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Life skills for the 21st Century #lifeskills #productivity #selfdevelopment #selfimprovement

50 Life Skills For The 21st Century

by Rob and Edy

Core life skill development begins in childhood and continues into adolescence, but it is something we can all work at throughout our adult lives too.

But what exactly are life skills?

Simply put, they are the best skills that help us to deal with the challenges of life. They are by no means essential, but if you do possess them, you’ll find life is a whole lot better!

Exactly which skills are relevant will depend on who you are and where you live. Some skills might be considered essential to one person, but unnecessary for someone else.

For example, the ability to hunt and fish are not skills that will help you if you live in a city and likewise, knowing how to set a table is going to be pretty redundant for a jungle tribesman.

Not only that, necessary skills change over time and according to the society you live in.

There was a time in most places around the world when making a fire and skinning an animal was an important life skill, but there is little need for that these days, at least for the majority of the population.

Looking at things in broad terms, a United Nations Inter-Agency Meeting was held back in 1998 to discuss exactly the definition and objectives of life skills education globally and they identified five basic areas of life skills that are relevant across cultures:

  • decision-making and problem-solving
  • creative thinking and critical thinking
  • communication and interpersonal skills
  • self-awareness and empathy
  • coping with emotions and coping with stress

Basically though, any skill that can be applied to your life and deemed as useful is a life skill.

Schools generally take care of the basic academic skills, such as literacy and numeracy, but there are a huge amount of skills that you don’t pick up at school. (Sometimes I wonder what part of school education does actually prepare you for real life, but that’s a whole other topic.)

We’ve compiled our own list below. It’s quite broad and relates (we believe) to the majority of our readers, but huge shout out to you if you’re reading this from your yurt on the Mongolian steppe! Apologies that bare-back horse riding doesn’t make the list this time around . . .

Not sure if there is any kind of “academically approved segmentation” of life skills, but we’ve split them up into three basic types with the fairly self-explanatory titles of: Social, Emotional and Practical.

There may be some skill overlap and as you’ll see, a lot of the skills are almost skills within skills or a combination of several skills.

(Meanwhile, I’ll be busy skillfully constructing more sentences that are loaded with repetitions of the word “skill”, which does, in fact take some skill . . .)

Anyway, having the right set of life skills can help you achieve more and may also prevent you from making bad life choices.

The amazing thing about us humans is that the skills we are capable of learning are almost endless.

And I don’t think we should ever really stop learning and improving. There is always something we can be better at and some way we can improve ourselves. Always.

But there are certain skills that if everyone could acquire, we kind of think that the world would be a much better place.

See what you think.

1. Good Communication

This is a big one, since effective communication is really the foundation upon which all other social skills are built.

As human beings, we’re hard-wired to interact and communicate with each other, both verbally and non-verbally, but that doesn’t mean that we are all good at it. The skill of social interaction and communication is something that needs to be learned and developed in order to do it well.

The ability to communicate and express yourself well is important in so many aspects of life, for example, building relationships, maintaining relationships, dating, negotiating, etc.

And it would not be an exaggeration to say that how good you are at communicating with others can make or break both your career and your relationships and so can have a massive impact on the quality of your life.

Of course, we live in a world of social media, texting and emails and so the way in which we communicate has changed quite dramatically in just one generation.

We now have numerous ways of communicating without having to interact face-to-face and while this has its advantages, I sometimes think this progress is to the detriment of quality real-life human interaction.

For example, are we losing the ability to communicate effectively with “real world” face-to-face conversation?

That’s debatable, but it’s clear that whenever you observe a group of teens or twenty-somethings in a coffee shop, it’s almost guaranteed that they will all be staring at their phones. You can judge whether that is a good or a bad thing.

While using texts and social media as a means of communication has its advantages, if we lost the ability to communicate with someone “in the flesh” and eye-to-eye, it would be a tragedy, because it is part of the essence of what makes us human.

2. Negotiating

Negotiation is an advanced form of communication and is the process of resolving an issue in a way that all parties concerned find acceptable.

It can play a role in conflict resolution, debating and compromising and is by no means an activity limited to formal business deals and politics.

Whether we realize it or not, we are involved in negotiations on a daily basis, be it with partners, children, work colleagues or in some kind of sales transaction setting (e.g. buying, selling, haggling).

Very few people are natural-born negotiators, but it is a skill that can be learned and being good at it can be a major attribute.

The success of a negotiation often relies on how you choose to communicate and the way in which you use your words.

3. Handling Criticism

I’ve read various articles about how to deliver constructive criticism and a lot of valid points are made.

But I sometimes think that, instead of focussing on how to give feedback to people, if everyone learned how to receive and handle criticism better, then how it is delivered would never matter.

