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145 Amazing Jordan Peterson Quotes About Life

Up until a few years ago, Jordan Peterson was just a clinical psychologist and psychology professor at the University of Toronto. 

And although he was well-respected by his peers, not many people knew who he was outside of fellow intellectuals and psychologists.

Fast forward to today and the New York Times recently went as far as to say that Peterson is “the most influential public intellectual in the Western World Right Now.”

His deeply profound book, 12 Rules For Life: The Antidote To Chaos, has sold over 5 million copies worldwide. And his Youtube lectures, which are equally eye-opening, have reached hundreds of millions of people across the globe.

If you landed on this article, you’re likely already familiar with Peterson and the life-changing insights that he delivers every time he talks.

So without further ado, here’s the ultimate list of the most powerful Jordan Peterson quotes ever.

 

The Best Jordan Peterson Quotes On Life

Let’s kick off this list of Jordan Peterson quotes with some of his most well-known and most powerful pieces of wisdom.

  • “Compare yourself to who you were yesterday, not who someone else is today.”

 

  • “It’s better to do something badly than to not do it at all.”

 

  • Can you imagine yourself in 10 years if instead of avoiding the things you know you should do, you actually did them every single day – that’s powerful.”

 

  • “Set your house in perfect order before you criticize the world.”

 

  • “When you have something to say, silence is a lie.”

 

gray bridge in a green field

 

  • “With life no matter what you do, you are all in. This is going to kill you. You might as well play the most magnificent game you can. Because do you have anything better to do?”

 

  • “You’re going to pay a price for every bloody thing you do and everything you don’t do.”

 

  • “Our choices determine the destiny of the world. By making a choice, you alter the structure of reality.”

 

  • “Perhaps you are overvaluing what you don’t have and undervaluing what you do.”

 

  • “If you betray yourself, if you say untrue things, if you act out a lie, you weaken your character.”

 

  •  “It’s all very well to think the meaning of life is happiness, but what happens when you’re unhappy? Happiness is a great side effect. When it comes, accept it gratefully. But it’s fleeting and unpredictable.”

 

  • “People create their worlds with the tools they have directly at hand. Faulty tools produce faulty results. Repeated use of the same faulty tools produces the same faulty results.”

 

  • “In order to be able to think, you have to risk being offensive.”

 

  • “If you remember that something bad happened, and you can figure out why, then you can try to avoid that bad thing happening again. That’s the purpose of memory. It’s not to remember the past. It’s to stop the same damn thing from happening over and over.”

 

  • “Truth is the ultimate, inexhaustible natural resource. It’s the light in the darkness.”

 

quote from jordan peterson about truth

 

  • “You can only find out what you actually believe (rather than what you think you believe) by watching how you act. You simply don’t know what you believe, before that. You are too complex to understand yourself.”

 

  • “What is your friend: the things you know, or the things you don’t know. First of all, there’s a lot more things you don’t know. And second, the things you don’t know is the birthplace of all your new knowledge! So if you make the things you don’t know your friend, rather than the things you know, well then you’re always on a quest in a sense.”

 

  • “You cannot be protected from the things that frighten you and hurt you, but if you identify with the part of your being that is responsible for transformation, then you are always the equal, or more than the equal of the things that frighten you.”

 

  • “Nietzsche said that a man’s worth was determined by how much truth he could tolerate.”

 

  • “Did what I want happen? No. Then my aim or my methods were wrong. I still have something to learn.” That is the voice of authenticity. “Did what I want happen? No. Then the world is unfair. People are jealous, and too stupid to understand. It is the fault of something or someone else.” That is the voice of inauthenticity.”

 

  • “You should never sacrifice what you could be for what you are.”

 

  • “That which you most need to find will be found where you least wish to look.”

 

  • “It isn’t precisely that people will fight for what they believe. They will fight, instead, to maintain the match between what they believe, what they expect, and what they desire.”

 

  • “Life is indistinguishable from effortful maintenance”

 

  • “True thinking is rare—just like true listening.”

 

  • “Your wisdom then consists not of the knowledge you already have, but the continual search for knowledge, which is the highest form of wisdom.”

 

  • “Experience is the best teacher, and the worst experiences teach the best lessons.”

 

man in front of a big waterfall

 

  • “If your life is not what it could be, try telling the truth. If you cling desperately to an ideology, or wallow in nihilism, try telling the truth. If you feel weak and rejected, and desperate, and confused, try telling the truth. In paradise, everyone speaks the truth. That is what makes it paradise. Tell the truth. Or, at least, don’t lie.” 

