Stay In Tune with the Culture

It’s interesting how some of the newest, fastest-growing employers make a point of offering such amenities as free food and snacks, foosball tables in the break room, and corporate policies in support of continuing education, remote work, and paid time off.

But staying in tune with the culture involves more than going along with any of this, more even than learning to text “GTK” and appropriate emojis.

This is because “culture” is a controlling set of beliefs, social norms, and material traits for a particular group – be it a religious or ethnic group, an institution or organization, or people living in a small or large geographical area.

We each grow up in one or more of these cultures, the teachings of which have a profound effect on the choices we make for our entire life.

Many parts of many cultures seem static, but that’s false. These beliefs, norms, and traits do change, and failure to comprehend and keep pace with at least some of these changes can drag down your ability to be productive and successful in your work and your life.     

Accordingly, it’s important for everyone who is planning on getting older to take proactive steps that will help them stay in tune with the various cultures that permeate their lives.

Here are few such steps for you to consider:

Cultivate Newer Relationships

It’s natural for you to feel most comfortable with people of your own generation, particularly those with backgrounds similar or at least somewhat compatible with yours.

But you’ll also benefit from connections to people you like and admire who have at least one foot in the world of cultural changes that are coming down the pike. They can serve as friendly guides, explaining the advantages of what’s new, countering your feelings that what’s new is worse than what’s old, and offering support and even instruction as you begin your own experimentation.

Devalue Your Assumptions

In the old days, cultures were far slower to change. A person could safely ignore what the young people were up to without falling out of touch with major cultural values. Today, that’s not nearly so true.

Under the onslaught of rapid population growth, major technological advances, socio-cultural dynamics driven by social media, and other forces, cultures are changing faster than ever before.

That’s why it’s important you take nothing for granted. Instead, keep checking in with what’s going on. As you do so, try to sidestep the fearful point of view that “these young people today don’t respect the old ways” or “we’re going to hell in a hand-basket.”

Instead, pay attention to younger people you know and like. Look at what they are believing, thinking, and doing. Note how their new ways differ from your accustomed beliefs, thoughts, and behaviors.

These notes are the raw material you can use to fuel your personal growth, and to stay more in tune with the changing cultures that surround you.

Experiment with What’s New

As you take note of cultural changes, there will come a time when you encounter one or more ideas that seem intriguing. Perhaps they make sense to you, or they seem more sensible than the previous cultural guidelines. Maybe they tap into a part of you – a skill, an interest, a knack, or a feeling – that you would like to give freer rein.

These are opportunities for you to experiment and try new ways of thinking and behaving. When you do so:

  • Start slowly.
  • Look for a “buddy” who already enjoys the new thing.
  • Make little or no commitment to continue the experiment.
  • Burn no bridges to your past.

Some of these experiments will fizzle. You may feel uncomfortable about some of them, or lose interest in others. That’s OK.

As you step carefully out of the cultural boxes in which you’ve been working and living, you’ll begin the process of personal and cultural growth that will almost certainly pay off over the long haul.

While all of this may feel like some combination of difficult, silly, or overwhelming, failure to change with the times can close the door to new experiences and new opportunities you may come to value as time passes.  

As a result, it’s never too late – or too early – to put a higher priority on keeping pace with cultural changes.

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