You see, when we communicate with somebody, we need to remember that the way we phrase something, what is heard by the recipient and how that is interpreted may not quite reflect the actual message we intended.

In other words, even with the best intentions in the world and delivered in the nicest way possible, we can’t really control how another person interprets what we say and therefore, how they receive and react to our criticism.

The recipient needs to put the criticism into context and choose how they are going to react to it and if you can develop the skill of handling criticism well, you can use it to get better at whatever it is you do.

So when it comes to getting anything useful out of critical feedback, the onus needs to be on how it is handled, rather than how it is dished out.

If someone is not prepared to accept criticism, it doesn’t matter how you deliver it, because it is always going to be received badly.

Let’s face it, I don’t think, anybody really enjoys being criticized. We all prefer being praised, right? It’s easy to get defensive and see criticism as an attack on our abilities and even our personalities.

But the the crucial thing is: don’t ever take criticism personally.

Listen objectively to what is being said with the assumption that the feedback you are receiving is being given with good intention.

Don’t view criticism as failure, but as an opportunity to learn and become better.

Having said that, you should also make an objective decision about the validity of the criticism, because there are times when we definitely shouldn’t listen to it.

For example, if it is being done with the goal of knocking your self-esteem or it is unsolicited negative criticism from people who probably have their own agenda and insecurities, then it is better to ignore it.

The ones you need to listen to will have valid points based on experience and skill and they probably have your best interests at heart and want to see you fulfilling your potential.

It’s up to you to choose which critical feedback is valid and how you act on it, but regardless of whether you view it as useful or not, always accept criticism without emotion and view it as an opportunity for you to take a step back and assess yourself objectively and make improvements.

There is always room for improvement and nobody is perfect!

4. Networking

Talk to anyone about networking and invariably the old adage, “It’s not what you know, but who you know,” will be dropped into the conversation sooner or later.

And it’s true that developing a network of useful contacts can open up all kinds of doors and give you access to resources that qualifications alone will not.

One side of networking is all about connecting with (useful) people and building relationships that might help you in some way in the future.

But it really is important to remember the flip side of “who you know” and that is, “who knows you?”

Think about your skills and what you might be able to offer the people you meet and communicate that to them. How can you help them? How can you be the one they think of when they have a problem or an opportunity?

If you approach networking in this way, you’ll get much more out of it.

You’re crushing my hand, man.

5. Being Able To Introduce Yourself

The ability to introduce yourself to someone new and engage with another person may seem simple on the face of it, but it is actually a social skill that many people are not great at and there are many elements that need to be right in order to nail a really good introduction.

For example:

  • Eye contact
  • Handshake
  • The actual words you choose
  • The tone you use
  • Facial expressions

We all tend to make very quick judgments and form opinions about people based on our first impressions, so your introduction can often make or break a job interview, a business deal or even a potential personal relationship.

The first impression sets the tone, so if you seem moody, arrogant or unfriendly in the first instance (whether that is your intention or not), it can make it difficult for the other person to move beyond that initial impression.

Being able to introduce yourself in a confident and friendly manner will also makes others feel more comfortable, which, in turn, will make it easier for them to respond to you more positively.

6. Listening

Another useful skill is knowing how to talk less and listen more. Most of us can hear, but we don’t always listen.

And that’s a shame, because communication isn’t just about speaking – it’s also about listening.

I was always taught that we were born with two ears and one mouth so that we can listen twice as much as we speak. And when it comes to communicating with others, I think that is a decent ratio at which to operate.

Listening is not passive. It is an active process that requires concentration, focus, patience – and practice.

Some people talk way too much and while, in some cases, that may actually be due to being nervous, it usually means they’re not communicating effectively.

They end up talking at people rather than with people, which makes communication very one-dimensional.

Another bad habit is using the time they don’t spend talking to think about what they want to say next, rather than listening to what is being said by the other person. Have you ever been guilty of that? I know I have.

Listen more, listen carefully and understand people around you before you contribute to the discussion.

7. Social Etiquette

Etiquette is the code of conduct in society or among members of a particular group or profession. It can vary widely between countries, cultures and generations.

We’re talking about what is considered polite behaviour and basic manners in any given social situation. There are hundreds of examples and include things like:

  • Saying “Please” and “Thank you”
  • Punctuality and respecting people’s time
  • Being courteous and respectful to others
  • Putting your phone away in meetings, during meals, at the cinema, etc
  • Holding the door for the person behind you
  • Making eye contact with the person you’re taking to
  • Dressing appropriately for the occasion
  • Chewing food with your mouth closed

What is acceptable behaviour will depend on the social situation, but the skill lies in gauging what is appropriate and what is not and acting accordingly, because how you behave affects how you are perceived by others and consequently, how they may act towards you.

