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Know Thyself February 17, 2013

Posted by Ann Bertorelli in Self-Development.
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About two years ago a friend of mine who, like me, is a coach introduced me to the enneagram. In case you’re not familiar with the enneagram, it’s a personality indicator which defines nine different personality types. It’s like the Myers-Briggs on steroids.

A great tool for coaching

I have become very interested in the enneagram interpretations of personality and have been using it with a number of my coaching clients. And of course I have spent a lot of time analyzing my own personality type.If you’re interested in knowing more about the enneagram, this link will give you a lot of information and a test that you can take: www.enneagraminstitute.com.

What the heck is a wing?

So to get back to my story, I found that my personality type is 2-The Helper with a 1 wing which is The Reformer. A wing is another personality type that  significantly colors your main type. It’s not your main type but it’s a close second. And it’s my ‘wing’ that makes my life, shall we say, interesting.

The Reformer type believes that things in the world need to operate correctly and it is her/his job to make sure that happens. Well, that may be a bit of an exaggeration—but just a bit. Anyhoo, the 1 type is very concerned with being good and with doing the right thing. And ever since I have learned about the enneagram, I have become painfully aware of how much energy I put into being good and perfect. And I’ve been able to notice my actions and motivations daily (if not hourly) since learning the system. Amazing….

Until you are aware you are unable to change

You may wonder why I’d be interested in a personality system that points out my foibles (also my good traits). My wonderful enneagram teacher, Michael Naylor, has a good insight into this. Michael says that until you become aware of your behaviors and motivations, you are unable to change the things about yourself that are not serving you. Awareness is the key to change. And unawareness of ourselves can get us into hot water at times.


I have a term that I use with my coaching students: background of obviousness or BOO. We all have ideas, motivations, ways of doing things that are so present for us that they’re not even there. It’s like the chair that you’re sitting on right now. Were you even thinking about it until I mentioned it? Probably not. But now you are aware of it and if it’s not comfortable, you can change chairs.

So your BOO resides with you, usually unexamined, for better or for worse. Most of the time we just think that everyone thinks or acts the way we do. The problem with our background of obviousness is that it is—guess where—in the background which makes it hard for us to change it. So that’s where the enneagram really shines. It brings that stuff right up there for us to look at. Oh joy…

Change or not to change

So what are you prepared to do to bring your BOO to the foreground? Socrates said “The unexamined life is not worth living” and I guess my chosen profession of coaching is all about this examination.

If you’re not about growth, then maybe you’re not interested in the enneagram or anything else that expands your consciousness. Up to you.  As for me, I intend to keep working on myself as long as I’m in Earth School.