12 Rules for Life Summary In English

12 Rules for Life

About Book

What will you learn from this summary?

In this book, you will learn 12 rules which will become your antidote for chaos. Your life may be a mess right now, but if you apply these rules, you can start picking up the pieces. You can find light in the dark and bring order to your life. This book will help you find hope and purpose. 

Who should read this book?

•    People caught up in the chaos of life

•    People suffering from many problems

•    People who feel lost and alone

About the Author

Jordan Peterson is a clinical psychologist. He is also a professor at the University of Toronto. His book, 12 Rules for Life, is an international best-seller. Dr. Jordan continues to help people find order in life through his blogs, podcasts, and online courses. 

12 Rules for Life 

Jordan Peterson

12 Rules for Life
12 Rules for Life summary
12 Rules for Life summary in English


Chaos, disorder, endless problems – Do you feel caught up with these every day? Are you always troubled at work? Do you feel like your relationships are falling apart? If so, then this is the book for you. Here are 12 rules which will help you bring order to your life. They will help you to free yourself from unnecessary pain and suffering. Let’s learn the rules one by one.

Stand Up Straight With Your Shoulders Back

Have you ever felt defeated? Have you ever felt that life is unfair? Have you ever felt burdened with so many problems? At that time, you probably let your head down. Your posture shows it when your shoulders and back are hunched. Jordan Peterson says you shouldn’t allow yourself to be like that for long. Why? Having a stooped posture makes you feel even more depressed. If you simply straighten up, if you breathe deep, and stand up with your shoulders back, you will feel better. Keep your head up. Force yourself to smile. Having a good posture and smile encourages a high level of serotonin in your body.

Serotonin is the happy hormone. It relaxes your nerves, makes your immunity stronger, and influences you to have optimistic thoughts. Even in animals, the maintenance of good posture is essential. A robust-looking body means a higher chance of survival. Take, for example, lobster. There is a great battle for survival on the ocean floor. The lobster, with a high level of serotonin, has a tall, strong, and straight body. This gives it a significant advantage. It is the mark of a winner.

The lobster with a good posture will win the territory, and it will have more food. It is also likely that it will get a healthy mate and produce healthy offspring. Having a good posture elevates all aspects of its life. On the other hand, the lobster with a stooped back is always the loser. It shows that this lobster has a low level of serotonin. Because of that, it would have to look for another territory. If it doesn’t change, it will end up homeless and never get a chance to breed.

See, humans are similar to lobsters in this aspect. Do not let yourself be a loser. Better opportunities will open up for you if you only think positive thoughts. So, encourage a high level of serotonin in your body. Stand up straight with your shoulders back

Treat yourself like someone you are responsible for helping

Some people go to the doctor for a particular sickness. But when they get a prescription, they do not follow it correctly. To a lack of money, some people cannot buy enough medicine. But others are stubborn as a mule. They think that the sickness will just go away. These people think they are already adults and they don’t need medicine. It’s a wonder, though, that when our pets are sick, we are very attentive. We bring them to the veterinarian and give our pets the proper medication. It seems that we are more worried about our pets than our health.

This situation also happens when it’s our loved ones who are sick. We remind them to take the right medicine at the right time. We encourage them to eat first before taking meds. We tell them to always take good care of their body. You have to love yourself as much as you love your family or your pet. Take care of yourself, and treat yourself with more value. Do not forget to follow the doctor’s prescription accurately. Practice good hygiene, eat healthy food, and avoid vices. You must nourish your mind as well and keep on learning.

So much change will happen to your life if you master yourself. There will be less chaos and more order. If your well-being is in excellent condition, it will follow through, and other aspects of your life will follow as well. 

Make friends with people who want the best for you

Jordan Peterson grew up in a small, boring town. There wasn’t much to do there, especially in the winter. He had a friend named Ed, who was a smart guy. But Ed became an angry, pessimistic teenager. They would go to house parties together or drive around town. Jordan went to college while Ed became heavily addicted to marijuana. Ed spent more time with his school drop-out friends. There was nothing Jordan could do to help.

