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The Seven Essential Life Skills, With Ellen Galinsky | Big Think Mentor

October 10, 2019


Mind in the Making is the result of a now
13 year journey where I set out to find out what can we do to keep the fire for learning
burning in children’s eyes.  All young children are born with not only a passion but a survival
skill to learn about the world that they live in.  And yet, far too many children and adults
have lost that passion, have lost that fire.  For the business community, engagement is
one of the major predictors of productivity and that’s what this is.  I wanted to understand
this by going out and talking to some of the best researchers who understand brain development,
who understand how we grow and how we change.  I ended up finding that there are these
life skills that emerge in all of us but we don’t pay very much attention to promoting
them. We think of learning as the content of what
we learn but we don’t think of learning as the how we learn.  And what life skills are,
are the how that we learn.  They, interestingly enough, all involve what researchers call
executive functions of the brain.  And I know that sounds like a guy in a pinstripe
suit bossing you around in your brain but what these are are the capacities that take
place in our prefrontal cortex that pull together our social, our emotional and our cognitive
capacities that enable us to achieve our goals. Basically Mind in the Making describes the
research behind these executive function life skills and then talks about how we can promote
them in ourselves and in the children in our lives. A very important life skill is focus and self-control.
 We live in a world that’s full of distractions and yet if we’re going to achieve our goals
— and remember, all life skills are based around setting goals and achieving them for
ourselves.  If we’re going to achieve our goals, we need to be able to pay attention
and not go on automatic.  So focus and self-control involves being able to pay attention.  It
involves being able to remember all the things that we need to know to achieve the goal that
we have.  It involves the flexibility to be able to adapt as life changes and again,
the control not to go on automatic but do what we need to do to achieve a goal. Perspective taking is understanding what might
be going on in someone else’s mind.  It’s understanding how that person thinks, how
that person feels and how that person sees the world. An intellectual, a social and an
emotional understanding of the landscape of other people’s minds.  And it’s very important
to deal with other people if we don’t think that what we think is the only way that it
— you know, that’s the only reality.  It’s very important to understand other people’s
realities as well. Communicating is thinking through what it
is you want to communicate and then understanding the perspectives of other people who are going
to be the recipients.  They’re gonna be the people who listen to or understand what each
other says.  It’s critical in business, for example, to understand what your customers
need and want.  It’s critical in any family relationships to understand what other people
think and feel but then to communicate in ways that reach them best. You could call communicating — and they do
this in the business world — the elevator speech.  If you only had a minute in an elevator
with someone and that person was really important to something that you want to do, what would
you say to be able to get through to that person.  That’s what communicating really
is. Making connections is symbolic relationships.
Understanding what things go together, what things are alike, what things are different
and how they might go together.  In fact, making unusual connections is the basis of
creativity — so important in our world where you can Google for information are the people
who can put things together in different way. Critical thinking is a very important skill
because, particularly today, we’re awash in information.  You could go on the Internet
and find six different versions of, you know, what — if you’re not feeling well what’s
really going on with you or even understanding a so-called fact.  There is so much information
and we have to have the capacity to understand what is valid and what is reliable information.
That’s the basis of critical thinking. Taking on challenges is more than coping with
stress.  Life can be stressful no matter how we plan for it, no matter what we want
to do. Things happen to us that we don’t like.  And we have to be able to cope with those
things.  But taking on challenges goes beyond simply coping with the things that happen
to us.  It means taking on that next harder thing.  And if you think about  a world
in which information is changing constantly, we are going to have to do things today or
tomorrow that we didn’t even know existed yesterday.  So we have to have the ability
to take on the challenge and try something hard.  And failing is a part of learning.
 So, you know, being able to fail but learn from the failures is all part of taking on
challenges. Self-directed engaged learning is the ability
to continue to learn from life, to learn from our experience, to have the initiative to
learn in ways that we can use the information that we have.  So really all of the life
skills — all of the executive function life skills add up to helping us be ongoing learners
because it is the ongoing learners, again in a world where information changes so rapidly
— it is the ongoing learners who will thrive. There has been a lot of focus on skills.  Skills
for the twenty-first century and so forth.  But I think that these particular executive
function life skills are the skills that we need to thrive.  We need them when we’re
little children.  We need them when we’re teenagers.  We need them when we’re adults.
 We need them when we’re aging.  These are all skills that can help us live the life
that we want to live — that can help us thrive.  That can help us be what we want to be.
 And so there is so much scientific evidence over time that shows that when we have these
skills we have the life that we want to have. I invite you to join me in this workshop where
we’re going to take a deeper look at the seven essential life skills and we’re going to look
at some video clips really straight from the researchers’ labs so that you can go into
the lab of a neuroscientist or a cognitive scientist or someone else who studies our
development, particularly among children, and look at how we know what we know.  And
then look at how to apply these life skills to your own life.

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31 Comments

  • Reply koopk1 July 18, 2013 at 4:13 am

    It amazes me how poor most people are at all 7 of these areas.

  • Reply K. M. July 18, 2013 at 4:25 am

    1. Focus and Self Control
    2. Perspective Taking (understanding how others think)
    3. Communicating
    4. Making Connections (Creatively)
    5. Critical Thinking
    6. Taking on Challenges
    7. Self Directed, Engaged, Learning

  • Reply Henry Pinkney July 18, 2013 at 4:45 am

    okay so here's how I'm doing by these 7.
    1. good.
    2. good.
    3. FUCK >:(
    4. not good.
    5. good.
    6. good.
    7. good.
    If it weren't for communication, I might just be a normal person. Unfortunately, years of shutting myself in my room and going on the internet and not having real life friends has taking its toll.

