Personality – in floral form!

Flowers hold more meaning than we might think even in our twenty-first century lives – from medicinal remedies to message bearers, flowers soothe and inspire us through the ups and downs of life. So what do they say to us of personality? Perhaps the following might resonate…

2s – Aloe Vera

What plant better suited to the 2 than the multi-purpose, healing Aloe Vera? Strong and simple in appearance, bursting with soothing unction – break a leaf and receive an overflowing supply of symptom relief, helping you heal from all ailments, from burns to ulcers, eczema to bacterial infection.

3s – Bird of Paradise Plant

A dazzling plant – even the most disinterested observer cannot fail to be impressed by this ingenious display of leaves, shaped and coloured to look like the showiest of nature’s birds. Stunning, clever, 3-like, this plant uses the brilliance of others to create an image to attract the eye.

4s – Bleeding Heart

A flower shaped like a bleeding heart – the epitome of the 4! Delicate and fragile, exquisitely crafted, every bloom tugs at the heart strings, eliciting wonder and delight as we ask ourselves – how is such a flower possible? Pathos in their petals, these little “works of heart” are the perfect out-picturing of the 4’s sensitivity.

5s – Cactus

Extraordinarily self sufficient – economy of form and function is at its peak. So clever in construction, the tough outer skin fiercely protects the softness within. Everything is calculated for maximum efficiency – nothing wasted or superficial here, just a robust plant, ensuring survival by intelligent design.

6s – Freshly mown lawn

Somehow, the sight of a freshly mown lawn says Enneagram “6”! It epitomises tidy, organised lifestyles, with people doing their bit for the neighbourhood. It suggests a degree of discipline, delight in the simple pleasures of life and a dependability – all very reminiscent of the Teammate type from garden parties to Wimbledon.

7s – Daisies

Daisies spring up out of nowhere, overnight and can be gone just as quickly. Like 7s, they are carefree and random: they don’t seem to have any concept of where or how they should be, delighting in turning up and bringing a simple smile with them. The expression “Fresh as a daisy” is a lovely indicator of the energy of this little flower, whilst “Whoops-a-daisy” suggests a 7- like chaotic clumsiness.

8s – Giant Redwood

Power and majesty – The sheer dimensions of the Giant Redwood is enough to stop us in our tracks. This is very 8 – like in its impact; not showy or attention seeking, just pure might at its most awesome. You could walk past it unawares, but once its strength is in view, it takes the breath away.
9s – Lavender

Soothing lavender – the scent for relaxation and ease – even the colour of this plant seems to represent the 9 perfectly, nothing jarring, nothing too striking about this plant, it is designed to be easy on all the senses. This is a plant created to calm a troubled mind – reducing anxiety, restlessness and sleeplessness.

1s – Gerbera
There is something so upright and correct about this study, vibrant plant. The flower is simple but elegant, striking and uplifting. No fancy foliage or unnecessary frills here – no self indulgence, this flower is bright, pure and stunning.

What’s worse – too little time, or too much?

Do you feel rushed or pressured, with too little time and too much to do?

Do you envy those who have far fewer calls on their time than you, those lucky ducks who seem to be living the proverbial “Life of Riley” without the pressures of a tight schedule?

You might be surprised to know that recent research suggests that the happiest amongst us are actually those people who have little or no excess time, and yet seldom feel rushed.

Too much time is a burden!

Whilst negative stress is clearly bad for us, positive pressure is actually good thing; being bored is  a significant de-motivator which can affect our confidence and self-esteem, causing its own form of negative stress.

So, how does personality impact upon our use of time? Are some personality types more likely than others to overdo things and take busy-ness to the point of negative stress? Are others more likely to fall into the stress of doing too little?

Potentially, the answer would be “yes” although all types, when out of balance, will struggle to enjoy and manage time.

Some types are more driven to prove themselves, to achieve, or make things happen, no matter what the cost- 1s, 2s, 3s and 8s may well, for different reasons, overdo the work, without leaving enough time for play.

5s, when out of balance, will become stressed by their unsatiable thirst for knowledge, neglecting to eat or sleep in order to spend every available moment in research of some kind.

6s and 7s – the latter in particular, can become frenetically busy in their need to keep everything spinning – 6s – to keep everything in its place, 7s to provide constant variety.

Whilst 7s will be most sensitive to boredom, and may dread the idea of an unoccupied moment, 9s, when out of balance, will crave their “Do Nothing Days”… They may fall into the apathy trap, lacking the energy to do anything at all.

4s may equally find themselves, when out of balance, ceasing all activity whilst sucked into a black mood or a sense of melancholy.

So, what can we do to make the most of our 168?


168 is the number of hours in our week. How much do we think about what we do with this precious, completely irreplaceable resource?

