By the way … It all starts from a habit

My husband and I have different opinions on how to respond to a missed call.

If it’s only once and from an unfamiliar number, I will just ignore it. My husband on the other hand will return the call immediately and at times ends up talking with a representative of a marketing call center.

But we both were annoyed when we could not reach Pak N, our business associate, after countless missed calls. He knows my number. I tried to contact him three times a day for two weeks.

Perhaps he was occupied. But if I were him, I would be keen to call back whenever I was free, knowing the person must have need of me.

I tried to get in touch with his colleagues but to no avail. I proceeded on to their boss, only to realize that he shared Pak N’s style of communication.

Later on, after eventually being acquainted with the boss, I learned that his arrogant temperament may have influenced his subordinates in dealing with their customers.

It is common practice in their company to feign ignorance when another person needs them. Yet in contrast, they can be so compelling whenever they need another person to do something for them.

Although the deeds of Pak N’s employees may not reflect his vision, I suppose when we encounter problematic demeanors in our daily work, we unwittingly develop similar behavior in that environment.

“Like father like son” may not refer to genetic inheritances, but more likely describes how people behave. Robert Fulghum is right. Don’t worry that children never listen to you, worry that they are always watching you.

I don’t have children yet, but I realize that some of my behavioral patterns replicate those of my parents. Having lived with my husband for several years, it is more apparent now that some tiffs between us come from different habits, as we have each been accustomed to living with our own families for 30 years.

How long does it takes for something to become a habit? I suppose it depends on the type of habit and differs from person to person. Nevertheless, before we are controlled by them, we had better control our habits.

Consider the habits of Jakarta’s drivers: swerving, stopping wherever and wherever, cursing, long horn honks, ignoring rules. We are so familiar with these bad habits that sometimes we, too, act reflexively.

Like it or not, the habits we have grown accustomed to reflect our values. Our eating habits may define our lifestyles and health. Our television-watching habits may define responses to personal matters.

The notion of habits becoming values leads me to reflect when reading in the newspapers about corruption almost every day in our country.

Has corruption become the habit of our nation? Is the word “corruption” heard so often that its ethical meaning has become too abstract for some people?

Many new corruption cases are revealed, day by day. Now we are not only forgetting, but are skipping the news — quite a different practice from the early days of Reform, when we kept an eye on such news.

Sadly, those corrupt government bureaucrats and politicians might be so accustomed to their misconduct that they cannot see that it has become a habit, to their shame.

We need to be careful with our habits. Sometimes we don’t realize that repetition leads to habits. We are all role models — each in our own unique way — as parents, managers, coworkers, teachers, friends, relatives and so on.

It may better for us to show our values to the people around us and let them feel blessed. We can start by carrying out simple positive habits. Maybe that’s one way of making our New Year’s resolutions come true. 

— Rika Agata


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