Our discussion last week on the Habit of Flexibility brought a spate of calls from readers anxious to share some of their stories. The one that most got my attention was from Edna, a lady who called to talk about the difficulties of her childhood in being raised in a household where every action was determined by her “always angry, extremely controlling” father.
Edna said her father determined how everything was to unfold and allowed absolutely no deviations from his plans.
Dinner was at precisely 5:45 every evening and “Heaven help any of us kids if we were even one minute late in being seated at the table.” Her mother frequently bore the brunt of her father’s displeasure if for any reason dinner was not ready in time for the 5:45 deadline.
Flexibility was not a word in her father’s vocabulary and certainly not in his demeanor. Everything had to be done his way on his schedule and on those occasions when his demands were not met he would explode in fits of rage while reminding everyone how he solely was responsible for their well-being and would then spend days pouting.
So inflexible was her father that he would not even entertain the possibility of altering his routine even when to do so would have brought him great pleasure.
Edna told me with some sadness in her voice, of the time a family friend showed up unexpectedly at their house on Thursday evening with an invitation for her dad to join him at a hockey game.
Her father was a huge hockey fan and was about to eagerly accept his friend’s invitation when he remembered that Thursday evenings were spent doing the weekly family grocery shopping. Her mother pointed out to him that the world would not end if just this once they did the shopping the following evening so that he could enjoy the game with his friend.
Her father would not budge. Thursday, not Fridays, were for grocery shopping so he politely declined his friend’s kind offer and dragged the entire family off to the store, all the while rambling on about the importance of strictly following routines.
Her father died several weeks prior to his 45th birthday and Edna remains convinced to this day that his early death was the result of the constant rages brought about by his absolute inflexibility in any and every aspect of his life.
The Habit of Flexibility – being willing and able to try different things, have varying schedules and, generally being open to other possibilities – was something that her father could just not wrap his head around.
Edna explained that she fully understands the need to be disciplined in our endeavors to achieve good results. Where she struggles is with understanding how her father could confuse discipline with rigidity.
She looks upon her father as a great role-model for being precisely what she did not want to be. The lessons she learned from observing his behavior have stood her in good stead and taught her the importance of incorporating The Habit of Flexibility into all aspects of her life.
And she will tell you her life is far richer for doing so. She has travelled extensively, dabbled in “many fascinating careers” taken carefully thought out risks and generally created a life for herself and her family that can only come from a willingness to “carve little in stone and write everything with a pencil.”
Edna’s story is a powerful validation of The Habit of Flexibility. Adopting this habit provides all of us with the opportunity of expanding our thinking and the willingness to explore endless possibilities.
Oliver Wendell Holmes once said “One’s mind, once stretched by a new idea, never regains its original dimensions.”
Can’t argue with that.
Let’s make a habit of meeting like this.
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