Life Skills Checklist – Is It What You Expected?
People who are very familiar with what I do have occasionally referred to me as a “Life Skills” Coach. This piques my interest, as I thought that it is a school counselor’s job to teach life skills. I am not a teacher, nor am I a counselor. I don’t typically work with children, adolescents, or young adults, who are the primary target for teaching “life skills”.
Recently, I was having a conversation with a friend of mine whose employer was considering introducing an educational program of teaching the employees the so-called “soft skills”. Immediately, I saw a connection.
Life Skills = Soft Skills
What are essential life skills? Google it and you will find wild things, such as “an ability to cook one thing with cheese”. On a more serious note, according to the World Health Organization (WHO), life skills may be defined as “abilities for adaptive and positive behavior that enable individuals to deal effectively with the demands and challenges of everyday life.” (World Health Organization, 1997a, p. 1)
Life skills correspond to being a balanced individual. About 10 years ago, UNICEF and WHO conducted a study among adolescents between 10 and 19 years to find out how our educational systems support creating “balanced individuals”. “The study revealed that 53 percent of children thought that finances were important for success and social status while only 10 percent believed that good social behavior was an important feature in life. Among them, 75 percent said they had a mind-disturbing problem.”
It is no surprise that our educational system focuses predominantly on teaching practical, technical or motor skills. We also teach livelihood skills, such as crafts, money management, and entrepreneurial skills. IT subjects are extremely popular in almost all schools all over the world. Of course, these are necessary, but they sometimes replace life skills courses, which aim to help students develop attitudes and skills needed to become functional at both social and personal levels.
These so-called soft skills are psychological, social and interpersonal skills that help students and adults alike become more balanced individuals in a variety of ways.
“Every school should enable children and adolescents at all levels to learn critical health and life skills…. Such education includes…. comprehensive, integrated life skills education that can enable young people to make healthy choices and adopt healthy behavior throughout their lives” (WHO, 1997b, p. 80).
The core skills that the WHO identified to be developed include:
- Decision-making – ability to evaluate information and advice to make informed decisions, assess advantages and disadvantages of different options, change decisions to adapt to new situations, and plan for the future;
- Creative thinking;
- Critical thinking – ability to analyze social and cultural influences on attitudes, values and behavior, question inequality, injustice, prejudice and stigma, explore and evaluate social roles, rights, and responsibilities, and evaluate risks;
- Effective communication;
- Interpersonal relationship skills;
- Self-awareness – ability to identify personal strengths, weaknesses, and vulnerabilities, clarify personal values and beliefs, and recognize personal worth and personal happiness;
- Coping with emotions;
- Coping with stress.
The additional areas in which a culturally sensitive approach is needed include:
- Goal setting;
- Negotiation skills.
Life Coach = Life Skills Coach
Judging by my own early education experience, critically lacking in the area of “life skills” development, as well as my practice coaching adults, we have a long way to go before assigning any degree of success to our educational institutions’ ability to equip the students with the knowledge, skills, and attitudes to face the problems and challenges in their adult private and professional life.
My personal life and my coaching practice both reflect the complexity of issues that the WHO’s “core life skills” identified.
My services as a coach are sought when a person feels “out-of-balance” in her public or personal life. She decides to hire me to help her sort things out, to get unstuck. Often, one or several of the core life skills are absent because they were never there to begin with or became temporarily lost of disabled.
Life coaching steps in to help the individual face her challenges. People hire coaches for a variety of reasons; I have been hired to better relationships with co-workers and bosses, to better family relationships, to improve a person’s quality of life, to increase someone’s confidence, to lower personal anxiety levels, and to achieve a more balanced life.
Someone even wanted me to help her ditch her husband because he was not “being fun” anymore. I politely declined.
Life Skills/Soft Skills For Change and Continuous Growth
On an individual level, it would be hard to contest that a complete set of life skills and attitudes helps a person to better face challenges and demands of daily living. I suspect that my friend’s employer knows that in order for her company to thrive, her people need to have certain “soft skills”. But it is worth considering that perhaps practicing those “soft” or “life” skills should be a change generator beyond the immediate needs her company has and leading to the more sustainable environment. Think LEGACY.
My successful clients do just that – they tap into their life skills kit to generate change instead of staying stuck.
Yes, you can call me a Life Skills Coach.