post written by: Angel Chernoff

5 Core Skills Your Life Depends On

5 Life Skills You Should Exercise Until You Die

I may not have gone where I intended to go, but I think
I have ended up where I needed to be.
―Douglas Adams

Life has no purpose; you have a purpose and you bring it to life.  There isn’t one big cosmic purpose for everyone either; there is only the one you give to yourself – a personal purpose, an individual meaning, a distinct plot to the story that is your life.  Often this plot is difficult to follow; yet it is never impossible to follow and it is worth every bit of effort you can muster.

Each moment, each situation, each turn of events presents you with an opportunity to build the self you are capable of being.  It’s just a matter of accepting opportunities, implementing ideas, taking action, and actively expressing the purpose that is uniquely YOU.

You are stronger than any barrier standing in your way, because you have a purpose that cannot be denied.  You can be adaptable, innovative, hard working and tenacious.  You can imagine the possibilities and then work to make them real.

Here are five life skills that will help you do just that – the real fundamentals of being an empowered, self-directed human being:

1.  Curiosity

Joy comes easy to us in our youth because we haven’t become set too firmly in our ways.  Our willingness to curiously assess new things and varying perspectives allows us to experience flashes of insight and beauty wherever we go.  Those of us who fight the draw of our comfort zones as we age, who sustain our curiosity into our later years, learn a lot more and see far more beauty throughout our lifetime.

Curiosity, after all, is the foundation of lifelong growth.  It allows us to retain a beginner’s mind even as our wisdom expands.  In this way, an enduring curiosity permits our hearts and minds to grow younger, not older every day.

Always remain curious and teachable.  Keep an open mind and do not stop questioning and learning.  Look forward, open new doors and experience new things.  Do so because you’re curious, and because you know that today’s journey is always just beginning.

2.  Creativity

When it comes to human growth, if curiosity is the engine, creativity is the steering wheel.  Creativity is the most powerful instrument of progress – a mindset that endows resources with a new capacity to create possibility and growth.

The world is moving so fast these days that those who say something can’t be done are often interrupted by those who are doing it.  This is precisely why it’s important to exercise your creative mind on a regular basis.  Ultimately, the creative learners inherit the world while the doubters and complacent minds find themselves perfectly suited for a world that no longer exists.  (Read The War of Art.)

3.  Resilience

Except for your own thoughts, there’s nothing that’s absolutely in your power.  Knowing and accepting this gives you the ability to cope proficiently with life’s constant little inconveniences – a vital life skill we called resilience.

Resilience is accepting reality, even if it’s less than the fantasy you had in your mind or the reality that was once yours.  You can fight it, you can do nothing but complain about what you’re missing, or you can accept what you have and try to put it together to create something good.

As you progress, life will inevitably challenge you on a regular basis.  No matter how much falls on you, keep your head up and plow ahead.  That’s the only way to keep the road to your dreams clear.  It won’t get any more forgiving, but it will get easier and easier to deal with, because over time you will grow stronger and more resilient.  (Read The Road Less Traveled.)

4.  Patience

In the sweetest little voice Winnie-the-Pooh once said, “Rivers know this: there is no hurry.  We shall get there some day.”  This is the power of patience.

Patience is not sitting still.  Rather, it’s mastering your time by applying the right principles in the right way to attain a long-term desired result.  It’s moving forward steadily for as long as it takes to get where you want to go.  Enduring the time between your departure and arrival requires a great deal of will.  But no matter how tedious these moments of waiting are, you have to get used to the feeling, knowing that what you’re working toward is coming your way, even though it’s not with you at the moment.

Ultimately the two hardest tests on the road to personal growth are the patience to wait for what you want and the courage not to be disappointed when it doesn’t arrive as soon as you had expected.  Patience can be bitter, but the seeds you plant now will bear sweet fruit.  These fruits are worth waiting for.  There’s no advantage to hurrying through life and never tasting their sweetness.

5.  Self-reliance

Self-reliance is the most important of all life skills, because without it you can’t practice any other life skill consistently.  It’s honestly a virtue that brings all the rest together.

