This is a guest post by Katlyn Eriksen.
While Dr. Jordan B. Peterson, a practicing psychologist, and lecturer at the University of Toronto, is traveling the world providing insight into the human psyche – more specifically, our role in society – there is another message the doctor wishes to get across. The message is simple: take responsibility for your own life as an adult.
While the how what and why may require some further explanation, the basis of living a life with meaning lies in the ability of the individual to take on this task with both hands. This will take a fair amount of introspection and soul-searching, but the implementation allows us to be better versions of ourselves.
Let Go Of The Blame Game
There are a number of reasons why taking responsibility for your life means renunciation of that go-to response of blame. For us as individuals, it may seem like a quick way to get to a satisfying result, but the long-term effect of constantly shifting blame to others will do us untold harm. By choosing to opt for blame when the opportunity allows it, we give up the right to the following:
Power over the situation – When we shift blame onto another, we inadvertently allow them to take ownership of the situation. Therefore, the responsible person is also the person who has power over that situation. If we get stuck in a cycle where it’s always someone else who determines the outcome, then we lose the power to take hold of situations that affect us.
The negative rollercoaster – Blaming others automatically steers us into a negative zone where we are unable to see the opportunities in situations. What’s more, once we are in this negative space, it becomes a vicious cycle that sucks us in over and over again. It doesn’t allow us to progress in life. Not only are we stuck, but we’re stuck in a place we don’t particularly like, and this is a catalyst for that cycle of negativity.
Pity the victim – Once the power for our own lives is no longer in our hands, we become small and helpless in the shadow of the great oppressor, and before long, the victim card is played. There are no victories for a victim, only defeat.
According to Dr. Peterson:
“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.”
Operate On An Authentic Level
“A truth you cannot live is not true.” While these words may ring harsh and cold in a world that prefers sugarcoating and motivational speeches, this is the base of Dr. Peterson’s “Existentialism and Authenticity” lecture. One of the ways you can take charge of this and progress in life, especially in relationships, is by ensuring that you are able to pay attention far more than you listen or speak. By paying attention, you are believing yourself to be a sponge that can soak up as much information as the other person is able to give.
By living in a place of authenticity, you are able to pay homage to those who came before you and provided you with the tools to be a better version of yourself. The result is a life of gratitude, allowing you to experience the fullness of it. This, in turn, also allows you to know who you are and whether this is the best version of yourself.
The Power Of A Small Start
Dr. Peterson’s book, 12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos, is 12 essays on rules to live by that will make a difference in our lives. One of the rules states that we need to compare ourselves to our past selves, not someone else. According to Dr. Peterson, we easily fall into the trap of aiming too high and believing that if we do that, we’ll fall among the stars.
The opposite is true, as we tend to lose focus when the aim is too high. Instead, Peterson recommends that we aim small. This is because as human beings, we have limited time and resources, and we are also quite resentful of taking responsibility.
When the goal is too high, this resentment can soon manifest in the inability to take action. By taking responsibility every day and aiming towards small goals, our brains are rewarded, which creates the desire to do it again the next day. The result is an unexpected snowball effect that, over time, allows us to be better. Be kind to yourself, but be critical in order to achieve results.
While Jordan Peterson’s stance on the pursuit of happiness is that it’s a hopeless pursuit, there is a benefit in pursuing a life with meaning. For those who are willing to take responsibility and do what it takes, that life is within reach.