The Enneagram is a personality typology based on the diagram above.
A key insight of the Enneagram is that while you have access to infinite expanses of consciousness, your inner life tends to confine itself to certain patterns. When you’re stressed, you act out in patterned ways. And when you’re “present,” you manifest virtues in patterned ways.
Paradoxically, your patterns are both universally human and specific to your personality type. “Ennea” means 9 in Greek, and the Enneagram describes 9 basic personality types. They are very accurate.
At its core, the Enneagram is a tool for three things.
We tend not to notice our patterns. But they are always with us. The point of the Enneagram is to help you to see your patterns, to see how they run you, and ultimately, to expand beyond them. In so doing, you can experience the freedom, love, and embodied presence that is your true nature.
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So what do you do, Josh?
You can read about the Enneagram on your own, but you get SO much more out of it with a guide. That’s where I come in. I help you learn the Enneagram in a way that transforms you.
What kind of transformation are you talking about?
Used poorly, the Enneagram is a filing system for humans. “I’m a 7, and my business parter is a 2. That’s why we act like this!” As such, the Enneagram can be fun to talk about; it can even be interesting and insightful. But using the Enneagram as a neat party trick to categorize people accomplishes the opposite of its goal — it reinforces your patterns instead of loosening them.
The Enneagram is dense with powerful insights about human nature, and they are not to be trivialized.
Used well, the Enneagram starts by helping you understand yourself and others. So of course, “typing” others is a natural part of the learning process. But then it goes deeper.
When you see how your core fears and desires drive you, you start to see it for others too. This is how the Enneagram touches your heart.
It can be very moving to finally understand the fears and desires of, say, your sister, or your mom, or your colleague. This awareness is itself transformative, but then it goes deeper still.
Ultimately, you can discover, in a felt way, that your patterns do not have to hold you hostage. You can cultivate an inner life, do inner work, and transcend your patterns. In so doing, you can taste the expansiveness that is your true nature. This can be the most profound and transformative experience of all.
That’s nice, but is it practical?
Since the personality is always with us, the Enneagram is inexhaustibly applicable in any human context–particularly relationships, teamwork, group dynamics, leadership, and management.
Wherever there are humans doing things, human patterns are at work. We are either aware of them or we aren’t.
Consider, for a moment, that our instinctual drives (for well-being, belonging, and sexual chemistry) and our core desires (to be in control, to feel valuable, to feel unique, to understand reality, to be fulfilled… just to name a few) operate always in our subconscious, and differently for each individual.
Couples often live their entire lives not understanding their own patterns or those of their partners. The same is true in teams of all kinds. The frustrations and inefficiencies that this causes are too vast to quantify.
The bigness of this concept is the reason why it is hard to articulate the practicality of the Enneagram. There are too many permutations of relationships and team dynamics to capture in a soundbite. But here’s my best try:
The Enneagram is like a pair of glasses. Most of us don’t realize that we’ve been seeing blurry our whole lives. But when we put glasses on, we are astonished to discover the world in high definition.
Couples who understand the Enneagram have a common language to articulate their needs and navigate their relationship. Teams who understand it have a common touchstone to understand what’s important to each member and what’s required for maximum productivity and fulfillment.
Human consciousness touches every human endeavor. Understanding it is the most practical thing there is.
So what do you “do” with the Enneagram?
You don’t “do” anything with the Enneagram per se, just like you don’t “do” anything with a pair of glasses other than put them on your face.
The first phase of any inner work journey is radical noticing. Glasses help us notice better. Once we put them on, we see things we couldn’t before: “Oh, I’m a 3. That’s why I get so angry when my boss pushes back against my ideas… it feels like he’s questioning my competence! Maybe it’s not as personal as I thought…”
Again — awareness is itself transformative. This is because observation changes systems, especially when the system is yourself. Awareness gives us wonderful things — more power and more patience, more equanimity and more love, more humility and more compassion.
If we observe ourselves clearly, we notice that while our patterns relax when we begin to see them clearly, they do not do not leave us. But now that we see them, we can work with them.
We do this by cultivating presence and grounding through our three centers — our body, heart, and mind. This is the praxis of the Enneagram and the meaning of inner work, and it can take many forms.
If you’d like to find out more about this, please consider attending one of my Enneagram workshops or enrolling in a coaching program with me.
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I absolutely loved my first deep dive into the Enneagram, and Josh was a fantastic facilitator. I will use what I learnt on our retreat in my daily interactions for the rest of my life, and I recommend the class to anyone looking to deepen their understanding of human behavior/interactions.~ Michael Hobbs, Stanford Graduate School of Business ’17, New Zealand Pro Rugby Player
Wow, Josh knows his material. I really think we should teach this stuff in all school and churches. This class was beautifully enlightening and informative. His way of instructing a down to earth spiritual growth class blew me away.~ Rachel, Fitness Coach, Core Body Training