My 12 Rules of Life

There’s a practice going around where folks are listing their 12 rules for life based on Jordan Peterson’s latest book “12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos.” 

The Irish Times recently wrote on Peterson’s book calling it an “antidote to nihilism and identity politics.” Russ Roberts interviews Peterson here. I’ve started reading it and it seems great.  

I thought that I’d post my 12 rules for life in order to join the fun. However, these really aren’t my 12 rules. Rather, this is a set of practices that I happen to be thinking about right now.

For those who are familiar with Alexander Shaia, many of these are influenced by (or flat borrowed) from his essential practices (The Four Gospel Journey is worth reading for even the most devout atheists among you). Others are based on my own experiences and research on the importance of proverbs.

But anyway… here you go:

(1)  Start from a place of unity. Contemplative conversation often starts with the foundation that we are one. This is not to say that we think alike or are actually the same in every respect. However, when we put our differences aside (which are usually much less significant than we make them out to be) we can start to understand each other’s desires and challenges. And humans tend to have the same basic desires and challenges.

Starting from a place of unity also helps move away from the idea that we must win the argument. Discussion is almost never a zero-sum situation. But rather it’s about seeking to understand one another and our differences.

(2)  Connect with others through shared movements. We have become so separated from one another through everyday life that we forget that something besides ourselves is carrying us along. This includes raising kids, helping family members, shared celebrations of life such as funerals and weddings and birthdays, doing service projects in our communities, or visiting neighbors. All of these things give us a sense of aliveness that is more than oneself.

(3)  Engage in the creative process. Experience something that has been carrying you that is different from the conscious mind. Create something that wouldn’t exist if not for you. Use this to remind yourself that no work is every finished.  

(4)  Find the quiet center. Quiet or silent meditation allows us to observe our thoughts and let them melt away. Active meditation excites the brain in a way that moves things from our logical mind to our soul.

(5)  Expand into risk. If we are looking for a life that is safe and without risk it is not a spiritual life. Don’t seek predictability. Learn to appreciate that surprise is a gift.

(6)  Learn to let go. There is a pattern and a cycle to life. You need to remind yourself that you are not in charge. Receive chaos as a gift.

(7)  Celebrate diversity. Welcome and celebrate all. We are much better off with each other than without.

(8)  Make the great leap of trust. Trust is the core to every developing human. Humans are going to betray you. And you’ll betray yourself. Pretty regularly in fact. But you must learn to let this betrayal go and trust again. It’s what makes us people.

(9)  Take proverbs seriously. Some proverbs are silly and others are more profound. However, at some point someone found all proverbs to be a helpful guide for living a good life or dealing with challenges. It wouldn’t be wise to throw out someone else’s wisdom based on the presumption that it doesn’t apply to you.  

(10) Go where you are uncomfortable. Most of the other practices listed here lead to this one. However, real maturation is the ability to be so comfortable with oneself that you are comfortable as an outcast (or in the wilderness as some would say). This is the ability to physically go into tough situations represented by your mind and out into the real world.  

We are often too afraid of what our families or communities or employers or whoever will think of us. And this often holds us back from giving people our greatest gifts.

(11) Don’t worry about being original. You’re already original. Any perspective or combination of ideas that you bring to something is original. In general, I think we over emphasize the importance of true originality (what is that anyway?) and underemphasize the importance of helpfulness. That said, I am as attracted to original ideas than anyone.

(12) Stop and think about where you are in the universe every once in a while. It’s huge. Really big. And there’s probably intelligent life out there and it probably doesn’t have a nervous system or process information the same way that we do. If you need help with this, go check out the documentary on Voyager.