I was first exposed to the Enneagram nine years ago. I saw a one-page summary in a book I was reading, and I immediately dismissed the model; it sounded like voodoo magic or a horoscope. Then three years ago my wise friend Daniel Fuller gave me a copy of Stabile and Cron’s The Road Back to You and suggested I take a deeper look.
Three years ago I began studying an obscure tool called the Enneagram. With a BA in Psychology, I tend to be a little skeptical of personality tests, especially those with little scientific data to back them up. The Enneagram wasn’t designed by some PhD. Its’ reliability hasn’t been indisputably proven statistically significant. In fact, there’s much disagreement on whether an actual “test” is a good way to use the tool. Instead, it’s believed to have ancient roots, passed down through centuries of stories and traditions. Currently, it’s experiencing such an explosive Renaissance of interest; I’m afraid to say it’s practically reached fad status.
Several years ago something inside of me broke loose. In the midst of two major relocations, raising four kids under five years old, and starting a new organization, my body began to revolt against the pace and pressure I was subjecting it to on a weekly basis. Nearly every night I woke from sleep in the grip of panic attacks. Quiet walks on the White River Canal were disrupted by unexpected waves of breath-taking anxiety. Emotionally I was detached and distant from those closest to me, unable to articulate the hidden pain I carried around each day.
I’d just returned from an intense four days of work travel and was navigating a Sunday morning with my family. Walking between the garage and the house, my 12-year old son asked in his usual direct way, “Mom, what’s wrong? Are you stressed?”
I was running through the woods at Eagle Creek Park last Saturday with a good friend. I had sensed something was off in our relationship, so I asked him if there was anything I was doing that was making life harder for him. Over the next several minutes he calmly described two of my habits that weren’t working for others around me, or for him.
The holidays are supposed to be a wonderful time of gathering with loved ones. Unfortunately, they also glaringly highlight all the lovely family dynamics you try to ignore. I recently had a family experience I didn’t handle well. As several of us were sitting in my living room talking, one of my male relatives shared an extremely misogynistic video with another male relative. The volume on his phone was loud enough for the entire room to hear. My young adult daughter and my 17-year-old son were present as well. I “kindly” asked through gritted teeth that the video be turned off. This relative said, “What? I thought it was funny.” At that point, I snapped out “Turn it off now!” About an hour after he left, I started raging about how disrespectful he was. I was in full judgment mode.
My son has struggled with severe allergies and asthma for many years now. For him, that means struggling to breathe, struggling to sleep, avoiding common foods, missing lots of school; medicines, lots of doctor visits, planning ahead for unfamiliar situations, packing an extra container with his rescue inhaler and nebulizer machine; searching for root cause answers and getting “band-aid” advice.
Chronic issues– medical and otherwise– have a way of wearing one down. I forget what “normal” and “good” look like. I settle for survival and mediocrity.
I’m in the middle of an unresolved relational conflict, and it has consumed a lot of my thoughts of late. Last Thursday and Friday I discussed this relationship in four different conversations, seeking advice.
Or maybe I was really seeking validation for my point of view.
I’m currently sitting on the bank of the Big South Fork River, enjoying a quick weekend getaway with just my husband. As I take in the beauty around me (notice my picture), I immediately flashed back to 10 years ago, when my children were in elementary school. I was trying to “balance” running my business, being actively present in my kids’ lives, making my marriage a priority, and all the other “busyness” I believed was required of me. I ended up injuring my back in a way that made movement extremely uncomfortable. I truly believe this is the only way I could have gained any insight into the craziness my life had become. I had to be immobile in order to carve out time to re-evaluate the direction I was going.
I have a complicated relationship with leadership development books and leadership conferences.
I read half a dozen leadership books and attend a handful of leadership development conferences each year. I’m passionate about lifelong learning, personal reflection, and the power of stories and fresh thinking to challenge my status quo. However, I find myself thinking, “This is pretty obvious stuff. Why am I spending all this time and money learning about things I already know I need to be doing?”