 

  • “The truth is a terrible thing, but not when you compare it with falsehood.”

 

  • “If you have a comprehensive explanation for everything, then it decreases uncertainty and anxiety and reduces your cognitive load. And if you can use that simplifying algorithm to put yourself on the side of moral virtue, then you’re constantly a good person with a minimum of effort.” 

 

  • “You don’t tend to learn unless you’re forced to learn and what you tend to learn by force are difficult lessons.”

 

  • “If you’re going to speak effectively you have to know way more than you’re talking about.”

 

Jordan Peterson Quotes On Purpose & Meaning

At the core of Peterson’s message is the idea that purpose and meaning are the antidotes to the inevitable hardships of life.

Life will do everything it can to break you, but if you have a deeper meaning that can offset the struggles in life, you’re more likely to propel your way forward.

Here are some of the best Jordan Peterson quotes on purpose and meaning.

 

  • “It’s a luxury to pursue what makes you happy; it’s a moral obligation to pursue what you find meaningful.”

 

  • “We cannot navigate, without something to aim at, and while we are in this world, we must always navigate.”

 

  • “Perhaps happiness is always to be found in the journey uphill, and not in the fleeting sense of satisfaction awaiting at the next peak.”

 

photo of a hill with jordan peterson quotes in the background

 

  • “Don’t underestimate the power of vision and direction. These are irresistible forces, able to transform what might appear to be unconquerable obstacles into traversable pathways and expanding opportunities.”

 

  • “Dreams shed light on the dim places where reason itself has yet to voyage.”

 

  • “Say what you mean, so that you can find out what you mean. Act out what you say, so you can find out what happens. Then pay attention. Note your errors. Articulate them. Strive to correct them. That is how you discover the meaning of your life.”

 

  • “There’s a worthy and noble ambition: strength in the face of adversity. That is very different from the wish for a life free of trouble.”

 

  • “When you explore boldly, when you voluntarily confront the unknown, you gather information and build your renewed self out of that information.”

 

  • “Treat yourself like someone you are responsible for helping.”

 

young boy playing with a dog

 

  • “If you dare to do the most difficult thing you can conceptualize your life will work out better than it will if you do anything.”

 

  • “Adopt responsibility for your own well-being, try to put your family together, try to serve your community, try to seek for external truth…That’s the sort of thing that can ground you in your life, enough so that you can withstand the difficulty of life.”

 

  • “You should never give up the better that resides within for the security you already have, and certainly not when you have already caught a glimpse—an undeniable glimpse—of something beyond.” 

 

  • “Take aim against a sea of troubles.”

 

  • “When life suddenly reveals itself as intense, gripping, and meaningful; when time passes and you’re so engrossed in what you’re doing you don’t notice—it is there and then that you are located precisely on the border between order and chaos.”

 

  • “Always place your becoming above your current being.”

 

  • “You should be afraid of taking risks and pursuing something meaningful, but you should be more afraid of staying where you are if it’s making you miserable.”

 

  • “These little things that are right in front of us, they’re not little.” 

 

  • “There is no faith and no courage and no sacrifice in doing what is expedient.”

 

man climbing an ice wall

 

  • “Put the things you can control in order. Repair what is in disorder, and make what is already good better.”

 

  • “When you decide to learn about your faults, so that they can be rectified, you open a line of communication with the source of all revelatory thought.”

 

  • “As pessimistic as I am about the nature of human beings and our capacity for atrocity and malevolence and betrayal and laziness and inertia, and all those things, I think we can transcend all that and set things straight.”

 

Jordan Peterson Quotes On Success

There’s no one size fits all solution to adopting the right habits for success. For some people, being a loving and supporting friend is the highest level of success. For others, serving their community is the highest level of success.

Peterson believes that whatever your version of success is, you need to define it clearly and then take aim. 

Will taking that path be easy? Of course not, but Peterson lays out that it’s really your only choice given that life is a game where you’re all in no matter what.

Here are some of the best Jordan Peterson quotes about success.

 

  • “You must determine where you are going in your life, because you cannot get there unless you move in that direction. Random wandering will not move you forward. It will instead disappoint and frustrate you and make you anxious and unhappy and hard to get along with.”

 

  • “The successful among us delay gratification. The successful among us bargain with the future.”

 

  • “When you dare aspire upward, you reveal the inadequacy of the present and the promise of the future. Then you disturb others, in the depths of their souls, where they understand that their cynicism and immobility are unjustifiable.”

 

  • “There are some games you don’t get to play unless you are all in.”

 

  • “If you are not willing to be a fool, you can’t become a master.”

