Enneagram: Berghoef & Bell Innovations

Leadership. Communication. Teamwork.


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Using the Instincts as an Accelerator for Growth

photo-mar-30-11-39-08-amThe Enneagram’s three Instincts describe unconscious drives that shape our behavior. Knowing about them is helpful for many reasons, from maintaining healthy relationships to getting your needs met in the workplace. Most importantly, working on the Instincts, even more than working on our type, can act as an accelerator for personal growth.

All of us have three Instincts – Self-Preservation, Sexual, and Social. The Instincts influence how we interact with the world to get our unconscious needs met. We all have a preferred order in which we use the Instincts, called an Instinctual Stacking; we have one Instinct we obsess over and tend to overuse (our Dominant Instinct), one secondary Instinct, and a tertiary Instinct we tend to underuse (our Blind Spot Instinct). When we bring our Instincts closer into balance, our lives follow suit.

“Great,” you might be thinking, “I’ll just stop obsessing over my Dominant Instinct.” That’s a challenging proposition, though, because our Instincts operate unconsciously. We tend to rely on our Dominant, assuming it will provide the solution to our problems. What works better is to work with our Blind Spot Instinct. It’s scary to work on the Blind Spot, because we feel inexperienced and incompetent in that area. However, it’s a game changer. By consciously focusing on Blind Spot activities we normally neglect, we develop new strategies and resources. Our lives become fuller as we realize that our potential is much broader than we’d imagined.    

Below, we describe how each Instinct works as a Blind Spot, and offer growth practices for bringing that Instinct into balance. We also share composite case studies of students we’ve worked with and strategies they’ve found to cultivate the Blind Spot Instinct’s strengths within.

The Self-Preservation Instinct: If the Self-Preservation Instinct is your blind spot, you probably have difficulty focusing on the day-to-day practicalities of life. You may not have a strong inclination toward activities such as establishing a home, taking care of your diet, or saving for retirement. You may frequently feel immature and like you need others to support you through even basic tasks. To balance this Blind Spot, take the time to explore and write down ways you neglect your comfort, well-being, and health, and make time to do one thing every day focused on maintaining your stability. Try to do this independently, without the help of other people!

Consider the case of Becky, who’s 50 and recently divorced. She had relied on her husband to manage household tasks and organization. Now on her own, she’s nervous about being self-reliant, and admits that she feels like “a kid rather than a grown-up.” She’s let her new apartment become cluttered and chaotic. With the help of a group of Enneagram brainstormers, she recognizes that she finds upbeat music to be a good motivator. She decides to set a weekly date for a solo “cleanup party” with rock music in the background. She feels more confident with her favorite songs on, and her cleaning parties become a fun, productive ritual.  

The Sexual Instinct: If the Sexual Instinct is your blind spot, you probably have a difficult time doing things that stimulate and energize you. You may tend to put off doing activities that are exciting to you, displaying your strengths to others, and pursuing your “selfish, impractical” passions. You may frequently feel like you’re stuck in a rut and caught in a boring, humdrum routine that you are unable to get out of. To balance this Blind Spot, take some time to explore and write down what things fuel and inspire you. Make time to do one thing every day that brings the energy back into your life and makes you feel your vibrant and colorful self.

DeMarcus is a 35-year-old accountant who has worked hard to establish a secure career and provide for his young family. Between working long hours, contributing to household chores, and caring for his toddler, DeMarcus feels tired and listless. His Enneagram group suggests reconnecting with an activity that inspires and energizes him. As a student, DeMarcus had enjoyed painting with splashy, colorful acrylics, but he’s let his hobby fall by the wayside in his efforts to be responsible. He decides to fit weekly “painting dates” into his schedule. He begins involving his wife and daughter, and their home is filled with new creativity.  

The Social Instinct: If the Social Instinct is your blind spot, you probably have a difficult time interacting with the world around you. You may tend to put off activities that involve connecting with others, participating in communities, and having fun for its own sake. You may frequently feel like you’re overly serious and can’t talk to others unless you need something from them. To balance this Blind Spot, take some time to write down ways you’d like to contribute to the world around you and support other people. Make time to have a fun interaction with no agenda every day or to do something that makes you feel part of the larger social fabric.

