Basic Life Skills


Basic Life Skills


Vicki Hinze

Life doesn’t come with an instruction guide or manual. We learn basic life skills a couple of ways. First from our parents or the authority figure in our lives, then as we grow and our inner circle expands, from those authority figures (some of whom we respect and admire and some of whom we do not). Later still, friends and peers come into the picture and we assign weight to what they think and what they do. We learn too from messing up and coping with the fallout. And we learn from experience. Pleasant experiences, we want to repeat, and unpleasant ones we don’t want to repeat.

For some, their history, past or life experience governs their attitude toward and actions in creating a future. Many more use their history, past or life experience as an excuse for doing what they want to do and know they shouldn’t. The bottom line is that everyone has survived challenges that impact them positively and negatively before they hit puberty. That, some feel, carries a perk of entitlement. I’m entitled to do x or to act x way because of what I’ve been through.

In real life, that entitlement attitude doesn’t work out so well. Why not? Because everybody’s been through something and regardless of what you’ve been through, you reach a point in life where you decide what impacts you and how much. Everyone does.

Many have trudged through the fires of hell as children and have gone on to create wonderful, purpose-filled, content lives for themselves. They didn’t let their pasts define them. They dealt with their pasts and used what they learned to create a future they wanted. So they’re not impressed with those who use their pasts as an entitlement to do whatever, whenever to whomever. In other words, no one gets a pass.

That’s worth remembering. Whether you’re crafting a life or a character, weigh in that the entitlement factor (some call it the pity factor) doesn’t play well with others. Once, maybe. Twice, and it wears thin. They’ve got their own stories to tell.

Everyone has a story and each story plays out on a different canvas that we call a life. Yet lives carry the gift of universal principles that guide us and help us to find our feet and our way. Eventually, we get it. We realize that life—every life—is a minefield, full of potholes and despair pits. But it also is a garden that’s home to bliss and contentment. The choices we make determine how much time we spend in the pit and in bliss.

We want more bliss. So how can we help ourselves get it? By tapping into and grasping a clear understanding of those universal principles. Here are a few to get you started:

You are unique.

You are the sum of yourself, meaning you have special gifts. Maybe to lift up others. Maybe to think critically or analytically. Maybe to see the gem in a pile of junk. We are all infused with special traits that give us insights or abilities that are ours alone. You might have a lovely voice, a knack for innately knowing the truth when you hear it—and when you don’t. Seek your special gifts. Identify them. And craft a life where those gifts are needed for excellence. In this way, we all become teachers, sharing bits of ourselves with others. When you teach, you strengthen. At something, we all teach.

Everyone else is unique, too.

Just as you have special gifts, everyone else does, too. Recognize those gifts in others and respect them. It’s said that no man is an island. We live in societies, communities, groups. We’re part of our circle, by birth or choice. And we should surround ourselves with people who are supportive, gifted, in ways we are but also in ways we are not. We learn from them, acquire skills we didn’t have or hone ones we did. In this, we are students. At something, we are all students, and if we are willing to learn from others, we also gain wisdom.

You are and will be right and wrong many times.

We’re human and that makes us imperfect. We’ll have trials. We’ll be right and we’ll be wrong over and again. It isn’t so much the being right or wrong, it’s how we respond to either and both. There isn’t a living human being who hasn’t made mistakes or screwed up or hurt someone inadvertently. It’s as inevitable as smothering without air. What makes the difference in your quality of life, and how others perceive you—and more importantly, how you perceive yourself—is your reaction to errors.

The natural inclination is to hide the mistake. You don’t want to look stupid or to feel badly about yourself. You don’t want others to know or to think badly of you. But the fact is the truth always comes to light. It might take a while, but truth never stays hidden. That’s worth remembering.

So when you mess up, man up. Take the hit, apologize, do what you can to correct the problem. You might or might not be forgiven by others, but in taking responsibility, you will be able to forgive yourself. That’s most important. You can let go of the anxiety of trying to hide something that you know won’t stay hidden, release the burden of carrying around the guilt of having committed the infraction, and move forward. Unresolved issues eat at you. Guilt and shame steal your peace and joy. So resolve those issues and learn from your mistakes, then move on, wiser for the experience.

When you’re right, man up. A sore loser loses more than the battle, s/he loses the war. A gloating winner does, too. Be gracious. Treat others with dignity—the dignity and grace you’d hope to receive from those who win when you lose. Winning isn’t about your ego or thumping your chest because you’re smarter or craftier than someone else. It’s about achieving some something worth achieving—hopefully because it best serves everyone involved. If yours isn’t a win/win situation, try harder. Victory should never feel hollow. It should feel that all concerns and interests were addressed and the best possible outcome was achieved. Win/Win. Maybe everyone isn’t thrilled with the outcome. But no one should be devastated by it, either. When you strike that balance, that’s the best success. Maybe no one got everything they wanted, but everyone’s needs, vision, ideas, hopes have been weighed and everyone’s been treated with respect, dignity and grace. The result is no bitterness lingers. A sense of justice and fairness does. You’ve found a gracious solution or resolution. Be humble about it. That will be remembered and appreciated, and that is a gracious win—the ultimate win—because the benefits of it extend far beyond the current situation.

Say what you mean and mean what you say.

