When it comes to bettering your life, one of the chief obstacles is breaking out of old habits. It’s often necessary to look at situations from different perspectives. While solutions may look daunting at first, many times the solutions are much easier than they first appear. I love the story of the square watermelon because I think it highlights a lot of the issues that we all struggle with when we are trying to improve our life:
The grocery stores in Japan were having a problem. Unlike their US counterparts, many grocery stores in Japan are much smaller and have far less space for product. One of the problems that Japanese grocery stores had were watermelons. Although they were very popular, they were big and round which took up a lot of floor space. While this was an obvious dilemma for the Japanese grocery stores, there wasn’t much that could be done. Watermelons were watermelons and watermelons were big and round. Or did they really have to be? There were Japanese farmers who decided that if the grocery stores wanted watermelons that didn’t take up quite so much space, there should be a solution to the problem. Instead of dismissing the problem as something that was unsolvable, they asked themselves “How can we provide a better watermelon?” To the surprise of many, it wasn’t long before square watermelons began to show up in stores.
While the square watermelon shocked a lot of people at first, the way that the farmers were able to accomplish this feat was actually quite simple. All that was needed was for the farmers to think about the question from a different perspective. The farmers discovered that all it takes to create a square watermelon is to place a regular watermelon into a square box while it grows, and the watermelon will naturally take on the shape of the box.
The square watermelons had a number of benefits besides saving space in the grocery stores. The main one was that consumers loved square watermelons since they took less space in their refrigerators at home (which are much smaller than refrigerators in the US). As a result, the farmers were able to charge a premium price for their square watermelons.
While this is an interesting story, the question you are probably asking is, “What does this have do with anything besides square watermelons?” I believe there are a number of lessons that anyone can take away from this story that can help you in all aspects of your life. Here are a few that I think you should consider:
Avoid Assumptions: We make a lot of assumption in our lives. We have many of these assumptions because of the way we have always done things in the past. Most people have always seen round watermelons and learned that round is the shape that they grow. I think it is fair to say that most people automatically assumed that square watermelons were impossible and dismissed the notion even before considering the question. This is how most people react when they have been doing something a certain way for a long period of time. The things you have always done a certain way takes on the aura of the round watermelon. You already know so you don’t even take the time to consider if there may be another way to do it. Breaking free from your long held assumptions can greatly improve your overall life as you are constantly looking for new and better ways to do things. I always assumed I needed to buy home. I made the same assumption about needing to buy a car. Learning to question those things that you have never questions before can lead you to many wonderful discoveries.
Question Your Habits: When it comes to ways to tackle the assumptions that you make, a great place to begin is to question your habits. If you can make an effort to question the way you do things on a consistent basis, you will find that you can continually improve the way that you live your life. Forming habits when they have been well thought out is usually a positive thing, but most of us have adopted our habits from various people and places without ever thinking about them. I have changed a large number of habits that I have had after taking the time to question them. Some of my habits I have absolutely know idea where they came from, while others I can trace to certain people or instances in my life. Questioning your habits is a never ending process, but by doing this, you can consistently strive toward making all aspects of your life more enjoyable instead of defaulting to what you have now. Questioning even those habits which seem obvious is one of the most difficult things for me to do, but if you can get into the habit of questioning your habits, you will be amazed by how many more efficient, cost effective and fun ways there are to doing things. Not convinced? How do you fold your T Shirts?
Get Your Creative Juices Flowing One of the problems with making assumptions and questioning habits is that one stops after considering one additional option. It often takes creativity and thinking outside the box (or into a box if you’re thinking about how to create square watermelons) to look beyond a single option. Take the example of how to create square watermelons. My first reaction was that it would take genetic engineering to alter water melons to grow square which would be far beyond my skill set. Most people would stop there and wouldn’t have explored other possible options. I think that is why seeing the square watermelons and how they were created made me realize that I am not being as creative as I should be when approaching problems. Learning to be more creative by looking at problems in a variety of different ways will help you find solutions where others can’t see them. I do not consider myself to be a very creative person, but I’ve found that the more that I try to consider problems from different perspectives, the more creative I have become. Creativity seems to be a learned art which builds upon itself.
Seek Out Better Ways: If possible, learn to always look for a better way to do the things you are already doing. Japanese farmers produced the square watermelon because they were seeking a solution to a question grocery stores were asking. It’s impossible to find a better way to do what you are doing if you never asking the question in the first place. I try to consistently ask if there’s a better way of doing things. I also write down the things I wish I could do (but which I am currently unable to do for whatever reason) since these are usually hints about things I need to change in my life. If you can get into the habit of consistently asking the question, “Is there a better way I could be doing this?” there’s a good chance that you will find there is.
Remember That The Impossible Often Isn’t: You limit yourself by the way you perceive problems. If you believe something is impossible, then it obviously will be for you. If, on the other hand, you take the approach to see if something is possible or not, you’ll find out through trial and error. What I have found is that even times when I am not able to find a solution to the question I happen to be asking, trial and error ends up helping me find solutions to other questions I have. The more open you can be to different approaches, the more likely you are going to find that the things you thought were not possible actually are.
When you began to read about square watermelons, you probably didn’t consider or believe that the way they were created could teach you lesson on how to live a better life, yet after reading this maybe you have had a change of heart. If you can apply some of these lessons to all areas in your life (work, finances, relationships, etc), you may find that you need to thank the square watermelon down the road for helping to improve some aspects of your life.