Sonia considered herself an introvert, but the truth went beyond that label. While the 43-year-old freelance writer had a job and home she was comfortable with, she also had a very narrow social circle. She described herself as “not knowing how to make small talk.” Her Enneagram group suggested she connect with other writers, so Sonia found a group that looked interesting. She started reading the books they talked about, and had fun discussing them with like-minded, intelligent peers. Soon she was getting invited to events and meeting more people. Her life was infused with a new sense of fun and freedom.

We all have an Instinctual Blind Spot, and moving toward rather than away from it can bring us a renewed sense of balance. What small, regular strategies can you apply to bring your Blind Spot Instinct’s joys and gifts into your life?


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Productivity Tips for the Enneagram Types

IMG_1995In this fast-paced world, productivity is an important skill to master. There is a lot to get done, and the more effectively we can do it, the closer we come to achieving our goals. Productivity skills can also support us in leading a more balanced life, working when we need to work and building in ample time for play and rest.

Let’s look beyond goal setting this month and into building greater productivity through life management skills. Here are some tips for each Enneagram type to hone their productivity that delve a little deeper than “just get it done.”

Type One: Aim for 90%. When stressed, you hold yourself to a higher standard than you need to, and beginning your work can seem arduous. Aiming for 90% in your work is a realistic – in fact a high – bar, and leaves you energy for necessary rest. Make this your new standard and you’ll find that tasks get accomplished more quickly.

Type Two: Limit your “people time” until you’ve accomplished goals. Under stress, you tend to get sidetracked from tasks by attending to relationships. Give yourself built-in structures such as time-limited meetings with others, or deadlines to accomplish non-interpersonal tasks. You’ll find plenty of time for relationship building if you stick to your schedule, and you’ll stay on top of the curve.

Type Three: Build thoroughness of process into your task completion. When stressed, you have a tendency to cut corners and focus on presenting a shiny facade. Instead, look to the minutiae of your work that not everyone will see. Getting everything done right, with plentiful attention to the details, will ensure your work is outstanding and you don’t have to mend any oversights.  

Type Four: Make commitments. When stressed, you lose focus on objective goals as the subjective world looms larger. Commit to specific outcomes in spite of fluctuating feelings, and keep yourself on track with reminders. Build time for subjective processing into your schedule, such as journaling before work every day, so you’ll have more clarity to meet your objectives.   

Type Five: Seek out new possibilities. When stressed, you become more narrowly focused, and may be productive in one area while neglecting others. Connect with colleagues and share what you’re each working on. Take on a project that deviates from your norm. Seeking out breadth in experiences will bring out the most productive side of your innovative thinking.

Type Six: Seek out support for achievements. When you’re under stress, you sometimes procrastinate by doing busywork while putting off necessary milestones. Use your relational skills to create mutual accountability with a friend, colleague, or group. Each of you can regularly remind the others of the tasks you need to get done, or you can work together on them.   

Type Seven: Create a limited time and space for new ideas. When stressed, you look toward future possibilities and don’t always finish present ones. You can mitigate this by having a set daily time (such as 20 minutes) and place (such as a notebook) for the new. When you have an inspiration for a new project, add it to your brainstorming book, set it aside for later, and refocus.

Type Eight: Block out time for reflection and strategy. It’s not a problem for you to act, but under stress, you can put the cart before the horse. Having time laid out to look at which long-range strategies are best for your goals will save you from making hasty, and potentially costly, choices. It may help to seek and consider input from others before you make decisions, as well.

Type Nine: Use affirmations to help with your confidence and productivity. When stressed, you tend to give yourself “dis-affirmations” – believing you aren’t ready, doubting whether this is something you really want to do, and so on. Countering with assertive mental words or pictures – “I can get it done,” “I’m committed to it” – will energize you toward your goals.   