Quite simply, self-reliance is the unswerving willingness to take responsibility for your life from this moment forward, regardless of who had a hand in making it the way it is now.  It’s taking control of your life, finding your true self by thinking for yourself, and making a firm choice to live your way.  It’s being the hero of your life, not the victim.

Life constantly invites you to be who you are capable of being.  Choosing to be self-reliant is accepting life’s invitation.  (Marc and I discuss this in detail in the Growth and Success chapters of 1,000 Little Things Happy, Successful People Do Differently.)

Your turn…

What did I miss?  What life skills would you add to the list?  Please leave a comment below.

Photo by: Hartwig HKD

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  • I’d add to that not giving in to self-pity. Once you get in the habit of feeling sorry for yourself, you lose all direction and focus.

  • Good read. All five skills are so true.

    And to add to your point on patience: Let the tasks consume your thoughts and actions, not the fear of “when.” The “when” will arrive. THAT’s patience. Sorry if I seem like I’m debating the issue, I’m not. I’m only offering my thoughts. I’ve been feeling some good mojo happening lately! I have tremendous challenge in front of me and this is how I’m working it!

  • As much as self reliance is necessary for survival and growth, on the flip side, it can be a determent as well. I’m struggling with learning how to lean on someone. I’m trying to ask for help without fear of being perceived as “weak” for asking. I think every skill has its ying and yang with the goal of finding balance being the key. :)

  • Many thanks for this superb summary of the life skills all good schools should be developing in their children and young people. The only one I’d add is imagination.

  • Just my two cents:

    Self-reliance can be summed up as not being codependent (financially, emotionally, personally, professionally, etc.) on something/someone else. At this moment, having been codependent on people for so long, I’m finally putting myself on the path towards being independent.

    Otherwise, great list. I’m sharing this!

  • Ado Muhammad Indabawa
    May 3rd, 2013 at 5:04 am

    You have almost said it all. Your list is a framework for successful living. However, as you have requested some equally appropriate skills, I here by wish to add THE POSITIVE MENTAL ATTITUDE. If your skills are blended with positivity - woooh! What a result!

  • I struggle with the first few lines of this post: “There isn’t one big cosmic purpose to life… there is only the one you give to yourself… a personal purpose.” I think regardless of religious or spiritual belief, life is not about the individual and our own personal needs and desires. Thoughts?

  • Great post. It is a challenge for me because I am an impatient imperfectionist with a strong action bias. I will add it to the ‘30 Challenges for 30 Days of Growth’ that you inspired me to undertake.



  • For me perspective and attitude are key skills. It’s how you look at it, how you react or respond and how you continue to grow.

    Here’s a plug for your new book. I love it!!! I encourage everyone to support Marc and Angel. I was told once that you should financially support that which helps you grow spiritually. Marc and Angel do this every day for everyone out there with their posts. Please support them by buying their book. I print out pages and paste them around as reminders. Thanks again for all your wonderful posts!

  • Persistence

    With every effort you get better and learn more. Sometimes that extra step brings you success.

  • This is a great list of core talents that everyone needs… If I were to add one more I believe it would be Gratitude. Without the humble ability to appreciate what you have, and assess how far you have come, sometimes the daily practice of these things may diminish. Start each day by thinking of something you can be grateful for, and it gives life more purpose.

  • I would add develop your intuition to the list.

    Many people rely on others to tell them what to do. This is fine when you’re faced with something huge and want to get advice from wise people. However, if you keep asking people, “What should I do,” it diminishes your power.

    Instead of constantly asking others what you should do, listen to the voice inside of you. But you must become quiet and relaxed to hear it. It’s waiting to be heard and would like to guide you.

    Once you develop your intuition, you’ll be able to rely on YOU. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t seek out wise counsel for certain situations, but it does mean that you can break free from constantly relying on others for the answers to your LIFE’S questions.

  • These skills all make sense for an individual, but there is one more group of skills that is essential - collaborative skills like influence and conflict resolution.

    It is virtually impossible to be completely self-reliant. We need emotional support and connectedness, and we often require the help of others to accomplish our life goals. Too many young people today are growing up without these skills, and it’s reflected in the way they engage others in life and work.