 

  • “The better ambitions have to do with the development of character and ability, rather than status and power. Status you can lose. You carry character with you wherever you go, and it allows you to prevail against adversity.”

 

  • “The secret to your existence is right in front of you. It manifests itself as all those things you know you should do, but are avoiding.”

 

busy street in chicago

 

  • “What you aim at determines what you see.”

 

  • “If you pay attention, when you are seeking something, you will move towards your goal. More importantly, however, you will acquire the information that allows your goal itself to transform.”

 

  • “You must determine where you have been in your life, so that you can know where you are now. If you don’t know where you are, precisely, then you could be anywhere. Anywhere is too many places to be, and some of those places are very bad. You must determine where you have been in your life, because otherwise you can’t get to where you’re going.”

 

  • “Thus, you need to place one foot in what you have mastered and understood and the other in what you are currently exploring and mastering. Then you have positioned yourself where the terror of existence is under control and you are secure, but where you are also alert and engaged.”

 

  •  “If you’re going to be successful you need to be smart, conscientious, and tough.”

 

  • “You can do an awful lot by writing down what happened to you and thinking it through.”

 

  • “Work as hard as you possibly can on at least one thing and see what happens.”

 

  • “Dress like the person you want to be. Sometimes you have to act out the person you want to be before you become it.”

 

jordan peterson quote about dressing well

 

  • “Stop saying those things that make you weak and ashamed. Say only those things that make you strong. Do only those things that you could speak of with honor.”

 

  •  “If you stand still you fall backwards, you cannot stand still, because the world moves away from you if you stand still. And there is no stasis. There is only backwards.” 

 

  • “You must determine where you are going, so that you can bargain for yourself; so that you don’t end up resentful, vengeful, and cruel.” 

 

  • “We require routine and tradition. That’s order. Order can become excessive, and that’s not good, but chaos can swamp us, so we drown—and that is also not good. We need to stay on the straight and narrow path.”

 

  •  “Not everyone who is failing is a victim, and not everyone at the bottom wishes to rise, although many do, and many manage it.”

 

  • “It’s easier to put off until tomorrow what needs to be done today, and drown the upcoming months and years in today’s cheap pleasures.”

 

  • “Speak your mind. Put your desires forward, as if you had a right to them—at least the same right as others.”

 

  •  “It might even be time to sacrifice what you love best, so that you can become who you might become, instead of staying who you are.”

 

  • “Anything that you let win grows. Don’t practice what you don’t want to become.” 

 

green plant growing out of the ground

 

  • “If you can think and speak and write, you are absolutely deadly, nothing can get in your way.” 

 

  • “A harmless man is not a good man. A good man is a very, very dangerous man who has it under voluntary control.”

 

  • “In virtually every freedom that you have in life, that’s true freedom, is purchased at the price of discipline.” 

 

  • “If you stop talking to people who aren’t listening to you and start watching them instead, they will tell you what they’re up to.”

 

Jordan Peterson Quotes About Relationships

You are who you surround yourself with. That’s why picking the right friends and partners are a crucial ingredient to striving towards the best version of yourself.

Surrounded by the wrong people, you can end up bitter, resentful, and angry at the world. Surrounded by the right people, you’ll find reasons to be happy and feel more motivated to overcome the challenges you face. 

Continuing with this list of Jordan Peterson quotes, here’s some of his best about the nature of friendship and romantic relationships. 

 

  • “If you can’t understand why someone is doing something, look at the consequences of their actions, whatever they might be, and then infer the motivations from their consequences.”

 

  • “If you surround yourself with people who support your upward aim, they will not tolerate your cynicism and destructiveness. They will instead encourage you when you do good for yourself and others and punish you carefully when you do not.”

 

  • “You have to articulate your own principles, so that you can defend yourself against others’ taking inappropriate advantage of you, and so that you are secure and safe while you work and play.”

 

  • “Friendship is a reciprocal arrangement.”

 

  • “Assume that the person you are listening to might know something you don’t.”

 

two people talking

 

  • “People organize their brains with conversation. If they don’t have anyone to tell their story to, they lose their minds. Like hoarders, they cannot unclutter themselves.”

 

  • “It’s appropriate and praiseworthy to associate with people whose lives would be improved if they saw your life improve.”

 

  • “We outsource the problem of sanity. People remain mentally healthy not merely because of the integrity of their own minds, but because they are constantly being reminded how to think, act, and speak by those around them.”

 

  • “Here’s something to consider: If you have a friend whose friendship you wouldn’t recommend to your sister, or your father, or your son, why would you have such a friend for yourself? You might say: out of loyalty. Well, loyalty is not identical to stupidity. Loyalty must be negotiated, fairly and honestly.”

