In this final episode in the series, we’re turning our attention to your personality type. Specifically what the enneagram has to teach us about different people’s relationship to concentration. (If you’re unfamiliar with the enneagram please jump over here to our series on your visibility personality.)
The enneagram outlines nine personality types. Not all of them are challenged when it comes to concentration. Let’s start with some of the shining stars when it comes to concentration.
Ones and fives
Ones and fives have a great capacity for concentration and focus. Ones concentrate on achieving a high standard in everything they do. Because the standard they set for themselves is higher than any other point on the enneagram, they’ll stick at a project long after everyone else would have called it complete, ensuring it’s perfection. As such, ones are generally pretty at ease with the question of being able to concentrate. Like the other champions of concentration – fives – their challenge is more about when to stop, to let go, to ease off.
Fives are the researchers of the enneagram. You’ll often find them deep in concentration, exploring the depth and breadth of their chosen subject. In conversation and in emails, you’ll find they provide lengthy, detailed explanations in an attempt to ensure they’re fully understood. The challenge for the five, therefore, is not in concentrating, it’s in understanding which pieces of information other people need from them and which they’ve acquired purely for their own purposes and love of learning.
Twos don’t have a particular problem with concentration per se, although when working on their own projects they’re likely to find themselves easily pulled off tasks by the needs of others. They can find themselves challenged by the idea that something that’s ‘just for them’ would be as worthwhile a venture as helping someone else achieve their goals. From a business perspective, this can be problematic as you find yourself helping others to the point where there’s either no time for your interests or where you haven’t set up a system to be paid for the assistance you provide others. One way around this for a two is to create a business model that allows you to shine in the area of customer service. That will keep you focused on and on task.
Threes will often set themselves a jam-packed schedule filled with meetings. This may leave other enneagram points feeling scattered or burned out, but a three loves working toward a goal and maximising their time. They’re going to apply their immense capacity for efficiency toward achieving any goal they set themselves (right up until the point when they burn out). The challenge for a three is that of over-commitment and treating themselves like machines that never need to stop. Learning to smell the roses is key to a three experiencing a balanced life and applying their concentration in a healthy rather than excessively driven manner.
Fours are drawn to anything that ensures their self-expression. As long as they have a creative way to express themselves, they’ll be able to spend long stretches of time concentrating. The thing that’s likely to push a four off-kilter is their emotional state. If they’re feeling rejected, for example, they will not be able to concentrate on much else. If they’re feeling unwanted or unappreciated, they may also find they’re unable to find their way to focus. So you might think that achieving emotional stability is key to a four’s capacity to concentrate. In truth, it’s finding the right kind of emotional wave to ride on. Many fours have written incredible operas, novels, songs, movies by diving into their grief, suffering, pain, or loss. Knowing how to harness their emotions is a four’s superpower. As long as long as they’re able to shift from wallowing to focusing their emotional state, they’re all set.
Sixes are detail-oriented, team players. They are very well organised and precise. They make amazing operational officers. So on the whole, concentration isn’t a problem for a six. They understand how to take a vision and turn it into reality. However, and this is an important one, sixes can also struggle with anxiety. Depending on the level of anxiety, a six might find that they start questioning their decisions, chronically doubting themselves, unable to concentrate for fear of making the wrong choice or, at worst, unable to function. The key here for a six is to build their confidence and commit to the decisions they’ve made. It’s important for sixes to appreciate that they’re the risk assessors of the enneagram and really have taken every variable into account in reaching a decision. Learning to trust themselves and their excellent discernment is key here.
On the surface, sevens look like the point on the enneagram that’s least capable of concentrating well. Famously jack of all trades, they jump from one thing to another, are easily bored and are always looking for new and interesting ideas and experiences to surprise and delight them. However, sevens also have an extraordinary ability to focus their efforts whilst they are interested in it. When they are engaged, they’re completely engaged. They’ll forget to eat or work through the night on a project because they’re so interested in it. BUT when they’re done, they’re done and as soon as something begins to feel limiting rather than expansive, they’re out. (Commitment is something sevens can struggle with.) The challenge for a seven, therefore, is to even out their intensity a bit. To slow down, not jump at every opportunity that comes their way (for fear of missing out), finish what they started, and create a healthy habit around where they focus their concentration. This will still see them producing in their usual prolific manner, but without burning the candle at both ends or overextending their adrenals in the process.
Eights are very determined, energetic and headstrong. They can immediately see a way through most problems and assume themselves the appropriate person to point that out to the people around them. Rather than having a particular skill for concentration though, what they do have is willpower and an extraordinary capacity for applying that willpower to getting what they want. This sees them achieving a lot in life. Their Achilles heel lies in the fact that their preference is always that other people do the work for them, rather than having to do it themselves. Therefore, they can find themselves not following through on tasks. Not because they’ve lost concentration, but because they didn’t think they should be the ones completing the tasks in the first place. Their immense willpower can work against them in this regard. They’ll put up massive resistance to doing something they don’t want to do and they end up in an internal war of wills between the part of themselves trying to get something done and the part refusing to do it.
Sometimes I think of a lack of concentration as associated with a lack of grounding. That is, not being fully in your body and becoming caught up with mental activity. The mind types – fives, sixes and sevens – fit that bill a lot. They’re most likely to jump around with their very active, fast-moving minds and have to really work hard throughout their lives to sink into their bodies and become comfortable there. What saves them – from a concentration perspective – is that they know how to manoeuvre in tandem with the mind because of their inherent understanding of how it works.
Our last point on the enneagram is different to that. Nines are a body point. They move through the world in a more kinesthetic manner, feeling their way into opportunities, relationships, ideas. This doesn’t however, mean that they’re always centred. They’re not. Because of their capacity to empathise with other people, to understand other people’s points of view, they can easily become caught up in someone else’s way of doing things and lose themselves there. It may take them a long time to even realise that they haven’t been anchored in their own truth but in someone else’s. When you lose yourself in this way, it’s difficult to concentrate on what matters most to you. It’s easy to become foggy in your mind, wondering which thing to focus on. It’s easy to forget what it is you’d committed to working on. The key for a nine is to develop the skill of setting boundaries and becoming comfortable sticking to them. To anchor into their own truth and stay there rather than constantly looking for meaning in the lives, businesses, and forms of expression created by others.
Well, that’s it, my friend! They’re all the points on the enneagram. I hope you’ve enjoyed our series on visibility and concentration and if you know someone whose visibility efforts may have been impacted by their capacity for concentration, please forward this to them. It might just spark the insight they need to turn things around for them.
NB: This article is part of a series on visibility and concentration. Click here to access the full series.
Keen to know more about the enneagram?
We have a free series here and we have a month-long program inside our signature program Women Speaking Up which helps you identify your own enneagram point, uncover what that means about how you shine and how you hide, and clear out the unhealthy aspects of your enneagram point. (Every enneagram point has a healthy form of expression and an unhealthy one. With the right clearing work, each of us can move from unhealthy expression to healthy.) You can find out more about Women Speaking Up right here.