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Life Skills: Definition, Examples & How To Develop Them

Life Skills Definition, Examples, & Skills to Build

To achieve success, happiness, and fulfillment, cultivating life skills is essential. These abilities optimize your potential and empower you to reach your goals. While life skills encompass a broad range of crucial competencies, understanding your unique strengths can provide a powerful foundation. By taking the HIGH5 strengths assessment, you can gain invaluable self-awareness, pinpointing your natural talents and abilities that align with various life skills. This insight empowers you to leverage your strengths effectively, maximizing your potential and paving the way for personal and professional growth.

This can include critical thinking, communication skills, writing skills, and other essential skills. These life skills can be applied to benefit your everyday life and longer-term satisfaction.

They are beneficial to your career and personal life, too. But although life skills seem necessary, many people struggle with developing them.  It can be difficult to identify which skills are truly important to your growth and development.

With time, dedication, and listening to your inner emotions, you can identify what you truly want, though. In this article, we will give you an overview of how to build life skills and show examples of crucially important skills.

What are Life Skills? Definition & Meaning

Life skills are a relatively broad category of traits and abilities which can vary based on your unique aspirations, circumstances, and personal makeup. By taking the HIGH5 strengths assessment, you can gain profound insights into your innate talents and propensities, empowering you to identify the life skills most aligned with your natural strengths. This self-awareness can guide your development journey, allowing you to focus on cultivating the skills that leverage your talents most effectively, whether in your career, relationships, or personal growth.

Aside from this broad definition, the World Health Organization notes that there are six subtypes of life skills.

These include:

1. Communication and interpersonal skills

Ensures people can effectively get messages across to others, work with them, write, and persuade.

2. Decision-making and problem-solving skills

Helps people value the pros and cons of decisions, work with others to solve a common goal, and understand problems.

3. Creative and critical thinking

Involves thinking outside the box, finding new solutions, giving unique perspectives, establishing new ideas, creating innovative products, and accurately assessing data/information.

4. Emotional intelligence (empathy and self-awareness)

Emotionally connecting with others and understanding your own struggles is a key part of being emotionally intelligent.

5. Self-control or assertiveness

Being able to stand up for yourself or stand up to injustice as well as staying calm in intense situations ensures you are assertive.

6. Resilience

To be resilient, one must persevere, be willing to accept challenges, try again if they fail, and truly learn from their mistakes.

Pro Tip From HIGH5

As you explore the different categories of life skills, reflect on the HIGH5 assessment results to identify which specific strengths resonate most with you. This can help you prioritize and focus your efforts on developing the life skills that leverage your natural abilities.

Life Skills Examples

The importance of each life skill varies from person to person. Some may prioritize empathy over assertion, but others prefer the latter over the former. Nonetheless, some life skills are universally considered to be important.

Below, you will find a list of life skills that could benefit your personal life or career:

  1. Writing skills
  2. Research skills
  3. Listening skills/active listening
  4. Negotiation skills
  5. Leadership skills
  6. Creative thinking or critical thinking
  7. Numeracy skills
  8. Time management/organizing skills
  9. Cooking skills
  10. Self-awareness
  11. Employability skills
  12. Humor skills
  13. Teaching skills
  14. Study skills
  15. Independence
  16. Resilience
  17. Self-discipline/self-control/assertiveness
  18. Self-care (especially when it comes to hygiene and nutrition)
  19. True learning/passion for knowledge
  20. Adaptability and accepting change

Basic Life Skills

To you, some skills will be more important than others. Your goals, career, passions, and so on mold which life skills become most important. However, some skills are necessary for virtually any career, help you achieve almost any goal, and benefit most relationships.

These skills include:

Reading Skills

Reading skills include one’s ability to read texts, understand them, search for hidden or deeper meaning, and apply this knowledge to the outside world. Reading helps individuals gather knowledge and improves their vocabulary.

It also exposes them to new ways to solve problems or different perspectives. Responding to emails, writing cover letters, drafting presentations, applying to jobs, and so on requires reading and writing abilities.

