One year ago, this happened:
When I was flying home from the Detroit airport, I didn’t expect to create a hero dad moment for my teenage daughter, but that’s what happened. I have the Enneagram to thank…and Jerry from Parks and Recreation. Let me explain.
I was returning home from a training course on the Enneagram called “Motions of the Soul,” by Clare and Scott Loughrige, authors of the new book, Spiritual Rhythms of the Enneagram. As a Gallup Certified Strengths coach and ICF Certified Life coach, I wanted to add an Enneagram certification to my mix.
In case you haven’t heard of the Enneagram, it’s a personality typing tool that is being used today in business, education, and spiritual communities. Although its roots go back as early as the fourth century, it’s experiencing a resurgence due to the proliferation of content being created around it. No one “owns” the Enneagram, and so creative exploration and innovation around the tool is flourishing.
The word “Enneagram” is a combination of the Greek words ennea meaning "nine" and gram meaning "something written or drawn." In the Enneagram, there are nine personality types.
Each type lives within a “Center of Intelligence”—the head (thinking), the heart (feeling), or the gut (acting)—which is your go-to way of responding to the world.
The theory goes that each of us primarily relates to one “Home” type and have connections to other types. By understanding the healthy and unhealthy sides of our Enneagram types, we can understand how we relate to the world and ourselves, which offers opportunities for transformation.
Personally, I think of the Enneagram as a growth acceleration tool more than a personality assessment. I’ve seen accelerated growth in my own life due to the insights of the Enneagram, and my marriage, parenting, work, and even faith is better because of it. That’s why I’m getting certified in the Enneagram—to help others experience growth using the tool.
So back to the story. I’m walking to my gate at the Detroit airport, and I pass by another traveler who looks familiar. I do a half turn and I realize it’s Jerry from Parks and Recreation! He’s wheeling his forest-green carry-on.
My teenage daughter loves Jerry, my teenage daughter turns 16 tomorrow, my teenage daughter would love Jerry on her 16th birthday! Do I run after him like a loving, committed father?
No, I freeze.
You see, my Enneagram Home type is NINE, sometimes called the “Peacemaker” or the “Harmonizer.” As a NINE, some of the things I naturally do is seek the easy way, go with the flow, and avoid conflict.
There's a lot of acceptance and peace with NINE's, but we can seek the path of least resistance as an art form. In the moment, going after Jerry feels like a Herculean effort of uncertainty and risk—what would I say, what would he do, how would it look?
I stand there frozen in indecisiveness like a deer in headlights. But then I remember my training.
There are different models of applying the Enneagram. The “diagnostic” model teaches there are “wings”—the types to the immediate left or right of your Home type, which color the way you behave—and “arrows”—the types you go to in stress and security. The diagnostic model is big right now because many of today’s most popular Enneagram voices are teaching about wings and arrows.
However, the training I received focused on the “transformation” model, also called the “Harmony Triad” model. I have to say, I prefer the Harmony Triad model because it seems to offer more hope and help for holistic growth.
You might remember that each type lives within a “Center of Intelligence”—head (thinking), heart (feeling), or gut (acting). In the “diagnostic” model, your Home type is connected to other types, but not representing all of the Centers of Intelligence. That means if you pursue growth according to the diagnostic model, you may not be living from all three Centers—you may be ignoring your head or heart, for example.
I like that the Harmony model encourages us to live from our full selves—our head, heart, and gut. It calls us forth in thinking, feeling, and doing. This is what I remember in my deep freeze at the airport. I don't have to be just NINE, stuck in time, I can be more.
I remember from my training that my NINE is connected to two other types in the Harmony Triad—the SIX and the THREE—and I can pass up my NINE tendency and lean into my others. I have that power within me.
I start thinking about the SIX, sometimes called the “Loyalist” or “Questioner.” I think of my daughter, how she loves Jerry and would love a picture of him on her birthday. I ask myself, “What would it take to get a picture with him?” I think if I don’t act, this moment will pass, and I’ll regret it. I want to be a committed, loyal father.
And I think of the THREE, sometimes called the “Performer” or “Achiever.” I’m now four or five minutes behind Jerry now, who is walking in the opposite direction. But I know: I can do this, I can find him, I can hunt him down, plus how fast can Jerry really walk with his forest-green carry-on? Ultimately—and I feel this in my bones—I will achieve this for my daughter!
So I turn around resolutely and follow his path—the hunt for Jerry is on! I empty into the neon tunnel and see him half-way down, moving briskly on the moving walkway. I have him in my sights and the distance between us is shrinking. He rides the escalator up, I follow him. He heads into a store, I’ve got him cornered.
Sweaty and out-of-breath, I tap him on the shoulder, “Are you Jerry from Parks and Rec?”
He answers with a smile, “Well, yes I am,” and instead of just taking a picture for my daughter, we film a video, all because I embraced who I could be—a committed father who bypassed natural inclinations to chase down Jerry, in order words, I chose to live from my whole self.
That's how the Enneagram created a hero dad moment...with Jerry (Jim O'Heir) from Parks and Recreation.
(If you haven't watched the video, play at the top of this post.)
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