Personal Growth Recommendations
Don’t know your Enneagram Type?
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To help you understand your type in more depth we have put on this site a sample of the material from our Enneagram books. By using the Enneagram as a guide to observing yourself from moment to moment and from day to day, you will have a method of personal development that will eventually be personally and spiritually transformative.
The degree of awareness that you are able to bring to yourself as you “catch yourself in the act” and see your personality patterns at work is the degree to which your personal growth will occur. You actually do not have to “do” anything: just show up and become aware of yourself and your personality’s habitual routines—without acting them out, of course.
To benefit fully from the following recommendations for personal growth for each type, be sure that you have typed yourself correctly. You can take the independently scientifically validated Riso-Hudson Enneagram Type Indicator (RHETI, Version 2.5) here.
We recommend the following tools for personal development. This material has been taken from our book, The Wisdom of the Enneagram (Bantam, 1999, pages 345-347).
Seven Tools for Personal Growth
To use the Enneagram for personal growth, we need more than interesting information about the nine types. This map of the soul can become useful for us only when we combine it with key personal growth techniques. To this end, we offer seven tools that we have found indispensable for spiritual development.
- Seeking Truth
If we are interested in personal growth, no element is more important than developing a love of truth. Seeking the truth means being curious about what is going on in ourselves and around us, not settling for the automatic answers our personality feeds us. If we observe ourselves, we will see that many of the stock explanations that we give ourselves for our behavior or for the actions of others are a form of resistance. They are a way of avoiding seeing more deeply into our current state. For example, one stock answer might be, “I am really angry at my father,” but a deeper truth might be that I really love him and desperately want his love. Both levels of truth might be difficult for our personality to accept. It could take a long time to admit that we are angry with our father—and even longer to acknowledge the love beneath the anger.As we learn to accept what is real in the present moment, we are more able to accept whatever arises in us, because we know that it is not the whole of us. The truth encompasses both our fearful reactions and the greater resources of our soul. While our automatic reactions can derail our search for the truth, acknowledging their presence brings us closer to the truth. When we are willing to be with the whole truth—whatever it is—we have more inner resources available to deal with whatever we are facing.
- “Not Doing”
The process of spiritual growth sometimes seems paradoxical because we speak of struggle and effort as well as of allowing, accepting, and letting go. The resolution of these apparent opposites lies in the concept of “not doing.” Once we understand “not doing,” we see that the real struggle is to relax into greater awareness so that we can see the manifestations of our personality. By neither acting on our automatic impulses nor by suppressing them, we begin to understand what is causing them to arise. Not acting on our impulses creates openings through which we can catch glimpses of what we are really up to. Those glimpses often become some of our most important personal growth lessons.
- Willing to be Open
One of the primary functions of the personality is to separate us from various aspects of our own true nature. It causes us to limit our experience of ourselves by blocking from awareness any parts of ourselves that do not fit our self-image. By relaxing our bodies, quieting the chatter in our minds, and allowing our hearts to be more sensitive to our situation, we open up to the very inner qualities and resources, which can help us grow.Every moment has the possibility of delighting us, nurturing us, supporting us—if we are here to see it. Life is a tremendous gift, but most of us are missing it because we are watching a “mental movie” of our lives instead. As we learn to trust in the moment and to value awareness, we learn how to turn off the internal movie projector and start living a much more interesting life—the one we are actually starring in.
- Getting Proper Support
The more support we have for our personal development, the easier our process will be. If we are living or working in dysfunctional environments, personal growth is not impossible, but it is more difficult. Most of us cannot leave our jobs or our families so easily, even if we are having difficulties with them, although we can seek out others who give us encouragement and act as witnesses to our growth. Beyond this, we can find groups, attend workshops, and put ourselves in situations that foster our real development. Getting support also entails structuring our days in ways that leave room for the things that nurture our souls.
- Learning from Everything
Once we have involved ourselves in the process of personal growth, we understand that whatever is occurring in the present moment is what we need to deal with right now. And whatever is arising in our hearts or minds is the raw material that we can use for our growth. It is an extremely common tendency to flee from what we are actually facing into our imagination, romanticizing or dramatizing our situation, justifying ourselves, or even escaping into “spirituality.” Staying with our real experience of ourselves and our situation will teach us exactly what we need to know for growth.
- Cultivating a Real Love of Self
It has been said many times that we cannot love others if we do not love ourselves. But what does this mean? We usually think that it has something to do with having self-esteem or with giving ourselves emotional “goodies” to compensate for our feelings of deficiency. Perhaps, but one central aspect of a mature love of ourselves is caring about our growth sufficiently not to flee from the discomfort or pain of our actual condition. We must love ourselves enough not to abandon ourselves—and we abandon ourselves to the degree that we are not fully present to our own lives. When we are caught up in worry, fantasy, tension and anxiety, we become dissociated from our bodies and our feelings—and ultimately, from our true nature.True love of self also entails a profound acceptance of ourselves—returning to Presence and settling into ourselves as we actually are without attempting to change our experience. It is also aided by seeking the company of people who possess some degree of this quality themselves.
- Having a Practice
Most spiritual teachings stress the importance of some kind of practice, be it meditation, prayer, yoga, relaxation, or movement. The important thing is to set aside some time each day to reestablish a deeper connection with our true nature. Regular practice (combined with participation in some kind of teaching or group) serves to remind us over and over again that we are hypnotized by our personality. Spiritual practice interferes with our deeply ingrained habits and gives us opportunities to wake up from our trance more often and for longer periods of time. Eventually, we understand that every time we engage in our practice we learn something new, and every time we neglect our practice we miss an opportunity to allow our lives to be transformed.A major obstacle to regular practice is the expectation of the personality that we attain specific personal growth results, and, ironically, this is especially true if we have made significant breakthroughs in our spiritual growth. The personality seizes on breakthroughs and wants to recreate them on demand. This is not possible because breakthroughs occur when we are completely open to the present moment, while anticipating a certain payoff distracts us from experiencing how we actually are. In this moment, a new gift or insight is available—although most likely not the one that was available last week. Furthermore, the personality uses our breakthroughs as justifications to stop practicing saying, “Great! You’ve had a breakthrough! Now you’re ‘fixed’ and you don’t need to do this anymore.”
Along with our regular daily practice, life presents us with many opportunities to see our personality in action and to allow our essential nature to come forth and transform our personality. But it is not enough merely to think about personal development or to talk about it or to read books about it. Procrastination is a great defense of the ego. The only time to use the tools of personal growth is now.
For each of the nine Enneagram types we have assembled five individual recommendations for personal growth. These are part of the ten recommendations that can be found in the second edition of Understanding the Enneagram (Houghton Mifflin, 2000, pages 327-354). Six more recommendations for each individual type can be found in The Wisdom of the Enneagram.
Keeping these recommendations in mind can serve as a “wake up call” to you to help you identify your major personality patterns, to suggest what you can do to avoid their pitfalls, and how you can become more aware and awake in your daily life and relationships.
Personal Growth Recommendations by Enneagram Type
- Type 1 The Reformer
- Type 2 The Helper
- Type 3 The Achiever
- Type 4 The Individualist
- Type 5 The Investigator
- Type 6 The Loyalist
- Type 7 The Enthusiast
- Type 8 The Challenger
- Type 9 The Peacemaker
Remember that there are more, completely different type-specific recommendations for growth in Understanding the Enneagram and in The Wisdom of the Enneagram. You might also want to use the type-specific “releases and affirmations” found in Enneagram Transformations in your daily practice and reflection. Remember also to take our validated RHETI Enneagram Test to discover or confirm your personality type, or to help you type someone else.