 

  • “If you will not reveal yourself to others, you cannot reveal yourself to yourself. That does not only mean that you suppress who you are, although it also means that. It means that so much of what you could be will never be forced by necessity to come forward.”

 

  • “Love is the desire to see unnecessary suffering ameliorated.”

 

  • “Make friends with people who want the best for you.”

 

  • “If you don’t stand your ground, then all that happens is people push you backwards.”

 

man looking out at the ocean

 

  • “Women deeply want men who are competent and powerful. And I don’t mean power in that they can exert tyrannical control over others. That’s not power. That’s just corruption.”

 

  • “It’s in responsibility that most people find the meaning that sustains them through life. It’s not in happiness. It’s not in impulsive pleasure.”

 

  •  “Be good company when something fun is happening, so that you’re invited for the fun.”

 

  • “Women’s proclivity to say no, more than any other force, has shaped our evolution into the creative, industrious, upright, large-brained creatures that we are.”

 

  • “Women select men. That makes them nature, because nature is what selects.”

 

  • “Your life isn’t margaritas on a beach in Jamaica. That happens now and then. Those are exceptions. Your life is how your wife greets you at the door when you come home every day, ’cause that’s like 10 minutes a day. Your life is how you treat each other over the breakfast table, ’cause that’s an hour and a half or an hour every single day. You get those mundane things right, those things you do every day. You concentrate on them and you make them pristine. It’s like you got 80% of your life put together. These little things that are right in front of us, they’re not little.” 

 

  • “It takes careful observation, and education, and self-reflection, and communication with others, just to scratch the surface of your beliefs.”

 

  • “Sometimes, when people have a low opinion of their own worth—or, perhaps, when they refuse responsibility for their lives—they choose a new acquaintance, of precisely the type who proved troublesome in the past. Such people don’t believe that they deserve any better—so they don’t go looking for it. Or, perhaps, they don’t want the trouble of better.”

 

Quotes From Jordan Peterson About Responsibility

Central to Peterson’s philosophy about what it means to live a good life is adopting responsibility.

When you take responsibility for addressing the things keeping you stuck, you’re committing to a life that’s filled with stress, anxiety, and adversity. 

But as Peterson routinely mentions, what’s the alternative? Avoiding the burdens you need to bear simply leads to more misery, unhappiness, and anxiety in the long-term, even if it alleviates discomfort in the short-term.

Life is a game where you’re all in no matter what. No matter what you do, you’re not going to make it out alive.

Here are some of the best Jordan Peterson quotes about taking responsibility for your life and playing the most magnificent game you can.

 

  • “To stand up straight with your shoulders back is to accept the terrible responsibility of life with eyes wide open.”

 

  • “We must each adopt as much responsibility as possible for individual life, society and the world.”

 

  • “You must be cautious, because making your life better means adopting a lot of responsibility, and that takes more effort and care than living stupidly in pain and remaining arrogant, deceitful, and resentful.”

 

  • “Confront the chaos of being. Take aim against a sea of troubles. Specify your destination, and chart your course. Admit to what you want. Tell those around you who you are. Narrow and gaze attentively, and move forward, forthrightly. Be precise in your speech.”

 

  • “We require rules, standards, values— alone and together. We’re pack animals, beasts of burden. We must bear a load, to justify our miserable existence.”

 

  • “It is necessary to be strong in the face of death, because death is intrinsic to life. It is for this reason that I tell my students: aim to be the person at your father’s funeral that everyone, in their grief and misery, can rely on. There’s a worthy and noble ambition: strength in the face of adversity.”

 

  • “The light that you discover in your life is proportionate to the amount of the darkness you are willing to forthrightly confront.”

 

  • “Face the demands of life voluntarily. Respond to a challenge, instead of bracing for catastrophe.”

 

two paths in the woods with jordan peterson quote in the background

 

  • “The way that you make people resilient is by voluntarily exposing them to things that they are afraid of and that makes them uncomfortable.”

 

  • “You must keep the promises you make to yourself, and reward yourself, so that you can trust and motivate yourself.”

 

  • “Confront the chaos of being.”

 

  • “We must each adopt as much responsibility as possible for individual life, society and the world.”

 

  • “You should be humble enough to understand that if you can’t order your own life, you shouldn’t be trying to order anything more complicated than that.”

 

  • “Notice that opportunity lurks where responsibility has been abdicated.”

 

  • “It is my firm belief that the best way to fix the world—a handyman’s dream, if ever there was one—is to fix yourself.”

