I’m not super into things like the Enneagram, but I kinda get it. I’ve taken the test multiple times, and I usually fall somewhere in the Enneagram Five range. That type is usually labelled as “The Observer,” “The Investigator,” or something along those lines. Honestly, I actually think the type matches my personality pretty well — better than any other personality test I’ve taken (except for the scientifically-validated “Big Five” test, which is generally accurate over the course of someone’s lifetime, and does a good job of predicting success in certain areas).
Assuming we take my Enneagram type as valid — or at least as a true story that I tell myself about myself — I think it accurately captures something about my personality that frustrates me. You see, as far as I can tell, fives are generally the kinds of people who are planners. In order to protect ourselves from the chaos of life, we research, attain as much knowledge as possible, and plan as much as possible before taking action (especially long-term action). I would think that’s probably associated with risk-aversion, meaning I’m not likely to simply make a big life change without attempting to understand the potential impacts of the decision as much as possible ahead of time.
To be fair, there is some good here. I have a family, and risk-aversion has probably helped us to be relatively steady financially. It has helped maintain my family’s feelings of security, and we’ve been (mostly) free of any real challenges that we couldn’t manage up to this point.
The problem, however, is in my daily life. My risk aversion only allows me to take action on decisions about which I feel like I completely understand. I’m not likely to simply jump in on a project, work on a new idea, or start a new venture without an excessive amount of forethought. I’ll spend weeks or months turning an idea over in my head and researching before I decide to just “go for it” (and even then, it still feels like “going for it,” instead of a long, drawn out process to me; it never, ever feels like I know enough when I finally do come to a decision).
This problem shows itself in even the smallest places in my life. I love running, for example, but struggle to maintain a consistent routine because there is so much conflicting data out there about what my weekly workouts should look like, how I should prevent injury, and how I should ultimately plan out a training regimen if I’m going to tackle, say, a marathon. The same can be said for something like blogging. I love that blogging is something simple and easy. I can just open up a browser window, throw some words on the screen, and call it good. Unfortunately, my brain wants a plan for the blog. I want to have some series of things I’m writing about. Some weekly goal that I should be meeting. Maybe the blog’s ultimate purpose should be a space for the book I’ll write some day, etc., etc. And on top of that, when I do sit down to write a blog, I feel inadequate to address whatever topic it is that I’m attempting to write about, because I almost never feel like I know enough about the topic to say anything at all. Objectively, I know that’s probably wrong. The fact is, to anyone who even takes the time to read this, I know more about Søren Kierkegaard than any of you ever will. The same can be said for certain areas of philosophy and theology.
In other words, I think I take everything I do just a little too seriously. It’s like without the affirmation that my work is going to take in all of the available context and that I’m likely to not be wrong about what I’m saying, I don’t want to pursue that action, because I don’t want to take on the risk of being wrong.
And that’s a flaw that I think I need to work on.