    It’s critical for people to be independent, but they must also have the skills to navigate the interdependence required of virtually everyone.

  • Great points, and I’d add “Showing Up” to the list. I’ve found it’s a great default position to most all of life; even when reluctant or hesitant to do so. I’ve given talks about some amazing things that happened to me by just showing up and giving fate a chance to happen. Pretty powerful with little effort required!

  • PRAYER and THANKFULESS are important to me, too!

  • I was struck immediately by number one on the list. That child like curiosity we are blessed with and lose as life begins to unfold. What happens though when life and the hard lessons hit before you have a chance to be a child to be a child? When there is no frame of reference that things really do get better…that some people really are worth trusting? How do you help someone see that? Reseliance, self reliance, etc…those skills come with territory but child like wonder and happy…can that ever be regained?

  • Resilience for me also means tolerance… a lot of times,things are not done the way you want. Sometimes you try to fix them so that they are the way you want because you believe it’s best, but other times you have to let them have their way, because it just might not be important to them to do it your way, as sensible and wonderful it may be to you.

    Live and let live!

  • Great points. But if you’re asking, I think “Accountability” could be added to the list. That may fall in the self-reliance section. It’s hard to progress if you aren’t able to realistically and honestly look at yourself and take personal responsibility for your actions, and not blame others for your misfortunes.

  • Jodi Eisenstadt
    May 3rd, 2013 at 10:17 am

    What about the connection — the skill to build meaningful relationships with others?

  • Whoa ~ I just found your blog . . . Wonderful post and great additions in the comments too.

  • Yeah, I agree with you, but I also think the skill of communicating with others is very important.

  • The five say it all. Confidence though somehow covered, is the other that needs to be treasured. Boldness to stand firm in what you believe too.

  • I believe you gave five of the best-especially self-reliance. Each one of these skills feed of the other. Thanks for sharing.

  • The life shill on patience really hits home. Boom! I just printed it out. I need to tell my impatient-self this every day.

  • I would mark INTEGRITY down there as one. If your not true to yourself, then it almost impossible to true to anyone/thing else.

  • Great article!

    I’ll add one skill to the list: The ability to research solutions to common life problems… via Google, books, etc.

  • K., I think ultimately everyone’s journey is about themselves. A case can be made that even when we are helping others, we do it for ourselves as well because of the feeling it gives us to help someone. I am not a religious man; I don’t believe in heaven, etc. But because of that belief (or lack of belief) I am much more focused of what I do while I’m alive as opposed to what could potentially happen when I die. The incredibly gratifying feeling people get when helping someone accomplish something is both a selfless and self-driven act.

    If there is a “big, cosmic purpose to life” it is to survive and help others. All knowledge is ultimately self knowledge.

  • I have to say this, even as I agree with your encouragements in the list: I cannot agree that life has no purpose. We are not the center of the universe, even though we are designed self-centered.

    We are part of a larger whole, whether you think of it in scientific terms or spiritual terms. And only one part. There is a steering wheel that happens quite powerfully when we connect with fellows and sniff out purpose.

    Thanks for all your good ideas, always. I read with curiosity and ah ha’s.

  • Great post. Life has a purpose, and that is for you to find it. Not the purpose, your LIFE. Your life impacts, either directly or indirectly, other lives. And that is why its crucial to find your life.

    Self-reliance has a lot of positives. but its a transitional point in your life. You need to get to reach inter-dependence. That is where I have “maxed” out what I can do, and need and want and ask for assistance to get to the next level.

  • I’d like to add one more skill: listening. Remember that line from Desiradata? “Listen to others, even the dull and the ignorant. They too have their story.” Often we need to quieten our own voice and just listen. There’s so much to learn and to understand, and occasionally, there’s a revelation.

  • Such a wonderful list of important life skills. I’ll add diehard determination to the list. Honestly, everything worthwhile I’ve accomplished in my life I have worked at, through many failures, until I finally had a breakthrough.

  • What a great title photo!
    And very good thoughts to ponder.

  • I would add HOPE… maybe that would come under optimism… but without it people lose the momentum to apply the other core skills.

  • I think you left out sense of humor. I don’t think it is possible to live successfully without it.