 

  • “You don’t want to be secure, you want to be strong. And you get strong by taking on optimal challenges.”

 

runner climbing over an obstacle

 

  • “If you over-coddle people, if you protect them from everything that’s sharp, you make them dull and narcissistic.”

 

  • “The soul of the individual eternally hungers for the heroism of genuine being, and that the willingness to take on that responsibility is identical to the decision to live a meaningful life.”

 

  • “If you tell enough lies, often enough, the truth will become entirely hidden from you, and then you are in hell.” 

 

  • “The proper way to fix the world isn’t to fix the world. There’s no reason to assume that you’re even up to such a task. But you can fix yourself. You’ll do no one any harm by doing so, and in that manner at least, you will make the world a better place.”

 

  • “I don’t tell people, ‘You’re okay the way that you are.’ That’s not the right story. The right story is, ‘You’re way less than you could be.’”

 

Jordan Peterson Quotes on Suffering

One of the key philosophies that Peterson echoes constantly is that life is suffering.

At first, this idea was confusing to me. How can someone so inspirational possess a worldview that seems so negative?

Yet, the truth is that he’s right. Life is filled with horrors that we have no control over — sudden deaths in the family, natural disasters, inexplicable human atrocities, etc.

Suffering is an inevitable part of life. As human beings, we’re not meant to avoid suffering, we’re meant to find meaning so that the suffering becomes bearable.

That’s Peterson’s main message — you can’t avoid suffering, but you can offset it by pursuing the highest possible good you can conceive of.

With that in mind, here’s some of the best Jordan Peterson quotes on suffering.

 

  • “To suffer terribly and to know yourself as the cause: that is Hell.”

 

  • “The purpose of life, as far as I can tell… is to find a mode of being that’s so meaningful that the fact that life is suffering is no longer relevant.”

 

  • “You cannot be protected from the things that frighten you and hurt you, but if you identify with the part of your being that is responsible for transformation, then you are always the equal, or more than the equal of the things that frighten you.”

 

  • “You don’t get to choose not to pay a price, you only get to choose which price you pay”

 

narrow highway

 

  • “It’s a luxury to pursue what makes you happy; it’s a moral obligation to pursue what you find meaningful.”

 

  • “We require rules, standards, values— alone and together. We’re pack animals, beasts of burden. We must bear a load, to justify our miserable existence.”

 

  • “The purpose of life is finding the largest burden that you can bear and bearing it.”

 

  • “Maybe your misery is the weapon you brandish in your hatred for those who rose upward while you waited and sank. Maybe your misery is your attempt to prove the world’s injustice, instead of the evidence of your own sin, your missing of the mark, your conscious refusal to strive and live.”

 

  • “Chaos is where we are when we don’t know where we are, and what we are doing when we don’t know what we are doing. It is, in short, all those things and situations we neither know nor understand.”

 

  • “Your inaction, inertia and cynicism removes from the world that part of you that could learn to quell suffering and make peace.”

 

  • “Be grateful in spite of your suffering.”

 

  • “Self-love is the antidote to the chaos of existence. And if you don’t love and care for yourself and your own needs, you will cause unnecessary suffering for both yourself and others.”

 

  • “In a crisis, the inevitable suffering that life entails can rapidly make a mockery of the idea that happiness is the proper pursuit of the individual.”

 

  • “The more radical the necessary change the more pain that accompanies it.”

 

jordan peterson quote about change

 

  • “Rejection of the unknown is tantamount to identification with the devil.”

 

  • “Weak and miserable as I am, I can still stand up to the terrible tragedy of life and prevail.”

 

  • “Who do you want to be when there’s a crisis? Do you want to be the person that everyone can turn to for strength? Why the hell not? Why not that as a goal? That’d be good goal. Because then when there’s a crisis, it won’t be such a bloody crisis because there’s someone there that can deal with it.”

 

Final Thoughts 

Well, that wraps up this list of the best Jordan Peterson quotes of all-time.

Peterson’s words certainly don’t inspire that ra-ra, feel-good perspective on life. As you probably noticed, some of his most hard-hitting quotes are actually quite dark. 

However, that’s likely why his message has resonated with so many people, including myself. He’s not denying the fact that you have every reason to feel anxious and depressed on a daily basis.

He even goes as far as to say that you’d be crazy not to experience these emotions, because the world can be a pretty brutal place.

At the same time though, he believes that taking on responsibility and building a meaningful life is the only way to make the suffering bearable.

If you enjoyed this list of Jordan Peterson quotes, be sure to check out these articles too!

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