Enneagram - Feelings

To this point in the series, I've described my experience with the Enneagram and what I've discovered about my personality in my day to day life.

As I've mentioned in previous posts, identifying as a Three on the Enneagram has been very revealing. Knowing that I am driven equally by success and the fear of failure has helped me on a daily basis as I constantly check my motivations, my participation in projects and my struggles in interpersonal relationships. Also, recognizing that I have an insatiable appetite for goal setting and goal achieving and that this is not something "everyone else in the world" deals with has been a mind stretch. 

This all leads me to my final posting on what I've learned specifically about being a Type THREE on the Enneagram and probably the most important one for me because it has to do with an area I've always struggled with: Feelings/Emotions.


The nine numbers of the Enneagram are divided into three sections, called Triads. The triads typically show your reaction or your approach to life. Numbers 8, 9, and 1 tend to approach and react to life through the guti/reaction center.  Numbers 2, 3 and 4 will process aspects of their life issues from the heart/feeling center. Finally, Numbers 5, 6, and 7 on the Enneagram tend to approach life through the head/thinking center. If you look back at the circle in the graphic, you will notice something interesting. At the center of every triad are numbers 9, 3, and 6 and these serve as anchor points/centers for each triad.

Because I identify myself as a THREE on the Enneagram, I am in the dead center of the Heart/Feeling Triad. You would think that means that the center numbers (9, 3 and 6) each have super-hero abilities in each of their triads. Interestingly enough, this is not the case and one more reason why I find the Enneagram fascinating. I do not have a cape and a giant “E” on my chest for emotions. In fact, I am just the opposite. For as long as I can remember, I lack the natural tendency to process through emotions well. Once again I thought this was just a struggle for Fletch, but as it turns out, this is another trait of Type THREE's on the Enneagram.



One tell-tale sign for THREE's on the Enneagram is that they have a difficult time connecting with their own feelings. For as long as I can remember, feelings have not been one of my strengths. If I'm being dead honest, it isn't even one of the tools I have available to me. 

For the casual reader who doesn't spend time with me in real life, here is what it looks like: From love to tragedy, I approach those situations through my head (rationally). It would do no good to ask me how I feel about a situation, because more often than not, I cannot identify what I'm actually feeling. I'm like Spock. I can tell you exactly what I think and I can reason away emotions that I see in others as completely illogical. In my mind, I may actually be saying something like: “Why are you acting that way?” or “Take a breath, back-up and let’s reason this out, there is no reason to get upset (cry/yell/emotion du jour).

I'm horrible at a funeral. I'm horrible during an emotional discussion, but I'd be great at downsizing a corporation. No hard feelings? No feelings at all. Logic dictates what needs to happen, don't let your feelings get in the way. Just do what needs to get done. Rip off the Band-Aid and move on. Stop fussing.

Here is an important clarification: If I am being honest, I know where and why people are getting emotional. However, I have learned that emotions do not serve me well so I know how to keep them in check and go to my head for comfort. Here’s how this looks: I’m talking to someone and they are sharing a story that leads them to an emotional point. These are the types of conversations where people say, “Oh look at me, I’m a mess. I’m sorry for getting emotional.” I lose all footing in those situations and never know what to do. It is so uncomfortable. I just don’t have the tools in my bag to work this out.

So, there I sit paralyzed and not knowing how to help some and I go into my “normal mode” which is a goal setting and problem solving. We all know how that goes, right? Nothing solves an emotional situation like someone who wants to start reasoning things out.

Feelings and The Gospel
Here’s where it gets really good. In the past 10 years, I’ve been softened by the gospel. Nothing undoes me faster than when I get close to the cross. A good story of salvation, seeing the Holy Spirit move in someone’s life, or once again knowing that Jesus loves me in the midst of my poverty of spirit and deep sin. I am undone time and again.

At first I thought it was a midlife crisis and an issue of hormone imbalance, but the more I look at it, I still don’t get emotional with cat videos, soldier coming home videos, but I lose it when I see the Holy Spirit intervene in a situation.

Identifying this is one thing, but doing the work on my personality is quite another. In my final post in this series I will talk about the Work of the Enneagram.

Quietly making noise,

Enneagram - Goals

In the previous post I shared how discovering the Enneagram became a useful tool at revealing the shadow side of my life. (I'd call it the dark side, but that sounds too Vaderish). If you are like me, you probably won't like the laser focus of this personality tool. At the beginning, I didn't. Overtime though, I have enjoyed the journey I have taken to become a healthier version of myself. In a move that is unlike my Type Three, in that post I began with what I had learned about my motivations. I shared how I jockey daily between the fear of avoiding failure and the positive affirmation I get from accomplishments. This has become extremely helpful for me to recognize what I am doing in the moment. To continue, I want to discuss in this post another shadow I have to face: my pursuit of goals.

