Perhaps you’re familiar with the Enneagram. If not, then the rest of this article might not make much sense, and it might be worth getting familiar with the personality profile system that has seen a resurgence in popularity over the past few years. With origins that go back to the church centuries ago, the Enneagram has proven to be a useful tool for churches, therapists, organizational leaders, and personal development to gain insight towards one’s tendencies and motivations.
According to the Enneagram Institute: “At its core, the Enneagram helps us to see ourselves at a deeper, more objective level and can be of invaluable assistance on our path to self-knowledge.” Part of its strength as a system is its inclusion of both healthy and unhealthy tendencies of each type. These tendencies have implications of unique struggles and opportunities that each type might face in the realm of sustainability.
Ones: Your moral compass is urgently needed.
Type Ones are most recognized for having a strong code of ethics, a desire to constantly improve and reform things, and a tendency towards black-and-white thinking.
So many of the environmental problems that our planet faces are a consequence of unsustainable behaviors. Changing our habits becomes an ethical issue as we grow in our awareness of how they affect people. Ones have the natural strength of self-discipline, which is a tremendous asset in living sustainably. The quiet example of somebody who has taken intentional steps towards reducing their ecological footprint can be undeniably inspiring.
A word of caution to ones, however– beware the temptation of perfectionism. Short burst attempts to be perfect in our attempts to live sustainably may result in burnout. Also, a sense of judgmental environmental legalism can have the opposite effect of discouraging others from living sustainably.
Twos: You are natural nurturers.
Twos are most widely known as the helpers. They often find their value in their ability to be of support or value to other people. This comes with some incredible strengths, like being people-magnets or highly dependable. It’s also accompanied by the challenge of avoiding unhealthy attachments.
When it comes to environmental restoration, nurture is key! The gentleness of nurturing a small seedling into a mighty oak is strength when it comes to tree planting and reforestation. Nurturing communities into becoming more sustainability-minded requires the deeply personal touch that twos have a knack for.
Twos may have a hard time when the opportunity to help another person is out of their control. This can make global environmental problems seem daunting or impossible to engage with. Twos can benefit from setting strong boundaries and checking in with their own reactions to avoid being spread too thin or overrun.
Threes: Helping others is a holy ambition.
It isn’t too difficult to explain how ambition can be both a positive and negative thing. The upside of ambition is that it creates change and leads to results. The downside is that it can quickly turn into an unhealthy competition and an unending appetite to produce. This encapsulates the journey of a Three.
Threes are ambitious problem solvers, and that is a gift when it comes to solving large, daunting problems. When a community faces a major environmental problem, a three will find joy in putting that community on his or her shoulders and spearheading the search for a solution. Many breakthroughs and successes can be attributed to this ambition.
A big challenge for Threes is to avoid the selfishness that often comes with ambition. Threes must also remember that our planet benefits from cooperation. A mature Three can channel her ambitions towards big visions for communities and planet, rather than self.
Fours: Teach us to lament and wonder.
Fours are extra sensitive to the richness, the horror, and the wonder of being alive. They are romantic idealists at heart, challenged by the many ways the world falls short of those ideals. They often display an artistic nature, value authenticity, and are more comfortable than most with sad feelings. At their best, they are emotionally intelligent. At their worst, emotionally volatile.
When it comes to our current ecological crisis, Fours have a very important role to play. Their ability to process and express wonder reminds us why this planet is worth stewarding. Their comfort with avese emotions like sadness allows them to properly lament– something most do not take the time to do while facing the environment.
A risk that Fours may face is letting their powerful emotional reactions control them. Fours benefit from helpful reminders to focus on the next right thing.
Fives: Your knowledge and insight can be prophetic.
For a Five, knowledge is power. The uncertainty of the world can be better navigated by problem solving and breaking things down into steps. Fives are often engineers or scholars. They have a natural curiosity that allows them to dive deeply into specific parts of creation.
