How to be Excellent This Holiday Season With the Enneagram
by Jared Williams



December 13, 2018


9 Minute Read


How to be Excellent This Holiday Season With the Enneagram

New year, new you? You gotta get through the holidays first. And For Men Contributor Jared Williams learned that his commitment to excellence may be exactly what is standing in the way of him being truly excellent.

Courtesy of Jared Williams
Courtesy of Jared Williams

There’s something to be said about the entire celebration of a new year that makes it that much easier to embrace a new frame of mind. We count it down to zero and reset the calendar, we welcome it with fireworks and fanfare. Why not make the new year an opportunity to hit reset on our lives as well?

This is the second year in a row that the holidays have brought me deeper and closer to myself and (hopefully) one of the many purposes I’m here to serve. Last year it came in the form of immersing myself in a curated spiritual experience. This year, however, it came in the form of one of the few personality tests I haven’t taken: the Enneagram.

In taking the Enneagram test, I started out in the usual way that I start personality tests — by coasting through the easier questions in the beginning, then slowly entering the more rigorous questions about my personality and behaviors. With each answer, I do my best to pause, reflect, and think about what the actual answer is, not the answer I wish it would be.

At first, it’s simple. “True or False: Other people tell me I’m driven and demanding.” Well, based on the feedback I’ve received from friends and family, I can’t exactly deny that. True.

“True or False: I can’t be loved if I’m just average…I must excel.”

This is where it gets tricky. Intellectually, I know this isn’t true. I’m striving every day to practice a self love that tells me the answer is false. I intentionally work with my therapist to make sure I believe this answer is false, and yet when I think about what the answer is for me, it feels so true that it burns. Am I doing self care wrong? No, it’s a process and a practice. Is therapy not working? No, therapy is working fine. So then why do I still believe this? Answer: Because this belief is in there deep, and it’s going to take more than a few years to understand all of the dark places I spent 24 years building consciously and subconsciously.

Think about it like waking up in the middle of the night. Whether it be out of need for the bathroom or for a glass of water, I pull myself out of bed in all of my drowsiness and start making my way to the destination. I know the way. This is my house and I know it like the back of my hand. Then I trip on something and remember, “Shit, I should’ve picked up those shoes.”

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This to me is what it means to explore my dark places. Just because I think I can navigate in the dark doesn’t mean I should, because when you don’t work to turn the lights on, you trip on questions like, “Do you feel like you can’t be loved if you’re average?” and remember you should’ve picked those shoes up. This is why I enjoy personality tests. With each one, I shine a little more light on my dark places.

My Enneagram results described me in a way that was similar to other personality tests I’ve taken. I’m usually a Type 1, the ones who crave control and order in their efforts to achieve perfection. It’s not healthy, but this is where we are. I had scheduled a call with Enneagram specialist Danielle Fanfair and looked forward to our time, expecting that much of what she would tell me I would already knew and I would respond with the exact practice I use to fix it.

Instead, what I got was about 30 minutes of her strumming my pain with her fingers and singing my life with her words.

Our conversation was going just fine until Danielle said, “Often times as children, dominant Type 1’s had some experience of not feeling good enough.” That one stung a little, but I told myself that I’m sure a lot of people experience that. She followed it up with, “When they’re in a stressful situation, they feel pressured to bring some positive change driven by a fear of being bad and a deep desire to be good and valued.” Could I technically claim that I was blindsided by this? I mean, I looked at the test results and I know I’m always having these conversations with other people. Somehow, still, this explanation shed light on A FEW dark places.

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In the past month, I had been frustrated at work and spending an unhealthy number of hours studying and applying marketing strategies and resources. Why? Because I didn’t think my work was good enough. While visiting family for Thanksgiving, I stood awkwardly as family members asked what I had been up to, knowing that this was one of their few chances to ask me, seeing as I rarely make the 45-minute trek home. It made me uncomfortable, but I wasn’t completely sure why until I brought it up with my mom on the way home — “I don’t feel like I’m doing enough.”

The natural conclusion that people draw when they read these statements is “Oh, maybe you’re just not confident in yourself.” Let me assure you that, what sometimes lives beneath “I’m not good enough” is “I know I’m good, but I don’t want to be good. I could be excellent. I should be excellent.”

This only teaches you to skip over the things you’re doing well and shift your focus to a new problem to be fixed. Anyone leading a team, whether a sports team or a business team, can tell you that if you only focus on the problems, you won’t get your team very far. This was my other dilemma as a Type 1 — I’m apparently naturally gifted with the ability to spot a problem. My specialist, however, took a second to reassure me that what I was seeing as negatives could certainly be used for my benefit.

In moderation…

A commitment to excellence is a great thing, as long as you remember to balance it with extending grace to yourself.

An ability to spot problems wherever they might be can also be useful when balanced with a celebration for what is also going well. Things like this are always the things I trip on in the dark, and if I’m hoping to take a beat this holiday season and ground myself in some spiritual growth, these are things I need to take a look at.

What are you tripping on in your dark places? Even if you think you know, I say that taking the Enneagram is a good place to start turning on some lights.