  • I love reading your posts; they are so helpful and so up to date with the world we live in today . I think that giving of oneself is also a core life skill without this we cannot be human. It enables us to feel emotions which is so important to finding out what makes us truly happy .

  • How about humility, kindness, service to others, personal virtue, goodness to all, care for animals, knowing how to pray, spirituality (general), courtesy toward others, how to tell what is true, how to learn from the mistakes of others and your own, how to teach, how to be decent, telling the truth and despising the lie, taking care how you show irritation or anger. Your five hardly scratches the surface, but that’s the idea. We help each other and we love each other. The Boston Marathon response from the crowd was a wonderful example of love of others regardless of self and all the other wondrous skills you and everyone else spoke of. We all need some of every skill a human can dream. Keep up the good work and let’s keep shooting toward the stars.

  • Great post! As the world speeds up we need these core skills as our foundation. Thinking creatively is a must as it opens up your thinking and gives you the big picture. These days the internet is a hotbed of creativity. Exciting times.

  • First of all I want to thank you Marc and angel.
    Your truly a joy and an inspiration.

    The 5 principles are truly a special way to lead ones life upon this earth… But often we forget life is just day to day living, we might not be here tomorrow.

    So rejoice in today , enjoy your life , it’s such a wonderful gift.

    Thank you!

  • Love the patience aspect. There is always a fine line between striving for greater things and being happy with what you have.

  • It’s a great list. For me, and addition would be self acceptance. I think that when you accept your own flaws and strengths equally you are able to achieve great things. When you don’t know who you are you instead look for validation and guidance from the external.

    This can make you think about things too ‘normally’ and will in turn encourage you to be ‘normal’ rather than exceptional.

    The only failure is not trying to live your dreams.

  • Dear Marc and Angel!

    I thank you from the bottom of my heart for your uplifting and encouraging words, you brought me to life again, you gave me joy, motivation and a deep sense of gratification. Words are not enough to say how much i thank you both.
    God bless you.

  • I love this list. I’ve often thought that I grew up too much. I lost the curiousity, creativity, resilience and patience I had as a young man. Lately, I’ve seen so much sorrow in those around me, that it has kind of been a wake up call to start relaxing and regaining some of what I lost from my youth. You’d think that it would be easy to go back and regain these lost traits, but it’s actually quite hard to feel the wonder and joy I once had. I’m sure going to keep trying, though. Thanks for this post, as it has sparked a renewed desire to get the joy back in life!

  • I did a documentary on successful aging decades ago. We interviewed old people and a number of gerontologists, as well as caregivers. One MD said it best, “You only need two things- curiosity, as in do you want to know what’s under that rock? and hip flexibility, as in can you bend over and pick it up.” Turns out hip flexibility prevents broken hips when you get old and fall, and you will at some point if you are fortunate enough to live that long. The other things here are good, not necessarily requirements. Staying alive depends on a lot of factors. Quality of life on others.

  • Chris McGrath
    May 5th, 2013 at 4:34 am

    Service. You cannot have a fulfilling life without giving of yourself to others who have less.

  • This is a great article - I’d just add ‘forgiveness’. We all make mistakes, albeit ourselves or others. Some say we learn from them,some say they’re inevitable and some see them a chance to reassess and try again. But I think it’s tricky to get far in life if you don’t practice forgiveness because to do the opposite means that if you stumble you just allow yourself to keep on falling time and again. If someone doesn’t treat you the way you feel you deserve, but you don’t forgive then trusting again becomes all the harder. We need to forgive to believe things can be better. We need to forgive ourselves and see mistakes as inevitable and necessary. Mistakes can derail us entirely but forgiveness helps us to get up, survey the track, see why what went wrong and plan a different approach. Cultivating forgiveness makes a different future possible.

  • The “purpose of life”; and it is a very big “cosmic” one, for every animate life form is to grow, reproduce to pass on their genes, respond to stimuli , and adapt to their environment. Evolution has mandated that the “purpose of your life” is the continuation of life.

    You do not have a biological imperative to have a meaningful life. The meaning of life —its significance, origin, purpose, —is a concept in philosophy and religion and only applies to humans.

