42 Rules for Life

by | Jun 28, 2022

42 Rules for Life

by | Jun 28, 2022


  1. Tell the truth… or, at least, don’t lie.

Truth reduces the terrible complexity of a man to the simplicity of his word. Truth is the ultimate, inexhaustible natural resource. It’s the light in the darkness.

  1. Do not do things that you hate.

Watch yourself. If you see that you’re doing things that make you hate yourself, consider the cost of continuing.

  1. Act so that you can tell the truth about how you act.

Stop doing things that you know are wrong, that you could stop doing. It might be a little thing. That’s fine. Stop doing it, and see what happens. You strengthen yourself.

  1. Pursue what is meaningful, not what is expedient.

There is no faith, no courage, and no sacrifice in doing what is expedient. To have meaning in your life is better than to have what you want because you may neither know what you want, nor what you truly need.

  1. If you have to choose, be the one who does things instead of the one who is seen to do things.

If you fulfill your obligations every day, you don’t need to worry about the future.

  1. Pay attention.

What do you do if your life isn’t in order? Pay attention. Paying attention is like watching for something you don’t know. It’s an unbelievably powerful force.

  1. Assume that the person you are listening to might know something you need to know.

You want to enter into a conversation so that you come out wiser than you went in.

  1. Listen to them hard enough so that they will share it with you.

The sympathetic responses during a genuine conversation indicate that the teller is valued and that the story being told is important, serious, deserving of consideration, and understandable.

  1. Plan and work diligently to maintain the romance in your relationship.

Allow yourself to become aware of what you want and need, and have the decency to let your partner in on the secret. Do not expect the beauty of love to maintain itself without all-out effort on your part.

  1. Be careful who you share good news with.

You want to share good news with people who will be genuinely happy for you. That’s one way you can identify those people who are on your side.

  1. Be careful who you share bad news with.

You can tell a true friend bad news, and they’ll listen. They won’t derail the whole conversation about how something worse happened to them once.

  1. Make at least one thing better every single place you go.

I’m on the side of the person that wants to do something positive with their life. Start by maximizing the quality of your life. Figure out how to do that in a way that’s of benefit to your relatives and community.

  1. Imagine who you could be, and then aim single-mindedly at that.

Aim at something profound, noble and lofty. Pick the best target you can conceptualize. Stumble toward it. Notice your errors and misconceptions along the way, and correct them. Confront what stands in your way.

  1. Do not allow yourself to become arrogant or resentful.

If you’re resentful, you’re likely not standing up for yourself sufficiently, or someone is legitimately treading on your territory. You need to do something about that. Or live with the consequences.

  1. Try to make one room in your house as beautiful as possible.

The world presents itself as a series of puzzles. Some of which you’re capable of solving and some of which you’re not.

If you want to change the world, you start with yourself and work outward.

  1. Compare yourself to who you were yesterday, not to who someone else is today.

The people you compare yourself to you don’t know very well. You see a shiny outside but not the reality of their life. Be less concerned with other people’s actions. You have plenty to do yourself

  1. Work as hard as you possibly can on at least one thing and see what happens.

You will change. You will start to become one thing, instead of the clamoring multitude you once were. It is far better to become something than to remain anything but become nothing.

  1. If old memories still make you cry, write them down carefully and completely.

If you’re obsessed with memories of the past (most of them negative), there’s a lot of you stuck in the past. Many people have parts of them that are stuck in some traumatic childhood experience.

  1. Maintain your connections with people.

There is no evidence that the importance of friendship declines in any manner with age.

  1. Do not carelessly denigrate social institutions or artistic achievement.

“We don’t need to get married. We don’t need a piece of paper.” That’s the depth of thought you put into it? You’re not going to mark the occasion with conscious awareness and social celebration?

  1. Treat yourself as if you were someone that you are responsible for helping.

You have a vital role to play in the unfolding destiny of the world. You should take care of, help, and be good to yourself the same way you take care of, help, and be good to someone you love.

