Senior Headmaster's Blog: '12 Rules for Life (an antidote to chaos)'

As you probably know by now, I enjoy my reading, and one of the books that I read over the Half Term break was Dr Jordan Peterson's '12 Rules for Life (an antidote to chaos)'. Dr Peterson has had a wide ranging career, and is a Canadian clinical psychologist and a professor of psychology at the University of Toronto. He has had significant coverage on YouTube (with nearly 2 million subscribers, and over 65 million views), with his controversial thoughts on life, and its meaning.

In a recent Assembly, I shared with the pupils his 12 rules for life. These range from the obvious to the unusual, the meaningful to the mundane:

  1. Stand up straight with your shoulders back
  2. Treat yourself like someone you are responsible for helping
  3. Make friends with people who want the best for you
  4. Compare yourself to who you were yesterday, not to who someone else is today
  5. Do not let your children do anything that makes you dislike them
  6. Set your house in perfect order before you criticise the world
  7. Pursue what is meaningful (not what is expedient)
  8. Tell the truth - or, at least, don’t lie
  9. Assume that the person you are listening to might know something you don’t
  10. Be precise in your speech
  11. Do not bother children when they are skateboarding
  12. Pet a cat when you encounter one on the street

I picked three of these to talk to the school about. In the world today, it is very easy to compare yourself unfavourably to others, and wellbeing is more likely to be achieved by seeking to make small improvements to yourself on a daily basis (rule 4). It is also easy to feel that the world is against you, but Peterson is adamant that the right approach is to focus on getting yourself right first, before worrying about what others are doing (rule 6). Then, as I was leading assembly, and talking to the school, I thought that rule 9 was quite important (even if it wasn't necessarily true). I then spoke to the teachers about rule 5, and why rules are important, and the fair and consistent application of rules is particularly important. Peterson was talking about parenting, but he could just as well have been talking about teaching in this rule.

I have to say that I do not agree with everything that Peterson writes and says. He is, at times, highly controversial. However, he is very interesting, and he has the knack of reducing big issues to a simple practical level. If you want to know about the skateboards and the cats, you will have to read the book.

Chris Townsend