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May 2024

How Do Motivational Maps Fit In With The Enneagram?

Cogs and wheels

Nothing exists in a vacuum, and even the most original inventions and innovations tend to have their origins in something extant. In the case of Motivational Maps, there were several key influences in the development of the tool: Edgar Shein’s Career Anchors is one. Another is the ancient personality profiling system known as The Enneagram.

To be clear, there are several key differences between The Enneagram and the Motivational Map. At a most basic level, the Maps are not a personality profiling tool—so a pretty major divergence! However, structurally and symbolically the Maps and The Enneagram are closely intertwined, and understanding the similarities and differences between them can augment one’s understanding of not only each respective system, but also of the human condition.

So, if the Maps and The Enneagram are not the same type of tool, what other links are there between them? For a start, The Enneagram and Motivational Map both share a nine-point system (indeed, the Greek word “enneagram” means literally “nine points”). In The Enneagram, these are nine personality types. In the Maps, these are the nine motivators.

Whilst this may seem a superficial difference on the surface, one only has to look at all the other personality profiling and skills-based tools out there to realise how distinct this is. Most personality profiling tools use a variation based on multiples of four, perhaps harkening back to the medieval system of the “four humours”. Nine, therefore, is unusual.

And, as we shall see, nine is a number of special significance. For one thing, it naturally lends itself to being organised into triads. Both Maps and The Enneagram do this, with three groups of three types / motivators. In the case of the Enneagram, the types are organised into groups determined by their “centre of intelligence”: the head (thinking), the heart (feeling), and the body / gut (knowing / instinct).

The Maps breaks down into the R.A.G. clusters, an acronym standing for Relationship, Achievement, and Growth.

One can already see from the naming convention alone that these also correspond with the centres of intelligence present in The Enneagram. Relationship motivators are generally more feeling orientated; Achievement motivators more orientated towards thinking and cerebral activities; and Growth motivators more about gut instinct and that “knowing” often associated with spirituality.

Unlike the Maps, The Enneagram describes fixed points that we abide in. One cannot change one’s Enneagram type. Each Enneagram type possesses what some writers refer to as a “primary fixation” or “primary addiction” which defines the central struggle of one’s life. For example, in the case of the 8-type, the central fixation is lust for dominance. Balancing and integrating this “fixation” is therefore the lifelong goal of the 8-type.

In the case of the Maps, we are not defined by any single type. Instead, we all possess all nine motivators, but in a priority order, and to varying degrees of intensity. Furthermore, our motivations may change over time, as they are influenced by our experiences.

This may seem contradictory, but in reality, these two systems are complementary. The Enneagram allows us to correctly identify and describe the part of us that is fixed and largely unchangeable (perhaps even biological in some sense). The Maps allows us to measure the other part of us that shifts and changes according to our experiences and beliefs. To continue our earlier example, knowing that one is an 8-type, and has a fixation upon lust for dominance, might become highly relevant if, for example, we also have the Director motivator very high in our profile. The Director motivator reflects the desire for control of people and resources. In combination with the 8’s lust for power, this could be a very problematic combination for subordinates and colleagues! But knowing that we have a predisposition for excess, especially in relation to power, we might be able to temper ourselves more readily than if we purely looked at either the motivator or Enneagram type in isolation.

Of course, certain motivators and Enneagram types tend to walk hand in hand. This should not be taken to reductive levels, as the power of the Maps is that they do not stereotype or reduce to a single archetype. However, given that the Enneagram types are informed by certain deeply, deeply seated core beliefs, it is only natural that these beliefs will influence our motivational profiles. For example, the 1-type on the Enneagram is concerned with morality and perfection—indeed, they are often called the “moral reformer”. This naturally chimes with the Searcher motivator, which is about the desire to make a difference in the world. It is not to say that every 1 on the Enneagram also has Searcher as their number one motivator, but understanding the links between our personality and motivators can lead to deeper understanding of why we do what we do.

Of course, where there exist conflicting motivators and Enneagram types, this can provide really deep insight. For example, an individual who was a 1-type on the Enneagram, but also had Builder as their number one motivator, would probably feel very conflicted between wanting to make a difference to people, to “do the right thing”, but also wanting to make tons of money and have that successful lifestyle. There are two things to say about this. Firstly, there are a number of reasons that Builder might have become their number one motivator, including a sudden horrendous tax bill from the government, or a looming debt that needs to be repaid. Secondly, a great coach will work with an individual in this state to help them find the “way through”, which is often a synthesis and integration of these seemingly disparate elements. Maybe there is a way for this person to help others and also make money. We tend to think along narrow and linear lines, especially when we are in the midst of a problem or crisis, and the job of a great coach is to help people see the wider picture! This is easier when you, as a coach, can see more of the picture by virtue of having the right combination of tools at your disposal.

There is no easy formula to understand human behaviour, and for every rule there exists an exception, but with both the ancient wisdom of the Enneagram and the science-backed insight of the Motivational Map, one is better able to triangulate the cause-and-effect relationship between belief and behaviour, thought and action, habit and success.

For more information about the Motivational Maps and the Enneagram, you can read Mapping Motivation.

Contact a licensed Motivational Maps practitioner HERE