Lesson 1: When confronted with failure, you should either quit or settle.

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Photo by Feliphe Schiarolli on Unsplash

Our current education system is one that molds students into a desirable output — productive workers in society — and disregards whatever does not conform to its model.

In fact, the American education model was created to mimic and prepare its recipients for factory life.

“The American education model…was actually copied from the 18th-century Prussian model designed to create docile subjects and factory workers.” — David Brooks, writer for the New York Times

Unlike many other parts of society, which have adapted to the rapidly changing times, our education system lags far behind.

Though the system has undergone measures of reform, it ultimately still maintains its roots of “regimentation, lack of individualization, rigid systems of seating, grouping, grading, and marking,” according to Alvin Toffler in his book Future Shock. …


“Letting results dictate action is contradictory.”

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Photo by Daria Nepriakhina on Unsplash

Ideas adapted from “Atomic Habits” by James Clear.

Almost every person I’ve met has thought about changing some aspect of their life. Some people merely wish for better days without doing anything about it, but a significant proportion of people will take some sort of action because they want to improve their lives. Undoubtedly the most popular form of self-improvement is setting goals.

Setting goals is important, but it’s not enough.

Accomplishing goals will rarely change long-term behavior.

Living by goals has a “yo-yo” effect, bouncing between accomplishing goals and the time in between these accomplishments.

Goal-setting is inefficient if the time between goals is spent reverting back to old habits instead of developing long-term solutions. …


Don’t just practice gratitude — make it a mindset.

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Photo by Paulius Dragunas on Unsplash

Almost everybody who has read self-help on Medium or any sort of self-improvement book has likely stumbled across the importance of practicing gratitude.

A lot of self-help content deals with being completely honest with yourself and working on the areas of your life that suck the most. I think this is valid advice, and have followed it myself.

However, personal change involves a lot of reflection and assessment. While these are useful, too much of these two practices can result in self-criticism and judgment. Here’s where gratitude comes in.

Practicing gratitude helps shift your focus in a positive direction. Instead of focusing your energy on lack, you are able to focus on areas of abundance.


Using an Analogy About Physics

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Photo by Fractal Hassan on Unsplash

Privilege is a concept that in itself, is completely invisible. We are able to recognize it through its many effects —in other words, once you learn about privilege, you are able to connect many events and phenomena to it.

However, many people don’t believe in what they can’t see, which begs the analogy: Privilege is like physics.

The Unseen Effects of Privilege

Invisible phenomena take the most effort to understand. Take physics, for example. Anybody who has taken a basic physics class knows that the physics concepts have applications in other subjects such as biology or chemistry, and also in everyday life.

Physics is the baseline upon which chemistry and biology are built, and it exists whether we choose to believe it or not. …


Instead of thinking about what the world should offer to you, think about what you can offer to the world.

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Photo by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash

Once you figure out your passion, chase that dream and you will find fulfillment.

Follow your passion, and work won’t feel like work.

These popular bits of career advice tend to fall under a branch of thinking called the passion hypothesis, which Cal Newport debunks in his book “So Good They Can’t Ignore You.”

This hypothesis suggests that everyone has a passion for something — they just have to find it and pursue it.

More often than not, this popular bit of career advice will do more harm than good. …


Because the way that I love a random dog passing by on the street is not the same way that I love my family.

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Photo by Everton Vila on Unsplash

When expressing love to friends, family, a romantic partner, or a cute dog, the type of love being expressed is arguably different for each scenario.

The phrase “I love you” is not sufficient to truly encompass the vastly different situations that it is used to describe, and we use this phrase so frequently that it has begun to lose value.

I love you. What does that really mean?

I’m falling in love with you. I care about your well-being. I choose you. I admire you. I am drawn to you. I respect you. I appreciate you. I want you in my life. I love your potential.

All of these alternatives mean slightly different things, but the phrase “I love you” somehow encompasses all of them simultaneously.


Writing down my thoughts physically slows them down.

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Photo by Jess Bailey on Unsplash

In my first year of college, I was anxious all the time. It was likely a result of not sleeping enough combined with stress. The pinching feeling in my chest haunted me to the extent that I couldn’t sleep at night.

For me, anxiety manifests in a quick heartbeat and a tight feeling in my chest, despite the fact that it simultaneously feels like my chest will explode.

Anxiety looks different for every person experiencing it, and it has many different triggers — I feel anxious when I am overwhelmed, worried, or frustrated.

The summer after my first year of college, I started journaling. Originally, it was meant to be a means to organize my thoughts and identify my personal beliefs. As I began to write more, it became a release of my unfiltered thoughts. …


Choose the type of autopilot you run on.

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Photo by Erlend Ekseth on Unsplash

Your hours become your days, your days become your months, your months become your years, and your years become your life.

This straightforward idea has a takeaway that is missed by many:
What we do every day has a greater effect on our future than we can comprehend.

Many people underestimate the power of consistency — they want to be rich, successful, happy, confident, but they spend their days doing nothing to get there.

Doing more of anything consistently compounds its effects.

An investment doesn’t start to pay off until years later. A business is never successful on its first day. Similarly, one candy bar won’t kill you, but a consistently poor diet will result in health problems. …


When they actually assert willpower less often.

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Photo by Danielle MacInnes on Unsplash

A common idea in society today is that the most disciplined and successful people are in possession of huge amounts of self-control. After all, how can they achieve so much without it?

However, assuming that these people have more self-control than the normal person is not necessarily true.

The difference between self-control and discipline.

Self-control requires willpower — it takes a conscious effort to resist something attractive or desirable. From the word itself, self-control implies a resistance within one’s own identity.

Discipline, on the other hand, is a mostly unconscious action. Habits formed over time create effective systems, and these systems drive discipline. …


Instead of focusing on what you want to get rid of, focus on what you truly want to keep.

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Photo by Dan Gold on Unsplash

When most people picture minimalism, they envision a sleek white room with almost no possessions. This is a stereotypical and mostly inaccurate representation of what it means to be minimalistic.

Practicing minimalism means only keeping what is necessary.

This is where most people get the wrong idea.

What if I want to keep this painting I made in college? Technically, it’s not necessary, but I really like it.

In the case of minimalism, the word necessary does not have to mean bare necessities. In our modern and consumeristic society, it makes sense to want to keep more than one shirt.

What’s deemed “necessary” will differ from person to person. …

About

Amy Tang

Avid learner and self-improvement junkie. I write about self, habits, education, and growth.

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