If you’re like me, you are always looking for ways to get better at work and life. There are, of course, a million self-help books and programs. But before you launch into an elaborate self-makeover, make sure you have mastered the basics. Here are 13 fundamental life skills to develop for a better life and career.
1. Restful Sleep – The benefits of a good night’s sleep cannot be overstated. Being well rested is an important way to insure that you are on your A-game for the next day. Numerous studies show that being consistent with your sleep schedule makes it easier to fall asleep and wake up, and helps promote better sleep in general.
2. Empathy – Having the ability to feel what others feel is an incredible life trait that translates into success in the workplace. Empathy creates team spirit, motivates people to try harder, and drives us to push beyond apathy for something bigger than our paychecks. The trait of empathy is invaluable in the workplace, because identifying with coworkers builds relationships and effective communication, and improves results.
3. Time Management – Tried and true, effective time management is one of the most highly valued skills by employers. While there is no one formula to mastering this skill, it’s important to find a system that works for you –and stick to it.
4. Asking for Help – This is a toughie for some people. Many perceive it as showing weakness, when in fact, the converse is true. A recent study from the Harvard Business School found that asking for help makes you look more capable. According to the authors, asking others for advice validates their intelligence or expertise, which makes you more likely to win them over.
5. Consistency – The key to any long-term success is consistency, whether it’s with a new work out regimen, studying for the MCAT, or working on an important project. All the hard work we put into getting a promotion doesn’t stop there; we have to continue to work consistently if we want to maintain the position and continue to succeed.
6. Positive Self-Talk – What ultimately matters is what we think of ourselves, not what others think of us. But often we are our own worst critics. Be mindful of how you talk to yourself – positive self-talk has been shown to build confidence and allow us to believe in ourselves when no one else does.
7. Knowing When to Shut Up – There are a lot of instances when keeping to yourself is the best course, especially when we are angry, upset or agitated. Being off-balance can lead us to blurt out whatever comes to mind – and to later regret it.
8. Listening – Hand-in-hand with shutting up comes listening. The workplace is a space where there is constant information being thrown at us, whether through instant messaging or face-to-face conversations. Practice active listening to get the most out of what you’re given. This means listening to what another person has said and repeating it back to him. Not only have you heard what was said and absorbed it, you also foster a bond with the other person by letting them know they were heard.
9. Minding Your Business – While it may take time to master this skill, the payoff can be huge. No one wants to be known as a micromanager (or worse, stool pigeon) so, keep your nose out of other people’s work. In the end, you’ll build a better reputation around the office.
10. Resisting Gossip – Gossip can break down trust, which in turn breaks down relationships. Learning not to gossip can be hard to do; it means missing out on possibly important conversations, distancing yourself from influential people, and having the occasional awkward conversation of “Hey, sorry to interrupt but I really don’t need to know that, could we talk about something else?” But if you avoid gossip, you earn the priceless reward of trust.
11. Mastering Your Thoughts – To pursue our dreams and achieve our goals we need to consciously direct our thinking. While we are all a product of our experiences, it’s important to remember that the past does not equal the future.
12. Staying in the Moment – While this trait may bring to mind images of monks quietly meditating, we can all strive to be present in the moment and increase our happiness. So whether you’re in your daily commute, at the office, or with your family, being present is a proven method to making you feel more satisfied.
13. Speaking Up – Public speaking doesn’t come easily to most folks (to put it lightly). Warren Buffet is a prime example. Buffet was terrified of public speaking – so much so that he intentionally arranged his life so he would never have to get behind a podium. But eventually, Buffet faced his fear; he took a Dale Carnegie speaking course and gave speeches numerous times in front of his classmates. Reflecting on the experience, Buffet said: “Some of it is just practice – just doing it and practicing. And it worked.”