One in twenty

OK, so you are a coach or counselor. You have lots of good advice and are quite confident you know what your client, friend, teenager, lover, should do. You tell them. They thank you and go away and do what you said one out of twenty times.
A doctor is a bit like a coach. You bring a problem. You’re in pain or things are working in your protoplasm. He tells you some things to do: what to eat, how to exercise, what supplements, pills or palliatives you can take.

Here’s what one doctor – Melissa Young – had to say about giving advice to her patients.

For some patients, I will admit, I have thrown in the towel. I tell them, they are adults, they can make choices. So long as they understand the consequences of their actions, there is nothing I can do. I have told them to diet, to exercise, to quit smoking, to take their meds, to have their tests done. I have told them that their actions can lead to complications, including things like heart attacks, dialysis, and death. If despite all that they will not listen, then so be it.

I will keep dispensing my advice. I’ll keep making recommendations. And every now and then, I’ll wonder why.
– See more at:

The statistics vary, but about one in twenty will follow advice when it includes a life-style change.
So if you are a coach, you might be giving advice rather low in your choices of helping.
It does help to know the Enneagram. Our Enneagram style usually specifies what we do instead of what the doctor — or coach suggested.

From here to infinity

You never get enough of what you really don’t want. When we are not present to reality, we fulfill our wants with neurotic substitutes. If we can’t talk back to our boss, spouse, neighbor, representative or sister, we will bully, insult, or put down someone else. That someone else is a surrogate and we feel we have to do that. But the original desire – to speak up to — remains unfulfilled. So we do more of the surrogate-bashing.
So, given our Enneagram style, what do we do instead of what we want? Whatever that is, it is an infinite task because we don’t fulfill our real desire.

Me, too

Everyone is talking about the spot of trouble that New Jersey governor has gotten himself into, so I will too.
He had a media reputation for being a straight shooter, a direct, no nonsense powerful man with a bit of a temper. The media presented him also as a micro-manager on top of details and having a fiercely loyal staff. This describes the characteristics of an enlightened style eight.
Then, when some investigations about the traffic jam on the Washington bridge began, we say the low side of style 8. He was punishing of his enemies, held grudges, used power viciously and was a bully. This would be the low side of style eight.
Under stress, our Enneagram styles become more pronounced.

Essentially unclear

When employing the Enneagram in coaching, I never use the term, “essence.” In classical Aristotelian philosophy essence is the defined as “what makes a thing to be itself.” As opposed to “accidents” which things have or do but don’t belong only to that thing. We have skin, but so do Robins and Iguanas. Skin is demonstrably important but it doesn’t make us us or you you.
Our Enneagram style is how we show up in the world. As we tussle with it, we become progressively freer, if all goes well.
I can experience freedom, Essence not so much. When someone writes that they are in touch with their essence, I tend to lose them. I have no experiential reference point. So to remain grounded and an effective coach, I help myself and my clients by pursuing freedom. We can talk emotionally, intellectually and behaviorally about freedom. We can’t about essence.
I am aware of bias, so I might warn you, the heart of the Jewish tradition is the search from freedom. The central event of Exodus is leaving slavery in Egypt. In my Catholic tradition, I trust what Jesus said –“You shall know the truth and the truth shall set you free.”

Works both ways

Our Enneagram style is both our job description and our expectations. We find what we look for, so we get what we expect. We solve our problems (our ego styles are coping mechanisms), so we do what we do best. We feel it as some kind of assignment. Someone has to help out (2) and someone has to be in charge (8) and all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy (7) and on down the line. So try to get in touch with what you expect. It’s an effective way to predict the future.

Walter Mitty

I saw The Secret Life of Walter Mitty (an e-9 in Thurber’s original story). It is about living in fantasy.
I’m pretty sure living in fantasy is the most destructive thing about the United States. Let me give you a couple of examples.
Poverty. The reality is that roughly half of America lives in destructive painful poverty. I watched a few minutes of the Rose Bowl. The revenue from the tickets (hundreds to thousands of dollars a piece), TV rights, parking, programs and fanware will run into tens of millions of dollars. Then the fantasy is layered and you can play “fantasy” football. In reality we are a third world country. In fantasy we have lots of money to play.
Climate change. Practically every one of you knows one of these 3 people: Beyonce, Aaron Rogers or Tom Hanks. These people are entertaining. The french word for entertaining is instructive: divertessement – diversion from reality. Reality check: We are now 1.5 and heading for 2.0 degrees Celsius warmer than normal. How many degrees colder than normal was the Ice Age? Six.
You didn’t know that. That’s the real world.
It is difficult to either see or react to reality. Our Enneagram style is how we make it through life. It is also our fantasy. Living in fantasy is easy and enjoyable, but health and safety, not to mention our deepest pleasure, is found in reality. Coaches love Nike’s slogan, “Just do it,” to get people to break out of daydreaming. Right before you “just do it,” please consider another slogan: “Get real.”

Keep on trackin’

Our Enneagram style is not entirely conscious. But it is clear enough so that when you hear your style described you recognize it.
The more aware we are of our style, the better we can cope with it. But awareness is a tricky thing. Are you aware of being tired or energetic? Yes, intermittently. Are you aware of being bored, of feeling like a victim or being a worrier? Yes, intermittently.
So one thing that make a change easier –presuming you’d like to be a bit easier in your harness – (apologies to Tom Condon’s fine program by that name) would be to pick some characteristic and find a way to quantify and keep track of exercising that characteristic. Take something like the 3 & 4’s habits of comparison. Twice a day,write in a notebook any recollections of comparing yourself. Monitor your language, your emotional reactions, your purchases, your resolutions — whatever works.
People who write about setting goals always tell you to have them measurable. But, remarkably, I don’t see an equal (perhaps expected but not spelled out) emphasis on frequent tracking of how that goal is getting closer. Keeping track is keeping aware. I am not an expert in discipline (I’m a 7, c’mon) but discipline is often just reminding yourself of what you really want. Tracking is a help to do that.


The news is filled with summaries and predictions and hopeful resolutions. January 1st is when we get to start over.
Except it isn’t. One reason we don’t keep our resolutions is that we imagine we are starting from scratch. We aren’t. Our Enneagram habits are neurological grooves and chemically soldered links. We break them and change our inner and outer habits only with a great deal of intelligently focused effort and often a little help from our friends.
Sports are huge at the end of the year. We love sports for many reasons and one of them is you get to start over at 0-0 every time. If you lost by 20 points last week, there is no carry over. Our bank, our relationships, our habits don’t do that. They carry over. And our Enneagram patterns carry over. If you were an over-achieving Three on Dec 31st, that’s what you are the next fresh new year’s day.
So if you’d like 2014 to be a bit better, accept yourself. That’s phase one. Then make one small change that is annoyingly alien to your style. If you are a 5, talk to the cashier at the grocery counter. If you are a Two, don’t. And if you are a Seven like I am, realize that resolutions can be nothing more than another enthusiastic plan. We must make only one small change and install both accounting (keeping track) and accountability.