Because I'm driven by successful accomplishments, it makes sense that goal setting would come easy to me and more importantly a goal accomplisher. If there is any question about this, consider the label they give to a Type 3 on the Enneagram: Achiever. 

There is nothing wrong with setting and accomplishing goals, right? So, what does the shadow side of my personality reveal about Type Threes and our goal setting?

First, I have learned that most Type Threes on the Enneagram forget to celebrate their goals. Bingo! That is me. Actually, that is me with pinpoint accuracy. As long as I have made goals, I have never taken the time to celebrate my goals. If you are scratching your head and wondering why, it is very easy for me to explain. There are more goals to accomplish. There is always something new or better or bigger. There is always more to accomplish or a better way to get it done. What shocks me is that other people don't see it like this. :)

Taking the time to celebrate a goal does not make sense to me. It's like a drug. I don't stop to enjoy the high, because the high does not come from the accomplishment, but from the "next and bigger thing."  If you forget to pause and celebrate your goals and your accomplishments, you just might be a Three.


The second thing I've learned about goal setting is that not only am I not great at celebrating or even acknowledging an accomplished goal, but the next goal will be even bigger and better than the last goal.

If you have seen the movie, The Greatest Showman, than you have seen a Type Three on display before your very eyes in the character of P.T. Barnum. As we left the theater, Kendra asked: "Was it painful to see yourself in that movie?" Funny that she would recognize what was self evident to me. Yes. Yes it was painful and hard to watch a version of myself depicted so clearly in a movie. Barnum lived in the shadow of failure and believed he had to work hard and accomplish everything for the love and affection of his wife, the approval of his inlays and the affirmation of everyone who did not believe in him.  At the same time, I loved the movie and I was thrilled by Barnum.

***SPOILER ALERT***One of my favorite scenes in the film happened after the fire destroyed his circus. Do you remember what Barnum did? His plan was not just to rebuild the circus. It wasn't going to become just another Barnum Circus. No, this was going to be something bigger and better. In a classic Type Three move, it was now going to be called: THE GREATEST SHOW ON EARTH! Yeah, that's a Three thing to do. That's me.

How does that relate to the real world? Do you remember Y2K? It seems like a long time ago. As the world prepared for stock markets to crash and computers to reboot, I was at the start of my career and in the process of splitting my business partnership, I practiced dentistry in a rented space. I had 2 dental assistants and 1 front desk employee and I was up to my neck in business debt. My goals were simple: make it to the next month with money in the bank to pay my employees and stay in business. I was driven and if you remember the last post, failure was not an option. So what happened?

Every single year has been more productive than the year before. As I type this today, I practice dentistry in a building that I purchased, gutted and rebuilt to my standards. I have purchased top of the line dental equipment and technology. I have 2 employees at my front desk, 4 hygienists, and 3 dental assistants. We've grown every year and rarely celebrated. I'm currently working on goals that I set in January and as the Fall rolls around I will begin setting goals all over again. Recently I found myself saying, "What's next? What can I do to make this bigger and better?” Never content. Always more.  Yeah, it's a Three thing. 

Again, goals are good and I’m learning to create and celebrate healthy goals. 

Quietly making noise,

Enneagram - Attaboy!

I'm continuing my discussion of how I was introduced to the Enneagram.

As I mentioned in the previous post, when I took a trip around the Enneagram I was immediately able to find my number. The online RHETI test only confirmed my findings. Then when I attended the "Know Your Number" conference I felt like a bug under the burning rays of a magnifying glass as I identified my personality.

If you are familiar with the Enneagram and if you are familiar with me, you might have guessed by now, but I land on the Enneagram as a solid THREE. THREE's are often named "The Performer" or "The Achiever" which comes from their belief that they find their acceptance by what they accomplish. I find it extremely funny that you are reading this in my blog where I publish who I am, what I think and what I've done. That's really funny. Blogs were created for self-promotion.

THREE's are goal-oriented and more importantly goal-accomplishing people. THREE's are great at networking and connecting, especially if it helps them succeed at accomplishing the goals they have made for themselves. My annual goal sheet is ridiculous and I'm often ashamed to show it to other people, but at the same time: I get stuff done.

I've heard it said about THREES that they need endless successes and feedback to reassure themselves against a very honest and realistic insecurity they live with. They are competitive and recognize loss as failure, but even in their loss they will repackage the failure as merely a "learning experience" to ease their conscience. I could go on and on, but let me stop here and say: I don't want to be a THREE, but I can't escape it. Every descriptor of a THREE as an achiever, performer, chameleon, flirt, manipulator, social engineer, hit me right between the eyes. Even though I hate it,  I cannot escape it.

Maybe you don't like your number either. In an effort to encourage you on your own journey, I am going to share some interesting insights I've learned about myself. Remember, I'm a THREE, I promise I'll only share the positive things! I'll begin today with what I learned about fears and how they function in my life and then over the next few days I'll share what I learned about goals and feelings.


