Do you continuously have to develop and improve yourself?

Many entrepreneurs´ and experts´ social media are full of different self-development content. There are online courses, fitness coaching, micro-learning content and everything in between. Some have already taken a critical view of this, e.g. Psychotherapist Emilia Kujala, who specializes in helping overachievers. She just published the book the Great self-help hoax, in which it is claimed that modern man is controlled by the feeling of internalized inadequacy. Work expectations are growing and we have more information than ever about how to stay healthy, fit and well. Nevertheless, we will do worse all the time. We can´t sleep, concentrate and our overall fitness is decreasing.
mies kirjoittaa läppärillä kahvilan ikkunalla

American professor Gloria Mark and her work groups have been studying for twenty years people's ability to concentrate while using digital devices. Today, 47 seconds is the average time after which we stop our task and turn our attention elsewhere. In 2004, according to Mark's research, the corresponding time was about two and a half minutes on average. In 2012, it had dropped to 75 seconds. In a couple of decades, the result has therefore dropped by more than half. And the demands at work and the flood of stimuli are only increasing.

A person has 80-90,000 thoughts a day and 80% of them will be the same tomorrow as today, if the thoughts are not aired. It is clear that the world's accelerated technological, social and ecological change does not allow anyone to throw themselves as a driftwood, but everyone should take some kind of responsibility and role in the community and also responsibility for their own well-being. If we are constantly in a fast state, bouncing from one task to another and we don't give our brain the recovery time it needs, the balance the brain needs is disturbed.

The brain gets overloaded and the bouncy state that manifests itself in working life spills even more into free time. According to brain researcher Mona Moisala Dr. of psychology, the worst scenario is that we don't recover even in our free time. If the brain can't recover, the rest of our body also gets tired.

After all, a human is a human in relation to others. This is why cooperation, finding one's place in the world and being able to do something for the community require healthy people, but also skills. Rutger Bregman writes in the book Human kind – A hopeful history, that humans are naturally friendly, cooperative, but only moderately intelligent. A person's strength is in building networks, social learning and community. Is that one reason why social media is addictive? A person's subconscious need and desire to belong and be part of something bigger hooks you? If you are not involved, there will be a fear of being left out of something important.

The skills of the future

The World Economic Forum has analyzed the skills needs of the future and according to it, the most important future skills in the 2020s are: complex problem solving, critical thinking and creativity. According to the WEF, up to a third of the most essential skills of the future are missing in today's working life.

In the future, we need a new kind of thinking so that new work is also created. The world is developing in an increasingly complex direction, and the skills of the future will emphasize different cooperation skills. The work of the future requires a multidisciplinary and versatile network around it, with open-minded thinking and the ability to solve problems, originality, the ability to think about things from different perspectives and the ability to see alternative solutions to things. This is a good thing, because communal learning is natural to humans. Only stopping, observing and reflecting in relation to other people helps you find the thing where you can be the best.

In the future, the work people will do will be more and more utilizing human abilities together, with robots and other technology taking care of routine tasks.

It is possible to learn and practice changing your perspective. Alternative ways of describing, perceiving, understanding and interpreting people and our environment can be learned, for example, by reading, studying, with the help of theater and films, or by broadening one's worldview by getting to know different cultures and people. The skill of changing perspective is useful for everyone. Compassion, i.e. the ability to put yourself in another person's position, is important here.

Meta skills affect in all industries

Meta skills refer to general work life skills regardless of the industries. Meta skills are related to, for example, technology, self-management, learning, emotions or creativity. The importance of meta-skills is especially emphasized in changes in work. In the report "Skills 2035" by the Finnish Board of Education, the most important meta-skills needed in working life in 2035 are customer-oriented service development skills, knowledge of the principles of sustainable development, problem-solving skills, skills in utilizing digital solutions and platforms, and knowledge processing skills. A key meta-skill is also the skill of new learning and the related – and for many of us much more difficult – skill of unlearning the old.

What if the new meta-skill was managing one's overall well-being? The skill of disconnecting yourself from the flood of stimuli and letting your brain rest can be vital now and in the future.

If you now feel that you should exercise your ability to concentrate and a little venting of your thoughts is necessary, then what if you studied something interesting, for example, at an open university? In the studies, there is an opportunity to delve into a certain theme for a long time, it is possible to have unhurried interaction with others. You can immerse yourself in writing and reading instead of browsing on your mobile phone.

In addition, small goals bring inspiring moments, feelings of success, and you can reach your own life's small and big dreams at a pace that suits you, anticipating the future.

Bregman, Rutger, (2022) Hyvän historia – ihmiskunta uudessa valossa (in Finnish)
Hari J. (2022), Stolen Focus
Mark, Gloria (2023) Attention span. Find focus, fight distraction.
WEF, Future jobs report 2020
Opetushallitus: Osaaminen 2035 (in Finnish)
Yle oppiminen: Mona Moisala, Keskittymiskykymme on puolittunut 20 vuodessa. Tutkijan mukaan aivomme ovat kestokykynsä äärirajoilla (in Finnish)
Ylen verkkolehti: Nykyihmistä hallitaan sisäisellä riittämättömyyden tunteella. Emilia Kujala (in Finnish)

Päivi Lohikoski, PhD, Training Manager, University of Oulu, Kerttu Saalasti Institute

Microentrepreneurship training courses can be found on the website of the University of Continuous Learning (JOY).