We often reference culture as if it’s one big abstract behemoth to be reckoned with. But the reality is there is no one culture. Rather, we live in an intermingled complexity of many cultures based on a diversity of nature, nurture, needs, attitudes, behaviors, and loyalties.
Cultures often overlap and create powers of belief that make it difficult for people to see the reality they’re swimming in. Consider the compounding impact of 16th century individualism, 18th century industrialism, and 20th century consumerism. That’s almost 500 years of intersecting cultural movements. Adding my own context living in one of the most wealthy cities, counties, states, and countries in the world, and I realize that I live in time and space at the historical apex of narcissistic consumption.
Why is this important? You can’t change what you can’t see, so when you can see and name the beliefs that influence of your cultures, you can make sense of 99% of our collective behavior. And sensemaking is necessary for creating. You can’t change your own behavior or call someone to something new if you can’t see the deficiencies of the past.
Consider these three steps for making sense of the cultures influencing you:
Name each group of people you spend a lot of time with, and be specific. Examples: Orange County business building moms. Earth conscious hipster coffee snobs. LatinX indie audiophiles.
Next, identify 2-3 underlying beliefs that tie each group together.
Finally, ask yourself these questions to decide if you want to be part of their culture: Do they align with the beliefs you espouse? Will they help make the world a better place for us all?