Why Life Skills?
What’s the hype all about, is this really important?
Life skills is a very broad term and most of us don’t actually know what exactly it includes. In this article, we’re going to look at life skills, what they are and why they’re important.
“abilities for adaptive and positive behaviour that enable individuals to deal effectively with the demands and challenges of everyday life”
What are Life Skills?
Basically, life skills are those skills which are essential for you to succeed in life. A more in-depth definition provided by WHO would be that they are the “abilities for adaptive and positive behaviour that enable individuals to deal effectively with the demands and challenges of everyday life”.¹ This is far more than just the ability to change a tyre or cook a meal (although those things are kind of important too).
Life skills can be grouped into three broad categories:
- Cognitive skills (this has to do with how you learn and solve problems)
- Personal skills (examples of these skills include self-awareness and coping with emotions)
- Interpersonal skills (these skills come into play when you interact with others i.e. communication and handling conflict) ²
Where are we lacking?
We all go to school and do the whole eight-to-quarter-past-two thing but is it enough? Are we truly ready to face all the challenges that the big world out there can throw at us? The honest answer, probably not… At least, we won’t be ready if we didn’t acquire some basic life skills beforehand.
Who are the main people who are supposed to teach us these skills? Our parents. Sadly, today parents don’t teach their kids life skills. This isn’t because they’re bad parents or don’t want to teach their children these things, the times have simply changed. Working mothers and after-cares which were almost unheard of when our parents were younger have now become common practice. The truth of the matter is, parents simply don’t have as much time as they used to.
Who do we expect to pick up the slack? Teachers maybe? The school systems are so focused on getting students to stay in school and pass at the end of matric that they hardly have time to focus on much else. With our actual current matric pass rate ranging just below 40% ³, can we really expect teachers to do anything but focus solely on academics? And even if that wasn’t the case, most teachers aren’t equipped to teach young people these skills.
Another culprit to the decline in life skills is technology. Sure, young adults are very skilled in computers and the latest smart devices but what good does that do if they become incapable of functioning properly in the real world? One poll in America showed that young adults have become increasingly more uncomfortable with in-person conversations with others (65% fear it) and some have even reported experiencing a freeze-up when doing so. ⁴ This would make sense if you take into account the thinking and even editing process involved before sending out a message -which has become the main form of communication for most- and of course this is very different from a normal face-to-face conversation. Now, I know good communication is only one life skill but the above already proves how scarce and necessary these skills have become.
Why are Life Skills so important?
Life skills influence everything. Good communication skills can improve your relationships and help you ace that job interview. The same goes for learning how to handle conflict situations. Becoming an organised and diligent worker can help you keep that job once you’ve landed it and actually stand a chance to move ahead in your field. Gaining self-awareness and improving your emotional intelligence can, in turn, help you to understand yourself better and improve your self-confidence. Even being able to budget properly can save you so much stress and trouble down the road. These life skills along with all the others can help you improve and grow to your full potential.
It’s clear that these skills are seriously lacking nowadays but it doesn’t have to remain that way. All hope isn’t lost just because you aren’t already a hard-working, self-aware person with excellent communication skills. With the will to learn and a positive attitude, anyone can master these skills.