Title: Modern Life Skills: how to deal with the demands and challenges of everyday life
Authors: Liggy Webb
Reviewed by Robert Evans
I was expecting quite a lot from an author who is profiled by the book as an international consultant for the United Nations and a widely respected and leading expert in the field of modern life skills. Furthermore the book’s back cover summary explained it was based upon the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation model and ‘is all about helping you to make the best and most of your life’.
For clarity, the UNESCO model divides life skills into subsets of categories which include the following:
- learning to know (cognitive abilities)
- learning to be (personal abilities)
- learning to live together (interpersonal abilities)
Indeed the claim that the book ‘will help you to survive and thrive in deal positively with the demands and challenges of everyday modern living’ seemed too good an opportunity to pass; I picked up the book with some considerable interest and anticipation having perused chapter titles such as conflict resolution, decision-making, impact and influencing, problem solving, and self-confidence.
Outside of the introductory and closing chapters the book itself has focused on 20 modern life skills and is consequently structured into a separate chapter for each. The chapters both open and close with relevant and thought-provoking quotes from the worlds of philosophy, literature, entertainment and world leadership and also include a six step (to success) summary to each life skill.
The author herself explains that she has designed the book to be an easy and light read that keeps the key messages clear, simple and concise.
Well, the book was indeed easy and light to read but for me completely failed to tick any boxes. Its impact being lost on me perhaps best illustrated when aforementioned quotes in the book came from Stephen Covey, Ken Blanchard and Mahatma Gandhi but were included alongside Garth Brooks, Oprah Winfrey and JK Rowling. I genuinely felt the book lacked any serious weight or credibility.
My enjoyment and value from the book were also seriously hampered by the style in which it was written. I appreciate the author positioned the book upfront as providing an easy read and keeping messages simple but I think many of us would draw a line as to how simple this message should be and where a certain amount of evidencing and substantiated fact are necessary.
I could probably pull examples from most of the chapters as to why I was sometimes left feeling exasperated and surprisingly frustrated by the pages of the book that read more like the conversational advice of my grandmother than that of a respected author and leading expert in the field of modern life skills. Suffice to say there was only so much worth I could extract from pearls of wisdom such as:
- ‘If you are a challenged with depression, research [unreferenced] has shown that 30 minutes of exercise a day can be as effective as a mild antidepressant. So get up and get going’ (p67)
- For the life skill Life Balance the author suggests ‘if you work 10 to 12 hour days, for example, set a limit of eight hours per day, and stick to it. Just learn to work smarter and manage your time better…’ (p79)
- For Value and Purpose the author writes ‘Research suggests that if you practice gratitude on a daily basis after 28 days you can increase your happiness levels by 25 percent’ (p134)
- For Goal Setting the author argues ‘only three percent of people have proper written goals. According to research people who actually make a record of their goals accomplished 80 percent more than those who don’t. That’s an astounding difference, isn’t it?’ (pp61-62)
It’s a real shame – the premise of the book and the author’s background promised much but you have to look very hard for anything meaningful to take away from reading this ‘dip into’ book. Even more unfortunate is when you find something that resonates with you, its value is completely undermined by the author prefixing it with ‘ I once heard that…’ or the repeatedly claimed ‘research has shown…’.
I don’t wish to conclude that the book offers nothing; for some it may strike the right level of explanation, critical review of research and articulated argument. For the rest of us it will have us reaching for the red pen like an exam paper marker, scribbling ‘evidence?’ in the margin.
A couple of hours better spent reading something else sadly…