Iain Barclay


Life skills are a set of human skills acquired from a variety of sources – one's parents, school teachers, from self development courses, and of course from one's own life experience, that are used to manage or address the problems we all encounter from time to time in daily life.

So life skills are about personal development – the developing, fine tuning, and mastering of whatever is needed to assist us in becoming the best that we can be. Having a good range of well developed life skills available will enable you to deal with life's adversities more effectively – and with less stress. It reduces the likelihood of having to resort to prescription drugs or addictive behaviours as a coping strategy; or simply lapsing into feelings of helplessness and despair because you aren't coping.

So what are these 'life skills'?

Well two essential life skills are:

  1. To know and understand yourself better. First of all this means that a degree of self enquiry is called for. For a start our persona is not really ONE homogenous whole – it is a collection of parts; each part dealing with a specific type of life situation. Some of these parts (which can also be referred to as 'ego states') work well for us, but others may not do so. Discovering what parts we have, how they came about, and what they are doing for us is a learning process. Parts that work well for us may still benefit from fine-tuning while parts that aren't working so well for us can be transformed to work positively for us. Secondly, accept and love yourself as you are! Those parts of you that are less than attractive (and we all have them) probably came about as a response to emotionally traumatic events– and they need understanding and loving acceptance if they are to be transformed. Out of this self enquiry, acceptance, and transformation we arrive, quite naturally, at a place of enhanced self esteem and self confidence.

  2. The skill set for managing feelings and stress are also a part of the self enquiry / transformation process - although managing stress can also involve learning time management skills and relaxation techniques.

  3. Learning how to live life more consciously. This means that your words – whether spoken or unspoken, and actions, must always be a true reflection of your inner self. (See also the Shiva Process under meditation)

These life skills are 'deep' and can involve what might be regarded as a spiritual approach to self discovery. However, it is also possible to look at life skills from a more pragmatic perspective:

  1. Communication and inter-personal skills such as the intricacies of verbal and non-verbal communication; active listening – being totally present for the other; and being able to give (and accept) feedback objectively and with kindness.

  2. Negotiation skills. In other words providing yourself with the internal resources to manage a conflict situation without being overwhelmed by it – I.E. Learning how to be appropriately assertive, and when to say NO even in the face of significant pressure - when 'NO' is the 'right' response.

  3. Being Empathic. This involves an ability to listen to (not just 'hear'), and understand, another person's circumstances and needs, and to then reflect that understanding back to them with kindness.

  4. The Collaborative Mindset: What we are talking about here is cooperation and being a 'team player'. In other words being able to acknowledge and respect the different styles and contributions that others bring to the table. Not only that but being able to objectively assess our own capabilities when contributing to the group. Think of this as Networking rather than wanting to 'fly solo' all the time.

  5. The skill of Advocacy: This is the skill of being able to motivate and persuade others. Being passionate about the object of your advocacy is almost an essential (but 'faking it until you make it' can get you by in the short term). Confidence (and believing in yourself) is a separate life skill that supports the skill of advocacy.

  6. Critical Thinking and Decision Making Skills: These involve a process that commences with information gathering, moves into an evaluation (analysis) phase – what are the future consequences for self and others based on possible actions?, and what are the alternatives? And then out of this process arriving at a decision regarding the action to be taken.

There you have it – an overview of 'life skills'. Not so much a one stop shopping trip as a journey into, and through, life.