Artwork for podcast The Awareness to Action Enneagram Podcast
Working with the Instinctual Biases; or, A Damned Fine Beef Stew
Episode 820th October 2022 • The Awareness to Action Enneagram Podcast • Awareness to Action
00:00:00 01:09:47

Share Episode

Shownotes

In this episode of the Awareness to Action Enneagram Podcast, Mario Sikora, María José Munita and Seth "Creek" Creekmore discuss how to use and understand the instinctual biases. 

They bring awareness of how the instinctual biases affect behavior and some of the contradictions that go along with that. They also share strategies to work with instinctual biases.

“We have to be really careful about making any broad assumptions or ensure that any broad assumptions we’re making actually captures the whole category.” - Mario Sikora [22:41]

“I don’t think it’s even smart to try to be good at everything, because we wouldn’t be really good at anything, and society in general would not benefit from it.” - María José Munita [41:17]

“So really what I’m hearing is there may be some value in all the other ways in which people teach the Enneagram as far as ways in which to see parts of yourself and work on certain aspects of yourself, but more than likely, it’s the biggest boulder to move is to work within that pattern of expression.” - Seth "Creek" Creekmore [1:03:29]

TIMESTAMPS

[00:00] Intro

[01:36] Examples of level of dissonance

[07:37] The difference of being skillful and focus of attention

[10:39] How instinctual biases express themselves

[15:21] Cultural bias towards women attending at home

[18:24] How familial/cultural biases will show up

[25:36] The complexity and variables of instinctual biases

[28:50] Pushing our attention towards action

[33:16] Working outside dominant instinctual bias

[46:46] Where to begin

[51:02] Skill and competent in zone of indifference

[53:34] What does all this mean

[58:55] Industries with very clear instinctual bias

[1:00:16] How it plays into family dynamics

[1:03:29] Working within pattern of expression

[1:09:19] Outro

Connect with us:

Awareness to Action

Enneagram on Demand 

Mario Sikora: 

IG: @mariosikora

Web: mariosikora.com

Pod: Enneagram in a Movie


Maria Jose Munita: 

IG: @mjmunita

Web: mjmunita.com


Seth "Creek" Creekmore: 

IG: @creekmoremusic

Pod: Fathoms | An Enneagram Podcast

Pod: Delusional Optimism

Transcripts

Creek:

Welcome back to another episode of Awareness to Action Enneagram podcast. My name is Creek and along with me I have two wonderful co-hosts, Mario Sikora and María José Munita. How are y'all doing?

María José:

I'm great. How are you doing, Creek and Mario?

Creek:

I'm doing wonderful. It's fall. Finally. One of my favoritiest seasons. I love the clothing. I love all the coziness. It's like when fall hits, I'm immediately getting out all like my French recipes, all of like the fatty, meaty, heavy dishes that I'm just so excited to cook.

Mario:

I'm sorry, I stopped listening about halfway through that back in August. No. I’m doing fine. Thank you for asking, María José. And it's fall here as well. And it's a lovely time of year. Fall in Philadelphia is a great time,

María José:

I'm happy because it's spring here. And I'm happy for all the same reasons, except for the fatty food. All the rest, it's my favorite season.

Creek:

Awesome. So this episode, we are actually going to dive into… After going through all the instinctual biases, their pattern of expression, we're going to dive into a little bit deeper on how we can use and understand the instinctual biases, and maybe some of the contradictions that go along with that as well.

So what I'd like to hear from both of you is maybe an example, whether personal or professional or just some sort of client story, in which you were working with someone in their instinctual bias, and there was some level of dissonance within that conversation.

Mario:

So the instinctual biases are really what I emphasize first in my work with my clients, and what I have found over the years of using this material is that the instinctual biases often have a greater impact on performance in organizations than even the nine types do. I like to think of the three instinctual biases as systems of values, what I place importance on, and thus what I attend to, what I take care of, and what I don't. Whereas the nine types are about style, how I go about doing that.

María José and I and you as well, are all navigators, but we go about navigating in very different ways. Now, what we find when working with a client is that because of this pattern of expression, once we know their instinctual bias, we know where a vulnerability is going to be. And something that's extremely common in, for example, preserving leaders is that they're not charismatic, usually. They're not vision oriented. They're not thinking about where are we going? What's the big picture? What's exciting? What's the future? They're thinking about how do we be responsible in the business? How do we manage risk effectively? How do we manage through a downturn? How do we maximize profit and reduce revenue?

So what we invariably end up doing with people is helping them develop requisite skills in usually their zone of indifference. With transmitters, it’s a very common one. Transmitters often, because they're charismatic, because they're outgoing, because they're assertive, usually rise up high in organizations, but then they get blindsided by the organizational politics, which is all part of the navigating domain. And so they don't realize why things are happening around them that they don't see, that they don't understand, that they don't think are important. Why are people talking about this? Why? Why are we wasting time thinking about the political implications of this? And so you have to end up coaching those people as to why those things are important in the first place. Why they can't afford to be indifferent to them. And then what are the some of the skills they need in order to become more skillful in that area. So I mean, I could give 100 stories, but these are the common things that we see.

María José:

Yeah. And just to add to what you said about transmitters, and the fact that sometimes they don't understand why they don't see certain things. It's even hard to get them to see that there are things that they're not seeing. It’s like being blind to being blind, I think.

I was going to give another example about navigators. You gave about transmitters and preservers. And navigators, Their zone of indifference is preserving. And many times, they're really good at reading what the organization needs, who is who and all move in a political way, but don't realize how much people get frustrated by them not executing on the plans or not making things really work. And because they keep talking about it, instead of executing

Mario:

A good example, and a thought experiment here. So imagine three navigators on a podcast. And they get together at the appointed time. And they realize they have no real plan for what they're going to talk about. They don't have a structure. And so they have to say, hmm, you know, maybe we should come up with a structure and what we're going to talk about. We have this general idea. We've thought about it. We kind of know where we're gonna go. But the idea of putting a detailed outline or a timeline or a structure or a process or something together ahead of time, just doesn't naturally occur to them.

