Jordan Peterson’s 12 Rules for Life, Rule 4: Compare Yourself to Who You Were Yesterday

For those of us just joining me, I’ve been reading the (somewhat) controversial Jordan B. Peterson’s 12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos (Amazon Affiliate link). The fourth chapter is probably the most personally relevant to me of the chapters so far, as it deals with some of the things I have been finding to be an issue in my own life (as anyone who had been painfully excited to see what became of most of my old projects has ever known).

If you just want to hear what I have to say about the book in general, I’ll probably write a review of the book once I’m done.

Rule 4 of Jordan Peterson’s book involves comparing yourself against yourself rather than against other pressures. This is not something that is uncommon; it’s been found in a lot of self-help advice,  but Peterson’s approach either came across clearer or otherwise had a different approach than the other ways I’ve heard it said (I’ve also been listening to Stephen R. Covey’s Seven Habits of Highly Successful People on Audible, and it said something very similar in one of its chapters, so that’s an indication that it could be on me; then again, Covey claims to be more “old-school” than most (in that he rejects some of the trends of the 20th century, a trend Peterson shares).

One of my favorite points in this chapter is the simple point that Peterson makes to “pay attention”; to be looking for things that you can and will change in your environment. I haven’t quite used that to incredible effect, but it did get my car cleaned out over the weekend.

Another point he makes is that it pays to reward oneself for what has been accomplished. He talks about Pavlovian conditioning in the next chapter and denigrates it, but that is not what he says this is about:

• By forming a cycle where you reward yourself for your actions, you erase some of the negative feedback loops in your life.
• Having constant and recognized achievement reduces the temptation to compare to others, either favorably or unfavorably.
• One thing that Peterson often talks about is the importance of better. The end that you are going for is to keep moving forward, not to be somewhere you’re happy with. Keep with that long enough, and you’re going to see improvement.

A final point that sticks with me is that one of the things that Peterson points out is that our minds are more complex than we necessarily can appreciate, and that we need to develop a relationship with ourselves.

Moving on beyond this a little bit, the point seems to be to make our own motives and minds knowable to the mind, so that we can act in accordance with what our principles are (sorry, Seven Habits bleeding over) rather than impulses and subconscious instinct.

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