1. Genetics. "You were not born a winner, and you were not born a loser. You are what you make yourself be." - Lou Holtz. When I was in graduate school the "nature" versus "nurture" debate was tilted strongly in the "nurture" direction. Most of my professors were behaviorists and believed genetics played a very small part in a person's personality. I was taught environment was THE deciding factor in development. Then my son was born. His temperament emerged the first month of his life. His willfulness was apparent before his first birthday. His height was genetically encoded and had a major impact on how the world perceived him.

Your genetic makeup certainly has an impact on the way you interact with the world. Some qualities and characteristics are helpful to positive development. But there are also inherent weaknesses and limitations with which you have to learn to live. You can't change genetics. However, of these five factors that determine who you are, it is the only one you cannot change by making choices. The other four are, at least to some extent, up to you.

2. Self-Image. "The most important opinion you have is the one you have of yourself, and the most significant things you say all day are those things you say to yourself"- Unknown Author. A person with a negative self-image will expect the worst and associate with others who are similarly negative. This negativism becomes self-fulfilling. On the other hand those with a positive self-image will expect the best and are likely to be more successful in relationships, the work environment and life in general.

The following anecdote is repeated in several sources. Oliver Wendell Holmes went out for a walk one day near his summer home. A little girl joined him for a time. When the girl said she had to go home, her distinguished companion said, "When your mother asks you where you've been, tell her you've been walking with Oliver Wendell Holmes." To which the girl replied, "and when your folks ask you where you've been, tell them you were walking with Mary Susanna Brown." This is a wonderful example of a child who early in her life developed a very positive opinion of herself.

3. Life Experiences. "Genes and family may determine the foundation of the house, but time and place determine its form"- Jerome Kagan. When you think about your childhood experiences, you can see how they influenced you in school. Your early job experiences determined your later expectations. At age twenty I flunked out of college due to a lack of focus. My first job was menial labor in a factory. During breaktime one day a middle-aged woman told me in tears that her husband had been denied time off from work to attend his brother's funeral. I vividly remember now many years later thinking to myself, "I will never allow myself to be in that position." I returned to college, eventually earning my Masters Degree. It is also noteworthy that I have been self-employed for much of my adult life. Virtually everything you experience, even the seemingly insignificant, contributes to who you become.

We do not choose all of our life experiences, especially when we are young. However, as adults we are able to choose many of the experiences we have now. Some people who had a particularly difficult background must later decide whether to pursue experiences to improve themselves or continue on their negative path. We cannot undo our past experiences but we can reinvent ourselves using positive new experiences.

4. Attitude. "The thing that upsets people is not what happened but what they think it means"- Epictitus. More important than choosing life experiences is deciding our attitudes about the experiences we have. You may not be able to control your environment, but you have complete control over your attitude about it. This is an amazing statement. People can choose to have command over their mental responses to life's circumstances.

You may choose to have a positive or negative outlook; anticipate new challenges or reluctantly avoid them; be open or closed to situational opportunities. You may not be able to change the world around you, but you can change what you see within yourself. Attitude is likely the most important decision anyone can make. Your attitude can make or break your career. It is not the result of your birth, your current situation, or your financial status. Attitude is a choice. Go to any bookstore and find the "Self Help" section. Pick a book at random. The probability that the author will emphasize attitude is virtually certain.

5. Friends. "A real friend is one who walks in when the rest of the world walks out." - Walter Winchell. Choosing your friends is extremely important in determining who you become. Positive people with excellent character will raise you up. Negative people with questionable character will pull you down. The influence of a friend is directly related to how close they are to you. When you were a child did you have a friend who began hanging out with kids in trouble? Didn't your friend slide down with them? As an adult have you seen a colleague take off professionally after he/she began spending time with people who stretched his/her mind and was challenged to grow? The people you choose to spend time with will change who you are.

Your view of others is influenced by how you view yourself. For example, if you are uncomfortable around people, it is a statement about you and the way you look at people. Your viewpoint is the cause. Since this is true, don't attempt changing other people. Focus on yourself. Changing yourself in to the person you desire to be, will effect how you see others. And this change will modify the way you interact with others in all your relationships.

Author's Bio: 

Richard Highsmith, rick@qualityteambuilding.com, is President of Quality Team Building. He has twenty-five years experience training and coaching. He has built and sold two successful businesses. To learn more about becoming a team leader visit our website at http://www.qualityteambuilding.com or call Rick toll-free at 1-888-484-8326 X101.