The World Health Organization has identified six critical life skills that are necessary for everyone to have in order to live a happy, successful and productive life.
While many of these skills seem life traits best developed in childhood and practiced throughout our formative years, the report points out that it is never too late to acquire and practice them.
While the report originally listed five skills ranging from creative thinking and learning to empathy and self-awareness, it was subsequently expanded to include coping with stress as an essential life skill.
The WHO’s fundamental life skills everybody should have
Decision-making and problem-solving
The ability to assess a situation and come up with solutions and responses above and beyond those that that can be taught and rehearsed is an essential human skill. So too is the capacity to weigh various courses of action and select the most strategic option.
Creative thinking and critical thinking
Similarly, critical thinking is the ability to take in information, consider it, and then question it. This is how improvements and innovations are made: by not just accepting the status quo. Just because something works, doesn’t mean that there aren’t more efficient ways to proceed.
Communication and interpersonal skills
These are essential for life as well as for work. Being able to communicate your ideas with individuals and groups is necessary for successful relationships, teamwork, and even family life. In the professional setting, effectively communicating with coworkers, managers, and customers will be crucial for a successful career.
Self-awareness and empathy
Self-awareness is essential for improvement. Questioning your own choices, their effectiveness, and their impact on others is critical to learning and development. People who are not self-aware tend to think that they are without flaw and that everything that happens to them is someone else’s fault. Empathy is the flip side of this. It’s the ability to understand and feel what another person is experiencing – outside of its impact on you. These two are essential elements of being likeable and relatable.
Assertiveness and equanimity
Assertiveness is the ability to be self-assured and confident, without being aggressive – or worse – passive aggressive. Speaking your mind with confidence because you are assured of your position and your right to express it is an essential characteristic of leadership – and necessary skill for surviving job interviews.
Equanimity is the mental and emotional balance that allows you to remain calm and at ease even in difficult situations. The ability to not ‘fly off the handle’ because something upsets you.
Resilience and coping with emotions and stress
Perhaps that is why the sixth essential skill was a later addition to the list, it is similar to equanimity. Resilience and coping with stress are the capabilities of remaining self-aware and capable in difficult situations. This is necessary, because your life will inevitably include some difficult situations.
You will find yourself in conflict with a loved one, confronted by an angry stranger, under pressure at school or work. There will be great challenges to overcome, and they will be stressful. Your ability to cope with that stress and accomplish what needs to be done will be one of the building blocks of your success.
The good news is, the more you practice these skills, the easier they become. Self-awareness and empathy can become a state of mind rather that an exercise. The better your decision making and problem solving, the fewer difficult and stressful situations you’ll find yourself in to begin with. And when you do, you’ll be better prepared to handle them with confidence and competence.