    Curiosity, creativity, resilience, patience, and self-reliance all serve good or evil equally. #1 on your list should be good or venal? What will be the distinct plot of your life? Unless you set your moral compass for goodness, each moment, each situation, each turn of events presents you with an opportunity to walk down the wrong path.

  • @Dara: Asking for help does not mean you’re too weak to deal with your own problems. I completely agree with your ‘ying and yang’ philosophy. Thanks for the input.

    @Ado Muhammad Indabawa: How could I forget that?!? You’re absolutely right! =)

    @K: While I agree with your statement, I think the key is balance. Look after your own heart AND the hearts of others. In other words, while you’re on your journey, don’t forget to take care of your own needs too.

    @Bob McInnis: Sounds like a plan! =)

    @Diana: Your love and support mean the world to Marc and I. Thank you!

    @Terry: To get back your childlike wonder and happiness I would suggest forcing yourself to step outside of your comfort zone and try new things. This gives you a fresh, new perspective.

    @Debbra W: Great input and well said, thank you!

    @Nabil: It’s a privilege to be heard, and I’m so happy we are able to have a positive impact on you. Thank you for the kindness. =)

    @All: Great thought provoking additions to this list of necessary life skills. As always, we look forward to the continued conversation in the comments – we read every one of them. Thank you!

  • This is a great article! I would add “passion.” Passion is the fuel that drives our curiosity and imagination. When we are passionate about achieving our purpose in life, we not only find our motivation and resilience to keep moving forward, but we do it with courage and grace. It is these traits that leave a lasting impression in the minds and thoughts of others, which ultimately becomes our legacy. And in my opinion, our legacy is even more important that our purpose!

  • ” ‘Tis a lesson you should heed,
    If at first you don’t succeed,
    Try try again.” ~ T. H. Palmer


    Thomas Edison said it took him nearly 10,000 attempts to invent the light bulb - he didn’t fail, he found 10,000 ways that didn’t work, before success.


    “Many of life’s failures are people who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up.” ~ Thomas Edison


    Michael Jordan - arguably the best NBA player in league history was cut from his high school basketball team.

    he has stated: “I have missed more than 9,000 shots in my career. I have lost almost 300 games. On 26 occasions I have been entrusted to take the game winning shot, and I missed. I have failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.”


    How many of us have…the fortitude, …the persistance, …the PERSEVERANCE to keep trying after even 10 attempts to reach our goal; or 100; or 1,000? Perseverance is the difference between success and failure.


  • “Nothing in this world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful people with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent. The slogan “press on” has solved and always will solve the problems of the human race” Coolidge

    There are others, but this came to mind first.

  • Dedication to truth. The truth about reality. The truth to others and especially to self. Some 95% of everything we think is false. It requires love of self, courage and tenacity to challenge one’s own thoughts; both conscious and unconscious thoughts, to identify the lies and reject them and embrace the truth.

  • The truth is all that matters in everything we do. How therefore can we then expect to live a happy life when the truth is absent in us.

  • A sense of humor :-)

  • Good Stuff…I totally agree w/ patience. Some of the greatest success stories come from people with greatest patience! (Abraham Lincoln, Walt Disney, Thomas Edison)

  • I believe life has a purpose for each of us and we must uncover what it has for us.

  • Excellent article on five core skills of life.
    But, in the era of globalization, tolerance becomes essential skill to be happy, successful, progress and spread happiness to others. Intolerance to other cultures and to other religions has played havoc in the past and is becoming one of the very important life skill in democracy.

  • Well said. Nothing is missing for the individual person. Let us remember that Man is a social animal and when these principles meant for one person are applied to small groups something wonderful begins to happen.

  • #3 is the best and came at the right time for me. Thanks for waking me up.

  • The acceptance of Patience was the toughest lesson. There will always be items that are just not yet ripe for completion, and fighting the ‘in limbo’ stages only causes anxiety & more stress. Once I permitted myself to stop worrying about potential outcomes, accepted that there will always be something in limbo that is out of my control, life changed & became peaceful.

  • Great list Marc and Angel:) In teaching youth I found a core skill to develop is SELF DISCIPLINE and PROBLEM SOLVING.

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