8. Digital Etiquette

Just as there is a code of conduct for real life social engagement, there is also a digital etiquette, sometimes known as netiquette, which refers specifically to your behaviour online, whether that is online gaming, email, SMS, message boards, forums or any other forms of social media.

This is really about being a good citizen online by having responsibility for yourself and your actions and treating people with the same level of respect and courtesy online as you would (or should) in real life.

As with social etiquette, what is deemed as appropriate digital etiquette may vary depending on the platforms you use and the people within your circle.

A few examples of digital etiquette include:

  • Post appropriate content (e.g. LinkedIn is not the platform to post your glam selfies and Instagram users aren’t going to care too much for your post on how to recruit the right job candidate.)
  • Don’t troll, flame and bully people online (cyberbullying)
  • Don’t post in ALL CAPS
  • Don’t use abbreviations and emoticons in formal emails
  • Get permission from friends before posting photos or personal info
  • Don’t share fake news (see below, #34 Critical Thinking)

Demonstrating good etiquette online is really an extension of other life skills, such as empathy, compassion, consideration, self-awareness, etc.

If you want to break this down to one sentence: when you’re online, don’t be an ass-hat.

Curtain call.

9. Public Speaking/Presenting

As someone who is not naturally gifted at public speaking, I’ve always admired those who are good at it. It is an awesome skill to have.

While it’s true that this kind of skill is more relevant to certain professions, learning to speak well in front of an audience has a lot of benefits in addition to the actual skill of public speaking.

Think about any situation in life where you might be motivating, teaching, coaching, convincing, debating, appealing, informing.

It’s all about communication and clearly expressing your thoughts and if you can do that well in front of an audience, the chances are you can also do it at any other time it may be required in your daily life.

10. Patience

I don’t know if I really agree with the old saying that patience is a virtue, because being able to wait for something doesn’t necessarily make you a good or particularly virtuous person.

So, patience may not be a virtue, but is is definitely a skill and in the right circumstances, and certainly within the context of self-control and keeping calm, patience is an excellent skill to possess.

Think about the effect of impatience and how it manifests itself: short tempers, rash decisions, irritability and generally not keeping your cool.

Don’t be the impatient one. Be the patient one. Be the one that takes the time to step back from a situation and assess and make objective and measured decisions.

Of course, there are times when taking action is more appropriate than remaining patient, but deciding when to take action and when to be patient is also a skill.

These days, there is a culture of wanting and having everything now. Can’t wait, won’t wait. This results in a generation of people that may find it hard to be patient.

But it is important to remember that sometimes, we need to be patient when it comes to waiting for certain things to come our way. Most worthwhile rewards require a lot of work and are the result of a lot of time invested.

11. Respect For Others

Respect for others, in the sense of due regard for the feelings, rights and wishes of others, includes compassion, humility and kindness towards other humans and, in my opinion, animals.

Being kind and caring towards others is perceived by some as a weakness – a sign of being emotionally fragile or soft – but it is not.

A kind, caring, respectful and accepting human being has enormous value and if everyone understood that, the world would be a significantly better place.

Some might argue that these are more inherent traits than skills, but I feel these qualities can be learned and developed by most people, particularly when we’re children, but also as adults.

12. Teamwork

I’m all for solo endeavours, but there are times when being able to work well in a team scenario is an extremely valuable skill to have.

Teamwork and collaboration is valued highly by many organisations in today’s job market.

Working well in a team is not about being the best, but about the recurring theme of effective communication and doing this well within a group, understanding human dynamics, recognizing your own strengths and weaknesses and then knowing how you can contribute most effectively.

15. Dependability

This is about being trustworthy and reliable.

If you say you’re going to do something, you do it. In both my professional and personal life, I have encountered many people who proved not to be dependable. It is very disappointing to be let down by others and this will also affect how you judge others in future.

The key to being someone others can truly depend on is reliability, consistency and honesty, even in tough situations.

People that don’t like to commit and use terms like “maybe”, “let’s see” and “probably” are flaky and not dependable at all. Don’t be one of those people.

Instead, be the rock people can turn to and depend on when they’re in a jam.

Aww, you girls kill me.

14. Making People Laugh

Making people laugh and feel good is a wonderful skill to develop.

Some people are natural entertainers and this trait is part of their personality, but even if it doesn’t come naturally to you, it is definitely something you can develop.

People like people who make them laugh.

It puts them at ease and it can help you make a connection. This doesn’t mean you have to play the joker all the time – that’s just irritating – but it’s great being able to diffuse situations with humour, lighten someone’s mood with a funny anecdote or even stop a kid crying with a slapstick comedy pie to the face.