In order to achieve more, most people need to focus on less – the important things, the priorities. So some good questions to ask: Should this be done? Should it be done by me? What do I really REALLY want from my time?

A time audit is a real eye opener for most of us and can result in powerful changes which will free up, or focus desire on best use of, significant chunks of time. Five minutes recouped per day adds up over a week, a month or a year…

One of the biggest time wasters can be technology. The average person spends more time on their laptop than sleeping. We typically now spend more time in the morning checking emails and using the Internet than eating breakfast

Experts have warned this increase in ‘tech-tapping’ means people are not getting enough quality sleep, which has a direct effect on our health.

Perhaps it’s time to re-assess how you are spending your time, so you can get what you really, REALLY want out of life.


Resilience – a prerequisite to success – How resilient are you?

“I’m convinced that about half of what separates the successful entrepreneurs from the non-successful ones is pure perseverance.” Steve Jobs

“Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.”
“Continuous effort – not strength or intelligence – is the key to unlocking potential.”
Winston Churchill

Have you ever wondered why some people seem to remain calm in the face of disaster, while others seem to fall apart? People who are able to keep their cool have, what psychologists call, resilience, or an ability to cope with problems and setbacks. Resilient people are able to utilize their skills and strengths to cope and recover from problems and life challenges.

Those who lack this resilience may become overwhelmed by such experiences. They may dwell on problems and use unhealthy coping mechanisms to deal with life’s challenges. Resilience does not eliminate stress or erase life’s difficulties. Instead, it gives people the strength to tackle problems, overcome adversity and move on with their lives.

We can look to famous figures from history, who showed fantastic tremendous  resilience. a classic example is Thomas Edison – the man who invented the light bulb, who is famously quoted as saying: “I have not  failed, I have just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”  A less resilient person would have given up long before he’d had one thousand failures, never mind ten!
A significant differentiator between people with high levels of resilience and those with lower levels, is the amount of time it takes them to pick themselves up after a set back and move on with their lives. How well do you find yourself able to “bounce back”, or better still, “bounce forward” as we never truly return to the where we were?

Although some people seem to be naturally more resilient than others, the good news is that resilience can be learnt and developed over time. Different personalities will have different natural “resilience reservoirs” and it works well to know your type in order to know how best to develop this in yourself and to encourage it in others.

Some types are more generally optimistic and will be most likely to consciously feed their reservoirs – they will not want to be found low when difficulties arise. However, they may also find the effort of remaining perpetually upbeat, subconsciously taxing and they will need to find their outlet for the negatives they experience.

Other types will tend to need encouragement to focus on what they want to have happen, as a conscious, trained habit, to build their reservoirs of resilience: their awareness of the flaw or fault may make problems seem overwhelming.

The objectivity of three of the Enneagram types can generate tremendous resilience and determination to keep going to achieve the goal, come what may. These types may need to reflect on the emotional cost and their balance in life to ensure that unhealthy sacrifices are not made along the way.

Resilience training can be a powerful thing. Far more so, we would suggest, when you know the drivers that make some aspects of resilience trickier for you AND you have the techniques at your disposal to turn these around.

How critical, then, the need for us to understand our children’s drivers and nurture in them a readiness to embrace the chaellenges of an ever changing reality. Knowing the language of resilience which resonates with their personality types will make all the difference. Not knowing the subtleties of their make up will be the reason why so much well intentioned direction, support and advice just bounces off or sails over their heads as they learn their fundamental lessons about what it means to fail and fall and meet with disappointment along the way.

“Master yourself, and become king of the world around you. Let no odds …  prevent you from accomplishing your dreams. Never be a victim of life; be its conqueror.”
― Mike Norton


Feedback and the Birthplace of Beliefs

How much do we form beliefs around the feedback we receive? And how do different personality types process feedback? Are some personality types more likely to adopt limiting beliefs than others? These questions are worth considering as we think about giving feedback to others – as parents, as teachers, as managers, as partners and friends.

