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How to get back on track with your life: 9 Essential skills not taught in schools

RiseWithSmae | Your Roadmap for Change
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How to get back on track with your life: 9 Essential skills not taught in schools

Sarah Mae (SMae) |
How to get back on track with your life: 9 Essential skills not taught in schools

The abrupt pause we all faced at the start of Covid-19 and the subsequent move to remote working/learning has led many of us to examine and redefine what we want out of our careers and our lives. As a result, young professionals all over the world are deciding to change companies, switch careers, go back to school, or even become entrepreneurs.  

Yet, they’re finding themselves unprepared for the transition because these Essential Skills are not taught in schools.

Today’s education system was designed by early philosophers and politicians to teach intelligence, morality, and academic skills. It was then built on by Horace Mann (1796-1859) to function in an industrialized world. The system he helped build focused on the habits and skills needed to be successful in the industrialized economy to create equality through education.

Unfortunately, even with the best intentions behind it, the system did not evolve quickly enough. 

Over the last couple of decades, we’ve been taught to respect authority, compete against each other, and learn subject-specific skills for one career path while sacrificing our health and happiness.

As a High School Educator turned Life Coach, I know firsthand that the school system is great at teaching academic skills. However, it’s not equipped to teach the essential, everyday thinking and habits needed to create a healthy balanced life doing what you love.

It’s no wonder so many people come to me feeling overwhelmed with the prospect of getting their life back on track.

So, I have put together a list of 9 Life Skills you need, so you can increase your Essential Skills Quotient and take back control of your life.

List of Essential Life Skills:


Essential Skill #1: Growth Mindset

A Growth Mindset is the understanding that intelligence, skills, traits, and abilities can all be developed. In contrast, a fixed mindset is believing that things just are the way they are and cannot change.

Fixed Mindset = “I’m either good or I’m not”, “Failure shows me what I’m not good at”

Growth Mindset = “I can learn anything new”, “With each failure, I will learn and get even better”

While Growth Mindset is a skill that is readily taught today if you’re 20+ you probably didn’t learn this in school.

The fact is, everything starts with your Mindset, which is why it’s so important to build this Essential Skill. With it, you’ll be able to embrace your “mistakes” as learning opportunities and strive for more fulfilling goals.

Suggested Reading: Growth Mindset: 3 Ways to Develop This Essential Skill

Essential Skill #2: Mindfulness

Mindfulness is the ability to be fully present, aware of where you are and what you’re doing, and not overly reactive or overwhelmed by what’s going on around you.

There are many ways to practice Mindfulness. Whether it’s eating, walking, breathing, meditating, or listening, by being fully present while doing an activity you’re being mindful.

Research on long-term meditators by neuroscientists Richie Davidson and Daniel Goleman provides scientific confirmation that sustained practice can bring about lasting changes in brain function and “dramatically ups the limits on psychological science’s ideas of human possibility” (Altered Traits, 2017).

What’s more, mindfulness reduces anxiety, relieves stress, lowers blood pressure, increases feelings of compassion and gratitude, and improves cognition.

Suggested Reading: 3 Benefits to Mindfulness as an Essential Skill for Rising to Your Peak Potential

Essential Skill #3: Self-Management

Self-Management is you living your life consciously, goal setting, planning your time consciously, and, most importantly, consistently following through on what you say you’re going to do.

You’ll notice that I call this Self-Management and not Time-Management. This is because time is a made-up concept. If we think about time as something external to us, then it is something that is happening to us. This leads us down the road of “I’m so busy”, “I don’t have enough time”.

The truth is that Time is a made-up concept. You can’t manage time, you can only manage yourself within it.

Once you really grasp this, you’ll be able to step out of the rat race and take full control of how you use your time to support your goals.

Suggested Reading: Self Management Skills: 5 Strategies to Manage Oneself Within Time

Essential Skill #4: Habit Literacy

Habit Literacy is understanding how to create routines and habits that are sustainable and are designed to reach your goals.

