In 12 Rules for Life, Jordan Peterson presented 12 rules to help you create a sense of order in a chaotic world. In this book, he presents an additional 12 rules to help you embrace chaos and avoid rigidity in times of turbulence and confusion. In this Beyond Order summary, you’ll get an overview these 12 more rules. Do also check out our complete summary bundle in pdf/mp3 infographic, text and audio formats!
Beyond Order: Overview
Order and chaos are 2 sides of the same coin. Neither is better than the other; they simply exist. In 12 Rules for Life, Peterson focused on how to cope with excessive chaos. In Beyond Order, he focuses on how to avoid excessive control and rigidity in times of upheavals.
• Order is “explored territory”, where things happen in accordance with what we know and the world makes sense. Our lives seem to be in order when we’re moving closer to our desired goals or outcomes. We treat this as a confirmation that our theory of the world is correct. However, the truth is we don’t know how much we don’t know, and the world can quickly change beyond our comprehension and control.
• Chaos is “unexplored territory”, where unexpected events or sudden changes can overwhelm and confuse us. Chaos represents uncertainty and disruption, but also novelty and renewal. Too much chaos is overwhelming, but too much order (e.g. totalitarianism) is also undesirable.
• To find renewal, you need to move beyond order and step into the domain of chaos. When confronted by chaos, we may try to restore order by rigidly clinging to what we “know”, which only backfires. The best way to move forward is to embrace chaos along with order. Peterson wrote and edited the bulk of this book during a time when various members of his family—including himself—were plagued by serious health problems. Peterson was even warded into intensive care. The situation was compounded further by the Covid-19 pandemic. Peterson had to accept the chaos in his life before he could recreate some semblance of order with the help of meaningful work and the love for/from his family and friends.
12 More Rules for Life
Here’s a visual overview of the additional 12 rules in Beyond Order:
We’ll zoom into the first rule in detail, with a short outline of the remaining rules. We have reworded the 12 rules to better capture the essence of the chapters and for the ease of digesting the key ideas. However, we’ve also included Peterson’s original wording in quotation marks below, for ease of reference. Do get a copy of our full 15-page summary for more details on all 12 rules.
Rule 1: Balance Social Convention and Creative Change
“Do not carelessly denigrate social institutions or creative achievement”
Our sanity and mental health depend on both (i) our internal psychological health and (ii) our external social institutions.
Psychologists like Sigmund Freud and Carl Jung theorized that every individual has various sub-personalities. Freud suggested that every person has an ID, ego and superego. Jung suggested that every individual has an ego, a shadow (a dark side), an anima/animus (a repressed contrasexual side) and an ideal self. We’re well-adjusted when these inner personalities are balanced and integrated.
As a clinical psychologist, Peterson found that people’s social lives are also crucial for their mental health. This includes factors like: being educated to their intellectual capacity, using free time meaningfully, being free from major health/economic problems, having friends, a stable intimate relationship, close familial relationships, concrete plans for the future, and a financially-stable job or career.
One of Peterson’s socially-inept client became more socially integrated after he joined a photography club. Photography provided an outlet for his creative growth/expression, while the club offered a structured way for him to engage others.
Why social institutions matter
Human interactions help us to organize our thoughts, and give structure and meaning to our world.
• To communicate effectively, we must present our thoughts coherently, and prioritize important points over trivial ones. As we discuss our past experiences, current concerns or future plans, we figure out where we stand, where we’re headed and why.
• Through our communications, we also form implicit social contracts on what’s important, valuable and acceptable. When we step out of line, others will advise, criticize, cajole or laugh at us to bring us back on track. Such boundaries reduce the infinite possibilities into a comprehensible range of choices/behaviors.
To stay sane, we need social institutions. We need to balance conservatism with creative transformation.
• We need rules and constraints for order and stability. Yet, we also need creativity and change for growth and regeneration. The key is to know when to follow convention and when to reject social pressure. Strike a balance:
(i) Understand/respect the rules in social institutions; and
(ii) Dare to break the rules if it serves the greater good.
If you don’t recognize the value and necessity of rules, then you’re likely to violate them carelessly. However, if you’ve mastered the rules and can follow them with discipline, then you’re in a position to bend/break the rules morally to abide by the spirit (if not the letter) of the law.
• No matter how accomplished you are, stay humble. Assume there’s always more to learn, and interact regularly with different types of people to stretch your mind. Get the “conservative type” to implement tried-and-tested methods, and engage the “liberal type” to identify and replace outdated practices.
• Don’t confuse power with authority. People who exert power over others use threats or punishments to compel others. People with authority gain real influence due to their ability to solve problems. Build strong peer relationships based on reciprocity, e.g. respect others and demand respect, show up for others and trust them to show up for you.