Buddhist abbot Ajahn Brahm gave the example of a monastery wall he built in Australia. The wall had two “bad” bricks sticking out at an angle. He was embarrassed about the appearance of the wall until a visitor pointed out that only two bricks were deficient out of 1,000.
The moral of this story:
Whenever we give feedback it is always important to put deficiencies into context. Talk about the 998 good bricks, as well as the two bad ones, otherwise people may feel you are attacking their entire wall.
When feedback is levied at a person’s identity rather than behaviour, this can create or reinforce limiting beliefs. Henry Ford once said: ‘Whether you think you can or you think you can’t, you’re probably right!’ He was making reference to the fact that what’s going on in our heads has an effect on the way we behave.
A belief is a thought, repeated in your mind, so often that it that causes the power of your subconscious mind to affect your chronic thinking habits and thence your behaviour. During childhood, adults – usually parents and teachers – give us feedback constantly “Good boy!”, “That’s naughty!” and so on. Because, as children, we have no frame of reference or experience against which we can validate this information, we tend to believe it as ultimate truth about our very selves.
If the feedback is negative, we can carry this negativity into our adult lives and allow it to affect the way we view ourselves. These thoughts limit what we believe we can achieve. “I’m stupid,” “I’ll never amount to anything’, “I’m not good enough,” are just a few of the beliefs typically running inside us.
For much of the time, we operate on autopilot: functioning without conscious thought, e.g. getting out of bed in the morning. Whilst these automatic behaviours are often required for efficient working, they can entrench these powerful limiting beliefs; often we do not even notice we are running them. These subconscious thought patterns go quietly about their business, generating self limiting behaviours without us ever even knowing they are there.
Do you have unhelpful habits running automatically under the surface of your life? Perhaps you find yourself apologising frequently, or procrastinating, or over reacting to the shortcomings of others, or perhaps you struggle to follow through on things you know you want or do for yourself?
Each personality type is likely to have certain common limiting beliefs running their automatic behaviours. (See our book ‘The Enneagram Encountered’ for more specific information on this.) We may have a whole range of additional limiting beliefs added on top, gleaned from our early experiences. Nature meets nurture and the combination can result in a powerful cocktail of unrecognised self sabotaging behaviours, all driven by a relatively small bunch of toxic thoughts.
If you hold a negative belief about yourself or about life, what can you do? The first step is to recognize it, because only then can you begin to change. Then we can start to look for alternatives and consciously practise them until they start to release. There are a number of different techniques available for this: it is the core of personal transformation.
The Enneagram, with its profound insight into our subconscious drivers, will give us an invaluable map to discover the likely limiting beliefs for each personality type – a great starting point and one to continue to revisit throughout our experience of life.
When receiving feedback, we realise the importance of checking our systems for any unwanted residue, if we notice that our negative self beliefs are being triggered. It is so helpful to have techniques at the ready to assist with this, (see
In terms of giving feedback, then, we are more careful in the light of all of this, to be ‘Clean’ in the way we give our feedback. Caitlin Walker’s Clean feedback process (see training is a great tool for ensuring that we do not unwittingly add to others’ limiting beliefs about themselves.
Above all, the Enneagram teaches us to tread softly, for we tread on others’ whole being when we affect the beliefs they hold about themselves. We have compassion and appreciation for the immensity of the journey of each person with whom we interact. We pay due diligence to the whole person as we feedback about one small aspect of their behaviour and we look with care for the drivers which will unlock their greatest potential.
“I praise loudly, I blame softly.” Catherine the Great.

From Winnie the Pooh to Nanny McPhee, which character would YOU be?

Children’s favourite characters have massive appeal, whatever our age. We see something of ourselves in them and we love the timeless connection they give us to the heroes and villains of our childhood.

2 – Kanga

Soft and sweet, but tough when it comes to defending her own, the “Kanga” figure from Winnie the Pooh is Mum to a tee, with a ‘pop in pouch’ at the ready should the little one be in need.

3 – Dash

A bit of a show off, Dash LOVES his super abilities and begs for the day when he can stand on the podium and bask in the glory of it all; in the meantime, his very real real courage saves lives.

4 – Belle

Definitely different, with a longing for something more romantic and beautiful, Belle is alone in her ordinary life, coming into her own in a place of drama and enchantment.

5 – Owl

Stereotypical 5, perhaps, but this wise and objective figure watches from above and guides with veracity; a true friend but at a bit of a distance – no showy affection or spotlighting for Owl.

6 – Cogsworth

This nervous guardian, transformed into a clock, worries about everything but most of all detests rule breaking – “What would the Master say?” – his anxious refrain; and yet, in the end, he stands by his friends against all odds.

7 – Donkey

Non stop talking, punctuated only by a song or silly noise – Donkey is the playful optimist who stands his ground – facing the ogre without skipping a beat; there’s strength behind his smile.

8 – The Beast

Raging, roaring his terrible roar – Beast’s will is absolute. His temper drives people away – ferocious and selfish, the villain of the piece, until his heart is tamed by one who stands up to his bluster.

9 – Winnie the Pooh

Soft, sweet, charmingly oblivious, Pooh’s world is one of happy hums and honey pots. Pooh’s wisdom is simple and yet powerful – “Life is good: don’t hurry, don’t worry and never miss a good meal”!

1 – Nanny McPhee

Strict and sensible, but with a twinkle in her eye – Nanny McPhee is very off putting on first encounter, she appears all frowns and disapproval. Time and connection reveals the warmth within.