be precise and positive with your speech both internally and externally and it will help you in your life. Turn “can’t” into “try”, “you suck” into “try harder”, “no” into “yes”, “never” into “when”. The way we speak to ourselves and those around us is a powerful, powerful thing and by being impeccable of word we can stop poisons from spreading and encourage more love and strength in ourselves and each other.

·        Rule 11: Leave Children Alone When They Are Skateboarding

We are hard-wired as humans to enjoy an element of risk. .

    • JP If we take a small risk and succeed we acquire just a little bit more competence and skill. This competence will serve us well later. It is competence or lack of competence that creates our place in society. The only way for children to develop into functioning adults is to be exposed to danger. While skateboarding might seem like a dangerous activity, it is that danger that children are seeking. It is helping them to build competence.Leave your kids alone when they do things with some element of danger. They need to grow up. And for the “you can’t do that here” people. Avoid suppressing (good) human nature, it makes for unhappy people.
    • RF If we are no doing no harm to others. People in general should be left to their own devices without criticism, condemnation and control. This can be applied to kids play, different cultures and unique individuals…. and my boot camps trespassing all over the neighborhood. The point is live and let live. Walk in the shoes of another. Let kids and people learn for themselves. There often aren’t enough situations to challenge yourself, seek a little adventure and express yourself. Trying new things and expanding your powers in different ways (like exercises) is a great thing in life.
  • Rule 12: Pet A Cat When You Encounter One On The Street
    • JP Life is tough. Sometimes bad things happen to good people. You can hate yourself and the world too because of this. Or you can just accept that suffering is a part of life. By paying attention to little things you can brighten up any bad day. But you have to be looking out for them. The cat in this rule is a metaphor for noticing the little things in life. Notice the little things and take pleasure in them.

RF You can even take pleasure in the pains of a workout – a breath of fresh air whilst walking or jogging. It all comes down to attitude and awareness and gratitude for what we can be grateful for and resilience for what we must endure. Taking moments in your day to truly be present is a wonderful thing. We don’t always need to be seeking the meaning of life. Often times it is better to seek the experience of being alive.

Take these rules and thoughts or leave them – one thing is for sure – better health and fitness will help help you in most of these areas and in some cases is a massive part of the idea and process. An underlying theme in many of these ideas is about taking personal responsibility for our outcomes. Better health and fitness is a great place to start or keep being more responsible “Healthy body healthy mind”. Love Ryan

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