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“Life Reimagined” and the enneagram

Richard Leider, author of “Life Reimagined’ and numerous other books, was the last speaker at the recent Hudson Institute of Coaching’s annual Learning Conference, and he is a clearly polished presenter who manages to keep it real. Writing my last blog (the 4th) in this series of how each presenter’s work links with the Enneagram is challenging because Leider is so prolific, with so many concepts that lend themselves easily to integration with the Enneagram.

As a result, I am going to keep it simple and, hopefully, compelling.

Concept 1 | the power of words
Leider, who has been a lead consultant in helping AARP, has helped this company reimagine themselves and help their constituency (people over 55 or so) reimagine their futures. Note the word retirement is not used, not just because fewer people can afford to retire these days, but because people over 55 still have a lot of life left. To retire means to withdraw from action or to retreat or to stop working. To reimagine your life is entirely different and answer this question: what do I want to do that will give me meaning and satisfaction? With reimagine, there are possibilities; with retire, there are very few. Leider spent some time talking about other words for reimagine he chose not to use, recreate being one of them. Recreate connotes having to start over, start from scratch, to create something entirely new. Reimagine means none of these things.

Enneagram connection
What if we examined the words we use with respect to the Enneagram, to understand their meaning and if it is a meaning we want. Here are some examples:
Tool | Many people refer to the Enneagram as a “tool,” but think about it. “Tools” are mechanical, not human. “Tools” are used to fix something broken; are we broken? “Tools” are generally used for only a few things – think hammer, screwdriver, saw – but the Enneagram is not a solution to only one thing; it is useful in so many arenas. So I never use the word “tool” to describe the Enneagram. I use the word path or map, but not “tool.”
Unhealthy-Healthy | Way too many people use the words “healthy” and “unhealthy” to describe people they consider to be more “well-worked” than others. But really, it is a highly judging binary way of looking at type and development and is often used by people who consider themselves to be more “evolved” than the person they are calling “unhealthy.” It may also mean they just don’t like that person and are using the Enneagram as a short code or an excuse for this dislike. I use the term self-mastery (low, moderate and high) instead, with most of us, like the bell-shaped curve, being somewhere in the moderate range. The advantage of this language is that it enables a way to discuss different levels of development without the sting of “I am better than you!”
Finding | Leider referred to the language of “finding.” “Finding yourself” suggests you didn’t have a self. “Finding your type” similarly, means it is obscure in some way. Better is “Uncovering your type,” suggesting it is there and available, and the layers need to be peeled away for it to be visible, or to use “Discovering your type,” suggesting it is there and available for the journey!

Concept 2 | the power of motivation | pain versus possibility
Leider is a master of meaningful phrases, one set of which offers a way to examine what motivates us. To quote him directly, “Are we pushed by pain, or are we pulled by possibility?” In addition to this being a crucial question for each of us to contemplate as individuals, it is just as essential to consider as we assist others in their growth. Although fear and pain can be motivators, isn’t it more inspiring to be motivated by possibility?

Enneagram connection
So many trainers and coaches teach the Enneagram by focusing on the downsides of each type, the neurotic aspects of each type, the idea that there is something wrong with our type. I hear this from people all the time because I try very hard not to do this. For many people, the idea that there isn’t something wrong with them is a relief. However, the answer isn’t to only present the gifts of each type because to do so doesn’t offer the rich spiritual and psychological development that is the essence of the Enneagram. It’s more about how we communicate about Enneagram-based growth areas. For example, when we discuss the development areas of Ones, words and phrases such as “reacts quickly” is much easier to accept as non-judging than is “reactive.” For Twos, as another example, “Tacitly expects appreciation or validation of self-worth” for what the offer others has the same meaning as “gives to get,” but it is far more clear and also less harsh. Why cause pain when we can use words that convey possibility.

A second way of understanding the pain versus possibility concept is to think of each type and how types are driven to grow by pain versus by possibility. For example, Threes tend to really grow when they “hit the wall,” when they feel devastated by an actual failure or when they are at a loss for goals, in which case they become disoriented. All this is pain. But what if Threes could see their way through possibility, the possibility of freedom to find out and execute what they really want, not what they should want, or to not feel beholden to achievement and performance but instead, to experience the pleasure of relaxing and being valued by themselves and others for their “being” rather than their “doing.”

As teachers of the Enneagram or as professionals who use the Enneagram in their coaching, what if we tried to ignite the power of possibility when we use the Enneagram? What if we could infuse Fours with the pull of exquisite serenity instead of the push and drama of suffering? What if we could ignite the thirst and pull in Fives for full engagement rather than the push from isolation and emptiness? What if we could play on the strings of trust in self and creative problem solving for deep meaning in Sixes rather than the push of uncontrolled fear? What if we could inspire Sevens through the pull of true joy through wholeness and the pure satisfaction of completion rather than the push of getting fired or not being promoted, becoming ill, or being depressed? What if we could inspire Eights through the pull of letting go, being about to have others “watch their backs,” and surrendering to their innocence rather than the push of becoming dangerously ill, looking around and finding no one is with them, or continuously being told they are “too much” for others to engage with closely. And what if Nines could find their voice and the ability to act without waiting from the pull of being embodied rather than the push of not being able to assert themselves in both important and less significant situations?

Concept 3 | the power of 3
Leider mentioned the idea of 3 many times in his presentation, and the power of 3 also shows up in his books. On the most basic level, he says to teach ideas in sets of 3 because that is what the human brain can absorb and remember. Most excellent presenters have either learned this from experience or read it somewhere, tried it, and found out its effectiveness.

Leider utilizes the power of 3 in his “Purpose Formula,” a way to uncover your life’s calling, and this holds true at any time in your life, but especially when you’re engaged in “Life Reimagined.”
G + P + V = C
G = your gifts, strengths and how you do and could use them
P = your passion, what you care about, the areas in which you can put your gifts to work
V = your values, your temperament, how and where you want to live in the world
C = your calling, your bigger purpose

Try the formula above out on yourself!

Enneagram connection
Even better, try this in your programs. Ask participants to complete G + P + V = C individually, then put people in type groups and discuss their answers, seeking to identify similarities and differences in their responses. Because these groups are composed of people who are the same Enneagram type, there will be many more common answers than different ones. This is almost always the case, but should be especially so since gifts, passion and values so clearly emerge from our type structure.

But how about taking this a step further to aspirations, aspirations or gifts we don’t think we have but would love to possess. What about passions that we don’t tend to pursue but we aspire to have? What about additional values that we’d love to have on our list, but haven’t made it there, yet? This add-on – aspired gifts, passions and values – takes this activity from “as is” into “transformation.”

In addition, those of us in the Enneagram world are no strangers to the power of 3: the central triangle connecting 3 points, 9, 3 and 6; the 3 Centers of Intelligence – Head, Heart, and Body; the 3 Enneagram types formed within each of the 3 Centers of Intelligence – Head (5, 6, and 7), Heart (2, 3, and 4); Body (8, 9 and 1). There are so many other 3s or triangles in the Enneagram, the possibilities of 3 are endless.

But what if we taught our programs in 3s: 3 main points per topic; 3 mini-activities within every activity; 3 mays to describe each type? People might remember everything just a bit more!

Ginger Lapid-Bogda PhD, the author of four best-selling Enneagram-business books, is a speaker, consultant, trainer, and coach. She provides certification programs for professionals around the world who want to bring the Enneagram into organizations with high-impact business applications, and is past-president of the International Enneagram Association. Visit her website: The Enneagram in Business.com. ginger@theenneagraminbusiness.com

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