One time, Ed visited Jordan in his college apartment. Jordan welcomed him, but it turned out Ed brought someone else. It was his friend, Carl. Jordan noticed at once that they were both high on marijuana. Carl sat down and stared at the ceiling. He said that his body was floating in the air. Eventually, Jordan took Ed aside and asked them to leave. Ed simply nodded. Maybe, it was because of loyalty that Ed kept on hanging out with Carl. It is sad to grow up in a community where people are lazy and mediocre.

But in the end, it’s still your choice. You can choose to surround yourself with people who will lift you. Stick with friends who will encourage you to be better and inspire you to succeed. You can choose not to be miserable. You can choose not to be like your alcoholic or addicted friends. Find a purpose. Find people who can help you get on the right track. Every day is an opportunity for change. Leave the past behind and start over. With good friends on your side, you can find meaning in your life. You can look forward to days of happiness, hope, and love.

Compare yourself to who you were yesterday, not to who someone else is today

One day, you browse through social media and see the post of your friends. Some took a vacation in Europe. Some got promoted in their job. Some just got married. Some received an award, and some finished master’s or doctorate degrees. And there you are in your messy apartment, drinking beer with only your cat as a companion. You feel insecure and envious of your friends. You think that you’re probably going to die alone without even one thing to be proud of. That is not true. If you are a musician, do not compare yourself to Mozart. If you are a chef, do not compare yourself to Gordon Ramsay. You have unique skills. You, yourself, are a fantastic person.

Instead of comparing your life to other people, compare yourself to what you were yesterday. Then you will see the difference. Strive to become better every day and practice your skill. Take note of your progress. You will surely be proud of yourself. Being insecure is not a good habit to have. Instead of browsing through social media or criticizing yourself, focus your time and energy on doing something productive. If you stop procrastinating and start practicing, you will improve. Just keep on doing what you love.

Comparing yourself to others will only bring chaos to your life. And only make you worse. Be a better person than you were yesterday. Be a better person than you were this morning. Your life will surely be extraordinary. And you wouldn’t need a social media post to prove it. 

Do not let your children do anything that makes you dislike them

Once, Jordan Peterson saw an interesting scene at the airport. A three-year-old was having a tantrum. He was screaming in front of everyone, and his parents ignored him. They looked embarrassed, but they continued to walk. The boy whined as he followed his mom and dad. He was trying to get their attention. Perhaps he needed something. But his parents were not attending to him, which was why he whined further. People were staring at them.

This could have been an easy fix if only the parents could have lent an ear and listened to the boy. Talked to him and tuned into his needs. The child would have stopped screaming and irritating everybody else. If you’re a parent, you might have experienced something similar. Children often misbehave. It is your responsibility to teach the child what is right. How you treat your child reflects how other people will treat him or her. If you are impatient or violent towards your child, how do you expect others to treat them better?

A calm and responsible parent raises a happy and disciplined child. Research findings of psychologists over the decades will tell you that. Let your child learn and explore, but set clear limits. If he does something wrong, say “no” at once. Do not let the wrong behavior go without notice, because if you do, your child will only become worse. Spend quality time with your child. Let her know that you love and value her. This deep connection is the only thing that will keep your child from misbehaving. It is not spanking or yelling or any form of punishment.

Say no. Listen to what the child needs. Attend to them. The more calm and responsible you are, the more happy and disciplined your child will be. Classmates will want to be friends with them. Teachers will adore them. Because they are polite, adults will be nice to them. Parenting is a tough job. It requires a lot of patience. But you will see how much difference it makes to your child. The happy and disciplined child will grow up to be a kind and successful adult. The child who knows deep in his heart that his parents love and value him will lead a meaningful life.

Set your house in perfect order before you criticize the world

In 2012, a gunman shot 20 children and six teachers in an elementary school in Connecticut. He wrote a note. The gunman said that human beings are not worth fighting for. He said we should give the world back to the animals, and humans don’t deserve to live. He also said that Hitler came up with a solution to the Jewish problem. Thus, the gunman brought a solution too. Kill humanity. Kill them all. No one must survive. The world is evil anyway, so to hell with it.

There may be times when we feel as hopeless as this gunman. We see everything that’s happening in the news. There are wars, pandemics, natural disasters, corruption, and poverty. If viewed this way, the world is a grim place. But it’s all up to you. Before you think of all the illnesses of the world, you must first cure your own. How can you bring change to everyone when you cannot even fix yourself? Do not bother with things that you cannot control. Start with your own life. Do you perform your best in your job? How about your family, do you treat them with love and respect? Your bad habits: when are you going to change them?

