I’ve been listening lately to lectures by Dr. Jordan B. Peterson, a Professor of Psychology at the University of Toronto, whose complex thoughts attract me with their depth and insight. When you listen to him, you need to stop doing anything else and truly listen. He speaks quickly and packs each sentence with layers of meaning. But listening thoughtfully is worth the effort it requires of you.
One of the ideas he conveyed in the lectures I heard this week is that dragons, in mythology, represented (among other things) chaos. And that slaying them makes you a hero.
Our own lives are a constant battle between chaos and order, and to be a hero in your own life means you slay the dragons that are bringing chaos to it so that you can have less confusion and greater clarity and competence in your life.
The first step in battling your dragons is the toughest. You have to face the fact that they’re there. You know that they are, and that they’re keeping you from being all that you can be.
Dr. Peterson says that the secret of overcoming your dragons is to take responsibility for them. Taking responsibility builds you character and gives your life meaning. It allows you to aim for a living on a higher level than you are now.
Here’s how he says to do it. You know there are things in your life that aren’t in order, where you’re not together, and they’re causing you some discomfort or suffering. Every morning, or every night, ask yourself what those things are.
Ask as if you’re asking someone you really want the answer from, not telling yourself or preaching, but sincerely asking what need to be put in order. You can easily name five of them he says, “Bang. Bang. Bang.” These are the little dragons of chaos. “And they’re just little, but that’s good, because you’re not much of a hero warrior, so maybe little dragons are all you can put up with right now.” So you name them and the begin sorting them out.
You ask yourself which one you’ll put some work into, even if the work is tedious or boring, or whatever it is that’s been allowing you to put it off. And you do the work. You sort those things out.
And what happens is it will bring more order into your life and when you wake up tomorrow, you’ll be just a little more focused and together. Then you ask the same question, and the next problems will be a little more complex and challenging, and you sort those out. And you keep going with this, and you become stronger and more clear-headed for the next set of dragons you take on.
If you continue to do that, you’ll find that your room gets cleaned, your health improves, and your house gets put in order, and then maybe you can stick a finger out and begin looking at the dragons in your community. By that time, you’ll have some real personal power and self-confidence, and some practice at identifying dragons and taking them on.
Now that, he says, is an interesting and exciting game. “If you started doing the things that you know you should do and you did that diligently, what the hell would you be like in ten years?” You might not reach the very pinnacle, but you’ll be a lot better off than you are now, a lot less self-pitying and resentful, with a lot less suffering in your life, a lot less cruel to yourself and other people. “And that’s a pretty good start.”
So here’s to slaying dragons. Which ones will you start with today?
Wishing you a sharp sword and hearty determination!