Tag Archives: running

On Behaviorial Genetics, Malcom Gladwell, and Credit Card Debt

Sometimes it’s disturbing to find out how your genes may affect you. Whenever I tell people that genes may affect your proclivity to credit card debit, or your chances of having an eating disorder, or whether you may become an entrepreneur, people look at me with surprise.

It’s a given that genes dictate your physical make up and risk for disease .  But people are still uncomfortable with the idea that genes play a part in our personality.  How we think; our choices in life, we like to think of these as entirely our own…not something that our genes can predetermine.

As of now the link between genetics and personality, or behavioral genetics is still a relatively new field. To untangle our motivations from our genes and or environment and our upbringing is a difficult process.  But some day  in the future, I may be able to take a DNA test and find out I am 30% more likely to incur credit card debit than the average person. The question becomes, what do I do with this information?

Most of you may have heard of Malcolm Gladwell, famous social psychologist, and author of The Tipping Point and Blink. What you may not know about Gladwell is that he used to be a runner in his teens.  A good one. In fact Gladwell was the one of the best middle distance runners in Canada.  In high school, he beat runners who eventually went on to win Olympic medals.

Genetically Gladwell was a running prodigy. But here is where choice comes into play. Gladwell chose to give up running and turn his mind to social psychology. Other runners who were maybe not as genetically gifted chose to continue to run and went on to be best athletes in the sport.  As an interesting article on the myth of prodigy observes:

“Really what we mean … when we say that someone is ‘naturally gifted’ is that they practice a lot, that they want to practice a lot, that they like to practice a lot.”

Knowledge of genetics can serve to inform our choices and behaviors in life. If I know that I am 30% more impulsive and likely to incur credit card debt than the average person. I can chose to use this information in one of two ways. I can let it become my mental crutch, and feel victimized by my genes. Or I can be mindful and find strategies and skills to improve upon this weakness.

In the end, I firmly believe that what you chose to do with information about your genetics is more crucial  than what your genetics  tell you.