Take, for example, Anton Chekhov. His father was an alcoholic who beat his kids every day. Their poor family lived in a cramped basement. Anton’s brothers became as bitter and as miserable as their father was. But Anton worked hard. He studied and won a scholarship. He set a good example and encouraged his brothers to change. He improved the situation of his family. Anton Chekhov became a successful writer, writing books that have inspired many people.

Pursue what is meaningful, not what is expedient

A simple search in a thesaurus will tell you that expedient is another term for self-serving and convenience. When faced with a difficult situation, it is easier to be reactive. It is easier to be annoyed and to complain. In this instance, the person is expedient. He is creating unnecessary pain and suffering. If he learns how to calm down and control his emotions, he will find an effective solution to the problem. Being expedient is being irresponsible and immature.

What is your virtue? What is the belief that defines you? What is your purpose in life? You need to find that meaning. You see, if you pursue what is meaningful, there will be less chaos in your life. A higher purpose or meaning is what differentiates good from evil. It is the difference between a strong character and a weak one. It is the difference between order and chaos. Who would you rather be? Would you choose to be like Batman or Joker? Would you prefer to be like Thor or Loki? Would you choose to be like Sherlock Holmes or Moriarty? It’s up to you.

Tell the truth—or, at least, don’t lie

Jordan Peterson and his wife once lived in a small apartment building. They had a neighbor next door who was an alcoholic. His name was Denis, a big man with a grey beard. Denis worked as a painter and an electrician. Well, when Denis was not heavily drunk, that is. Sometimes, Denis drank 60 bottles of beer in two days. It was a wonder that he could still stand straight. Denis spent all his money on liquor. When he ran out of money and alcohol, he knocked on Jordan’s door.

Even if it was 2 AM, Denis knocked. He brought his posters or microwave or toaster and would offer to sell them to Jordan. He was willing to sell anything to quench his thirst and craving for alcohol. Jordan bought Denis’ items a few times. But Jordan’s wife said that Denis had to stop. Jordan was nervous.  How could he possibly explain to a big, scary drunkard that this could not continue anymore?

Jordan decided to tell the truth. He was straightforward and explained to Denis that he didn’t want to buy the toaster. He told Denis that it would not be appropriate for him if Jordan gave him more money. Jordan said it. He didn’t play any games. For a few seconds, Denis just stood there, silent. He studied Jordan’s facial expression. Denis saw that Jordan was sincere and honest. So he turned around and left. Even though Denis was heavily drunk that night, he remembered not to sell anything to Jordan again. They became good neighbors to each other.

Lies create chaos. Even if it is to keep the peace, smooth things over, or avoid hurting someone’s feelings, it is still a lie. You may get out of the difficult situation today. But that lie will just lead to more problems. Small lies pile up to become big lies. If you always lie, you will already have distorted thinking. You will suffer many consequences. So, it’s better just to tell the truth. Tell it straight. 

Assume that the person you are listening to might know something you don’t

At one therapy session, Jordan Peterson’s client announced, “I hate my wife,” and then he fell silent for a few seconds. Dr. Jordan looked at him intently. The client continued, “Wait, that’s harsh. I hate my wife sometimes. I hate that she will not tell me what’s wrong, and it drives me crazy. My mom was like that all the time. She carries a grudge every day but doesn’t want to talk about it. She’s always bitter. It drove my dad crazy. It drove all of us crazy.”

He went on to say, “Now that I think of it, my wife isn’t as bad as my mother. There are times when my wife tells me what she wants. I just really feel bad when she doesn’t. Maybe, I‘m just overreacting. I don’t want to be like my parents. This doesn’t have anything to do with my wife. I have to tell her.” Dr. Jordan listened the entire time. He didn’t want to say anything that could sound like a judgment or discouragement to the client and instead went to all ears. The client realized that he was projecting the image of his mother on his wife.

After a while, the client spoke up again. “Thank you for this session, Dr. Jordan. I feel better.”Dr. Jordan nodded, realizing it was the right decision to remain silent. Many people just need someone to listen to them. They feel alone and need to vent out their feelings. Even if you don’t talk, you can help these people. Listen attentively. Show the person that you are concerned about and try to understand the situation. There is still non-verbal communication between you. The speaker will know if you are listening with sincerity or if you sympathize or can be trusted.

