Don’t Wish It Were Easier, Wish You Were Better

We all wish life was a bit easier – that we had more time to relax, less stress, and an escape from the duties and responsibilities we have. But we know deep down that escaping our responsibilities doesn’t solve the problem. In fact, achieving hard things gives purpose, fulfilment and happiness. Athletes chase the thrill of hitting personal bests and winning Olympic gold, entrepreneurs want to contribute to make society better, couples want to have great relationships and raise a family. All these goals are difficult to achieve, but we appreciate life so much more when we do difficult things.

So instead of avoiding responsibility, seek it out. Find a goal that you’re not sure is possible for you. Doing hard things hardens you. It gives you more encouragement to realize that your potential is a little bit higher than you thought it was before. It’s the key to self-esteem and purposeful living.

When Is It Okay to Break the Rules?

The purpose of having rules is to keep order in the entropic nature of a world always threatening to revert to chaos. Rules are generally written in a spirit of benevolence, and they usually represent a given set of virtues in order to aim for a higher good.

But there can come a point where the rules themselves end up undermining the very spirit and virtue the rule was made to exemplify in the first place. The rules of football were made in the spirit of fair play, but now it can be argued that the referees’ implementation of the rules is so pedantic and rigid that the ethos of the game is being lost.

Rule-breakers have also stood up against repressive laws in the name of morality. Rosa Parks inspired the civil rights movement in the US when she refused to give up her seat to a white man on a crowded bus in Montgomery, Alabama in 1955. She was tired of giving in to the demands of a system that was so demonstrably unfair, that she resorted to disobedience.

Jordan Peterson, in his book Beyond Order, recommends to follow the rules first and understand the spirit in which the rule was originally made. It is only then that we can ethically break the rule – by managing to combine the necessity to conform to the rules humbly as others do, but to use judgement and a guiding conscience to do what is right, even when the rules suggest otherwise.

Here’s a rule: Follow the rules, but shoulder the responsibility to make an exception to serve a higher good.

Outsourcing Our Sanity: The Hidden Role of Social Groups

Here’s an alternative way to see the value in having social groups:

We feel a responsibility to live by our values and behave properly in front of our friends, because they’ll call us out if we start acting selfishly or out of alignment with how they expect us to behave.

By being in contact and in the presence of our friends, we are effectively outsourcing the problem of our sanity. In essence, it isn’t that we are relying purely on ourselves to remain mentally healthy, we are actually unknowingly being reminded how to think, act and speak by those around us.

We can use this force to help us to become the best people we can possibly become, and as a result be a good influence on our own friends in return.

Contrast this with not having a solid social structure in your life. It’s much easier to come off the rails if no-one is there to see it happen. With good habits slowly unravelling and bad habits overgrowing like weeds, we begin to slip in life. Waking up early with a solid work and exercise routine metamorphoses into waking up on the couch at 3 A.M. covered in Cheetos dust with Netflix asking whether we’re still there. And because nobody can see that, there’s nobody to help pull us up, to keep us accountable.

If you’re a person lacking that social structure, make it an aim to start connecting it together again – despite the crippling anxiety it can so often induce. If you’re worried that one of your friends or family lacks a reliable social structure, take the responsibility to check in on them to see how they’re doing and what they’ve been up to. It might just help more than you know.

The Three Ps: A Mental Framework to Deal With Your Problems

The three Ps come from research on happiness by Martin Seligman, described in Option B by Sheryl Sandberg and Adam Grant. Sandberg is the COO of Facebook, and a few years ago found her husband dead on a hotel gym floor. The book is about how she dealt with the trauma and grief, and strategies to deal with adversity.

And that’s where the three Ps comes in. When people inevitably come across adversity in life, there are three common things we say to ourselves which make things worse.

The first P is personalization. Personalization means that when things go wrong, you blame yourself. After all, you’re the common factor in all the problems you come across, right? And we’ve also been taught concepts like internal locus of control, and taking responsibility of our lives too. But where there is a misunderstanding is the difference between taking responsibility and placing fault or blame on yourself.

When I was first starting out as a door-to-door salesman, I rarely sold anything. Of course, the natural self-talk was to blame myself. “I suck, wow I’m really bad at this. No-one wants to buy anything from me. Oh God, I’m way worse than I thought I’d be at this.” As good as it is to take responsibility for your results, it is important to understand that firstly, you’re not the only one finding it difficult. Many people have gone through the same struggle you’re going through too, no matter what it is. Secondly, just because someone didn’t buy off you doesn’t mean it’s all your fault. To this day, most prospects still decline the product I’m offering. When someone declines my offer, my self-talk nowadays is: “They didn’t want it.” No blame on anyone, just stating the facts. Of course, I still try to improve at sales, but I try not to beat myself up when things aren’t going well.