Your own face, obviously.

Planting a pie into the face of a crying child is clearly not cool. So don’t do that.

15. Supporting Others

Many people prefer to avoid confrontation or get involved with things if “it is not their problem”. But being able to support and stand up for others, particularly those weaker or more vulnerable than ourselves is a noble and worthy ability.

That doesn’t mean you need to stick your nose in everything, but I am sure you can think of occasions where you wish you had helped someone or supported them in a situation, but instead opted for the easier option of not getting involved.

Pick your battles carefully, but don’t be scared to speak up and get behind others when it is called for.

16. Handling Relationships

This is really another of those skills that is a combination of other skills, like good communciation, the ability to negotiate, empathizing and emotional intelligence.

Humans are social beings and so a big part of life is all about having meaningful and successful relationships with others. And I’m talking about all kinds of relationships, both personal and professional.

Family, friends, significant others, children, bosses, colleagues. We have all kinds of relationships with all kinds of people. But actually, many of us are not great at handling and nurturing relationships and this can be detrimental to our quality of life.

Putting in some work to improving your skill at handling relationships can be life-changing and so well worth the effort.

17. Emotional Intelligence (EQ)

Emotional intelligence is the ability to understand and manage one’s own emotions, as well as those of others.

There isn’t really a way to scientifically measure EQ, but you can recognize it in people that demonstrate traits such as self-awareness, empathy, self-motivation and good social and listening skills.

These individual skills can all be worked on to improve your overall EQ.

18. Resilience

Resilience is the skill of “bouncebackability”, which is officially the coolest word ever.

Resilience is about coping with stress, failure, rejection, hardships, pressure. Fall down seven times, stand up eight and all that.

Don’t fear failure.

That’s life – it happens.

Just remember: there is no failure – only opportunities to learn.

Resilience is all about having confidence, optimism, positivity and tenacity in the face of life’s challenges. It is about being persistent.

19. Mindset

Mindset is really the belief that success is not determined by ability alone.

Having the right mindset is a skill that can help us perform at our best and learn other skills.

Any coach or anybody who has been successful in anything will tell you that great performance isn’t just about skill or intelligence or ability.

Of course, you do need skills, but when you’re competing against people of similar ability, it often comes down to the one who has the right mindset and who can ‘keep their head in the game’.

The mind is a powerful tool when you learn how to use it to your advantage.

Related ~ How To Use Visualization To Be Better At Everything!

20. Relaxation

Here’s one that perhaps you may not have ever considered to be a skill: the art of relaxation.

Knowing how to relax in order to recharge, reduce stress and anxiety, promote good quality sleep and maintain optimal health is a key life skill that many people overlook, usually because they’re too pre-occupied, running around being busy and anything but relaxed!

Relaxing also includes laughing, not taking life so seriously and working towards a generally more relaxed attitude in your daily world.

There are all kinds of activities you can do to help relax and it is important to find the right ones for you.

Not working or have a break from the kids does not automatically equate to relaxing. You need to find the activities that actually calm your mind and relax your body. That could be doing a sport, having a scented bath, spa therapy, playing an instrument or even just walking the dog.

Find the things that help you ‘switch off’ and reset.

Mindfulness is an increasingly popular way to relax and the beauty of it is that it can be done anywhere without any real training. (See below.)

Self care and relaxation needs to be scheduled into your day. Make it happen.

Related ~ Best 20 Apps For Stress Relief

Related ~ 7 Great Reasons To Do Yoga Every Morning

21. Mindfulness

Mindfulness is the skill of being aware and in the present moment. This is something that is distinctly lacking in a world where we are being constantly bombarded with stuff competing for our attention.

Practising mindfulness, like most skills, takes a bit of time and effort to learn, but you may find it easier than you think. It is basically about tuning out all the normal distractions that surround us and paying attention to your experiences as and when they happen. It’s about living in the moment without judgment or fear.

I feel that mindfulness is really about getting back to enjoying the experience of being human. It’s about acknowledging and appreciating all of the things our senses allow our bodies to experience, but often get drowned out by all the noise and distractions of modern life.

For me, practising mindfulness really helps me relax and put the world and life into perspective. And the beauty of it is that we can all incorporate mindfulness into our daily lives – you don’t need a special place, particular clothes or any equipment to do it.

Related ~ How To Easily Improve Your Life Using Mindfulness

Just do it.

22. Boldness

This is about not being afraid to take action without knowing the outcome.

In life, people are often afraid of the unknown.

Perhaps humans are innately predisposed to desire security, but security is an illusion – we can never truly live in a permanant state of absolute safety and security.

But the desire to do so may often prevent us from taking action on moving towards something potentially better than where we are now, because we don’t want to risk losing our current ‘comfortable’ and ‘known’ position.