  • Reply Libeck July 18, 2013 at 5:08 am

    Good stuff

  • Reply Alex Kaufman July 18, 2013 at 5:34 am

    Love this!

  • Reply Zen3y3 July 18, 2013 at 6:09 am

    I can do everything but focus, how do i change that?

  • Reply Serithwashere July 18, 2013 at 6:51 am

    And after all, don't forget to enjoy life and don't get lost in your work (especially if you don't like it that much).
    If you are a workoholic who loves his job, great, but if you also like other things don't forget about them too. They will give you the best motivation 😉

  • Reply Caznow July 18, 2013 at 7:04 am

    this is cool im in a class. studying some of the very thing she's talking about

  • Reply John Parrot July 18, 2013 at 8:28 am

    Smart and pretty. Can we get more of those?

  • Reply HMARK July 18, 2013 at 8:57 am

    Spending less time on Youtube and the internet in general may help.

  • Reply Anti-Gravity July 18, 2013 at 9:13 am

    That elevator thing in 1 minute seems like something an intelligent movie character would do well.

  • Reply lakshmanan komathmanalath July 18, 2013 at 9:54 am

    great.

  • Reply Jason Kvlt July 18, 2013 at 11:40 am

    Why so many dislikes…

  • Reply Joshua Samuel July 18, 2013 at 1:00 pm

    I wanna read her book now…

  • Reply Glenn Woods' Bold Republic Radio Show July 18, 2013 at 1:52 pm

    This video is worth watching more than once.

  • Reply rob carlos July 18, 2013 at 3:03 pm

    GOOD INSIGHT and its true!

  • Reply Rabid July 18, 2013 at 5:25 pm

    Watched it, didn't listen but for a few seconds– didn't want to be put to sleep (not a snide comment, always fell asleep in school). What I saw was confidence, sincerity, and a belief in her topic. Her presentation was calming and provided a warm, cozy feeling. She has a nice convincing smile. That she's kinda cute was a good thing too. She married?

  • Reply PhilosophyNow July 18, 2013 at 5:49 pm

    Teaching Focus and Self-Control on Youtube, the Kingdom of Procrastination.

  • Reply TheBackwoodLink July 20, 2013 at 2:28 pm

    The business community doesn't want thinkers, they want doers. Do what they tell you or hit the highway. The handful of people holding the knowledge and the power would rather hide behind the curtain of rule than allow their subordinates to offer up an idea or suggestion that would make them look inferior or pose the possibility of their replacement. In other words, everyone is only looking out for themselves.

  • Reply markmotarker July 21, 2013 at 12:22 am

    sounds like a very honest work, accurate!

  • Reply Rick Ackerly July 21, 2013 at 4:12 pm

    I love your book, and refer to your excellent articulation of what the ends of education are (or should be), I love your story about what motivated your research, because it it provided the precisely correct focus for those who think education ought to change. It is shockingly eloquent that elementary kids say they don't like learning, when they mean they don't like school.
    Your work is of critical importance and this particular YouTube is your best expression, yet. Thank you.

  • Reply Rick Ackerly July 21, 2013 at 5:03 pm

    This is your best expression of this most critical work. I just embedded it in today's post Thank you.

  • Reply Sammy First July 22, 2013 at 12:19 am

    If you are the leader of a big company, then any good ideas benefit you and your company. You would not have to worry about being replaced if you own the company and the power. Your word is what it comes down to. Bedsides with the market and world always changing, if you rely solely on your own idea's for the business, you would surely fall behind at some point. Its all about taking the good idea's for the workers and give them nothing for all the money you make off it.

  • Reply War_on_poverty July 24, 2013 at 3:37 am

    How can I learn more?

  • Reply Tim Lombardini July 26, 2013 at 1:14 am

    Very informative.

  • Reply Thanos Sofroniou August 1, 2013 at 1:38 pm

    How simple non-genius my mind understood this:
    1. Motivation, 2. Be Moral, 3. Share opinions and thoughts with people, 4. Make friends, 5. Don't believe what anyone is telling you but rather what makes sense to you, 6. Get out of your comfort zone, 7. Don't wait for others to pop knowledge into your head, you have to put it yourself.

  • Reply Terry Andersen August 4, 2013 at 12:54 am

    Going to share this with my students this fa'13.

  • Reply Axel Foley August 9, 2013 at 4:13 pm

    She's intelligent except for when she decided to buy that jacket from Eddie Murphy's garage sale. Should have went red, Delirious was way better than Raw.

  • Reply LORDE 2729 August 11, 2013 at 3:37 pm

    thats a badass jacket!!

  • Reply Aleksandar Ruseski August 11, 2013 at 7:48 pm

    Although I like being reminded fo these essential skills once in a while, I bet most of us have coe to the same conclusions in their life. But we still fail to be proactive persons. Why is that? I think that is because there is a difference between knowing what you need to do, knowing how to do it, and actually doing it. That discrepancy is huge in some people(me).

  • Reply jeffreydebra1 September 9, 2013 at 3:34 pm

    This is a cool video.

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