As toddlers, life was pretty easy (for most of us). We cried when we wanted something, pooped our pants, and napped all day. When we got old enough to walk and talk, a large majority of us were phased in the public educational system. We were indoctrinated into pre-kindergarten, which was basically daycare; a year after, kindergarten; then onto 1st grade and beyond until you are to graduate with your cap and gown upon the completion of your 12th year; unless, of course, you flunk a grade level and are required to repeat the previous year before progressing.

The Breakdown

Each year you progress throughout grade levels, the more critical your evaluations become (or, report cards, as they're called.)

Recess and naptime is abandoned, offering restless children an uncomfortable environment to fully learn. It has been proven that napping after studying can help to absorb material better, yet we overlook that, trying to cram in several subject matters throughout the course of a day.

The public school system was developed to raise children to be fit for work in a factory environment; basically robots, producing products with no concious thought. It went for months throughout the year, excluding summer, in which case kids were to assist their family in tending to the farm.

Today, we still abide by the same obsolete model for teaching our youth. Some institutions are taking a more progressive approach toward education, but they are few and far between. It goes without saying that education differentiates among each continent, Asian countries ranking top in placing a heavy emphasis on education.

The Problem

The criteria you are required to absorb and burn into your brain is monitored by the board of education, with little to no regard of the usefulness of such content. Your ability to memorize and regurgitate the content is evaluated by a standardized test (with the occasional free-response or critical-thinking question.) While it is imperative to learn of the current state of the world and what got us here (history repeats itself), we mustn't place so much emphasis on irrelevant topics. History books are written and revised, important content discarded and misrepresented, encouraging ignorance among all.

"I have never let schooling interfere with my education." -Mark Twain

Since this is a one-size-fits-all approach, obviously some children will lose interest. Everyone learns differently, be it through auditory, visual, physical, or whatever, these individual preferences are not accounted for. So you have a small percentage of kids who actually learn and absorb the data, while a disproportionate amount are left clueless and confused. The latter half is labeled "dumb", and since they cannot learn anything, they are informed they have a learning disorder, such as ADD, and are therefore prescribed drugs to tame them. This, is turn, creates a vicious cycle that could lead to a downward spiral of addiction or more severe health complications.

In order to become fully engaged in learning, one must use all senses available. Some may get excited and want to jump up and down; this is unacceptable in most classroom environments as you are bound to the confines of your desk. If you get too rowdy, you are rewarded an infraction for your evaluation report.

Teachers Don't Get Paid Enough

The ones with arguably one of the most important jobs on the planet receive a lousy paycheck for the effort required. Raising the future generation, their salary is minute compared to what it should be. Professional athletes get paid millions to throw a ball around, whereas the amount teachers receieve is embarassing.

We've all had our fair share of good and bad teachers; those that made you absolutely despise a subject due to their instruction or lack of enthusiasm, and those that were passionate about their profession and worked overtime to provide us with valuable information, leaving us craving more. Our instructors have a large emphasis on our future, so ensuring that these individuals are payed appropriately ensures they have an incentive to thrive.

Knowledge Is Power

There is a fine line marking the difference between knowledge and education. Being educated simply means being aware of facts, while knowledge applies to using these facts to produce an accurate result. Take for instance a college student and someone who went to a trade school. While the college students were busy learning the facts, the trade students were applying practical, real-world information to produce results. When it comes time to graduate, the college students will have a nifty degree and accreditation, whereas trade students will not only posess the same, but also hands-on skills. Neither is better than the other; only the relevance to your goals is the difference.

Student of Life

A lot of people have never picked up a book since they last graduated. Forced to scan textbooks cover to cover, learning what they are told, it's no wonder why. Such environments breed disgust for a book, and reading for leisure is never considered an option. Once you get your degree, what's the point, right?

Wrong. Look at everyone who was ever worth a damn, who've done something worthwhile, and then look at their library. The "secret" to success is no secret at all- smart people know that knowledge is key, so they are continually reading and learning new material.

We challenge you to take another viewpoint toward life: always be a student. Never stop learning and feeding your mind. Focus on text that is relevant to your job or career path, information that will help you reach your goals, and don't forget to get lost in the occasional fictional book.

We all have something to learn from one another. Get out there, challenge your beliefs, and always question everything. For an expanding list of self-empowering literature, check out this post.

