Curiosity. Maybe it did kill the cat.
Beyond curiosity, “How to” has become something we ask routinely, expecting – and frequently receiving – virtually immediate answers. In fact, I was curious about the variety of how-to’s that are available online, so I Googled and came up with some interesting results.
The following topics made their way to the top of my list.
- How to write a cover letter (always useful)
- How to train your dragon (say what?)
- How to boil an egg (knew that!)
- How to tie a tie (really?)
- How to tie a (French) scarf (may I steer you this way?)
- How to lose weight (no surprise)
Theoretically, these days we can learn how to do – or be – most anything. It used to require a bit of research and knowing how to read. Now all it takes is being able to watch or listen. Youtube, anyone?
But here’s my question. Should we want to do everything better?
Does it set the expectation that we can? That we must? That we can master something new quickly? Are we compelled to seek constant improvement in a dizzying array of areas? Shouldn’t we focus on specific “betters” and leave the others to – well, others?
Pick and Choose (Adulthood by any other name)
Seeking to improve my understanding of improvement, I Googled “how to improve” – and voilà:
- How to improve your memory
- How to improve your self-esteem
- How to improve your handwriting
- How to improve your IQ
- How to improve your communication skills
Given our aging population, our frantic pace of innovation, and competition in all realms, I’m not surprised that we’re looking to improve our memory – to acquire information more quickly, expand our capacity to do so, and to retain it.
But improve our self-esteem? I found this one alarming – as a woman, a mother, and a mother of adolescents – particularly as it came from Kidshealth.org, in their teen section. Imagine how many articles must exist on self-esteem for this to be #2 on the “how to improve” list!
(I Googled that; there are over 50 million.)
Improve your handwriting? Who writes by hand any longer, and do people still care? (I confess that I do, but I’m old school in strange ways…)
What I did run into were additional items like how to improve your credit score and how to improve your gas mileage. Both seem logical enough. Yet what I might have expected – (is it just me?) – how to improve your relationship, how to improve your sex life, how to improve your marriage – which did indeed appear, but not with the priority I anticipated.
What does all this suggest about us, our preoccupations, our culture?
How-To, Old View?
Along with the trio of interpersonal “how-to” items mentioned above, here are a few that I didn’t find on the first pages of Google:
- How to get to Carnegie Hall (couldn’t resist)
- How to get into college
- How to save for retirement
- How to change a flat tire
- How to learn a new language
Might I add that Ironic Mom’s daughter found How To Make an Instant Book? How cool is that?
If I could lay my hands on a How To Do Everything Better Guide of my own making, I would add the following:
- How to get a job over 50 (and keep it)
- How to improve listening skills
- How to become a better judge of character
- How to think beyond ourselves
I might also hope for a nationwide How to improve your focus – and that doesn’t mean popping the latest drug to do so. It does insist on shaking off the yoke of coulda-woulda-shoulda, of expecting a capacity for vast stores of (useless?) knowledge, and shedding a growing tendency to busy ourselves rather than to set substantive goals and execute, truly learn, deeply enjoy, or appreciate essentials.
How to be spontaneous? How to have fun?
I’d add those in a heartbeat. But hey – that’s just me. Maybe our most pressing need is for a “How to do better at identifying what matters – to you.” Or does that require “How to find a Life Coach?”
Your how-to list, if you could specify it?