The beautifully timed Halloween story from Historic England, calling for people to help create a record of ritual ‘witch markings’ on buildings that were once believed to ward off evil spirits has got me thinking about how people advertise their own values and beliefs today.
While we’re unlikely in this day-and-age to go to the trouble of carving a daisy wheel in to stone to entrap evil spirits (and good luck with your polite enquiry for a chisel and template at B&Q), our values and beliefs are never very far from the surface because they manifest in our everyday behaviour.
The friend with the enviable confidence might well believe that she simply has a divine right to bend the world to her will.
The exhausted neighbour who spent the weekend driving countless motorway miles to visit elderly relatives might believe that looking after family comes significantly before their own personal well-being.
And the colleague who can never get to the end of their to-do list could well be over-burdened and need a helping hand. But it’s also possible that their beliefs are holding them back. They might believe it’s important to look busy at all times, and that getting to the end of their tasks will make them vulnerable in some way.
Such views about our place in the world typically lie firmly in the subconscious – they change over time and are the result of the successive experiences that life has shown us. Some of this will be down to the most formative of our early years; some will be an updated interpretation driven by significant life events.
Beyond our own egocentric place in the world, we also have beliefs about the wider world and the purpose and meaning of life.
While it seems likely that the creators of those ritual markings hundreds of years ago were highly religious, increasingly few of us take the same route to shaping our beliefs today. Recent research shows that the number of people declaring themselves to be without a religion has nearly doubled in the last five years. Those people will look elsewhere for insight and clarity when considering what life is all about, perhaps reading, visiting, enquiring and mulling as part of a conscious process.
Becoming more aware of our values and beliefs, perhaps through an executive coaching programme, can help to clarify our expectations of ourselves, and those around us. Greater awareness can enhance our sense of purpose and well-being – and promote a confidence with the world that our ancestors once achieved by carving markings in to stone.
This post is adapted from My-Fi: how to connect with yourself and those around you by Ken Kelling and Chris Wood. Available for download here.