How to Sort Your Life Out

Feeling depressed? Does life seem pointless? Or are you merely unhappy with your current position in life and can’t discern a positive trajectory for yourself? Then read on…

N.B. These ideas are not my own. They have been articulated carefully to me by Jordan Peterson in his YouTube videos and his book, 12 Rules for Life. I owe him an incredible debt of gratitude. And in turn, Jordan would freely admit that he is not the original author of these ideas either. In a sense, they are part of humanity’s soul and originate from long ago, perhaps even to the point in our evolution where humans first became psychologically distinct from the other great apes. Maybe they’re even older than that.

Also, these ideas work for me, Jordan Peterson and many others… but they may not work for you. That’s fine. Pick and choose the bits which seem meaningful to you and ignore the rest. Forge your own path.

This is not an easy, off-the-shelf solution. You can’t fix lives with a click of the fingers. This method requires you to take personal responsibility for improving your own life. It takes considerable effort – small steps every day.

There is no “quick fix” for having the life you want. You have to work for it. Maybe you’re not ready for that yet – that’s fine. Hopefully one day, you will be.

Some people think of this as a spiritual journey. I think that’s accurate.

So much in my life has changed in recent years. And that change appears to be accelerating. Much of this change is due to me carefully considering Jordan Peterson’s ideas. I want to briefly outline a summary of them here, in the hopes they are useful to other people.

I may come back at some point and turn this into a kind of flowchart, to aid comprehension for people who are more visual thinkers.

[UPDATE 01/09/2019: I’ve since created this graphic, Tidy Your Room v1, which encapsulates much of the following method. There’s also now a version 2 which expands on these ideas.]

The Path of Meaning

Do some things matter more to you than other things? If yes (and I strongly believe this is the case), then that means you have a hierarchy of values. In a sense, this gives a choice between good and evil, or at least good and less good.

Over time, get to know yourself and learn some of your hierarchy of values. What’s truly important to you in your life? What’s less important?

(If you’d like a detailed, easy-to-follow process which will reveal your Core Values to you (or at least, something close to them), my good friend and Life Coach Tim Brownson has an excellent book on the topic called The Clarity Method, available on Amazon.)

Discovering your values accurately requires that you develop a healthy respect for telling the Truth, both to yourself and to others. If you lie, in a sense you corrupt the fabric of your own being, often in ways you don’t notice. So, as JP says, tell the truth (or at least don’t lie) – one of his 12 Rules.

Have the Courage to act in alignment with your values. Force yourself to make decisions where you’re choosing what seems to be the better option overall, even if it feels more difficult or more hard work. JP describes this as choosing what’s meaningful, rather than what’s expedient – another of his 12 Rules.

An amazing thing happens when you start being more courageous. You might think that voluntarily approaching dangerous situations would make you more afraid. But actually, what seems to happen is that as your bravery and courage increase, the fear recedes. It’s a truly remarkable thing. Have you seen how psychologists treat phobias? You don’t do it by making people less afraid. Instead, you make them braver. And it’s that bravery, or Courage, which forces fear to retreat.

If your life is just a total mess and you’re wondering where to start, then start small. What is the smallest change you could make in your life which would make it better in some way? This is where JP’s idea of “Tidy your room” comes from. So, do that, then choose the next thing. Keep repeating this.

As an aid to choosing what to do next, ask yourself the following question, “What could you do, that you would do?” This marries up potential activities which you are both capable of, and willing to do. This can be in any area of your life in which you’d like to make improvements.

Don’t be a tyrant to yourself, it doesn’t work. Instead, negotiate with yourself. And give yourself credit for making small steps, no matter how small and insignificant they may seem. They will add up over time to huge changes. Feel proud of your small accomplishments.

Repeat all of the above, ad infinitum. Very quickly you will see massive, cumulative, almost incomprehensible change occurring in your life… for the better.

This is the path of righteousness. It is the path between Order and Chaos. It is the path of Meaning.

I fully believe this process can give your life meaning, and hopefully banish any lingering nihilism to oblivion.

And what’s left, is Beauty (sometimes called Love).

Bollinger, R. 2019

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