5 Things I Learned at the Enneagram Conference

“Your personality is who you seem to be, but it is not who you are.”
– Ian Morgan Cron


I’ve been learning about the Enneagram this year. It’s a personality typing system based on ancient wisdom for spiritual growth.

But it’s also based on oral tradition, not written, so when I got the opportunity to listen instead of just reading about it, I took it.

Ian Morgan Cron and Suzanne Stabile, authors of The Road Back to You, are traveling the country giving weekend seminars called “Know Your Number.” I attended last month in Montgomery, Alabama. (I reviewed the book here, including the nine types.)


Jeff packed a gift in my suitcase before the seminar (I think he’s a 2, the Helper, yes?)

On Friday afternoon of the seminar, I thought my number was a 1, the Perfectionist. (I reload the dishwasher; I read all instruction manuals; I keep all my tax returns neatly filed for years).

But by Saturday night, I decided maybe I’m a 5 instead, The Investigator. (I need lots of time alone; I love gathering information—the internet is a dream come true; I’m happier texting on the phone rather than talking.)

Now what do I think? I’m still not sure which number I am.

But that’s okay. Ian and Suzanne said it can take awhile to figure out your number. The tests alone don’t determine it (actually they didn’t seem fond of the tests).

The point is: Keep learning, keep growing, and keep allowing God to lead the way.

5 Things I Learned at the Enneagram Conference

  1. What you don’t know can hurt you.

“What remains unconscious remains in control.” But the more we understand ourselves, the more we can cooperate with God in our transformation.

Discovering your Enneagram number can shorten the learning curve. Knowing yourself helps you better use your strengths, helps you monitor your reactions when you’re stressed, and helps you deal more positively with others.

  1. It’s about motivation, not just behavior.

Your personality number is determined more by what motivates you, not by how you behave. That’s why most online tests can be wrong as often as right—they don’t distinguish between motivation and behavior. You and I might perform the same action, but if I’m doing it out of pride and you’re doing it out of fear, we’re not coming from the same place, and thus may be different numbers. Keep digging to find your true number.

  1. We each are all nine numbers.

Taken as a whole, all nine numbers together give us a full-rounded view of God.

But individually, though we likely have some of each number in us, we click the most into one number. And we stay that same number for life, likely being set in it by the time we’re five years old.

  1. What you do with it counts.

This is important: We can’t change how we see the world.

But we can change what we do with what we see.

  1. Be kind to yourself.

Initially, we might not like what we discover about our number. Thinking of myself as either a 1 or a 5 doesn’t appeal to me. I see the negative traits in the profile and the negative traits in myself. And I don’t like those.

But it’s important to adopt a posture of lovingkindness to ourselves: “Healing and transformation can only happen in a climate of self-compassion.”

“Once you know your type you owe it to yourself and the people you love (or don’t love, for that matter) to become a kinder, more compassionate presence in the world.”

As John Calvin put it: “Without knowledge of self, there is no knowledge of God.” I wouldn’t phrase it that strongly, but I see some truth there.

As Ian and Suzanne told us, Christian voices throughout the centuries are united in this message for us—Wake up!

Waking up—becoming aware of who we are—helps us better know who God is, and knowing who God is helps us better know ourselves.

Regardless of our number.

* * *


Do you know your Enneagram number? Please share in the comments.

53 thoughts on “5 Things I Learned at the Enneagram Conference

  1. bethany mcilrath

    Interesting, glad you were able to learn more! I love the point about distinguishing between motives and behavior- that’s the main reason I struggle with tests like these. My favorite point here is that we’re all all the numbers in some way- because God is and we are in His image.

    Thanks for sharing!

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      I really liked that part too, distinguishing between behaviors and motivations. It does make a difference. It also means that we can’t judge each other too closely because we can’t see the heart (just like God said!). He’s always right, yes? 🙂

  2. Michele Morin

    I am also investigating the Enneagram in preparation for reading Ian and Suzanne’s book. It’s comforting to me that you are still unsettled about your number, because I hear the descriptions and think I could be almost any of them. Definitely not 2, not 8, and probably not 6. That narrows it down a little . . . ? I’ve found the podcast series to be very helpful.

