A woman named Bronnie Ware worked for many years in a hospice setting where all of her patients were destined to soon pass. She would talk with them about their lives, and in particular what, if anything, they regretted about them. Over the years there was one answer which came up again and again and again:
“I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me”
In order to live this way, one must know what it actually means to live a life true to yourself. This requires self-awareness.
Self-awareness can come in many forms; one concrete activity that helped me came upon the advice of a family friend, who recommended I take the Enneagram Personality Type test. I think most people have negative associations with the word “test”, especially ones you have to pay for, so it took the advice of a friend to work through the cognitive cost to do this. And I was glad I did.
The test was revealing, and I was pleasantly surprised at how articulate the results were. There are 9 types (the website shows them all), and my top three scores were
Type 2, The Helper: 25
Type 4, The Individualist: 20
Type 3, The Achiever: 19
All of these fall in the “feeling center”. Reading through the descriptions of 2, 4 & 3, I found many of the insights (both describing positive and negative tendencies) to be quite on point. I’ve included the most revealing points; perhaps you share some of these as well:
-Derive great satisfaction from giving advice to trusted friends and often initiate new relationships by offering some kind of service or counsel
-Want to have a unique place in others’ lives and to know privileged information about others that no one else knows
-May feel that others are not appreciating them for their efforts
-Gifted at accurately intuiting others’ feelings and needs, but that does not necessarily mean that they want those needs remedied by you in the way you have in mind*
*This point was perhaps the most revealing. The classic adage ”do unto others as you would have them do unto you” needs to be more refined. Some people want to figure things out on their own, which should be embraced.
-Of all the types, they are the most aware of their own emotional states; attunement to their inner states enables them to discover deep truths about human nature
-Able to put words to feelings and states that others may recognize but could not have expressed as eloquently
-Seek out art, poetry, music, and other expressions that they find beautiful, because they feel these things reveal something true about themselves and about human nature
-Do not want to spend time with people they perceive as lacking taste or emotional depth
-Typically decorate their homes with objects and colors that evoke a strong sense of image and mood and reflect personal feelings and associations
-Want to excel, to be the best at whatever they do, and they are willing to put in the effort it takes to do so
-They are always looking for formulas and technique to improve
-Quickly adapt to different social settings, always wanting to be appropriate and to exemplify the values of whatever group they are in
-Fear that they have to be the best at everything
See any of your self there?
I’d imagine those that know me well can attest to some of the statements above. And if you don’t know me, well, the above is a damn good start!
This exercise helped articulate subtle realms of my personality while also bringing to the surface areas I think I should be more aware of. Recommended to all who have 40 minutes, $10 (there’s a free sample test as well), and a curiosity to learn more. The test is found here.
If you do take it, please share your results.
[p.s. It should be noted that there is a depth of reading material about the Enneagram as it is far more than a simple test. That depth is beyond the scope of this post; however, Google would be happy to satisfy should you crave more]