Jordan Peterson On The Importance Of Routine

The body, with it’s various parts, needs to function like a well-rehearsed orchestra. Every system must play its role properly, and at exactly the right time, or noise and chaos ensue. It is for this reason that routine is so necessary. The acts of life we repeat every day need to be automatized. They must be turned into stable and reliable habits, so they lose their complexity and gain predictability and simplicity. This can be perceived most clearly in the case of small children, who are delightful and comical and playful when their sleeping and eating schedules are stable, and horrible and whin and nasty when they are not.

Most people are disconnected from their bodies. We disrespect ourselves far too much by eating horrible food, sitting too much, not stretching enough, drinking sugar and alcohol instead of water, sleeping too little and exercising minimally and then we wonder why we don’t feel good.

Why we feel depressed.

Why we feel so stressed out or anxious.

Of course, the cure isn’t always as simple as fixing your bad habits but sometimes it is and at the very least, it’s a good place to start. To get out of your head and get into your body.

It is for such reasons that I always ask my clinical clients first about sleep. Do they wake up in the morning at approximately the time the typical person wakes up, and at the same time every day? If the answer is no, fixing that is the first thing I recommend. It doesn’t matter so much if they got to bed at the same time each evening, but waking up at a consistent hour is a necessity. Anxiety and depression cannot be easily treated if the sufferer has unpredictable daily routines.

Don’t make life more complicated than it has to be.

Don’t make it more stressful than it has to be.

You can look at a routine like your foundation. With everything, if the foundation is faulty, weak, full of cracks, whatever you build upon it won’t last.

There aren’t many things in life we can control. Sometimes you are just given a bad hand and you just have to deal with it. One of the few things we do have control over is our actions and our attitudes. We can act in a manner that is beneficial for us, such as: eating healthy food (most of the time), drink ingwater, exercising at least four times a week and getting consistent sleep. Get your basis covered so you have the energy to face the uncertain and the random which is life. It’s so simple and still, so few people actually exercise their control.

Once we accept what’s in our control and what isn’t, what burden we have to carry, what responsibilities we must live up to, it is essential that our foundation is solid. Otherwise, we are just helping life hurt us and life doesn’t require our help to do that.

To stand up straight with your shoulders back is to accept the terrible responsibility of life, with eyes wide open. It means deciding to voluntarily transform the chaos of potential into the realities of habitable order. It means adopting the burden of self-conscious vulnerability, and accepting the end of the unconscious paradise of childhood, where finitude and mortality are only dimly comprehended. It means willingly undertaking the sacrifices necessary to generate a productive and meaningful reality.

A routine is then a precursor to generating this productive and meaningful reality, to bring order into your life, to give life its structure, so we can “face the demands of life voluntarily”.

Book referenced: 12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos by Jordan Peterson


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Stoic Lesson: You Have To Acknowledge Your Sickness Before You Can Be Cured

I see in myself, Lucilius, not just an improvement but a transformation, although I would not venture as yet to assure you, or even to hope, that there is nothing left in me needing to be changed. Naturally, there are a lot of things about me requiring to be built up or fined down or eliminated. Even this, the fact that it perceives the failings it was unaware of in itself before, is evidence of a change for the better in one’s character. In the case of some sick people, it is a matter for congratulations when they come to realize for themselves that they are sick. (Letters from a Stoic, Seneca)

How many among us walk around with sickness without realizing it? Part of the issue is the everydayness of life. People have to look after their children, work most of their waking hours, pay bills, sit in traffic, be surrounded by people they don’t like and so on. Just the simple act of smiling can be tough let alone the need to take care of oneself physically. Just exercising for 30 minutes can be seen as a win. After all of this, where do you get the time to take care of yourself mentally? To be reflective? To realize that you may be sick?

I think many of us understand that we could be better than what we are but just don’t know how to navigate life properly in order to become better. The day to day breaks us down, grinds us into these beings who aren’t fulfilling their potentials.

We accept this individual that life has made us and believe that person is you. We tell our children about growth and change while we stay the same. We feel as if a word like ‘potential’ is reserved for those who haven’t been molded by life.

However, such belief and acceptance is usually the result of not being reflective, of not controlling your mind and allowing your mind to control you. Your mind is great at manipulating your thoughts to rationalize the person you are. It doesn’t want you to grow because that requires effort which is accompanied by struggle. The mind wishes to be comfortable, the path of least resistance and so, we too walk this path and will keep on walking this path.

Life would be so much easier if someone could come along and fix all your issues with a snap of their finger. A genie of some kind but that’s not how life works. In reality, apart from your close family and friends, no one really cares what you are going through. That’s because everyone is going through something. So, if you want to improve, regardless of the stresses of your life, the first step has to be reflective, to acknowledge that you are sick.

One way to achieve this reflective nature is by cleaning your room, as Jordan Peterson often says. Too many times people point the finger outwards and blame others for the way their own life is. You can’t improve as an individual if you are constantly blaming others. Once you turn the eye inwards, look at yourself, see the mess in your room, see the symptoms of sickness and start to take ownership for them, you can slowly see the change in your character.

In the same vein as clean your room, Jocko Willink‘s concept of extreme ownership also makes you confront your own actions. Extreme ownership essentially says that everything that isn’t right in your life is your fault. This may be harsh and perhaps untrue in some cases but by taking on this responsibility you feel a sense of control. If it is all your fault then you are also able to change it. Your actions caused the sickness, your actions can cure it.

