“force′ of hab′it. n. behavior occurring without thought and by virtue of constant repetition; habit.”

I was going to blog about a few beauty, health and life hacks that the world already knows about but that I have only just worked out and started reaping the benefits of *sigh.*

The plan had to change because I had a minor epiphany.

During a recent sermon, one of the pastors at our church told the following anecdote:

A couple was newly wed and being lovers of food, they splurged on a fully outfitted kitchen. The husband absolutely loved fried fish. Not only did he love fish, he loved to have his fried fish served whole. To his surprise, his wife would always cut the fish in half when she fried it. Eventually he asked why and the response was simple:”this is how my mother used to do it so this is how I do it.” Visiting his mother-in-law and her mother, he witnessed the same thing and asked the same question. The answer was exactly the same, “this is how my mother used to do it so this is how I do it.” Finally, he had the good fortune to sit with his wife’s great grandmother and he asked the same question, “Oh that!” she replied. “I always cut my fish in half because I had such a tiny pan!”

fried fish

His little anecdote reminds me of the story of the Cat and the Monk:

“Once Upon A Time, There Was A Monastery In Tibet. The Monks In The Monastery Meditated From Dawn To Dusk.

One Day It So Happened That A Cat Trespassed Into The Monastery And Disturbed The Monks. The Head Monk Instructed That The Cat Be Caught And Tied To The Banyan Tree Until Dusk. He Also Advised That Every Day, To Avoid Hindrance During Meditation, The Cat Be Tied To The Banyan Tree. So It Became A Daily Practice, A Tradition In The Monastery; To Catch The Cat & Tie It To The Banyan Tree Before The Monks Starts Meditating. The Cat Remained Tied To The Banyan Tree As The Monks Meditated

The Tradition Continued. One Day The Head Monk Died. As Per Tradition The Senior Most Monk Was Chosen As Head Monk And All Other Traditions Including Tying The CAT To The Banyan Tree Was Continued.

One Day The Cat Died. The Whole Monastery Plunged Into Chaos.

A Committee Was Formed To Find A Solution And It Was Unanimously Decided That A Cat Be Bought From The Nearby Market And Tied To The Banyan Tree Before Starting The Meditation Each Day.

This Tradition Is Still Followed In The Monastery Even Today. UNCHALLENGED. UNQUESTIONED.”

The gist of both these stories is the same, there are many instances in which we follow the accepted and expected practice without asking why. Are your habits still adding the value to your life that they did initially? Are the reasons why the habit was formed still relevant?

A simple example from my own life is the fact that I have always had my hair done the weekend following my monthly payday. Most businesses in South Africa pay salaries on a monthly basis. (I know a lot of businesses in America and other places pay salaries weekly.) I started doing this because when I started working;

  • that was the time of the month that I had the  extra cash to do it;
  • my old hairstyle would be in dire need of a change by then; and
  • if I didn’t do it immediately, the money would inevitably be spent on something else.

Of course, this is true for many people so salons are always packed on pay day weekend. We all go anyway because “we have no choice.”

Long after I can now afford to do my hair at any time during the month or more than once a month, I asked myself the other day, why am I still beholden to this habit? Why do I still feel guilty about breaking out of the habit of doing hair monthly? Why do I not do my hair on an “as-needed” basis? Why do I insist on going to the salon on the busiest weekend when salons are practically ghost towns during weekend 2 and 3 of the month? Long after the rationale has become redundant, why am I holding on to an obsolete habit so tightly?

How many other obsolete habits am I (or are you) holding on to?