The skill of boldness or courage, if you like, is about having the self-confidence to take some form of calculated risk in order to progress or achieve a goal and should not be confused with recklessness.

Countless leaders and entrepreneurs make bold moves all the time, but they are usually done so after consideration, risk calculation and preparation. It’s not always about taking a leap of faith.

Related ~ 8 Easy Ways To Boost Self-Confidence

23. Self-Discipline

Habits are usually formed passively due to your environment or actively through self-discipline.

Self-discipline can bring with it improved self-esteem and confidence and I have heard it termed as the foundation of success. It’s certainly a key part of a happy, healthy and productive life and if you are not someone with self-discipline, there are ways to build it.

It doesn’t have to be getting up at 4.30am to exercise, meditate, write a ten-thousand-word report, respond to all your emails and drink a super-duper kale and berry turmeric smoothie before everyone else has even had the chance to wipe out their morning eye gunk.

Focus instead on the stuff that matters to you. Identify the things you want to change in your life and discipline yourself to do what is needed to acheive those goals.

24. Willingness To Learn

The willingness to learn is crucial life skill in today’s rapidly-moving world. If you’re not learning, then you’re stagnant.

It doesn’t matter what stage of life you’re at, you should never, ever stop learning.

Within an employment context, this makes you a more valuable ‘commodity’, but more importantly, learning helps you to constantly grow and develop and gain new perspectives on life.

None of us are here for long, so we might as well make the most of it.

25. Identifying Your Passion, Your ‘Why’

I believe that having a passion and identifying a purpose in life is a wonderful thing that few of us really get to experience, because we so often get bogged down with all the mundane crap in society.

Following your dreams and doing what makes you happy can seem like an extravagance when you have bills to pay, kids to raise and responsibilities at work.

We all spend a lot of our time doing stuff that, when you think about it, is actually quite meaningless and unimportant.

It’s just killing time.

But there maybe times when we find ourselves doing stuff that gives our lives meaning and make us happy. These are the truly important things. These are the things to focus on.

Having a purpose doesn’t necessarily mean that you need to engage in purley altruistic activities that “save the world”. The important thing is that the things you do add meaning to your own life, but if that also helps improve the lives of those around you – even better.

26. Self-Awareness

Self-awareness is a major part of emotional intelligence. It is the ability to understand your own strengths and weaknesses, your thoughts and emotions and the effect you have on others around you.

Many people think they are very self-aware, but they are not.

The ability to understand the effect you have on others is a skill that will help you communicate better and get along better in the world.

Understanding yourself enables you to make better decisions.

Shh! I’m in the zone.

27. Focus

The ability to focus on something is a skill that is very useful in an age when we have so many different things competing for our time and attention simultaneously.

Not being able to concentrate and maintain our attention and effort on a task can be frustrating and wastes so much of our precious time.

Focus can be trained and developed like a muscle. It does take practice, but there are a number of techniques you can use to eliminate distractions and improve your mental focus to become more efficient and effective in all aspects of your personal and professional life.

28. Flexibility

I’m not talking about yoga here – I mean the skill of flexibility and adaptability in personal and work life situations. As we’ve mentioned several times already, the world moves quickly and what was relevant last year may not be relevant today.

We need to be able to constantly evolve and adapt to our environment and those who can, thrive.

And it’s ok to change your mind about something. You’re going get a lot of stuff wrong in life. It’s totally ok to change your stance. Be comfortable in being flexible and adaptable.

Or, as Bruce Lee once said, you need to be like water, my friend.

29. Saying “No”

Sometimes, many of us up saying “yes”, when really we want to say “no”.

We find it really difficult to say “no”, because we’re scared it will offend, anger, disappoint whoever it is we’re saying “no” to – it could be your boss, or a family member or a friend.

We fear that saying “no” will jeopardize our relationships or our careers. Or we feel guilty or selfish or rude.

So we end up saying “yes”.

But the thing is, we’re getting requests for our time and commitment from people constantly and we need to consider that our time is precious and our resources and energy are finite. We can’t take on everything.

Saying “yes” to everything will overload you and overwhelm you. You will end up resenting others and being unproductive and unhappy.

Learning how to say “no” is an art and a skill that we should all learn. Of course, that doesn’t mean you need to say “no” to everything. But choosing which commitments you take on will make for a less stressful life, for sure.

30. Living Life Without Comparing Yourself To Others

Comparing yourself to others is normal human behaviour.

We all want to define who we are, our strengths and weaknesses, what makes us who we are, where we fit in. But to do that, we need some context, which is why we can only really define ourselves in relation to others.

That’s ok, but the other reason we compare ourselves to others is to boost our self-esteem and that is where it can be toxic and destructive.

