The Nine’s mental habit of “indolence” is not what it may appear to be at first glance. It is not indolence in terms of inactivity or lifelessness. In Enneagram terms, “indolence” refers to the mental process of diffusing your mental attention so that you forget what is really important to you. The impact of diffusion is to refrain from stating your opinions – they become fuzzy and the particular items of thought become hard to distinguish like the picture above on the left. Appealing, yes! Clear, not so much. When Nine leaders engage in this sort of mental dispersion, it is challenging for them to make timely decisions, deal with conflict effectively, communicate clearly with others, and to know when and how to take action.
For transformation as people and leaders, Nines need to move from “indolence” to “love,” another word that means something different in daily language from what is meant by this higher state in Enneagram terms. “Love” is the belief and deep acceptance that there is an underlying universal harmony in the world based on unconditional regard and appreciation for one another and all things. Letting go of “indolence” is like allowing the mind to awaken to what it already knows but has been unwilling to acknowledge or engage with. This awakening requires attention and intention, moving Nines from their preferred zone of comfort and into the arena of differentiated awareness, affirmation of one’s true beliefs, and also the possibility of conflict.
Rhonda is an excellent example of a Nine leader who used the Enneagram for transformation. Before learning about the Enneagram, Rhonda was well respected for her intelligence, commitment, sincerity, and approachability. On every 360° performance review, approachability was consistently her highest rated quality. Using the Enneagram to discover more about herself and to become a more effective leader, Rhonda took her time to contemplate what she might want to change, as well as when and how to do this. In fact, few around her – and this included her peers, her boss, and those who worked for her – saw very little in the way of change, except that Rhonda talked more about herself than she had previously.
One day during her weekly team meeting, one of Rhonda’s employees said this: “Rhonda, there’s something different about you but I’m not sure what it is. You seem more clear or certain or something like that. I can’t say exactly what it is.”
Rhonda smiled and said this in response: “I am different. Over the weekend, I was looking in the mirror and suddenly asked myself this: Rhonda, you’re 45 years old, a grandmother, and a high level manager. If not now, when? What I meant was when was I going to wake up and be 100% true to myself? When am I going to find my voice and speak up? When am I going to be the role model for my children and grandchildren, the model I know I can be? Did I want to be 60 years old and still not have tapped into my deeper and truer self?”
Stunned, the entire team reflected on what had just been said, until another person asked, “So how is your family responding to this? And has it changed the way you lead?”
Rhonda was so clear when she said, “My family feels there’s even more of me to love. But more important, I love myself more. At work, I’ve received some comments that people understand more clearly where I stand on something or what I am asking of them. But, I am still the same me, just an improved and happier version!”
Rhonda’s story sheds light on how Nines change. They do it when, where, and how they want to. And when they do change, they just build up to it and then suddenly, what seemed so difficult before seems so easy and seamless now.