If Life is a Classroom, You Better Sit in the Front

Post written by Warren. Follow him on Twitter.

Be the number one student in the class of life.

Be the number one student in the class of life.

Editor’s Note: This weeks post is a special guest post by one of my favorite bloggers. Positively Present is Dani, a twenty-something who, after years of living under a dark cloud of woe-is-me, has decided this will be the year she focuses on the positive. This will be the year she lives in the present, turning all of her attention toward making her life more positively aware. You can visit Dani on either of her two blogs—Positively Present and Hope Springs Internal—or follow her on Twitter @positivepresent. Big thanks to Dani for this wonderful post!

Life, if you haven’t noticed already, is a classroom. It’s the place where we can choose whether we want to sit in the back and doodle in our notebooks or whether we want to sit in the front row and diligently take notes. We have a choice. We can coast through life or we can commit to gaining something from it. Every day, we can coast or we can learn.

Me? I used to be a coaster. Maybe I wasn’t sitting all the way in the back of the classroom, but I certainly wasn’t in the front row waving my hand eagerly. I would handle the assignments life gave me, but I wouldn’t really learn from them. Like most things, I rushed to get through them, knowing that as soon as I finished with the hard stuff I could move onto something else more fun and less challenging. Now I know that it’s the challenges that make life interesting. It’s the desire to constantly be better than we were the day before, the need to find ways to improve our lives, that really is the most fun of all.

Lately, I’ve stopped coasting. I’ve committed myself to self-improvement. I’ve been working every single day to learn about myself, about my life, about the world I’m living in. I’ve committed myself not only to learning about these things, but to finding ways to improve them. I’ve come to realize that it’s easy to coast through life, not trying to figure out what could be better within you or the world, but it’s boring. I want to experience new things all the time. I want to leave life’s classroom better, smarter, and more fulfilled than when I came in.

Each person’s commitment to constant improvement in life is different. What you want (and need) to improve is unique, tailored to you and only you. For me, self-improvement is the focus of my life right now. I went through some really hard times and I’m striving to rise above them by finding new and exhilarating ways to learn from and improve my life. Self-improvement is a task that requires constant attention and, in my opinion, will never truly be complete. There is always something new to learn and grow from. I believe most kinds of improvement are this way. Whether you are seeking to improve your job, your family life, your social interactions, or yourself, you will need to do it constantly.

The thought of improving on something constantly may sound daunting, I know. Trust me. Sometimes I think about this self-improvement path I’ve started down and I say to myself, “Oh, wow, this is going to take forever.” But I’m beginning to realize that’s okay. Improvement can be – and perhaps should be – constant. Though I’m just a beginning to look around, seeking ways to better my life, I’ll share a few things I’ve learned so far with you. Here are ten tips to work on constantly improving any aspect of your life:

  1. Never limit your learning. You can learn from everything, everywhere, if you just open your eyes and ears. You want to improve your work ethic? You might find inspiration on the subway. You want to be a happier person? Your dog might show you how. You never know where you are going to learn new things to help with your improvement so don’t limit yourself to courses or books or lectures.
  2. Read anything you can. This goes along with the first point I’ve made, but it’s so important that I’ve given it its own number. One of the best methods I’ve found in my quest for constant improvement is to read. Read the paper. Read signs. Read books. Read the expressions on others’ faces. Read everything. You’ll be surprised how much you can improve your life from reading alone.
  3. Put in a lot of effort. I recently read an article in The New Yorker by Malcolm Gladwell (author of The Tipping Point, Blink, and Outliers) addressing the secret formula for underdogs who win. You want to know the secret? Substitute effort for ability. You might not be blessed with a specific ability, but you do have the ability to put in a ton of effort.
  4. Work on improvement daily. It’s important to work on your improvement, whatever that may be, all the time. If you put it on a shelf and say, “I’ll get to that later,” you might never come back. Work on it all the time. Find little ways to work on it constantly. One great way might be to start a blog that shares what you’re working on improving in your life.
  5. Accept that there is no end. Constant improvement is just that – constant. There isn’t an end. You have to accept this or you will drive yourself crazy wondering when you will get “there.” There is no there. When you are committing yourself to constant improvement, you are growing and changing and learning all the time. Accept this and you will be a lot less anxious, searching for some “The End” that just doesn’t exist in the world of constantly working to better yourself.
  6. Support yourself. You might be lucky enough to have a great support system, a group of people who want you to develop and grow and improve, but you might not. Either way, it’s important to be your biggest fan. You may be unpleasantly surprised that people will be jealous of your desire to improve yourself. You may encounter criticism and trivialization from those around you. Ignore all that and believe in yourself. Always.
  7. Don’t give up – no matter what. You may want to throw in the towel because there’s no definite end in sight. But don’t. Constant improvement will lead you, always, down a better and more interesting path than simply coasting through life. Giving up is the equivalent to going to the back of the classroom and slumping in your seat until someone calls on you. Do you want that kind of life? I didn’t think so…
  8. Practice, practice, practice. Once you’ve identified some ways to work on improving an aspect of your life, keep doing them. Let’s say you want to have a better relationship with your wife and you find that couples therapy really helps out. Keep going to sessions. Or, let’s think about how you want to be a healthier person and you find that getting up early to exercise before the family wakes really works for you. Keep getting up early. Practice your improvements over and over and over again and don’t be surprised when they become habits.
  9. Give back to those who teach you. When you learn from others, it’s important to give something back. This doesn’t have to be literal (you don’t need to send flowers to the woman at the pharmacy who accidentally inspired you). Think of ways you can give back by helping others with their own commitments to improvement. Don’t by chocolates for the husband who wants to lose weight. Help your boss look good because you know she is really working hard to get promoted. Remember, what goes around, comes around…
  10. Remind yourself of your progress. If you’re working on improving an aspect (or all aspects) of your life on a daily basis, you deserve a lot of credit. It’s not easy for people to seek to better their lives. Most people coast along, sitting in the back of the classroom, bored and waiting for something better. By being proactive, by seeking to make your life a better place, you are making not only yourself but the world a better place. Don’t forget to pat yourself on the back every so often.

