Some national education curriculums don’t equip us with the right tools and information so we need to develop the necessary skill set and mindset needed to meet life’s challenges and achieve our goals. Instead, we often try to find other ways to develop these necessary traits, in order to be productive and relevant in this world of technological advancement. But what specific skills do we overlook most often, when it comes to getting ahead in life and business?
Let’s just say there’s no shortage of skills we can learn which would enable us to make significant progress in our careers and become better contributors to society. That’s why I want to highlight just five life skills which I believe are undoubtedly important for anyone who wants to realise their potential.
1. Using empathy
In this world of constant polarity, opinions, and judgement, we lose a sense of what it’s like to be human. Empathy is a skill like any other and its intangibility only means that we need to put a bit more effort into understanding and developing it.
Personally, I have struggled with knowing how and when to use empathy. I have either cared too much about people’s experiences and emotions or I have been too careless and quick to disregard what others felt. It was just a few years ago when I finally understood how to use this skill to make friendships, build business partnerships, and influence people.
Let’s break it down. Empathy is simply an ability to understand what others feel. On its own, empathy is kind of useless. But if you add up effective communication and occasionally throw some humour and irony into the mix, you can do magic with human relationships. If you’re a complete newbie at this, the very first step you’ll want to take is to learn how to listen to another person, without labelling their perspective and feelings. At times, it can be tough because we’re wired to judge and compare.
2. Communicating with different people differently
We’re very effective non-verbal communicators. It’s because our subconscious minds pick up a lot of non-verbal clues, like body language, the rate of speech, and voice pitch. The way you say things has more weight than what you say when it comes to everyday human communication.
Your style of communication should fluctuate according to the situation. If you allow it to, you could even notice how your personality changes and matches that of the person you’re talking to. It’s partly because we like to make others feel comfortable so we adapt to their style of speech, vocabulary, mannerisms, and even accent.
But there are some guidelines for this. Firstly, authenticity overrides everything else. You’d need to have enough self-awareness to be able to feel comfortable being yourself when to talking to anyone. Secondly, you need to be genuinely interested in the other person (not just fake it) and show curiosity towards what they say, at all times. In other words, you should care. This is how you will start to form a connection which will allow you both to feel at ease, sharing ideas and even personal experiences. You will notice how you emulate another person’s behaviour naturally.
3. Breaking bad habits
To be honest, I stole this one from Naval Ravikant, founder of AngelList. But at the same time, I feel like it has been a game changer in my life. Pretty much everything we do in our lives is a set of habits. Knowing how to break them and install new ones is a must-have skill for any person who’s looking for at least some level of personal fulfilment. It’s so crucial that without this one skill, you’re forever doomed to roam around in circles, without ever getting out of problematic situations — whether that’s in business or your personal life.
When you hit a plateau in any area of your life, you’re faced with internal resistance. This, I’ve learned, represents a clear sign for you to change things around; to change your habits around the task you aren’t progressing in anymore. Unfortunately, the majority of people do the opposite. They accept a level of mediocrity and don’t set new standards for themselves.
Recently, I’ve read a book called, ‘Atomic Habits’, by James Clear, which gives very valuable strategies on how to break habits and install those which will help you transform your life.
4. Taking action without knowing the result
Some people are very good at making things happen under supervision, or when given a clear step-by-step plan. Others strive for a more independent style of working and are flexible with the way they approach professional and personal challenges. Both styles are fine, as long as you’re happy with your results.
However in an ever-growing culture of entrepreneurship and remote work, having the ability to tackle problems independently, use your initiative, and find your own solutions, becomes an essential skill for many startups and small business owners.
One of the most important lessons I’ve learned being involved in various business projects is to take action, in spite of uncertainty and zero understanding of what I was doing. Practising this skill can sometimes feel like learning to walk again and it’s mostly because we haven’t been taught it as kids.
Finally, focusing on the process, rather than on the outcome can eliminate a lot of friction when things get tough. And they will get tough, sooner or later.
5. Knowing who you are
This is a skill which has no limits within its capacity and, obviously, there’s no set way of teaching it. Yes, you can get lost in spiritual books and retreats and, while they may help you in some way, it’s more important to know yourself when you’re striving for growth and personal self-actualisation?
Some of the most successful and interesting people I’ve met have managed to leverage their strengths and ”outsource” to cover their weaknesses. It’s not a foreign concept. And as long as you know what you’re good at and where your limits are, you will simply have less friction when, for example, building a business. But what do you do if you aren’t really sure what makes you tick?
The short answer is to ”taste” things. I’ve tried this approach and met multiple challenges, fallen flat on my face, disliked most things, made the most out of every experience, learned a dozen lessons along the way and still, to this day, I believe that’s the only way to learn. You’ve got to be willing to step into a lot of uncertainty and make sense of what you see around yourself. It sounds corny but trusts me, it works — you will become more self-aware.
I continue to focus on these five key areas in my professional and personal development with continual success. I’m hoping they’ll also be useful to you.
Do let me know how you get on!!
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