How This Enneagram Three Learned to Win by Losing

How This Enneagram Three Learned to Win by Losing

Pastor, author, and Enneagram Three Sean Palmer talks about moments of health and unhealth and how his fun family competition rewards pushing back on the toxic aspects of our false selves.

Everyday my family offers me a chance to win. I’m an Enneagram Three, and heck yeah, I love to win. But the competition in front of me each day is something that pushes against the compulsive instincts of my Enneagram number. At my house, we give one another Enne-awards. 

What’s an Enne-award? An Enne-award is when any of us—me, my wife (Enneagram One), or daughters (Enneagram One and Seven) do something that pushes back against the predictable, and often toxic, aspects of our false selves and embraces health and wholeness. 

When people ask me about their Enneagram numbers they often have questions about health, unhealth, and toxicity. Usually, these questions are trying to gauge whether a person is in a season of health or not. I’m not sold that seasonal health and unhealth are the most appropriate ways to understand our motivations, actions, and thought patterns.

I can’t know for sure about other people, but I have healthy moments followed by unhealthy moments. I grew up in Georgia, where one of the beauties is having four distinct seasons throughout a year—Winter, Spring, Summer, Fall. Each season lasts four months. My healthy moments never endure for an entire season. I don’t have healthy and unhealthy seasons, even when thinking figuratively. I do, however, have healthy and unhealthy moments. 

That’s how you get an Enne-award!

The moment I, for example, choose rest when there’s work to be done, take a moment to be present with my daughters, or decide that down time and play aren’t just for the weak-willed, I can earn an Enne-award. I can win an Enne-award when I meet with a colleague and I resist the urge to mention everything on my resume or herald my most recent accolades. I can earn an Enne-award when I choose to exercise out of sense of caring for myself and not disappointment in myself or desire to “fix” something.

When anyone in our home demonstrates signs of deepening—if only for a moment and not a season—they get an Enne-award!

Writer and professor Henri Nouwen spoke of the Five Lies of Identity: 1) I am what I have, 2) I am what I do, 3) I am what other people say or think of me, 4) I am nothing more than my worst moment, 5) I am nothing less than my best moment. It seems to me that Nouwen named the mental calculus that, when resisted, calls me and maybe you, into our overburdened and buried essence.

You see, as an Enneagram Three, there are precious few voices in our world and culture luring me away from the false belief that my worth will be uncovered through achievement, that I’ll be loved when I have won enough. There is no siren’s song inviting me to chart a course toward deeper waters. I am daily rewarded for production. I am heralded when I am most shallow.

So, winning has to look different for me. Getting an Enne-award is winning, which I like. But it’s winning by losing the negative, grasping desires of my false self which urges me to focus on things like winning.

About the Author

Sean Palmer

 Sean Palmer is a sought-after writer, speaker, teacher, emcee, and speaking coach engaging audiences all over the world with Enneagram wisdom. The teaching pastor at Ecclesia Houston (one of America’s most innovative, missional communities), he is the author of 40 Days on Being a Three.