Excitement is often overlooked as a driving force in our Enneagram style. When I coach clients, I probe for what excites them. I often find a polarity between excitement and security.
New Year’s Day is an exciting time, because we culturally see it as starting over in some way. Freshness is exciting.
I’d like to point out three or four ways excitement cuts both ways…Begin with mystical experiences. William James, the great psychologist of the early 20th century, really described religious fervor in terms of excitement. I’m mostly in favor of that, but look at the foaming-at- the- mouth excitement of fundamentalists, both Christian and Muslim. You can’t deny the energy.
Another excitement is war. Americans love to see war on TV, video games, and news broadcasts. When veterans get together, their war was the most intense part of their life and the bonding endures forever because of that.
It is New Year’s and so we have the bowl movement. Fan is short for “fanatic” and the excitement of someone running down the field grips people in ways that are all exciting – either hoping he will get caught or not.
Sex is usually exciting –every writer knows that if the plot needs some excitement, a little primitive carnal pleasure will hold the reader’s attention.
So now that you’re a little more aware of how important excitement is, when you make your New Year’s Resolution, the gut check I encourage you to make is whether or not you are excited and whether or not you think you can sustain some excitement around it. If your resolution is grim, your prospect is dim.
So what excites you — really?

Words, words, words

I unearth people’s Enneagram styles merely with words. That’s usually difficult, if not impossible. It works for me because I don’t require many words, I require symbolic ones: favorite activities, what kind of animal, how do you spend free time, etc.
There is another good way to learn Enneagram styles. Watch a movie in which you know an actor’s style. Turn off the volume. See how s/he communicates with pace, space, posture, expression etc. Now you’re seeing not the cerebral content but the energetic expression.
And if you’re in a coaching situation, notice when the style accomplishes what the actor wants and when the style is self-defeating.
And if you can do it, if the movie is a drama, watch it again and listen to the music as your focus and see how the sound track expresses the enneagram style. This will work only in a few cases, but when it does, it is powerful. It works mainly when the music is used to reinforce the actor (not the mood of the movie or an action scene).

Happy? New Year

All right, get set to make your New Year Resolutions. May I make some Enneagram suggestions? Our style has so many neurological pathways grooved into our brain that change is difficult.
So make your change small. Don’t “learn Arabic and become a gourmet cook” (an actual 1/3 of her resolutions a while back).
Make your resolution small. Make your resolution something that depends on your effort (making money, for example, may be dependent on a number of extrinsic factors).
But, and here is where your Enneagram style is a factor: make your resolution symbolic. If you are a Four, decide to do something that erodes your habit of comparing yourself to others, like stopping reading fashion magazines or sports articles. If you are a Seven, make a to do list of what one or two things you will finish that day.


When an actor reaches celebrity status, she can pick roles that attract her the most and these often reflect an Enneagram preference (often the central style, but also a wing or security point).
Enter Emma Thompson. She is a One in real life and if you would like to see her behaving like an enlightened One, see Eleanor in Sense and Sensibility. She is restrained, dutiful and exudes virtuous responsibility. In a made-for-TV movie, Wit, she is much less evolved, and suffers from an inner rigidity.
Yesterday I saw her in the movie, Saving Mr. Banks . She is severe, opinionated, hyper-critical and her thinking is black and white. She plays an entranced style One. If you would like to get a flavor of the bleak side style One, you can get it here.

Attention, please

Enneagram students repeat solemnly that our enneagram patterns begin with attention. That is true. But, if you would like a light-hearted and profoundly serious demonstration of the power of attention, please go to this TED talk on attention by, of all things, a pickpocket.

How we do it

It is understood among story tellers (read a novel to confirm this) that the more detail a story has, the more believable it is. Read The Story of Pi and his brilliant use of detail makes you think he really spent several months with a tiger in his boat.
We do the same thing inwardly. Our Enneagram style is tethered to a story we tell ourselves about ourselves. Listen to someone tell of an event and then add, “That’s the story of my life!” That event fits into her inner narrative.
The more often and with the more detail we tell ourselves a story about ourselves, the deeper we go into our trance. “I’ll never be successful because my mother always called me stupid.” “I’ll never find a girl because …….fill in the blank.” “I’ll always be fat because….”
Now notice that your story is about what happened before as an explanation of what’s going on now. That’s why it is so difficult and important to be present in the moment. To be present, to look with beginner’s eyes as the metaphor goes, is to try to experience something without reference to the story from your childhood (or some place). That takes a sustained conscious effort because you are rejecting your own story, you are trying to free yourself from your past. Our Enneagram style is a younger part of ourself, our childhood story still in control. When we are really in our Enneagram trance, still reliving our infantile story over and over, people are apt to suggest that we grow up. Good idea.
So for your homework, see if you can articulate your story in a line or two. Does your story have a happy ending? Or would you like to rewrite it?

