A chatty book based on scientific research shows how personal choice can inform as much of our personality—and destiny—as genetics and environment.
A scholar of personality and motivational psychology, Little (Me, Myself, and Us: The Science of Personality and the Art of Well-Being, 2014, etc.) argues that we have a choice in who we are and what we do and that our personalities reflect the choices we make and the values we hold. These “defining activities” or “personal projects” allow us to transcend “the old nature-nurture debate.” For if who we are is nothing more than the genetic hand we have been dealt and the circumstances of the environments that have profoundly influenced us, there is nothing we can do about either of those. However, our personal projects represent our own choices, based on who we are or perhaps who we perceive ourselves to be. We all have professional aspirations, interpersonal engagements, familial obligations, and secret dreams and ambitions. The author provides a way of articulating the variety of projects through which we determine the courses of our lives—from emptying the dishwasher to exercising regularly to asserting a leadership role at work to having a baby—but he also shows how these are likely to bring us satisfaction, or frustration, based on personality traits we have already identified in ourselves. Do we prefer to work alone or with others? Do we live in an area that accommodates this type of project? Do we depend so much on another person that divorce or death would shatter our dreams? Are we willing to step beyond our comfort zones to achieve a goal? Multiple projects might well require multiple personalities or a “ ‘fake it till you make it’ strategy.”
Some of the advice may sound glib or repetitive, but Little gives readers a sense of how they can make significant changes in their lives.