Life Skills: Definition & Building Techniques

Instructor: Adrianne Baron

Adrianne has taught high school and college biology and has a master's degree in cancer biology.

This lesson is going to give a working definition for life skills. We will look at some of the most basic of life skills and discuss how those skills can be developed.

Life Skills

You get a train set, it comes with assembly and operating instructions. You get a car, it comes with a manual on how it is supposed to work. You buy a television, it comes with a manual letting you know all of the features and how to access them. What does not come with a manual or a set of instructions? Your life! Yet, you need to know how to operate in life in order to live your best life.

Life skills are skills that increase the likelihood that you will live the fulfilling life that you seek. What are those life skills and how do you get them? Life skills have to be developed over time. The earlier we learn life skills, the sooner we can put them to use, and the sooner we can really, truly enjoy life.

Thinking Life Skills

Decision Making

First things first. We must have thinking skills in order to navigate our way through life. After all, does life not seem like one decision after another? That is because it is. Some decisions are small and do not require much thought process while others are much bigger and require some careful consideration.

A great way to gain this skill is to learn a decision-making process. One common technique is balancing out pros and cons for each decision. Another process is to brainstorm all possible options and look at their potential outcomes.

Problem Solving

In your earlier years, hearing the word 'problem' meant that you had a new math problem to solve. As you got older, other problems began to enter your life. It can be difficult to understand how to solve a problem, especially if you have never seen the problem before or do not know how to solve problems.

One suggested problem-solving technique includes figuring out the exact problem, researching information about the problem and possible solutions, and then selecting a solution. Some people even decide to solve problems using trial-and-error. This technique can be helpful if you find that a problem could be caused by more than one thing. For instance, think about if your car does not start. It could be because it is out of gas, the battery is dead, or it needs a new alternator. You may choose to attempt to solve this problem by trying the easiest and cheapest option first to see if that fixes the problem. If it does not, then you would go to the next solution, and so on until the problem is fixed.

Creative Thinking

We are all surrounded by gadgets and businesses that serve great purposes and aid in our quality of life. At some point you may have had the same thought as many others: 'Why didn't I think of that?' Well, those inventors were creative and innovative in their thinking and manifested their thoughts into products that we use every day.

You too can awaken your inner creative brain. Changing your scenery can create creativity. Something as simple as driving to a different side of your city or going to a park that you have never been before triggers the brain to think of new things.

Or, why not just ask a bunch of questions? You are essentially going to tap into your inner three-year-old. You know, the one that asked why and how about everything and drove your parents crazy. Asking questions and seeking answers awakens your mind and can make you think of concepts differently than you would if you did not know as much about the concept. This can be done using brainstorming.

Brainstorming why and how questions leads to creative thinking
Brainstorming board

Critical Thinking

You are probably familiar with the saying that things are not always as they appear. There are situations that require us to think about a subject beyond what appears on the surface and delve deeper in order to gain a better understanding and appreciation.

One technique for critical thinking is to ask others for their perceptions. Try to connect with what they are seeing and how they perceive different things in life. Eventually, you will be able to see things from different points of view in the future without having to ask.

Interpersonal Life Skills

Effective communication

We are all individuals, but we are very dependent on each other. That being the case, you need to have effective communication skills in order to relate to others. This skill is crucial to every type of relationship: family, friends, associates, colleagues, superiors and inferiors, significant others, etc. Learning to communicate in the earliest relationships in your life begin to shape how you communicate with other people. If you were able to communicate with your parents and siblings when you were younger, then you may have developed communication skills as you grew up. That is not case for everyone though and as such, you may have to learn how to communicate with other people.

This really is a skill that develops over time, but there are some techniques you can use and things to keep in mind. One technique involves repeating what has been communicated to you to the person that sent the message in order to be sure you are interpreting the message correctly. This technique is especially helpful when dealing with misunderstandings.


One thing to remember is that no one wants anything to do with a person that only cares about themselves and their own well-being. You have to learn to genuinely care about other people. Being able to see things from someone else's perspective can help you to know how to relate to them.

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