[SiH] Feature Article: Examine Your Traditions

Success in Harmony

March 2007 – Vol. IV, Issue 3


Feature Article: Examine your traditions

Have you ever wondered what place traditions have in your life? A tradition is, by definition, an inherited, established, or customary pattern of thought, action, or behavior. The dictionary specifically points to religious practices or social customs, but if you think about it, traditions can be found in other areas of our life as well.

Take stock of the traditions that you have encountered in your past, whether you fully adopted them or not. How have they affected you and your relationships?

Traditions of Family

The first place we learn traditions is in our families of origin. When we grow up in a home, we participate in certain patterns of thought, action, or behavior. There are certain traditions that you probably looked forward to, like Mom’s apple pie, and others that were perhaps more difficult to enjoy, like the big kiss from Aunt Bessie.

An easy place to find traditions is in the various holidays that your family celebrated when you were a child. Do you create specific experiences together? What patterns do you see in the ways you get together and celebrate? In my family, as in many, our celebrations have food as their focal point. But in other families, they may focus on finding a needy family in the neighborhood and dropping off boxes of groceries and gifts.

Traditions that we experience in our homes growing up often provide a means to link generations together. If you participated in the same traditions or created similar memories, you have a common ground and a tangible bond. However, that in itself is not enough to strengthen family ties. A tradition is only as powerful and helpful as the relationships it helps to solidify.

Another place where traditions are inherent is in the families that adults create together. When spouses marry and have children, they may think about tradition in a whole new way. They often want to give their children patterns and traditions that will stand out in their memories when they grow older. Figuring out how to reconcile and merge very different traditions can sometimes pose an interesting challenge. Spouses or partners must decide which traditions to observe, or choose to start new traditions together.

Some families consciously create traditions; others don’t realize that a tradition has been created until they look back in the future. Different patterns, experiences and memories will stand out for different members of the family.

Traditions of Friendship

We also create and experience traditions in our friendships. Beginning when you were a small child, what patterns do you notice in how you played with your friends? I find it interesting that I played many of the same yard games with my friends that my parents did with theirs. We’d stay out until it was dark playing Simon Says, No Bears are Out Tonight, Red Rover, Kick the Can. The grass would get cold and wet and we’d play by the light of the streetlamp. In our more urban and fearful societies, are we losing those traditions? Does it matter?

As we grow older, we often create “inside jokes” and relate to certain friends in specific ways. Aren’t those traditions, of a sort? When we see those old friends again, we often greet each other by hearkening back to those old traditions. What are the unique ways you interacted with your friends in junior high and high school? How true were those patterns to who you really are?

Traditions that we create with those who are closest to us can be the traditions that we enjoy the most. They are created organically, or without outside stimuli. We put a little bit of ourselves into those traditions, and look on them with fondness. I attended a funeral today honoring a well-loved teacher at my high school. His brother told of a tradition they had created of sending the same birthday card back and forth to each other for 30-plus years. He and his brother would add a humorous and somewhat rude message for each birthday, and as he read some excerpts to the audience, all of us chuckled. We got an inside look at a cherished tradition between loving brothers—a tradition that started and continued as a joke.

Traditions in the Workplace

One of the places where we experience traditions, yet don’t often examine them, is in the workplace. The workplace is rich with tradition, although sometimes it may be very subtle. Are there patterns that you can see in the ways executives treat each other or treat subordinates? What about managers? What about workers or frontline staff? Are there certain ways that new people are welcomed into the culture?

As I coach people working within organizations, I sometimes hear, “that’s the way it’s always been done.” Or perhaps: “There’s no way so-and-so would consider doing this differently.” What traditions are going unexamined in your workplace? What impact are they having on not only the effectiveness of the organization, but also on the morale of those working there?

Examining Traditions

I heard an interesting story recently that relates to tradition. A new wife was cooking ham for the first time in her marriage. She cut each end off the ham before putting it in the pan and putting it in the oven. When her husband questioned her about it, all she could say was, “Well, that’s the way my mom always cooked ham.” It got her curious, however, so she went to her mom and asked her why she always cut the ends off the ham before cooking it. Predictably, her mother said, “that’s the way my mom always cooked it!” So the young bride went to Grandma. Grandma’s response? “My pan was too small for the whole ham.”

As you take stock of the traditions in your life, consider what value or meaning they hold. What benefit do they have? Do you know? Is that the way “it’s always been done”? Why?

One of the ways businesses have begun to examine traditions is by implementing a feedback process that asks two specific questions:

  1. What are the dumb things we do that we should stop doing?
  2. What are the things we really do well that we want to do more of?
  3. What should we begin to do?

In 10 Secrets for Success and Inner Peace, Wayne Dyer suggests the following: “Have a mind that is open to everything and attached to nothing… Certainly, celebrate the traditions that serve you and all of mankind. But if they do not serve you, or if they contribute to barriers rather than bridges to others, then have the courage to trust your own inner demands. Remember that all traditions started with some human beings deciding on them at some time. You are as valuable a human being as those who lived here before you. You too have the right to start traditions which are loving and respectful of everyone. What new traditions would you like to start that will better serve you and all of mankind?”

Take some time to examine the traditions that you have experienced over the years. Ask yourself the following questions:

  • What benefits do your traditions hold for you?
  • What traditions are deeply a part of you, in contrast with those that you simply observe?
  • Which traditions are serving you?
  • Which traditions will you choose to carry on?
  • What traditions do you want to start right here, right now?
  • Which traditions help you look into the future?
  • Which traditions keep you looking to the past?
  • What traditions do you see yourself loving and cherishing as you look back?
  • Which traditions will your children cherish as they look back to their growing up years?

As you consciously and purposefully observe traditions in your family, with friends, and in the workplace, you can cherish those patterns that give you both roots and wings. It’s my hope that you’ll enjoy meaningful traditions that connect you more deeply with others.

(c) 2007, Sara Hurd

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