Social media has its uses, but there are many aspects to it that are not good – one of those being the way that it encourages us to compare ourselves to others. This will generally only make you unhappy.

It’s kind of a pointless and often destructive tendency.

Focus instead on yourself compared to yesterday. If every day, you strive to be a better person than you were the day before, you’ll be doing alright!

31. First Aid

You don’t need the extensive knowledge of a paramedic or doctor, but even knowing some basic first aid techniques will give you the confidence to step in when faced with an emergency and it could be the difference between life and death.

Basic first aid skills can be learned quickly and easily, so find a credible first aid training provider in your area and equip yourself with the essential skills and knowledge to save someone’s life. There are even online courses available these days.

32. Self-Defence

The ability to defend yourself or your loved ones in a threatening situation is something that should be as essential as learning to swim or administering first aid.

Even some basic knowledge of self-defence could be the difference in preventing a nasty outcome in the event of an attempted assault.

If you want to take things a step further, learning a martial art brings with it all kinds of benefits in addition to self-defence – respect, discipline, self-awareness, self-confidence, fitness, friendships, to name just a few.

As a final word, don’t try to learn self-defence techniques from watching YouTube videos. While some good tutorials can be found, most will not help you in a volatile situation. Instead, find a class and learn the correct tecniques in a real life setting.

33. Decision-Making

Decision making is often seen as a ‘core skill’ by employers, especially for people aspiring to management positions.

We all have to make all sorts of decisions every single day, ranging from the quite trivial – what to have for dinner, which new cell phone to buy, which clothes to wear – to more serious decisions about relationships, money and career opportunities and all other kinds of things in between.

Sometimes the decisions you make can have serious positive or negative implications on your life, but most of the time, whether or not you choose a caramel latte over a cappuccino is not going to matter either way.

Not every decision you make will be the right one, but welcome to the human condition. It’s all part of life.

When it comes to making decisions, people use reasoning, their instinct (gut) or a combination of both.

Some people are not good at making decisions – not in the sense of the decision they make, but the length of time it takes to come to a decision. But this can be chanaged with practice.

There are some useful techniques and tools you can learn to help your decision making, such as the Eisenhower Box.

34. Critical Thinking

Don’t take anything at face value.

I know that might sound cynical, but in an era of fake news and disinformation, you need to be able to think for yourself. Blindly believing anything you are told and everything you read without taking the time to analyze and assess the information you is dangerous.

Some people are naturally inquisitive and gifted critical thinkers, but if you are not one of them, the good news is that you can develop this skill. The key is really in developing a questioning mind and making a habit of asking questions.

Always keep this section of a famous poem in mind:

I have six honest serving-men
(They taught me all I knew);
Their names are What, and Where and When
And Why and How and Who.

From “The Elephant’s Child” by Rudyard Kipling

Understanding the causes of underlying issues and identifying ways to resolve them are skills that are highly sought-after by employers, so by improving your critical thinking skills, you could also be improving your career prospects.

More questions than answers.

35. Problem Solving

Problem solving is similar to critical thinking and is about applying your brain power to overcome a barrier.

You don’t necessarily have to be academically smart to be a good problem solver and there are techniques you can learn to help you become better at solving problems.

Life, when you think about it, is essentially one long series of problems that needs to be solved and tackling these problems enables opportunities for personal growth.

36. Time Management

We all get the same 24 hours in a day, but have you ever noticed that some people seem to get so much more done with their time than others?

That’s down to good time management.

Organizing and planning how to divide your time across different activities is not something that comes naturally to everybody, but being able to do so can definitely help you get more done in less time.

Good time management skills can help you to achieve a better work-life balance.

Related post ~ Top Time Management Tips Everyone Needs To Know

37. Self-Care

Self-care is kind of a catch-all term that can cover a wide range of activities and it will mean different things to different people.

But really, what we’re talking about here is mental, emotional and physical well-being, so it generally involves exercise, nutrition, relaxation and self-development.

We’re all aware that for all the conveniences and benefits the modern world offers, it also brings an unprecendented amount of potential for “overwhelm”, so it is crucial to take time out to recharge, reset and refocus.

Caring for ourselves allows us to be the best we can be. You can’t be at your best if you’re always stressed out, tired, malnourished and out of shape.

And self-care is definitely not an indulgence or a luxury, so never feel guilty about making room in your daily life to do the things that you enjoy and that help you relax, feel good and sleep better.

Related ~ The 30-Day Wellness Challenge

Related ~ How To Get A Good Night’s Sleep

38. Financial Literacy

The ability to manage money could help so many people build a more solid financial future and yet, for whatever reason, money management is not something that is taught in the public school system.

