I learned a few things about myself yesterday at work.
I’m extroverted, optimistic, versatile and spontaneous. I’m also playful, high-spirited and practical. I can misapply my many talents, becoming overextended, scattered and undisciplined. I constantly seek new and exciting experiences, but can become distracted and exhausted by staying on the go. I typically have problems with impatience and impulsiveness. At my best, I focus my talents on worthwhile goals, become appreciative, joyous and satisfied.
All of this is true if you subscribe to the Enneagram Test, which has divided very distinctive personalities into nine groups. I found out I’m what’s known as a seven, or rather, “the enthusiast.” This was part of a workshop put on by a co-worker and her husband yesterday at work.
I’ll be honest and say I don’t generally vibe the self-help, personal-development thing. That’s the book section I roll my eyes at, leaving that quackery to the Oprah set.
Why was I open to taking the Enneagram? To learn more about myself, I guess. I think I know what I’m about, what makes me tick, my strengths and weaknesses, but I’m coming from a pretty subjective point-of-view. The test, itself, took less than five minutes. (You can find an online version here.)
I learned sevens like myself have a basic fear of being deprived or experiencing emotional pain. Our basic desire is to be satisfied and content and to have our needs fulfilled. Our key motivations include maintaining freedom and happiness, avoiding missing out on worthwhile experiences, keeping ourselves excited and occupied, and avoiding and discharging pain.
All of these descriptions felt eerily…me.
My co-worker’s husband, a practicing therapist and family counselor, encouraged when it comes to the Enneagram, “carry it lightly.” So, I don’t necessarily identify with all of a seven’s attributes, but I’ve got to admit, a lot of the aforementioned really resonated with me. He also said we carry each of the nine personalities, but our number is the lens through which we see the world. Age and experience can and will change our number. This test is, in no way, an attempt to put people in a box.
The Enneagram is big at my workplace, where my managers and co-workers casually refer to each other’s numbers, or even rationalize the decisions and behaviors of our higher-ups by what number they are. Yesterday, I heard “______ walks slouched over and awkwardly because he’s a five. He’s so cerebral, he doesn’t really pay attention to his physical appearance.”
If you’re repulsed by this idea, I have a sneaking suspicion it’s because you disagree with pre-judgments based on silly little tests. I’m the same way. I have a hard time believing there are only nine personalities. I’m sure the Enneagram is flawed in several other ways, too. I’ve got to say though, the last 24 hours, I’ve been toying with how what I’m doing or what excites me relates to my personality as “the enthusiast.”
For instance, why do I enjoy ridiculous gangster rap more than Elliot Smith or Jeff Buckley? Easy — I have a fear of avoiding emotional pain. Why am I always doing something like Facebook, Twitter, blogging, gym, reading, etc.? Fear of being bored. I need to be occupied.
Look, take the test above, find your number, and read an article or two on what your number means. You can completely write it off or give it a chance. It’s not like you have to wear the number as a scarlet letter. My co-worker and her husband — and I have to say, these are two very normal, keel people — swear the Enneagram has been helpful in their everyday life as individuals, as workers and as a couple. I don’t expect this to be the transformative experience it has been for them, but I’ve got no fear of knowing myself a little better.
What’s stopping you?