So is life simple or complex? Who is right, the philosopher Confucius or author Ursula Le Guin? The answer is Yes; both are likely accurate! Here’s how all 9 types can develop their ability to navigate effectively through the complexities and simplicities of life:
Ones | Even though Ones like to know and pursue the correct or best path – and assume there is almost always a best way – they do embrace the complexities of situations; otherwise, practice informs them that the simple path is not always the best path. At the same time, Ones typically pursue action in the form of sequential “to-do” lists that they then implement, checking off the action items once they are completed. Some situations, however, are not so linear; they are actually circular systems, so linear path finding does not work as well as circular paths. So, think circles as well as lines, then form the lists!
Twos | Some Twos live in a world of complexity; few live in a world of simplicity. For many Twos, the context for the complexity is the intricate web of interpersonal relationships, people’s feelings and behaviors, and their own feelings, but usually when they are distressed or very excited. It can help Twos when they (a) simplify the data from relationships and feelings without making it simplistic, and (b) add additional areas to the complexity of situation, going beyond relationships and feelings.
Threes | Some Threes experience and process the world around them in complex ways (sometimes overly complex), while others go straight from A to B (B is the goal; A is that starting place and “to” is the plan). Their plans may not account for the complexity involved in the situation – obstacles, contingencies, delays. Adding some, but not too much, of these complexities makes for a more effective result. Making something more complex than it is, which Threes do when they feel anxious, clouds their ability to move forward. Deal with feelings well, and the anxiety that causes too much complexity will dissolve.
Fours | Fours can make even the simplest things complex; they like it this way. The ruminations are interesting and potentially profound, but these contemplations and analyses, when overdone, stall forward momentum. Keep it simple.
Fives | Fives deal with complexity in a simple way. If this sounds confusing, it really isn’t because they reflect on life with mental acuity such that simplicity emerges. That said, Fives analyze life more as if it were a project plan with horizontal systems, each piece sequential in some way – for example, time sequence, cause and effect, or contingency relationships. To assist in embracing both complexity and simplicity in accurate proportions, Fives can add some systems thinking into their thinking – for example, causal loops – and factor in feelings and perceptions as data points in addition to mental data-based information.
Sixes | Sixes live in an over-abundance of complexity, complete with contingencies, uncertainties, nuances, alternatives, adjustments, recalculations, and more. For Sixes, there’s always more to have thought through. To keep it simple, feel into your body – through breath, walking, being in nature – and look for the simplicity behind the complexity.
Sevens | Never or rarely simple, Sevens would find that very, very boring, unless they have done extensive personal development work. Complexity from the Seven perspective is adding new elements through their rapid associational thinking, feeling and doing process. To find the simplicity in the complexity, Sevens can simply make a decision to stop after a given number of associations, then find the simple patterns underlying their many ideas and experiences.
Eights | Although Eights experience the worlds in which they live, many times, they also make things too simple. For example, when Eights have a strong reaction to someone – and this can be either positive or negative – they take this strong response as a singular response as a true and accurate assessment of the individual. In reality, people are far more complex. As another example, when Eights decide – and this is usually quite quick – that they must take action immediately and know exactly what to do, they may be over-simplifying a complex situation that needs a more nuanced action. So when you think something is simple, ask yourself what is also important that makes it more complex.
Nines | Nines can appear to be rather simple, but they are actually quite complex internally. Simply put, share more of yourself – what you think, how you feel, and what you think should be done – more readily with yourself first, and then others so the benefit of your complexity becomes manifest.
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. firstname.lastname@example.org