Instead, time is wasted on all kinds of crap that, although possibly quite interesting, we will never need in our adult lives, from cumulonimbus clouds to potato batteries to long division and possibly 90% of whatever is on the curriculum.

Learn how to manage monthly expenses, save for retirement, make investments, understand debt, loan interest, credit cards, taxes, credit scores.

This is important stuff that may look intimidating, but which is not that complicated in reality and knowing how to heandle it all will make a huge difference to your life.

Related ~ Quick Quiz: How Financially Savvy Are You?

Related ~ How To Create A Budget That Works

39. Basic Housekeeping

This is another set of life skills that is not generally taught in schools.

Chores, such as laundry, ironing, basic home repairs, removing stains, unblocking a sink and sewing are really useful skills to have when you’re no longer living with your parents. They are also not that difficult to learn.

Like most things, all that is required is a little bit of willingness to learn and the inclination to put the learning into practice.

Add in a little organization and planning and you’ll have the whole housekeeping thing down before you know it.

40. Finding A Job

When it comes to being prepared for job interviews on leaving school or university, I don’t remember ever being taught about that. However, I do remember that my first “proper” interview was a disaster. I had absolutely no idea about the expectations, the interview process or anything. Hell, I wasn’t even really sure what the job entailed – I just knew I needed to earn some money!

Finding a job and the getting through an interview process definitely requires a solid set of skills to do it successfully.

Knowing where to look, writing a cover letter, nailing your résumé, preparing for an interview and then getting through one can be tough and I am sure the many a capable candidate has failed to secure a job they could have comfortably managed simply because they didn’t have the skills necessary to negotiate the intial hurdles involved.

You might want to use some water to cook that spaghetti.

41. Cooking

The great thing about cooking is that it is a skill that can teach you a lot of other skills, such as patience, planning and perseverance. Cooking is both an art and a science and can be as simple or as challenging as you want to make it.

You don’t need to become a Michelin star chef, but learning even the basics of how to cook properly can seriously improve the quality of your life. Not just because you can take control of the food that goes into your body, but because it is actually very satisfying.

Plus, feeling confident enough to invite people over for dinner can work wonders for your social life and relationships.

As an added bonus, cooking your own food is generally much cheaper than eating out or ordering take-away, so you’ll save a ton of money.

42. Personal Branding

In relation to a business, a brand is actually something that is quite difficult to define, but it could be described as the personality of the business.

It is all the things that the company or product represents. It’s the attributes that make it unique and identifiable and evoke a feeling in the customer or represent what they aspire to become.

As an individual, you also have particular attributes that define who you are and make you unique – the way you dress, the way you speak, the people you associate with, the experiences you’ve had, the belief systems you live by, the things you do and the way you do them, to name just a few.

And you can use the sum of these attributes to create your own personal brand.

Developing and being conscious of your personal brand can help you actively dicate the direction of both your personal and professional life.

Firstly, it helps you know and understand exactly who you are.

Secondly, you can use it to both connect with and set yourself apart from others, which can be extremely useful in a professional sense.

43. Staying Organized

Staying organized at home and at work can save you time, money and hassle.

Part of staying organized is good time management, which has already been mentioned.

Planning, prioritizing tasks, good time management, keeping a schedule, maintaining a decluttered environment are examples of things that will help you to stay organized.

Many people struggle to get organized and may feel that being disorganized is simply part of their personality – something they cannot really change.

It is not and it can!

Being organized is simply a habit and if you can change your habits and your lifestyle (which you can), you can have a more organized life.

Related ~ How To Declutter Your Home & Your Life

Related ~ 7 Habits For A Healthy Mind

44. Changing A Tyre

The ability to change a tyre is commonly cited as something that every adult should be able to do, but according to one study, 75% of millennials don’t know how.

Changing a tyre and more importantly, staying safe while doing it, is something I remember my dad showing me how to do, but also, we were taught in school at around the time a lot of us were learning to drive. I don’t recall exactly which subject that fell under, but it was some kind of vocational skills thing.

While I can count on one hand the amount of times I have actually needed to change a flat tyre in hundreds of thousands of miles driven, knowing how to do so on the couple of occasions I did get a flat saved me the time and expense of waiting for a recovery vehicle to come out.

Plus, I’d feel a bit pathetic standing there while some guy in a hi-vis jacket carries out a task that is not actually much more difficult than wiping your own ass.

Learn how to do it. Check it off the list. Move on. No excuses.

45. How To Sell

Selling is a skill that is useful in many aspects of life, not just in the profession of ‘sales’.

Broadly-speaking, whatever you do in life involves some element of selling.

Think about it. You’re either selling yourself (hopefully not literally) or you’re selling your ideas or point of view. And that happens every single time you engage with another human.