Information age

My best understanding of food is not that it is fuel. The old paradigm of fuel in fuel burned (calories in calories out) has now been discredited in the better websites and books. Food is essentially information.
OK, so the biologists tell us we are basically energy patterns (we turn over the physical aspects every so often, from once a week to seven years). Now food is technical information to direct, support and lubricate our energy pattern.
Once you assimilate that, then the thoughts that we think and the emotions we have become hugely important. We change the information structure that is our essence, probably.
So one of the best ways to improve our life by changing our behavior is to ask what we are thinking as we fill in the blank. Specific example: When we are afraid to talk to someone — what do we tell ourselves is going to happen? Then, after we get clear on that, then ask another information question: “What do we want to happen as a result of what we are thinking?” If there is a disconnect, now you know where to insert the lever of change.

Science. Whose?

Every so often I’m asked if the Enneagram is scientific. Let’s assume we can agree that science is based on evidence. So far so good.
Now let’s get clear about what is evidence. The last two people who asked me this question insisted that evidence (often called “hard” evidence, as opposed to squishy) has be what we call sensory-motor (touch, sight etc) or computer verified.
Technically this is called “reductionist” science. You cannot “prove” most of life. Is Mozart good music? Is the personal you ate with last a friend or enemy? Is Rush Limbaugh deranged? Is Carlos Beltran worth tens of millions of dollars to the Yankees? These are crucial decisions, but according to the reductionist science people, we have NO evidence to base our conclusions on. We can have opinions, we can make life and death decisions, but we are not scientific.
There is another approach. If you take human experience as evidence of anything, then you are being scientific, just not reducing human experience to molecular activity. You see this in Time magazine frequently. The tell-tale phrase is “nothing but.” Your passion for your loved on is “nothing but” a chemical reaction. (Do you have good chemistry?) Compassion is “nothing but” the function of your mirror neurons.
Think of it this way. Put your starting point in the form of a sentence.
Only that is true which can be proved by senses or computers. (The starting point for reductionist science).
Can you prove that sentence? If you can’t, it must not be true, at least not scientifically true. This is important because in the US, we conflate “true” or “intelligent” and scientific.” If something does not require intelligence, we say “Well, it’s not (rocket) science.” We never say, “Well, it’s not Arabic grammar or a Bach fugue.”
Therefore: The Enneagram is scientific if you accept human experience as evidence. If you don’t, it is not.
And I don’t care. I will continue to employ it with considerable success and pleasure.

Be specific, you’ll be terrific

Because an enneagram style contains a number of generalizations about life, and generalizations are exaggerations (people always…fill in personal bigotry here), a lot of time you can achieve growth by distinguishing. People “often” or “sometimes” or my favorite, “except when they don’t.”
So. Twos generalize that “the best way to be loved is to meet people’s needs.” Except when it isn’t. Except when you consider what people with which needs with which of my resources at what time under what conditions. Conditions like my feelings, my time, my energy, my ability. Being in your enneagram trance is precisely NOT looking at specifics. At the party, it is a reflex: greet, meet (needs). At work, greet, meet. In the kitchen, greet, meet. One size fits all – the prechristmas shopping generalization. In the trance of our style, we don’t really respond to specifics, we have one generalized response to differing situations.


A long-time principle of debate is “never deny, seldom affirm and always distinguish.” When a client generalizes — a sure way to muddy thought and communication at times — you can help with distinctions. Our Enneagram style is a structured bundle of generalizations: sixes don’t trust, fives don’t have enough information, etc. So when you find yourself or your client (it’s dangerous if you do it with friends or family 🙂 generalizing, see if you can make some distinctions. Healthy Sixes do trust traffic lights, the affection of their pets and Steven Colbert…