First, let me tell you three stories that might amuse you. I found them very enlightening and entertaining, but my children didn’t, so there’s a possibility you may not either. 😀
The first story
During the Czarist Russian era, a foreigner visiting the capital came across a park bench that a soldier was guarding. He didn’t know why the soldier was guarding the bench, but he didn’t think much of it at first. A few moments later, however, another soldier came over to the bench and took over the position of the first guard after they performed a rotating ceremony. The foreigner now became very curious. How important was this park bench? Why were soldiers guarding it so vigilantly? The foreigner began to ask the soldiers and people nearby, but no one knew the answer. All he heard was that this had been the custom for a long time. Determined to get to the bottom of this mystery, the foreigner began to investigate (I don’t know how), and this is what he found:
A long time ago, a Czar was passing by the bench when it was being painted. Concerned that someone may sit on the bench not knowing that it had been just painted, the Czar ordered that someone guard the bench. Soldiers had guarded the bench ever since. Even after the paint dried and everyone in that generation passed on, soldiers continued to guard it.
The second story
A foreigner visited a church in an old European village. At that church, the leaders would bring a cat in and tie it to the church door before beginning mass. Curious, the foreigner asked around, but again, no one knew why. No one questioned it because it was part of a divine religious tradition that had been carried throughout the generations. The foreigner began to investigate the mysterious tradition (again, I don’t know how), and this was what he found:
A long time ago, a priest at the church had a cat. Whenever the priest went to mass, the cat kept following him into the church, so the priest brought the cat along and tied it by the front door of the church. Even as time passed and the priest and cat both passed on, people always brought a cat from somewhere to tie it by the church door before mass.
The third story
A young daughter watched as her mother was cooking chicken. Her mother chopped the chicken into three pieces and put them in the pot. The daughter asked her mother why she cut the chicken before she put it in. Her mother replied that she had never thought of the reason before, and that her mother did it this way, so she followed her. The daughter asked her grandmother, but her grandmother gave her the same response. Her grandmother didn’t know either, and her mother (the young daughter’s great-grandmother) had done it this way, so she did the same. The daughter’s great-grandmother happened to be alive, so the girl asked her the same question.
(I omitted the picture for this story because it was too gory.)
The great-grandmother’s response was this: “Back then, we didn’t have large pots.”
These are stories I’ve read here and there. I often think of them. There are so many things that we continue to do out of habit and tradition. It makes us wonder, am I living or are traditions living through me? Traditions exist for a reason, perhaps inevitably or for some grand motive. (A Czar’s kind gesture, a priest’s affection towards a cat, a need to cook chicken in a small pot…) However, when situations change, traditions become outdated. Then, there is a need to change them, or even throw them away.
I won’t digress here and start a whole section on traditions. That was not the subject I wanted to discuss. I just wanted to say that if we don’t ask, “Why do we do this in this way?” or “Why is everyone only doing it like that?”, we may find ourselves in ridiculous situations like in the stories above.
For that reason, I decided to always question and think about my work instead of repeating what I (or others) have been doing all the time. It’s hard to find the time when I am busy. I forget what I had thought about previously, and when the same question or idea comes up again, I say to myself: “Oh, I’ve thought about this before…” without dwelling on it further.
So, I came up with a way to routinize innovation. I set Saturday mornings aside to earnestly think about how I can innovate and improve my work. I’ve done this since 2012 and it’s been very helpful. Not every session is fruitful, but through them I’ve gotten rid of unnecessary or excessive things, redirected my time and energy, and improved myself in many areas. During these thinking sessions, I’ve made small and large decisions that helped me not become a slave to my work and allowed me to enjoy what I do. I haven’t been able to have these Saturday morning rituals every week, of course. I’ve done well in the winter, but during the summer I always want to go out on Saturdays…
Another tradition that I keep occurs on the 1st of every month. (I guess I’ve created traditions of my own to renew or break traditions.) I’ve created traditions of my own to renew or break traditions. Click To Tweet I’ve also given this tradition a name: “Professional Appreciation Day”. Sounds good, doesn’t it? (I should also think of a name for my Saturday morning rituals.) The purpose of this day is to increase my gratitude and appreciation towards my work by working (the likelihood that this day falls on a weekend is low, so I usually work) while truly enjoying all the benefits of working as a translator. I won’t write what I do specifically because it’s a little embarrassing, but you can imagine how I celebrate my work and profession.
I hope that you will also create similar traditions to prevent your life from going into an autopilot mode where time passes by so quickly that you don’t even realize it. I hope you’ll make time to stop, think, and make changes where they are necessary.