Life skills are adaptive skills to effectively cope with challenges and changing demands. They include decision making, creative and critical thinking, stress management, interpersonal communication, and problem solving.
Examples of life skills are: communication with colleagues, financial management, personal care, maintenance of health and well-being, employability, home maintenance and management of family responsibilities.
As young students, we begin an education based on life skills in foundational skills: reading, writing, time reading, math, creative thinking and effective interaction with others. However, we continue to learn and develop throughout our lives.
As we grow into young men and women, experience and educational training help teach the skills needed to lead fulfilling and competent lives. These skills will be needed in all major areas of life (eg, career, family, health and vitality, recreation, important relationships, finances, spirituality, education, physical environment).
Many of the skills mentioned above will be essential throughout our lives. Some will be particularly important during different stages of life. Erik Erikson and Daniel Levinson identified a series of predictable life stages from late adolescence through retirement.1
These steps do not unfold in a completely linear fashion. We walk portions of each stage throughout life; however, specific skills are dominant at each stage. The dominant skills will be somewhat different for each individual. Here are some common examples:
Stage 1. Autonomy and provisional choices (about 18-26 years old)
Essential skills: goal setting, career planning, financial planning, establishing a home, developing self-reliance, transitioning to new peer groups, cooperation and teamwork, advanced learning skills.
Stage 2. Transition of young adults (around 27-31 years old)
Essential skills: make family decisions, evaluate career choices and commitments, empathize with others, adapt to important changes.
Step 3. Make commitments (around 32-42)
Essential skills: choose a direction of life, make permanent commitments, negotiate and manage conflicts, develop intuition / understanding of human nature.
Stage 4. Mid-life transition (approximately 42-48)
Essential skills: Personal and professional reassessment, re-examination of self-image, redefinition of values, rebalancing of attention to key areas of life, adaptation to significant changes.
Step 5. Leave a legacy (around 49-65)
Essential skills: contribution to society, self-acceptance, managing priorities, forgiving emotional debts, nurturing rewarding relationships, advocacy, making new commitments, keen intuition, accepting and sharing the wisdom of life experience.
Step 6. Spiritual unwinding (approx. 66 years and beyond)
Essential skills: Accept oneself as dependent on a wisdom greater than one’s own, recognize and respect the diversity of humanity, complete one’s personal development, adapt to life as part of a larger and more sustainable spiritual community.
Key questions: What life skills are most essential for you now? In what major areas of life could you benefit from additional skill development? What skills do you need to hone and refine to live the most fulfilling life possible?
When we regularly monitor the development of our skills and rebalance our focus on important areas of life, we can continue to progress and enjoy our greatest passions at every stage of life.
1. Weiler, Nicholas W. and Stephen C. Schoonover. 2001. Your Soul at Work: Five Steps to a More Fulfilling Career and Life: HiddenSpring.