Writing Skills

Writing skills help translate ideas into written text. The ability to write helps businesses reach a wider range of clients, connects departments, and makes communication smoother.

Being persuasive or inspiring can be tough over email or written channels, but great writers can harness their skills to be just that.

Communication Skills

Communication skills enable individuals to clearly express their ideas, communicate their stresses/challenges, and delegate tasks to others. Writing and reading skills are both subsets of communication skills; oral communication is another form.

Effective communication ensures your audience clearly gets the message you are sending. To be a great communicator, one must tailor this message to each new audience he or she encounters.

Communication is important in the workforce, no matter what your position. It is also crucial for maintaining a healthy relationship.

Emotional Intelligence Skills

Emotional intelligence is the ability to understand your thoughts and feelings as well as the feelings/thoughts of others.

Additionally, being empathetic and managing your emotions also help you be emotionally intelligent. Those who are empathetic tend to be seen in a positive light overall. People, including one’s spouse, are more likely to be open with empathetic individuals.

How to Develop Life Skills?

Building life skills starts with being specific and setting goals. These goals should be SMART, specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and time-bound.

Think about which specific skill you want to attain, how you know you have attained it, and when you want to have this skill. Remember to consider why you want to have this skill, too.

Having a clear reason ensures you have something to motivate you when you feel like giving up. Then, start by removing household/workplace items that are counterintuitive to your life skill development goals.

This is also known as adapting to your environment. For example, if you want to be productive, stay away from the TV or switch the room the TV is placed in. You can find a mentor that helps you develop the skill you want to focus on.

For teens trying to become great students, search out study programs or ask teachers for assistance. If you want to focus on your leadership skills, talk to your boss after work.

Or, if you want to become financially literate, consider hiring a financial life coach. Over time, re-evaluate how well your life skill development strategy is working. Make changes when necessary.

Occasionally, try asking your spouse or coworkers to see if they notice the new skill you developed or are trying to develop. They may have some valuable input.

Pro Tip From HIGH5

When setting goals for life skill development, ensure they leverage your top strengths identified by the HIGH5 assessment. This strengths-based approach can accelerate your progress and increase your motivation.

How to Improve Life Skills?

To improve a life skill you already possess, identify how you already effectively use the skill and your weaknesses using this skill. Continue to use the skill in beneficial ways. Try using it in new circumstances for strength development.

If you already use your resilience at work, try not to give up on your relationship as well. If you consistently communicate with your spouse, do the same with your coworkers.

When you spot a weakness in your ability to apply a life skill, ask yourself why you struggle to do so. It may be because of an environmental shift. Try to be more open to employee, employer, or spouse feedback when you do not use this life skill effectively.

If you fail to be organized at work, ask a coworker how they stay organized and apply a similar strategy.

Life Skills for Adults (7 Examples)

Most adults need certain essential life skills to successfully navigate their careers and personal lives. While there is no definitive list of skills all adults must have, some skills seem to be extremely important to most people.

These skills include:

  1. Parenting skills
  2. Relationship skills
  3. Financial literacy and managing finances
  4. Self Care
  5. Resilience
  6. Critical thinking
  7. Technological skills

Parenting skills

These skills are necessary for anyone who has kids. Being loving, managing stress, remaining independent, being an effective teacher, listening, behavior management, self-care, and so many more skills are involved in being a parent.

Mastering these skills, though, has immense benefits. Your kids will feel more open to communicating with you. Their behavior will improve and they will be on track for a healthy and happy future life. Thus, acquiring these skills is surely hard work, but it pays off in the long run.

Relationship skills

Relationship skills are needed for nearly all adults, not just those in romantic relationships. These skills also help you effectively communicate with friends, colleagues, networking partners, and other individuals.

When it comes to romantic relations, these skills help ensure both parties feel loved, understood, and comfortable.

A wide range of skills are included in the category of relationship skills: emotional intelligence, interpersonal skills, verbal and nonverbal communication skills, empathy, active listening, and team-building skills are all examples.

