Clinical psychologist Jordan Peterson proposes an interesting idea to students and listeners who want to change the world: clean your room.
A desire for purpose is a common theme in modern youth. People want their lives to MEAN SOMETHING. The existential question, “What was I put here to do?” remains important.
What’s more purposeful than changing the world? We’re inspired by stories of heroes who make a difference. Our favorite archetype (especially as young men) is that of the hero who saves the world.
Here’s what we often ignore: a hero goes through an experience that forges him as an individual BEFORE he sets out to change the world.
Heroes don’t often jump right to the saving the world part. If they do, it’s boring. The entire story of the first Iron Man movie is about Tony Stark reconstructing himself as a man. Thor is about forging his identity beyond the mantle of prince that he was born with. Even Jon Snow from Game of Thrones went through experiences where he crafted himself as a man before doing the great deeds he does later on.
Even all-powerful beings like Jesus Christ underwent trials (4o days in a desert) before embarking on extraordinary journeys. He was in his thirties when he finally started his ministry.
You can change the world simply by knowing your identity and doing good.
You, as an individual human being, can have more impact in your community, company, school, or anywhere simply by getting your act together and being a good person.
This period between 15 and 25 isn’t a time to figure out what quest to go on so you can change the world. It’s a time to forge yourself into a man who can lead and impact people on a small scale. Create the good in yourself and then allow it to manifest in the world.
But this all begs the question…
How do I find my identity and start this change?
Just as this is a two part question, it has a two part answer. You find your identity by deciding the kind of person you want to be. “Finding” yourself is overrated. FORGE yourself. Look at the traits that you admire and say to yourself, “I want to be like that.”
You start the change in yourself the same way you start the change regarding anything. With small steps that you turn into habit.
1. Start with cleaning your room.
Orient and organize the area around you. It’s your starting space.
2. Move on to the things you WANT to change in your life.
Start working out if you want to look better. Can’t afford a gym membership? There are ways to work out at home. Want to be more outgoing? Start by trying to introduce yourself to at least two new people when you go to a party. Maybe your goal is to be kinder to people. Then start looking for small opportunities to be kind.
3. Stop putting yourself down.
We do this all of the time, usually without realizing it because it’s become habit. If someone compliments you, take it. Don’t allow thoughts like “my life is meaningless” to go through your head. These are lies we tell ourselves every day, Start telling yourself positive truths.
4. Do something…even if you do it badly.
I’m a perfectionist, but something Jordan Peterson pointed out is this: If someone put a gun to your head and told you to write a 100 page paper in a short period of time, but added that they didn’t care how bad or good it was, you would do it! In the same way, go for these changes, even if it feels like you suck at them. You have time to refine and perfect it all later. Even if you stumble towards your goal, you’re closer to it than before.
We’ve been surrounded by sensational stories of massive change and pictures of people who have lost a hundred pounds in a year. But the reality is that these stories are about people who started small and worked their way slowly to the end goal, even doing badly at many points in the journey.
So here’s an idea: Right now, as a young man, forget what you want to DO. That comes later. Instead, focus on who you want to BE, and what that entails. Get your act together and slowly regain order in the spiral of chaos that perhaps your life has become. Start small. Clean your room.