The Essential Life Skills
If you think of think of learning as preparation for doing, you’re in the majority. It’s certainly the way our educational system has been built. Finish school then start a career.
Guess what. This whole idea is probably wrong. According to what’s coming out of the most recent research in developmental psychology, the very things we think of as markers of “success,” things like our emotional well-being and our professional reputations may, in fact, be the byproducts of a life spent learning.
Ellen Galinsky is the author of Mind in the Making and the president of the Families and Work Institute. She’s spent much of her career turning cutting-edge research from developmental psychology into educational practice.
Galinsky’s Essential Life Skill #1 is Focus and Self-Control. As a person with phenomenal focus I can tell you this is perhaps one of my strongest “skills.” If I’m writing, the phone can ring, the kids can talk to me, the world can come to an end and I won’t notice; I’m in the writing. There’s been many a time the kids have had to remind me of something I “answered” while I was writing. Some secondary part of my brain did that because my fingers never stopped moving.
Living in a world of distraction means paying attention to what we need to be doing and blocking out the noise to get’erdun.
Communicating and understanding other people’s perspectives – Life Skills #2 and #3 — are critical both in business – you need to understand what customers need and want – and at home. Hey, if you can’t put yourself in your partner’s shoes or see from your children’s perspectives, your communication is going to suffer big-time.
Just as important is Life Skill #4 being able to make connections; the ability to make unusual connections is the basis of creativity. I’m not sure how “creative” a person I am. Certainly not as creative as Alex but perhaps more so than many of my friends. I can think outside the box. What I am good at is critical thinking – #5 of Galinsky’s essential life skills. With so much information available, being able to sort what is valid and reliable from the blah-blah-blah is important. I think this is one of the skills sets many people I work with lack. They give equal weight to all the information they receive and then become overwhelmed when it comes time to make a decision. Having weighted it all equally, the best course of action gets buried the in poundage.
Perhaps the Essential Life Skill that I relate to most is #6, “Taking on Challenges.” I love me the new, the can’t-be-done, the how-the-hell? Since I get bored easily – one of my downsides – stretching into new areas, learning new skills, setting higher goals has become my way of coping. And it’s just as well. The world has changed enormously since I left school. When I think back on what was important to learn back then and what I use now, if I’d stopped learning I’d be sitting in a tree-hole, picking daisy petals. That learning came with a lot of failure, re-tries, refinements and stern self-talk: “You can do this,” “Don’t be a wuss and give up,” “Hey, are you going to just stop?” “Take a break, then try again,” “Arggggghhhhh!!! I hate this,” and “Wow! Look how that turned out.”
According to Galinsky, Essential Skills #7: Self-Directed Learning, is our ability to learn from life and our experiences. It requires initiative. It means we must be ongoing learners if we want to thrive.
How many of the seven essential life skills do you call “strengths?” And how are you working to help build these essential life skills in your own children?
I’m hosting a special edition of The Current on CBC radio dealing with money and we’re looking for peeps who would like to share their stories.
- Are you in a relationship with a money moron? Have you LEFT a money moron because could you just couldn’t take it any more?
- Are you carrying a crap load of debt and wondering how you’re going to get out? Feeling disheartened and not sure what to do next?
- Have questions you’d like to ask me about money and how to take control of it? For best chance of success, have a specific question in mind and don’t ramble too much.
Submit your story or question to firstname.lastname@example.org . See you on the radio!