I’m a 3 on the Enneagram. Experts who understand this test better than I, tell me this means that when I’m at my best, I am driven to ambitiously pursue the good, the right, the true, and the beautiful.
What’s novel about this ancient personality assessment is it also offers insight into what I’m like when I’m at my worst. Apparently, I can also be a short-sighted, scarcity-minded manipulator who’s willing to lie to get what he wants.
Ask any of my closest friends and family who’ve been near to me long enough and they’ll attest both descriptions aren’t far off. Left to my own devices, often unconsciously, I have a broad motivational spectrum, both for good and for ill.
Before you take the full measure of me though, it might be helpful to know that the Enneagram offers a similar set of best and worst descriptors for everyone on the personality spectrum. It turns out we all have the capacity to be great and to be awful, just in different forms.
All of this begs the question: What must we do to promote the best version of ourselves and discourage the worst?
In many ways, our work at MWOD centers on this question. It’s our why. When we describe the goal of our practice, we say it’s to become strong and awake for love’s sake.
If you break this phrase down, I think you’ll see three very powerful insights you can build your whole life around to draw out your best.
When we came up with this little mantra, we wanted people to remember it easily. That’s why we built in the rhyme. In truth though, awareness comes before strength.
If you want to design your life so your best comes out more often than your worst, it’s going to require you are awake to what’s going on.
But most of us aren’t awake. We’re asleep. Here’s how the Catholic mystic, Anthony DeMello, describes how most people sleepwalk through life…
"Most people, even though they don't know it, are asleep. They're born asleep, they live asleep, they marry in their sleep, they breed children in their sleep, they die in their sleep without ever waking up.”
The acclaimed novelist and philosopher, Walker Percy, echoes the same sentiment this way…
"The search is what anyone would undertake if he were not sunk in the everydayness of his own life. To become aware of the possibility of the search is to be onto something. Not to be onto something is to be in despair."
We all crave being onto something. In the precious aha-moments of our life, we wake up to those things. But we all understand that knowing and doing are different things. Waking up is necessary, but it is only the first step.
Once we become aware of a direction we want to go, often against the drift that our previously life was taking us on, we commit to making a change. The challenge is setting our intention in this way doesn’t mean we’ll do it.
I might have the intention of losing weight, for example. But if I don’t have the strength to say no to the chocolate cake, it’s unlikely I’ll get what I want. What’s required is a means by which I can grow my strength to do the hard things that will get me what I want. This is the second necessary step. When people take it they give themselves their best shot at becoming their most true and fulfilled selves.
Becoming the kind of person who regularly does hard things—what we at MWOD call becoming strong—requires a comprehensive strategy. This kind of transformation isn’t something you’ll succeed at if you dabble, at least not very quickly. The smarter move is to build your whole life around a process that makes you strong and awake over and over again. That’s what we do at Men & Women Of Discomfort. If we stopped there though, it still wouldn’t deliver on fulfillment though. It turns out awareness and strength built exclusively for yourself is more about ego than it is about flourishing. To build thriving lives, it requires that it not just be for self, but for something bigger. Something that lasts even beyond ourselves. Something transcendent.
The end zone at MWOD is love. Whatever your highest vision for that word is good enough. Trust us when we say, it will go higher the more you work with it. This is because becoming strong and awake changes us into people that increase our capacity for love. Thus, our experience of love gets bigger as we play this bigger game.
There’s no doubt, this project is ambitious. It’s no small thing to claim the possibility of comprehensive life transformation. But when we make it not just about self but about love (for or toward whatever that means to you right now), we add a humility that isn’t about bravado. It’s about the other.
Ambitious Humility is a hallmark of the women and men who make up this community. They call me up to this every single day by the way they pursue their lives. If you’re craving that in your own life, join in.