In yesterday’s post, we explored the dark side of the Enneagram and what happens when each of the types falls victim to their habit of attention and becomes fixated in their pattern of thinking. In this state of contraction, the dark side is exposed, and from crimes of passion to crimes of omission, the behavior gets ugly.
But what about the opposite? How does it look when each type relaxes their habit of attention and transcends to the highest version of themselves? In a world of highly self-aware people who have truly relaxed their habit of attention, it would be very difficult to guess someone’s Enneagram type. Why? Because as the habit of attention relaxes, the behavioral pattern becomes less pronounced. All high functioning Enneagram types operate from a place of deep compassion. We would be living in a world where people shared their strengths, where compassion ruled, and people focused their energy to benefit others.
In this post, we explore the high side of the Enneagram and each type at their best. But before we do, it’s important to highlight a couple of points.
Even highly self-aware, evolved individuals continue to be human beings making human errors. No one is perfectly relaxed and making perfect decisions all of the time. Behavior exists on a spectrum and even those operating at the high side of the spectrum don’t exhibit flawless judgement all the time.
The Enneagram gives us a very detailed map of high, medium, and low stages of awareness. The goal is to be operating at the highest level whenever possible. But as human beings, we all fluctuate up and down, even in the course of a single day. It is a noble goal to aim for the top, but it doesn't mean someone has failed as an individual if they don’t operate at the highest level all the time. We are all having a human experience.
I include famous examples of people who are, or were, able to exhibit high functioning behavior with relative consistency. While not flawless or without fault, their overall contributions are impressive, and this post focuses on their behavior at their best.
At their best, Type 1s become wise, discerning, compassionate, and accepting. Realistic, humane, and inspiring, they exercise good judgment knowing when to act and when to let things stay as they are.
Highly evolved Type 1s typically have a higher purpose that guides them, and they are able to act calmly and clearly from a place of deep compassion. Mahatma Gandhi exhibited high functioning Type 1 behavior in the 220-mile Salt March protest of 1930. This nonviolent protest, called satyagratha (loosely translated to “truth-force”) gained worldwide attention for the colonization of India and served as a model for the American civil rights movement to come decades later.
Idealistically and compassionately working for a better world is a key trait of highly evolved Type 1s.
At their best, Type 2s are altruistic, humble, direct, and pure, offering unconditional love but balancing that with self-love and self-care. They are supportive, encouraging, grateful, and giving.
Highly evolved Type 2s see past the superficial and can find the spark of beauty and potential in each person. Mother Teresa’s work with the orphans and the diseased of Calcutta embodies the high side of Type 2. She chose to “serve the poorest of the poor and to live among them and like them,” founding the Missionaries of Charity, an organization with over 4,500 nuns working in over 130 countries.
Seeing the beauty in each living person and giving without strings attached are key traits of highly evolved Type 2s.
At their best, Type 3s are self-accepting, real, honest, and are able to speak from the heart. They seek to inspire and support those around them and can connect with others from a place of authenticity.
Highly evolved Type 3s are compassionate, kind, humble, vulnerable, and accepting of others. Tony Robbins, the motivational speaker and author of Awaken the Giant Within often exhibits highly evolved Type 3 behavior in his Unleash the Power Within workshops where he teaches people how to break through their blocks by drawing on his own difficult past.
Inspiring others while staying humble and sharing vulnerability is a key trait in highly evolved Type 3s.
At their best, Type 4s are deeply original, expressive, emotionally balanced, and focused. They can manifest creations that can be shared with the outside world in meaningful ways.
Highly evolved Type 4s are self-aware, self-reflective, sensitive to others and kind to themselves. Their emotional fluency allows them to become an advocate, a translator, and an inspiration for the feelings of others. They touch and inspire us. Frida Kahlo is a famous example of a Type 4 who was able to transmute pain into beauty to be enjoyed by the rest of us. Frida Kahlo had a difficult life suffering a severe bus accident in her youth and experiencing a volatile marriage in adulthood. She used this pain to create amazing art that has only grown in popularity with the passing of time.
