Change Your Life, Change Your World: Nine Principles for Transformational Living

These nine principles are simple and direct personal injunctions that, if taken seriously and practiced consistently, will exercise a transforming influence upon one’s way of living. If you want to change your life and change your world, these principles can guide you in the direction you seek to do. You will notice a strong correlation between these nine principles and the nine points of the Enneagram. These nine principles, when practiced in concert with each other rather than isolated from each other, exercise an exponential result. To be a real person is to develop all our human capacities, not just one or two. That is why it is a serious therapeutic error to misuse the Enneagram in such a way as to let persons off the hook from cultivating their full humanity by telling then that their entire identity is located in only one of the nine points. That doctrine is based upon the archaic metaphysical assumption that our souls preexist our bodies and are predestined to belong to one and only one of the nine points. It is similar to the astrological belief that from all eternity our embodied souls belong to one of the twelve “houses” of the zodiac. Such beliefs may help us to feel special but they also set limited on our human capacity to transform ourselves and to live in all worlds. What if your True Humanity contained “all souls” and you could become a Universal Human rather than a self-satisfied psychological sectarian? What if you could become many selves within one self, honoring all the “gods” or mythic archetypes rather than just one? What if you could become an “autodidact” and a “polymath, a person committed to personal excellence and human flourishing, not only for your self but for others as well? What if you could change yourself and change your world? Would you dare to take bold and deliberate action to do it, or would you drift with the drowsy and clueless current of our mindless and complacent culture? Would you dare to live such a passionate and purposeful life? Each of us must answer that question in the inner depths of our own  hearts and minds.

Here are the Nine Principles for Transformational Living. Take a minute to meditate upon each one:

1. Strive to Improve Yourself and Your Full Potential

2. Be Kind and Show True Compassion for Others

3. Plan and Take Action to Succeed in Your Work

4.  Let Wonder and Beauty Inspire Your Creativity

5. Seek Profound and Encompassing Knowledge

6. Build Committed and Trustworthy Relationships

7. Find Delight and Joy in Life’s Simple Pleasures

8. Exercise Bold Ethical and Visionary Leadership

9. Cultivate Inner Serenity and Work for Peace

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The Good Life of Human Flourishing: Six Values for Living

1. Self-Cultivation: The value of self-cultivation means that we respect and develop the whole person, including the care of the body, soul, mind and spirit, of all our human faculties. It is at the very heart of the German educational ideal of “Bildung.” It involves developing all sides of one’s humanity, of becoming a real person of character and competency, creativity and commitment.

2. Human Temperaments: The value of human temperaments means that we respect fundamental psychological differences, including comic, romantic, tragic and ironic moods, styles and sensibilities as casts of mind. While we all share a common humanity, people are nevertheless different in quite fundamental ways, and so we need to recognize those differences. The Jungian Meyers-Briggs temperament types and the Enneagram paradigm are two popular ways that people seek to articulate and understand those differences. James Hillman’s and Thomas Moore’s “psychological polytheism” offers a pluralistic model that postulates that we are “many selves” rather than just one. The self in their model is polymorphic, free and adaptive rather than singular, deterministic and static.

3. Life Balance: The value of life balance means that we respect the many sides of life, including of relationship with our self, our significant others, our work and leisure, and everything else that makes for a rich, full, creative and diverse life experience.

4. Historical Perspectives: The value of historical perspectives means that we respect the wisdom that can be attained from a study and understanding of the various epochs and ages of human history, including the ancient, medieval, modern and contemporary perspectives. First Peoples, the Ancient World Religions – both East and West, Greek and Roman Classicists, Renaissance Humanists, Protestant Reformers, the Enlightenment Generation, 18th Century Romantics and Transcendentalists, Modernists, Existentialists, Pragmatists, Positivists, Phenomenologists, Post-Modernists, and Trans-Modernists all have something to teach us about the human quest for meaning, purpose, fulfillment and hope in an ambiguous and perplexing world.

5. Cultural Literacy: The value of cultural literacy means that we respect and explore all the vital domains of general knowledge and life experience, including the humanities, arts, sciences and technologies, that we familiarize ourselves with “the best that has been thought and written” across the ages by history’s most original and creative minds.

6. Social Pluralism: The value of social pluralism means that we respect and seek to understand the various social ideologies that shape our society and world, and endeavor to build a civil society in which they can co-exist together. These social philosophies include conservative, liberal, libertarian and communitarian schools of thought.

