How a book can so accurately reflect the personality of the person reading it, I cannot say, but what I do know is that The Road Back to You by Ian Morgan Cron and Suzanne Stabile should be required reading for anyone over the age of 20.
Three books in recent years have made me feel this way: Quiet by Susan Cain, The Highly Sensitive Person by Elaine Aron and The Road Back to You. The difference with this book is that it’s a helpful tool for anyone, not just an introvert or an HSP, audiences to which the previous books are geared, respectively. (Disclaimer: I received a free digital copy of the book from the publisher but am in no way required to write a positive review.)
The Road Back to You is all about the Enneagram, a term which might make you scratch your head. I knew little about it before this year but have found it to be the most helpful personality typing tool I’m acquainted with. Even that description falls short.
In short, the Enneagram reveals who you are at your worst and at your best. It’s based on a number system, 1-9, as follows. (Thanks to the folks at Intervarsity Press for the breakdown.)
Type One: The Perfectionist
- Famous Ones: Hillary Clinton, Jerry Seinfeld, Nelson Mandela
- Ethical, dedicated, and reliable, ones are motivated by a desire to live the right way, improve the world, and avoid fault or blame.
Type Two: The Helper
- Famous Twos: Mother Teresa, Desmond Tutu, Princess Diana
- Warm, caring, and giving, twos are motivated by a need to be loved and needed, and to avoid acknowledging their own needs.
Type Three: The Performer
- Famous Threes: Taylor Swift, Mitt Romney, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Tom Cruise
- Success-oriented, image-conscious, and wired for productivity, threes are motivated by a need to be (or appear to be) successful and to avoid failure.
Type Four: The Romantic
- Famous Fours: Vincent van Gogh, Thomas Merton, Amy Winehouse
- Creative, sensitive, and moody, fours are motivated by a need to be understood, experience their oversized feelings, and avoid being ordinary.
Type Five: The Investigator
- Famous Fives: Stephen Hawking, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Bill Gates
- Analytical, detached, and private, fives are motivated by a need to gain knowledge, conserve energy, and avoid relying on others.
Type Six: The Loyalist
- Famous Sixes: Ellen DeGeneres, George H. W. Bush, Frodo Baggins
- Committed, practical, and witty, sixes are worst-case-scenario thinkers who are motivated by fear and the need for security.
Type Seven: The Enthusiast
- Famous Sevens: Robin Williams, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Stephen Colbert
- Fun, spontaneous, and adventurous, sevens are motivated by a need to be happy, to plan stimulating experiences, and to avoid pain.
Type Eight: The Challenger
- Famous Eights: Martin Luther King Jr., Muhammad Ali, Angela Merkel
- Commanding, intense, and confrontational, eights are motivated by a need to be strong and avoid feeling weak or vulnerable.
Type Nine: The Peacemaker
- Famous Nines: Pope Francis, Barack Obama, Renée Zellweger, Bill Murray
- Pleasant, laid back, and accommodating, nines are motivated by a need to keep the peace, merge with others, and avoid conflict.
What is fascinating about the Enneagram is the variation each of these types can have. Personality and behavior are affected by the neighboring numbers, called wings, and each number reflects another number in times of stress or in times of security.
That all sounds complicated but as you explore the Enneagram, it becomes crystal clear. At least, that was my experience.
Cron and Stabile make this accessible through personal examples using stories from people in their families or friends. They also co-host a podcast of the same name where they talk to people about their Enneagram number and how that plays out. That’s the way I discovered what my number was.
After reading this book and listening to the podcast, I see things about my life and the way I react to the world around me in a new way. Discovering your place on this chart and how it uniquely plays out in your life is eye-opening. It’s hard to unsee once you see.
A word of caution: the Enneagram is a tiny bit addicting. While I was reading, I was assigning type numbers to people I know, and my husband is probably tired of me talking about my actions in light of my Enneagram number. You can go overboard with it, but it’s meant to ultimately be a tool for transformation, not an excuse to shame or typecast anyone else.
The purpose of the Enneagram is to show us how we can release the paralyzing arthritic grip we’ve kept on old, self-defeating ways of living, so we can open ourselves to experiencing more interior freedom and become our best selves.” (p. 36)
I could list dozens of quotes from the book to try to convince you to buy it, but I think the best starting point if you’re unsure is the podcast. Listen to the first couple of episodes to get a feel for the Enneagram. Or, if you have more time available, check out The Enneagram episode of The Liturgists podcast. It’s almost two hours long but is a helpful overview of the Enneagram.
However you choose to, though, I encourage you to investigate the Enneagram as a gift to yourself.
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