Be good to your future self.Me and JP
I’ve been reading and listening to some psychology and philosophical texts and thinkers recently. Jordan Peterson. Sam Harris. Kieran Setiya. Others.
I don’t understand them all, but as I approach the half-century mark, some things are starting to come into the light. One interesting shift is away from considering that ultimate question about the fact of existence, towards the more practical question of how to go about maximizing it. As in, how to live your best.
Or, my best, to put a finer point on it.
If there’s a math formula for how to live, I haven’t come across it yet, but I have to tell you, it does actually seem like Jordan Peterson has the best recipe. The well dressed and fiery Canadian came to prominence in the wake of Canada’s compelled speech law from a few years back (the one that makes it a criminal offense to “misgender” someone).
So, as in all such things these days, there’s a simple and totally erroneous narrative about JP out there in the main stream. But it’s not the self declared combatant who stands in opposition to the so-called social justice warriors that I’m talking about here. It’s the clinical psychologist. The man who has gained practical insights into how to life from thousands of intimate, vulnerable engagements with other human beings. And actually, this is not a book report on 12 Rules for Life, or Beyond Order. These are some of my own insights, synthesized not just from Peterson, but a variety of sources and personal experience.
Here’s three quick practices that work for me.
Work your body. The human body has requirements that modern life just doesn’t meet. In the simplest terms, it is necessary to pick up heavy things, to push and pull. These are requirements. Evolution has designed our human bodies to strain against physical resistance. So unless you work with your hands and your back, it is necessary to lift weights. There is absolutely no way around this physical requirement.
Learn to recognize the default setting of a brain that’s always switched on. Thoughts move through our minds like waves crashing on the beach. The noise of that surf does not cease. Like the tide, thoughts are always ebbing and flowing. That’s the bad news (if you want to think of it that way). The good news is even an idiot like me can learn to recognize that my thoughts and emotions are not me. They are waves crashing on the beach, but I don’t have to go into the water up to my neck and get pushed around. Meditation has taught me that I can step back to the shore and observe the waves while my feet are firmly rooted in the sand. You can’t turn emotion off, but you don’t have to be subject to every little ripple that rolls through.
Discipline unlocks all kinds of awesome stuff. I’m not there yet, so don’t accuse me of wearing a choir robe . . . but I have learned something about the power of discipline. Make a plan (exercise, eat, read, work, love, sleep, repeat) and stick to it. Do that a few times and all kinds of good feelings and material gains start to emerge. This is where being good to your future self comes in.
Do the work today and your future self will benefit.
I’ve written a few novels almost by accident, it feels like, simply by sitting down and typing what comes to mind. Just like I planned. Make a plan. Honor that plan, regardless of how you feel or the good excuses that present themselves, and your future self will thank you.