Hello. Perhaps you’ve landed on this page because you’ve done an Online Enneagram Personality Test which has given you a Seven as your main personality type, and now you’re scratching your head wondering what this means in terms of your self-development or therapy journey.
Are personality types no more than just a description of different traits – like a star sign? Or can the deep understanding of our type help us to play the finite game of life a little bit more skilfully? And if so, how?
[Read more about Personality-Focused Psychotherapy]
Hopefully this page and the information below will help to get you going in terms of an initial understanding of your personality type and exactly how it functions.
I have also tried to sketch out the kind of paths that Type 7 clients might want to consider travelling with me in therapy. Each personality type, as you will see, comes with its own “super-powers” as well as Achilles’ Heel which contributes to our personal suffering as well as “life-traps”. Hopefully this will become apparent the more you read into and explore this personality type.
Armed with this knowledge you will hopefully be better equipped to play the ups-and-downs, the snakes as well as ladders of the finite game (that is your individual Life), but perhaps also the Infinite Game, as I like to call it, of Happiness.
PS: If you find when reading through the descriptions below, that they don’t resonate, or that you don’t feel really “seen” and understood in a deep and maybe even sometimes slightly uncomfortable way, then you might want to consider looking at some of the other 9 Types in which you scored relatively high on when doing your personality assessment.
INSTRUCTIONS FOR PLAYING THE INFINITE GAME (AS A SEVEN)
- Snapshot Of A Seven: How Many Of These Traits Do You Identify With?
- Why Am I Like This? The Psychological Development Of A Seven
- Core Motivations Of A Type Seven Participant: What “Drives” A Seven?
- Sevens At Work & In Relationships
- Understanding Why Sevenes Think, Feel, And Behave The Way They Do?
- What You’re Really Good At As A Seven
- Healthy Vs. Unhealthy Sevens
- The Three Kinds Of Sevens: How The Three Instinctual Biases Shape The Three Type Seven Sub-type Personalities
- How Sevens Might Struggle In Work And In Relationships: Stress-points And Triggers
- Self-management Challenges That Sevenes Might Want To Work On In Therapy
- Life-traps That Sevenes Might Want To Work On In Therapy
- Where To Start When Focusing On Your Own Personal “Seven-stuff”: Strengths To Leverage & Enquiry Questions That I Often Ask Type Seven Clients
1. SNAPSHOT OF A SEVEN: HOW MANY OF THESE TRAITS DO YOU IDENTIFY WITH?
If most or all of the following characteristics apply to you, you may have a Type Seven personality style:
- Your mind emphasises the positive data or positive elements of your work. You enjoy envisioning future possibilities and learning about things that interest you—and you find many things intellectually compelling.
- You have “bright shiny object” syndrome. You are distracted by engaging ideas to think about and other attractive things that pop into your field of vision or your head.
- You are easily fascinated by interesting people, events, and ideas. You like learning new things, going to new places, and meeting new people—you love the thrill of new experiences and novel adventures.
- You tend to be interested in many different things, but may not go very deeply into any one of them. You enjoy the intellectual stimulation and fun and variety of a range of diverse activities, but you may skim along the surface of your experiences. The phrase “jack of all trades, master of none” may apply to you.
- You enjoy enjoyment. You are happiest being happy. You actively seek happiness. You like to feel positive emotions, and you don’t like to feel negative ones. Your motto might be: “Why would you feel bad if you could feel good?”
- You automatically reframe negatives into positives. For example, when you were unemployed, you called yourself a “freelance entrepreneur.” You believe it’s best to always look on the bright side, and are very good at finding silver linings, the best in people, and whatever is awesome.
- You rarely complain about your work. Your mind emphasizes the positive elements of your job. When work gets boring, it’s harder for you to stay engaged.
- You don’t like to be limited or constrained in any way. If something or someone limits you, you will find a way around it or out of it.
- You feel uncomfortable when you have to deal with unpleasant emotions. You like to keep the mood up, so you automatically try to avoid interactions that feel thorny, uncomfortable, or painful. It can be really hard for you to have the dreaded “difficult conversation” with someone when things aren’t going well.
