Culture has the biggest impact on the state of companies, communities and nations. It is the most significant indicator of the success and health of any organisation. But what is culture? It is more than just food, language, the arts and manner of dress of the people around you. It is reflected in behaviours, traditions and rituals but it is driven by belief systems and their associated values. Different cultures exist on many levels of human organisations including countries, corporations, social groups, and even families can all develop their own cultures.
The difficulty is recognising your own culture from within it, which is less of an issue when all is going well. but when trying to understand negative outcomes or problematic behaviour we tend to blame individuals or circumstances. We often look at cause and effect without considering the cultural context and the beliefs that drive the strategies and behaviours within our culture. These behaviours are driven by belief systems that are the unwritten, unspoken rules being followed almost unconsciously. This makes our cultural beliefs difficult to recognise because they are all around us. We are immersed in them creating a kind of bubble or echo chamber. They are embedded in our social norms.
Social norms are the most significant influence on individual behaviours and beliefs. They lead to assumptions indicating the way things are done must be the right way. Do you know what your cultural beliefs are? Are they in line with your own core values? Do they support your happiness? Clearly, the spiking rates of depression in some countries or the high rate of suicide among students in others indicate that belief and expectations which may be cultural norms are having a negative effect on many individuals even if the general population copes with the conditions. It is reflected in such things as the rate of crime, the level of productivity or the level of altruism. Of course, it is also reflected in the level of happiness.
Many of the problems our companies and communities face are related to culture but what about the effects on your own life? Do your cultural beliefs support your happiness? If not you can change your beliefs but first, you need to know what they are. Look at your thoughts and behaviours and notice which ones are typical for the culture you live in. Is it specific to your workplace, your social group or the community you live in? Which beliefs drive these thoughts and behaviours? Do these beliefs serve you? Do they support your success and happiness? If not it is time to ask yourself if these beliefs are true for you. There are many processes for changing beliefs but the first step is always to recognise what they are and if they serve you. Your cultural beliefs are some of the most difficult to recognise and to change but it is an important step in the process in your personal development.