Friday, June 8, 2012

Nature versus Nurture

Nature versus Nuture


Nature or nurture is an ageless debate.  Are the things we do and the people we become shaped by our DNA, or does the environment mold us? It may be one, or the other, or both?

Years ago I watched a dolphin give birth, and within a minute the mother gently pushed the baby to the water’s surface so it could start breathing.  I’m fairly certain that mother dolphin didn’t attend pre-natal parenting classes to learn that.  1 point for nature.

Four weeks ago I witnessed my new granddaughter and her parents begin their lives together.  That little girl knew all about breast feeding without having to be told or shown how.  Maybe Olive was listening and somehow understood when her mom was being coached about this.  Maybe, but more likely that’s another point for nature.

This little girl is a really happy baby – eating, sleeping, traveling, looking around, loving being held by lots of adults – and through it all she’s a really happy baby.  She’s calm because her parents are calm, she’s happy because she’s surrounded by happiness.  Her parents learned and understood that “happy is as happy does”, just like “cranky is as cranky does”….that’s a point for nurture.

I don’t remember being this good or aware when my own daughter was born, and thus this is one of the benefits of being a grandparent: I can see the nature versus nurture comparisons more clearly because I’m not so caught up in the responsibilities of the moment.  And l can also see the parallels to how these same issues play out in the world of work:
  • New employees know they have to learn the culture and get along with others – that’s a deeply rooted human instinct meant to avoid conflict (nature).
  • Supervisors have to develop trust and respect in order to promote recruitment and retention – this may be both nature and nurture: the supervisors know intuitively that they need to do this to get people acclimated effectively and to promote morale (nature); but it’s a learned set of skills and competencies that require training, coaching and practice (nurture).
  • Employees need to work hard, care a lot, and do more with less every day – people may intuitively know and understand this (nature) but it’s not going to happen unless effective leadership is present (nurture).
The lifecycle of an employee and the lifecycle of a child are very similar.  And the basic stuff we learn in psychology class supplements our instincts when it comes to getting the most out of each.  We all know this; but for me, this membership in the Grandparents Club is reinforcing some of the key things I’ve experienced and known (nurture).  And then I find myself showing everyone I meet – friend or stranger – pictures, like the one above, of my little granddaughter (nature)!

My message this week is about our habits, and how we develop them:

Arte Nathan“First we make our habits, then our habits make us.” 
-Charles C. Noble

Charles C. Noble, (1812–1885) was the organist of St Martin's Church, in Stamford, and also at St Ann's Church, in Nottingham.

What are you made of?  You’re born with certain traits and some of these grow into habits.  These traits are mostly in your DNA, but they can also be developed by the environment you’re raised in: being ticklish is in your DNA, but your accent is learned.  Over time you may learn to modify your traits – you may learn to suppress a ticklish laugh; but over time you also may develop your habits – being kind, observant, communicative or wise.  And it’s these habits that usually define the person you are and how others perceive you.  Since we all want to be seen in a positive light, it’s important that you shape your habits to the people and world around you, and in some cases that world may require new habits.  Be mindful of your habits and make sure they apply appropriately to your circumstances.  And don’t forget that you can always learn, or unlearn, your habits.  They’re yours, so make the best of your habits and let your habits make you today!

Stay well!

1 comment:

  1. This is a good article and very inspiring. Thanks or the share!