I talk quite a bit about traditions, but the underlying meaning doesn’t necessarily stem from a resistance to change. I truly believe that people should do what makes them happy and should keep doing what works for them and those they are close to. Additionally, I believe that just because one unit does something, the next generation should not feel obligated to continue doing it unless they want it to be a tradition with them also. If they really do not want to carry on in that manner, they shouldn’t have to. Obviously, it stands to reason that there may have been some purpose for the ‘act’ initially, but how often do we ask the question: Why do we do this? For those of you who have asked the question, how many of you have gotten the response: “Because it’s always been done that way?” It’s an answer, but is it good enough? I don’t think so.
I am going to tell you a story that I picked up some years ago. I cannot take credit for coming up with this analogy, but I do not know who did, so I will leave it to chance and say that whoever the author is, I give you credit. I have found that this story applied to many situations I encountered at work, at school, and in my personal life, but it may lean a little more toward the earlier two. This is not one of those deep, meaningful, life-altering stories, but it should put things in a different perspective for you. I hope you find it useful. I also hope this inspires you to take a look around and question why you do some of the things you do; maybe it will give you a gentle push to not continuing to do things that can be improved in some way… ‘just because.’
Take three orangutans (or other simian) and place them in a plain room. In this room is a ladder. Above the ladder hangs a bunch of bananas. The room is also fitted with a high pressure water hose.
When one of the orangutans sees the bananas, they will begin to climb the ladder to get to them. When this happens, you blast the creature with the water hose. That creature will not attempt to go back for the bananas right away. The other two, however, will make the attempt. The same thing will happen to them, each getting blasted with the water. After a short time; days, maybe a week or two, all three orangutans will quit going for the bananas altogether. They each understand that if they try to climb the ladder, they will receive the blast of water.
When they stop trying to get the bananas, you remove one of the orangutans and replace it with another who has not experienced the water. The new orangutan will attempt to go for the bananas and one of two things will happen: the creature will get blasted with water or the other two orangutans will attempt to stop the new one from climbing the ladder. This will happen through force, of course, so the new orangutan will likely get beaten up by the other two. Once the new orangutan stops going for the bananas, you replace one of the other original two. This time, now that violence has entered the equation, the newest orangutan will probably get beaten up for trying to climb the ladder. This pattern continues until none of the original orangutans remain in the room, and eventually, none of the orangutans that were sprayed with water.
What you are left with, then, is a group of orangutans that will violently stop any new orangutan from attempting to climb the ladder for the bananas and they will have absolutely no idea why. All they know is that it has always been done that way.