María José:

Not every time at least.

Creek:

Oh no. I’ve been down…

Mario:

Just a thought experiment here.

María José:

Imagine how that’d be. Just terrible. You said something about preservers not being charismatic. And it is something we say about preservers, and it has always been, it is a bit unfair, I think. It looks like a bad thing. And I do believe that preservers have a different kind of charisma. They’re kind of warm with the people around them. And they might inspire, but it's like in a smaller, not smaller dose, but it's a smaller reach, I think. So they're not inspiring and charismatic, like some transmitters might be because their scope is more limited. They're not interested in inspiring the bigger groups. But with the people around them, I think that they might be effective in that regard in a different way, I think.

Mario:

Yeah. Fair point. Their charisma is going to be rooted in competence, stability, security, you know, consistency. And capability, not in the ability to command a stage, more likely than not, like we would see in transmitters and some navigators.

Creek:

Yeah. So I think the key to understanding how you approach instinctual bias is that really the difference between being skillful and what is your focus of attention. Would that be correct?

Mario:

Yeah, you know, it's funny, because I've been accused in the past of…

María José:

Many things.

Mario:

…saying that… Many things.

Creek 7:56

So many.

Mario:

But one is germane to this conversation. And that's in asserting that all preservers are going to be great at preserving. And all navigators are going to be great at navigating.

María José:

What does that even mean?

Mario:

Transmitters, etcetera. Yeah, I don't know what it means. And because these are categories of behaviors, not behaviors themselves. So when we're talking about preserving as a domain, we're talking about many behaviors that fall into that domain. And each of us will have varying degrees of skill in each of those. From a work perspective, for example, we can think of the preserving domain being about budgeting, being about process, being about detail orientation, administration, finance, safety, and security, etc. And what we'll see with preservers is that's their focus of attention. But it doesn't mean that they're skillful at it. They see it, but that doesn't mean they're good at it.

It's like me watching a baseball game, and thinking about baseball all the time, and having baseball players on posters on my bedroom walls and all these sorts of things, which I don't, but it's again, it's a thought experiment. I’m not a 16 year old boy. Okay. We've established that. All right. Or a 13 year old boy. Anyway. So but my point is, that doesn't mean I'm good at baseball. Because baseball is a skill that needs to be developed over time.

So I hear people talk about these instincts as oh, they're these natural intelligences but the problem is is that they get impeded by the fixation, so they don't express themselves in the right way. No, that's nonsense. What we're talking about are these biases toward focusing on and attending to specific areas, but then we have to develop skillfulness in each of those areas individually.

Now the people that we tend to work with are senior leaders in organizations, and they get to be senior leaders in organizations because they're skillful at stuff. So most of our preserving clients are going to be skillful at preserving and navigators skillful at navigating and so forth. But it's because they've developed the skill, not because they have this special magical, innate, animal intelligence, whatever an animal intelligence is as opposed to human intelligence. I don't know. Did I answer your question, or did I just go on one of my rants? Go ahead.

Creek:

A little bit of both. So I want to hit on what you just said about how the fixation impedes, how the instinctual bias expresses itself. Could it be the case that it's more fixation impedes the act of becoming skillful at that versus just impeding the bias itself?

Mario:

Yeah, our dysfunctional use of the Enneatype strategy will lead to dysfunctional application of any behavior or any impulse that we have. The way we like to think about it is that the the instinctual bias represents a focus of attention to a particular area, a tendency to express those behaviors or emphasize those behaviors more than others. But the style in which we go about doing it is shaped by our Enneagram strategy. So María José and I are both navigating. But she does it through striving to feel perfect. And I do it through striving to feel powerful, and that looks different. And it leads to different strengths when we're doing it skillfully. And it leads to different vulnerabilities or weaknesses when we're doing it non-skillfully.

María José:

So the thing about that fixation impeding the skillfulness, and it might explain certain things. But it might just be that we have not trained ourselves on one's particular skill, and we're just not good at it. So I wouldn't try to explain too much why we're good or not in certain things. I think what we'd seen for sure is that, according to the profiles, we tend to pay more attention to the zone of enthusiasm, and more conflicted about the zone of inner conflict, and tend to ignore more the zone of indifference. Too many explanations around it, I think that might make us feel good, but not provide a lot of insight on how to how to get better at it.

Mario:

And we can give some examples of that. So take, for example, somebody who's a navigator, and we know that their zone of indifference is going to be in the preserving domain. But they decide early in life that they're going to go into finance, for whatever reason. Maybe an opportunity presented itself that they went through. Maybe they want to be just like their favorite uncle who was also a finance person. I want to do it. Whatever the reason is, they saw a movie and it appealed… whatever. They can learn the skill. And so they can learn to be really good with finance. They can know all about investing. They can know all about accounting. They can know all about budgeting.

And it will be easy to say, Oh, well, they must be preserving, because they're really good at those financial skills, and that's in the preserving domain. No, it just means that they develop those skills. But when you put a preserving finance person next to a navigating finance person, you're gonna see a qualitative difference. Just like when you put a Preserving One next to Preserving Seven. You're gonna see some similarities, and you're gonna see some substantial differences. And it's the same with this. We can develop a skill in a domain that's not theoretically related to our instinctual bias, and we can be good at it. But you're also going to see this kind of indifference at the same time. Not the same passion.

