The Neuroscientist Dr. Rahul Jandial, speaking to Tom Belyeu on an episode of Impact Theory, explained that anything that brings a level of tension to the brain, “that makes it think just one level past what it’s used to,” is good for our mental health.
Too much comfort dulls us in every way, both mentally and physically. People who limit themselves to a narrow range of experience will not grow. As Jordan Peterson always advises, the ideal way to live is one foot in chaos and another foot in order. Having too much of either creates the wrong dynamic.
If you’re familiar with Jordan Peterson, most of his life advice is full of hard truths. But they are truths that will shake your core and make you better. Here are a few of them from his book, 12 Rules For Life.
Choose between security and growth
“You should never give up the better that resides within you for the security you already have.” — Jordan Peterson
I’ve been a huge fan of self-help books for a long time. But my life never improved. I don’t blame self-help for it. I blame myself. I was more in love with the idea of improving myself than actually improving.
I’ll read self-help books, get high on them, but whenever I get a chance to do what I’ve learned, I opt for what I’m already familiar with. Building good habits all sounds good until you get a chance to perform an existing bad habit.
I chose security over growth and that kept me in a loop of bad habits for a long time.
Security is enjoyable. People will gladly choose jobs that make them feel secure over one that makes them fulfilled, and it’s understandable. A bird at hand, they say, is better than a thousand in the forest.
However, by always choosing security, we rub ourselves of something important. As Viktor Frankl also said after going through hell in three concentration camps, “When architects want to strengthen a decrepit arch, they place more load on it.”
See it this way: We are always getting chances to grow. Anytime a cue for a bad habit shows up, that’s an opportunity to assert yourself and grow a bit stronger and better. This is how self-help becomes helpful. This is how I learned to really grow.
A person with vague plans has no responsibility
“You must determine where you are going in life, random wandering will not move you forward. It will disappoint you and make you anxious.” — Jordan Peterson
Having no plans for your life feels like freedom. Not having any number of books to read or any routine to keep you in check feels liberating. Freely engaging in bad habits seems enjoyable. After all, without any plan or goal for your life, you won’t know when you’re failing or making progress.
But the clock is ticking.
If you don’t aim at something, first of all, you won’t have a direction in life. Secondly, the significance of that feeling we get when we are making progress towards a preconceived plan cannot be overemphasized. That’s what differentiates a meaningful and meaningless life.
When you make plans and you follow through, you become a bit stronger. You learn to trust yourself more. This is how we build healthy self-esteem.
Having a plan for your life may be a burden, but it gives your life meaning and direction. The sense of responsibility that comes with it will make you a better person.
Learn to set specific targets on what you need to get done. For instance, “I’ll read two books every month” or “two chapters of a book every day” is better than “I’m going to make reading a habit next year.” The easier you can tell your progress towards your goal, the better. Vague goals will frustrate and keep you in circles.
If you don’t like it, change it
“Don’t hide baby monsters under the carpet. They will flourish. They will grow large in the dark. Then, when you least expect it, they will jump out and devour you.” — Jordan Peterson
A well-crafted story about how you can’t stop drinking because it helps you cool off sounds good, but it doesn’t save you from the harm too much alcohol will cost you when it’s time for reckoning.
The sinister thing about excuses is that they are all real. One thing most people just don’t realize is that there are more than enough ways to TRUTHFULLY explain away any circumstance you find yourself in life. And this is exactly what the majority of people do.
But as Vusi Thembekwayo, a South African Millionaire and entrepreneur who found himself struggling to make it in apartheid South Africa said to Tom Bilyeu,
“The excuse may be valid, but they are still not going to change your circumstances.”
We feel that if an excuse seems valid, then it’s okay to keep holding on to them. But excuses you hold on to will hold you back. Sometimes you simply need to ask yourself, excuses or not, is this the right thing to do? Remember monsters hidden under the carpet don’t go away. They grow bigger.
You may not know what you want
“To have meaning in your life is better than to have what you want, because you may not know what you want or truly need.” — Jordan Peterson
This statement takes me back to Carl Newport’s book, So Good They Can’t Ignore You. As Carl explained, so many people quit their jobs to follow their passion because they think that’s what they want. However, as Carl portrayed with many stories and studies, most of these people end up broke and in regret.
It turns out that what they were looking for was a sense of meaning and fulfilment from their jobs, not necessarily a new job they’ve fantasized about. What we usually end up wanting is what gives us a sense of meaning. If you get a new job and it still doesn’t give a sense of meaning, it will not matter if it’s what you wanted. This is why Carl Wrote,
“Passion comes after you put in the hard work to become excellent at something valuable, not before. In other words, what you do for a living is much less important than how you do it.”
Meaning is more likely to sustain you than wants. Almost anything can get boring with time. It doesn’t matter if it was your passion. Even two people who loved each other so much that they got married will get bored of each other at some point. It’s that sense of meaning that always sustains us in the days where pleasure and excitement may not be in the picture.
The bottom line: The things we want are often erratic. Sometimes they are motivated by what’s most pleasurable, sometimes they are just figments of our fantasies. But anything that brings you meaning is real. It may not be pleasurable all the time, but it will sustain you for life.
We like to think that tomorrow will be better than today, but what’s the guarantee? This sort of naïve optimism is what makes most people live passively, hoping to wake up tomorrow as a well-behaved, successful, and happy person. But tomorrow is just like today. The only way to make it any different is by actively doing things that will put you in a different place.