Review of 12 Rules for Life by Jordan B. Peterson

Summary of 12 Rules for Life by Jordan B. Peterson

Introduction to Review of 12 Rules for Life by Jordan B. Peterson

The Foreword of “12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos” by Jordan B. Peterson serves as an introduction to the book. It typically provides an overview of the author’s motivation and purpose in writing the book, as well as a glimpse into the core ideas and themes that will be explored in the subsequent chapters. In the case of Jordan B. Peterson’s book, the Foreword likely introduces the reader to the concept of rules for life and how they can help individuals navigate the complexities of the modern world. The Foreword sets the tone for the book and invites readers to embark on a journey of self-discovery and personal development.

Rule 1: Stand Up Straight with Your Shoulders Back

In the first rule of “12 Rules for Life,” Jordan B. Peterson delves into the significance of posture and its implications for one’s life. The rule, “Stand Up Straight with Your Shoulders Back,” goes beyond the physical act of maintaining good posture; it is a metaphor for the way one should approach life.

This rule explores:

  • The Significance of Posture: How the way you carry yourself physically affects the way you feel mentally and emotionally. Good posture can have a positive impact on your self-esteem and confidence.
  • Dominance Hierarchies: The concept of hierarchies and how they exist in various aspects of life, from the animal kingdom to human society. Understanding where you stand in these hierarchies is crucial.
  • The Lobster’s Lesson: Peterson draws parallels between the behavior of lobsters and humans, highlighting the link between posture and social status. He illustrates how small changes in behavior can lead to significant shifts in one’s position within a hierarchy.
  • Your Brain on Status: The role of brain chemistry in shaping our responses to social situations. The neurotransmitter serotonin, associated with feelings of well-being and dominance, is discussed in relation to posture and body language.
  • What’s to Be Done?: Practical advice and strategies for applying this rule in daily life. It’s not just about physical posture but also about the stance you take towards life’s challenges.

This first rule sets the stage for the rest of the book, emphasizing the interconnectedness of physical, psychological, and social aspects of life. It encourages readers to recognize the significance of their posture and to embrace the idea that small changes in behavior can lead to profound transformations in life.

Rule 2: Treat Yourself Like Someone You Are Responsible for Helping

In the second rule of “12 Rules for Life” by Jordan B. Peterson, the author explores the idea of self-care and personal responsibility. This rule emphasizes the importance of self-compassion and self-improvement.

Key points covered in this rule:

  • Who Is Responsible for What?: Peterson delves into the concept of responsibility, both for oneself and for others. He questions why people often treat themselves worse than they would treat someone they are responsible for helping.
  • Resentment and the Recognition of Evil: The author discusses the destructive power of resentment and how it can arise when we neglect our own well-being. He also touches on the recognition of evil and suffering in the world.
  • The Fragility of the Psyche: The vulnerability of the human psyche and the need to protect it from self-inflicted harm are explored. Self-destructive behaviors can have profound and lasting consequences.
  • The Specter of Ideology: The influence of ideologies and belief systems on our self-perception is examined. How certain ideologies can distort our self-worth and impair our ability to care for ourselves.
  • Making The World Better: Peterson introduces the idea that treating oneself with care and responsibility is not only a personal endeavor but also a step toward making the world a better place.
  • Naming the Unnameable: The chapter concludes with a discussion of the need to confront and name the things that trouble us. Avoiding difficult truths and responsibilities can lead to personal suffering and broader societal issues.

This rule encourages readers to reevaluate their relationship with themselves and emphasizes the importance of self-compassion and self-improvement. It encourages individuals to treat themselves with the same care and responsibility they would extend to someone they are responsible for helping, acknowledging that this is a vital step toward personal growth and positive change in the world.

Rule 3: Make Friends with People Who Want the Best for You

In the third rule of “12 Rules for Life” by Jordan B. Peterson, the author explores the significance of choosing the right company and the impact of the people you surround yourself with on your life’s direction.

