Tips for Self-Cultivation
The only person you are stuck with forever is yourself. Calls abound for people to discover themselves, but the self is not like a continent or a mineral. A self is not something you discover. A self is something you grow over time. So then, should a person focus their attention on developing a singular self, or cultivating multiple personas? It is easy to tell someone they will reap what they sow, but much more difficult to tell them exactly what to plant and how much of it.
A farmer who plants multiple fields has a chance for a great harvest, if he is willing to put in the extra work. Alas, selves are not like crops. You can’t export yourself for a profit. Growing selves is more like subsistence farming.
In subsistence farming, there isn’t a lot of purpose in growing more than you can eat. A good farmer won’t try to grow thirsty tomatoes in an arid climate. That would be a waste of resources. A farmer who doesn’t like tomatoes shouldn’t try to grow them either, if he knows he will never want to eat them.
If you are going to cultivate multiple selves, be prudent about the type of selves you grow. There is no purpose in developing a super tough guy persona if you don’t plan on getting in any fights. That would be like planting tomatoes you don’t plan to eat.
There is no point in working on your hard working persona if you never plan on getting a job. Or if you simply don’t plan on doing your job.
No matter what he chooses to grow, a good farmer also knows not to plant too many fields. If there are too many crops too take care of, then there is a risk of neglecting them all. The person harvesting multiple selves must be wary of the same pitfall.
If you invest too much in one self or persona you might find down the line that you are not satisfied. If you spread you resources to thin, and try to be everything to everyone, you might end up with no personality at all.
While everyone is different, and there is no psychological Farmer’s Almanac to consult, I recommend focusing on three main selves to cultivate.
First is the work self. This is the you that is you when you are on a mission, or doing important stuff. This version of you should not be focused on frivolity or fun. He should be concerned instead with competence and efficiency in all that he does. He will do whatever it takes to get the job done. Like a special agent with a stern face and cool sunglasses. The greatest joy for the work self should be getting everything finished. When there is no work to be done, then the work self can hibernate, and another self gets to take over.
Second, a person should cultivate a social self. It is perfectly ok for the social self to be concerned with frivolity and fun, especially if you plan on having fun with other people. The social self is the version of you that should care how other people feel, and what other people think. No matter who you are, you are going to need to interact with other people to lead a successful life. Everyone should have a version of themselves that is a “people person.” If only to maximize the benefits of society, and minimize the drawbacks.
No person ever could, nor should, be stuck with other people all the time. So the third self a person should cultivate is the other self. This is the self that has hopes and dreams that have nothing to do with work or other people. This is the persona that daydreams, sings in the shower, or maybe just sits quietly. It is difficult to go into detail about this type of self because it’s different for every person. The idea is to cultivate a self for you and you alone, that neither time nor circumstance can take away.
If you follow this strategy, and try to explain it too other people, they might ask, “What version of the self is the true version? Of the crops you have cultivated, which is the real you?”
The correct answer to this question is: “None of them. I am the farmer.”