Author Annie Dillard once wrote, “How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives.”
An important question of the human experience is: What do we do with our time? Our use of time in seconds, minutes, hours, days, weeks, months, and years eventually comprise a life. As a scholar of vocation (living out one’s sense of calling in life), I find that the element of time plays a key role in the process of understanding our internal sense of meaning and external sense of purpose. The wisdom of the Enneagram is a helpful resource to explore how our dominant personality type both helps and hinders our ability to discern this process.
There’s a well-worn path within Enneagram teaching and writing that helps us discover who we are (and who we are NOT). A natural and subsequent trail to blaze in Enneagram work is to consider how this self-awareness will help inform our decision-making regarding the way in which we live-in-time. This has profound implications for spiritual or relational work, career development, and other important aspects of our lives.
Consistent with the triadic nature of the Enneagram, time itself can be explored as its own group of three: past, present, future. Humans have the capacity to reflect on the past, be aware to the present, and consider the future.
By considering how each Enneagram type engages or neglects these “perspectives” on time is a critical tool in discernment work. To this end, I’ve expanded Hurley and Donson’s concept of dominant time perspectives by the Hornevian groups of the Enneagram (known by some as social styles or stances). In their work, Discovering Your Soul Potential: Using the Enneagram to Awaken Spiritual Vitality (2012), they propose:
· Aggressive Types (3, 7, 8) are future-focused.
· Dependent Types (1, 2, 6) are present-focused.
· Withdrawing Types (4, 5, 9) are past-focused.
In my expansion, I propose that these groups also provide insight to consider how type not only prefers one perspective to time, but also represses another perspective to time:
· Aggressive Types (3, 7. 8) repress the past.
· Dependent Types (1, 2, 6) repress the future.
· Withdrawing Types (4, 5, 9) repress the present.
It’s important to note that each type represses a time perspective from differing motivations and is manifested in different ways. Generally speaking, in my work with students, I encourage them to consider the three perspectives on time as distinct lenses of discernment. When we employ all three lenses, we are able to discern our lives with more clarity and wisdom. By focusing intention and attention to our repressed perspective to time, new insights emerge that help us with wise decision-making. For example:
· When Aggressive Types slow down and reflect upon their pasts, they let their emotional centers catch up with their heads and bodies, and they learn from past mistakes and difficulties, helping break out of unhealthy habits and cycles. This is Sacred Delay.
· When Dependent Types lift their gaze to see beyond their present circumstances, they become more open to a vibrant future beyond the tyranny of the urgent, helping them not be so focused on present tasks. This is Sacred Vision.
· When Withdrawing Types choose embodiment in the here and now, they become more aware of what is, rather than what was or what could be, helping them resist unhealthy retreating tendencies. This is Sacred Presence.
When we cultivate all three perspectives on time, we live in the fullness of time. Our experience of time then transforms from ordinary time to extraordinary time. In the ancient Greek, notably in the Christian New Testament, this was the different between Chronos time and Kairos time. Chronos time is quantifiable, measured in seconds, minutes, hours, etc. Kairos time is quali-fiable, measured in meaning, quality, and transformation. Put another way, Kairos time is the fullness, or abundance of time.
When we have a deep understanding of how the past shapes us, when we truly embody presence to the here and now, and when we cultivate a healthy vision for the road ahead, more of our Chronos time becomes Kairos time. Our present minutes become moments of Presence. We spend our time more wisely. In so doing, we live our lives with more meaning and purpose.