Key points covered in this rule:

  • The Good Is Something That Can Be Achieved: Peterson emphasizes that there is a tangible good that can be achieved in life. By seeking out individuals who genuinely want the best for you, you align yourself with those who can help you achieve this good.
  • Trust: The foundation of healthy relationships is trust. Trust in your friends and their intentions can lead to positive and reciprocal interactions.
  • Telling the Truth: A crucial aspect of maintaining healthy relationships is honesty. Being truthful and authentic in your interactions with friends fosters trust and understanding.
  • Between the Scylla and Charybdis: Who and How to Trust: Peterson delves into the complex issue of trust and discusses how to navigate the balance between being too trusting and too cynical.

This rule encourages readers to be selective in their choice of friends, favoring those who genuinely want the best for them. It highlights the importance of trust and honesty in relationships and how surrounding yourself with positive influences can lead to a more fulfilling and purposeful life.

Rule 4: Compare Yourself to Who You Were Yesterday, Not to Who Someone Else Is Today

In the fourth rule of “12 Rules for Life” by Jordan B. Peterson, the author introduces the idea of self-improvement and personal growth through self-comparison.

Key points covered in this rule:

  • Encountering the Inner Animal: Peterson begins by discussing the complexities of human nature and the existence of an “inner animal” within each person. This inner nature is subject to both positive and negative behaviors.
  • The Psyche: Dismantled, Differently Reassembled: The author explores the structure of the psyche, touching on the concepts of chaos and order. The psyche, he suggests, can be both an adversary and an ally.
  • Behavior as the Embodiment of Being: Peterson discusses the relationship between behavior and identity. Your actions and behaviors are reflections of your inner being, and changing your actions can influence your identity.
  • Habit, Freedom and the Culmination of Being: The importance of cultivating good habits and the role they play in personal development. Building positive habits can lead to greater personal freedom and a more refined sense of self.

This rule encourages readers to focus on their personal growth journey by comparing themselves to their past selves rather than constantly comparing themselves to others. By acknowledging and addressing their inner nature, readers can embark on a path of self-improvement and positive transformation.

Rule 5: Do Not Let Your Children Do Anything That Makes You Dislike Them

In the fifth rule of “12 Rules for Life” by Jordan B. Peterson, the author provides guidance on parenting and raising children in a manner that fosters their development into responsible, well-adjusted individuals.

Key points covered in this rule:

  • What’s the Use of a Child?: Peterson discusses the value of children and their potential to bring joy and meaning into the lives of their parents. He emphasizes the responsibility of parents to guide their children’s development.
  • Piaget’s Games: A reference to the work of psychologist Jean Piaget, this section explores how children learn through play and the importance of providing them with opportunities for exploration and growth.
  • Discipline: Peterson discusses the necessity of setting boundaries and disciplining children. Effective discipline, when done with love and consistency, helps children understand the rules and responsibilities of life.
  • Parents and Children: The intricate dynamics of the parent-child relationship are explored, with an emphasis on the roles and responsibilities of parents in shaping their children’s character.
  • Are the Father and the Son the Same?: A reflection on the nature of fatherhood and the significance of a strong, positive male role model in a child’s life.

This rule serves as a guide for parents, urging them to take an active and responsible role in their children’s upbringing. By maintaining discipline, setting boundaries, and fostering a loving and supportive environment, parents can help their children grow into individuals whom they can genuinely admire and respect.

Rule 6: Set Your House in Perfect Order Before You Criticize the World

In the sixth rule of “12 Rules for Life” by Jordan B. Peterson, the author explores the concept of personal responsibility and the need to address one’s own issues before attempting to change the world.

Key points covered in this rule:

  • Ideology: Peterson discusses the dangers of extreme ideologies and how they can lead to personal and societal problems. He advises against adopting ideological solutions as a means to criticize the world.
  • The Philosopher and the King: The author explores the contrasting roles of the philosopher and the king, representing different approaches to change. The king focuses on personal responsibility, while the philosopher looks to solve global issues.
  • The Divinity of the Individual: Peterson introduces the idea that each individual has the potential for divinity within them, and part of realizing this potential is addressing and improving oneself.

This rule emphasizes the importance of taking personal responsibility and improving oneself as a prerequisite for meaningful change in the world. It cautions against engaging in ideological battles without first setting one’s own life in order, as personal growth and responsibility are fundamental to addressing broader societal issues.