Financial literacy and managing finances

Money is a major part of being an adult. To be financially stable, you must understand how to effectively spend, make, save, and even donate money. Part of having financial skills is deciding which items are worth spending money on and which are not.

People often determine this by seeing how much an item improves their lives. Creating budgets and sticking to them is another way to be more in control of your finances. Saving for retirement, a future business venture, or a child’s college fund all involve being financially accountable.

Self Care

Life can get stressful at times. Knowing how to manage this stress is crucial toward being a functional and successful adult. Many individuals turn to bad habits when coping with stress.

They may neglect their hygiene, start eating unhealthily, cease exercising, or start smoking. Knowing how to avoid these habits and instead focus on healthy habits is crucial.

Potential ways to care for oneself include bathing, going to the gym, taking a shower, reading, doing acupuncture, listening to music, and eating healthily. Taking care of your body and mind will help you be productive, healthy, and positive.


Throughout the course of a lifetime, you will undoubtedly be met with challenges. Knowing how to persevere through them and learn from your mistakes ensures you can conquer the goals you set for yourself.

When you fail, you must be able to get back on track and try again. If you do not do this, succeeding will be difficult and you will be limited by your comfort zone.

Learn from not only your mistakes but those of others, too. Then, adapt your strategies and keep trying to succeed. Many of the world’s beloved entrepreneurs, actors, and singers use resilience to achieve their success. The same should be true with you, no matter what your goals are.

Critical thinking

When listening to the news, how does one know what is true? Critical thinking is the answer. To be accurately informed, you must be able to think for yourself. As an adult, you no longer have a parent telling you right from wrong.

You must be able to decipher this on your own. When solving any problem, critical thinking will be involved. You cannot be a fully independent person if you cannot think for yourself.

If you rely on someone else to get your opinions, try to question what they tell you in a respectful way. Critical thinking also helps when developing new products or trying new ways to approach problems.

Technological skills

To navigate today’s digital world as an adult, you must have an understanding of technology. This does not mean you must be a Python coder with a doctorate degree. Rather, you must know how to effectively utilize technology to your advantage.

Ensure you can communicate with others over the web. Try using software to make some of the more tedious tasks you have more enjoyable. Or, utilize the web to make yourself more efficient at work.

In either case, technology is not going away anytime soon. Learn how to harness it to your advantage instead of distracting yourself with it.

Pro Tip From HIGH5

When cultivating life skills as an adult, refer to your HIGH5 assessment results to uncover your inherent strengths. Focus on developing life skills that complement your natural talents, and explore ways to leverage your strengths in areas like parenting, relationships, finances, and self-care.

Life Skills For Students

The list of skills students need to succeed differs from that of adults. Each student has their own goals, plans, and passions which could change the skills that are most important to them. Nonetheless, nearly all students need certain skills to be successful in school and beyond.

These include:

Writing skills

Whether they are writing essays, emails, job applications, cover letters, presentations, or college applications, it is no doubt that students must be able to effectively write.

Writing ensures that kids are able to take advantage of all the opportunities given to them. Few colleges are willing to accept children without a proper essay or high literacy scores.

Additionally, if a teen is especially persuasive and powerful in their writing, more colleges are willing to accept them. Thus, their future could depend on having good writing skills.

Learning skills

Lifelong learning is incredibly important to students. If they get passionate about learning early on in life, they are likely to continue being passionate as adults. Learning and gathering knowledge benefits teens and young students in an immense number of ways.

They expand their vocabulary, learn new skills, improve themselves, become better critical thinkers, gain new perspectives, and so much more. Being able to learn quickly also helps students be adaptable and willing to change.

Study skills

For up to six hours a day, high schoolers will be studying. Knowing how to effectively use this time and potentially reduce the burden of studying can help students set themselves up for success.

Study skills are a relatively broad category of abilities, though. It involves learning, critical thinking, time management, organization, communication, and other skills, too.

Students who have study skills can not only achieve better test scores but also decrease the amount of time they spend studying each day. This is applying the efficient “work smarter, not harder” mentality to studying.

