Updated: Feb 16, 2022
The Highest Possible Good, and Who You Need Help From to Achieve it
Written by Vivienne Juan, Associate Elect Partner
“There is no more effective way of operating in the world than to conceptualise the highest good that you can, and then strive to attain it. There’s no more practical pathway to the kind of success that you could have, if you actually knew what success was…”
~Dr Jordan Peterson
While there are many different ways one could describe success, surely the ultimate success is the kind that is the highest possible ideal, and actually getting there, and achieving that in your lifetime. But what does it take? And from whom do you need help to make it happen?
I’ve written another blog on how to live a truly authentic and meaningful life full of purpose, but this one focuses more on the what and with whom. I’ve curated a few YouTube Shorts videos of Dr Jordan Peterson to help us answer this question together, the first of which includes the quote above. Let’s take a look at what he has to say:
The highest ideal? Well, it’s not in sweating the small stuff. It’s in seeing the bigger picture. The biggest picture. For Dr Peterson, that means starting with God.
“But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.” ~Matthew 6:33
Whether you identify as Christian or atheist, or anything in between, you will have some sort of visualisation for the highest ideal — a better, brighter future, whether for you or your children; their progeny, their prosperity. Surely all our ideal worlds will have these in common:
Children are kept innocent and safe
People are free from tyranny
Our earthly environment is clean and thriving
We can all agree that if we have some level of health in us, we will want the "Kingdom of God"… Or the [insert your preferred highest-ideal-descriptor here].
We’re All Striving for the Same Thing
So what we’re learning is, a Christian understanding of God’s Kingdom could be roughly comparable, in many ways, to an atheistic definition of the highest possible good. And who doesn’t want that for themselves and their loved ones? I think we’d be hard-pressed to find anyone healthy who would limit their aspirations to the worst possible good!
Now we have a mutually understood concept of the highest good. We’ve got the ‘What’. But now comes the more difficult part: the ‘How’. Often we can become so overwhelmed with our lofty dreams that we turn into stunned hares in the headlights, or tortoises retreating into our shells. Yet neither paralysis nor hiding will get us anywhere close to extraordinary.
We’ve got to follow through. We must set upon the pathway to success to actually get there, which isn’t easy, so we’re going to need some help. This next short video is another snippet from Dr Peterson, describing who you might want to consider as a mentor.
The Best Example of a Human Being we can Strive Towards
As Dr Peterson says, whether you are Christian or a psychologist, the person of Jesus Christ could be defined as the ultimate mentor, when it comes to the ultimate battle that is life.
Think Star Wars: The Rebel Alliance Vs the Empire; Jedi Vs Sith. Good Vs Evil. Christ would be the ultimate Grand Jedi Master. Wouldn’t you want to be his eager Padawan (mentee)? Basically, you are going to want the support of the best out there to help you reach, develop, and maximise your highest potential. Whether we're talking about Jesus Christ or karate master Mr Miyagi, we'd want them to have characteristics like this:
Wise teachings with clear and firm instruction and discipline
Forgiving when you get it wrong
Loves you and has your best interests at heart
The Opposite of the Highest Ideal
Let’s consider the other end of the continuum for a moment. The most base, degenerate abomination. Living that, being that… Well, that sounds like hell, right? What do you think about the following few points:
Children drinking foul water contaminated with faeces
People being abused, physically, emotionally, sexually in all corners of society
Teenagers self-harming and ending their own lives with suicide
What is our response to that?! We are closer to living hell every day than we are to any notion of perfection we could try to attain, yet try we do!
Why try though, if perfection is, by definition, unattainable by fallible and imperfect humans? Well, it’s a continuum of course, and we intuitively feel we want to be as close to the positive side as we can. Here’s one last video from Dr Peterson on why understanding the opposite of the highest ideal matters, on our quest to fulfil our highest good.
You can see it’s a deeply emotional subject for Dr Peterson, to contemplate the existence of damning someone to hell.
We Create Our Own Hell… But We Can Choose Not To
The significance here is his mention of the contribution of our own individual iniquity. It’s the multiple deep-seated and dark depravities in each of us which we dare not look at, let alone speak of, that make up our own personal hell, and the collective manifestations of it in humanity.
If we love ourselves enough, as part of the work we must do to become the best version of ourselves, we must simultaneously strive for the good and increasingly let go of the bad in our lives. Cultivate what is healthy while rooting out what’s not. You don’t intentionally plant weeds when you’re creating a garden of roses, after all. You reap what you sow.
Indeed, if we want the highest ideal for ourselves, it follows that we ought to want it for our loved ones as well, and ought to aim to guide them away from degeneration, into regeneration and thriving. This not only serves them, but it serves us as well!
Our Highest Potential is in Each Other
We experience reaching our potential the most when we create value in order to benevolently serve others. Think about how much energy you had put into making a drawing for your parents as a kid. Or the feeling you get when everyone yells “SURPRISE!” for your friend’s birthday party that you organised in secret. Or how your heart bursts with love even when it’s hurting, helping your child through being bullied at school.
We get glimpses of meaning and purpose in the way we serve each other. So when aiming at that highest ideal, being part of a community that empowers and encourages each other to do so has got to be the context. Then it also helps to have the ultimate mentor on our side, and to know what we’re not aiming for, so we can be guided and supported in our endeavours and can counsel each other against shooting at the wrong targets.
To learn more about the difficult, painful, but deeply liberating journey of realising our potential, here is a very personal account from our community. Learn more about mentorship with Lighthouse International on our mentoring & coaching page, or join a support group or response forum to find out how you can help or be helped!
Have a question? To send me feedback or share your thoughts,
please do get in touch and drop me an email — I’ll be happy to hear from you.