As I watched my 6-year old daughter update her blog this morning (yes, she has a blog, no, you can’t see it, it’s passworded for family only), I noticed her doing something pretty unusual.
Between each word, she’d hit the space bar four or five times.
I’d seen her doing this before and told her she only needed a single hit of the key between each letter, but, for some reason, it wasn’t sinking in. Until I finally realized what what happening.
She couldn’t get past the finger rule.
Turns out, in learning to write sentences this year, she’d been given a very specific guidelines to figure out how much space should come between each word. Just put your finger between each word and the spacing will always be right.
So, it was ony natural that, when it came time to type on the computer, she applied that same rule, hitting the space bar until it approximated the width of a finger. At first, I thought it was pretty cute, but then it made me wonder…
How many rules do we follow that have outlasted their original intent?
They’re all around us. How many people work 9 to 5 (7 to 7 in NYC), when they know their most productive, creative hours are 4 to midnight? How many people pour the coffee first, then add milk and sugar second, when pouring the coffee last avoids the need to stir? How many scrub the dishes before putting them in a dishwasher that’s been good enough to clean them for decades? How many top off the gas tank to avoid waiting for change, even when paying by credit card?
Question is, I get why we do these things as kids, but why do we keep doing them as grown-ups?
Is it just habit? Is it a need to fit in? Is it about working around other peoples’ rules who have power over us?
If the circumstances that gave rise to these have changed, why do so many of us still live by the finger?
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