These are just a few tips to get you started in building the complex life skill of enhancing your productivity. Seek out support from others with these strategies – finding the right cheerleaders or accountability buddies is helpful for all the types in developing productivity skills. You don’t need to do these perfectly; every baby step is an improvement. Happy productivity trails!


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Freedom for Each Enneagram Type

20160618_053232-1-1July marks the national holidays of both our home countries, Canada Day (on July 1st) and Independence Day (on the 4th of July). Our friends and families are coming together to celebrate freedom in a flurry of fireworks and picnics. But the idea of freedom transcends national borders.

Freedom is one of the things that first drew us to the Enneagram, a personality system with the power to shed light on our habitual ways of seeing and doing things, and in illuminating them, guide us to move beyond them. Freedom was what we felt the first time we caught ourselves acting out of habit and realized that we could choose to act differently. In the wise words of Victor Frankl, “Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.”

Here are some things that each Enneagram type to notice that show when your personality pattern is running the show, and tip you off to the possibility of greater freedom. Riso and Hudson call them your “wake-up call.” Notice when one of these habits arises in you, take a breath, and allow that space to free up new responses to the situation.

Type One: Something isn’t right, and it bugs you. Maybe there’s litter along the highway, or the spices are out of place on the rack. Notice when you feel that weight of obligation, and your inner voice says, “It’s my job to fix it. I’m the only one who cares.” It’s easier to respond proactively and gracefully once that tug loosens.  

Type Two: You care about someone so much that you want to develop a relationship… so you seek to win them over. Maybe you offer a gesture, a gift, or a complement. Notice when you feel that sense of leaning toward someone, and feel what’s going on with yourself. It’s easier to connect from a place where you are centered.

Type Three: Such a big world, with so many goals to strive for! People around you extoll getting promotions, shining on social media, and dressing just so… so you strive for those successes. Notice when you’re driving towards a goal, seeking a positive response from others. Can you find the freedom to pursue what matters to you deeply?  

Type Four: Speaking of shiny social media, how often do you find yourself looking at the qualities, accomplishments, and possessions of others and imagining how nice it would be to have them? Resenting them? Spinning personal stories of sorrow? Notice the feelings you’re embroidering and holding on to. Letting go brings freedom.

Type Five: You’ve figured out how to make sense of the world, or at least your area of expertise. Notice when you find yourself analyzing, using your favorite system to explain what’s going on, or theorizing and combining ideas – disconnected from reality. Reconnecting creates openness to brighter flashes of insight.  

Type Six: You feel uncertain about which path is right, until you encounter a person or system with a clear answer. When making a decision, you hear the voices of competing advisors in your head. Notice when you’re seeking guidance from something outside yourself. In allowing your inner guidance to emerge, you’ll find greater freedom.

Type Seven: You’re kayaking down the river, the sky clear above you, and all you can think about is how exciting that next trip is going to be. Tune in to the times when you’re anticipating the future, thinking of options that could be better and brighter. There’s freedom to be felt in the experience you’re having right now.

Type Eight: You sense that the world is tough, so you toughen up to deal with it. The boxing gloves come on and the energy you direct into the world amps up. Notice when you feel the need to fight to make things happen. In relaxing and trusting, your real strength can come through as you act freely.

Type Nine: You’re happiest when you feel like things are going smoothly, so it’s easy to go along with others and believe that will bring the harmony you want. Notice when you’re saying “yes” to things – is that the answer that you truly want to give, or would you prefer pizza over Chinese takeout this time?

Freedom isn’t a clear-cut thing, but you’ll know it when you feel it. There’s nothing like the awareness of when we’ve been running on autopilot, coupled with that sudden, shocking realization that now that we see our “programming” at play, we can choose to follow it or not. Options expand, and the horizon grows wider.


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How Each Enneagram Type Can Build Healthy Habits

habits blogNo matter what our lifestyle is, all of us have habits that help us manage our lives. Sometimes these habits, such as flossing daily and having a regular personal growth practice, sustain and nourish our long-term happiness and health. Other habits, such as skipping lunch to be productive or not getting enough sleep, allow us to meet goals in the short term but aren’t good for our long-term well-being.

