40,000 years of self-improvement, and counting
So much of what people do today can be traced back to some evolutionary pre-programming. How much really has changed over the millennia? Tens of thousands of years ago, cavewomen tended to the children, gathered knickknacks, and organized neighborhood garage sales to sell excess knickknacks and buy neighbors’ knickknacks.
Quite apart from the gathering and nurturing nature of the women, cavemen used belching as a means of establishing social hierarchy, propelled stone cars with their feet, and hunted – sometimes in packs, but more often alone, and always when they noticed a neighborhood garage sale start to take shape. In ways, much has changed, but at the core we are still subject to that same, ancient programming.
But do you think our apelike ancestors sat around thinking, “Hmm, me need get stronger, carry bigger club, say nice things to husband more often.”? They must have, because today we are constantly nagged by an inner voice (if not an outer voice, e.g. parent or spouse) to improve ourselves in some way. Forty thousand years ago, our self-improvement programming would have been directed toward staying alive, perhaps, for a few years longer than normal before becoming a sabertooth marmoset’s lunch. Today, of course, the stakes are much higher, as we wrestle with time-management issues and cutting down on carbs.
I, for one, am a big fan of self-improvement. I mean, we spend the first 20 years of our lives in learning mode high gear – why stop there? There’s always room for more learning and improvement. In fact, I have taken it upon myself to point out where others could improve themselves wherever I go.
For instance, with my wife, my helpful pointers have included, “Honey, perhaps with a cooking class or two, you could really be competent in the kitchen”; or “You know, you can shave quite a few seconds off your drive time if you’d just follow the car in front of you more closely”; or “Sweetie, I think you need to work on your anger management.”
This is not to say that I am above self-improvement for myself. Oh, no. I’ve had my eye on that kind of activity for some time now. But I have to admit, it’s hard to stick with a program. It’s hard to start, for that matter. If I can just figure out how to get someone to do it for me, I’d really make headway. My goal is to self-improve to the point of evolving into another species of human altogether, then maybe getting my garage organized. But I don’t want to get ahead of myself here. One goal at a time.