I’m thankful to my school teachers and college professors for tons of useful things they’ve taught me. I’m thankful to my parents for essential life lessons I’ve learned from them. But when I grew up I discovered that I still lacked many essential life skills to succeed. The truth is that school and university give you a lot of basic knowledge, but they rarely teach life skills that you will surely need in adult life. Most of these skills you’ll have to learn by yourself. Some of them you’ll learn the hard way. Here are 10 essential life skills you need to learn to better your life.

1. The ability to fight fears and take challenges

It doesn’t matter how many options you have to choose from. I’ve realized that there are only two things to choose between: the future and the past. If you choose the easier option that doesn’t imply risk, challenge or something unknown, you choose the past. Obviously, it’s safe and comfortable, but you will never achieve something bigger unless you challenge yourself. That’s why you should learn to choose the difficult path, the unbeaten path. Everything that scares you should be your target. The ability to overcome fears will open thousands of new opportunities for you and will make you a more confident person. Push forward when you want to give up, continue when others surrender and believe in yourself when nobody does. This is the first essential skill you should learn to improve your life.

2. Goal setting skills

I wish I had acquired this skill when I was a student. Every person should set at least one big goal in life. Whether you try to get a promotion at work or you want to lose a few pounds, the first thing you should do is to set a goal. Learn to break long-term goals down into intermediate and short-term goals; this will enable you to distribute your time and energy resources more efficiently.

They say that people who plan their life are usually more successful than those who don’t plan their future. I don’t mean that you should create a detailed life plan, but you should certainly draw an approximate blueprint for the next 5 years. When you see the direction and the ultimate goal, you will hardly veer off course or lose motivation. You must have heard the popular saying, ‘If you fail to plan, you plan to fail’, right? I became a more self-disciplined and cheerful person due to the ability of goal setting.

3. Rational financial management

Those who cannot manage their money are less likely make a fortune. I’ve learned to manage my finance when I got my first job and started sharing a room with my dormmate. Sure, I squandered my first earnings and got into debt, but then I became more careful with my expenditures. My scholarship was always insufficient. When I got a job, my salary also turned out to be insufficient. I’ve realized that it doesn’t always matter how much you make, but it’s important to learn how to budget your money wisely. Money management skills enable me to enjoy a good life on a tight budget.

First of all, you should define the essential expenditure items like rent, bills and food. Then add minor categories like clothes, petty cash, and leisure. Remember that you can save a particular amount of money monthly, regardless of your earnings. Develop a habit of saving at least 20 percent of your income and you’ll soon have a pretty good savings.

4. Public speaking skills

This was one of the things I hated at school and college, but this was also one of the essential skills I needed to acquire to improve my life. The statistics show that the fear of speaking in front of a big audience is even stronger than the fear of death. Anyway, public speaking skills are critical if you want to achieve confidence and self-esteem and meet new professional and social contacts.

Any leader or successful manager will tell you that the power of words is immense. The initial function of public speaking is to share your ideas with others. However, the ability to deliver your thoughts in front of a big group of people will also help you to influence and control others, sell anything from a product to idea and get a professional advancement. I’ve realized that I can apply public speaking skills to almost every situation in day-to-day life, from discussions during family gatherings to delivering a speech in front of my colleagues.

5. The art of relaxation

It sounds weird since most people think they can relax and enjoy their spare time. However, many hard-working people and workaholics find it difficult to relax and stop thinking about their business. For a long time I couldn’t distract my mind from my work even at weekends, even when I was miles away from my office and my city. The abstention from checking my e-mail or reading my post didn’t prevent me from thinking about my job. No wonder it led to poor thinking, bad health and decision making.

I’ve understood that there is time to work and time to enjoy the results of my work. Working yourself to death isn’t actually a success, it’s just an obsession. I’ve started practicing yoga and various breathing techniques. They really help to gain clarity of thoughts, sense of purpose and balance. The ability to combat stress and keep calm helps me to face life troubles with confidence and zeal.

6. 80/20 Rule

I’ve observed many cases when 80/20 rule worked in my life. You know that 80 percent of your results are provided by 20 percent of your work. However, don’t think that if you start doing these 20 percent, you’ll get what you expect. The point is that you should concentrate your efforts on the most substantial part of the task. Break the task down into smaller parts and eliminate the secondary and less important aspects until you see the core.

This rule can be applied to different life spheres like relationship and friendship. We can get only 80 percent of what we want from the partner. The remaining 20 percent can be found in other men. People and relationships are rarely ideal, that’s why we are never fully satisfied with life. However, when you know and follow 80/20 rule chances are you’ll be more content with the general state of things.

7. The ability to think critically

If you want to become successful, you need to master critical thinking skills. Critical thinking is not about accepting something or not since your decisions are often based on personal preferences and emotions. Critical thinking excludes the emotional respond and implies pure analysis and judgment. It gives you an opportunity to see the accurate picture of reality.

I can say with confidence that critical thinking skills made me a better person and improved the quality of my life. Now people cannot manipulate me so easily; it’s difficult to influence my decisions; I always have my own opinion on any subject. Critical thinking skills helped me to face my weak and strong points, thus I can impartially assess my personal strength and chances. Develop the ability to evaluate and analyze the events and you’ll become more effective in making decisions and solving problems.

8. Life-long learning

Elbert Einstein once said, ‘Learning is not the product of schooling, but the lifelong attempt to acquire it’. A lot of people mistakenly believe that the process of learning ends the moment they get a diploma. But the truth is that the moment you stop learning you stop evolving and developing yourself. Life-long learning skills are beneficial to your personal and professional advancement.

Learning is hard and it took me an immense amount of time to cultivate the habit of learning something new daily. However, I’m sure that I achieved most of my goals thanks to self-education. Purposeful learning beyond the traditional schooling is often more effective and fruitful.

9. Constructive conversation skills

As long as you live in a society you have to deal with people every day and every second. Your relationship and career will largely depend on how skillfully you communicate with others. Being a good conversationalist helped me in many situations; I learned to get along with people, address issues and carry on a constructive dialogue.

You may be a first-rate professional, but if you lack communication skills you will hardly succeed. Communication skills are a very broad term that implies both verbal and non-verbal communication, listening and questioning, argumentation and problem solving. Acquiring interpersonal skills is a never-ending process. The ability to talk to people is the key to understanding and effective cooperation. Continual practice is the pledge of good communication skills. Learn to control your emotions, use words wisely and enjoy communication with others!

10. Literacy and numeracy skills

These are the only two skills out of the list that are directly connected to the traditional schooling and education. Individuals with high numeracy and literacy skills have better prospects. Surprisingly, but many people have difficulty with literacy skills at work, although numeracy and literacy are among the top skills that most employers require. At work you have to deal with multiple documents and forms, type reports and keep up a correspondence with clients; therefore good literacy and numeracy skills are essential to perform your responsibilities to your best potential.

Writing skills are another important thing that will better your personal and professional life. The ability to write accurately, clearly and coherently is a powerful tool of communication. If you finished school long time ago but you feel the need to improve your grammar or spelling, enroll in a language course or use the Internet resources to improve your literacy skills.

Sure, the points may vary depending on your age, culture and particular circumstances. The aforementioned skills are used in every occupation to some extent and complexity. Anyway, you should be always ready to learn and acquire new skills if you want to obtain essential tools and live a more fulfilling and fruitful life. Essential life skills are often taught indirectly through practice and personal experience. Have you already mastered any of these skills?