I read an interesting article the other day. It was asking why we continue to try to make children sit still, in neat, orderly rows, while in school. There is a lot of evidence that movement actually helps with learning. And being messy has some advantages, too. So why do schools continue to insist that the way it has always been done is the right way?
There is an old story about the woman that was cooking. In some versions it is putting a fish in a frying pan and in others a ham in a roasting pan. Either way, she cuts both ends off before putting the item in the pan, just like her mother always did. Her mother is watching and the woman asks her mother why she taught her do do that. The mother says because her mother always did it that way. They get on the phone and call the grandmother and ask her to explain it. Her answer? Because her pan was too small.
Inertia is a powerful thing. Once something starts happening a certain way it can be a challenge to change it. Soon there is a long history of doing something a certain way. Unfortunately, we often create logical fallacies by making assumptions that aren’t based on facts. When something has a long history of being done a certain way it is easy to believe that it has always been done that way because it is the best way. But the truth is, just because something has been done for a long time in no way evidence that it is being done the best way.
The way we navigate life is the same. We each have ways we do things that we believe are the right or best way simply because that is the way we’ve always done it. We those from a variety of sources – society, family, friends, ourselves. And once we start doing them that way we can be very resistant to change. It is the way you’ve always done it.
A problem with questioning the way we do things is that if we decide we should be doing it differently, we have to admit we’ve not been doing it the best way in the past. For people that seek the impossible goal of perfection, that is a tough thing to do. It can shake that fragile sense that things are okay.
But we aren’t perfect. And while we choose to do things based on what we know at the moment, it doesn’t mean there aren’t better ways now or won’t be better ways in the future. Be willing to ask yourself why you do it the way you do. Look for evidence to support your choices. If it is working well, great. But if you can make choices that make life smoother or make you happier, why not do them? Maybe all you need to do is buy a bigger frying pan…