Researchers at University College London identified five life skills that work together to promote wellbeing as we age. These skills act in concert. You need each of them together to be successful and happy.
The skills were identified in a study from Andrew Steptoe and Jane Wardle of the Department of Epidemiology and Public Health at University College London (UCL). They were able to show that these life skills are just as important in later life as they are in early life. Their study, “Life Skills, Wealth, Health, and Wellbeing in Later Life,” was published online before print April 10, 2017 in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).
Before looking at the actual list, there keep these two important points in mind. First, if you don’t already have them, the skills can be cultivated. Be positive and adopt a growth mindset. You have what it takes inside of you to learn what you need. And second – it’s never too later to start. These skills can be developed at any stage in life. If you’re already in your golden years, there’s still time to make positive changes. If you’re younger, you can benefit from having an early start.
Steptoe and Wardle found that these five life skills—conscientiousness, emotional stability, determination, control, and optimism—were associated with better health, less depression, less loneliness, fewer chronic diseases, and greater financial stability.
Let’s look at each of these five skills in a bit more detail:
Conscientiousness – the quality of wishing to do one’s work or duty well and thoroughly
- Pursue goals. Set goals that are challenging and feasible. Break big projects down into smaller steps and evaluate your progress. Enjoy the journey and celebrate each success so you keep your morale and motivation high.
- Get organized. Eliminate clutter, simplify your routines, and approach your work systematically. You’ll reduce stress and accomplish more.
- Fulfill promises. Earn a reputation for living up to your word. Your relationships and self-esteem will grow stronger.
Emotional Stability – a person’s ability to remain stable and balanced
- Accept your feelings. The first step in managing your emotions is to embrace them. Be compassionate with yourself so you can acknowledge what you’re feeling and make rational choices about how to respond constructively.
- Care for yourself. Keep yourself in top shape. Eat a nutritious diet, exercise regularly, and sleep well.
- Be mindful. Focus on the present moment. Engage fully with whatever you’re doing right now.
Determination – the act of coming to a decision or of fixing or settling a purpose
- Avoid distractions. Turn off the TV and limit the hours you spend browsing online. Stay focused on your priorities and how you can make your dreams come true.
- Overcome obstacles. Evaluate self-limiting beliefs and replace them with more encouraging self-talk. Learn from setbacks and delays.
Control – to direct the behavior of a someone or something
- Leverage your strengths. Understanding your strengths and how to apply them makes you more powerful and resilient. Figure out what you’re good at and what you like to do.
- Slow down. When you’re planning your schedule, give yourself adequate time to complete each task, and take a breather in between. If you’re feeling rushed, pause and reconsider your options.
- Manage impulses. Consider the long-term consequences of your actions. Be willing to set aside immediate gratification in favor of more substantial gains. If you’re about to give in to temptation, shift your attention elsewhere. It may be easier to resist eating a cookie or making an unkind remark 5 minutes from now.
Optimism – hopefulness and confidence about the future or outcome
- Count your blessings. Be thankful for what you have and express your gratitude. Keep a journal for recording happy events and kind actions you might otherwise forget about. Let others know about the positive difference they make in your life.
- Seek support. It’s easier to have confidence in yourself and your future when you know that you have your loved ones on your side. Put aside time to nurture family bonds and close friendships. Ask for help when you need it and be ready to return the favor.
- Deepen your faith. Spiritual beliefs offer strength and comfort even during difficult times. Adversity teaches you to have greater compassion for yourself and others. Connecting with the divine helps you to put events into perspective and remain hopeful.
Increase your share of conscientiousness, emotional stability, determination, control, and optimism. You’ll soon enjoy greater health and well-being, and sustain those gains for the rest of your life.
Find your purpose – find your joy!
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Did you find a few more ideas of your own? If so, I’d love to hear about them in the comments, and as always please reach out with your thoughts.