María José:

Yeah, like me, for example, I studied Business Administration and economics. I know how to do all of those things. I can create a budget, a budgeting system. I can do many, many things. And I don't like doing them. It's a bit boring to me. Now when it comes to understanding the bigger picture, being able to manage the business, and things like that, my navigating need to understand the system makes me want to create a budget for example, and I can do it. That's motivation that really moves me but I don't tend to focus primarily on those things. My mind doesn't go there first. It's only when I just have to do it, and I've been in finance jobs, or when there's a navigating need to be satisfied by a preserving skill, then I do it.

Creek:

So along those lines, I'd love to hear a little bit like maybe a more personal experience, family experience or something like that, that would demonstrate what you're speaking to.

Mario:

Why I can share one that I see frequently. And it tends to affect women more than men. It's this cultural bias towards women attending to the preserving activities in the home. Mom is expected to be the one that takes care of everybody, the one that cooks, the one that does this, the one that does that. So there are these socially prescribed roles or prescribed roles that we have to adhere to. And you hear lots of women thinking that they're preserving, because they're the one that does those things at home, but they also feel this inner conflict about it. They feel this, you know, I have to do it. I should do it. I really don't enjoy it. I feel guilty for not doing it. Why? Because they're navigators. And it's not their interest, their passion, but they know they have to do it. So, again, they can be very skillful at it. María José's a great cook. You know, lots of navigators, who are great cooks. Doesn't mean they're preserving, they have just mastered some capability in the preserving domain.

María José:

Glad you said that, Mario.

Mario:

I know María José. Yeah, I know. you should have been the one to say that. But you know.

María José:

That's pretty much the only thing that I do well at home, that I enjoy doing at home. Look on that same topic. I remember doing this talk in Egypt with lots of women. It was in a work context, but on a personal, with personal examples. And there was so many women at the end of the talk who approached me saying thank you for that, because they felt guilty for not liking housework. And they were expected to not only do it, but like it, you know, and they didn't enjoy it.

Mario:

So we see all the time where the influence of family expectations, particularly expectations of the parents, leads children to develop skills and focus on areas that are not naturally interesting to them. If a child, for example, has two transmitting parents, there's this expectation that they will transmit as well. So they develop this transmitting side of themselves, that they're really not that interested in, that they're really just doing to make somebody else happy. But it's the last thing that they care about if they're not a transmitter. So we can be pulled out of our instinctual bias circumstantially and to meet the needs and expectations of life. But there will always be this tension. There always be this thing sort of pulling us back. And there always be this desire to escape it, given the opportunity.

Creek:

So I think this is a great transition point to talk about how familial or cultural biases will show up and affect how we operate in those personally. What patterns have you seen when it comes to those situations?

María José:

I think you see it a lot. It's very present and very typical that you'll see how there is a cultural overlay of the instinctual biases that affect the individual's instinctual biases. And for example, we've said several times Mario and I are both navigators. But he lives in a country in The States where it's more transmitting country. And Chile, where I come from, it's more navigating, I would say.

So, if we're both conflicted about transmitting, I think that he's less conflicted than I am. Because he's more used to a transmitting culture. And for me, culturally, the transmitting it's an issue. People feel conflicted about it in general here. So it does show in many different ways. And you need to take it into account. When you're working with someone understanding the background, the country, the company, the family, and the instinctual kind of culture they bring. It's necessary understanding the individual on its own, it's not enough many times.

Mario:

Human nature is really, really complicated, right? One of the dangers of the Enneagram is to oversimplify human nature. To try and attribute everything to a fundamental attribute. Ah, he’s that way because he's a Four. Well, I know this other Four who's not like that, and I know another Four…

María José:

Then they’re not a Four.

Mario:

… who’s not like that. Yeah, which is the No True Scotsman. The No True Scotsman fallacy. And this is what happened. So there are people out there who think that they're the only people who understand what Fours are, because they have one view of Fours, and anybody who doesn't fit that is not really a Four. We can think of these things.

Well, you were just in Chicago, Creek. You were telling us before the show. I don't know if you've made it to the Art Institute of Chicago, or if you've ever been there, but it's a wonderful museum. And there's that one place where you walk into that hall and there's the, I think, it's the painting by Seurat about the park, you know, Sunday afternoon in the park in Paris or something. It's a pointillist painting. It's really big. And when you're standing far away, it's these people in the park. As you move closer to it, it's just these dots of paint. I think there's a great scene in Ferris Bueller's Day Off too where they go and they look at that specific painting. So it's all a matter of how granular we choose to get.

So we can look at somebody and say oh boy, definitely an Eight or a Four or a One or whatever, definitely navigators, transmitters, but as we start getting closer, we start seeing some of the data. We start seeing some of the influences of culture of origin, Region, Creek’s from the Midwest. I'm from the Northeast, very different cultures, even though we're both within the same country. So you can look at us and say, Oh, they're both from the United States, but we're from two different United States in some ways. And even when you get to the Northeast, there's big differences between people from Philadelphia and New York and Boston that are notable. Somebody who is just looking at us as Northeasterners will see similarities. People who know the distinctions will get it. So we can look at this at all sorts of levels, culture, country of origin, region, education levels, family dynamics.

If your parents are both transmitters, you're gonna get one influence. If your parents are both preservers, you're gonna get another influence. And even though you might not be a transmitter in the first case, or a preserver in the second case, you're going to carry some of those traits. You just can't help it. So we have to be really careful about making any broad assumptions or ensure that any broad assumption we're making actually captures the whole category.

So and this is what, you know, when we started coming up with the idea, the strategies, we thought, okay, what can we say to be true about everybody that we would consider to be an Eight? Because not every Eight’s the same. And there are a lot of things that you might say, oh, Eight are like this. But then you say, Yeah, but you know, I really think that so and so is an Eight and she's not like that. So okay, so what is the thing that ties them together? And you have to do the same thing with the instinctual biases. What can we truly say is universal? What can we truly say as a fundamental here? And then what are some of the variables in this person's world that shape the way that that fundamental expresses itself?