Rule 7: Pursue What Is Meaningful (Not What Is Expedient)

In the seventh rule of “12 Rules for Life” by Jordan B. Peterson, the author encourages individuals to prioritize actions and choices that are meaningful and aligned with their deeper values, rather than seeking expedient solutions for short-term gain.

Key points covered in this rule:

  • A Heavy Load: Peterson begins by discussing the heaviness of life’s burdens and the suffering inherent in existence. He suggests that, despite life’s challenges, people can find meaning in the pursuit of noble goals.
  • Becoming Ouroboros: The author introduces the concept of Ouroboros, an ancient symbol of a serpent eating its own tail, representing the cyclical nature of life and the idea that individuals can transform suffering into personal growth.

This rule emphasizes the idea that pursuing meaningful, long-term goals and living in alignment with one’s values can provide a sense of purpose and fulfillment, even in the face of life’s difficulties. It encourages readers to focus on what truly matters to them and to act in ways that lead to a deeper sense of meaning and significance.

Rule 8: Tell the Truth – Or, at Least, Don’t Lie

In the eighth rule of “12 Rules for Life” by Jordan B. Peterson, the author explores the importance of honesty and the impact of truth-telling in one’s life.

Key points covered in this rule:

  • Delusion and Denial: Peterson discusses the danger of self-delusion and the tendency to deny uncomfortable truths. He highlights the negative consequences of avoiding the truth.
  • Shame: The role of shame in our lives and how it can be a powerful motivator for honesty. Peterson argues that the feeling of shame can push individuals to confront the truth and make positive changes.
  • Two Types of Faith: Peterson distinguishes between two types of faith: faith in the known and faith in the unknown. Faith in the known is tied to the power of truth, while faith in the unknown is associated with the potential for growth and transformation.
  • Lying: The rule emphasizes the importance of avoiding lies and dishonesty. Peterson suggests that lying not only harms others but also damages one’s own character and integrity.
  • Delusion, Denial, and the Tyranny of Ideology: The author delves into how ideology and belief systems can distort one’s perception of reality, making it difficult to confront the truth.
  • What Are You Supposed to Do?: Practical advice on how to integrate truth-telling into daily life, along with the recognition that living in accordance with the truth is a challenging but essential endeavor.

This rule emphasizes the significance of truth and honesty, both with oneself and with others. It encourages readers to confront uncomfortable truths, avoid dishonesty, and recognize that living in alignment with the truth is a path to personal growth and moral development.

Rule 9: Assume That the Person You Are Listening to Might Know Something You Don’t

In the ninth rule of “12 Rules for Life” by Jordan B. Peterson, the author explores the art of active listening and the importance of humility in human interactions.

Key points covered in this rule:

  • Listen to Someone You Love: Peterson begins by emphasizing the significance of truly listening to those you care about. He suggests that this active listening can deepen and strengthen your relationships.
  • Listen So Your Friends Will Tell You the Truth: The author discusses the role of feedback and constructive criticism in personal growth. He encourages individuals to create an environment in which their friends feel comfortable providing honest feedback.
  • Be Precise in Your Speech: Peterson introduces the idea that clear and precise speech is a reflection of clear thinking. He explores how vague and imprecise language can hinder understanding and communication.
  • Do Not Let Your Children Do Anything That Makes You Dislike Them: The rule briefly references the importance of maintaining a healthy parent-child relationship through active listening and communication.

This rule underscores the value of active, empathetic listening in building meaningful relationships and personal growth. It encourages readers to approach conversations with an open mind, assuming that others may possess valuable insights and knowledge. By being precise in their speech and maintaining open channels of communication, individuals can enrich their personal and social lives.

Rule 10: Be Precise in Your Speech

In the tenth rule of “12 Rules for Life” by Jordan B. Peterson, the author explores the importance of using clear and precise language in communication and the profound impact it has on one’s life and relationships.

