I’ve been told that the key to true inner happiness and insane joy resides in the ability to stand firmly within the paradox: “I’m perfect as I am” and, simultaneously, “I must grow and change.” If you take these two concepts and allow them to stand side by side, you can believe in yourself, in your abilities, and in your own innate goodness, while understanding there is plenty of room for continual growth and improvement.
Part of my personal growth mission is to find tools that speak to that paradox, tools that will help me celebrate who I am while motivating me to become a better version of myself. One such tool is the Enneagram Personality Test.
Enneagram personality typing was created in the 1960s as part of a system for attaining self-actualization, drawing from a variety of spiritual traditions around the world. Even if you don’t embrace the spiritual tenants on which the Enneagram Test is based, the psychology behind Enneatyping is sound and practical. The Enneagram groups people by nine basic motivations that unconsciously affect choices and habits. You’ll find a brief description of those nine types here. Everyone is driven by different needs and desires, and everyone reacts to situations in different ways. Everyone can feel any of these motivations at times, but they tend toward one which shapes their worldview so deeply they may not even realize other people are coming from a completely different way of thinking.
What makes Enneatyping unique among personality typing is it focuses not so much on WHAT you do, but HOW and WHY you do what you do. Your core motivation manifests in certain patterns of behavior, but people of the same type might not necessarily look exactly alike on a checklist of traits. Each type has the potential for great good and great evil, depending on how they’re controlled by their motivations.
The test does a nice job of pointing out your strengths, what you’re good at, and how those qualities show up in positive ways in your life. While cheering your good qualities, however, the Enneagram also shows the shadow side, ways in which your routine way of approaching the world might present problems or trouble in your personal and professional lives. And that’s why I really like this test: It provides an acknowledgment of one’s own darkness without putting out or obscuring the power and strength of one’s own light.
You can find an online version of the Enneagram Test here. If you want to delve more deeply, two great books on Enneatyping are The Enneagram in Love and Work, by Helen Palmer, and The Essential Enneagram, by Doctors David Daniels and Virginia Price.
The Enneagram can be used any number of ways: to provide self-awareness; to better understand your friends and loved ones; to improve your work performance; and/or to enhance your romantic relationships. I value it primarily as a tool to learn about myself and how to bring a few of my shadows into the light. And we could all use more light in our quests for growth.