María José:

Yeah, if we get too caught up in a couple of data points, we miss the bigger picture. Why are you laughing?

Mario:

No, you're absolutely right. I was just thinking about how many people fell asleep or tuned out in the midst of what I said. No, I’m sorry.

María José:

So I was talking, I was doing a workshop yesterday with a group of people about the instinctual biases. And somebody asked me about how about families who went through war? And will they all be preservers? You know, and I said, No, but there's a preserving layer that you will see and there will be a lot of preserving behaviors, which doesn't mean that every family member will be a preserver. But there will be more preserving behaviors in that family probably, especially around food security, I mean, those basic things than in probably another family of the same kind, but who didn't go through the war experience.

Mario:

To strain analogies or overload analogies, we can think of a stew in the same way. I mean, we can say this is a beef stew and I can tell this is a beef stew, but my beef stew is different from yours, and this beef stew has too many turnips in it or something. But it's this… Do you put a turnips in beef stew? What do I know?

María José:

Stick to your domain of knowledge, Mario.

Seth:

Oh wow. That was great. That was my favorite part of the episode.

Mario:

All right, so I like turnips in my beef stew. What do you want from me?

María José:

Yeah, you’ll never lose, will you.

Creek:

You Northeasterners. Woo. I think we've adequately shown the complexity and the variables of the instinctual bias. It's about as clear as mud, I think on some level. Because yeah, you can draw lines a lot of different ways. So, but at the end of the day, and this is where your approach comes in is, yeah, awareness, so key. Understanding how to think clearly, how to ask the right questions, how to be open minded, but then at the end of the day, it's just about action, and how to do better actions to build better skills.

Mario:

Yes, people are complicated. And when I get into the turnip in the stew sort of thing, you start to say, oh, man, this is really complicated. Or when we start talking about all these real variables, family of origin, culture, that the family goes through war, whatever it is, you start to think, Well, geez, how can I ever figure this stuff out? How do I know that it's because this person is preserving, when it could be just that they live through a war, but they're really transmitting, but they look like a preserver? To your point, yes, it gets back to where does my attention go? That stew, we can say, yeah, there are infinite ways, apparently not infinite ways of creating beef stew.

María José:

Look, they are infinite. Some are good, and some are not good.

Mario:

Okay, fair enough, right. So. But when it comes right down to it, it's beef stew again. It's just like looking at that painting. When we step back, we see all the Parisians in the park. When we get close, we start to say, hey, wait a minute, this is a whole different thing here. It's both at the same time. It's both simple.

If you think in terms of fundamental first principles, this is the thing I am saying to be true. And everything else is variation on that. You can never say all these people do that. Because they don't, we can say that each of us has a tendency to pay more attention, disproportionate attention to one domain of activity, then we do the other two, and that will display itself in lots of different ways.

María José:

That's why I liked your analogy of the painting because to me, it is like stepping back and looking at the big picture. And then seeing what's the tendency or what's the bias in general, when you get too close to just see a part of it. And it's so easy to miss the bigger picture.

Creek:

I think this is… I mean, this is probably why at least for me, it is harder to type my family members, because I am…

Mario:

Because you see all the dots.

Creek:

Yeah. So many dots.

María José:

Let alone ourselves.

Creek:

Oh yeah, for sure. Okay, so moving into more of how do we push our attention towards action? And how we develop requisite skill in those areas?

María José:

I was just going to say what not to do. So many times people say so, I’m a preserver, what do I need to do? I’m a transmitter. What do I need to do? And we probably said this before, and maybe 100 times, but if everything's working well, you don't need to do anything. But if there's some areas in your life where you're suffering or you're struggling or you're making others go through a difficult time, then pay attention to it. So I'd say that that’s before anything. We don't need to do anything if everything is okay. And we don't need to be good at everything either.

Mario:

There's this teaching among some that what we should try to do is balance the instincts. So we do all three of them equally and naturally so that you can't even tell what somebody's instinctual bias is. Well, I've got news for you, okay? Nobody's ever done it. I've been in the same room with the Dalai Lama on two occasions, really big rooms. Not like we were hanging out over a cocktail, but I got to observe him for hours at a time. And you can see that he's a Navigating Seven. Okay, very simple, right? I mean, he's just got all those navigating tendencies. And the guy's a Seven. He’s not a Nine, like some people think he is. If the Dalai Lama has not shed his habitual tendencies of ego and balanced all of his centers and all of his types, we're not going to do it either.

Now, should we? No, we shouldn’t. I mean, because humans are a social species and social species specialize, because it allows the group to function more effectively. If I'm good at this and you're good at that. In an organization, you don't expect your finance people to be just as good at selling as they are at finance. You want them to focus on being good finance people. Now you want them to understand what it means to sell so they can better work with and support and assist the salespeople. So they need to have requisite knowledge of sales or engineering or whatever.

We work the same way. If everything's working, like María José said, don't fix it, just sit back, make some popcorn, watch Netflix. But if something's not working, what you want to do is say, Okay, what specific behavior in this domain do I need to work on? Not how can I balance my instincts. Because well, what does that even mean? What does it mean to improve my self-preservation? Well, if we think about it, it means get better at this, get better at this, get better at this, get better at this. So we need to determine what are those this is that we need to become more skillful in and work on those things that are required for us to be happy, content and make the people around us happy and content. So whatever is not working in your life, asked myself, what domain does this fall into? What is my relationship with that domain? How will my relationship with that domain hinder my ability to become more skillful in this area? And then what can I do to overcome that obstacle?