There is a reason why the book Atomic Habits, by James Clear, has sold over 1.1 million copies worldwide. Humans are creatures of habit, so it makes sense that you need to know how to use this to your advantage.

Without Habit Literacy, you’ll just keep doing the same things over and over again.

I highly recommend grabbing yourself a copy of Atomic Habits to get started today.

Suggested Reading: What Are Habits? How to Create New Habits and Stick to Them

Essential Skill #5: Learning Literacy

Learning Literacy is understanding how to learn. You’d think we would all be pros at it after 12+ years as students, right? Ugh.

Your brain has the capacity for limitless knowledge. To be able to harness this capability you need to foster your curiosity and feed your intellect.

How to take notes, how to speed read for comprehension, and how to ask questions are all important life skills that you can practice and improve on at any age.

Use it or lose it! Stimulating your brain keeps your mind healthy, which allows you to think rationally, make better decisions, and pursue your goals with confidence.

Essential Skill #6: Health Literacy

It boggles my mind that I took Physical Education for 10 years and never learned a thing about how my body works.

How to dribble a basketball?  – Sure.

How my body uses protein to build muscle? – Nope.

Health Literacy includes understanding how to keep your body functioning optimally. This includes proper nutrition, knowing how your brain works, effective exercise and movement, as well as the science behind sleep.

Did you know that some of the leading ageing scientists today believe that ageing is a curable disease?

What would you do with 30 more healthy and active years?

Learning how to take proper care of and optimize my body has been the greatest factor in my success. No energy gets you nowhere.

Essential Skill #7: Interpersonal Literacy

This is the understanding of how to build and sustain a network as well as real relationships with colleagues, friends, and family.

Communicating, networking, and being social are all learnable skills. Too often we just accept that we are “introverted” or “shy” when really we just haven’t bothered to put the work in to learn how to interact with people.

You can start brushing up on these skills by reading Never Eat Alone by Keith Ferrazzi.

You can’t succeed without the help of others.

Essential Skill #8: Emotional Literacy

Emotional Literacy is the ability to understand, nurture, use, and manage your emotions in positive ways.

Understanding your emotions allows you to choose the ones you want to foster. In this sense, you can CHOOSE to be happy by creating more moments in your life that make you feel happy.

So many people today try to bury or drown their emotions when, in fact, they are your greatest asset. When you’re able to access your emotions, they can guide you to making the right choices in line with your authentic true self and live a fulfilling life.

Essential Skill #9: Financial Literacy

Financial literacy is the number one thing that people say they wish they learned about in school.

Many curriculums today cover the basics of Financial Literacy. Topics such as understanding your taxes, budgeting, saving for big purchases, and investing are all taught in more high schools.

However, it’s not enough to just understand how to make and use money to achieve financial independence – we see unhappy wealthy people all the time.

Real Financial Literacy includes understanding and developing an Abundance Mindset around money.

Money is not a scarce resource, from the moment you believe in the abundance of money, you attract more of it into your life.

Essential Skills Conclusion

The pandemic has been the catalyst for many young professionals to ask fundamental questions about our life choices and whether or not these align with our core values.

As a high school educator, I found it concerning that there wasn’t enough time to teach these essential non-academic skills. Furthermore, it’s too much to expect teachers to be responsible for both academics AND building Essential Skills. This is part of what led me to become a life coach.

I now combine Life Coaching and Teaching to help bridge the gap between the WHAT and the HOW.

It’s important to understand that building these Essential Skills will look different for everyone. What works for you may not work for someone else.

You can see the 5 Foundations I recommend you focus on first by downloading my FREE Roadmap for Change.

Rise With SMae

P.S. Are you feeling unfulfilled with your life and/or overwhelmed at the idea of making a change? If so, my signature 1-1 coaching program, Route to Rise, is designed to help you gain the skills you didn’t learn in school and finally take control of your life with the healthy habits, motivation, and clarity needed to RISE to your Peak Potential and live the life you know you deserve. Read more here.

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