  1. Ask someone to do you a small favor so that he or she can ask you to do one in the future.

You don’t obsessively keep track of who owes what, when, and why. That’s a sign of a degenerating relationship. You do what you can for them, and they do what they can for you.

  1. Make friends with people who want the best for you.

You have an ethical responsibility to surround yourself with people who have the courage and faith, and wisdom to wish you well when you’ve done something good. And to stop you when you’re doing something destructive.

  1. Do not try to rescue someone who does not want to be rescued.

It’s a very dangerous activity, and it can easily be counterproductive. The probability that they’re going to take you down, compared to you elevating them, is very, very high.

  1. And be very careful about rescuing someone who does.
  2. Nothing well done is insignificant.
  3. Set your house in perfect order before you criticize the world.

The world is harsh. Should you criticize it? Not until you put yourself together. You have to bring everything you can to bear on your problems before you have any right to stand in judgment about Being itself.

  1. Dress like the person you want to be.
  2. Be precise in your speech.

Let’s say that you’re having a rough patch in your relationship and you don’t know why. The issue is unnameable. Is it real? Well, yes, it’s manifesting itself in a physiological discomfort.

Then you talk about it, name it, and it goes from this blurry thing into a little monster. It’s this precision that enables you to specify it.

Now you can do something about it (it’s little, at least) if you can admit to it.

  1. Stand up straight with your shoulders back.

To stand up straight with your shoulders back is to accept the terrible responsibility of life with eyes wide open. It means deciding to voluntarily transform the chaos of potential into the realities of habitable order.

  1. Don’t avoid something frightening if it stands in your way–and don’t do unnecessarily dangerous things.

The gradual exposure to what you’re afraid of is curative. Confront the world forthrightly and expose yourself courageously to things you’re afraid of. Life will improve.

  1. Do not let your children do anything that makes you dislike them.
  2. Do not transform your wife into a maid.
  3. Do not hide unwanted things in the fog.

There will be times in your life when it will take everything you have to face what is in front of you, instead of hiding away from a truth so terrible that the only thing worse is the falsehood you long to replace it with.

  1. Notice that opportunity lurks where responsibility has been abdicated.

You positively need to be occupied with something weighty, deep, profound, and difficult.

What would your life be like if you made use of all the potential that you were offered?

  1. Read something written by someone great.

Carl Jung had an idea that part of personality development is to understand your shadow, the parts of you that you don’t want to admit to. You can learn about your shadow by reading history.

A book isn’t paper; it’s a portal.

  1. Pet a cat when you encounter one on the street.

​​When things are not good and hard, you get these little moments where a little bit of possibility still shines through.

You’ve got to take those moments when you get them.

  1. Do not bother children when they are skateboarding.

They jump in the air, grab their skateboard, balance on the rail, and slide for 20 feet.

Children are practicing being courageous. They’re practicing mastering something in the face of danger.

  1. Don’t let bullies get away with it.

I usually use a rule of three:

If we interact and you do something that I find disruptive, I’ll note it.

If you do it again, I think, “That probably wasn’t merely a situation.” I’ll leave it be because that’s still not enough evidence.

If you do it a third time, then I’ll say, “Hey, I just noticed this. Not only did it happen, but it happened here. And it happened here. So there’s something going on here. I’m not ignoring it.”

  1. Write a letter to the government if you see something that needs fixing–and propose a solution.
  2. Remember that what you do not yet know is more important than what you already know.

It is much better to make friends with what you do not know than with what you do know, as there is an infinite supply of the former but a finite stock of the latter.

  1. Be grateful in spite of your suffering.

There’s some real utility in gratitude. Gratitude is the process of consciously and courageously attempting thankfulness in the face of the catastrophe of life.

This article has been reprinted with the express permission of Dr. Jordan B. Peterson.

About Jordan B. Peterson

Dr. Jordan B. Peterson is a clinical psychologist and professor emeritus at the University of Toronto. From 1993 to 1998 he served as assistant and then associate professor of psychology at Harvard.

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