Nurture or Nature, What Shapes Us?

Nurture or nature?

Nurture or Nature?

Nurture or Nature?

The age-old debate of what shapes us. What is the major reason that decides whether any one of us joins the line of those that remain victims, drift through life in a rut or jump the queue and join those who become successful?

Nature, our genes, blood lines, inherited characteristics obviously play a big part. But I believe that nurture – the environment we are born and grow into plays a bigger part.

The synergistic or catalytic effect of the two working together plays the biggest part.

Here’s the analogy I use to explain it.

I am not a baker or industrial chemist, but I know that when preparing a cake or many types of industrial products, deficiencies in ingredients – the raw materials or nature part of the mix – can be overcome by adjusting the procedure, changing the nurture part.

Compensating by increasing or decreasing an ingredient, substituting one or more materials, increasing process time or intensity by using higher temperatures or adjusting pressures, will all have an effect on the end result. For better or worse the result will be different.

So too with living organisms from microbe to man.

How else do we explain why some people overcome the most terrible adversity to become successful and meet huge goals, while others seemingly blessed by nature and born into privileged environments never achieve anything worthwhile, some even becoming dangerous to themselves, their families and society?

Some are born with physical or mental handicaps, into poverty, abandoned as babies and reared as orphans, street children, condemned to short brutal lives as child labourers. A terrible beginning for any one, but some not only survive, they thrive, go on to lead amazing lives.

Some born into stable, loving families with wealth or incomes to cushion them from the harsh realities of the world until they become adults and beyond, never amount to much.

Then those who do not conform to either extreme. The millions who do not manage to fully escape the consequences of their birth or harsh environment. The millions more who comfortably roll through life without doing anything spectacularly bad but not being particularly successful either.

Why was Helen Keller able to overcome becoming blind and deaf as a result of an illness at age 19 month? Her accomplishments included  learning to speak, becoming the first deaf, blind person to get a Bachelor of Arts degree, publishing 12 books and travelling extensively to deliver lectures.

Why do others with less serious physical limitations not do a fraction of what she did in her lifetime?

Why does another group continue to excel after they have already achieved bigger goals than most of us could imagine in our wildest dreams?

Why do some ride the roller coaster of success up and down in cycles of huge achievement and massive failure but pick themselves up and start over? While others give up at the first hurdle, never to try again.

Why do some who start with good educations, who inherit viable businesses, seem to have everything they need for a successful happy life, throw it all away and die in poverty?

None of these questions can be answered by a simple choice of nature or nurture.

It’s the way each one of us chooses to use what we were born with – our nature, and what life provides – our nurturing environment that decides what our life will be.

That’s why we are all different, we each make different choices from all the opportunities or hurdles life offers us.

The adversity that makes one person strong, stops another in his or her tracks. The easy start in life that keeps one in comfortable mediocrity, propels another to amazing heights.

My experience is that an easy start can be more of a handicap than a moderately challenging one. Most of us overcome adversity better than we handle an easy life. That too easily leads to coasting through a life without purpose.

What do you think? Leave a comment.

photo by Stuart Miles /

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  1 comment for “Nurture or Nature, What Shapes Us?

  1. July 15, 2015 at 2:43 pm

    I have no proof of this. However, I think that many times it is mind over matter. And I think you can train your self to think in certain ways – more positive – during the down times.

    I also think more things – personality, health, are genetic than anything else.

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