Today’s most important skills

Today’s most important skills
Elijah Otoo – Essien

Walk into any bookstore in your neighborhood or community and locate the self-help section and you will find volumes of work on self-help materials ranging from time management, communication, tips on getting more done with less, education, career, marriage, friendship, weight loss and several numerous packs of knowledge materials at your disposal. In today’s world, information and knowledge are in abundance, such that, rarely can anyone distinguish themselves in any field merely by information and knowledge alone.

In this article, I share with you three (3) key simple, yet powerful skills essential to succeed more in any field one may find themselves.

First is what I term as Attention Management (AM). Today, information is in abundance and because the human brain cannot digest it all, Attention Management (AM) has become the most important skill to succeed at work, and in business.

The world is gradually transitioning from the era of knowledge and information to the era where those with the attribute of high-powered focus and attention rule! Attention Management generate deep work, deep work is the level of work concentration mostly attributable to high performing athlete, writers, musicians, scientist, inventors etc.

Thomas H. Davenport defined Attention as: focused mental engagement on a particular item of information. Items come into our awareness, we attend to a particular item and then decide whether to act or otherwise. The amount of distraction we face on a daily basis keeps on propounding. They are the first to greet us in the morning when we wake up from bed.

The battle of Attention Management (AM) begins the night before each day and is either won or lost right from the time we get up from bed – either we chose to be swayed by distractions in the media, distractions from siblings, children, friends or we chose to plan our day the night before and commit to our schedule no matter what it takes.

Quick to add – what matters today isn’t how we treat our time and schedule, rather, where we focus our mental energy. In developing high-powered focus and attentive mental makeup, it is essential that we grow from talking about Time Management to Activity Management. The theory and concept of time management has been a scam for so long very few people realise it. In that, in reality, no one gets to manage time.

Quick to add – what matters today isn’t how we treat our time and schedule, rather, where we focus our mental energy.

Some definitions of the term “manage” from the WordWeb dictionary is to *Be in charge of, act on or dispose of. It means to superintend over. But in reality, no one actually superintends over time. There has always been twenty-four hours in each day for all persons since time began and no one gets to change/and or control time through some form of “management”. Once time is here and its gone.  What we have control over are the Activities we commit ourselves to during each day.

By Activity Management, we get to choose between doing now the things we find ‘bland’ and ‘difficult’, yet are very important and necessary for our growth and success – such as reading that book, starting that project, meditating and praying, finishing that art work or even working out. As against doing what is fun and easy ie. The things we naturally gravitate towards and yet have no bearing to our growth, development and success which may include mindless conversations, prolong watching of Television, vacuous use of social media, idleness to mention but a few.

By Activity Management, we get to choose between doing now the things we find ‘bland’ and ‘difficult’, yet important and necessary for our growth and success vs doing what is fun and easy which have no bearing to our growth and success.

From the explanations rendered above, we realise that engaging in the former can be uninteresting and seemingly unpleasant, yet, they are the very activities that when we commit ourselves to would bring us the success and happiness we seek. They also lead us into growth and fulfilment, once we accomplish them.

On the other hand, expending our time and effort on the later can be easy and pleasurable, nevertheless, such activities do not lead us into the growth and development that credit us the success and good life we seek.

Hence, it is the daily Diligent Management of the activities we expend our time and effort on that makes the difference in our lives. Time Management therefore is vague and isn’t so much as important as Activity Management. More so, knowledge and information in our world today does not necessarily give us an edge over others but for our Focus and Attention!

To increase our focus and attention for deep work, here are a few tips to consider:

  • Commit workweek solely to work: Easy-going activities, minor duties and tasks are better of assigned over the weekend, off days and holidays;
  • Tasks which requires more creativity could be scheduled to be undertaken at dawn or early in the morning;
  • Stillness breeds focus: In his book As a man thinketh, James Allen put it out very well, he said “Calmness of mind is one of the most beautiful jewels of wisdom. It is the result of long and patient effort in self-control . . .Tempest-tossed souls, wherever ye may be, under whatsoever conditions ye may live, know this – in the ocean of life the isles of Blessedness are smiling, and the sunny shore of your ideal awaits your coming. Keep your mind hand firmly upon the helm of thought.