It happens at work, at home, dating – all the time.

Good sales skills basically come down to good communication and negotiation skills. And anyone can learn the techniques that make a successful salesperson.

You can find a ridulous amount of stuff about selling skills online that you can read for free, so go grab some and boost those selling skills.

46. How To Ask For Help

There are often times in life when we need help, but we shy away from asking for it, because we are simply not good at asking for it.

It feels like a weakness or a sign of failure. We should be able to handle the situation ourselves, right?

We don’t want to be a bother or impose on anyone, do we?

We don’t want to feel needy. We don’t want to reveal that we are struggling. We don’t want to over-step boundaries in friendships. Or we feel that others have it worse than ourselves, so we don’t want to make a big deal.

There are all kinds of reasons and apparent barriers that may prevent us from asking for help.

But not asking for help when we really need it can cause all kinds of unnecessary emotional stress and worry and can even contribute to problems with mental health.

So, knowing when and how to ask for help is an important skill to master. If you want some good pointers, check out this great short TED Talk by social psychologist, Heidi Grant: How To Ask For Help.

The cat walked over the keyboard again.

47. Coding

Being a competent end-user of digital devices is almost taken as a given for the younger generation, but in this digital age, basic literacy extends to much more than knowing your way around an iPhone (which, let’s face it, most kids can already do by the time they can walk) and understanding how technology works through coding and computational thinking is a vital skill for the future.

Practically everything is built around programming these days and if it isn’t yet, it soon will be. There is no indication of this trend changing any time soon, so if you want to keep up, you’re going to have to learn some of this stuff! (See above, Willingness To Learn).

48. Surviving Without Technology

I’m not talking about surviving without Instagram for a day here.

I mean being able to survive for a time without electricity. Or without your GPS, for example.

I’m old enough to have only had road maps to rely on when I first started driving and we tended to just remember how to get to different places (like we used to remember all of our friends’ phone numbers!), but the advent of GPS in cars seems to have changed all that.

Sadly, many people can barely find the end of their street unless the GPS is on.

Technology is great. It’s awesome, in fact and is a testament to the creativity of the human race. But my point is that I sometimes think we’re becoming too reliant on it, which is getting us, the end-users, out of the habit of thinking. It can make us a lot dumber and a lot less self-reliant, which only really becomes apparent when our technologies fail us.

Starting a fire, growing and preserving food, foraging, making a shelter – these are all skills that were once essential life skills, but these days, for most of us town and city dwellers, they’re simply not relevant. But does that mean we shouldn’t know the basics?

Think about a scenario where these technologies are suddenly not available to use. It could be through war, an act of terrorism or a natural disaster. We quickly become very vulnerable.

I’m not saying we all need to go full-on prepper and you may never need to use such knowledge and skills, but it doesn’t hurt to understand the fundamentals. We’re so reliant on technology that most of us would become incwe are ow vulnerable I think doing so also helps us to appreciate technology more and not just take it for granted.

49. Playing A Musical Instrument

Research has found that learning a musical instrument requires the use of both sides of the brain and can, among other things, enhance verbal memory, language development and spatial-temporal skills. So there are some good reasons to get your kids learning an instrument early. But you’re never too old to learn anything.

Aside from the scientifically-reasearched benefits of playing an instrument, there is also the fact that music is simply great for relaxing and reducing stress and depression. It’s a great opportunity to put down our devices for a while and ignore the notifications and immerse ourselves in music.

And if you have someone else you can make music with, that can be a lot of fun too.

50. Learning Another Language

It turns out that speaking more than one language makes you smarter. There are numerous well-documented cognitive benefits to learning a second language, such as improved memory, problem-solving skills, concentration and listening skills.

In our modern globalised world, the ability to not only communicate in another language, but also understand different cultures and ways of thinking, is a highly-valued skill that can further your career and enrich your life.

While the optimal time to learn foreign languages is when you’re young, it’s never too late, although for sure it is harder as an adult to become fluent in another language.


So those are our Top 50 rated life skills for the 21st Century – so far, at least. The world changes quickly and there could well be some new skills that become very useful over the next couple of decades.

How many of them do you think you possess?

How many need some attention?

What are you going to do about it?

Learning is a life-long process. Or perhaps life is a long learning process? Either way, as humans we owe it to ourselves to continually try and improve ourselves in as many areas of our lives as possible. That’s what life is all about.

Embrace it. Enjoy it. Live it. All sussed!

More great reading on All Sussed!

How To Stop Success Eluding You

The Best Motivational Quotes To Inspire Success

Top Time Management Tips Everyone Needs To Know

How Financially Savvy Are You? QUICK QUIZ!

Life Skills
Life Skills
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