The Enneagram and the Variety of Paths for Personal Growth

October 18, 2021

Categories: Enneagram

There are so many resources out there for self-help and personal growth. With the explosion of social media over the last several years, it seems like everyone is selling some kind of program to get in shape, make a ton of money, and live your best life now. Many of us are struggling and looking for resources to help us make progress toward our goals, so it’s nice to have a lot of resources to choose from. But where should we look for help? How can we separate the stuff that really works from the stuff that doesn’t?

Selling What Worked for Me

One problem I see with self-help/personal growth resources looks something like this. Someone becomes really successful, or makes a huge change in their life. Then, they develop a plan or program based on what worked for them or how they did it. They package the program as if it’s universal—in other words, it will work for you too. Sometimes these strategies do work… IF there is enough similarity or overlap between your personality and that of the person you are following. But other times, you’re just too different. So, what works for them doesn’t work for you.


The reality is that personal growth isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach. We each have different strengths, weaknesses, habits, and tendencies. My next steps for personal growth won’t look exactly the same as your next steps. That’s why it’s tough to develop a “universal program” for growth. For example, I was overweight most of my life, and then I made a change and lost 60 pounds. I could detail all the steps and strategies that worked for me. And some of it might be helpful for you. But the reality is it may not work for you in the same way. You might need something different.


One thing I love about the Enneagram is it accounts for the variety in our personalities, habits, and tendencies. And (this is key), based on our personality, the Enneagram outlines what is generally needed for personal and spiritual growth for each type of person. There are still some generalizations—the Enneagram isn’t perfect and it isn’t an exact science. But it can be helpful in describing a more personalized plan of growth.

6 vs. 7

For example, I am a 6 and my wife Jenn is a 7. As a 6, I tend to seek out safety and security. I struggle with anxiety and often expect the worst. I struggle to listen to my “inner guide” and I second-guess all my decisions. Some of my work has to do with trusting myself and my intuition, and having faith in God that I will be okay. Jenn, on the other hand, tends to seek out pleasure and exciting experiences. She has an intense fear of missing out. Some of her work has to do with acknowledging the painful parts of life and seeking balance.

Can you see how our paths toward personal growth might need to be different? A one-size-fits-all approach to “face your fears,” for example, might be what I need but not Jenn. (She doesn’t struggle with that as much.) An approach that emphasizes balance and acknowledging difficulty and struggle might be what Jenn needs but not me. (I’m already doing that, maybe too much.)

I don’t want to do the same thing I’m criticizing and try to sell you on the Enneagram as “the right program” for personal growth. It has been helpful for me, but it may not fit for you. However, I would encourage caution when jumping on board the next personal growth fad. Just because something worked for a celebrity or guru doesn’t mean it will work for you. Personal growth is an individualized process. Make sure you’re taking in the resources that fit for you.


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