The Evolution Gap and Rule Four

Jul 24, 2023

Compare Yourself to Who You Were Yesterday, Not to Who Someone Else Is Today

Jordan Peterson’s fourth rule in his book, 12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos, advises us to “Compare yourself to who you were yesterday, not to who someone else is today.” This rule seeks to shift our focus from external comparisons to self-improvement and personal growth. Analyzing this rule through the lens of the Evolution Gap presents us with intriguing perspectives on the social dynamics of our evolutionary past and the unique pressures of the modern world.

The Evolution Gap contrasts the slow pace of our genetic evolution and the swift changes in our societal and technological environments. The advent of social media, in particular, has created an environment that fosters constant comparison with others, a phenomenon that is amplified by our instinctual concern for social status, which had clear survival benefits in our evolutionary past.

In our ancestral environments, accurately comparing ourselves to others was crucial for survival. Social hierarchies determined access to resources, and understanding one’s place within the group hierarchy could mean the difference between life and death. However, these comparisons were typically local and tangible – between individuals who shared the same environment and faced similar challenges.

In the modern world, digital platforms expose us to a global stage where we compare ourselves with individuals in vastly different circumstances, often presenting idealized versions of their lives. This has drastically magnified our propensity to compare ourselves with others, leading to feelings of inadequacy, anxiety, and discontent. In this context, the Evolution Gap manifests itself, creating an environment that can be detrimental to our mental health and well-being.

In response, Peterson’s fourth rule encourages us to shift the benchmark for comparison from others to ourselves. Rather than becoming entangled in the endless cycle of external comparison, we should focus on our personal progress. This aligns with our inherent drive for self-improvement and adapts it to the realities of the modern world.

This approach allows us to recognize and celebrate our progress, however small it may be. It fosters a growth mindset, which encourages learning and resilience, as opposed to a fixed mindset, which can often lead to feelings of stagnation and despair. By focusing on our personal growth, we can create more fulfilling and productive lives.

In conclusion, through the lens of the Evolution Gap, Peterson’s fourth rule provides a powerful strategy for navigating the social dynamics of the modern world. It helps us reclaim control over our sense of self-worth and progress, steering us away from the trap of external comparisons and towards a healthier focus on self-improvement and personal growth. This interpretation underscores the rule’s relevance in today’s world, highlighting its potential to promote mental well-being and resilience in rapid societal and technological change.

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