Transformational Education: Developing Real Persons as Mature Human Beings

In his current NY Times editorial on “Becoming a Real Person,” David Brooks identifies three philosophies of education: commercial, cognitive, and character-building. He maintains that the first two are going strong, but that the third approach has been neglected if not entirely abandoned in our modern secular educational system. The commercial approach corresponds to the “instrumental” tradition that is oriented toward work skills and career success. The cognitive approach as Brooks discusses it in reference to the views of Steven Pinker corresponds to the aspect of the “canonical” tradition that teaches general knowledge, critical thinking and scientific method. The character approach corresponds to a combination of the American pragmatist “progressive tradition” (John Dewey) with its emphasis on democratic citizenship and ethical leadership and the “radical or transformational tradition” with its emphasis on a combination of spiritual values, moral purpose, ethical characteraesthetic taste, emotional intelligence, social awareness, self-cultivation, life-balance and cultural literacy (“Bildung”).

To what extent ought education, especially higher education, adult education and life-long learning, to be committed to developing “real persons” and not just commercial success stories and effective cognitive machines? What is a real person? Ought there to be more to education than commercial and cognitive values? If so, what is it and how can it be realistically cultivated within educational learning environments? To what extent can character and virtue be taught? This is a continuing debate that gets at the heart of what we consider to be the purpose of education, and also what is our vision of “the good society.” It is a discussion as old as Plato and Aristotle, Confucius and Lao Tzu.

Brooks article sent me scrambling through my library to see what kind of books might be included if a course or rather a whole curriculum were developed around cultivating real persons, or if you prefer, the nurture of the holistic and integral life of Sophia. Here are a few books that would be in my reading list:

A Religion of One’s Own: A Guide to Creating a Personal Spirituality in a Secular Age, by Thomas Moore

Beauty: The Invisible Embrace – Rediscovering the True Sources of Compassion, Serenity, and Hope; Anam Cara,  by John O’Donohue

Connecting with Our Spiritual Intelligence, by Danah Zohar and Ian Marshall

Creativity, and Flow, by Mihaly Csikszentmihallyi

Emotional Intelligence; Social Intelligence; Ecological Intelligence, by Daniel Goleman

Four Spiritualities: A Psychology of Contemporary Spiritual Choice, by Peter Tufts Richardson

Happiness: A History, by Darrin McMahon

Healthy Pleasures, by Robert Ornstein and David Sobel

In the Absence of God Dwelling in the Presence of the Sacred; To Love and Be Loved, by Sam Keen

Reverence: Renewing a Forgotten Virtue, by Paul Woodruff

Slow Is Beautiful: New Visions of Community, Leisure and Joie de vivre, by Cecile Andrews

Solitude: A Return to the Self, by Anthony Storr

The Adult Years: Mastering the Art of Self-Renewal, by Frederic Hudson

The House of Intellect, by Jacques Barzun

The New Diary: How to Use a Journal for Self-Guidance and Expanded Creativity, by Tristine Rainer

What Does It Mean to Be Human: Reverence for Life, edited by Frank, Roze and Connolly

Wisdom: From Philosophy to Neuroscience, by Stephen S. Hall [Topics include Heart and Mind, Emotional Regulation, Knowing What’s Important, Moral Reasoning, Compassion, Humility, Altruism, Patience, and Dealing with Uncertainty]

Such a reading list could include western classical texts as well in the Socratic, Sophistic, Epicurean and Stoic traditions, as well as several eastern classics as well. In addition, the entire genre of “bildungsroman” could provide some exemplary reading. I would recommend Goethe’s Wilhelm Meister’s Lehrjahre and Mark Twain’s Huckleberry Finn as two contrasting narratives on coming-of-age in different social milieus.

The point here is that there is a rich reservoir of educational resources available here but to a great extent it has been overlooked and ignored as merely “personal growth,” hardly worthy of academic study and scholarly rigor. Such an attitude neglects the entire German tradition of “Bildung” and the French tradition of “Le Seduction.” It also ignores the classical sacred and secular wisdom of both Western and Eastern Civilizations.

 

 

How to Live: The Wisdom of the Enneagram in a Nutshell

enneagram_chart

How to Live:

“Improve yourself and become the best possible version of who you are. Care for others and be responsive to their needs. Show initiative, enterprise and style.  Be imaginative and creative; appreciate the power of  beauty and the gift of the arts. Think deeply and broadly about many things. Be loyal, reliable and trustworthy. Enjoy life; celebrate moments of natural ecstasy and spiritual epiphany. Take charge and influence others as a servant leader. Cultivate inner peace and make peace in the world.”