Needless to say, Fives have contributed a great deal to our understanding of how the world works and the intricate designs of creation.
Fives have also helped us significantly in understanding the environmental problems we currently face. They help us see what needs to be done to solve problems. Behind many of the stats and studies that have led to action is the work of many Fives. Their clarity of sight can be prophetic.
A good challenge to Fives would be to not lose sight of the heart that goes into their work. Emotions aren’t quantifiable, which challenges Fives that prefer concrete and tangible concepts. However, most human behavior is emotionally driven. Learning to connect the head and the heart can turn a Five into an incredible advocate.
Sixes: Turning anxiety into action.
Sixes are loyalists. They have a knack for faithfulness and consistency. Anxiety often undergirds their decision-making, but their caution can be helpful in times of uncertainty. Some Enneagram experts have theorized that the Sixes of a society are the ones who keep things from a point of doom!
That role sounds especially helpful at a time where a lot of what you hear about the environment seems alarming. The faithfulness, consistency, and reliability of a healthy Six are all essential to sustainability.
Sixes naturally question new claims and ideas, which helps avoid the danger of looking for silver bullet solutions to the ignorance of ordinary-seeming but highly effective approaches.
Anxiety affects Sixes more directly than any other type. Overcoming eco-anxiety might be a unique challenge for a Six. Helpful reminders are to focus on the small wins and to surrender what is out of our control to God.
Sevens: Moderation is a virtue.
Sevens vibrantly exhibit joy. They are led by an appetite for life and an ability to be unusually joyful. Sevens are adventurous, intentional, and action-oriented.
The gift of a Seven that is especially relevant during a time of environmental uncertainty and eco-anxiety is their ability to remain joyful in all circumstances. For a mature Seven, this isn’t a pollyanna feeling that comes from ignoring circumstances. It's a resilient enthusiasm that comes in spite of them. Their appreciation for life can be infectious. Their joy can motivate others to place a greater value on their life and their planet.
Sevens should be cautious to avoid their tendency towards overconsumption. Their legendary “appetite for life” can at times devolve into an unhealthy sense of gluttony. Many of the earth’s problems result from unchecked consumption, making moderation an especially valuable asset for a Seven to learn.
Eights: Stand with the most vulnerable.
Eights are fighters. They have little desire to hide their genuine reactions any more than necessary, and when that is expressed in a healthy way, it can be refreshing. Eights are natural leaders, and often rally around the most vulnerable in a group. It’s hard for an eight to be in a group without displaying strong influence on those around them.
Environmental problems affect the poorest communities first, and hit them the hardest. The cruelty of environmental injustice can naturally fill an Eight with a holy anger. An Eight feels the deserved sense of urgency that accompanies environmental problems as they take a toll on people. Their ability to influence others can result in true change.
For Eights, unchecked anger can become a weakness. Be sure to not become so calloused by the things you confront that you lose sight of the strength of vulnerability. Vulnerability and strength aren't opposites. They are two parts connected to authenticity.
Nines: We can’t do it without unity.
Nines have the gift- and the challenge- of being able to easily see all sides of the story. They are extremely thoughtful, and can easily connect and relate to other people. This ability is often driven by a nine’s desire for peace and a distaste for conflict. They may often appear calm or passive, however they can be extremely influential.
Here’s why the world needs Nines in the face of an environmental crisis. The environment affects us all, and we all have some sort of impact on it.
They have the ability to promote unity, and that is absolutely needed.
Their ability to see things from multiple angles and all points of view becomes a superpower in a time that grows increasingly polarized.
One challenge for Nines: Their desire for peace may create the temptation of passivity. It can simply seem easier to avoid conflict or stepping in the direction of challenge than to go through it in order to create a better system where all points of view are included.
No matter what your personality or role in life is, we believe that every part has a purpose. To discover more resources on how to live sustainability, check out our guide of sustainability ideas. And to partner with a family in a part of the world vulnerable to environmental crises, click here!