16 Skills That Are Hard To Learn But Will Pay Off Forever
Your mother had most of it covered: take your vitamins, get plenty of rest, don’t stick that butter knife in the toaster… But apart from the obvious, there’s no manual for life.
Most of us fumble through life’s ups and downs learning things as we go along. In theory, we know that we should be prepared for anything.
But in reality, at times we can all feel miserably unequipped to handle all the curveballs that life throws at us.
There’s nothing like being caught in a situation that calls for one of those life skills you wish you had learned before you needed it.
With that said, here are some skills that are hard to learn, but will never stop paying dividends.
When something good happens to people, they don’t shy away from taking credit. But when something bad happens, they feel victimized immediately.
It’s important to develop the ability to be accountable for your experiences – they are often a result of your actions. Sometimes actions don’t yield the desired results.
But instead of feeling like a victim, learn from your actions, so that you get better results the next time.
2. Critical Thinking
We are exposed to hundreds, if not thousands of times more information on a daily basis than our great-grandparents were.
Being able to evaluate that information, sort the potentially valuable from the trivial, analyze its relevance and meaning, and relate it to other information is crucial.
This is something that’s significantly under-taught. But the truth is, good critical thinking skills immediately distinguish you from the rest.
3. Decision Making
The bridge that leads from analysis to action is effective decision making – knowing what to do, based on the information available.
While not being critical can be dangerous, so too can over-analyzing, or waiting for more information before making a decision.
Being able to take in the scene and respond quickly and effectively is what separates the doers from the wannabes.
Nobody can be expected to know everything or even a tiny fraction of everything.
You don’t HAVE to know everything – but you should be able to quickly and painlessly find out what you do NEED to know.
This means learning to use the Internet effectively, learning to use a library, learning to read productively, and learning how to leverage your network of contacts – and what kinds of research are going to work best in any given situation.
5. Writing Professionally
There are many, many reasons why you should know how to write professionally – from the basic cover letter to the customer service email.
Writing professionally will allow your message to be clear, and your voice to be respected – even when you’re not speaking face to face.
Whether you’re tracking a new exercise routine or working on an important project, consistency is vital to maintaining any kind of success.
People often stop working hard when they reach the top – but to maintain the position, you have to work harder and be more consistent in your work.
7. Communicating Your Needs
Your friends, family, and workmates cannot read your mind. You need to communicate your needs clearly, kindly, and even by repeating when necessary.
The more you exercise the language of communication, the more humanity you will see in the world around you, and the less bitterness you will carry in your heart.
8. Knowing When To Shut Up
Keeping your thoughts to yourself when you’re agitated is one of the most valuable skills to learn – and of course, one of the most difficult.
Sure, it can feel good to unload on somebody, and let them know what you really think – but that good feeling is temporary.
What happens the next day, the next week, or the next year? It is human nature to want to prove that you’re right, but it’s rarely effective.
When we are angry or upset, we tend to blurt out everything that comes to mind. In some situations, it’s better to keep quiet – no matter what your personal thoughts are.
For instance, when someone is too upset to listen to anything you have to say rationally, it’s useless to respond to them.
9. Asking For Help Or Advice
Sometimes, it’s hard to ask for help, because you don’t want to look incompetent. But sooner or later, everyone finds themselves in a position where they require some help.
Consider what might happen if you don’t recognize your need for help, or if you choose not to ask for any – you can end up in a really big mess! Asking for help or advice doesn’t mean you are weak.
In fact, studies suggest that asking for advice is actually well received and makes you look more capable, not less.
By asking for advice, you acknowledge the other person’s intelligence or expertise, which makes them feel good.
10. Accepting Compliments And Criticism
A lot of people find it difficult to accept compliments and constructive criticism. We often fail to accept compliments with grace, or we downplay them and get embarrassed.
Yet, we’re sometimes crushed by criticism, even if it’s valid – we tend to take it personally and to heart.
Learning to simply say, “thank you” when you get a compliment, and learning to view criticism as feedback, can serve you well.
Good negotiation skills can save you a ton of money, in pretty much every area of your life – from negotiating a cellphone contract to buying a home.
These skills can also get you that raise you know you deserve. If you know how to negotiate properly, it means you’re holding all the cards, and you’re prepared to battle it out.
12. Public Speaking
The ability to speak clearly and persuasively in front of an audience is one of the most important skills anyone can develop.
People who are effective speakers come across as more confident and comfortable – and they are more attractive to be around.
Maybe you don’t have a job that requires you to speak in public, but you never know when the time may come when this skill could really come in handy – that big speech at your best friend’s wedding, for example. The only way to gain more confidence speaking in public is by practicing it regularly.
13. Tracking Your Spending
Sometimes it’s easier to put everything on a credit card, and then just hope that you’ll have the money to pay it off in a reasonable amount of time.
But, you may not always have the money to pay off the full balance – and this is a very easy way to end up in debt.
By keeping track of your spending, you’ll be able to see where most of your money is going, and how you can make adjustments moving forward.
You may find that a lot of your money is going toward things you really don’t need, and this can be a great wake-up call to stop the unnecessary spending in its tracks.
14. Learning A New Language
There are many obvious reasons to learn a second language. It can help you advance your career, make traveling more enjoyable, and expand your cultural horizons.
But what may not be obvious, are the cognitive benefits that take place when you speak two or more languages!
Speaking a foreign language improves the functionality of your brain by challenging it to recognize, negotiate to mean, and communicate in different language systems.
Understanding language is one of the hardest things your brain does – making it the ultimate brain exercise.
Thus, learning a foreign language is one of the most effective and practical ways to increase intelligence, keep your mind sharp, and buffer your brain against aging.
15. Showing Gratitude
The habit of showing gratitude is a great way to gain respect, trust, and stand out from the crowd – whether it’s by sending a thank you note or giving a small gift.
It could be for the person who interviewed you for a new job, a trusted mentor, an old boss, or even your own parents – expressing your gratitude goes a very long way.
Showing gratitude gives you and the other party a chance to reflect on your relationship, and think of the positive outcomes of knowing one another – and it also makes the day of another person.
16. Staying Present In The Moment
Living in the present moment means that your awareness is completely centered on the here and now.
But, the state that we have become used to is a state where our thoughts are either in the past, or in the future – instead of where we actually are, and what is actually happening.
We tend to ponder over what has been, what could have been, and what could be or will be.
When you learn to live in the present moment, you’ll find that your struggles and unhappiness diminish, and life will begin to flow with more joy and ease.
The best things in life may be free, but that doesn’t mean they won’t take time, sweat, and perseverance to acquire.
That’s especially the case when it comes to learning these important life skills! Look at working on these skills as a journey with endless possibilities for growth and insight, not a box to check off, so you can move on to the next one.
Remember, these skills are hard to learn, but they’ll pay off forever! What do you think? Did I miss anything? Surely there are other important skills that didn’t make it on this list! If you can think of any, let me know in the comments below!
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