When we do something over and over again, without much thought, we call it a habit – whether it serves us well, or not.
With that in mind, traditions are simply a habit done by a person, or a group of people, where there are expectations about how it “must” or “should” be.
There are little “t” traditions such as:
• Sunday night chicken dinner with family
• that favourite show, sports game, or news broadcast on TV
• daily coffee, or other refreshment, with the same group of guys/gals
And there are big “T” traditions such as:
• summer holidays at the lake
• birthday parties
• Christmas celebrations
What other traditions do you have?
Just like habits, I know you have many of them. We all do. They add consistency to life.
However, we become dedicated to traditions and create all kinds of stress, worry, anger, and guilt for ourselves in the name of upholding tradition. We do it to ourselves; nobody else does it to us.
• As a child, I remember feeling angry when, after opening Christmas toys and games, we had to leave them to go to a big family gathering at a relative’s place.
• I remember feeling guilty about not attending traditional family gatherings because I thought I had too much work to do.
• Some couples we’ve coached have huge disagreements and conflicts because of the “need” to uphold traditions such as watching the hockey games on TV, the monthly “ladies-night-out,” the 3-nights a week golf games, and/or attendance at church.
Is that the purpose of the tradition – to create less-than-desirable feelings and damage relationships? I doubt it.
Carol and I have become aware of some traditions that cause stress and we’ve chosen to make changes. It’s fun and makes life much simpler for us.
Here is an example of a big “T” tradition change we made.
On both sides of our family, big family get-togethers at Christmas are a tradition. For us, there is stress involved, due to a choice of:
• which family to visit, and when, so it is fair and equitable
• unpredictable weather and road conditions
• food arrangements
• activities and games, and
• a raft of other niggly details.
Because of these stressors, tempers flare, unnecessary things are said, inappropriate behaviours are exhibited, and feelings are hurt. Special and fragile relationships are harmed. That’s what happened for us and I’m guessing it was, or is the same with others in our extended family.
So, this year, we are celebrating Christmas in the summer. Carol’s side of the family came to our place for a weekend. We had the traditional meals and festivities, as well as fun-in-the-sun outdoor activities that aren’t usually done in December. It was easy, stress-free, a ton of fun, and fulfilled the purpose of a family gathering to share love.
We are doing the same for my side of the family at the end of August, and we’re planning to make it an annual tradition.
And when December 25th comes, our own small family will be connecting at home, tobogganing, playing cards, or visiting by the cozy wood stove, without stress or guilt.
What traditions do you have that cause unpleasant fibrillations in your life?
What can you do to change the tradition, or your attitude and behaviour, so you create stress-free positive results in your relationships?
My challenge for you, should you choose to accept it, is to evaluate your traditions and look for options to change – to create greater ease, simplicity, joy, and happiness.
Here are 6 steps for evaluation and change:
- What is the tradition? It may be one of the items listed above, or something else.
- What is its purpose? I.e. family or friend gathering, scheduled time for relaxation or exercise, veg-out-non-thinking activity, etc.
- Based on your expectations about how it “should be,” does your attitude and behaviour enhance your most important relationships, or spoil them? Listen to your feelings.
- Ask your life-partner, children, family, and friends how they feel about the tradition, your expectations, and your behaviour.
- If all is favourable, keep on with the tradition and savour every moment of it. Congratulations!!
- If it causes strain or stress, ask the important people in your life to brainstorm ideas with you to make change. Stop the tradition, change it, or change your attitude and behaviour so you improve your relationships.
Continue to evaluate and adjust if necessary until you find a good “fit” that works for all involved.
You know that habits take time and effort to change. So do traditions, especially if you have hard and fast rules, or right and wrong expectations. Dump the rules and expectations and have fun. As your conscious awareness grows and you begin to make changes, you’ll find there are many options and alternatives for any tradition – they are not written in stone.
Listen to your navigation system – your feelings. If it feels good and improves your relationships, keep doing it. If it doesn’t feel good and destroys your relationships, stop it or change it.