Developing Self Awareness through the Enneagram
After almost 20 years of “getting to know myself”, I thought I had a pretty good idea of what made me tick. I figured I was aware of my strengths and shortfalls, and I tried to design my life in a way that took advantage of those truths.
I thought I was doing okay. Until I discovered the Enneagram.
My first reaction to learning my personality type was a bit of disbelief. Whilst there were parts that I could clearly relate to, there were others that I didn’t. I felt uncomfortable and with that, curious to understand more. “I need to make sense of this”, was my response, not realising that moving into the head space of theoretical thinking and rationalising, was further evidence of my types’ defence tactic, just me falling back into old habits. Rather than experience and feel my way through it all, it was easier to understand.
And so started my Enneagram journey to self discovery.
Once I let the initial confusion simmer a bit, I started recognising how present and pervasive it was in all areas of my life.
I started looking back on my past behaviour and seeing precisely how it was motivated. I noticed where I was holding myself back in my work, and how I could so easily get hooked back into old, familar patterns. And I started seeing how it was affecting my relationships and keeping me in an unwanted holding pattern.
When I started introducing the Enneagram to my clients, I noticed similar shifts. Yes, a series of coaching sessions would have eventually opened us up to these insights, but by using the Enneagram as our foundation, it felt like we had direct access to their deepest truths.
By using this approach, we got to the heart of their challenges quickly, and we got their deeply. And with that, my clients could learn how to get unstuck and the real shifts could happen.
Take Taryn, for example. She’s a whirlwind of energy and a master story-teller. When we first met, she’d been running her own business since her early 20s and had a team of 8 freelancers working with her, united in their common vision of bringing heart into organisations around the country.
When our sessions began, she was exhausted. Her previously high energy vibe wasn’t there and she was at a point of considering pulling the plug altogether. She felt pulled in several different directions from various members of her team wanting to learn from her, and at the same time, she felt herself chasing new ideas and opportunities.
Taryn identified as an Enneagram Type 7 - the Enthusiastic Visionary. Through exploring herself and her business through this lens she realised:
She tended to live in the future zone, constantly chasing new ideas, new opportunities, new possibilities. As a result, she was struggling with how to prioritise, how to focus and how to follow through on ideas.
She was motivated by the concept of freedom and joy, and yet her current business model was leaving her without either…tied down, restricted, claustrophobic
She was energised by big ideas and concepts and assumed that the people around her felt the same. What she didn’t know was that her team were frustrated by her scattered thinking and desperate for concrete action plans
By exploring herself through the lens of the Enneagram, and working with its “built-in” personal development plan, Taryn was able to:
Establish firm boundaries for her time. She set up very clear times for engaging with her team, and handed over some of the mentoring responsibility to a trusted senior colleague. She also practiced more frequent “cave time” to reflect on what was going on for her, using the alone time for processing and rebuilding energy
Introduce order and structure into her way of working, seeing it now as a supporting mechanism rather than something to confine her. Through introducing regular team meetings and a defined teaching approach, not only did she free herself up to focus on what inspired her, but her team felt more supported through a clear and ordered process.
And I have many more stories of how this kind of self awareness has been the start of people learning to show up in a different way.
Sometimes its been about communicating better in relatonships. Sometimes its been about improving your relationship with your boss. Or exploring how to listen to your intuition. I’ve seen people learn how to enforce stronger boundaries. Learn to let go of perfectionism. And finally move forward from a place of stuckness. Whatever that stuckness might be.
The Enneagram journey is a life-long exploration of discovery and I’m certainly still learning about its various layers and how this tool can help me in my life, my relationships and in my business. And I certainly still find myself reverting to the tendencies of my personality type, particularly when stressed.
But having awareness around this has changed everything.
It means I can be kinder to myself when it happens, and know that this is a sign of imbalance that needs attention. I can challenge myself on my typcial tendencies, and make sure that I’m choosing from a place of future desire rather than old, entrenched habits. And by knowing exactly where I tend to get tripped up, I can invite in habits to help me move forward.
Because the thing is, I do want to bring about change and I definitely don’t want to stay trapped in the past. I think at some level, we all want that. And learning about ourselves in the very honest, truthful way that the Enneagram opens up, certainly helps us do that.