Like Dr. Jordan, you can help the person feel better. You can help him clear his thoughts and fix the problem, even if you don’t give advice. Just listen.

Be precise in your speech

Billy is a little boy who finds a dragon inside his bedroom one morning. It’s a small creature, as small as a cat. It is cute and friendly. Billy goes to his mother and says, “Mom, look! There’s a dragon in my room!”But Mom says, “Billy, there’s no such thing as a dragon.” The dragon starts to grow. It eats all the food in the kitchen. Soon, the dragon grows as big as the house. Mom continues to vacuum and clean the crumbs. She does not notice that the dragon flies off, and with it, the entire house.

Billy’s dad comes home from work. He cannot find their home. There is just an empty lot where it used to stand. The mailman informs him where the house flew. Dad sees the floating house and jumps to reach it. He grabs the dragon’s tail and climbs on its body. There, on the dragon’s back, Dad reunites with Mom and Billy. Mom still insists that there’s no such thing as a dragon. But Billy asserts himself and says, “There is a dragon, Mom.” At that moment, the dragon begins to shrink and goes back to its cat-like size.

Dad, Mom, and Billy finally agree that cat-like dragons exist and are preferable to giant dragons. Mom wonders why the dragon had to get that big in the first place. 

Billy explains, “Probably, the dragon just wanted to be noticed.”This situation happens when we don’t recognize a problem. It only gets worse. If you don’t exactly pinpoint what’s wrong, you won’t be able to solve it. That’s why it’s essential to be precise with your speech. Do not say that everything is wrong. Do not say that nothing is wrong either. Be precise. Once you recognize and define the problem, you will know exactly what to do with it.

Do not bother children when they are skateboarding

Jordan Peterson often watched kids skateboarding in one of the buildings of the University of Toronto. There was a vast space at the front where the kids could practice. They continued doing their skateboard tricks on the concrete steps and steel railings. A playground was across the street where the kids loved to jump and flip over. But soon, the local government prohibited the skateboard kids from hanging out there. Now, barricades surround the area. The adults said skateboarding was very dangerous for the kids.

But Jordan disagreed with this. It is through practice that the kids became better at what they did. Sure, they fell and got injuries while skateboarding. But the kids always got up and tried again. If parents and government authorities prohibited the kids, they would never learn. Some parents are overprotective. They restrict their kids from doing lots of things. They always intervene and solve the child’s problem. The consequence is that the child becomes weak and dependent on the parent’s help. He cannot make decisions on his own.

Do not let this happen to your child. For example, listen to your daughter if she gets into a fight with her best friend. But do not intervene. Do not handle the problem. Your 10-year-old daughter will know what to do, especially if she knows that you are 100% on her side.

Pet a cat when you encounter one on the street

Another way to understand this is to “Stop and smell the flowers.” We are busy every day. We get caught up at work or with the many responsibilities we have. We barely have the chance to reflect and breathe. This chapter is about enjoying the small comforts that life brings. On your way home, you might see some kids dancing on the street, making you smile. You may even notice an old couple strolling hand in hand. Or see a stray cat looking for leftovers.

Stop for a while and pet the cat. Pause to see the beauty of life. Appreciate the little things that you have. Spend quality time with the people you love the most. Give yourself time to rest and reflect. It is vital. If you work non-stop, your body and mind will be exhausted. The quality of your work and your relationships will become less and less. Life doesn’t have to be chaotic. You can bring order to every aspect of your life. All you need is a change of perspective.


In this book, you learned 12 rules which will serve as your antidote to chaos. Try to apply them one by one. You will see the change they will bring to your life. Stand up straight, take care of yourself, and make friends with good people. Do not forget to notice your improvements. Be a calm and responsible parent. Fix yourself and your home first.

Find your purpose, always tell the truth, be a good listener, and define your problems. Let your children go, and seize the day. There isn’t someone out there who is making your life miserable. You need to take control. Everything that happens to you is the consequence of your thoughts and actions. There may be too much chaos that you feel lost in the dark. These 12 rules will serve as your pen of light. Practice them every day and you will soon find order, peace, and happiness. 

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