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When everything around you is changing, traditions can feel like a thing of the past. They don’t seem relevant or valuable.

But when you don’t exercise certain traditions, there’s a sense of loss. You feel less connected to others and unsure of the future.

Traditions link our past to the present. They help remind us who we are and where we’ve come. They reveal what’s most important.

In this episode, you’ll learn the four reasons why having a sense of tradition makes life more meaningful.

Show Highlights Include:

  • How to make life more special through the traditions of Texas A&M. (1:18)
  • Why homemade macaroni and cheese brings more belonging and comfort to your days. (3:30)
  • How family stories from the past connect you to a courageous (and more meaningful) future. (6:33)
  • How to honor and appreciate your ancestor’s traditions (even if you didn’t know them). (8:08)
  • The ‘Family Biographer’ essentials for giving the present a sense of meaning. (10:45)

Do you want to stop existing and start living your best life right now? Click here to get the first chapter of Dr. Rick’s best-selling book, Lessons From a Third Grade Dropout, for free.

Read Full Transcript

Welcome to “How You Living?” a transformative podcast featuring best-selling author, inspirational speaker and minister, Dr. Rick Rigsby—and, now, Dr. Rick.

Dr. Rigsby: Hello, friends. Thanks so much for listening today. I want to talk to you about the value and the importance of traditions.

I really believe that traditions are critical. I believe traditions are the key to any culture, whether the culture that's within an organization or even in a family. For years, my extended family was down there in College Station, Tex. That's where Texas A&M University is. I was privileged to be on the coaching staff for R. C. Slocum. I was his life-skills coach for the football team. I was also a faculty member in the Department of Communication. [01:01.4]

Texas Monthly magazine once stated that the respect for the traditions and values is the university's greatest strength, and for 15 years I lived it. I still live it. I love the traditions of Texas A&M. It begins with the Corps of Cadets, the keepers of the spirit. A subset of the Corps is the Fightin’ Texas Aggie Band. I'll tell you, we always had an advantage as a football team when our band would show up on the road. It was awesome.
At Texas A&M, you don't walk on the grass. Why? The grass is a living memorial to all of those Aggies who have fallen. You remove your cover. That's right, when you walk into a building, you remove your hat. Texas A&M has a tradition of being the home of the 12th Man and the students stand during the entire football game, symbolizing that they're ready to go in. [02:00.8]

We have Yell Leaders at A&M. Keep in mind that Texas A&M was a male school. It was military. We didn't have female cheerleaders. We had male yell leaders, and the Friday night before each and every home game, those male yell leaders lead a midnight yell. Say that three times. Our golf course is even named Traditions. It's the home of the Fightin’ Texas Aggies men's and women's golf teams.

I think probably the most sacred of all our traditions is Muster. It occurs all over the world every April, the 21st of every April, and this is the occasion where we honor our fallen members of the Aggie family, both present students, as well as former students. It's very emotional. It's very moving. It's these traditions that I think that really distinguish Texas A&M University from all others. [03:02.3]

I really believe that it's the traditions that make life special. At the time of taping this podcast episode, we're entering into the holiday season, and while different faiths will celebrate in different ways, I think one thing we all have in common is the practice of traditions.

But why are traditions so important? Why should we value them? I want you to consider a couple of things.

Number one, traditions contribute to a sense of comfort. We're comfortable with the familiar. We even gain comfort by thinking back nostalgically. I love having a special place to go to. I remember when my parents were alive, I would love going back to my bedroom and just hanging out there for a while. I love special keepsakes. [03:55.0]

I even have found that a meal, a traditional meal, can offer great comfort. I used to love my mom and dad's macaroni and cheese. Oh, baby, just talking about it makes me hungry. Then I remember one Thanksgiving as my parents were getting older, they made the macaroni and cheese from a box. From a box. And I remember we revolted and I remember my dad simply saying, “We're tired. We're just tired.” I think that was the year that it hit us that our parents were getting older and that we'd better do our part.

We started pitching in with every Thanksgiving meal thereafter and helping out. But I’ll tell you one thing. I didn't like that box macaroni and cheese. I wanted the macaroni and cheese that gave me comfort. You know what, friends? I have to confess. I understand my folks being tired a lot more at 65 than I did at 35, but I want you to think about the powerful role food plays in maintaining traditions. [05:01.3]

Each family is known for a special dish or a favorite dish. It's always fun for me when our four sons and their wives and our grandchildren return home for the holidays. Each has a requested dish. I'm just glad that everyone is willing to cook. Those traditions around the table, wow, they offer a sense of comfort. They offer a sense of belonging.

