In every generation, there are culture changers.
If it wasn’t for them our children would still go to segregated public schools, we wouldn’t have a black president and we wouldn’t see people of the same sex kissing on TV. Culture is always changing because brave people dream of something different, believe in the possibility of changing things and act in accordance with their ideals in the face of adversity. Often those people are called heroes. Sometimes we get public holidays in their honor!
I see a lot of positive changes in human culture but there is much more that can be done to make the world a better place and in my opinion, things are going a bit too slowly. I have two kids ten and twelve and another one on the way, so in my heightened hormonal state I am perhaps more aware of how much change still needs to happen so that we may live in a more just, equal, and sustainable world.
Fear is what stops us.
Now I’m no longer talking about big political statements, I’m talking about our every day lives. Because I think culture changes one person at a time. If we don’t experience (practice?) the courage to stand up for what we believe in our personal lives, how will we find the strength to do it on other levels? Our everyday lives are subject to human culture, community culture, family culture and even the culture you have with just your partner. Often we don’t even see the culture we’re living within, thinking from, choosing from and acting from as a choice. It’s just the water we swim in.
Last week while leading our flagship course at Handel, the Design Your Life Weekend, one young lady of North Indian descent looked at me pleadingly. Why couldn’t I understand? How could I tell her to pursue her dream? To ask her parents questions? In her family, personal questions are not the common conversation starters. Women don’t pursue certain types of careers, heck there are certain careers nobody “should” pursue, according to her upbringing. Later, another client from an Asian background told me that when she came home from work one day to find her in-laws and aunt at her home, she chose to sit with them and talk rather than preparing dinner or tending to her children. They were shocked and confused by her behavior. Mind you, someone else had prepared dinner and her children were capable of bathing themselves, but the difference between how her culture dictated she behave and what she was actually doing provided such a sharp contrast that it had to be mentally and emotionally processed. This makes sense and I was proud of her for helping the older generation do just that. She isn’t feeling limited by her “culture of origin,” she is both embracing it and seeking to change it. This is a very special combination.
In our courses and coaching, we teach that it is the younger generation that lovingly ushers culture change. It is our (their? now that I am aging!) job to be more emotionally intelligent, more technologically advanced, etc. than the generation before, so it makes sense that they demonstrate the brilliance of new paradigms and practices. As the older generation we can be skeptical, we can critique/help them sharpen their skills and their courage to fight for what they believe in – and we will! This is the process of human evolution, the process we should all be going through. So this is a call to be a culture changer. Perhaps in your family you are a trailblazer (or wish to be).
I challenge you to stand up and start speaking what you believe while at the same time honing excellent listening skills (or else no one will ever be persuaded!).
If you are lucky enough to be bombarded by a culture changer, I ask you to listen and consider their perspective, help them sharpen their integrity, their listening and their convincing skills. It’s okay to let go of the old and make way for the new.
Here are some important tips to remember if you are a culture changer or wish to support one.
1) Consider yourself a hero and prepare yourself accordingly – you will need to be brave and resilient.
2) Really practice listening to the Culture upholders! They may have once been culture changers themselves. Strive to understand their world and demonstrate this by listening and honestly considering what they have to say.
3) Find your posse. Often we stick with the status quo because we’re just too chicken to go for what we really want. We find evidence from popular culture to support our fear. Instead, find the fringe group that wants to prove something more cutting edge and hang with them, watch their videos, read their newsletters, etc.
4) Remember, even if you don’t see change happen right away–like your dad isn’t fully supporting your artist lifestyle (yet) – don’t give up. Time (your integrity and love, openness and listening) is also your ally. Nothing impressive was turned around overnight.
I know many of you reading this are culture changers. Please leave a comment and give us a story of triumph in your family, community, culture or add another tip to the list so we may all be fortified by our joint efforts to make the world more peaceful, kind and happy.
As Co-President and Senior Coach at Handel Group® Life Coaching, Laurie Gerber’s professional and personal mission is to better the world by teaching people to tell the truth and pursue their dreams. Her focus is on maximizing clients’ ability to thrive across all areas of life–health, love, career, money, family, etc. Laurie spreads her message of empowerment through live international events, one-on-one coaching, virtual coaching courses, as a writer, and in TV and radio appearances. Follow Laurie on Facebook and Twitter.
Photo Credit: SomeDriftwood.