Decision making

As students get older, especially when they reach high school or college age, they are expected to make more decisions for themselves. While some go on to make immense mistakes, such as starting to smoke or getting into fights, others take a more long-term and rational approach to decision-making.

To choose the latter option, a student must be able to avoid peer pressure, stay focused, and put an emphasis on studying over short-term pleasures.

Having integrity

Young children may not have the ability to have integrity. They are not fully familiar with the differences between right and wrong. However, as the child ages and becomes a student, having integrity becomes more and more important.

They will be faced with the temptation to do unintelligent activities. With self-control, they can avoid these. If they make the wrong decision, quickly admitting to it and moving on is far better than lying to others.

In fact, a lack of integrity can cost students college admissions or force them to leave beloved friendships.

Life Skills For Kids

As a parent, it is your job to set your child up for success. You can do this by helping them learn some valuable life skills. Life skills help your child achieve their short and long-term goals, find a passion, as well as stay happy and healthy.

A few of these skills include:

  • Focus and self-control
  • Making connections
  • Tackling challenges
  • Communication
  • Empathy and perspective-taking

Focus and Self-Control

Kids tend to be energetic. Sometimes, this energy causes kids to have trouble concentrating or controlling their emotions/actions. However, children truly thrive when they have structure and security in their lives.

Help them use schedules, develop a routine, and establish good habits. Self-control can be developed through family support, emotional learning, and an emphasis on staying calm in stressful situations. To increase a child’s focus, try playing a board game, creating a puzzle, or reading a book.

Making Connections

While making somewhat random connections seems unbeneficial, it offers far more benefits than you may think. If a child is able to make more connections, they are able to learn more and deepen their knowledge.

Children start making connections early on in their development. They may start by sorting clothes or toys into piles. They could also make connections between the weather and clothes appropriate for that weather.

Remind children of their prior experiences so they can make long-term connections. Do this by saying something like, “Remember the dinosaur you played with? This is what it looked like in real life, thousands of years ago!” when visiting a museum.

Tackling challenges

Resilience is an important characteristic of all people, no matter their age. Refrain from teaching kids to stay in their comfort zone. Ensure they feel comfortable with taking rational risks or trying things they may not know will work.

Teach them that mistakes are okay and that bouncing back from failure is what truly counts. At the same time, they feel safe knowing you are there to help if something goes wrong. Give your kids small, reasonable challenges.

Try showing them how to tie their shoes and asking them to try on their own. If they fail, show them again until they succeed. Remember to not only value achievement but also recognize effort.


Childhood is the prime time for developing healthy social-emotional skills. Communication, the ability to effectively communicate a message and understand others, is one of these important skills.

Kids may need more or less time to develop these skills depending on a variety of factors. Try helping them learn about body language, tone, facial expressions, and social cues.

Also, teach them to be active listeners. Each day, dedicate time to speaking one-on-one with your child, listening to their concerns and helping them effectively communicate their message.

Empathy and perspective-taking

Most children do not naturally think about another’s point of view when encountering problems. However, this skill can be developed with exposure.

One of the best ways to help a child develop empathy is to have the child place themselves in a character’s position when reading a book. When a character feels sad, try asking the child why they might feel this way or how they would help the character if they were in the book.

Additionally, ask the child if they have ever had a similar experience and what helped them overcome this negative emotion.

Life Skills FAQ

What are the 5 essential life skills?

Every individual needs life skills to attain their full potential. If you are having trouble focusing on just a few, consider the following 5 as the most essential skills: interpersonal skills (including communication), problem-solving, leadership, interpersonal skills (active listening, empathy, collaboration, and so on), and organization as well as time management.

What are the 3 categories of life skills?

While there are many life skills, they are typically separated into 3 distinct categories. These are the thinking skills (which consist of critical thinking, creativity, problem-solving, decisiveness, and adaptability), personal skills (self-awareness, managing your emotions, through control, discipline, and so on), as well as interpersonal skills (empathy, communication skills, active listening, teamwork, conflict management).

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