What Is More Important: Will or Skill?

By Edie Weinstein, MSW, LSW

“Champions aren’t made in gyms. Champions are made from something they have deep inside them-a desire, a dream, a vision. They have to have the skill and the will. But the will must be stronger than the skill.” – Muhammad Ali

Recently, I was in conversation with the mother of a 20-something daughter who was finding it challenging to help her fly the nest and take responsibility for her own independence. The young woman has a part time job but doesn’t make enough money to enable her to move out. Rather than seeking additional employment, she spends much of her off time sequestered in her room on her phone, watching videos or talking with friends. Not much of an in-person social life. 

“The will is stronger than the skills,” her frustrated mom commented. She elaborated that her daughter claims to want to be on her own, but seems lost in the maze as she attempts to find her way. Mom offers her independent living skills, making tried and true suggestions from her own personal and professional experience. Sometimes the ideas land in fertile soil, but more often, bounce off well-constructed shields the young woman has erected.  

How do parents teach their children to be proficient so that when they are on their own, they can maneuver through the world successfully?

Consider basic abilities you have gleaned over the years:

  • Bathing, dressing, grooming and feeding yourself (called ADLs — Activities of Daily Living in the lingo of the healthcare field)
  • Tying your shoes
  • Riding a bicycle
  • Reading and writing
  • Driving
  • Using a computer
  • Making phone calls

Essential Skills for Independent Living

  • Paying bills that include balancing a checkbook and budgeting
  • Shopping
  • Cleaning
  • Cooking
  • Finding your way either by driving or using public transportation
  • Decision making/problem solving
  • Time management/prioritizing
  • Study skills if you are in school
  • Interviewing and negotiating skills as you apply for jobs
  • Relationship skills
  • Organizational skills

The last one seems to provide an immense challenge for those to whom it does not come naturally. I can relate since for many years I was surrounded by piles of projects-in-process. Thus, many of my inspired ideas fell by the wayside. Since I have many symbolic plates spinning in my life, I have willingly acquired tools to enable me to prevent dropping too many of them. The guidance of my mentor echoes back from one of our initial encounters in the early 1990’s. 

“Discipline is freedom,” she would tell me — echoing Aristotle’s words Through discipline comes freedom.” I would roll my eyes until I recognized the wisdom in her words. It took practice until I could fully embody it.

There are some days in which I simply don’t feel like doing what is expected of me, but if I want specific results, I need to take inspired action. That looks like daily list making, keeping an appointment book with me, and doing a mental check that I have the “necessary” items that include, phone, wallet, keys, and brain in gear when I leave the house.

In my current position as a therapist in an outpatient group practice, I have created an organizational system that works well. There are some days during which I see 10 clients back to back with a 15-minute coming-up-for-air break on occasion. So that I can be fresh for each one, without carrying the energy of the previous session, I arrive 15-30 minutes early, gather charts and paperwork for each person and set them up in order on my desk. I document while speaking to them, having learned another important skill set that includes eye contact, while jotting down notes relatively neatly and legibly. I have learned that even if I assure myself that I will remember an important statement they make, inevitably, it will run the risk of slipping through the cracks. At the end of a long day (yesterday was one of them, that began at 10 and ended at 8), I compare my appointment roster with the one in the front office to be sure I am not double booking; something that has occurred from time to time. I methodically move through steps that 20 years ago, would have felt like an annoying inconvenience. These days, it is something I teach my clients who, like me, have issues with focus and distractibility. 

Multi-tasking is a skill I dabble in as well, although I can’t say that I have mastered it. When I am working from home, I start a load of laundry and then move to writing an article, take a break to switch the clothes over from washer to dryer, and then return to the computer. I submit the finished product and then move to an editing job or promotional piece on which I am working Listening to music or an inspirational video enhances the experience. 

Pre-plotting/planning is a newly acquired ability by which I visualize interactions, seeing the cast of characters in action, hearing my conversations with them. I envision the best possible outcome of our dialogues. By the time we do actually meet, it as if the event has already taken place and amazingly, there are times when it plays out word for word. It can be likened to the therapeutic intervention of role plays as clients rehearse what might be a challenging conversation.

A statement I make that may tie these concepts together is that most people don’t do the best they can. More often than not, they do the best they are willing to do. Where will your willingness take you and are you open to learning the portable life skills to make the trip worthwhile?

APA Reference 
Weinstein, E. (2017). What Is More Important: Will or Skill?. Psych Central. Retrieved on July 5, 2017, from https://psychcentral.com/blog/archives/2017/03/29/what-is-more-important-will-or-skill/

Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 21 Mar 2017
Originally published on PsychCentral.com on 29 Mar 2017. All rights reserved.

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