“The teaching of life skills is one of the only ways we can slow down and perhaps stop the silent epidemic [depression], which is taking such a great toll in human suffering, among children and adults.” —PursuitOfHappiness.org
Oh yes, life skills are this vital that they apply to the presence or absence of depression in one’s life. They are so much more than simple concepts we practice on life skills worksheets in school. Life skills are ways of thinking, feeling, behaving, and being that we perpetually develop and hone as we navigate our way through life. With the right skill- and mindset, we not only equip ourselves to do things well, but we also empower ourselves to live well on a deep level.
Life skills are attitudes, abilities, and actions that let you create the quality life you want to live. Having strong life skills won’t guarantee a smooth ride. More than likely, your life will be bumpy at times, and it will be full of ups and downs and twists and turns. Possessing a range of life skills won’t prevent this. With a depth of skills, though, you will be able to handle the bumps and enjoy the ride.
When is the Best Time to Learn Life Skills?
We begin to learn our life skills naturally from the moment we are born. It’s as we grow older and gain experience, though, that we start to be able to think about these lessons and adjust them to fit new situations.
During the teen years, people begin to develop a sense of themselves as independent from others. At the same time, teens are learning in new ways that belonging is essential and that they can define what “belonging” means to them. Life skills for teens involve these experiences as well as help them explore the question, “What do I want to be when I grow up?”
In adulthood, we take life skills we’ve developed and apply them in new ways. We also make continuous adjustments to our existing skills as well as learn and use new ones. In adulthood, we ask, “Now that I’m grown up, how do I want to be? Do I still want to be what I have become?” The more adult life skills we have, the better we’re able to respond to those questions positively by making needed changes.
Life skills are important aspects of a quality life. Different skill areas exist, and developing each of them throughout your life can lead to a sense of life satisfaction and contentment no matter what is going on around you.
Your Essential Life Skills for a Life Worth Living
All of the following life skills are essential ways of
- Being human
- Creating the life you value
- Knowing how to live fully in each moment,
- Allowing yourself to get the most out of even a horrible situation
- Accepting that nothing is perfect and living well anyway
- Finding, and living, the calm in any storm
Life skills exist in a variety of realms. Honing abilities, over time, in all of the different areas leads to a balanced sense of satisfaction and peace.
Skills for What You Do
These skills apply to the various roles you play at any given time. You might be a student, an athlete, a drama club participant, a musician, an artist, a babysitter, an employee. You might be a worker, an employer, and/or a parent. You may have leadership roles.
No matter what your roles are, each has a skillset. The more skills you can master, the better you’ll play your part. Observe others. Read “how to” books and articles. Practice. Make mistakes. Own your mistakes. Keep going.
Life skills in this category involve knowledge and action.
Skills for Who You Are
No matter what role you are playing at any given time, you are you. While of course perfection is impossible and undesirable, you can develop your unique strengths and use them to enhance your life and the lives of those around you.
The Values in Action Institute on Character has, through extensive research, classified twenty-four character strengths in six main categories. Everyone possesses all of the strengths but in different proportions. The six categories:
When you know your strongest traits, you can develop them and seek ways to use them intentionally. They can shape your career, your volunteer work, and your leisure time. Living in ways that are congruent with your strengths is a powerful life skill that involves being true to yourself as well as helping the world be a better place.
Skills for Your Relationships
Humans are social creatures, and we need relationships to thrive. That said, how you prefer your relationships is personal. You may fall anywhere on the scale from very introverted to extremely extroverted. You might prefer a low-key friendship with a few people close to you, or you might crave more interaction than that.
Knowing what you like and feeling secure enough in your relationship style that you live accordingly are life skills.
Relationships aren’t easy; therefore, many life skills accompany the realm of relationship navigation. To grow in our relationships and maintain healthy ones, we need communication skills such as active listening and assertiveness. We need to know how to apologize and accept apologies as well as to give and receive thanks.
Life skills for relationships are some of the most fundamental yet most difficult skills we’ll ever need to develop. Relationship skills are so crucial that the ten life skills delineated in a HuffPost article apply to this category. Navigating the world of self and others helps you maintain happiness despite problems.
Skills for Health
Being physically and mentally healthy is what allows you to use your life skills well in all of your other realms.
Taking care of your mind and body is a vital life skill. Developing and maintaining your emotional health is as important.
It’s possible to face illness, either physical or mental, and yet be healthy. Life skills here include knowing your limits while simultaneously not allowing yourself to be limited in the wrong ways. Adaptation is one of the skills that let you do this.
Life skills for your physical, mental, and emotional health are those actions and beliefs that cause you to take proper care of your mind and body. The healthier you are—and the better you can manage stress—the more equipped you’ll be to deal with life’s problems and to appreciate the joys.
Skills for Growth
It’s inevitable. Just when we think we’ve mastered something, things change. No matter how much we learn, there will always be more. What a gift that is. When we have the skills for continued growth, we will never stagnate. Among components of growth are
- Independent thinking
- Delayed gratification
Your growth mindset applies to what you do, who you are, your relationships with yourself and others, and your physical, mental, and emotional health. Developing skills to grow and change enhances your health and improves your relationships.
A Life Skills Curriculum?
Many schools have formal programs to teach life skills to students as young as kindergarten. Middle- and high schools sometimes have classes or courses as well. These programs have a specific life skills curriculum just as science classes follow a science curriculum.
The range of specific life skills is incredibly broad, so one school’s curriculum might teach different skills than another school’s program. Then, of course, there are schools who do not formally teach life skills directly. And what about post-high school? There aren’t very many adult education courses dedicated to life skill development. If someone doesn’t “get the right life skills” by age 18, is he or she out of luck?
That’s the beauty of life skills: it’s never too late to hone them. In fact, with an open mind and the right attitude and actions, we naturally foster the skills we need as we progress through our lives.
Whether you learn them in a classroom or from books, or whether you learn them on the fly, strive to enrich your knowledge and enhance your skills in areas such as
- Living true to yourself and personal values
- Helping others thrive, too
- Navigating the complex world of relationships
- Self-care of mind and body
To return to the statement from Pursuit of Happiness, the teaching of life skills honestly might be one of the few ways to positively deal with the growing rates of depression in the US and other countries. When people have a range of skills in attitude and action across the many realms of their lives, they equip themselves to deal with the pain in life and, equally importantly, to experience the joys.
Life skills are about more than knowing how to act in a job interview (this is indeed an important skill, of course). Life skills are for living a quality life. They are skills that are within reach of us all. What skills will you strengthen starting today?