Fix Yourself

3,762,548 Views
Jan 29, 2018

Want to make the world a better place? Start by bettering yourself. Best-selling author and clinical psychologist Jordan Peterson explains how incremental daily changes can lead to a better life and ultimately a more harmonious world.

The proper way to fix the world isn’t to fix the world, but to fix yourself—and, in so doing, make the world a better place.

  • The proper way to fix the world isn’t to fix the world, because you can’t really do that. But you can fix yourself and, in so doing, make the world a better place.View Source
  • The best way to improve the world is for all of us as individuals to stop doing those things we know to be wrong or unhelpful and commit to being positive and reliable forces for good.View Source
  • WATCH: “You Can Be So Much More Than You Are” – Jordan PetersonView Source
  • Related reading: “12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos” – Jordan PetersonView Source

Viewing yourself as a victim will only make your life worse. Improving your life begins with improving yourself. 

  • Victimhood is a temptation that must be avoided if one wants to live a rich and satisfying life. Blaming others only stunts personal growth.View Source
  • If a person has a long list of necessary changes for other people, they will only make their own problems worse.View Source
  • The proper way to fix the world isn’t to fix the world. There’s no reason to assume that you’re even up to such a task. But you can fix yourself.View Source
  • WATCH: “You Can Be So Much More Than You Are” – Jordan PetersonView Source

Real change comes through the courage to face your own weaknesses. Blaming others prevents you from improving yourself or your situation.

  • Real inner change comes through the courage to face your own weaknesses. The easy route is to avoid such difficult questions and to blame someone else for your misery.View Source
  • Consider the youthful activist making a “statement” against the “corrupt” capitalist system — by smashing the storefront of a local business.View Source
  • Instead of taking responsibility for personal faults, the activist has transferred responsibility to another, focusing not on what he can change, himself, but instead on outside factors and others he can’t control.View Source
  • WATCH: Jordan Peterson on the counterproductive nature of finding the faults in others.View Source

“Accepting yourself as you are” is a nihilistic and destructive approach to life.

  • Don’t accept yourself just the way you are. This is a nihilistic and destructive approach.View Source
  • You can be so much more than you are right now, but improvement requires that you be honest with yourself and humility about how you really are.View Source
  • WATCH: “Fix Yourself and Fix the World” – Jordan PetersonView Source
  • Related reading: “Maps of Meaning: The Architecture of Belief” – Jordan PetersonView Source

We all have the capacity to improve ourselves and our situations. It begins with deciding to stop doing what you know is wrong or unhelpful.

  • The first step of truly taking advantage of the opportunities offered to us is to stop doing what we know to be wrong.View Source
  • It is a mistake to accept things the way they are. We have the ability to make qualitative judgments and to move toward a life that is better than what we have now.View Source
  • We must be honest with ourselves: Do we procrastinate, show up late, spend money we don’t have, and drink more than we should? Then we must change these actions.View Source
  • WATCH: “You Can Be So Much More Than You Are” – Jordan PetersonView Source
  • Related reading: “12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos” – Jordan PetersonView Source

If you blame others for your problems, then you are not focusing on the one thing that can actually improve your life: you.

  • Blaming others for your problems is a complete waste of time. When you do that, you don’t learn anything.View Source
  • There are two fundamental attitudes toward life and its sorrows. Those with the first attitude blame the world and take on the victim identity.View Source
  • Those with the second attitude ask what they could do differently.View Source
  • WATCH: Jordan Peterson on the counterproductive nature of finding the faults in others.View Source
  • Related reading: “12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos” – Jordan PetersonView Source

Blaming others for your problems is a complete waste of time. When you do that, you don’t learn anything. 

You can’t grow, and you can’t mature. Thus, you can’t make your life better.

In my three decades as a professor and clinical psychologist, I have learned that there are two fundamental attitudes toward life and its sorrows. Those with the first attitude blame the world. Those with the second ask what they could do differently.

Imagine a couple on the brink of divorce. They’re hurt and angry. The unhappy, bitter husband recalls the terrible things his wife has done, and the reasons he can no longer live with her.

The harried and disillusioned wife, in turn, can describe all the ways her husband let her down. Each has a long list of necessary changes—for the other person.

Their prospects for reconciliation are grim. Why? Because other people aren’t the problem. You’re the problem. You can’t change other people, but you can change yourself. But it’s difficult. It takes courage to change, and it takes discipline. It’s much easier—and much more gratifying to your basest desires—to blame someone else for your misery.

Consider the youthful activist, making a “statement” against the “corrupt” capitalist system by smashing in the storefront of a local business. What has he done, other than to bring harm to people who have nothing to do with his real problems?

The guilt, doubt and shame he will inevitably feel in consequence will have to be suppressed so his beliefs can remain unchanged. And that suppression will do nothing but foster his anger and alienation. 

In the play “The Cocktail Party” by American-English poet T.S. Eliot, one of the characters is having a very hard time of it. She speaks of her profound unhappiness to her psychiatrist. She tells him that she hopes her suffering is all her own fault. 

Taken aback, the psychiatrist asks why. Because, she tells him, if it’s her fault, she can do something about it. If it’s in the nature of the world, however, she’s doomed. She can’t change everything else. But she could change herself. 

Now, there are people who seem to be consigned to a terrible fate. But most of us aren’t. Most of us have a chance to make our lives better.

But how? 

Start small. Ask yourself a few questions: Have you taken full advantage of the opportunities offered to you? Are you working to your fullest capacity at school or at work? Have you, in other words, set your own house in order?

If the answer is no, try this: stop doing what you know to be wrong. Stop today.

Don’t waste time asking how you know that what you’re doing is wrong. 

Inopportune questioning can confuse without enlightening, and deflect you from action. You can know something is right or wrong without knowing why. 

Start paying attention: Do you procrastinate, show up late, spend money you don’t have, and drink more than you should? 

It’s not a matter of accepting some externally imposed morality. It’s a dialogue with your own conscience. What are you doing that’s wrong, from your own perspective? What could you put right—right now? 

Get to work on time. Stop interrupting people. Make peace with your siblings and your parents. Diligently utilize everything you already have at hand. If you do those things, your life will improve. You’ll become more peaceful, productive and desirable. 

After some days, or weeks, or months of attentive effort, your mind will clear. Your life will become less tragic, and you will become more confident. You’ll start seeing right from wrong more clearly. The path in front of you will shine more brightly. You’ll stop getting in your own way. Instead of bringing trouble to yourself, your family, and your society, you’ll be a positive and reliable force.

Your life will still be difficult. You’ll still suffer. That’s the price of being alive. But maybe you’ll become strong enough to accept that burden, and in that fashion even come to act nobly, and with purpose. 

The proper way to fix the world isn’t to fix the world. There’s no reason to assume that you’re even up to such a task. But you can fix yourself. You’ll do no one any harm by doing so. 

And in that manner, at least, you will make the world a better place. 

I’m Jordan Peterson, Professor of Psychology at the University of Toronto, for Prager University.

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