Dr. Jordan B. Peterson may be an unlikely YouTube celebrity, but tens of thousands of fans attribute a positive change in their lives to Peterson’s message of personal responsibility.
His straightforward approach speaks to the young men of this generation, many of whom are struggling to find direction in life.
According to the teachings of Dr. Peterson, the key to self-improvement lies in embracing individuality and personal responsibility.
About Dr. Jordan B. Peterson
Dr. Peterson first gained notoriety in 2016 when he refused to follow new legislation to refer to others using gender-neutral pronouns at his teaching position at the University of Toronto. According to Peterson, Bill C-16 was, in essence, a political takeover by the far left and infringed on free speech and would stifle scientific discovery in universities across the country.
While this move may have been controversial, many lauded Peterson as a champion of free speech.
Since initially making headlines, Dr. Peterson has made a name for himself as somewhat of an intellectual celebrity. He’s not just a psychologist, but also a philosopher, a theologian, a cultural critic, and a lay preacher.
His YouTube lectures have made him one of the world’s most popular public thinkers, earning him more than 1.7 million followers. He’s also appeared in hit TV shows and on lecture circuits.
Even before his career as a YouTube personality, Dr. Peterson was a renowned author. He published his first book in 1999. This textbook, titled Maps of Meaning: The Architecture of Belief, helped to revolutionize the psychology of religion, while his newest book, 12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos, was a 2018 #1 bestseller. It discusses how readers can take control of their lives through discipline and responsibility.
In addition to his hit books, Dr. Peterson has also published more than one hundred scientific papers. His research has been critical in helping to advance our understanding of creativity and personality.
Dr, Peterson doesn’t just reach his audience through lectures and reading material. He also takes a more hands-on approach with the two online programs he’s produced alongside colleagues Dr. Daniel M. Higgins and Dr. Robert O. Pihl. These highly effective programs are designed to help people work their way towards self-improvement.
Dr. Peterson’s Message
Using the deep connections between neuroscience, psychology, and mythology, Dr. Peterson has built a school of thought centered around the psychology of the self. Here, we go over the foundation of his unique philosophy.
Table of Contents
Place the Individual Above the Collective
Though many cultures emphasize the welfare of society over the wellbeing of the individual, Dr. Peterson believes that people shouldn’t give in to the pressures of groups such as family, company, or even country.
“Your group identity is not your cardinal feature,” states Peterson. “That’s the great discovery of the west. That’s why the west is right. And I mean that unconditionally. The west is the only place in the world that has ever figured out that the individual is sovereign.
And that’s an impossible thing to figure out. It’s amazing that we managed it. And it’s the key to everything that we’ve ever done right.”
This is one of the primary reasons he opposes the recent emergence of the far-left political agenda. He characterizes the movement as a growing threat to individual rights, and by extension, the very core of Western culture.
A crucial part of the individual experience is self-awareness. According to Dr. Peterson, it’s impossible to improve the self without first looking inside your mind. Only once a person understands their flaws inside and out can they start the path towards fixing themselves.
According to Peterson, “The first step, perhaps, is to take stock. Who are you? When you buy a house and prepare to live in it, you hire an inspector to list all its faults–as it is, in reality, now, not as you wish it could be…You need to discover the home’s hidden flaws.
You need to know whether they are cosmetic imperfections or structural inadequacies. You need to know because you can’t fix something if you don’t know it’s broken–and you’re broken.”
Put Happiness Aside
Though Dr. Peterson places emphasis on the individual experience, he doesn’t believe that life should be lived in service of the self. Instead of pursuing carnal, material, or emotional satisfaction, he touts that we should instead focus on finding fulfillment in a greater meaning.
“It’s all very well to think the meaning of life is happiness, but what happens when you’re unhappy?” Peterson asks. “Happiness is a great side effect. When it comes, accept it gratefully. But it’s fleeting and unpredictable. It’s not something to aim at – because it’s not an aim. And if happiness is the purpose of life, what happens when you’re unhappy? Then you’re a failure. And perhaps a suicidal failure. Happiness is like cotton candy. It’s just not going to do the job.”
“Life is hard,” Peterson says. “It’s tainted by malevolence and betrayal. That can make you bitter. You need a meaning to offset that. Where is the meaning to be found? Not in rights, not in impulsive pleasure, but in responsibility.”
Instead of happiness, as is commonly believed, Peterson thinks that the key to a meaningful life lies in embracing the burdens and obstacles that life throws at us. When we are suffering, responsibility can give us the reason that we need to keep going.
According to Peterson, “it’s in responsibility that most people find the meaning that sustains them through life. It’s not in happiness. It’s not in impulsive pleasure. [You should] adopt responsibility for your own well-being, try to put your family together, try to serve your community, try to seek for eternal truth….That’s the sort of thing that can ground you in your life, enough so that you can withstand the difficulty of life.”
Improve the Self
Accepting responsibility for oneself is the first step toward self-improvement, according to Dr. Peterson. In a similar vein, improving yourself is the only way to achieve fulfillment. “The human capacity for eternal transformation,” states Peterson, “is the antidote to unbearable suffering and tragedy.”