Creek:

So I understand your point, Mario, with the… it's impossible to balance and really a lot of the instinctual biases at times can be at odds with each other. So it's impossible to do all three of them at the same time. But I also get the point of maybe what some are saying when they're saying that is when you see this particular bias causing maladaptive behavior or getting in the way of what you want, then yes, you want to focus on that area to improve it. So María José, how do you all normally instruct people to begin to work on something outside of their dominant instinctual bias?

María José:

So what we do, and I think it's based on the understanding, as we've said that the instinctual biases are what we value, and therefore pay attention to, therefore, have become better at certain things related to those domains. When we're talking about developing the zone of inner conflict or of indifference, we value those domains less. So it's really hard to almost find the energy to work on them, because they're less interesting. We value them less.

So what we do is, first of all, be very specific about a behavior and not the whole domain. It needs to be very actionable. And if we're talking about something like for example, for a preserver, and many preservers have a hard time to do what they perceive as selling themselves. And that could mean that it's even talking about what they're doing at a meeting what the things they're focusing on with their teams and all that. And I've seen that. I saw that two days ago with a team. So if you tell them you know what, you need to be more transmitting, it feels like I need to become a transmitter. And that will never happen. If you tell them transmitting’s really important, they will understand it intellectually, but they will not feel moved to act in that direction. But if you tell them, you know what, you're preserving, and you will preserve your job more effectively, you will be able to be more effective in your work, if more people know or are aware of what you and your team are doing. They were like, oh, now I'm interested. Now I see the value, because I see the value in terms of my preserving priorities. And they will say, Okay, makes sense. Now I want to talk about what I'm doing.

It doesn't feel like I'm showing off, or taking all this space, or bragging about what I'm doing. It feels like a good way to preserve my job to do my work more effectively. So if you ask someone to become more of what they're not, or if you force them to value the other domains the same way they value their zone of enthusiasm, it will not work. But if you show them the value of these new behaviors in terms of the zone of enthusiasm of that domain, they will pay more attention and they will find the motivation. They will have the drive to work on that change on developing that skill or new behavior.

Creek:

What would be an example in your personal life, maybe in your marriage or with your kids, in which you took that strategy?

María José:

Many times, like, for example, we've already stated that I don't like the home stuff much. I try to avoid it as much as possible. But I know that if people come to visit, it's a good motivation for me to tidy up, for example. So I almost leave the kind of big movements around my place to when I invite people home. And I do it. And I do probably more than I need to do, using that energy that gives me having people here, and what I want them to think about my place. And my place is an extension of me and my identity. So it has to do with my identity. So it's not about the place itself. It's my identity that is at stake. But it's a preserving behavior that I'm working on.

Mario:

Share a similar example. So being navigating, my zone of inner conflict is in the transmitting domain. My zone of indifference is in preserving. Part of what I love about what I do is, at least pre-COVID, I got to travel a lot. I got to go a lot of different places. I get to meet a lot of different people. And even now, post-COVID, during COVID, I meet a lot of people and get to interact with people all over the world, travel starting to pick up. What I enjoy about those things are things related to the navigating domain: getting out there, seeing the world, understanding people, meeting people, figuring them out, listening to their stories. That's what drives me.

Now, part of my business is I have to be more transmitting. I have to let people know what I'm capable of. I have to put things out on social media. I’d be all too happy not to promote myself on social media, but to just sit back and watch Netflix. But that's part of what allows me to go out into the world and meet people and hear their stories. Same thing with the preserving domain. If I'm not careful with my health, then traveling becomes all that more difficult. And my ability to do so is limited, because I get tired more easily. I don't fit the airplane seats, all these sorts of things.

Okay, so my way of encouraging myself to improve in behaviors related to the preserving and navigate, I'm sorry, preserving and transmitting domain is to think about, like María José said, how they enhance my ability to find satisfaction related to navigating. Now there are a lot of people who would say, you know, well, you're supposed to do all three. You're supposed to find pleasure in all three, et cetera, et cetera. Well, maybe, but that's not what the average person does. We all know that we are motivated to satisfy a value and we will change if that change satisfies a value that we have. And if it doesn't, then we won't. Why should I spend my time on it?

This is important. When we work with people, it's important to frame it this way, because life is difficult enough. Whereas if my approach to working with people is saying, You know what you have to reject who you are. You have to diminish in your mind the importance of these things you think are important. Well, why am I gonna do that? Why make it harder to change? Why not make it easier? Why not use the things I'm drawn to, to encourage adaptive, healthy, intentional behaviors, instead of feeling guilty about myself. And as anybody who's ever delivered, you know, tried to help people change, if you make them feel embarrassed, they might change in the short term. But what they really want is for you to go away, so they don't have to think about the things that are embarrassing to them.

María José:

And it's not only easier and more pragmatic, I think you said it before, there's an advantage of being good or better at something than other people. And that other groups have better or different things. There's an evolutionary advantage in that. So I don't think it's even smart to try to be good at everything, because we wouldn't be really good at anything, and society in general would not benefit from it.

Mario:

You know, who has a job… Unless you're self-employed in some way, but even then, who has a job where, okay, I'm going to do everything? I'm just going to do whatever needs to be done. I'm going to be good at everything. I'm going to be good at every sport. I’m going to be good at studying every topic. I'm going to be good at every instrument. I'm going to be good at everything. No, that's nobody. Now, if you heard the episode of The Enneagram in a Movie podcast, where we're talking about Groundhog Day, and you have infinite recurring time to practice all these different things in a repeating loop of never changing environment, well, then yeah, maybe you can be great at everything.

Creek:

So you're saying there's a chance?

Mario:

I’m saying… All you have to do is get caught up in a loop of recurring circumstances.