Committing to constant improvement is not easy, but it truly is the best way to make your life the one you want to be living. As I’m sure you’ve heard countless times before: no one is going to do it for you. You have the power to seize control of your life and to make it better. This is your life and it is up to you to commit yourself to constant improvement. So don’t sit in the back of the classroom, wishing longingly for graduation. Instead, embrace life. Pick up your things and move to the front of the room. Raise your hand. Ask questions. Learn. Be active and interested and work hard and you will improve your life.


Did you enjoy this post?
If you enjoyed this post, I would really appreciate it if you post it on Twitter or on StumbleUpon.
Thank you so much! :)

Get instant updates of new blog posts by subscribing to TheHappySelf here.

Blog Widget by LinkWithin

Posted on October 5, 2009

Happy Comments

24 Responses to “If Life is a Classroom, You Better Sit in the Front”
  1. Dayne,

    All awesome ideas and applicable. I found myself approaching these from the perspective of keeping track of all these ways to stay productive and improve my life and kind of lost myself in the process. But I think you summed it up when you said “embrace life.” That’s really what it’s all about. No fear!

    To all the above,

  2. Dayne, thanks for the opportunity to have this post featured on your site! I really appreciate it and I hope your readers enjoy it. :)
    .-= Positively Present´s last blog ..how to break barriers and create connections =-.

  3. Colin Wright says:

    I was a coaster for a very long time, as well, and then partway through high school I saw a glimmer of what I could be while working on the school newspaper. Later in college, it hit me full force, I became an active participant in my own life, and I’ve never looked back since.

    Really nice pieces of advice here. Everyone should be able to find something too latch on to, and once you start seeing results, well, it’s all downhill from there!
    .-= Colin Wright´s last blog ..You’ll Never Be Philosophically Fulfilled (and That’s Okay) =-.

  4. Anita says:

    Great post Dani! I’m going to share it on twitter. Keep up the good work! Take care, A.
    .-= Anita´s last blog ..Beauty =-.

  5. Excellent stuff Dani. I agree with nine out of ten. The only one I’d qualify is the one about reading. There’s just too much information out there for us. Tim Ferriss recommends you restrict reading and information to help you focus on what you need to get done.

    Also, after a while you’ll find that many books in a field start regurgitating the same stuff over and over. Not such a good use of our time.

    Great post!
    .-= Gordie Rogers – Lifestyle Design 4U´s last blog ..The Lifestyle Design Anthem: “My Way”. =-.

  6. Heya Dani and Dayne!

    Great post! You are indeed very positive in your posts:) I like it!
    You know, I think it is always one thing to read, but the biggest problem is taking action, like with anything in life. I think it helps a lot to be a blogger about self improvement, because it forces you to practice what you preach, and you do experiments on yourself (regarding self improvement, not antiviral trials or something) :P.

    I think there should be a self improvement bootcamp, somewhere where you can go for 10 days or a month, and the clients have us bloggers as drill sergeants, there to remove their selflimiting beliefs and negative habits, and get them positive and proactive permanently :)

    Cheers Guys!
    .-= Diggy – Upgradereality.com´s last blog ..What you can learn from the day I was hijacked at gun-point =-.

  7. Add Learn how to Speed Read onto your list. It makes continuing education so much easier :)
    .-= Pete | The Tango Notebook´s last blog ..Monthly Tango Contest – Win Free Tango Lessons! =-.

  8. Kirsty says:

    Thanks Dani, that post was fabulous!

    There are lots of great tips to take away and work on. I totally agree that self-improvement is something that doesn’t really end, but can continue right through life!

    Best wishes,

  9. It seems that there’s some need to connect with positive ideas, thoughts, attitudes… And even though, there might be too much information and it can all sound very similar, if we all work together to live more positively, we’ll get it. On our creativity group Necklaces & Ties, we work to improve our quality of life.

  10. Continuous improvement is a concept critical to the life of a professional. Life is my profession.

    The “Support Yourself” I found the most challenging~ when your in the flow, it can really shake others up. Including family and friends. One can struggle for a reference point when one says “no thanks” to previous mindsets, which are the core value systems of those around one.

