Healthy Spirit

Rules for life

Psychologist’s book can help you with questions large and small.


December is a tough month. The holidays mean you have more time on your hands. What to do with this free time? There is the pressure of shopping for just the right gifts for each of your loved ones. Gift cards are great but not very personal. Then, of course, comes New Year’s Eve and you have to start thinking of the next year stretching out before you. What will you do to make it different, better, meaningful? That’s a lot of heavy lifting for a single month.

Well, I am going to make it easier for you. I am going to solve all three issues for you: what to do with your free time, what to buy others for the holidays, and how to make 2019 a better year than 2018. How? Read on.

Life is complicated. Whether you are 6, 16, or 60, you already know that. Looking around you, it seems the common denominators of modern life are instability, insecurity, and, at times, insanity. Chaos is often the order of the day. In a constantly shifting moral landscape, many, if not most, of the traditional values have been tossed aside in favor of a relativistic approach to life in which there are no absolutes and no trustworthy guidelines. It is no wonder that many people, especially Gen Xers and millennials, feel adrift. It is easy to feel insignificant and powerless. How can you, as a single person, really make an impact or be a force for good in such a crazy world? How can anyone?

I recently read a book that was life changing. I don’t say that lightly. There are only a handful of books that I can say really impacted the direction of my life in a significant way. The Bible, of course, is a moral compass and the best explanation of the human condition I know of. Its story of sacrificial love has no equal. The books of C.S. Lewis had a huge impact on my thinking and world view. “The Making of a Surgeon,” by William Nolan, set me on my path to a career in medicine and surgery. “Born to Run,” by Christopher McDougall, made me see myself in a totally new way and explained my love, no, my need, to run simply because that is how my body is designed and it is my nature.

The latest was “12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos,” by Dr. Jordan Peterson. He is a clinical psychologist who teaches at the University of Toronto and has a clinical practice in psychology as well. He recently attained a degree of notoriety for his stance against legislation passed in Canada making refusal to use a person’s preferred personal pronouns tantamount to a hate crime and subject to sanctions and penalties. Some individuals do not identify with one gender or another and do not want to be referred to as “he” or “she.” Instead, they choose from pronouns such as ze, zir, vey, tey, and ve. Refusal to use these, and the list is a very long one, is now prohibited.

Peterson calls the forcible use of these pronouns coerced speech. His position has made him a viral sensation and a lightning rod. Peterson is one of those individuals who seem to rise up in every generation to address the issues of the day. He writes in a way that is thoughtful, insightful, and unique. You may disagree with him, but he makes you think and, if you are honest, question some of your most deeply held opinions and convictions. I have a name for people like Peterson. I call them “clear thinkers” because they can take complex issues and distill them down to their core principles. There are people who can take complex issues and articulate them in a way that makes you say, “I never thought of it that way.” Peterson is one of them.

“12 Rules for Life” is just that. Each chapter expounds on a rule that Peterson came up with over a lifetime of living, study, and application. The title of the first chapter sounds ridiculously simple and obvious: “Stand up straight with your shoulders back.” After a lifetime of having parents, teachers, and spouses telling us not to slouch, do we really need to hear this again, or buy a book that says the same thing? But wait. Peterson begins the chapter talking about…lobsters. Lobsters? What do lobsters have to do with anything related to how we live our lives? I won’t spoil it for you. Suffice it to say that you will never go to Red Lobster and see the lobsters in the tank in the same way again. As I said, he sees things differently.

Other chapters are similarly full of surprises. Chapter titles include: “Treat yourself like someone you are responsible for helping,” “Do not let your children do anything that makes you dislike them,” “Put your house in order before you criticize the world,” “Do not bother children when they are skateboarding,” and “Pet a cat when you encounter one on the street.” I leave it to your imagination to predict what these are about. You almost certainly will be wrong.

Once I picked up “12 Rules,” I hardly could put it down. If I could have, I would have read it in one sitting. Having finished it, I am now rereading it, more slowly and deliberately this time. It is that kind of book.

So, as you contemplate your free time, what gifts to buy, and how to set your path right in 2019, I offer this suggestion: Buy Peterson’s book and kill three birds with one stone. You will thank me.

(Disclaimer: I do not have any stake in the sales of this book, no commission, etc. I recommend it because it is a great book and may set you on a path to healthier living. After all, that’s what this magazine is all about.)


About the writer

Dr. Richard T. Bosshardt graduated from the University of Miami School of Medicine in 1978. He founded Bosshardt & Marzek Plastic Surgery Associates, Lake County’s first practice to provide full-time cosmetic and reconstructive plastic surgery services, in 1989.

About the author

Rick Bosshardt, M.D., FACS

Richard Bosshardt, M.D., graduated from the University of Miami School of Medicine in 1978. He founded Bosshardt & Marzek Plastic Surgery Associates, Lake County’s first practice to provide full-time cosmetic and reconstructive plastic surgery services, in 1989.

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