Margin + Well-Being

Why New Year's Resolutions Are Worth Setting

I love it when a year changes over to the next. I especially love New Year's Eve and New Year's Day because people all over the world embrace the concept of a clean slate and a fresh start. They are international days of optimism and the energy is contagious.

New year's resolutions get a bad rap. Some people claim that they never keep them so they just give up on setting them. Other people claim that resolutions are an example of not being content with who we are or failing to embrace our flaws. I find, though, that wanting to change and be better stems not from a lack of self-esteem, but rather a desire to use some of the untapped potential that we know exists in us.

This is healthy. If I am the same exact person I was a year ago it means that I've gone twelve months without learning anything:

  • Nothing from books.

  • Nothing from conversations with friends and colleagues.

  • Nothing from a thoughtfully made TV program or movie.

  • Nothing from a joyful (or difficult) experience.

This results in a boring life. Our one over-arching resolution should always be to be a better person by this time next year.

You can't outsource potential and the thing about your potential is that you're the only one who can reach it. Success changes the dynamics of relationships more often than failure does and I'm convinced that we usually self-sabotage out of a fear of success rather than a fear of failure.

As the old saying goes, "People stay in hell because the street signs are familiar." Don't waste your potential just because the people around you may be wasting theirs. Change and growth are hard work, but worth it.

Originally published January 2012

Measure What Matters

Years ago I took yoga classes led by a granola-chic woman in her fifties with long grey hair.

On the first day a man asked, "What measurable outcomes and milestones can we expect from this?"

The instructor replied, "Ohhhhh, you definitely need yoga."

This wisdom seems apropos as we wrap up one year and head into another. Measure what matters. Learn to let go of the rest.

Originally published January 2015

The Best Way To Use The Enneagram

When it comes to personality tests, I love them. I love figuring out what makes people tick, why they do the things they do. This, of course, comes more from deep listening and the stories that thread a person’s life together than it does a tidy combination of letters and numbers produced after taking a quiz. 

Still, personality tests can add value and can help lead to deeper understanding by giving clues as to what questions can be asked to better reveal the stories that shaped us. 

They can also bring to the surface areas of our character which may need to change. It’s a myth that people can’t change, and it’s a myth that was busted by neuroscience. 

The truth in Maya Angelou’s famous quote, “When someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time” rests more in its call to discernment and becoming a good judge of character so that we’re able to effectively spot wolves in sheep's clothing than it does as a mantra to never allow for the possibility of someone becoming a better person.

Can people change? Yes. I believe in redemption, and I believe that redemption does not play out as a magical switch that turns someone into a new person overnight, but rather through neuroplasticity, which is, in very simplistic terms, the brain's ability to rewire itself, which can allow us to make healthier choices.

As for personality tests, Myers-Briggs can be helpful, but shouldn’t be taken as canon (especially since it is not scientifically valid). The Enneagram can be helpful (of which the Riso-Hudson model (RHETI) is considered scientifically valid and reliable, the others aren’t), and is best used as a tool for self-awareness, not a means to put someone in a box – including yourself. 

Change begins with self-awareness. As for how to become more self-aware, personality tests can be a great place to start. One way to use these tools to increase self-awareness is to consider the questions in the quiz portion rather than racing through to the results. Often, considering the questions themselves can lead to lightbulb moments:

Oh! I am like that!
Ugh. I am like that. 

If you don’t like something that a personality test brings to light, you have the ability to change it.

A personality test doesn’t absolve you of the responsibility to be a decent human who cares about the well-being of other people. It doesn’t give you license to hurt others under the excuse, “That’s just the way I am, my Enneagram says so.”

Personality tests are simply tools and can be extremely useful. They are not your identity. They may describe aspects of yourself, but they are not who you are, at your core. They do not add or subtract value to your worth as a human being. You are already valuable and worthy, regardless of whatever combination of numbers the Enneagram gives you. 

Originally published June 2017