In the barque of your soul reclines the commanding Master; He does but sleep; wake him. Self-control is strength; Right Thought is mastery; Calmness is power. Say unto your heart, “Peace, be still!”

The second skill is Restraint (R):  Paulo Coelho once said, “sometimes our power resides not in what we do, but in what we don’t do”. Restraint is one of the greatest expressions of the human power! In todays world the average person lacks a great deal of restraint which is partly due to the information overdose that surrounds and overwhelms us every now and then.

Restraint is one of the greatest expressions of the human power!

Marya Mannes one of America’s 20th century author and critic known for her scathing and yet insightful observations of American life once wrote that “. . . self-restraint may be alien to the human temperament, but humanity without restraint will dig its own grave”. And of a truth, many are digging their graves or the graves of others in our society today because of the absence of restraint over all kinds of situations.

Restraint – the unemotional, dispassionate or moderate behaviour. The act of keeping one’s emotions under control which begins with thinking.    

To master restraint, is to master our thoughts and thinking patterns. Absolutely refuse to ponder on anything which does not serve you well no matter what the outside world (people, situations and circumstances) may dictate to you.

No discussion on the subject of restraint can be whole without mentioning of Victor Frankl, one of holocaust survivors. The mass murder of Jews under the German Nazi regime from the period of 1941 until 1945. Frankl is known to have said later on that during the period of holocaust, in spite of the torture and ordeals he went through, no one or nothing could cause him to think anything out of his will. Frankl has been quoted time and time again as he later wrote:

“Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.”

“Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms – to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.”  

Those who demonstrate restraint are marked by the attribute of remaining in charge of themselves – their thinking, emotions, choices and behaviour at any moment of time. To demonstrate restraint implies choosing to respond rather than react to situations and circumstances.

In learning to practice restraint, here are a few suggestions:

  • Be mindful of what you feed on. The mass media for instance, has become a major source of mental pollution in our world today. In curbing and guiding against this, simple acts such as being mindful of the contents you expose yourself to could determine the difference between your peace of mind and frustration.
  • Practice daily and frequent affirmations. Affirmations are simple yet powerful positive statements recited on a regular basis and at regular intervals intended to fuel us with positive mental energy. If you are a starter, consider creating your own affirmations, write them down, memorize and keep them in your pocket. These simple acts can be helpful at the early stages of your own journey of developing adequate restraint towards the numerous ill situations and circumstances life throws at us every day. Affirmations helps in safeguarding us from impulsive behaviours in the heat of the moment when our emotional buttons are pressed.

The third skill I would like to share is the act of knowing how to keep the mind right in times of adversity: developing this attribute can be pretty difficult and has been a primary cause of failure in the lives of many. Keeping the mind right in times of adversity depends on a number of factors, habits and rituals of which we gradually become better with time and experience. Here are a few ideas to consider:

  • Look beyond the situation: this involves the act of lifting the mind’s eye to see possibilities beyond the present circumstances. It enables us to build the inner tenacity, develop the right attitude and mental fortitude essential to withstand challenging situations. It also helps to build our faith and gives us hope. We end up growing out of the situation rather than going through it.
  • Constant meditation: which enables us to draw positive mental energy from a superior source of power.
  • Helping others: as counter intuitive as this may be, offering to be of help to others at a time when we ourselves are in need of help opens doors of breakthroughs for us. It fills us with positive energy and emotions which opens the window of our awareness to greater possibilities – which may offer us intuitive solutions to our own problems and challenges.

The writer is an Assistant Superintendent of Immigration (ASI)

Email: [email protected] Tel: 0203656160/0240080104


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