Five Essential Habits for School, Career, and Life

We believe that young people need five essential habits to thrive in school, career, and life. Opportunity Education’s Pathways Curriculum supports students as they cultivate these habits. We call them “habits,” because they require thoughtful and frequent practice to develop and maintain, just like eating mindfully, taking breaks during the work day to refresh, or any other habit.

The Five Essential Habits are:

  1. Practice Curiosity: Step out of your comfort zone, try new things, and explore interests, careers, and opportunities. 
  2. Define Yourself: Get to know who you are by identifying interests, dislikes, strengths, and weaknesses and reflecting on these regularly as you grow. Commit to becoming your best self.
  3. Communicate Openly: Learn to communicate with others by listening actively, considering others’ perspectives, sharing ideas, advocating for yourself, and calmly expressing concerns to solve problems. 
  4. Leverage Resources: Identify resources available to you, (people, support, opportunities, tools, money, etc.),  and leverage those resources to achieve your goals.
  5. Learn from Setbacks: Demonstrate flexibility, try different approaches when something is not going the way you want or expect it to, and determine when and how to adapt and adapt (or move on when appropriate). 

These Essential Habits emerged from a review of existing skills frameworks from other schools and organizations, and through work we’ve done internally to identify priorities for bringing our mission and vision to life. Our Pathways Curriculum gives students a chance to apply these habits through activities and projects.

One example of a project (see image below) is a roadmap students create for the future, including milestones and goals along the way. In creating this plan, students use Habit #2: Define Yourself to analyze their goals and Habit #3: “Communicate Openly” to identify reasonable actions they can take.

Here are additional ways students practice the five Essential Habits as they participate in our Pathways Curriculum:

Habit 1: Practice Curiosity

      • Complete tours of colleges and businesses of interest.
      • Complete a career experience (i.e. internship, job shadow). 

Habit 2: Define Yourself

  • Complete strengths assessments.
  • Define values and identify interests.
  • Create resumes and portfolios.
  • Explore post high school pathways.
  • Create a Career Profile.

Habit 3: Communicate Openly

  • Practice active listening and being interviewed.
  • Identify a career mentor. 
  • Create a professional email. 
  • Manage social media profiles.

Habit 4: Leverage Resources

  • Identify a network of people that can provide support in a variety of career and life situations.
  • Create a budget and start saving.

Habit 5: Learn from Setbacks

  • Continuously revisit skills and reflect on experiences.
  • Develop and apply a growth mindset.
  • Create a cost-benefit analysis for plans beyond high school.


To support educators and students focused on these habits, we’ve created an Essential Habits Rubric. The rubric can be used to identify goals with students and establish effective feedback routines, enabling students to take action to develop these habits further.

To learn more about cultivating students’ Essential Habits through Pathways, contact

Get the latest in our newsletter

"*" indicates required fields

This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.