Book: 12 Rules for Life. #4 – Compare yourself to who you were yesterday, not to who someone else is today

The Goal of This Post

This post is a synthesis from the book 12 Rules for Life, by Jordan Peterson.
The author shares a series of powerful guidelines, virtues and rules to help take control and responsibility for your life.

If You Only Takeway One Thing

“The foremost rule is that you must take responsibility for your own life. Period.” – Jordan Peterson

Post Outline

The main ideas we’ll explore in this post:

  1. The Internal Critic
  2. Avoid Comparison
  3. The Way Forward

About this Rule

Compare yourself to who you were yesterday, not to who someone else is today.
The author describes the role that standards, comparison, and perspective plays in our development as we grow and mature through life.

Throughout our growth and youth, standards and comparison were useful ways of making sense of our environment; and building a sense of right, wrong, and correct. Later on, these same behaviors lead us astray, as we compare our unique selves and situations to unrealistic vantage points in the lives of others.

The main idea is that we should focus on developing our internal self; on building clarity in our identity, our values, and our desires. Then we must move forward by taking the actions necessary to improve our own daily lives.

I. The Internal Critic

How it Operates.
“When the internal critic puts you down using such comparisons, here’s how it operates: First, it selects a single, arbitrary domain of comparison (fame, maybe, or power). Then it acts as if that domain is the only one that is relevant. Then it contrasts you unfavourably with someone truly stellar, within that domain. It can take that final step even further, using the unbridgeable gap between you and its target of comparison as evidence for the fundamental injustice of life. That way your motivation to do anything at all can be most effectively undermined.”

“No matter how good you are at something, or how you rank your accomplishments, there is someone out there who makes you look incompetent.”

II. Avoid Comparison

Embrace your Uniqueness.
“Be cautious when you’re comparing yourself to others. You’re a singular being, once you’re an adult. You have your own particular, specific problems—financial, intimate, psychological, and otherwise. Those are embedded in the unique broader context of your existence. Your career or job works for you in a personal manner, or it does not, and it does so in a unique interplay with the other specifics of your life. You must decide how much of your time to spend on this, and how much on that. You must decide what to let go, and what to pursue.”

III. The Way Forward

(1) Take Responsibility.
Life doesn’t have the problem. You do. At least that realization leaves you with some options. If your life is not going well, perhaps it is your current knowledge that is insufficient, not life itself. Perhaps your value structure needs some serious retooling. Perhaps what you want is blinding you to what else could be. Perhaps you are holding on to your desires, in the present, so tightly that you cannot see anything else—even what you truly need.”

(2) Take Stock. Take Ownership.
“You can’t fool your implicit perceptual structures. Not even a bit. They aim where you point them. To retool, to take stock, to aim somewhere better, you have to think it through, bottom to top. You have to scour your psyche. You have to clean the damned thing up. And you must be cautious, because making your life better means adopting a lot of responsibility, and that takes more effort and care than living stupidly in pain and remaining arrogant, deceitful and resentful.”

(3) Set Priorities.
“We must become conscious of our desires, and articulate them, and prioritize them, and arrange them into hierarchies. That makes them sophisticated. That makes them work with each other, and with the desires of other people, and with the world. It is in that manner that our desires elevate themselves. It is in that manner that they organize themselves into values and become moral.”


Taking Action

“Pay attention. Focus on your surroundings, physical and psychological. Notice something that bothers you, that concerns you, that will not let you be, which you could fix, that you would fix… Search until you find something that bothers you, that you could fix, that you would fix, and then fix it… Ask yourself what you would require to be motivated to undertake the job, honestly, and listen to the answer.”


The book focuses on the virtues that empower an individual to take responsibility for themselves and live a more plentiful and happy life. All content credit goes to the author. I’ve shared the bits I’ve enjoyed the most and found most valuable.

Cheers ’till next time! Saludos!
Alberto

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