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      Yes, sometimes it’s easier to rule out numbers that we are NOT. I also know I’m not a 2 or an 8. 🙂 I love the podcast, too. I think you’ll find the book helpful. I’ll look forward to what you’ll share about it. I need to reread the sections on 1 and 5 since I’m vacillating now.

  3. Andrew Budek-Schmeisser

    What valuable lessons!

    This is interesting for me because I’ve lately lost my way in the sense of any kind of personal identity. The things that used to define me have fallen away, and now there’s a hollowness that makes any kind of ‘grounding’ impossible.

    It does make accepting death easier. Perhaps it’s part of the process of letting go.

    I did take the enneagram test, and came out as an ‘investigator’, which would leave anyone who knows me personally in stitches. By both appearance and demeanour I’m looked on as a knuckledragger, and have more than once been called ‘dumber than a box of rocks’, for my innate ability to slowly master the obvious.


    1. LisaNotes Post author

      Glad to introduce the Enneagram to you, Helene. It’s been a fascinating journey to me. Of course it’s not the be-all and end-all to figuring out ourselves, but it is a useful tool. 🙂

  4. ~ linda

    Interesting…I have never heard of this, but will check into to it. I have taken a couple of personality tests years and years ago. Of course, I did NOTHING with the information so got nowhere with the original effort of taking those tests. Thanks for sharing, Lisa.

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      You hit on an important point, Linda: what use is the information if we do nothing with it? I have to consciously find ways to incorporate what I learn into my everyday life or it will have been for naught.

  5. Trudy

    I love your investigative spirit, Lisa. I’m glad we get to glean from it. 🙂 Your husband’s note is so sweet. 🙂 This especially touches me – “Waking up—becoming aware of who we are—helps us better know who God is, and knowing who God is helps us better know ourselves.” Such truth in that. Have a blessed week!

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      Thanks, Trudy. For better or worse, I do love to learn things. I’m trying to embrace it more. 🙂 Yes, waking up and staying awake is such a critical aspect of our spiritual growth!

  6. Nicki Schroeder

    I’ll be very honest Lisa, I have no desire to travel down the road of the enneagram. But I can appreciate that you have given this a lot of prayerful thought and I love that you noted openly how you don’t like the “negative” parts of the numbers you have identified with. We did one of the large corporate personality profilings at my work recently and that was the same feeling I got, the negative parts didn’t sit with me well. But then again, God allowed me to explore more in prayer why those negative parts didn’t sit well and there has been some freedom in that. lol

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      It’s not for everyone; some people enjoy this type thing and some don’t. The parts I like about it are that it’s not a static model like some of the personality typing. It shows the spiritual path for each type to continue growing and learning, as well as how each type tends to spiral down when they’re not healthy. I don’t like reading those parts either. ha.

  7. Kristi Woods

    Too fun! I read this yesterday via email and now here it is again via #testimonyTuesday. I’ve not heard of “enneagram” before, but various personality tests, usually those with 4 quandrants, have crossed my path in the past 20 years. It sounds as though this one was an interesting journey for you, Lisa. May God guide you well.

  8. Courtney Leigh

    Lisa, I love studying personality types. I find that knowing more about my personality type helps me not to get as frustrated with myself if I am in a stressful environment. It helps me see that my stress triggers may be different from those around me. I also find knowing personality types helpful in understanding others. When I better know why someone may act a certain way or have different needs, it helps me be more patient and understanding. It is also great to see how God uses such a variety of personality types to accomplish His purposes.

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      You could write a testimony for the book cover, Courtney. 🙂 These are the type of things that the authors share. And I agree. The more we learn about why we respond as we do can only be helpful.

  9. Jody Collins

    Lisa, I posted a video for our Glory Writers FB group this week on understanding yourself…using a different assessment altogether based on Learning Styles (which translate to Work Styles). The personality piece is the heart-shaped piece that overlays it all.
    I have a friend whose sent me the Enneagram assessment and keeps bugging me to take it, tho’ I’m pretty sure I know what my number is.
    I’m pleased to see how you included Calvin’s quote about knowing ourselves and thereby knowing God. We are all made in His image and He has an endlessly creative way of expressing himself!
    Great post-very helpful.

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      Sounds like an interesting assessment you posted about, too, Jody. There are many good tools out there to help us learn more. I’m so glad that God chose to be so creative with each of us!

  10. Mary Geisen

    Thank you Lisa! I love these kinds of tests and will need to investigate this one more thoroughly. I believe that by knowing ourselves better we can ultimately serve God and others more completely.

