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What Time is It? Time to Get Your Life Together!

In addition to reading books on Stoicism, I've been reading Jordan Peterson's 12 Rules for Life: The Antidote to Chaos. Within the winding roads of Peterson's thoughts, there is a lot of helpful wisdom (and some that heavily overlap with Stoicism). Although Jordan Peterson never explicitly says that he practices Stoicism, he holds the same fundamental principle that we are ultimately the ones responsible for our outlook on life. This theme recurs multiple times throughout his book.


For example, when outlining his fourth rule for life (compare yourself to who you were yesterday, not to who someone else is today), he writes, "If things are not going well for you well that might be because, as most cynical of aphorisms has it, life sucks, and then you die. Before your crisis impels you to that hideous conclusion, however, you might consider the following: life doesn't have the problem. You do" (99). Peterson then goes on to make the point that this observation can lead us to different actions that can have a huge impact on where you want to go in life. One of things he talks about is changing your values. Also, he says that we would be wise to allow ourselves to focus on other aspects that lie outside of our narrow scope of desires (something that Stoic psychotherapist Donald Robertson calls selective thinking).


I know what you may be thinking. You might be thinking to yourself, "Wow. That is really harsh!" However, the empowerment that comes with the realization that you have the ability to reevaluate your focus can be a life-changing discipline. Life itself simply moves on like a video reel; it is up to us to choose how we judge and adjust to however the storyline unfolds. Before we have a direction, we need to know our values. The mission can only begin once you have been briefed.


This same theme is found within Epictetus' Enchiridion. Although, Epictetus provides a bit more advice about what to do after we've settled on our values and focus: "How much longer will you delay before you think yourself worthy of what is best, and transgress in nothing the distinction that reason imposes? You've acquired knowledge of the philosophical principles that you ought to accept, and have accepted them. What kind of teacher, then, are you still waiting for, that you should delay any effort to reform yourself until he appears? You're no longer a youth; you're a full-grown man" (51). Once we fine-tune our values and focus, then we are able to pursue what is important for us. This is completely under our control and it is completely our responsibility.

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