The second P is pervasiveness. Pervasiveness means that a problem in one area of your life ends up pervading, or spreading, to every other part of life. Work problems get taken into your home, into intimate relationships, into aspects of mental and physical health and so on. But it doesn’t have to be that way.

During the same, harrowing period starting in door-to-door sales, I slowly began to realize that I was basing my value as a human being solely on whether I had made sales that day or not. And of course, most days I wasn’t making sales. So, my value was pretty fucking low. I didn’t want to speak to anyone after work, and I was getting into a deeper and deeper hole of low-confidence where it was going to take a gargantuan effort to escape. I even ate junk food to try to make myself feel better. But it doesn’t have to be like that. It doesn’t even make any sense. There’s a lot more to life than work. And there’s a lot of stuff that you’re actually pretty good at. Nowadays, as a sales manager, I always remind new salespeople that the amount of sales they make doesn’t equate to their value as a person. I’m also much better at compartmentalizing work problems as work problems, and not letting those issues infect other parts of my life.

The third P is permanence. Permanence means that you come to believe that the problem will always be there, and that how terrible you’re feeling right now is destined never to end.

As already mentioned, I became stuck in a vicious circle where self-confidence was going so low that I didn’t know if it would ever come back. Luckily, everything in life is impermanent. There’s nothing in life that isn’t impermanent, even life itself will end at some point. So having the grit to stick in there and understand that a bad period won’t last forever gives hope for the future and inspiration for the present moment.

In what situations did the three Ps play a part in your life? And how did you overcome it? I’d love to know, comment below.

Jordan Peterson’s 12 Rules For Life Rule 2: Treat Yourself Like Someone You Are Responsible for Helping

On the face of it, this rule makes a lot of sense. But why does this need to be said in the first place? Shouldn’t we already be doing this as a result of human nature, and the nature of life itself? How could we have become the dominant species on Earth without treating ourselves like people we are responsible for helping? But there are plenty of examples of where we may not treat ourselves in this manner.

When I read in the chapter that humans are better at administering prescription medication to their pets than they are to themselves, I was unsurprised. Humans really love their pets, more than they love themselves. But why?

We live in a reality and a society where human beings self-harm, commit suicide, fill themselves up with drugs and alcohol, and engage in criminal activity. We all know it’s not for the betterment of ourselves, so why do we do it? Why do we deliberately act in a way to sabotage ourselves? Why is it that we say we are going to do something that would be good for ourselves but we don’t end up doing it?

One major difference between human beings and other animals is that we possess self-consciousness. Peterson goes on to describe the story of the Garden of Eden in the Bible, where an evil serpent cons Eve into eating an apple from a tree in which God forbade. When the “original sin” was committed, Adam and Eve became suddenly self-conscious for the first time- they realized they were naked! They ran away and hid and Adam didn’t come as he usually did that evening on his daily walk with God.

Animals who are not self-conscious just act by their nature, which is to survive, reproduce and so on. Because humans are self-conscious, we question what the meaning of life is, we second-guess ourselves and we are far from perfect. To say that someone “is human” means to say someone being capable of making mistakes.

Because humans are self-conscious, we become only so aware of the darkness of the ourselves, of things that we have thought, said and done in the past. It is in this way that humans lose respect for their individual selves and therefore cannot commit to care for themselves in the same way that they would care for their innocent pet. We know that we are not innocent, so we don’t believe we deserve our own love and care.

But humans have also done good. The self-consciousness that leads to self-loathing can also lead to self-love if we notice the times we have helped others, or acted altruistically. If we started to respect ourselves, we could then behave with virtue and then take care of ourselves properly. We would be able to walk with God once again, instead of hiding in the bushes when he calls out our name.

Peterson has worded this rule very carefully. To treat ourselves like someone we are responsible for helping is to consider what is best for us. The best for us isn’t always what we want in the moment (chicken wings). It’s also not the same as what would make us happy (chicken wings).

One might argue that we would rather focus on helping other people than helping ourselves. But if we aren’t allowing ourselves to be in the right mental or physical condition, then how difficult would it be to take care of others before we eventually derailed? There’s a reason why airlines tell us to put our own breathing apparatus on before helping others in a sudden loss of cabin pressure.

Treat yourself like someone you are responsible for helping.