Rule 2: Keep Moving Toward your Ideal Self
“Imagine who you could be, and then aim single-mindedly at that”
We are complex beings with dormant potential and are constantly changing. To answer the question “Who am I?” you must consider who you are now as well as who you could be. Choose the best-possible ideal self and start moving toward that aspiration. In our complete 15-page summary, we’ll explain the role of stories in the development of our self-concept and potential, and how you can embark on a journey of self-discovery.
Rule 3: Don’t Avoid the Small Issues
“Do not hide unwanted things in the fog”
Don’t dismiss the small daily irritations as mere trivialities, or allow the small things to add up. It’s like trying to hide unwanted things in a fog so you won’t see them—eventually you’ll stumble over something and hurt yourself. In our full Beyond Order summary, we’ll elaborate on what it means to avoid self-deception, get clear on what you want/need and have the courage to confront your problems.
Rule 4: Opportunities Lie Where Responsibility has been Abdicated
“Notice that opportunity lurks where responsibility has been abdicated”
The most positive and fulfilling experiences come from pursuing a meaningful goal, or from achieving something worthwhile. Look for opportunities where responsibility has been abdicated—both to add value by doing what others haven’t done, and to listen to your conscience (when you’re the one who has abdicated responsibility). In our full summary, we explain the right pace to pursue challenges to attain meaning, peace and happiness.
Rule 5: Don’t Betray Your Values and Conscience
“Do not do what you hate”
Always follow your conscience and deeply-held values. Refuse to do anything that would cause you to hate yourself or feel self-contempt. Learn the risks of acting vs not acting, when to make a stand and fortify your position.
Rule 6: Cast Ideologies Aside
Beware of ideologies that assign a single cause (e.g. power, sex, money) for a complex problem. The reality is never so simple. Abandon ideologies and stop looking for external factors to blame. Instead, look inward and take responsibility for your situation. In our complete book summary, you’ll learn how ideologies are formed, why they’re dangerous and how to avoid being blinded by them.
Rule 7: To Develop Yourself, Commit to Something Fully
“Work as hard as you possibly can on at least one thing and see what happens”
Committing to a goal (be it your job, studies, or relationship) is crucial for growth and maturation. Choose a direction in life, work as hard as possible on at least one thing, and see what happens from there. Subjugate yourself to the relevant social or professional rules, and persist in face of challenges to develop your discipline and personality. You become a true master when you master and transcend the dogma.
Rule 8: Create Something Beautiful
“Try to make one room in your home as beautiful as possible”
Most adults have lost the child-like wonder we used to possess. Start by making at least 1 room in your house as beautiful as possible. By creating 1 beautiful thing, you’ll form a relationship with beauty that can be extended to all areas of your life. In our complete Beyond Order summary, we discuss more on transcendence and the role of art in human progress.
Rule 9: Clear Up Unresolved Issues From the Past
“If old memories still upset you, write them down carefully and completely”
To orientate yourself in the world, you need a map of where you’ve been, where you are now, and where you’re going. Unresolved issues in the past can affect the accuracy of your map, to negatively affect your current journey. If a memory from the past still upsets you, write down the incident in detail to bring the murky events into focus, come come to terms with what happened, and strip the memory of its horror.
Rule 10: Sustain Romance with Planning and Effort
“Plan and work diligently to maintain the romance in your relationship”
When 2 people first fall in love, they see only the best in each other. Although the magic eventually fades, it’s possible to sustain the romance with proper planning and real work. Find out why you can’t find a perfect soulmate, and what it takes to grow and mature as a couple and strengthen your relationship.
Rule 11: Don’t Succumb to Resentment, Deceit or Arrogance
“Do not allow yourself to become resentful, deceitful, or arrogant”
All of us have a dark side. That’s why people commit crimes, wage wars, rape, cheat and lie. According to Peterson, evil comes from resentment, deceit and arrogance. Master your malevolence, recognize that duality exists in everything, and bad things can befall anyone.
Rule 12: Stay Grateful In Spite of your Suffering
“Be grateful in spite of your suffering”
Suffering is inevitable. Yet, humans have the capacity to transcend our suffering, and to stay hopeful in the darkest of times. In face of tragedy, seek courage and inspiration from others who have risen above their loss and despair. Be grateful for what you still have and what you may still be given.
Getting the Most from “Beyond Order”
If you’d like to learn more about the 12 rules above, how to move beyond order and embrace chaos and find meaning/peace in times of uncertainty, do check out our full book summary bundle. This includes an infographic, 15-page text summary, and a 28-minute audio summary.
In the book, Peterson shares detailed stories from his personal life and clinical experience, as well as his analyses and interpretations of movies, mythical stories, religious texts, and works by various philosophers and psychologists. You can purchase the book here or visit jordanbpeterson.com.
Do also check out the 12 Rules for Life summary here.
Learn how you can avoid rigidity in times of turbulence!