8 valuable life skills you never knew you needed to succeed

Updated 26 Aug 2017, 01:01 AM – By Caitlyn Ng


No matter how many candles there are on your cake this year, there’s really no reason for you to stop learning. To get better at something, you need to try and try again. Along the way, you’ll learn valuable insights and improve not just your skills, but yourself as a whole.

“I did then what I knew how to do. Now that I know better, I do better,” Maya Angelou once said. Wealthy and successful people must have taken a leaf out of Ms Angelou’s book, for you never see them losing their thirst for more knowledge, or reaching for new heights. 

We’ve compiled a list of some habits highly effective people have, which you can easily implement into your daily routine, and watch as your life improves.

1) Acknowledging your mistakes

As any great leader will be able to tell you, they have made plenty of mistakes along their way to the top. The collective wisdom they gained as they made a string of bad decisions would have given them the skills they needed – seeing opportunities where others cannot, and preparing for all the unexpected outcomes.

According to John Wooden, “If you’re not making mistakes, then you’re not doing anything. I’m positive that a doer makes mistakes.” Invaluable lessons can be had when you try enough new things outside of your comfort zone. A successful leader is when he/she is transparent about wrongdoings and allows those around them to benefit from the learnings.

2) Asking yourself why you want to do better

No matter how tough the situation may get, it’s always important to stick to your goals. Sometimes, it only takes a moment of weakness to distract you from the task at hand and cause you to deviate. Creating a list – whether it is one to remind you of all the reasons you should stay on track or one detailing why you shouldn’t lose hope – could help you to stay self-disciplined.

Something to always keep in mind: Think of your self-discipline as a muscle. Each time you refuse to indulge in instant gratification and stick to your resolutions, you grow stronger. In the words of Jesse Owens, “In order to make dreams come into reality, it takes an awful lot of determination, dedication, self-discipline and effort.”

3) Optimising the use of your energy

Social media is so prevalent in our daily lives that it can be difficult to ignore the noise and achieve what we’ve already begun. For example, did you know that since the advent of Facebook 13 years ago, it has cost about USD3.5tril (roughly RM15tril) in lost productivity for the US economy?

Since it’s really easy to get distracted with a million and one things going on, research has suggested that people should time their work and break sessions in order to become more focused and have maximum productivity. Specifically, it’s not about working hard for a longer period of time – it’s about working smart with 17 minutes of break after every 52 minutes of work.

4) Thinking of your time as money

Time waits for no man, and if you haven’t already learnt how to manage your time wisely, you’re going to be swamped by the sheer amount of tasks and people clamouring for your attention, each claiming to be more important than the last. You want to achieve that work-life balance, but how are you going to do so?

There’s no need to say “No” to everyone, but you could learn the art of delegation or asking for help. You and your colleagues could work together to get so much more accomplished in a shorter span of time. As such, the remaining time could be freed up and spent where it is most valuable. Case in point, top lawyers in America earn at least 50% more when they skilled in delegating than those who don’t.

5) Planning and starting in advance

The early bird gets the worm they say, and highly effective people sure know how to start their day earlier than the rest of the rat pack. Richard Branson is one such famous personality, waking up at 5am because “if I rise early I can achieve so much more in a day, and therefore in life.”

Then there’s making sure you have the ability to prioritise; putting all the critical time-sensitive items in one pile and another pile containing the rest – to be delegated, delayed or disregarded. One tip is for you to plan a to-do list a day ahead, so that when you begin tomorrow bright and early, you can already hit the ground running.

6) Eliminating negative thoughts

Negative thoughts: even the best of us have to deal with them at one point in time. They’re normal, but the worst is when we allow them to drag us down, ultimately affecting the rest of our day. If you catch yourself having doubts about your abilities, take some time to question these thoughts (not your fantastic self), and what basis they have.

Keep a list of short-term goals somewhere easily seen on your desk, to stay motivated throughout the day. While having long-term goals is important, short ones allow you to celebrate the simpler things. As Barack Obama succinctly puts it, “The future rewards those who press on. I don’t have time to feel sorry for myself. I don’t have time to complain. I am going to press on.”

7) Meditating and disconnecting

When you’re feeling good about yourself, optimism and excitement aren’t far behind. And when you have that kind of feeling, your day will always be worth it. So how do you achieve that state of mind? Meditation seems to be the answer, with various neurological benefits linked to the ancient practice, such as improving attention and concentration.

Even if the idea of sitting in one place for too long already makes you feel jittery, you can opt to power off all your devices at the end of the day instead. This habit gives you time to disconnect from the never-ending demands of the real world and focus on properly resting so you can get back to the grind feeling refreshed.

8) Networking all day, every day

Networking is possibly the most important habit one would need to cultivate in order to gain an advantage over their peers – your own secret weapon. It’s not only for landing you good career opportunities, you’d also be able to secure key clients should the need ever arise. You’d also be getting valuable industry-related trends in addition to a large pool of resources for a variety of your career needs. Sold yet?

Don’t just reach out to every contact you have on Facebook and LinkedIn, or hand out your name card to every person you meet at events. Remember, people will be more likely to help someone they know and trust. A simpler way is to be your authentic self and keep in contact with your current circle, slowly expanding through introductions.

To conclude

“When you work on something, you get the feeling that you’ve achieved something,” said Masako Wakamiya, the 82-year old app developer. Also known as Japan’s ‘golden coder’, she never let her age deter her from self-learning code to make a game app for the elderly.

If you’ve read this far, take heart from Ms Wakamiya’s story and never stop reaching for new heights. You already have eight new habits to learn, so good luck!

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