Each Enneagram type has a basic motivation or desire, and our habits are ways we unconsciously try to get our needs met. But it’s all too common for us to form self-talk and behaviors that end up hurting instead of helping us. There’s good news, though: with the right structures and support, all of us have the ability to form long-term habits that help us meet our fullest potential.

Here are healthy habits that each of the Enneagram types can work to develop:

Type One: Make time to relax and laugh every day. Your natural self-discipline helps you do the right thing, but can leave little time to unwind. Set aside a time where you practice deep breathing, laugh at silly YouTube videos, or dance along to music you like. Letting yourself let loose, even just a little bit, will provide perspective, fun, and balance.

Type Two: Take yourself on dates. You’re naturally intuitive about others’ needs, but sometimes you spend so much time supporting others, your own self-care gets lost. A little bit of time set aside to do something you love, whether it’s watercolor painting or Netflixing a favorite TV show, will give you self-nourishment and support.

Type Three: Unplug yourself from the external world. Your incredible productivity, and ability to accomplish things that others value and appreciate, can make it hard to make time to discover your own desires. Whether it’s going into nature or taking a mindful daily shower, true solo time- without your phone or social media- will help you look out for number one.

Type Four: Bring organization into your self-expression. You have a remarkable ability to create and imagine, but sometimes lack the self-discipline to bring your visions to life. Accountability to a schedule or calendar will help you finish tasks and share your gifts with the world. Feel free to customize your organizational system with your own personal touches!

Type Five: Use the buddy system to get motivated. Your strength of incredible focus gets lost when you aren’t able to start projects that inspire you. Find a friend or coworker with similar goals for accountability to provide encouragement. A buddy will be a source of connection and support, giving you the kick to put your ideas out there.

Type Six: Do something that stimulates your mind. You’re wonderful at providing leadership from a place of support, but can get mentally “stuck” in certain ways of doing things. Doing reading that interests you, discussing and debating ideas, and even playing strategy computer games will help you stay in touch with the ideas you believe in.

Type Seven: Focus on doing one thing at a time. Your productivity is a huge strength, but when you try to do several things at once, it’s easy to drop or forget projects. Try tying a task that’s boring into something you find fun or interesting (musical cleaning party?). Harness your natural enthusiasm to focus and see tasks through to completion.

Type Eight: Do something regularly to give back to others. You excel at leadership and impact, and can sometimes overlook relationship building. Use your strength to lift up others, even though simple morale-boosters, like complimenting your partner or holding the door at work. Giving genuine love and care will nourish your own heart and make you a better leader.

Type Nine: Make a list of goals, and a plan for accomplishing them. Your gift for creating harmony and unity sometimes causes you to lose a sense of self amongst the greater collective fabric. Set aside time everyday for self-exploration and execution of your own personal desires. Self-accomplishment will give you an ever greater sense of happiness and harmony!

Setting healthy habits takes work- according to the latest research, it takes an average of 66 days for people to change their habits. During those initial few months, stay motivated, and ask for help when you need it. A more balanced life isn’t far away!


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Why Self-Awareness Matters

IMG_0650 - CopyIf you were a Greek citizen in the 4th century B.C., traveling to the Temple of Apollo at Delphi to listen to the Oracle’s wisdom, you’d find this inscription on the wall: “Know thyself.” In more recent years, self-awareness gets less press than flashier qualities like ambition and charisma. However, it matters just as much today as it did in ancient Greece. Here are 4 ways that self-awareness, one of the biggest results of learning the Enneagram, benefits our work and daily life.

  1. It builds business success.

A 2009 study found high self-awareness to be the top predictor of executives’ success. These self-aware executives are more likely to hire people who excel in their own areas of weakness, and to recognize when others’ ideas are better than their own. Most businesses require skills beyond what their leadership team is immediately able to provide. Self-aware leaders can recognize these gaps and make judicious choices about when to acquire these skills and when to outsource. They structure their teams intelligently and are open to learning from others. Not only does their willingness to delegate create a happier and more cohesive team; it also pays off in dollars. A 2015 study of 486 public companies’ financial performance found that the highest-earning companies had the most self-aware employees with the fewest blind spots – areas that professionals named as personal strengths but their colleagues’ feedback revealed to be personal weaknesses.

