Basic Life Skills
To deal with the ever-increasing pace and challenges presented by life in the complex 21st Century, students constantly need new life skills to deal with the ever-changing landscape of an ever-developing digital world. An example of this would be the ability to cope with stress and frustration.
This article will discuss one of the most important life skills, critical thinking. It will outline step by step how we can become better critical thinkers. It will also list some essential life skills and life skills activities and delve into some reasons why they are important and should never be overlooked.
Essential Life Skills.
“Read not to contradict and confute; nor to believe and take for granted; nor to find talk and discourse; but to weigh and consider.” – Francis Bacon
One of the most important life skills is the ability to think critically. We live in an era of mass media and digital communication and have to deal with a deluge of information from a huge number of sources on a daily basis. We need to be able to filter this information and decide what is true and what is fake, and we need the tools and insight to understand how to do this.
Critical thinking has been the subject of incredible thought and debate since the age of early Greek philosophers. Plato was a fifth-century student of the philosopher Socrates and later became Aristotle’s teacher. He founded one of the first western universities and wrote a variety of philosophical texts. Plato, Socrates, and Aristotle were early advocates of the concept of critical thinking, and it has continued to be an essential life skill in the modern age.
A contemporary example is the ability to recognize misinformation and disinformation. Social media sites are full of “fake news” these days and being able to critically examine “news” is particularly important. Critical thinking skills are extendable to all walks of life and are incredibly important tools. If we cannot discern what is real and what is fake, life can become extremely confusing.
“It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it.” – Aristotle.
Critical thinking is the ability of individuals to think rationally and clearly and comprehend the logical connection between ideas. An important aspect is the ability to think independently and reflect on your thinking.
Reflection is an essential skill because without analytical reflection it is difficult to make progress.
Critical thinking requires individuals to apply reason. It is not about being a passive recipient of information but more about being an active learner.
Instead of accepting information at face value, critical thinkers question assumptions and ideas intensely. They always attempt to look at ideas from many different angles and analyze whether findings and arguments represent the entire picture.
Critical thinkers are open/minded and happy to reevaluate in the presence of new, updated information. Critical thinkers do not solely rely on instinct or intuition. They analyze, identify, and solve problems rationally, scientifically, and systematically.
“The important thing is not to stop questioning. Curiosity has its own reason for existing.” – Albert Einstein
Steps to implement critical thinking, a basic life skill.
Imagine you wanted an answer to a simple question. Let´s say, “Is coffee good for you?” How would you go about finding out the answer? The most obvious answer is to do some online research. It is quite easy to find millions of articles on this topic. Many will agree and many will disagree. Who is right? That is the million-dollar question? Here are some steps which will guide you on the way to becoming a champion critical thinker and being able to make up your mind for yourself.
Steps to Become an Excellent Critical Thinker
1. Identify the question or problem precisely… a vital life skill
Be smart here and be as precise as possible. The more specific the issue, the easier it is to find answers and solutions. E.g., Is coffee good for my body? Does it contain any useful vitamins or minerals that are beneficial, or does it contain harmful substances, if so, what are they and what dosages are harmful? This is a much more detailed question than simply “Is coffee good for you?” and therefore easier to answer. Be precise and scientific and rational in your endeavours.
2. Gather arguments, data, and opinions… a life and career skill.
Find a variety of credible and trustworthy sources that present different points of view and ideas. This is a skill that needs to be learnt. Where can we find credible information, on Facebook? Tik Tok? Newspapers? Peer-reviewed academic publications? You decide!
3. Evaluate and analyze the data…an essential life skill.
Are your sources reliable? Why are they reliable? Are the conclusions of the sources backed by peer-reviewed data or are they merely opinions? Is there enough data to support the argument? Where does the data come from, and is it backed up? Is it authenticated? Who authenticated it?
4. Recognize assumptions…a vital life skill.
Were your sources unbiased? How do you know? What about you? Were you biased in your search for answers? How do you know? Bias is a difficult concept to discern. It needs to be approached rationally. In some ways, we are all inherently biased whether we recognize this or not. Recognition of bias is fundamental to sourcing an unbiased solution.
5. Recognize importance… a basic life skill
In your search for answers, you found a plethora of information. Which piece of information that you found is most significant? Why is it important? Which information is insignificant? If it is a survey, is the sample size adequate? Are all ideas and arguments relevant to the dilemma you are trying to resolve?
6. Come to a conclusion… an essential life skill.
Highlight a variety of conclusions that are reasonable. Decide which of them are supported enough by corresponding credible data. Evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of all the options. Come to an unbiased and supported solution.
7. Communicate your findings… a vital life skill.
When you have come to a conclusion, collate it, and prepare it to be presented. Present it to interested parties. Gather and collate feedback and constructive criticism. Evaluate this feedback and then reevaluate your conclusion.
Finally, reflect on the process and your conclusion. Learn from the process you implemented to reach your conclusion and critically evaluate if there are things you would do differently next time. This instigates a constant flow of reflective learning which is an active process and an excellent form of self-development.
Life skills activities
This article does not have the scope to go into detail here but here are some interesting life skills activities that teachers and students and parents could try. They are all beneficial in their own capacity.
Plant a tree
Bake a loaf of bread
Learn how to use the internet for research
Learn how to cook
Learn how to use kitchen appliances
Learn how to grow vegetables
Learn about safety in the home
Learn how to use a fire extinguisher
Learn how to change a plug and lightbulb
Learn how to fix a puncture on a bicycle.
Life skills for students
Coping with emotions.
Life skills for teens
Hygiene and cleanliness and personal grooming.
Cooking and food preparation skills.
Dress Sense or Clothing Skills.
Basic first aid and personal healthcare
Manners and social skills.
Why Life Skills are Important
Learning life skills not only teaches students skills to do things but also teaches them how to collaborate. Collaboration and teamwork are crucially important skills. They allow students to explore their natural talents and abilities and importantly learn from each other, take responsibility, and learn the countless benefits of working in teams. These skills transfer into adulthood in later life and are especially important in the workplace and other spheres of adulthood.
Learning how to Learn
Another essential skill is the skill of learning how to learn. This skill may be even more important than learning a specific skill itself. How do we learn independently? Learner autonomy is essential for success.
The scale here is broad and wide but could include basic things like effective note-taking, time management, taking breaks, having an organized and clean workspace, learning how to research, learning how to build on strengths and work on weaknesses, learning effective study habits like when is the best time for you to study, finding a healthy work-life balance, optimizing your diet for mental and physical health, finding your optimum noise…do you like to work in silence or is music helpful.
Creating workstations, is it more effective to work in different places e.g., an hour in the library, an hour at home, an hour in the park sitting under a tree in a cool breeze while birds sing overhead. Creating the correct environment for learning devoid of clutter, excessive light, and chaos. Setting goals, achieving goals, managing failure, learning from failure, and learning how to get and stay motivated.
Life is a skill. Critically evaluate what is important and remember…you never stop learning.
Patrick is from Ireland and has been teaching for the last twenty years. He has worked in Malaysia, Myanmar, India, Spain, Japan, Taiwan, Oman, and Saudi Arabia. He has a degree in English Literature and Applied Psychology. Patrick loves travelling and learning about new cultures. He is passionate about motivating students to maximize their creative potential.