Sevens in general have robust, fast moving, energetic minds, a mind I often refer to as a computer screen that has no file folders, just an increasingly vast amount of documents of ideas, facts and opinions that they so easily and rapidly connect to one another. This is the mind of the Seven called “planning,” which is the process of mental hyper-gear that moves in rapid succession from one thing to another faster than a nano-second. It is called “planning” because it is usually about the future and future possibility planning, thinking of new and exciting things, continuously and constantly. Stopping this process or even slowing it down is a gargantuan task because, for the Seven, it is very exciting and stimulating. This way of mental processing also occurs so quickly, there hardly seems time or space for any slowing down. Even more, Sevens are used to it; how do you not do what you do so naturally and why would you want to think any differently?
However, to grow as people and as leaders, Sevens have to tangle with this beautiful dragon and decide that the ability to focus and to sustain their focus, called “work” (probably because it is a lot of work for Sevens to do!), allows them greater freedom of choice: the choice to sustain their energy or to shift it; the choice to pursue a goal until its completion or to attach oneself to a different pursuit; the choice to be taken seriously or to be taken whimsically; and more.
From “planning” to “work” was the challenge Terry encountered when she received an extreme promotion to the head of a 500 person IT (information technology) group that was in massive disarray. Although her type-based strengths as a Seven would serve her well in the role – that is, new ways of working, instilling a learning organization full of innovation, and an attitude of “why not” instead of “why?” – her lack of focus, shifting from one great or not-even-so-great idea to another, would not enable her and the others who worked for her to create the foundation so needed by the organization. For example, when her senior team had a planning meeting, they thought they had to choose between and among 180 goals. What they thought was a priority-setting problem was actually a strategy problem. With no strategy, how could they know which goals (which were actually activities) to execute?
Although her team thought very highly of Terry, their biggest complaint was that she would share so many new ideas, they were scrambling to execute them all! There were simply not enough human resources to implement! And Terry’s biggest concern was that her senior staff was not innovative enough, so she had to keep coming up with ideas. Suddenly, Terry recognized her role in this problem. She was coming up with ideas so quickly, her team didn’t have a chance to think. And those that did were reluctant to offer anything new, as this would simply create more for them to do.
With the help of the Enneagram, Terry chose to learn to focus. At team meetings, instead of offering up ideas, she let her team do so; Terry simply kept track of them and helped them decide which ones to do and which ones, while good, might be off their strategic agenda. Terry also decided to accelerate her growth and do something extraordinarily challenging. She went to a 3-day silent retreat. She would be alone for 3 days except for meals, and even during mealtime, silence was expected.
With her ever-changing mind going all day (and all night) long, on day 1, Terry was exhausted. With no one with whom to discharge her thoughts, she was stuck with herself. Day 2, feelings started to arise, feelings she had been ignoring or avoiding. With no place to hide, she discovered this was not a terrible experience. By day 3, she was ready to come home, but she was different.
Terry is now up to 3-day silent retreats and looks forward to them. In a way, she has discovered her arrow line to Five and the beauty of being alone, with thoughts, with feelings, and/or nothing. She doesn’t call this “work” any longer, as the effort she must use to focus is far less. And she loves having more choice!