While coming home from college and packing for what would become of my next journey ahead, I uncovered a list of advice which I kept from one of my old AP Statistics teacher from high school (who also was a key inspiration for why I got into the field of research and Machine Learning). Looking back at the list, many of the tips and advice would be quite relevant to anyone, especially students and recent graduates.

In particular, with our lives becoming increasingly filled with distractions and hyper-sensationalism (i.e. fake news, negative sentiment inducing content), my teacher has always reminded me that we should take a step back and breathe. Without further ado, I present those advice verbatim (note that these are not exactly tips and advice that he made, but more so compilation of life tips he has curated). I hope that any one of these can benefit those who are looking to change their way of life, particularly those that are transitioning to a new chapter in their life.

[1] Loving and accepting yourself will be your strongest ally while riding life’s rollercoaster.

Love and accept every single aspect of yourself, including your anger, hatred, jealousy, insecurity, fear, lust, and any perceived iniquity, disability, or imperfection. There are so many people out there who are unhappy or who are in a dysfunctional relationship because they simply do not like themselves. Self-hatred is at the core of countless mood disorders (e.g. depression, and anxiety), and will hinder anything you choose to do. In fact, I don’t know anyone who suffered from loving or accepting themselves too much. Don’t rely on other people to love you, love yourself and foremost. Make it your responsibility.

[2] You are already loving, lovable, and loved just as you are right now. There is nothing you need to do or acquire.

Try being yourself! Many of us got the idea during our childhood that we were in some way not good enough. This belief probably came from a reaction to our parents’ or our peers’ disapproval of our behavior. Approval is not the same thing as love, though.

[3] Question your beliefs.

Your mind is full of them. We have believed things for so long that they seem like truths. Some beliefs are helpful, and some are not. The good news is that you can choose what you believe in. From time to time, question whether or not a particular belief is still applicable to your life. Ask yourself, “Is this belief true?” If the answer is yes, ask yourself, “Where is the proof that this is true? How can I absolutely know that this is true?” (Look up Bryon Katie or Albert Ellis for more info). As small children, we didn’t have the ability to question our parents’ or our own beliefs. Now, we do have the mental capacity to question the beliefs that we may have borrowed or created that may be getting in the way like:

  • I am a failure.
  • I must be competent at all times.
  • I must have everyone’s approval.
  • I must go to college (or I must be accepted by a certain college).
  • I need to get A’s.
  • I’ll never be able to do it.
  • I am ugly/fat.
  • I am stupid.
  • I’m no good at math.
  • People are mean.

[4] Who are you?

Investigate your essential nature! What labels and constraints do you place yourself? Is there really a self as you have defined it? Or is your self-identity mainly just a concept that your mind has created? This fabricated self-concept is said by some to be the root of all insecurity.

[5] Remind yourself of all of the things that you do or have done well.

What is right or good about your life already? Sometimes we get caught up in improving that we forget that there are already many things that are positive in our lives. We always have the choice to view the proverbial glass as half-full instead of half-empty.

[6] What is perception and what is reality?

In some spiritual traditions, it is said that we suffer because we do not see or understand the true nature of reality and that we are always viewing phenomena through a filter made up of beliefs about how things are. Similarly, in a branch of psychology called cognitive-behavioral therapy, dysfunctional thinking is characterized by a set of “cognitive distortions”. These include: 1) all-or-nothing thinking, 2) over-generalization, 3) mental filtering, 4) disqualifying the positive, 5) jumping to conclusions (mind-reading and fortune-telling), 6) magnification, 7) emotional reasoning, 8) should statements, 9) labeling, and 10) personalization.

[7] Life is what it is, and you have control over very little.

You can let go of trying to control life (or thinking that you could ever actually control it!). The universe does not operate based on your internal rule book, nor does it cater to your personal desires. We suffer when we attempt to force our rules on life and other people. The only other choice is to work with life instead of opposing it (i.e. try to make positive experiences out of seemingly negative ones). You do not need to control life for it to work out. If you truly want to change things, then start from a place of accepting things how they currently are.