We live and die by the words we utter. We’re often misunderstood, miscommunicate our meanings, and too often we say what we think the person to whom we’re speaking wants to hear rather than what we want to say. Sometimes that’s the challenge of the speaker, sometimes it’s the challenge of the listener. We all speak and hear through our own filters.

We don’t just bring our ears to a conversation, we bring all of us. That means our likes, dislikes; our views and attitudes, our beliefs and our prejudices. No one is exempt. No one can be wholly objective. By our nature of being human, we’re subjective. We can’t leave the sum of our experiences and all we’ve embraced or shunned at the proverbial door. Everything in us speaks and hears with us and our ears. Remember that when you say things. Remember it, too, when you hear them.

Be honest, do your best to talk straight—to say what you mean and mean what you say. Speak and hear with passion, yes, but also with compassion. If someone offends, don’t lash out. Instead clarify. Did you mean what you said? Did you mean that this way? Be clear and seek clarity. Often we say things, or say them in a tone that isn’t consistent with our meaning. Sarcasm, for example, or irony, humor. Sometimes people grasp that, and sometimes they don’t. So if you offend, clarify. If someone offends you, give them the benefit of doubt—that the offense was unintended—and clarify. Often that clarification nips what could be a conflict before it becomes one. Sometimes it keeps a small conflict from becoming a big one where one or the other carries resentment, anger or upset. That makes for smoother, calmer interaction and more productive relations.

Remember too that words carry consequences. You’re responsible for them. Accountable for and to them. So before you speak, pause, and be sure you’re saying what you mean and that you mean what you say. Your word, it’s said, is your bond. It’s also how you inspire trust or the lack of it. If your word is trusted by others and you make a mistake—and sooner or later, you will—then others are apt to believe you when you offer apologies, regret and assurances that the infraction was a mistake.

Actions speak louder than words.

You can say the right things but unless you follow up with the right actions on those things—ones that are consistent with what you’ve said—the words are worthless and harm you. Talking a good game at most gives you time to prove yourself. That proof is in your actions. We see this in faith. Some profess to walk in faith, but their actions disagree. Some profess to be looking out for your best interests, but their actions prove they’re looking out for their own. Let me share a few examples:

You’re shopping for a product and the salesman promises great service. Courteous, timely, and customer satisfaction. You buy. You need service. You can’t get through to the service center, can’t understand the person supposedly serving you or that person is ill-tempered and short. Your timely service is going to take three times the length of time promised before the sale. This causes you great complications and you say, “I am not satisfied,” to which you’re given a song and dance and left unsatisfied.

That’s happened to us all. And the result is that we typically shop elsewhere in the future. Why? The words were heard and accepted as truth but the actions disagreed with them and proved the words were hollow. We were duped, lied to, cheated. The service was misrepresented and we deem that unacceptable. So we find ourselves another product and shop elsewhere.

On a larger scale with broader impact, look at politicians. They say one thing, do another, and it’s become so commonplace that it doesn’t make the news and if it does, we hardly lift a brow. We’ve come to expect it.

Two things on this. One, in our lives, we will be judged and deemed worthy or unworthy (by everyone in our circle). What others think of us, and what we think of ourselves, will be impacted significantly by our words and actions being in agreement. If they’re not, we’ll suffer the consequences. Two, what we condone, we own. So if words and actions don’t agree and we ignore it, we own the results. If the disagreement between words and actions were not acceptable and not tolerated, it would be deemed personally or professionally harmful—self-destructive—and abandoned. Of course, those grasping wisdom wouldn’t embrace it to start with, but that’s a life skill that must be learned before it can be embraced or shunned. We’re all students and teachers…

These are by no means all of the principles or basic life skills. But you aren’t starting with a blank slate. You know right from wrong, good from bad and many of the basics already. Revisit them in your mind, and implement them in your life.

It’s a common thing in life to look for someone else to blame, to look for a way around the “rules” (anything we know we should or shouldn’t do but want to or want not to do anyway). That lands us in trouble that creates drama that we then must resolve. If we’d avoid those things, living as we know and believe we should in the first place, we’d have a lot less trauma and drama. We’d spend a lot less time in the pit and have more time to seize more opportunities for bliss.

Life is about us, but it’s not all about us. We look at ourselves and others, but to ourselves and to others also. For that we need basic life skills. They aren’t difficult, but they are work. Work we either choose to do or to avoid doing.

Here’s one huge tip that too often gets ignored. Whether or not you willingly do the work, you do work and you pay. You pay with time in the pit, or in bliss.

Now you have a choice. You can use this insight as a springboard and hone your basic life skills, or choose not to do so. We both know the action will determine the reaction and that causes have effects. Choose wisely. Your future—pit or bliss—depends on it.



Vicki Hinze is the award-winning beMaybe This Timestselling author of nearly thirty novels in a variety of genres including, suspense, mystery, thriller, and romantic or faith-affirming thrillers. Her latest releases are: Torn Loyalties (romantic suspense), Duplicity (mystery/thriller), Maybe This Time (paranormal romance), One Way to Write a Novel (nonfiction). She holds a MFA in Creative Writing and a Ph.D. in Philosophy, Theocentric Business and Ethics. Hinze’s website:Facebook. Books. Twitter. Contact. www.vickihinze.com.



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