Creek:

Okay. You’re right. What would you say to people that maybe understand that mindsets switch? Let's say someone who is navigating, but is struggling doing the mundane preserving things. They recognize that the preserving will help that navigating peace, but just doing it just is constantly undermined by different things? How would you step in there and help them?

María José:

I think that one of the main things, because when you think about the zone of indifference, which in this case is the preserving domain for the Navigator, it feels overwhelming. When you think about addressing all these things that you're not paying attention to, it's okay, I know I should, but wow, it looks like a ton of work. And I don't know if I can or want to. So the first thing, I believe, is to select one or two behaviors that will make the biggest difference, that will have the biggest impact, and focus on those, hopefully, one, so that there is a benefit addressing something. But it's not everything because that will not happen. I don't say that. it's the main, the first thing that I would do.

Mario:

Yeah, and I completely agree. Number one, you always have to do a cost benefit analysis when it comes to creating change. Look, we all have a lot of things to work on. I keep making a joke about, well, if everything's working, make popcorn and watch Netflix, but the reality is we all have things to work on. So let's be conscious and deliberate about the things that we choose, and choose those things that have the highest benefit to our lives. Not some vague oh, I'm going to be equally good at everything. But no, you know what, my life will be substantially better if I can improve this specific behavior.

And maybe it's in the preserving domain or the transmitting or the navigating, and then do a specific cost benefit analysis. What is the effort required? What is the return on that effort? And is it substantially worth it? If yes, then we frame it into the context of what we value. Like we talked about frame of preserving thing in the terms of navigating payoff. The important thing is not how we get the benefit. It's that we do get the benefit. That's what matters. So again, I get frustrated when I hear people say, Oh no, you have to reject the personality. You have to go against it. You have to tame it in all these things.

Emerson, in one of his essays, talks about how we each have a monster that follows us around. And this monster is the things we push into the shadow — our fears, the things we're afraid of, the things we hate — and we try to get away from it. So we take this zigzagging walk through the forest, hoping that this monster will lose us, but it never does. It always stays right behind us. So what do we do? At one point, we say, You know what, I'm going to sit down on this log here, and I'm going to have a conversation with my monster. And I'm going to befriend it, and I'm going to reintegrate all those things that I've been rejecting. So we sit down. We acknowledge, yeah, you know what, I have a bias towards navigating, how can I use that to integrate some of these things that are not working in my life.

María José:

And when you do that, so much easier to talk about the things that you don't pay attention to. And if you're part of a family or a team, you can say, you know what, I tend to neglect these things. I prefer not to be responsible for it. If I can afford to do that, of course, and not say I'll do it, and then never address it, which happens often. You say, Okay, I should be able to do it, because of my role because of my studies. But then I don't pay attention to it. So it's a lot easier when you come to terms with it. And more openly talk about that and ask for help.

Creek:

If someone is beginning their journey, just learned about Awareness to Action, and they found their instinctual bias, where would you suggest they begin? Is it is it looking at the adaptive and maladaptive patterns as it relates to the dominant zone of enthusiasm? Or would you go straight to the zone of indifference? What is the pattern that you've seen to be most effective as your first step of growth?

María José:

I would ask them what problems they have, and how these framework can help explain those problems. And then address it. I would not do it the other way around. So if the problem is explained by the zone of indifference, the zone of, sorry, enthusiasm being over done or not done skillfully, I would focus there. If it has to do with the zone of inner conflict not leveraged or not paid enough attention to and it needs to be developed further, I would work there. And if it's the zone of indifference being neglected, and it's something there, I would do these cost benefit analysis that Mario was talking about, and see if I can outsource it, that specific behavior or develop it myself. But it's, I think, first you need to… This is only a tool to help us see where the problem is coming from and how to act on it. It's not a tool to see what the problem is.

Mario:

I completely agree with all of that. And it can also be helpful to remember that there are certain ways we tend to get into trouble in each of the domains. And again, I say tend to because it's not universal. We tend to get into trouble because we overdo our dominant instinctual bias, our zone of enthusiasm. If we're navigators, we tend to spend time navigating when we should be preserving or transmitting, and our lack of doing so causes us trouble. So we want to ask ourselves, am I overdoing my preferred or my zone of enthusiasm?

We tend to get into trouble because we have an inner conflict in the secondary domain or the zone of inner conflict as navigate… Well let's use preservers, for example, they get into trouble because they have an inner conflict around the navigating domain. Yes, I can be social. Yes, I understand the need to be social. But I tend to you know, I'll make a plan to be with people and then I'll cancel at the last minute because I really don't want to do it, because I'm conflicted about it. Or I'll go there, and I really want to leave because I want to go back to the nest and so forth. So am I getting into trouble because I have an inner conflict there that's getting in the way.

María José:

Just one thing on that inner conflict. Many times, it's rooted in a distortion of what that domain involves. So preservers will see navigators as navigating as sometimes waste of time, waste of the energy and they don't want to lose it that way. Or navigators will see transmitters as show offs, center of attention all the time. Or transmitters will see preserving as too selfish or too… So that distortion can be addressed as well.

Mario:

And in the third domain, it's about that indifference to it. What am I not paying attention to in my life that I should be paying attention to? And again, it won't be everything in that domain. There are a lot of things that we could put into the domain of preserving: fixing up our houses, our garden, those sorts of things. I need to pay attention to my health and my physical well being, but it's not some spiritual failure if I don't decide to take on the project of redoing the plumbing in my house. Whereas a preserver might find that really, really fun and really, really enjoyable. I don't so why bother? But if it's something I have to do, I need to make sure I'm paying attention to it.

Creek:

Would you say the concept of skills and competence shows up mostly in the zone of indifference?