The quote included in this photo of my dad is something I have heard over the course of my adult life. I might have even mentioned it about eight years ago here on theMangoTimes. Yes, I know that this funny little quip is always said in jest, but the idea behind this quote is fairly accurate in the life of a THREE. Success matters, winning matters, but more importantly: Recognition Matters. Whether I like it or not and if I'm being honest, recognition for what I accomplish is half of the fuel behind my actions. 

The other half of my fuel comes from the fear I associate with failure. So, not only do I want to accomplish things, but I am equally driven by a fear of being seen as a failure. Here's the truth: I don't fail regularly, but I do fail.  To be clear, when I fail it stings like it does for everyone else, but worse for me is being seen as a failure. I don't want you to see me fail. It is like two sides of a wicked coin constantly spinning in the air. 

Do you see now how the "Attaboy" quote hits home for a THREE on the Enneagram? The only problem is that the ratio communicated in this quote is not quite accurate enough for my taste. For me it is more like this: "One "Aw Shit" wipes out 20 "Attaboys!"

Let me share a concrete example of this: I've had a recurring nightmare for the past 25 years. Every week or so, I wake up in the same cold sweat. I'm sure some of you are familiar with the dream. It's always the same. In my dream, I am one week from college graduation or final exams and I realize that I forgot to show up to one of my classes all semester. In my dream, I immediately remember the class. I remember signing up for the class and I even remember going to the class for the first week of lectures. But then somehow, I stopped showing up all semester but I also forgot to drop the class. So, on top of all my responsibilities, I now have to prepare for a final exam. The nightmare involves this class being required for graduation. As if that's not enough, it's also always a higher math or science that I cannot bullshit my way through. I always wake up not knowing the outcome.

I was listening to Jeff Goins being interviewed on the Typology podcast. Jeff also identifies as a THREE and guess what we share? That's right. We both have the same nightmare. It's a nightmare based on the fear of failure. It's always about letting someone down and typically it points to a primary caretaker.

We all live in fear. The Enneagram helped me focus and recognize the stem of my fear and how to face it head on. Over the next few days I'll share what the Enneagram has taught me about goals and emotions.

Quietly making noise,


Enneagram - Know Your Number


In my first post in this series, I mentioned that I attended a conference on the Enneagram called: "Know Your Number." It was hosted at a local church and there were a few hundred people attending.

As we gathered in the auditorium, the conference speaker simply walked us around the Enneagram one number at a time. She began with Ones and began to describe what and how a One sees the world.

Since my wife identifies as a One, I paid close attention to everything the conference speaker was saying about Ones. I didn't know it at the time, but I was being provided really good insight into my wife and how she thinks. The Enneagram can get eerie at times and this was one of those times. There were several times I glanced over at my wife and found her nodding along. It was more than accurate. It was like she held up a mirror and allowed her to see herself.

The same thing happened when the speaker began talking about Threes. I'll share specifics in the next post, but I felt like she had access to a hidden camera in my life. The speaker was describing a Three, but she might have well just inserted my name in the discussion. Accurate, freaky and at times depressing.

The conference was powerful. We both left with new insights into our own lives and the lives of many friends who find themselves around the Enneagram. We also left with new ideas helping us to progress in healthy ways.

Identifying Yourself
I mention that both my wife and I quickly identified with a point on the Enneagram. For us it was very straight forward, but for some others we know it has not been that easy.  There are a variety of tools to help you figure out how you see the world, so don't be surprised if it takes you a little more work on your part.

Each of us took a test online to help us figure out where we landed on the Enneagram, but I realize now that I really did not need a test to help me identify with my number. With just a little bit of guidance, I would have easily identified myself as a Three on the Enneagram. So, when people ask me if they should take an online test, I mention that it's just a tool that might help, but ultimately it might be easier to just read the descriptors associated with the Enneagram.

If you are looking for a test, I recommend taking the RHETI on the Enneagram Institute website. It is informative and helps you process your results.

If you are looking for a primer on The Enneagram, I recommend reading the book, The Road Back To You, by Ian Cron and Suzanne Stabile. The authors have an accompanying website and podcast that have been very helpful to me. Following the release of this book, co-author Ian Cron started a second very informative website and podcast called Typology.

Aside from the RHETI test I mentioned, the Enneagram Institute has a very helpful website that explains each of the nine types and how they relate to one another. You can spend some time poking around that site and learn a lot about the Enneagram.

Lastly, if you really desire to go down the path of understanding yourself and how you relate to the world and others, you could attend an Enneagram conference like we did. You can poke around Life in the Trinity Ministry for events near you. I found that having an informed coach  lead us through the Enneagram really opened my eyes to blind spots in my life as well as giving me great compassion for others who are working through their own number.

All this to say, there are plenty of free resources available to you if you are interested in doing a little digging and research. Let me know what you find out along the way.

Quietly making noise,