Home Concepts Concepts of Leadership Cross Cultural Analyses Breaking Free From Our Cultural Chains

Breaking Free From Our Cultural Chains

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So what do we mean by culture?  Many people quote the work of Dutch psychologist Geert Hofstede, whose maxim, “The Software of the Mind” informed many thought leaders on this subject.  Culture is the commonly-held traditions, values and ways of behaving in a particular community.  We all live within layers of cultures; cultures within cultures.  Our mental programs begin to develop within the family in early childhood and are reinforced in our educational processes and in our work lives within organizations.  These mental programs contain components of our national and religious cultures, too.  Every single human being within the world is a product of numerous cultural influences.  Culture has significantly impacted the many different ways we think, feel and behave.  We are who we are today because of our cultures, and it is impossible to exist outside of them.

At the same time, culture is a dynamic phenomenon surrounding us at all times.  It is a constantly evolving eco system being shaped by our interactions with others and a set of structures, routines, rules, traditions and norms that guide and constrain our behavior.  We each play a part in the evolution of our culture, but how aware are we of when culture is shaping our decisions and when we as an individual are making an independent choice?  In fact, we must wonder if an independent choice even exists.

As an Executive coach who works internationally, I have guided many relocating executives from many different cultures around the world through what we commonly call, “culture shock”.  I have coached many individuals and their families through the emotional upheaval that goes hand in hand with leaving your native country and setting up life in a new location.

Limiting cultural beliefs operate in much the same way as limiting personal beliefs – they hold you back from fulfilling your potential.  However, they are harder to spot and more challenging to overcome, as these are shared beliefs that have been reinforced many times during your life and are often regarded as unquestionable “truths” or “fact”.  Many people refer to them as “just the way life is” or “just the way I am” and use these to excuse behavior.

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