Seven Core Skills for Living
BY: T. Franklin Murphy |August 2018
Building a foundation of wisdom and skill to manage the unpredictable encounters in life.
Successful living is a difficult task. I’m not talking survival, which has its own challenges, but flourishing with a balance of security, growth, connection, and contribution. In 1987, I packed my little red Datsun 510 hatchback with all my possessions and headed to California to begin a thirty-year adventure. With no college education or place to live, only driven by a heart full of dreams, I left home, expecting success to be easy, freely available for any eager adventurer. I was wrong. The years that followed my innocent and courageous journey twisted my soul, challenging old resolves, and, at times, threatening my existence. I survived. Maybe the arrogance of youth—or just stupidity—prevented a wiser approach. I’ve watched (and tried to assist) my three children as they travel from childhood dependency to mature self-sufficiency, hoping they would experience an easier path to happiness and success. I watched as their paths, often impeded by obstacles, challenged their wills, tested their resolves and interfered with their dreams. My conclusion, Life is not easy. Successfully navigating the nooks and canyons of existence requires skills, luck and plenty of assistance.
We consistently engage in basic life transactions. We encounter choice after choice with payoffs and costs, each with implications on our futures and the futures of others.
Many scientific studies examine these transactions that enlighten our understanding, exposing childhood deceptions, and identifying the involved biological circuitry. As a psychological, behavioral, biological, and sociological junkie, I’m starting to get small glimpses of the complexity of life. Not that after a couple of decades of intense study I finally understand the purpose of it all; or can explain why it is we do what we do but I understand that there is much more to life than the simplicity often presented by religions, life coaches, and certainly cunning politicians. But I get that life is complex. And within the complexity lies the answers to cause and effect. But even in the confusion of infinite elements, when we boil it all down, burning off the fluff, scraping away the contributing factors impossible to know for a certainty, and banishing protective justifications, we can make choices that improve our lives.
Throughout the weeks, months and years, we make thousands of choices (some more important than others) that influence our futures. The science of human behavior that gives insight into action, only projects a blurry image. The predictive crystal ball is general and subject to error. We must succeed amidst contend a constant flow of unpredictable and destructive forces.
But I get that life is complex. And within the complexity lies the answers to cause and effect. But even in the confusion of infinite elements, when we boil it all down, burning off the fluff, scraping away the contributing factors impossible to know for a certainty, and banishing protective justifications, we can make choices that improve our lives.
But to live a good life, no matter what our past provided, or support available in the present, we must succeed in core transactions, developing skills, avoiding common downfalls, and creating connections. We can blame, protecting our ego by justifying poor choices; but the justifications, while soothing the soul, don’t invalidate the natural consequences. For a college degree, you must study, learn and sacrifice. For financial security, you must earn, budget and save. For relationship security, you must keep commitments, offer compassion, and communicate. If we fail in the core transactions, then all our could-have, would have, should have explanations, won’t change the outcome, they just justify the failure.
But we still failed.
We don’t always know the significance of a basic transactions at the moment—whether a choice has serious implications on the future or not. Often, the importance of an experience, a choice or a relationship fails to materialize until several years have passed—much too late to reformulate our efforts and reorganize priorities. We must work through the consequences the past (combined with the complex influence of the unknowns) has created. We foolishly want to blaze our own path, thinking we can deviate from proven techniques, and succeed by the great gifts of personal wisdom that we have amassed during our first twenty-years of life.
Life is much too complex for this shotgun approach. We prepare for the unknown by developing core skills to effectively make decisions. Our pattern of living right, even when future interferences are unknown, still provides a foundation to flourish. Core skills create an opportunity for more freedom—less constraints—and a better life.
In the ultimate mind-boggling game of life, unfairness is the standard. Although, each day is an opportunity for a new beginning, a new day is not free from the weighty consequences of the past. Those least equip to handle a difficult life, also tend to face more challenges. Their poor youthful actions create accumulating barriers, while simultaneously distorting their perceptions, dragging the poor lost soul further from wisdom and deeper into chaos. The further they drift, the more difficult life becomes, and the more wisdom (and strength) needed to recover. The wanderer loses touch with reality, distorting life’s feedback, greatly confusing connections between cause and effect. Without a foundation of reality, life lessons confuse rather than enlighten, failing to teach needed knowledge to correct the waywardness.
Their poor youthful actions create accumulating barriers, while simultaneously distorting their perceptions, dragging the poor lost soul further from wisdom and deeper into chaos.
Over the years, I have learned to focus on skills. A collection of fundamental skills that provide direction when faced with choice. These seven core skills build a foundation for success by creating future advantage:
Flourishing Life Core Skills:
1. Self-awareness: The ability to examine actions, thoughts and emotions. Life is chaotic without the anchor of self-knowledge.
2. Self-Discipline: The mental muscle necessary to sacrifices in the present, skipping some pleasures, to achieve much better rewards in the future.
3. Compassion: The ability to understand, feel and be sensitive towards others.
4. Social Expertness: The ability to build genuine relationships.
5. Personal Empowerment: A sense of power to direct choice. The knowledge that personal action influences others, futures and the environment.
6. Healthy Values: A foundation of values to guide.
7. Purpose: an underlying reason that enriches and gives energy to life.
Any simple list to give direction to a complex life has limitations; this list is no exception. Take the wisdom contained here for what it is. Reflect on it, identifying personal areas to explore, seeking expert guidance when appropriate.
Maybe packing my little Datsun back in 1985 was a necessary experience, giving me the wisdom needed to face the turbulent and wonderful years that followed. Perhaps, the struggles shocked my inexperienced soul bringing me slightly closer to reality; then again, maybe a little openness to the wisdom of others might have prevented the thirty-year tragedy of growing up.
Topics: Human Growth, Life Skills