Another way can be through mental warfare. To go to war with yourself, as David Goggins did, to push your limitations through such extreme pressure that you only have two choices: Improve or quit. Goggins initially did this through his rigorous studying schedule which included writing out whole textbooks by hand over and over again in order to overcome his learning deficiencies. Discipline and work ethic built through such a task then helped him physically overcome the barriers of Navy Seal training and ultramarathon running.

Goggins was able to shape his mind through work but it was only after he understood that he was sick and that the only person that can cure him was himself.

Perhaps the end goal is to become a friend to yourself. A good friend, a true friend call you out on your mistakes, tells you you’re acting poorly, makes sure you know that someone cares for you, that someone is holding you up to a certain standard, someone who is pushing you past your perceived limitations and that someone can be you. You can keep yourself in check if you are strong enough mentally. But before strength comes the acceptance of weakness, before you can get the medicine, you have to know that you are sick. But once that is known, you must also understand that you are the strength, the cure, the medicine.

What progress have I made? I am beginning to be my own friend.’ That is progress indeed. Such a person will never be alone, and you may be sure he is a friend of all. (Seneca)

 

Jordan Peterson on Telling the Truth and Building Character

There are two types of ambitions. One is external where you try to gain power, status, financial rewards and things of that nature. The other is internal where you try to build discipline in your life, work ethic, consistency and be truthful and reliable. Of course, external ambition may require the development of things like discipline and consistency. However, it is the mindset behind it that matters. A mindset where your end goal is internal development and not external.

Why do you do the things you do? What is the reason behind your actions? If the why is external rather than internal then, you may find yourself externally happy but not internally.

One of the rules, in Jordan Peterson‘s book 12 Rules For Life, is, tell the truth, or at least don’t lie. In this chapter, Jordan Peterson explains how as a young psychology student, he worked at Douglas Hospital where he observed and interacted with individuals with mental disabilities, patients suffering from issues like being bipolar, having schizophrenia and other psychotic episodes. In this environment, Jordan Peterson found the value of telling the truth, and how through truth one gets to know themselves.

I soon divided myself into two parts: one that spoke, and one, more detached, that paid attention and judged. I soon came to realize that almost everything I said was untrue. I had motives for saying these things I wanted to win arguments and gain status and impress people and get what I wanted. I was using language to bend and twist the world into delivering what I thought was necessary. But I was a fake. Realizing this, I started to practice only saying things that the internal voice would not object to. I started to practice telling the truth – or, at least, not lying. I soon learned that such a skill came in very handy when I didn’t know what to do. What should you do, when you don’t know what to do? Tell the truth.

To accept the truth means to sacrifice – and if you have rejected the truth for a long time, then you’ve run up a dangerously large sacrifical debt.

Ambition to develop one’s character. The focus should be aimed internally, consciously and objectively ripping apart the things that you don’t want to be and constructing the ideal you.

Or else you may find yourself to be a stranger or even worse, someone who conformed to other people’s influence.

Set your ambition, even if you are uncertain about what they should be. The better ambitions have to do with the development of character and ability, rather than status and power. Status, you can lose. You carry character with you wherever you go, and it allows you to prevail against adversity. Knowing this, tie a rope to a boulder. Pick up the great stone, heave it in front of you and pull yourself towards it. Watch and observe while you move forward. Articulate you experience as clearly and carefully to yourself and others as you possibly can. In this manner, you will learn to proceed more effectively and efficiently towards your goal. And, while you are doing this, do not lie. Especially to yourself.

External things come and go. Nothing lasts forever. So, if you tie your self-worth and your happiness to things that are outside of your control then you play a dangerous game because when those things go, so does your peace of mind.

But if you can look yourself in the mirror and be proud of the reflection, no matter how the world changes around you, you can always find peace. Things that bother me have always been my lack of disciple or work ethic, finding excuses when I failed at something due to my lack of effort. Anytime I’ve achieved anything that was difficult, that required me to overcome my deficiencies has always been more fulfilling even though it may not be externally rewarding.

Like everything, a balance can be achieved. The internal and external ambition can live in harmony together. There is nothing wrong with wanting financial freedom. Materialistic ambitions are neither good nor bad. They are simply ambitions. It is our intent that places feelings of good or bad upon them. If our intent comes from a higher place, then the balance can be made.

Perhaps it is better to conceptualize it this way: Everyone needs a concrete, specific goal – an ambition and a purpose – to limit chaos and make intelligible sense of his or her life. But all such concrete goals can and should be subordinated to what might be considered a meta-goal, which is a way of approaching and formulating goals themselves. The meta-goal could be “live in truth.” This means, “act diligently towards some well-articulated, defined and temporary end. Make your criteria for failure and success timely and clear, at least for yourself (and even better if others can understand what you are doing and evaluate it with you). While doing so, however, allow the world and your spirit to unfold as they will, while you act out and articulate the truth.” This is both pragmatic ambition and the most courageous of faiths.

This is a pursuit of ambition without compromising your character. First, one needs to build their character, to know their limits and lines that they will not cross or be pushed back from. Then, one can join external ambition along with that character and achieve what one wishes to achieve in life. The external always being kept in check by the internal through the process of objective reflection.