    Belief in unity is a stable raft in a sea of doubt.

  11. Dani, you are a machine. Is there anywhere that you don’t show up?! OMG, I can just imagine you running around like the energizer bunny :-) I get tired thinking about it.
    .-= Stephen – Rat Race Trap´s last blog ..Peak-End Experiences Matter Most =-.

  12. alternaview says:

    Dani – This was a good one. It is so true that we can just coast through life and go through the motions and be somewhere we don’t want to be before we remember to wake up. The reality is that if you are not moving forward or continually growing as a person, you really just aren’t taking advantage of everything that life has to offer. It is sometimes a hard reality to swallow, but that doesn’t make it any less true. Thanks for the great insights and roadmap.
    .-= alternaview´s last blog ..Doing the right things really do lead to a better life =-.

  13. Josten says:

    I was at the same point in life when i came across self improvement material. But any how a daily dose of self improvement is one of the best things one can do daily. First thing in the morning with breakfast i read for at least 30 mins on self improvement material.
    Great post
    .-= Josten´s last blog ..Tips to make your life Junkless =-.

  14. David Damron says:

    Wow Dani, this is life changing and eye-opening. Thank you for making a difference not just in your life, but opening our own eyes to our own potential. Moving.

    This is a great way to look at life and most of these I usually implement. But there is never a better time to take away that ‘usually’ and start always doing these things.

    Thanks for providing us with a great guest post Dayne….

    LifeExcursion & The Minimalist Path
    .-= David Damron´s last blog ..Preview of How to Survive a Half Marathon =-.

  15. Dani (and Dayne), thanks for this excellent post.

    I love the classroom context and really relate to the list of life lessons. Dani, you’ve inspired me to add…


    Life can and will change for the better in a heart beat. One single miraculous moment. The next phone call you get; the next line in that book you are reading; the next inspiring you-tube video you watch; the next person you bump into in a cafe. Anytime, anywhere a window can and will open for you. Just for you.

    The key here is to be open to the possibility of these transformational moments, and in a heightened state of awareness, anticipation and readiness for when they appear.

    Best to you both and all of your readers – here’s to many miraculous moments!

    .-= Robin Dickinson´s last blog ..The time-life switch: peak productivity in an instant =-.

  16. Way to go Dani, these are definitely good points. I really liked the point of giving back to those who teach you. I would also add that you should know you can teach yourself just about anything, especially with the internet.
    .-= Justin- AlittleBetter.net´s last blog ..10 Tips for Chasing After Wisdom =-.

  17. Tristan Lee says:

    Hey Dani, thanks for the tips. I liked your analogy of how life is like a classroom. You can either sit in the back and coast through it or sit near the front and get something out of it.

    The same applies to life. You can coast through life, but why then why show up at all? To improve ourselves, we need to show up at the door everyday wanting to learn. That means waking out of bed, learning from more experienced people, and engaging oneself with the crowd.
    .-= Tristan Lee´s last blog ..Important Reasons Why You Should Cut Your Time =-.

  18. Srinivas Rao says:

    Great post Dani. I think you’ve made some great points about life here. I love the examples from outlier and the notion of constant and never ending improvement. I’ve sat in the back row for a good amount of my life but recently moved to the front :).
    .-= Srinivas Rao´s last blog ..Shake the wipeouts of life, learn from them, and move on =-.

  19. Thank you all for your great comments! I loved reading the feedback and the additional suggestions you’ve offered here. And, yes, Stephen, I’m somewhat like the energizer bunny at times. I have a lot of energy!! :) I really appreciate the comments everyone left on this post and thanks again, Dayne, for featuring my post here!
    .-= Positively Present´s last blog ..how to break barriers and create connections =-.

  20. PicsieChick says:

    I’m very happy to have happened upon Dayne’s blog and your special guest-post, Dani! These are some great practical tips to continue on the road of self-discovery and self-improvement. Congratulations on beginning your journey at such a young age, and for sharing it with the world. I’ll keep reading!

    Hugs and butterflies,
    .-= PicsieChick´s last blog ..Everything =-.

  21. Go, Dani, go!

    This is chock full of awesome but, better yet, practical awesome. I’m glad you mentioned Malcolm Gladwell, he makes a living discovering what matters and what has impact. (Which is, I’m guessing, how most people want to live their lives.)
    .-= Hayden Tompkins´s last blog ..A Call to Action =-.

  22. I think it’s very important to remember the #1 bullet you list. The moment that anyone thinks he or she is ready to stop learning, then he or she will never move past that negativity.

    I remember a point in graduate school when I realized that I had to step up my game because I was going to be doing this professionally. Doing passable work was not going to help me in my career. I had to excel, and I had to care enough to excel. I had to find that love of learning I had at a young age and rekindle it for my career and professional studies.

    And it worked. I did some searching inside myself and found that I love learning more than almost anything else. So now I’m back to constantly reading and writing and loving what I do.

    I wouldn’t have been able to do that had I not strayed away and realized that learning was important to me, not just personally, but professionally.
    .-= Professor Beej´s last blog ..Saw VI – Sixth Time’s a Charm? =-.

Share Your Thoughts

CommentLuv badge