Note: This is part of a series of guest articles generously shared with RCA called Writing Wellness. The topics will vary, but we hope that each will provide insight and interest, shedding light on topics old and new.
Like many other apparently simple things in our lives, emotional skills are getting a makeover for a new generation. Everything from cooking skills to better communication to changing a tire or hammering a nail has become a way to “hack” our way into a better, more efficient life. A quick Google search shows me how to “level up” my relationship, find my passion in life, and use my shoe as a cup holder. I’m not sure that last one is going to save me any time or money, but at least I’ll be known as “that guy who uses his shoe as a cup holder”.
Our tech-obsessed society has a way of making us feel outdated, unprepared, and overwhelmed by human connection. Like last year’s iPhone, we are meant to feel slightly ashamed of the things we do not know how to do, and ashamed to ask anyone but the internet for help. A “hack” feels like a shortcut to what we want to know, and sometimes there really is a more efficient way to peel an orange, or paint a wall, or change a tire. But can we really “hack” our relationships with other people, complicated as they are?
The difference between a life “hack” and a life skill is a matter of perspective. A hack implies there is a manual or guide to life we must follow to maximize our effectiveness. A skill, however, is something that requires experimentation and failure. The internet, useful as it is, cannot take the place of real human beings, with all our missteps, restarts, and silent victories. A skill is something built behind the scenes through trial and error; it is something that enriches our understanding of one another and our own potential. If humans were computers, we would be very messy, temperamental, malfunctioning computers.
Thankfully we are something so much greater than that.
To allow ourselves to reach our own unique potential means tweaking our lives in ways that sometimes don’t follow the rules. There simply isn’t a formula for life that makes everyone happy. You can’t live without feeling, and feelings get messy in ways that simple instructions can’t fully explain.
Something as simple as connecting with another person is often more art than science.
Let us consider these words by Maya Angelou:
“At the end of the day people won’t remember what you said or did, they will remember how you made them feel.”