A Positive Approach to Modern Living

Life skills are the abilities for adaptive and positive behavior that enable individuals to deal effectively with the demands and challenges of everyday life.

By Liggy Webb, Director, The Learning Architect

Modern living is becoming increasingly challenging with a stress-related illness affecting more and more people. The challenges we face—including finding purpose, defining ourselves, and managing stress—are numerous and complex. The requirement to be more flexible and manage change is becoming increasingly important. A positive personal strategy can help each individual to cope better and improve resilience and confidence.

The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) divides life skills into subsets of categories that includes three key facets:

  1. “Learning to know,” which is about our cognitive abilities involving decision-making, problem-solving, and critical thinking skills.
  2. “Learning to be,” which is about our personal abilities involving skills for increasing internal control, managing feelings, and managing stress.
  3. “Learning to live together,” which is about our interpersonal abilities involving interpersonal communication skills, negotiation and refusal skills, empathy, co-operation, teamwork, and advocacy skills.

There is, however, no definitive list of life skills, and all of the above includes the psychosocial and interpersonal skills generally considered important. The choice and emphasis on different skills will vary according to the individual and circumstances. Though the list suggests these categories are distinct from each other, many skills are used simultaneously in practice. Ultimately, the interplay between the skills is what produces powerful behavioral outcomes. The United Nations’ subset of categories for life skills lays out an excellent basis to begin with; there are, of course, other life skills that are required to address a more holistic approach to modern living that incorporates the physical, psychological, and spiritual aspects of life.

Understanding and knowing that we are so much more in control of our lives than sometimes we believe is not only reassuring, it is empowering. The way we think determines the way we feel and is the control pad for the volume of happiness we choose to experience in our lives. The quality of our thinking essentially determines the quality of our life.

Your perspective is your reality, and your reality is your perspective.

We can make a conscious choice about how we want to interpret every situation. It’s the glass half-empty or half-full approach, and this attitude underpins every life skill.

Thinking positively is not about putting your head in the sand, nor is it about being unrealistic. By developing a positive attitude, you still recognize the negative aspects of a situation; however, you choose to focus instead on the hope and opportunity that is available. This approach helps you to avoid getting locked into a paralyzing loop of bad feeling and allows you to move on quickly and take action to solve problems and embrace life’s challenges.

The writings and teachings of some of the great philosophers over the last 2,000 years have been significant. From Epictetus, who said, “What concerns me is not the way things are, but rather the way people think things are,” to my favorite quote by Shakespeare who so rightly observed, “There is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so.”

The viewpoint extends over centuries from Norman Vincent Peale and his emphasis on the power of positive thinking to American psychotherapist Albert Ellis, the creator of REBT (Rational Emotive Behavioral Therapy), which led to the formulation of CBT (Cognitive Behavioral Therapy), something I applaud.

The word, “cognitive,” is a term to describe thinking and the word, “behavioral,” is there to emphasize that change is not just about how we think, but also about what we do with that thinking.

Having first gained prominence in researching depression, one of the premier psychologists of our day, Martin Seligman, began to look at factors that contribute to positive emotional health. Seligman and his colleagues have identified 24 key factors associated with individuals who report high levels of life satisfaction. The most recent research suggests that out of these 24, five are particularly important: optimism, zest for life, curiosity, the ability to love and be loved, and gratitude.

So certainly by being optimistic and hopeful about positive outcomes is a step in the right direction.

Here are a few tips for a positive approach to modern living;

  • Take action. Action gives you the power to change any situation. Ask yourself the following: “What would you do if you knew you would not fail?” What could you achieve? Be brave and just do it. If it doesn’t work out the way you want, then do something else.
  • Be persistent. Successful people just don’t give up. They keep trying different approaches to achieving their outcomes until they finally get the results they want. Unsuccessful people try one thing that doesn’t work and then give up. Often people give up when they are on the threshold of succeeding.
  • Be objective. Don’t take failure personally. Although what you do may not give you the results you want, it doesn’t mean YOU are a failure.
  • Don’t beat yourself up! If something doesn’t work, don’t give yourself a hard time; move on; look toward the doors that are just about to open.
  • Treat failure as a learning opportunity. You have to be prepared to increase your failure rate if you are to increase your rate of success. Ask yourself the following four questions:
  1. What was the mistake?
  2. Why did it happen?
  3. How could I have prevented it?
  4. What will I do betternext time?
  • Look for the opportunity. Out of every crisis there is an opportunity and for every problem there is a solution. So seek out the positive outcome—even if it’s just learning how to do it better next time!

“Our greatest glory is not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall.” —Confucius

Liggy Webb is director of The Learning Architect and the author of “How to Work Wonders—Your Guide to Workplace Wellness.” She has more than 20 years of experience in the Learning & Development field. Webb has worked with a range of organizations including the United Nations, NHS, Thomson Reuters, Lloyds TSB, ASDA, David Lloyd, Thames Valley Police, TUI, and P & O Cruises. For more information, visit http://www.thelearningarchitect.com.

Lorri Freifeld is the editor/publisher of Training magazine. She writes on a number of topics, including talent management, training technology, and leadership development. She spearheads two awards programs: the Training APEX Awards and Emerging Training Leaders. A writer/editor for the last 30 years, she has held editing positions at a variety of publications and holds a Master’s degree in journalism from New York University.