One of the most crucial aspects of self-improvement is setting goals. Discernable objectives not only help people to keep track of their progress but also to maintain motivation when things get tough.
When it comes to defining objectives, Dr. Peterson asks, “Why refuse to specify? Because while you are failing to define success, you are also refusing to define failure, to yourself, so that if and when you fail you won’t notice, and it won’t hurt. But that won’t work! You cannot be fooled so easily…You will instead carry with you a continual sense of disappointment in your own Being.”
Luckily, it’s never too early to begin setting self-improvement goals. Peterson himself set one of his first life goals when he was just eight years only, promising his father that he would marry the neighbor girl. Years later, he would see his promise through, proving that it’s possible to work towards a more meaningful life at any age.
Speaking to the Male Psyche
While Dr. Jordan Peterson has helped hundreds of thousands of people, around 80% of his audience is male, with the majority falling between the ages of 18 and 35. He attracts young men in part because he heavily empathizes with the male plight.
“We’re so stupid,” says Peterson. “We’re alienating young men. We’re telling them they’re patriarchal oppressors, denizens of rape culture and tyrants-in-waiting. It’s awful … It makes me sad, deeply.”
This message particularly appeals to men living on the peripheries of society, including the depressed, the lonely, and the unsuccessful. These groups are often told that they benefit from “male privilege,” though many don’t see the results first-hand.
Instead of dismissing these men’s struggles, as so much of society has, Dr. Peterson acknowledges the difficulties that men face today and offers a path to a more meaningful life. He treats his followers as individuals, offering up advice and guidance without being patronizing. He’s helped to give thousands of men the direction that they need to improve their lives on just about every level.
Opening up the Mental Health Discussion
For many men, mental health is almost a taboo subject. While plenty of men suffer from mental health issues such as anxiety and depression, few actually open up and talk about it.
Dr. Peterson has offered the support and guidance that many men crave, giving them the confidence to discuss and analyze their feelings. His brand of tough love is reminiscent of a mentor or father figure, giving many men the motivation they need to take action and turn their lives around.
“You’re not perfect, so stop blaming other people for your problems and take responsibility for yourself,” Peterson states. “Get your act together — you’ve got things to do. Aspire to a greater version of you. Why should you feel good about who you are? You should feel good about who you could be.”
Dr. Peterson’s message urging individuals to “stand up straight with [their] shoulders back” has made an impact on men struggling with everything from depression to addiction. He’s also helped countless people to form more positive relationships, both with themselves and with those around them.
Adding Meaning to Life
One of the main reasons why Dr. Peterson resonates so strongly with young men is his focus on responsibility as a means to achievement. According to Peterson, “It’s necessary for men to stand up and take responsibility. They all know that and are starving for that message.”
Peterson encourages men to improve themselves by pursuing meaning in life. Whether this means taking better care of yourself or starting a family, the bottom line in any scenario is that responsibility is the key to self-fulfillment.
“Responsibility – that’s what gives life meaning,” says Peterson. “Lift a load; then you can tolerate yourself. You are useless, easily hurt, easily killed…why should you have any self-respect? Pick something up and carry it. Then you can think, ‘Yeah, well as useless as I am, at least I can move this from here to there.’ What’s really cool about that is when I talk about it to crowds, I see the men’s eyes light up.”
Appealing to Traditional Gender Roles
Though his ideas have stirred up controversy in some circles, many men appreciate Peterson’s straightforward approach to gender norms. He rejects the concept of gender fluidity, instead calling for a return to a more simplified system.
Peterson promotes the idea of men following traditional male gender roles, which he feels have been abandoned in the wake of the far-left movement. Men who lack direction may find solace by aspiring to follow the clearly defined path set forth by their fathers and grandfathers.
Following Dr. Peterson’s Teachings
Taking responsibility for yourself is often easier said than done. According to Dr. Peterson, before you can take control of your life, you must first come to understand yourself. While it’s not easy to admit our flaws, it’s the only way that we can work on them in a healthy way.
Getting to know yourself takes time, effort, and energy. Unfortunately, it isn’t as simple as taking a personality test. Many people spend their whole lives learning about their inner self through channels such as meditation, religion, art, and more. It’s important to focus on both the positive and the negative, taking into account flaws and attributes in equal measure.
Individuality is an important part of Dr. Peterson’s philosophy, but this shouldn’t be mistaken with egoism. While he thinks it’s vital that we emphasize ourselves over society as a whole, he doesn’t believe that the pursuit of happiness is a crucial part of the human experience. Instead, he claims that we can only find fulfillment in meaning.
To embrace meaning in life is to embrace responsibility. According to Dr. Peterson, we will never grow as individuals if we go about life externalizing our issues. We have to take responsibility for our lives and our actions if we want to make the most out of life. This means facing our problems head-on and accepting strife without complaint. Though it may be difficult at first, over time, you’ll become stronger as a person.
Dr. Jordan Peterson is changing the perspective of men around the world with his call to responsibility. By taking control of their lives, men can work towards bettering themselves and finding meaning in their existence. With his extensive research and radical philosophies, Dr. Peterson is helping to revolutionize the realm of personal psychology.