I remember receiving two different phone calls from two of my university friends in one week – few years after graduation. One called to announce that he had just bought a car – a Toyota Camry. The other called to let me know about the new house he was about completing and how $100 is no longer enough for one night out in town. Well, at that time, I was still living with my parents, had no job, no income, no savings and still struggling to get my business to earn its first revenue. It’s hard to feel good about yourself after receiving such news from friends whom you left school together with. But somehow, I convinced myself to shut out thoughts of comparison, and stick with my path because progress is made by comparing yourself to your past achievements, not to others. The first important lessons from the book 12 Rules of Life by Jordan Peterson is – Never compare yourself with others.
Jordan Peterson is an outspoken clinical psychologist and a renowned public commentator who has demonstrated strong prowess in debating on societal and political issues as it bothers down to individual and collective psychology. He is someone I love to listen to. The 12 lessons from his book are profound, but in this video, I’ll share 7 I find quite life-changing. Before we get it, be sure to subscribe to this channel for more insightful videos like this.
1. Never compare yourself with others
There used to be such a thing as being a big fish in a small pond. But now, thanks to the internet, we’re all part of a global community, and no matter where you are, there is always someone better than you.
This brings us to the issue of self-criticism. It’s important to be critical of one’s self – if we weren’t then we’d have nothing to strive for; no motivation to better ourselves and our lives would quickly become meaningless. However, self-criticism can get ugly when it becomes all about comparing ourselves to others. This prevents us from seeing the incremental improvements that are often small, but important to us. Comparisons also lead to losing sight of the big picture by focusing on a single aspect of our lives and blowing it out of proportion. This is why it is important to never compare yourself to others and to always judge yourself against your own prior accomplishments.
2. Hold your head high and strike the pose of a winner
Jordan Peterson used the Lobster to teach something important about confidence. Lobsters will aggressively fight over the best and most secure spots for shelter. The winning lobster adopts an upright posture that makes it look more dominant and bigger while the losing lobster adopts a protective posture that makes it appear smaller. The lobsters that win today tend to continue winning, while the losing lobsters tend to continue losing.
As you may have guessed, similar hierarchies and cycles of winning and losing play out among humans. We commonly use phrases like the rich getting richer; the poor getting poorer – winner takes all. But we don’t consider the psychology behind it. Studies have shown that those in the grips of alcoholism or depression are less likely to enter a competitive situation, which only reinforces more inactivity and continued low self-esteem and depression.
Conversely, those on a winning streak often present a swaggering and confident body language, which can help them keep scoring more opportunities. Just like lobsters, humans are constantly measuring themselves up against each other, and we associate a person’s intelligence with their physicality. So if you’re trying to give yourself an advantage, hold your head high and strike the posture of a winner.
3. Support yourself with supportive friends
In my teenage, I had an uncle I respected a lot. He had a power bike and would often ride with us each time he came around. He seemed to be doing well with his life in the city until he decided to return to the village where he grew up. There he met his childhood friends who stayed back in the village. His continued association with them quickly pulled him onto a different path. By the time I met him a few years later, he had become a shadow of himself; the ambitious man I once knew had turned into an alcoholic, always looking unkempt. With each passing year, he slowly declined deeper into this lifestyle of aimlessness. What was once a youthful potential had declined to a visionless life. This is something that can happen to anyone anywhere. But you must guard your mind for what goes into it by dictating your association.
In a workplace setting, a similar dynamic can play out when an underachiever is put into a team of high performers. You might think that this will result in the problematic person picking up good habits from the others. But studies have shown that the opposite is more likely to happen. The bad habits will start to spread and bring down everyone’s performance. The rule is to make sure you surround yourself with supportive friends, as these are the kinds of friendships that can bring about positive change. Being picky about your friends is a smart move and is not selfish or snobby.
4. Take responsibility for your own life before you judge the world
Rape, racial discrimination, racism, inequality, slavery; the world is filled with injustices. There’s no point in sugarcoating it: the world is full of challenges and suffering – but we should not blame others for our lot in life. Many people throughout the ages have seen life as so cruel and unfair that drastic responses are justified. But no matter how much you have suffered or however cruel and unjust you find life to be, you shouldn’t blame the world. Often people who believe they are victims of the world have committed grievous crimes against other innocent people due to their vengeful perspective.
Before you go condemning everyone from a particular race, gender, or any societal grouping, for the abuse or injustice you had experienced, look for the things in your life you have control over and take responsibility for fixing them.
5. Seek meaningful goals over instant gratification
Have you heard the story about the monkey who got caught with his hand in the cookie jar? As the story goes, there was a cookie left inside an open jar, and the opening of the jar was just big enough for the monkey’s hand to enter – but not big enough for his fist to come back out with the cookie in it. So, if he insisted on trying to hold onto his treat, he would be stuck. The moral here is that if you want to achieve what you truly want from life, you have to be willing to let go of immediate satisfaction.
How different is this from human behavior? How many people pursue pleasures every day that aren’t in their best interests? And how many are unwilling to make sacrifices that are in their best interest? One of the side effects of seeing the world as a pit of suffering is that it makes it easy to justify a life based on immediate pleasures that will make life more bearable. Plus, if it makes you happy, it can’t be that bad, right? This is the logic of the instant gratification lifestyle modern society has increasingly adopted.
The other side of this argument is sacrifice, the kind that brings better things in the future by giving up something now. And the bigger the sacrifice you are willing to make, the more rewarding it can be. In other words, stick with something long enough and be ready to make sacrifices to reach your goal, and you will be rewarded.
6. Listen to what others have to say
Thousands of years after his death, the ancient philosopher Socrates is still considered one of the wisest men who ever lived. One of the reasons for this is his belief that the only thing he was certain of was that he knew nothing, and this was a driving force in his conversations and his openness to learning.
However, most conversations often don’t go this way. Instead, one person – or perhaps both parties – treat the dialog as a competition they need to win. So, rather than hearing what the other person has to say, they are thinking about what to say next. The rule is to listen to what others have to say while presuming you have something to learn from them. Sometimes the truth hurts. It’s painful to take in information that means you have to change your ideas and preconceptions. But this is the price we pay as part of the beautiful process of learning and growing.
7. Care for yourself like you would care for a loved one
Most of us do better at taking care of our loved ones than we do take care of ourselves. Part of the reason is that, because we’re always conscious of our own flaws, we feel self-loathing, which can lead to unnecessary self-punishment and a sense that we’re unworthy of feeling good.
One of the best realizations in life is that human beings are not perfect, and it’s perfectly okay to not be perfect while striving for excellence. And despite our flaws, that it is good in us and we also deserve to be treated with kindness. So care for yourself like you would a loved one. And rather than only doing what makes you happy, try to do what is best for you, even when it is the more difficult thing to do.
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