What are Life Skills? The term “Life Skills" refers to the skills that we need to make most out of our lives. There is no definitive list of Life Skills. Most importantly we need to understand that different people will potentially have a different list of skills which they might consider very important and essential in life. Certain skills might be more or less relevant to a person depending on many factors like circumstances, the culture one belongs to, geographical locations, cultural beliefs and also age. For example, someone staying in the suburbs might consider driving an essential life skill while one living in the city might not as they have more options for travelling with effective modes of transport available within the cities like, the metros, cabs and other frequently available public transport systems.
Life skills is a term that describes a set of basic skills that we acquire through learning or through direct life experiences that teaches individuals or a group of people to effectively tackle issues and problems that we commonly encounter in our everyday life. Life Skills include thinking creatively, out of the box, the ability to solve problems, critical thinking and assessment of situations, ability to make a decision, along with effective communication skills so that individuals can collaborate with each other, understand their personal and social responsibility that will not only help one grow personally but at the same time contribute to good citizenship. All of these skills are necessary to succeed and to build healthy societies where we nurture successful and employable individuals.
However, in the year 1999 the World Health Organization identified six key areas of Life Skills:
1. Communication and Interpersonal Skills: Communication and other interpersonal skills actually cover a wide range of skills which include effective listening skills. With those other techniques such as seeking clarification and reflecting back on what has been heard makes it possible to avoid misunderstanding. Effective communication skills also include verbal and non-verbal communication, voice modulation, choosing the right vocabulary, the right words for the given situation or topic, the right tone of voice, body language. Effective communication is the key to building rapport. However, there are also many barriers to effective communication and at times may lead to misunderstandings or even conflicts.
Literacy, reading and writing skills are also part of effective communication. Being able to write clearly and concisely is a very powerful method to communicate on one to one or to address a larger audience. Apart from writing skills Numeracy skills also counts. Numeracy skills are not just for accountants or scientists, almost all profession require basic level of understanding when it comes to numeracy and mathematics. Improved numeracy skills are always an added advantage and ensure better paid jobs and a better well being.
2. Decision Making and Problem solving: Making decisions and solving problems are two key areas in life that we are likely to encounter in our day to day life as well as our professional life. This is a skill that we encounter on a daily basis. In the simplest sense, decision making is the act of choosing between multiple options or course of action. Every day wherever we are, we face countless decisions and problems both big and small. Some so insignificant that we do not even notice them sometimes and at times these small decisions might turn out to be overwhelming for certain people. In the wider process of problem solving, decision making is more of a process that involves choosing between possible and effective solutions to a problem. Making a decision can be achieved through reasoning, intuition or a combination of both.
3. Creative Thinking and critical thinking: What is the difference between Creative thinking and Critical thinking? While creative thinking focuses on possibilities, critical thinking is focused on probability. Creative thinking aims more thinking out of the box, disregarding the accepted principles; on the other hand critical thinking is accomplished by applying the tried and tested methods and principles. While a creative thinker might be very intelligent but that doesn't make them critical thinkers. Critical thinking makes one delve deeper into the argument, question their own though process, assumptions and intuitions, correcting all the biases and flaws in our otherwise typical reasoning. Critical thinking leads to better understanding of a problem and at the same time leads to greater humility.
4. Self-awareness and empathy: According to a new study published in the Journal of Cognitive Enhancement titled “Know Thy Selves: Learning to Understand Oneself Increases the Ability to understand others.” Self- awareness and empathy share very close ties. Once we are more aware of what makes us who we are, it becomes easier for us to understand not just the differences between ourselves and others but also recognize how we are similar and yet different. When we are more self-aware it helps us understand our similarities and differences better which helps us understand the other person's perspective better.
5. Assertiveness and equanimity or self control: Assertiveness is the quality or the ability to be self-assured confident in expressing ones honest opinions, feelings and attitudes without hurting others in the process by being aggressive or rude. Being assertive helps boost ones self-esteem, helps in better communication. Assertiveness also helps one in emotional management. Both assertiveness and equanimity are very closely related because when we are well aware of the situation, in sync with standing for the right cause it gives us the calmness, the psychological stability to remain undisturbed by experience of pain, fear or many other human emotions that otherwise deeply effects our judgment and balance of mind. Equanimity is much needed to achieve success in life. In order to reach the pinnacle of success equanimity or psychological stability is of utmost importance as it helps us to take the correct decisions based on our learning without getting perturbed or hassled by the commotion around us or being easily reactive to stress, fear or provocation.
6. Resilience and ability to cope with problems: Resilience is about building our inner strength that helps us cope with the constant "ups and downs" of life. Life as we know is always about survival of the fittest. However, fit always does not imply physical fitness. A person can have a robust health and body but still be very weak in his/her disposition. Take for example the great leaders like Mahatma Gandhi, who was a frail looking man but had great inner strength and resilience to face whatever obstacles life threw at him. Resilience is our ability to cope up with stressful situations and not get bogged down but deal with the situation with equanimity and clarity of thought. Human beings have been bestowed with this spirit and we need to work on it to make us more resilient to the different upheavals that we will face in life. Resilience, tenacity, the ability to cope with struggles, stumbling blocks, grit and determination to go back to the task are important facets that makes one achieve great heights and make a difference not just in personal but also in the lives of people around.
The world has been changing constantly and it is changing at a faster pace at this time. In these constantly changing environment Life skills is the most essential part of being able to meet the challenges of life. To be able to cope with the increasing pace and the constant change of modern life it has become very important to armor the new generation from an early age with life skills so that they are able to deal with the demands of life. It is important to start early as early childhood to adolescence is the vital stage of growth and mental development. Adolescence also marks the period of transition from childhood to adulthood and is the ideal time to incorporate life skills that will become like second in nature and help them steer their lives in more meaningful and successful directions. Skills and habits that forms from an early childhood remain embedded lifelong. Parents and environment that are positive have a very lasting positive impact on children even when they become adults. This also has a cascading effect and they in turn will pass on these skills and straits to the next generation, thus paving way for better individuals and a better society as a whole.
By: Madhuchanda Saxena
Posted By - Assistant Editor