  1. It improves time management.

We all want to spend our time on things we care about. If social justice gets you moving, you’d probably be happiest contributing your time to the greater good, whether that’s volunteering in a soup kitchen on the weekends or founding an NGO. If you value the impact and experience of speaking to crowds, you might drag your feet in a career that revolves around one-on-one work or working from home. If you’re a person that needs a lot of solitude, your ideal schedule will look different than that of someone who values lots of family time. Becoming aware of what motivates you allows you to make wise choices about how to spend your time, both professionally and personally.

  1. It helps you find a niche.

Having a good sense of your strengths can tip you off to the type of work that’s best suited to you. If you’re great at building relationships with people, let that permeate your career, whether through direct client work or B2B marketing. If you’re gifted at working with your hands, see if you can use that ability even if you’re in a seemingly unrelated field. (We’ve both had colleagues who were lauded for their beautiful office decorations!) Once you have a good sense of how and where you bring the most value, let it guide the choices you make. It might just become the thing you’re known for, the catalyst of your personal success story.

  1. It strengthens relationships.

We all have tendencies that drive other people crazy. Self-awareness allows us to see them. If you find yourself criticizing or dominating (or whatever pattern you do that gets on people’s nerves), take a moment to notice what’s going on in your body. See if you can step back from your reaction and choose a different way to engage. The important people in your life will thank you! What’s more, when you’re open and attentive rather than habit-driven, other people will be more open, too. They’ll feel more appreciated and connect to you more easily. Having a daily self-observation practice, like mindfulness or yoga, is helpful in building these self-awareness skills. If you practice noticing your mind’s tricks on the mat, it will become easier to notice them among friends, colleagues, and family.

No matter what your personality type is, you’ll reap benefits from building self-awareness. Are there subtle ways you can restructure your life to play to your strengths? Are there small steps you can take to mitigate your challenges? As you learn more about yourself, what actions can you take to help you thrive?


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Understanding Your Family

goatsFamilies are some of the most powerful relationships around. They’re the first relationships we’re involved in, and the patterns of interaction that we develop in our families shape the rest of our lives. We think it’s unlikely that parents or upbringing define Enneagram type; take any set of siblings and you’ll find that their view of the same childhood moments differs radically. However, our families have a lasting impact on our well-being. Healthy families increase children’s confidence and capacity for resilience, while unhealthy families make it harder for kids to develop these skills.

We can choose our partners, but for the most part, we don’t choose parents, siblings, children, and other relatives. Sometimes we have a lot in common with family members, and their differing skills and perspectives smoothly complement our own. Other times, we find ourselves diverging from the values of other family members, or being set off by their personality tics. For better or worse, families make great laboratories for learning how to get along with different kinds of people!

If you find yourself wondering why your mother has to go on about her health so much, or what possessed your teenager to get that tattoo, the Enneagram can help. By understanding what motivates our family members, we’re better able to connect with them. Instead of hoping to make them more like us, we can show up with attention, compassion, and hold space for family members to be the best versions of exactly who they are.

Here are some ways you can hold space for your family members of all Enneagram types:

Type One: The family Perfectionists, Ones are upstanding and lead the family by example, but can get critical when you diverge from their rules. Connect with the Ones in your family by encouraging them to have fun, and letting them know that you value them just as they are.

Type Two: Two Helpers seek to meet family members’ unstated needs through acts of service, caring, and sometimes intrusion. Connect with the Twos in your family by acknowledging the importance of their needs and showing them love no matter what they do.

Type Three: Three Achievers inspire their families. They often squelch their own desires by picking up on their family’s dreams and striving to become the family success story. Connect with the Threes in your family by guiding them to follow their own interests and desires.

Type Four: Four Individualists add soul to the family, and also bring shadows into the open – making sure families can’t forget things they don’t want to acknowledge. Connect with the Fours in your family by taking responsibility for the past, and holding emotional steadiness.

