Getting Out of the Box Series: An Interview with a High Mastery Type 1
I sat down with a lecturer to uncover his self-development journey — from being a workaholic and having too high expectations to learning to relax in the mind and letting things go.
I started to become familiar with Enneagram after being introduced to it by my mentor, Cindy Leong recently. I learned through reading and attending the Level 1 workshops that Type 1s are the perfectionists. With the one sentence to sum up their type as “There is a right way, let me teach you”, it brought to mind someone stringent and anal who would refuse to budge on the way things are done. Indeed, Type 1s are known for being intolerant, inflexible, self-righteous, obsessed with perfection and wrongdoing of others. That could cause them problems in their relationships both interpersonal and at work. In relational to themselves, it would mean that they have very active minds and would criticize themselves frequently. But with all the Types, there are positives to highlight: being meticulous and purposeful. We could count on them to complete a task to a high standard.
When I was chatting with this higher mastery Type 1, he was not as anal and intolerant as I thought. I could see the humorous side of him. Needless to say, I could see he is very neat and proper, but also the lighter side of him.
These are some points he embraced in his growth:
1. Balance in life is key
He shared that he was not surprised when he found out his type but a little disappointed because he came face to face with the negative sides of himself. He mentioned that he would have certain rules in his mind about how people should treat him in areas such as punctuality. He felt that if he set a time to meet, the other person should also keep to it. By being late, it seemed to him that the other person was not showing integrity nor respecting him as a person. He felt that they were not treating him with the courtesy he showed them. Eventually, he would distance himself from them because he felt disappointed that they could not treat him in the “right way”. After learning the Enneagram, he realised that exercising forgiveness and letting things go might be a “more right way” to go about life. Writing people off base on solely one trait may not be fair to who that person in totality. He learned to cut others some slack and not impose his standards on others.
He was very focused in his career and saw no wrong in it until the passing of a friend caused him to reflect on how he had been living his life. He mentioned that this friend was similar to him in terms of focusing so much on work at the expense of his health. It was not an immediate revelation, but he began to think about whether it was healthy and “right” to be so single minded in one area of his life and neglect other areas like health and relationships. He had seen the extreme that overworking oneself could cause and wondered if it was worth it. He began to realize that being so strict with himself and how he expect people to behave would not serve him. It is more right to find a balance.
2. Acknowledge efforts to try something new
Another point he spoke about was being willing to make some small changes spontaneously to move away from the rigidity of being a Type 1. He used to live in America and saw that it was normal for people to call one another by their first name. He decided to try and implement this in his classes, but it did not work well as his students were not used to being casual with someone they saw of a higher authority. A typical Type 1s make changes to improve how things are, but a higher master Type 1 is able to try new things every once in a while and make changes just for fun and experiment sake. Though he felt discouraged that trying something new did not work, he did not give up. He would continue to try new experiences to break out of the box.
This is a process where he had to become comfortable with letting the rigidity go and understanding that being inflexible might alienate others while putting a lot of stress in his mind. He realized that if some relationships were not working out as well as he expected, then he should not criticize himself and let it go. He understood that it would take too much of an emotional toll on him and it might not be worth it. On the other hand, if those relationships were important to him, he would have to communicate his needs to them tactfully. It certainly was not easy to hear the negative sides of himself and he credits his friends as being there for him but letting him know about his behavior. He appreciated one of them who took the time to approach him in a casual setting and encouraged him in ways he could improve.
Previously, he might have been intensely focused in areas that were not as important (such as self-criticizing and being overly fixated with details) but as a Type 1, he would not be able to give up on it because he wanted things a certain way. Over time, he identified that he only had so much time each day to give and should prioritize the areas that were important.
3. Find Joy in Individuality
It is not easy for a Type 1 to accept that everyone is different and we should appreciate their individuality. But after working in the advertising field, he started to see that creativity was valuable. Opening himself up to different work and social experiences was helpful to gain perspective on how being different and non conforming could be good. He realized that the self-imposed stress of feeling frustrated when things were not going as he expected was not beneficial. He learnt to let go in some areas that may not be as big a deal as he thought. One example is when he became more understanding when a friend apologized for being late.
Keeping in mind the three points mentioned above, Type 1s can take a step back from their strict mindset of “things should be this way” and find joy in stepping out of their routine. They would be able to appreciate the individuality of others and self, and opening themselves up to new experiences.