"Why have so many schools reduced the time and emphasis they place on art, music, and physical education? The answer is beyond simple: those areas aren’t measured on the all-important tests. You know where those areas are measured… in life! Art, music, and a healthy lifestyle help us develop a richer, deeper, and more balanced perspective. Never before have we needed more of an emphasis on the development of creativity, but schools have gone the exact opposite direction in an effort to make the best test-taking automatons possible. Our economy no longer rewards people for blindly following rules and becoming a cog in the machine. We need risk-takers, outside-the-box thinkers, and entrepreneurs; our school systems do the next generation a great disservice by discouraging these very skills and attitudes. Instead of helping and encouraging them to find and develop their unique strengths, they're told to shut up, put the cell phones away, memorize these facts and fill in the bubbles." -Dave Burgess

The Mindful Family Unit

For those interested in the pursuit of a more mindful, enriching experience for this short lifespan we are awarded on this planet, it is inevitable you will face scrutiny and ridicule by those who do not want to witness you reap such enjoyment. Sometimes, people withhold insecurities like extra baggage and feel compelled to lash them upon you. This is unjust and cruel, but we cannot blame those individuals; we must rise to a higher level and lead by example. Perhaps you could show those in such circumstances that via an iron will and unbreakable character, they too can blossom if only they put their best foot forward.

All of us are at different stages in our lives- maybe we recently graduated high school, or finished college; we could be a decade in at our corporate job, or approaching middle-age. Either way, it's never too late to begin the journey toward self-betterment. As the saying goes, "the best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is today."

This post will delve into maintaining a healthy relationship with those who try to bring you down; specifically, your family unit.

First and foremost, we never asked to be born. Your parents decided to reproduce offspring. In some situations, they were forced to, with little or no warning. For those of us fortunate enough to be in good health, we truly won the ultimate lottery ticket. There's a 1 in 40 million chance of us being human beings on this planet, and somehow we drew the lucky straw. This simple fact alone should inspire all of us to make an impact!

We have this perception of a family, and how it should be maintained and operated. In an ideal world, everyone in the family would be loving, happy, and supportive. Realistically, this is not the case; all families deal with their fair share of drama, dysfunctional habits, and unhealthy tendencies. Such is life. Again, you don't necessarily pick and choose your family, so at one point it is certain your ideals and viewpoints will clash. It is about learning how to stand your ground even when your loved ones try to bring you down. Just because they're your family, doesn't mean these individuals are exempt from supporting you. They've known you your entire life, and are comfortable with you staying put and not risking everything. You must firmly, but respectfully, stand your ground- like any situation in life, really. It goes without saying, the degree of your resistance is 100% individual and unique to your upbringing. If, after you state your purpose, and affirm you are to uphold yourself to loftier standards, and still encounter opposition, there are a few options.

Use Doubt As Fuel

This is fitting for those still living in their parents' residence. They might be too young or unable to move out just yet, so this is the most appropriate coping practice.

Hate and love are the 2 strongest emotions we have. If you're not getting the love and support you require, it is crucial to use those powerful emotions that fester below the surface, and transform them into good, productive habits. This is easier said than done, as a lot of people turn to self-destructive and self-defeating habits. The mind is a powerful tool and you can make it work for or against you. Again, if you are pissed off for greatness, this might prove to be advantageous. Put the hatred and anger into the fire of passion.

Create A Culture of Change

Why not invite those nearest and dearest to you to accompany you on the journey toward a more fruitful life? If they are willing to learn and grow, it is sensible to support one another along the way. They say if it ain't broke don't fix it- and while your family may not be broken, per se, it is a solid idea to announce your concerns and ideas before they become real issues. We are creatures of habit. Your parents run the family the best they know how; however, this doesn't exactly mean the most efficient way to do so. Sometimes we pick up bad habits, and these habits rub off on the people we associate with most. Our idiosyncrasies blend and fuse together, compounding into a culture of bad habits and unhealthy tendencies, if we don't monitor them regularly. Our mind is like a garden. Bad thoughts and habits are like weeds, and positive affirmations and a healthy lifestyle are beautiful flowers. We are the gardeners, and we must continually pick the weeds and monitor the garden if we hope to see one of vibrant, luscious variety. 

Agree to Disagree

Your family might disagree with your lifestyle change, but this doesn't mean all hope is lost and you abandon them entirely. As long as they don't strive to bring you down, and the feeling is neutral, you can make amends and agree to disagree. Stay in your own lane, and focus on your goals. Clear up the confusion if necessary, but don't conform to other's ideologies when pressured. You are old enough to cultivate your own opinions and take responsibility for your actions, so don't let someone else decide how you're to live your life.

Cut the Dead Weight

This might be a hard pill to swallow for some. If after countless times trying to resolve issues and you are still receiving ridicule and no support, it's time to cut the dead weight. Yes, your family loves and cares for you, and we feel obligated to have a blossoming relationship with our parents and siblings. But this is your one and only life. If you're not satisfied, cut the dead weight. This is a last resort option, but for some it might come to this. No reason to keep forcing something that isn't meant to be. Bid your adieus, tip your hat and carry on smartly.