The manifestation of personal, authentic work is a key trait of highly evolved Type 4s.
At their best, Type 5s experience sparks of genius and innovative thinking that often lead to creative solutions and original inventions. They are engaged and engaging, being able to move in flow and tolerate ambiguity.
Highly evolved Type 5s are open-minded, deeply wise, keenly observant, and strive not just for rational knowledge but also knowledge from the heart. Winning the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1921 with his theory of relativity, Albert Einstein is an example of a high functioning Type 5. E=mc2 is the most recognized equation in history and allowed us to understand how gravity works.
Penetrating focus and sharing this knowledge with others are key traits in highly functioning Type 5s.
A their best,Type 6s demonstrate courage, fairness, and a healthy balance of interdependence and independence. They are loving, reliable, hard-working, and deeply supportive and dedicated to issues and people with which they are aligned. They can idealistically pursue the goal of creating a safer and more secure world.
J. Edgar Hoover, one of the people responsible for the creation of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) exhibited high functioning Type 6 behavior in his drive to create a safer world. While he became a controversial figure later in his career, in forming the FBI he worked hard to reshape the organization into a highly effective investigative agency.
Using courage and fairness to create a safer world are key traits in highly functioning Type 6s.
At their best, Type 7s are focused and present, feeling deep gratitude and profound appreciation in all that life offers. They are emotionally balanced and able to access the full emotional spectrum, including negative emotions.
Highly evolved Type 7s are discerning enough to know what is useful and what is a distraction, and they can become expert and knowledgeable in a range of subjects. Leonardo Da Vinci, widely considered to be one of the most diversely talented people who ever lived, with creations ranging from painting and architecture, to scientific experiments and engineering inventions, exhibited highly evolved Type 7 behavior. From his artistic ability illustrated in the Mona Lisa and The Last Supper to his original thinking that paved the way for helicopters and parachutes, his curiosity fueled a wide range of accomplishments.
Focused mastery of a range of topics is a trait of highly evolved Type 7s.
At their best, Type 8s are generous, magnanimous, restrained, wise, and courageous. They balance assertiveness with vulnerability and demonstrate strong leadership ability.
Highly-evolved Type 8s can leave a significant mark on the world as they fiercely advocate for themselves and any group with whom they are aligned. Martin Luther King, Jr., the leader of the American civil rights movement in the 1950s and 1960s, exhibited the behavior of a highly functioning Type 8 as he tirelessly fought racism. His speech “I Have A Dream” ranked as the top American speech of the 20th century.
Defending the vulnerable and championing justice are key traits in highly evolved Type 8s.
At their best, Type 9s are clear, fulfilled, receptive, caring, and autonomous. They can hold multiple conflicting perspectives in their mind without judgement or criticism. They know their worth, and they can step into their power.
Highly evolved Type 9s are able to set clear boundaries and aggressively pursue their goals while maintaining an openness, curiosity, and kindness to those around them. The Dalai Lama, the living leader of Tibet, and his peaceful yet consistent resistance to the occupation of Tibet is an example of highly evolved Type 9 behavior. Illustrating how he maintains peace without giving up his priorities, the Dalai Lama was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1989 for his nonviolent efforts for the liberation of Tibet and his concern for global environmental problems.
An ability to set boundaries and maintain personal priorities are key traits in highly evolved Type 9s.
Compassion is defined as “concern for the suffering or misfortune of others,” and you can see how each of the Enneagram types, when operating at the best and highest, is working to benefit others using their unique gifts. It's inspiring. It also calls on us to look a little more closely at our own behavior to see how we might better leverage our own gifts to benefit others.
And if you aren’t sure where to start to relax your habit of attention and reach these higher states of being, see our post about Why You Need to Get Out of Your Head and Into Your Body to Get the Most Out of Your Personality System.