A few months ago, I decided to learn how to code. I started tinkering with code when I was a kid, mostly to design and code my blog with HTML, CSS, and PHP, but wanted to actually be able to build more complex applications.
I remember reading articles and wondering what path to take. It felt paralysing. Front-end first? Back-end?
For those not familiar with web development, the front end is everything the user interacts with directly, while the back end is everything that happens behind-the-scenes.
A common analogy is a restaurant. The front end is the room with the tables where customers come and sit to enjoy their meal. The back end is the kitchen with all the staff preparing the meals.
This got me thinking: if our mind was an application, what would the front-end and the back-end look like?
(please note that this is more of a fun exercise rather than a serious attempt at building a framework)
The front-end of our “mind application” would include all of the skills allowing us to interact directly with the world around us, such as our psychosocial and interpersonal skills.
- Communication skills: how effectively we are able to convey information to others, either verbally, in writing, or through body language. These are essential for basic collaboration, negotiation, conflict management, but also for things like public speaking. While being able to express your thoughts is important, being a good listener is also a crucial communication skill.
- Leadership skills: the ability to lead through persuasion, influence, people management, delegation, and turning information into action to implement change. Leadership kills is what allows people to create a motivational environment. Leaders are not always appointed; what matters is that people are prepared to follow them.
- Time management skills: the way we prioritise our tasks in the most effective way by understanding the difference between urgent and important items. These include planning, organisation and record keeping, as well as working with others or outsourcing when needed.
These are only a few examples I would add to our front-end. But it would be impossible for us to communicate, lead, and manage our time effectively if we didn’t have a backend allowing us to cope with stress, feel empathy for others, think critically, and know ourselves.
The back end would be the inner workings of our mind, with all the core skills our brain uses to think, learn, and remember. This would basically be all the human’s skills necessary for emotion and information processing.
- Cognitive skills: the skills that allow you to pay attention to, perceive, process, and access information through our brain. These include our ability to focus, memorise new things, as well as our visual and auditory perception. Unfortunately, these tend to decline with age, but the good news is that a growing body of research shows that it can be delayed with the right practices and lifestyle choices.
- Emotional skills: also called emotional intelligence, it’s the ability to recognise our own emotions, to label them appropriately, and to manage them so we can adapt to our environment. These include positive thinking, self-confidence, and emotional resilience so we can cope with stress.
- Self-care skills: how we manage our mental and physical health through appropriate nutrition, exercise, and whatever is good for your mind. It’s basically when we take an active role in protecting our own well-being.
Together, these are what “powers” the back-end of our application, and will make it work faster or slower. If our mind was a car, these would be everything under the hood that makes the car drivable. But, of course, things are not so simple and clear cut.
In the same way the division between front-end and back-end in web applications is not so perfect, it would be silly to think that all of our life skills fit neatly into two well-defined containers.
This is just a fun and obviously over-simplified way to think about the way our brain works. Empathy, creativity, and problem-solving are all life skills that involve several areas across our front end and back end as defined above.
Who knew our brain was way more complex than a car?
Anne-Laure Le Cunff
I’m an ex-Googler, entrepreneur, and part-time neuroscience student at King’s College. If you found this article useful, subscribe to my weekly newsletter about productivity, creativity, learning, and designing engaging products.
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