Key points covered in this rule:

  • Conversations with a Friend: Peterson begins by illustrating the power of language through a dialogue between friends. He shows how imprecise language can lead to misunderstandings and conflicts.
  • On the Nature of the Conversation: The author explores the nature of communication and how language is the medium through which people share their thoughts, feelings, and ideas.
  • Running on the Edge: The importance of pushing the boundaries of your knowledge and articulation by engaging in conversations and debates that challenge your beliefs and understanding.
  • The Purpose of Life: The chapter touches on the broader questions of the meaning of life, with a focus on how clear and precise language can help individuals navigate these profound existential questions.
  • Who Were the Philosophers?: Peterson briefly discusses the role of philosophers in shaping human thought and the significance of their precise and thoughtful use of language.

This rule highlights the idea that the quality of your life and your relationships can be greatly enhanced by using clear and precise language. It encourages readers to pay attention to their words and to communicate with precision, leading to more meaningful and productive conversations, better relationships, and a deeper understanding of life’s complexities.

Rule 11: Do Not Bother Children When They Are Skateboarding

In the eleventh rule of “12 Rules for Life” by Jordan B. Peterson, the author uses a metaphor involving skateboarding to illustrate the importance of allowing children to engage in activities that involve risk and exploration.

Key points covered in this rule:

  • On Three Ways to Confront the Abject: Peterson discusses the concept of the abject, which represents the unknown and potentially dangerous aspects of life. He explores three ways of confronting the abject: engagement, exploration, and withdrawal.
  • “Children” and “Adolescents”: The chapter distinguishes between the developmental stages of children and adolescents and how their needs for risk and exploration differ.
  • The Devil: The role of the devil as a symbol of chaos and the unknown is explored in relation to the skateboarder’s pursuit of thrills and mastery.

This rule encourages parents and adults to recognize the importance of allowing children and adolescents to engage in activities that involve risk and exploration, as these experiences contribute to personal growth, resilience, and the development of crucial life skills. It emphasizes that overly sheltering or constraining children can hinder their development and deprive them of valuable life lessons.

Rule 12: Pet a Cat When You Encounter One on the Street

In the twelfth rule of “12 Rules for Life” by Jordan B. Peterson, the author imparts a simple but profound piece of advice, encouraging individuals to find joy and meaning in small, everyday moments.

Key points covered in this rule:

  • The Familiarity of the World: Peterson highlights the beauty and richness of the everyday world and the potential for finding meaning in the ordinary.
  • The Hanged Man: The rule references the symbolism of the Tarot card “The Hanged Man,” which represents the idea of voluntarily adopting a new perspective and seeing the world in a different light.
  • Being and Becoming: The chapter discusses the balance between being and becoming, and how both elements are essential for a meaningful life. Being involves appreciating the present, while becoming involves pursuing goals and growth.

This rule reminds readers to find joy and fulfillment in the simplicity of life, to appreciate the small moments of connection and beauty, and to take time to enjoy the present rather than constantly striving for future goals. It’s a reminder that happiness and meaning can often be found in the everyday experiences and interactions with the world around us.


The conclusion of “12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos” by Jordan B. Peterson provides a final reflection on the principles and guidance outlined throughout the book. It serves as a summary and a call to action for readers, emphasizing the importance of personal responsibility, self-improvement, and the pursuit of a meaningful life.

The conclusion may touch on the following key points:

  • Recap of the 12 Rules: A brief recap of the 12 rules presented in the book, highlighting their significance in shaping a well-lived life.
  • The Path to Meaning: Emphasizes the central theme of seeking meaning in one’s life and the role of responsibility and truth in this pursuit.
  • The Balance of Being and Becoming: Discusses the balance between embracing the present (being) and striving for self-improvement and growth (becoming).
  • The Challenge of Chaos: Acknowledges the chaos and uncertainty of life and the importance of facing these challenges with resilience and a sense of purpose.
  • Personal Transformation: Encourages readers to take the wisdom and insights gained from the book and apply them to their own lives for personal transformation.
  • The Broader Impact: Discusses how individual change can have a positive impact not only on one’s own life but also on the world and society at large.

The conclusion serves as a motivational and reflective note, encouraging readers to carry the principles discussed in the book into their daily lives, work toward self-improvement, and seek meaning and fulfillment in the face of life’s challenges. It reinforces the idea that taking personal responsibility and embracing the journey of growth and self-discovery can lead to a more meaningful and well-ordered life.

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