Mario:

But see yes. So that's good. So just to refresh that idea, the skill and competencies are tendencies to find work arounds for weaknesses, right? Classic example is somebody who's illiterate, but they find ways of giving the appearance that they're able to read. They find other ways of taking in information or faking it or whatever. And the reason we don't want to go back and do those things is because we have some embarrassment about that area. And some people will talk about shame in this regard, and our view is that we don't avoid it because we have shame. We have shame because we never developed the capabilities we thought we should have. So what was your original question?

María José:

The skill and competencies show up in the zone of indifference.

Creek:

It’s like herding cats over here.

Mario:

So, yeah, does it show up in the zone of indifference? Very, very often, yes. Very often, yes. Why? Because that's the thing that we often feel the greatest disconnect from. And so we sort of just… Yeah, I want to stay away from that. I want to avoid that. So if somebody asks me to cook, for example, and I cook like three things. And my wife is thrilled when I cook one of those three things, but she's infinitely disappointed because I cook three things, and I rarely…

Creek:

You put turnips in beef stew.

Mario:

And I put turnips in beef stew. So it just goes to show you I should be kept out of the kitchen. Now, one of the…

María José:

You certainly not an intuitive cook.

Mario:

One of the reasons I will avoid cooking is because I feel like I have no clue what I'm doing there. And I'm embarrassed by that. And so I'm just going to find reasons not to cook. I'm going to dismiss it as unimportant. And I'm going to say things like, Oh, I got married, so I don't have to cook, you know, kind of things. I would never say that, but you know, not anymore.

María José:

Just said it.

Mario:

Yeah, Not anymore I would say that, because I learned the price for saying something so stupid. But you get my point that we find reasons to avoid it because of this skilled incompetence.

Creek:

So we've talked about the awareness of how instinctual biases affect our behavior. We've talked a little bit about strategies to work with your instinctual biases. Bring us back to what does all this mean? How does this help the listener today?

Mario:

So good heuristics have value. They help us to understand things and if those heuristics are actually true, heuristics a mental model, right? So if those heuristics are actually true, sorry, the big word thing again, but if the models are actually useful and accurate, they have great explanatory power and great transformational power.

What some people refer to as the law of three, for example, is a good example of that. It's really just kind of Hegelian dialectic. So synthesis, I'm sorry, thesis, antithesis, and synthesis, bringing those two things together. They say it's a force that reconciles. Yeah, it's a good heuristic, right? I wouldn't call it a law, but it's a useful heuristic.

The same way with understanding the pattern of expression here. What it immediately allows us to do is be on alert for common, highly probable patterns that we see in people. Doesn’t mean we're going to see those problems all the time. But I know that if I'm working with a navigator, I need to be particularly alert for ways in which they're going to screw up in the preserving domain. And they're going to have struggle in the transmitting domain. Because I've seen so many fall into those same patterns and those same traps.

So it doesn't mean I should start saying, once a person is the navigator, I better work on the preserving. No, it says, Hey, keep an eye out for this. Because there's a good chance, there’s an issue there. And by being aware of it, we see it sooner, and we're able to help our clients sooner. Now, this also operates at an organizational or team level, doesn't just work on the individual level. And María José, why don’t you say something about that. I know you’ve seen this too.

María José:

Yeah, I was going to say something about that. The first thing first, and it's funny, because I was going to say the very same thing with simpler words. But… certain…

Mario:

But then people won't think you're smart.

María José:

I don’t care. Smart People explain things clearly. And if that takes involves using simple words, then it does. So I agree, it's a good model. And one of the, to me, part of the value of it is that with a few of these heuristics, or models, just not using a lot more, you can explain a lot and not get distracted by so many explanations that are out there in the Enneagram world.

So we use the instinctual biases and the patterns of expression to explain, and because of what you said, of how they can help us anticipate issues and strengths as well of different people, you get less distracted, as I say, and it's more actionable. So you get there. You explain it pretty quickly. And you know what to do about it. And to me, that's very powerful. It is amazing, as you said, how this applies not only at the individual level, but at the organizational level. I'm working with a team, which is mainly, I mean, the company is more preserving. And if there was a second, I mean, the pattern of expression works there as it always does, and it's more navigating. But it's definitely not transmitting. They avoid that. And they have this strategy of developing an area that it's more transmitting, so they imported somebody who is taking care of the transmitting aspects of that new area.

They know they need him, but it's likely the organ is being rejected by the body. It's like the transplant, you know. It feels like it doesn't belong there, because the culture there is preserving and transmitting creates a lot of noise to them. So understanding that might not solve the whole problem, but it helps explain what's going on that it's not personal, that the company needs that. And although they might feel uncomfortable with that transmitting area and energy there, they need it. And for the person who's driving that, understand that it's not personal, that the company needs some reshaping in terms of the culture, and that will take time. So it does allow or provide a useful tool to explain and to act upon.

Mario:

That's a really great example. It makes me think of a couple of industries, in which you can see a very clear instinctual bias. And it shows why we shouldn't try to be balanced in those domains. Take, for example, a health care company or a financial institution. You want them to be really, really preserving. You want a culture that looks very preserving. You don't want a culture of transmitting. Financial institutions, for example, have to follow a tremendous number of rules and regulations for everything they do. So they need to pay attention to that stuff.

They need to make sure that they're following all the rules and processes and so forth. They don't want to start experimenting. They don't want to start needlessly innovating. They don't want to start being flamboyant in what they're doing. No, it's a conservative, preserving industry, and that's fine. It doesn't need to be equally balanced. Now, you do need some transmitting elements. You need to build the business, etc. But it's appropriate for them to be disproportionate, meaning we spend a whole lot more energy on one domain than we do on the others.

Creek:

I'd imagine this translates over to family systems as well.