Type Five: Five Investigators bring rich expertise to their families, but may be difficult to engage otherwise. Connect with the Fives in your family by allowing them the space they need, while nurturing them in developing emotional connections with others.

Type Six: Six Loyalists show steadfast commitment to family, but may test family members for loyalty, and sometimes rebel. Connect with the Sixes in your family by showing them that you’re trustworthy and devoted, while being steady and clear with your boundaries.

Type Seven: Seven Enthusiasts stir up excitement and make family gatherings fun, but may act out when they get bored and frustrated. Connect with the Sevens in your family by savoring joy together – especially mindful, everyday joy – and supporting them during the hard times.

Type Eight: Eight Challengers are protective of family members but sometimes also push to exert control over the family. Connect with the Eights in your family by showing strength and solidity, but also allowing them to be vulnerable and lean on you when they need to.

Type Nine: Nine Peacemakers create a harmonious, cohesive family environment, which sometimes means they sweep problems under the rug. Connect with the Nines in your family by sharing pleasant times, while encouraging them to speak up and assert their needs.


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The Cross-Cultural Enneagram

From what we’ve seen, Enneagram types exist across culture – that is, cultures throughout the world will have people who display qualities from all the Enneagram types and Instincts. Nonetheless, each country and culture has a dominant cultural overlay, which has a personality type of its own. People absorb the values taught by their culture, which impact how they display their own dominant type. In Melanie’s Canadian culture, for example, people are encouraged to be polite and collaborative – values of type Nine and the Social Instinct. In Kacie’s American culture, citizens learn the values of independence, ambition, and hard work, the “American Dream” rooted in Type Three and the Self-Preservation Instinct.

Despite knowing that we came from different countries, we were still surprised when cultural differences unrelated to our types came up when we started working together. For example, Melanie would say “Sorry” as an instinctive reaction when things didn’t go as planned. After several months, Kacie asked Melanie why. She explained that Canadians say sorry in a multitude of situations as a form of politeness, a cultural subtlety very different from the more assertive American culture.

As we prepare to travel to Canada for the Canadian Enneagram Conference this month, cultural differences are heavily on our minds. We’re busy thinking up ways to adapt our presentation to a less assertive, more community-oriented culture than the American audiences we usually work with. At times Melanie, the Canadian on our team, has found herself acting as “cultural translator” and explaining Canadian communication norms.

When you connect with people from different cultures, whether in work, travel for pleasure, or in your daily life, you can use the Enneagram not only to understand their individual differences but to gain a better sense of the culture you’re interacting with. Listen to what people around you talk about. Notice the values and beliefs they take for granted. Each Enneagram type operates from a set of assumptions projected onto the world at large. Just like we expect others to share our personality-based motivations and way of seeing things, we also expect others to share the cultural viewpoint that we’re accustomed to. These things are so ingrained that we often don’t realize there are other worldviews out there that differ drastically from our own.

When you look at cultural and personal Enneagram types side by side, you’ll find that they don’t always match closely. A Type Eight, for instance, might find their strength and assertiveness valued in one culture, while they might have a harder time in a culture that values quiet and conformity. In what way is your dominant Enneagram type and Instinct similar or different to what your country’s culture values? Understanding how your type and culture work together adds nuance to an action plan to improve your communication with other people, and supports companies in doing international business productively and successfully.

Using the Enneagram also makes it easier to identify human similarities across cultures. Our colleagues in the Enneagram field have taught it to groups of Israelis and Palestinians who worked together, as well as South African teams different races and backgrounds, and found it to build cross-cultural bridges between people of the same Enneagram type. Often, two Sixes or two Ones who start a workshop thinking they have nothing in common discover that they share a set of values and behaviors that goes beyond their culture. Even “us vs. them” dynamics sometimes transform into “Me too!”s, and a new understanding is born.

The Enneagram is a useful tool for improving our communication, relationships, and self-awareness. Developing cultural competence through an Enneagram lens help us grow and develop these skills in an even more powerful way.