Book: 12 Rules for Life. #7 – Do what is Meaningful, not what is Expedient.

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. Seeking Pleasure
  2. Delaying Gratification
  3. Expedience vs Meaning

About this Rule

Rule 7: Do what is meaningful, not what is expedient.
The author describes the virtue in adding value and improvement to your life and those around you.

  • The main idea is that pursuing pleasure is a reflection of a lack of purpose, meaning and direction.
  • The way forward is to take responsibility, pay attention, and strive for humility and utility (adding value) in your life.

I. Seeking Pleasure

Short Term Mindset
“Pursue pleasure. Follow your impulses. Live for the moment. Do what’s expedient. Lie, cheat, steal, deceive, manipulate—but don’t get caught. In an ultimately meaningless universe, what possible difference could it make? And this is by no means a new idea. The fact of life’s tragedy and the suffering that is part of it has been used to justify the pursuit of immediate selfish gratification for a very long time.”

II. Delaying Gratification

(1) Gratification & Causality

  • “We learned that behaving properly now, in the present—regulating our impulses, considering the plight of others—could bring rewards in the future, in a time and place that did not yet exist. We began to inhibit, control and organize our immediate impulses, so that we could stop interfering with other people and our future selves. Doing so was indistinguishable from organizing society: the discovery of the causal relationship between our efforts today and the quality of tomorrow motivated the social contract—the organization that enables today’s work to be stored, reliably (mostly in the form of promises from others).”

(2) Gratification & Expectation

  • “The realization that pleasure could be usefully forestalled dawned on us with great difficulty. It runs absolutely contrary to our ancient, fundamental animal instincts, which demand immediate satisfaction (particularly under conditions of deprivation, which are both inevitable and commonplace). And, to complicate the matter, such delay only becomes useful when civilization has stabilized itself enough to guarantee the existence of the delayed reward, in the future.”

The discovery that gratification could be delayed was simultaneously the discovery of time and, with it, causality.

III. Expedience vs Meaning

On Expedience

  • “Expedience is the following of blind impulse. It’s short-term gain. It’s narrow, and selfish.”
  • “It lies to get its way. It takes nothing into account. It’s immature and irresponsible.”

On Meaning

  • “Meaning is its mature replacement. Meaning emerges when impulses are regulated, organized and unified.”
  • “Meaning emerges from the interplay between the possibilities of the world and the value structure operating within that world.”

“If you are disciplined and privilege the future over the present you can change the structure of reality in your favour.”

The Way Forward

“There is no faith and no courage and no sacrifice in doing what is expedient. There is no careful observation that actions and presuppositions matter, or that the world is made of what matters. 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. Meaning is something that comes upon you, of its own accord. You can set up the preconditions, you can follow meaning, when it manifests itself, but you cannot simply produce it, as an act of will. Meaning signifies that you are in the right place, at the right time, properly balanced between order and chaos, where everything lines up as best it can at that moment.”

Final Reflection

“Meaning is the ultimate balance between, on the one hand, the chaos of transformation and possibility and on the other, the discipline of pristine order, whose purpose is to produce out of the attendant chaos a new order that will be even more immaculate, and capable of bringing forth a still more balanced and productive chaos and order. Meaning is the Way, the path of life more abundant, the place you live when you are guided by Love and speaking Truth and when nothing you want or could possibly want takes any precedence over precisely that.”

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!


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