Mario:

So every parent has to be aware of all three instinctual needs of their children. There are preserving needs. And as a parent, you have to make sure that your children are safe and well-taken care of and protected, not playing with scissors or matches and all of these things. But if you overdo the preserving stuff, and you try to bubble wrap your children, then they end up being in capable of interacting with the world once they leave the nest. They become dependent on the parents for their well-being, survival, safety, comfort. They don't individuate.

If the family culture is one of transmitting, then you might be have them so focus, and I see this, for example, with parents who push their kids into the entertainment industry. Oh, you're gonna be a star. Oh, you need to start a TikTok channel because you're so beautiful. And you're so this and you're so that, and you're forcing the child into there. You’re pushing them into a domain that they're not comfortable with. And you might be not helping them develop the interpersonal skills that they might need to develop healthy relationships, a sense of community, and so forth. So it's easy for parents to become either overly fixated in one of the domains and force it upon their children, or to not recognize the child's individuality. María José often talks about her daughter, who's a transmitter.

María José:

Yeah, I was thinking about that, and how when she was like four or five years old, I would see myself saying, lower your voice. Kind of, I wouldn't say shut up, but you know what, she was too much. And I wouldn't understand why. And deep inside, I thought that she was going to fail in life, because she didn't understand her surrounding. She didn't know how to read the room. She was five, of course, maybe I was exaggerating. But I honestly because I said, so how did you do at school? Like, who did you play with? Like, what are the groups? And she wouldn't know.

And until I realized that she was transmitting, and she was going to do just fine in life. And from then onwards, I stopped trying to kind of bring her down, and now I see that she needs to, I don't know, change the color of her hair, and do these and do that. And she needs to express in a way that I don't. And it's kind of these days, things are manage her, manage her, but raise her in a way that takes care of her individuality better.

Creek:

So really, what I'm hearing is sure, there may be some value in all the other ways in which people teach the Enneagram as far as ways in which to see parts of yourself and work on certain aspects of yourself. But more than likely it's the biggest bolder to move is to work with in that pattern of expression. And I think of… I forget the exact numbers here, but someone was saying, if you ate everything that every health person suggests you need to eat, you would be eating an immense amount of calories.

But what are the big things that you need to get is is very basic, right? Or thinking about working out. Like there's a million different movements and stretches and all these things everyone is saying, this is the most crucial thing that you have to do every day. But there's not enough time in the day to do all those things. So what are the basic big movements that will elicit the most amount of change with the least amount of effort? And I think that's what I'm seeing in trying to sum up what we've been talking about this whole entire episode. How would you comment on that?

Mario:

Yeah. María José, do you want to comment? I have a thought.

María José:

I'm sure you do and you want to say it at the end so that you close the episode, so that's fine. I'm willing to go first. It’s not gentleness that you're allowing me to talk first. Just out of…

Mario:

She's absolutely right.

María José:

Yeah, I know. I know I’m right, I'm not even guessing, I know. Sorry. So I think you're right, Creek. And I don't want to give the impression that it's the only thing that we need to work on or pay attention to. But I think that it explains so much, that it will be almost silly not to use it as a framework, from the beginning to try to understand thing and address issues. And it will not explain everything. But it explains a lot. And it's very actionable. And it's also easy for people to understand that.

And I think that we might have not touched on this, but I don't like to work with people, and kind of keep the recipe for myself and not tell them what they were doing. I like to share these frameworks. I like to share these models, so that they get the tools and can work with them themselves. And this is very easy to understand. So it's not only effective, I mean, actionable and effective, but it's also very easy to understand.

Mario:

And the secret to the recipe, as we've discussed, is turnips.

María José:

I was wondering why you were smiling, Mario. I thought it was something smarter though. You’re disappointing me.

Mario:

So here's what I really am thinking. A lot of approaches to self-development grow out of monasteries. When you think about most spiritual teachers, they take themselves out of the world, and they go up to the mountaintop in some form or another. And they start to follow prescriptions that work fine in that environment, but don't necessarily translate to the busy lives that most people are living. Where I’m just looking for ways to be happier, to be more content, to suffer less, to cause the people around me to suffer less. How can I get there fastest? How can I get the most benefit from the least amount of effort? Not because I'm lazy, but because I have limited time, limited energy, and I have a whole lot of other things to do.

Now, of course, Gurdjieff famously came along and talked about a fourth way where you're doing the work in the world being in the world, but not of it, being a householder, etc. But still, it's following models that require a huge commitment that some people are willing to make. And if you're willing to make that huge commitment to balancing all three instincts and doing these other things, that's great. Good for you. I'm happy that you have the time, the energy and the dedication. For most people, however, we need something a bit more sensible, a bit more practical, a bit easier, simpler. It's hard work. It's always hard work, but it's no harder than it has to be and it's no more complex than it has to be.

Creek:

I did just look it up. There is beef stew that has turnips in it.

Mario:

See? See? There. See, there you go. And I bet it's a damn fine beef stew.

María José:

Yeah, was going to say, is it any good?

Creek:

Yeah, that is the action item for our listeners this week is to go make a beef stew with turnips and let us know how it goes. Is it tasty? And um…

Mario:

See and I thought that Creek was looking at me with dedicated attention and deep interest in what I was saying when he was really just Googling beef stew.

Creek:

It's, you know, sometimes it's more entertaining to Google things. Well, thanks everyone for your attention, even if you were looking at beef stew, and we will talk to you next week.

Mario:

So long guys.

María José:

Cheers.

Creek:

Thanks for listening to the Awareness to Action Enneagram podcast. If you're interested in more information or talking to Mario, MJ or myself, feel free to reach out to us through the links in the show notes or by emailing info@awarenesstoaction.com. All episode transcriptions and further information can be found at awarenesstoaction.com/podcast.

Links