When we think about our personalities (and their cultivation and maturation) as something we are responsible for, important questions may flood upon us. If we slacken in our responsibility, not only will we have to live with the consequences each day, but others will be denied the contributions we might otherwise be in a position to make if we actually made something of ourselves. The fact of the matter is that authentic cultivation of the personality involves significant exertion, broad experience of our fellow human beings, risk, and discipline. I suspect that leisure and a certain degree of economic freedom may also be necessary for the cultivation of the personality, since a life that is severely burdened by poverty and by oppressive energy-absorbing toil will enjoy only restricted opportunity for learning, reflection, the development of one’s given talents, and for the civilized social intercourse that are essential to the full and rounded development of the personality.
But there are certainly other forms of oppression and other limitations (besides poverty and time-and-energy-devouring toil) that will stand in the way of self-cultivation. What first leaps to mind are the common vices – sloth, bitterness, restfulness, all forms of addiction, a weakness for distractions – along with psychological problems that cripple or scatter the will: chronic depression, apathy, low self-esteem, misanthropy, paranoia, etc.
The personalities of some individuals get off to an unfavorable start – with handicaps that must be surmounted before this dark lead may be transformed into shimmering gold. The learning, the reflection, the self-discipline, the courage, and patience required for such life-altering transformations are by no means trivial. What is it that props up and sustains the will-to-transform throughout this lengthy period of inner reformation and plodding growth? It can only be an inspiring vision or foretaste of the alluring goal before the mind’s eye.