Whether it's going for a walk after a Thanksgiving meal or sitting around the table and chatting and laughing, or whether it's a candlelight service on Christmas Eve, our traditions really do matter—and when we don't exercise those traditions, we feel a loss.

I remember growing up in the ’60s. There was always a parade on Independence Day, the Fourth of July. It was such a thrill to put on my Little League uniform or my Boy Scout uniform, or my marching band uniform, and be part of that parade through downtown. We took such pride in our community. We were proud to be Americans. [06:14.6]

Friends, I have to tell you, I missed those celebrations. They offered a sense of belonging. They offered a sense of togetherness. They offered a sense of unity. Traditions contribute to our sense of comfort.

Second, I believe that traditions connect us. Think about it. They connect us physically. It's really important that we have a sense of belongingness in a physical kind of way. Traditions connect us in intimate ways, not just to each other, but to relatives who may not be here. It's really important that we honor and observe this notion because it gives us a chance to reminisce. It gives us a chance to reflect. [07:03.3]

Traditions connect us historically. I love all the stories. Not just in my generation, I love the stories from generations of Rigsbys. Don't you folks love all the stories from 50, 100, 200, 300 years ago? They all play a part in getting you where you are today.

Traditions connect us socially as well and they connect us through shared values. I really love the fact that my grandfather had tremendous courage. He passed that courage on to my dad and my dad reflected that courage to our generation.

I love the values that make an organization strong, the values that have been forged through the fire that make families strong. I mean, think about all the stories you hear at family gatherings. Think about the values contained in those stories as they're passed from generation to generation. [08:05.3]

Third, I think that traditions teach us history, just right along with number two, in terms of traditions connecting us. I love learning about the history of our family. Don't you? I love all the different stories that are shared. Sometimes they seem to contradict each other. It doesn't matter. I still love everyone's perspective. I love learning about my family. From game night to when presents are open, I love all the stories. Whether it's over eggnog or tea, it doesn't matter.

Among the most enjoyable conversations I’ve ever had comes along this vein. I remember once being with a family who happened to be Italian and they were telling us how Italians spend the holidays, and they were marching us through what Christmas Eve is like in an Italian family. I loved it. I loved how important it was. [09:05.8]

And, by the way, an interesting side note—with sadness, this Italian family was telling us how, over the generations, they were losing some of those traditions, because the newer generation, the younger generation, didn't necessarily feel the same need to honor and observe all of those traditions. It's important that we hold on to and protect our traditions.

Here's one that taught me about history. I never knew my Uncle Ed Owens. I never knew him, but through the stories I learned about his history, as well as the generations before him, and it was very interesting how this learning took place. My family was very poor and what they would pass down from generation to the next wasn't anything of monetary value. They passed down recipes. [10:00.0]

My Uncle Ed was very proud of his niece, my mother, and as the story goes, he passed his barbecue sauce recipe to my mom. Friends, I learned the history of Uncle Ed's generation and the generations before him as my mother would constantly recite the story of her being his favorite niece and getting the barbecue sauce recipe. I'll tell you, with Uncle Ed gone, with my mom gone, with my dad gone, I can't tell you how meaningful that history is for me to know this very day.

Finally, let me say this. Traditions help us discover more about ourselves. Good or bad, they identify who we really are and where we've come from. These memories become the stories that give our lives context. Every family seems to have a biographer. For us, it's our son, Andrew. [11:02.2]

When everyone else is ready to move on to the football game, Andrew wants to learn more about Aunt Hat and how she got the funny name. In fact, when I was a professor, I would strongly encourage my students to spend a portion of the holiday hanging around older relatives, especially grandparents, for two reasons. Number one, I would tell my students, you're going to be amazed at the wisdom you'll pick up, and number two, you'll want to share their stories someday.

You see, friends, I believe traditions are important. They give us a sense of comfort. They connect us and offer unity. They teach us history. We learn more about our family. We learn more about ourselves. Traditions give us meaning in life, a context for life, a sense of comfort and belonging, a sense of past to connect to our present, and they reinforce our values and beliefs. [12:05.2]

Traditions remind us of what's really important in life. Someday all we'll have is our memories. May they reflect our richest, most treasured traditions, those that made life worth living.

Friends, that's going to do it for this episode. Until we meet again, this is Dr. Rick, asking the most important question I can ask, how ya livin’?

Are you ready to make an impact in your world right now? Do you want to stop existing and start living your best life right now? Dr. Rick wants to give you the first chapter of his bestselling book, “Lessons from a Third Grade Dropout”, absolutely free. Just go to www.RickRigsby.com/FreeGift to get the print or audiobook right now.

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