Commentary: It’s customary for the nine points of the Enneagram to be treated as nine different personality styles, and I have no objection to this approach as long as individuals are not narrowly “scripted” and “type-cast” for life, or even “from all eternity.” I agree with Walt Whitman that “we contain multitudes” and that while “nature” certainly plays in important part in personality development, as does the culture in which we come of age, there surely remains at least some small but important element of free will and existential choice about which potentialities we develop and which we allow to remain dormant and undiscovered. Some people develop in such a way that only one or two narrow sides of their personalities are developed, while other persons with more heterodox dispositions and radically open orientations dare to develop many different sides of their character, intelligence and temperament. When such persons have grown into full maturity we sometimes refer to them as “polymaths”, “polyhistors” or simply “renaissance men.” Any narrow fixation within one of the nine personality points of the Enneagram, and any dogma that rationalized that fixation, is detrimental to the full development of the full spectrum of human potentialities within a single individual. When asked on occasion by friends and acquaintances which of the nine points of the Enneagram most describes me I’m tempted to say, “Well I value thinking deeply and living creatively, so I guess that makes me a Five and Four. But at the same time I value improving myself and caring for others, so I guess that makes me a One and Two. But actually I also appreciate the need to show initiative from time to time, and even to take charge when there’s a leadership vacuum. So I guess this makes me a Three and Eight. OK, I also appreciate loyalty, reliability and trustworthiness from my friends, and I try to exemplify these values as well, so I guess this makes me a Six. But I’m not done. I would say that I know how enjoy life, to have a good time, to savor the sensuality, beauty and enchantment of life, to experience passionate intensity and ecstatic joy from to time, so I guess this makes me an Eight. Finally, I must confess that I highly value times of solitude and serenity, of be and peace with myself and seeking to be a peacemaker among others, so I suppose that makes me a Nine.”

Different people know us in different contexts and tend to project upon us those temperamental qualities that fit that particular context. But if we are honest with ourselves we will probably have to admit that there is always more to us than meets the eye, more than others see of us in a variety of different but limited social contexts. What matters is that we learn how to live life fully and freely within many different adaptive contexts and through all the changing stages and circumstances of life, that we become many-turned individuals, in other words, “men and women for all seasons.”

German “Bildung” and French “Le Seduction” – The Heroic and the Picturesque as Ways of Life

Both the classic German intellectual and cultural ideal of “Bildung” and the contemporary French aesthetic and expressive ideal of “Le Seduction” are complex cultural visions and values that do not translate easily into the English language. Nevertheless, they express a complementary relationship between the “heroic” and the “picturesque” as ways of life.

Two the best book length discussions of “Bildung” are to be found in Peter Watson’s “The German Genius” and W.H. Bruford’s “The German Tradition of Self-Cultivation: ‘Bildung’ from Humboldt to Thomas Mann. The latter introduces us to the evolving concept of ‘Bildung’ through Wilhelm Von Humboldt, Goethe, Schleiermacher, Schopenhauer, Stifter, Vischer, Nietzsche, Fontane, and Thomas Mann. All of Hermann Hesse’s novels embody the German spirit of ‘Bildung’ – expressing the heroic courage to become who one true is as a self-reflective and culturally literate individual rather than conform to society’s banal and leveling institutional collectives, whether in religion, education, commerce or the state.

There are a number of books that explore the French aesthetic and expressive spirit of “le seduction” but perhaps the idea is better approached through viewing classic French films and novels in which everyday life is portrayed in its sensuous, evocative, lustrous and seductive beauty. This we might describe as the genre of the picturesque. It is often sunny, bright, flirtatious and whimsical rather than brooding and dark, melancholic and gothic, as is the case with the German romantic “storm and stress” movement. For the German soul “Bildung” is a heroic struggle of the soul to liberate itself from the leveling of the masses and the banality of existence. It is a reaching for transcendence, even after the cultural ‘death of God.’ Education, culture and experience replace the traditional role of religion, but there is still something of Lutheran pietism implicit in its aspiration for human greatness and nobility of spirit. By contrast, the French ideal of “Le Seduction” is more secular, sensuous, playful and this-worldly. It is not aspiring to save one’s soul, much less the world, through education and culture, literature and philosophy. It is more at home in the world of art and painting, fashion and design. It is concerned with “presentation” and “style,” “verve” and “allure.”

Rather than treat “Bildung” and “Le Seduction” as opposing cultural forces I would rather suggest that they represent complementary polarities in the human psyche and in the potentialities of any society. Each of us can make room in the inner world of our being for both the heroic and the picturesque, the stoic and the epicurean, the ascetic and the hedonic, the sublime and the beautiful.