[8] Say “yes” to the present moment, no matter how bad it may seem.

Cultivating a balanced (equanimous) attitude like this will be of huge benefit to you. Fortunate circumstances come and go, as do unfortunate circumstances. The mind likes to judge experiences as good or bad, but there is no inner peace found in judgment. Plus, saying that something “shouldn’t be happening” presumes that you are running the universe. Every moment of your life can be a learning experience and can contribute towards your growth. Another way of putting this is: Be grateful (say “thank you”) for everything that comes your way. Try moving towards what is difficult, painful, and scary as opposed to our typical natural reaction of aversion to those things. Also, be aware of how the mind is frequently trying to seek out and hold onto what is considered pleasurable.

[9] Learn to let go.

A sure way to be unhappy is to hold on to past pain. Letting go is a skill that will serve you well throughout life because the universe and our experience are constantly changing. Letting go is actually something that we did quite naturally when we were very young. As we grew, many of us took on this belief that we could cause a good feeling to last by holding onto it (or that we could cause a painful feeling to go away by suppressing it). Rather, this holding produces a lot of anxiety and we lose the potential to truly enjoy life. Look up Hale Dwoskin for more information on letting go.

[10] Allowing yourself to grieve is important.

Since all things are impermanent, our lives are inevitably include experiencing the feeling associated with loss. Sometimes these feelings can be very strong, but it is important to allow yourself to feel them. If you do, you will come out of grief as a better person, more able to experience life on a deep level and more able to empathize with others who have experienced a similar loss. Grief is what connects us as humans; what brings us together. Look up the etymology of “compassion” or “sympathy” and you will see what I mean.

[11] There is nothing you can truly possess.

Everything you think you “have” is simply on loan. That means you’ll have to “give it back” someday (at least when you die). So, enjoy it now! Plus, gratitude can be healing.

[12] If you are unhappy, try looking for the source of unhappiness inside of yourself.

Take a break from the relentless search for happiness in things like technology, drugs/alcohol, loveless relationships, money, material possessions social definitions of success, and other people’s opinions of you. These things may provide you with temporary sources of pleasure, but will never fulfill you.

[13] You are the owner of your life.

Everyone you come in contact with is going to have an opinion of what you should do with your life, but none of their opinions matter. Everyone has their own path, including you. You do not need to base your path on the paths of others.

[14] Be aware of the strong influence society has on you.

Many of our behaviors are learned from growing up among other human beings. That doesn’t mean that you have to go along with all of them.

[15] Romantic love relationships can be great, but they are not a cure for your own unhappiness.

Our society heavily promotes these relationships and tells us that they are the keys to salvation from our unhappiness. A healthy relationship with with another person can be a wonderful thing, but only if it is about both people working together to help each other grow as individuals. Stop looking for someone to come around and love you. Love yourself and express that love to others in as many ways as possible. If another chooses to express their love towards you, great. If they choose not to, then you can love yourself regardless.

[16] There is no relationship between one’s physical attractiveness and how happy they are (or could be).

We all want to be desired, but being desired does not bring lasting happiness. It just gives us a temporary, pleasant feeling. Find someone who will love and accept you for who you are.

[17] Understand that almost everything you witness in the media is somehow a product begging for your money.

There are thousands of people out there (they’re called advertisers and marketers) whose primary occupation is to figure out ways to make you feel that you need their product to become “more/better”. This is not necessarily bad; just be aware of it. Again, there is nothing material that will provide you lasting fulfillment.

[18] Do what you want, but be aware of the consequences.

There is nothing you have to do in life (except die). Start looking at things as wants or choices and this will lift some of the feeling of burden off of your chest. For instance, “I don’t have to do my homework, but I choose to because I want to get good grades. Why do I want to get good grades? So I can have more options when it comes time to choose a college to attend.” Oh, and did you require much to be happy when you were very young? No. Happiness doesn’t come by adding things to our lives or to our identities.

[19] Notice how you project your intolerance of those things you don’t like about yourself onto others.

