Becoming More Like Who We Are

Nathan Brody, Psychology Professor Emeritus at Wesleyan University (Middletown CT), once made this comment at a professional meeting:

               “Growing up is the process of becoming more like who we are.”

I cannot think, at the moment, of a better basis for formulating a commitment for the new year (aka new year’s resolution). To harness one’s natural energy and talent in the service of self, family, job, and society, and to eschew activities that are draining–that is the challenge. In our youth, we experiment with a cornucopia of interests. As we age, we let go of the activities that feel less natural, allowing us maximum time to pursue our passions.

To embrace Brody’s insight is to follow the wisdom of the ages. The Greeks put it like this: “Know thyself.” And Shakespeare added, “…and to thine own self be true.” In order to become more like who we are, and to eschew unnatural behavior, we must know our core traits, abilities, values, and physical capabilities.

Try jotting down a handful of your core strengths. Then ask yourself which of them are taking a back seat in your life at present. Resolve to discuss with yourself, your partner(s), your friends, your kids, your heroes, how you might move a neglected strength to center stage going forward.

Here’s an example. One of my core strengths, and a true passion, is my ability in and enjoyment of classical a cappella music: the motets of Bach, the madrigals of Morley, the masses of Byrd, and the contemporary choral gems of Lauridsen and Biebl. It is just not enough to listen to them occasionally sung by others. That, to me, is like trying to find joy in watching someone else eat a gourmet meal—there’s just nothing quite like being the actor, not the audience. For much of my life, being in the audience is ok, but for music I need to be an actor. So, I have started my own a cappella group, building one by one with like-minded friends to form a repertoire that soothes the yearning in a way that fits in with all the other many demands on my, and our, time.

By singing more motets and watching less football, I’m becoming more like who I am. Can’t do it all. So, here’s to maximizing true joy in what we choose to do with our time.

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