Beneficial Skills

Beneficial Skills

Skills That Help You Over The Long Haul

 It has been said that the best things in life are free…well, that’s bullshit. The best things in life take time, dedication, commitment, and perseverance; nothing less will do. When it comes to the things that matter, there are some important life skills that they may have forgotten to teach you while working on all those 21st Century skills in school. If you take the time and make the investment in an effort to learn them, you will find yourself on the path to success unlike some of your peers who chose to ignore them. As the old school folk say, “a word to the wise is sufficient.”

Improve your ability to manage time

It really doesn’t matter how good you are at your work; if you don’t manage your time properly then it is all for naught. It doesn’t matter how you try and stretch it; you only have 24 hours in a day, and you can’t use them all for work. When you learn to take better control of your time, it helps your ability to focus on the tasks at hand. It has been said that you manage your time so that at the end of the day, you still have time for the things important to you.

When you manage your time properly, you are more efficient because your focus is better. You may find that you move more quickly through tasks and that’s a good thing, right? You will feel more calm, more relaxed, and in better control of your life. And most importantly, you won’t finish the day with that terrible feeling of not having gotten enough done!

It has been said that you manage

your time so that at the end

of the day, you still have

time for the things important to you.

Strive to gain empathy

When I write “gain empathy,” what I mean is improve your ability to understand and share the feelings of others. People regularly confuse empathy and sympathy. The two are very different. Sympathy is feeling sorry for someone, while empathy is the understanding of their feelings. Your friend loses a pet, for example, and you feel sorry for your friend. The person loses their job and you find yourself asking open-ended questions, and suddenly you are really trying to find out what your friend feels about the loss of their job and what that loss means to them. In life, empathy is one of the more important keys to success and it can help transform the way we think, live, and lead others and us. If you feel like your empathy skills could use some improvement, here are some Do’s and Don’ts to keep in mind:


•   Ask open-ended questions

•   Learn to be comfortable with silence

•   Ask “why” a lot

•   Look for stories and emotions


•   Ask leading questions

•   Don’t judge them or their story

•   Don’t assume anything

•   Only hear what you want to; hear it all.

Ask for assistance

Almost as important as empathy is the willingness to ask for help yourself. It’s a big one. You may feel it is a sign of weakness, but in reality, it is a sign of strength. You don’t have to do everything on your own. Here are some assumptions that keep most people from asking for help:

·      Asking for help is a sign of weakness. If I can’t do it myself, then I don’t have the skills or tools to do it.

·      Letting someone come to my assistance means I have lost my control over the task.

·      If I take help, then I have to help them in the future. What if I don’t know how and can’t return the favor? What if I don’t want to help them in the future?

·      If I ask for the help from others, I am inconveniencing them. They are just as busy as I am, how could they really find the time to give me a hand?

·      No one but me can do it my way. It’s just going to be simpler and faster for me to do it alone, compared to training or teaching someone enough to help me.

When you make the choice to ask for help, it gives those around you the chance to show off their gifts to you and, in turn, you might learn something from them. It empowers others to shine and you get the rare opportunity to see their passions. You show them that you really aren’t a perfect person, but just like them, you have imperfections. You find that being vulnerable from time to time is a sign of strength and not weakness.

Empathy is one of the more

important keys to success

and it can help transform

 the way we think,

live, and lead others and us.

Be consistent

We all set goals for ourselves and because we get distracted, aren’t consistent in our efforts; we then lose sight of our goal. There is even a worse trap that some of us fall into; we set and achieve our goal but forget that to keep it, we have to remain consistent. This concept is so very important, some might say “key,” to preserving our success in the long run.

Learn to listen carefully

As a tool for the prevention of miscommunication, listening is very important. Listening is a skill required for all communication, verbal and otherwise. Both our work and personal lives suffer when our listening skills are not up to snuff. There are employers who spend thousands of dollars focused on improving their employees’ listening skills. If you think you missed something important that was said, ask about it and listen closely to the answer.

You find that being vulnerable

from time to time is a

 sign of strength and not weakness.

Mind your own business

Your mom probably told you from time to time to mind your own business. This is likely one of the hardest things to do and as a skill, it is terribly difficult to master. Unless asked, try and keep your nose where it belongs. For some reason, it is hard to keep our noses out of business that isn’t our own. Here is the deal; as you get better at keeping your nose in your own business, you will feel more at peace with things, free from disappointments and agitations that aren’t yours. When your mind is focused on your own business, you will feel lighter.

No gossiping

This goes along with minding your own business. I understand how difficult it can be to resist, but it is so important to fight the urge to gossip and listen to others gossip. There are lots of errors and outright lies in gossip that cause all manner of unearned problems for people. Undoubtedly there have been times in your life where you have gossiped about someone behind their back. Most people do it without giving it a second thought. Taking on the task of ending your part in gossip can be hard because of our natural desire to not miss out on any information out there. (Don’t you just love Facebook?) Here’s the thing; when you gossip behind someone’s back, you demonstrate to them and your peers that YOU are not to be trusted. Rather, when you hear someone gossiping politely, ask them to talk about something else or to take their talk elsewhere. It will help you in the end. Once lost, trust is terribly hard to rebuild.

Keep focused on the present

Have you noticed that these tasks are getting harder? This one is especially difficult for those of us (yep, me too) who tend to overthink things…everything. Do you catch yourself reexamining the past as if you can magically go back and change some part of it, something you wished you had or had not done? Or even more insidious, when you think about the future so much that you totally ruin the present moment? Raise your hand if you have done that. When you spend so much energy thinking about things that haven’t yet happened, or things that have, you risk ruining your ability to fully enjoy the present. The present is really all you have; try not to waste it.

If you want a different life,

think of different things

and make different choices.

Become the master of your thoughts

This may sound peculiar because so few of us consider it, but be mindful and in charge of your thoughts. You don’t have any control over what you feel, but you have—with a little practice—absolute control over what you think about. We are all the stuff of our past experiences and choices, but that doesn’t mean that our past dictates our future in any absolute way. You start each day with a clean slate with regard to choices. If you want a different life, think of different things and make different choices. As each day passes, you grow and change into the person your choices make you.

Learn to speak up

If you want to lead, you have to first learn to communicate. One of the most common fears is speaking in front of an audience. What exactly the fear changes from person to person, but again, the most common fear in speaking is of being judged negatively by others. When you master speaking in front of other people, you give yourself a big boost in confidence. Over time, as you grow increasingly more comfortable around other people, you will notice that some gravitate towards you and your ideas. Then you are off to the races!

New technologies come and go as new ones replace them. What remains are the people who use the technologies, the people who work next to you, the people you love and learn from. It has become less and less common to focus on the people side of things but as I said in the beginning, if you will take the time and invest in the effort to learn these 20th Century skills (people skills) they will serve you well as you move forward in the 21st Century. Look at them from time to time and notice how many of them really are people skills. Life isn’t about your iPhone, but rather the person it allows you to reach.


Frank Hopkins is a life coach in Baton Rouge who is certified as a Professional Coach (CPC) by the Institute for Professional Excellence in Coaching (iPEC). Frank has helped numerous people to go through emotional change in a way that is positively transformative.