  11. Horace Williams Jr

    I admit have never heard of this before Lisa but it sounds very insightful. I will have to investigate;) I an intrigued. Knowing why we do things can only help us better understand who we are in Christ. Thank you for sharing this. I will be checking into it myself. Have a fabulous week! Blessings to you and yours.

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      I have found it to be an insightful tool myself, Horace; hope you will too if you investigate further. I agree that when we look into the why and how we behave as we do, God will help us grow more towards the image of his Son. Blessings to you, too!

  12. Meghan

    I took one of these a handful of years back and I think I scored Helper but if it’s anything like the Happiness Dare or other ones, it can change depending on life and moods, growth etc. I am glad these help us but don’t define us. I have a bad habit of wearing labels like it’s cool. I am learning to find my center in Christ after a lifelong journey of finding it in other things. I so appreciate you sharing here though and all the info! I was your neighbor today over at #TellHisStory – have a blessed week!!

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      I agree with you, Meghan—these things can help us, but they definitely don’t define us. At the conference they even warned us not to use it as a label, so it’s interesting that you mentioned that. 🙂 Finding our identity in Christ is the most sure and centered thing we can do.

  13. Jean Wise

    I know we have talked about this before but I just love this type of stuff. I know the more I know my true self – the more I know God. Thanks for sharing all this and love the idea that we are all the numbers. I am a full “3” though, through and through.

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      A “3”, huh? So you’re a mover and shaker who gets things done! 🙂 The world definitely needs our 3s. I love this stuff, too…and agree that it does give us more glimpses of God’s face!

  14. Kelly Chripczuk

    I’ve found the Enneagram to be so helpful. Type 1 and type 5 are often confused and you can probably find somewhere online (I know I have one book that talks about hard to distinguish types) that helps pin-point the differences between the two. 🙂

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      Thanks for that insight, Kelly. I do need to look further into distinguishing between 1 and 5. Another guy at the conference was also torn between these two. I’m still going back and forth in my mind between them. 🙂 I’ll have to do more research (which makes me feel like I’m really a 5? ha).

  15. Lori Schumaker

    Lisa, You always inspire me in so many different ways! You have introduced so many different tests, concepts, books, and thoughts to me. I love how you keep me challenged. I do not have any idea about my enneagram, but I sure am curious!
    Blessings and smiles,

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      You bring up an interesting point, Beverley: I’m now curious if most people would rate us the same number that we rate ourselves…. I’m guessing that many of us are harder on ourselves, as it sounds like you are about yourself. 🙂

      1. Beverley

        A number of years ago now i worked in an after school club, for children aged 5-8 years. One evening they decided that all the staff should be a dog and they chose a breed for all of us, which amused everyone – they said i was a Rottweiler, which about sums up how others see me at times. I put to having to be in charge and look like i was at work!
        Recently a younger woman at church was having problems and i over heard her speaking to others and felt i could give her some counsel. Not sure how she would take it as i didn’t know her very well, i spoke slowly and paused a lot. A few days later she openly told me that i was very kind – i don’t think anyone could have said anything greater to me about me.

  16. June

    This is truly fascinating, Lisa! I see some really enlightening and important truths in what you’ve shared here. As far as Calvin’s comment, I see it exactly the opposite, lol. Without knowing God, how can we truly know ourselves? #4 is incredibly relevant for the times we’re in, don’t you think? Good stuff, as usual, friend!

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      Thanks, June. And I’m glad you mentioned that about Calvin’s quote…I hesitated even using it because I don’t totally agree with it either. In all fairness to him, I think there was more to the quote…

      “Without knowledge of self there is no knowledge of God Our wisdom, in so far as it ought to be deemed true and solid Wisdom, consists almost entirely of two parts: the knowledge of God and of ourselves. But as these are connected together by many ties, it is not easy to determine which of the two precedes and gives birth to the other.”

      But that seemed too dense to include. ha. And yes, #4 does seem particularly relevant to me, too, because without using what we learn, what’s the point? Thanks for your insights!

      1. June

        Who am I to question Calvin – ha! I agree that the “two are connected.” I’m certain in the full context of this quote he is talking about something much higher than my understanding, however, I would go out on a limb and say that God’s Wisdom gives birth to ours.

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