For example, if you don’t like the part of yourself that is not intelligent, you will judge/hate/make fun of others who you perceive as being intelligent. This is why the people who irritate us the most can be our best teachers. They show us the aspects of ourselves that we don’t accept. The more we accept about ourselves, the happier we can be. Instead of trying to be a certain type of person, try being whole by accepting all the aspects of yourself (including your stupidity!).

[20] People make fun of other people because they are afraid.

They are afraid they aren’t good enough as they already are, so they put others down to bolster their shaky self-image. Understand that when someone makes fun of you, its just something they don’t like or accept about themselves. We all have a natural desire to be liked and accepted, and it can hurt when we aren’t. However, when people say mean things to or about us, we always have the choice of whether or not believe them. Sometimes we have to protect ourselves from the behaviors of others, but we don’t have to throw hurtful words back at them or lash out in a violent manner. This usually just makes the situation worse for both people. Try to understand that the person is harboring some pain that they don’t know how to cope with. They may not be comfortable with who they are, and thus they try to bring others down so that they can feel better about themselves. How do we end this cycle? By continuing to love ourselves and by showing compassion towards the person who is making fun of us. People who make fun could use someone to say something nice to them or to ask them how they are doing. They could use someone to show them that they are lovable just as they are. Maybe you could be that person.

[21] Other people’s criticism of you will never hurt you; only you can hurt you.

It is your internal response to such criticism that is causing your pain. You can only be affected if you believe (even if in a small way) what other people are saying about you. We have a natural desire to be liked, wanted, and approved of. However, wanting approval can get in the way of us being truly happy. Happiness comes when we finally allow ourselves to be who we really are.

[22] Harboring hostility towards someone hurts you more than it hurts the other person.

Sometimes we react to the hurtful actions by becoming defensive or hostile. This may be an appropriate response for a moment, but once we are out of the situation it only serves to promote our own suffering. Forgiving someone else does not mean we condone the behavior. We forgive for ourselves, because we want to be happy. Forgiveness is more for us than it is for them.

[23] Honor and take care of your body.

We don’t give our bodies enough credit. Our bodies are constantly doing millions of things to keep us alive, yet we mistreat out bodies by getting angry when they get sick or when they don’t look a certain way. Take some time to appreciate it.

[24] Find a method for reducing stress.

Our modern lives can be very stressful, and it is important for us to find ways to cope. Deep, controlled breathing is simple yet effective. Meditation and yoga are other good options.

[25] Work hard, but let go of the results of your work.

I am sure you are aware that in certain subjects, no matter how hard you study, you are limited by your natural ability and by your understanding at the time of the test. This applies in many life situations. Just do your best and keep trying. Things will turn out how they were meant to turn out.

[26] If you want to be good at anything, practice!

No one succeeds all the time, but practice and hard work improve our chances in the long run of succeeding. Also, remember that it is your “job” as a human being to make mistakes. Each mistake is a stepping stone to future success.

[27] One of the most amazing feelings is what you get after doing something that you fear.

Plus, the more you do it, the less you’ll fear it. When you feel like fear is holding you back from growth in your life, you can remind yourself that no matter what happens, you are still going to die. So, it might be worth trying. I hope that you realize that this doesn’t mean jumping off a bridge or entering a lion’s cage is a good idea!

[28] There is little relationship between a person’s college and their level of success in life.

Success is much more dependent on hard work, attitude, and talent. Also, success and happiness are different things, and people have different definitions of success.

[29] Always wear your seat belt, even when you are in the back seat.

I would not be here teaching you today if I wasn’t wearing my belt during the 3 major car accidents I have been in. Automobile accidents are the number one cause of death for people in your age group, so take this advice seriously.

[30] Get your Master’s Degree right away. I know you will want to be done with school, but you may only need to attend for one more year to get your Master’s, and is necessary or desired for so many careers these days. I would do it. It’s much easier to do when you can focus on school than when you are in the midst of your career and/or having a family. However, I do concede that there are some instances when waiting to purse your Master’s may be better (e.g. when your company will pay for it).

[31] Only you can figure out what moves you towards happiness.