- You’re good at winging it—you can “fake it ’til you make it” if you have to. You can work hard and make things happen, but you are also good at looking like you know what you’re doing (while you’re still figuring it out).
- You like to have many options. You like to have a Plan B (and Plan C) in case Plan A doesn’t pan out. This may cause people to perceive you as flaky, but you see it as flexible and spontaneous.
- You don’t like hierarchies. You make friends with the people you work with—both above and below you—to flatten things out (and so no one is controlling anyone’s options). You want your boss to be your friend so she won’t control you. You want your direct reports to be your friends so you don’t need to be strict with them and manage them too formally.
- You enjoy being in leadership positions that involve generating innovative ideas and envisioning the next big thing. You excel at brainstorming and thinking outside the box. You like to take the lead in imagining how things might be better in the future.
- WHY AM I LIKE THIS? THE PSYCHOLOGICAL DEVELOPMENT OF A SEVEN
Here is a kind of Origin Story or Trauma Story that sometimes resonates with a Seven personality style.
Once upon a time, there was a person named Seven. He was born with a natural sense of curiosity and wonder. He came into this world with a beautiful capacity for higher wisdom and true joy—a deep desire to focus intently on one thing at a time and to discover and take pleasure in each thing’s essence. He loved concentrating all his attention on something he wanted to learn about and know deeply.
But one day, when Seven was paying close attention to a bee that was walking on his leg, it stung him! He burst into tears and looked around for someone to comfort him. He tried to tell his father about it and perhaps receive some comfort, but his father was angry about something and told him to “go away.” So he went to his mother, but she was busy doing something and said she “didn’t have time” to hear about something so insignificant. These responses made Seven feel even more pain—almost more than he could handle.
Seven hadn’t had much experience with pain, and he didn’t like it. So, to get away from these unpleasant sensations, he retreated into his own imagination. He started thinking about things that made him excited—watching clouds as they passed through the sky or playing with his best friend. In fact, Seven found that he was good at imagining fun and interesting things. As time went on, he became adept at diverting his attention to these thoughts whenever any kind of pain threatened him. Whenever he started feeling anything other than good or happy, he focused his attention on thinking about things that felt good or seemed happy.
Whenever he saw people who weren’t happy, he wondered why they allowed that to happen. Why would anyone choose to feel bad when they could just think of something that made them feel good?
Over time, Seven developed an ability to make himself happy no matter what was going on around him. No matter what was happening in his life, he could always think of something that made him happy, or go to somewhere better in his mind to avoid sad or unhappy feelings. Then one day, his best friend moved away and, in a very small way, Seven began to feel the pain of losing him. But before that feeling could get very far into his awareness, he started thinking of all the other friends he would now have time to meet. He would just move on. Why wouldn’t he? Thinking about his new fun future friends made him feel happy again. What Seven didn’t realize, however, was that sometimes his happiness was superficial. Sometimes, it was just an escape and not true pleasure. It was not the pure joy he had felt when he was very young.
Seven didn’t know that, sometimes, feeling pain can be important even if it doesn’t feel “good.” From his happy, pleasure-seeking perspective, he couldn’t see that some emotional experiences can be rich and satisfying because they are real, even if they don’t make us “happy.” Sometimes we know real joy because we allow for the experience of pain. For Seven, it was true that he really loved his friend and he would really miss him. And feeling that pain was an opportunity for him to acknowledge that love—and the sadness that was also connected to that love.
But because Seven automatically avoided pain, without realizing it, he also avoided feeling his love. By avoiding his pain and insisting on feeling happy all the time, he eventually became unable to acknowledge many of his true feelings. He lost the ability to experience the true joy that comes with focusing deeply on one thing at a time—including all his feelings—and to take pleasure in whatever is real.
Sevens often report having had a happy early life—they tend to put a positive spin on things, so even if they experience hardship, they tend to remember it in positive terms. However, whether they remember it or not, many Sevens experienced some sort of fearful or painful event or events in childhood that motivates them to take refuge in positive emotions. The Type Seven adaptive strategy grows out of a need to defend against pain or fear through thinking their way to happy feelings and focusing attention on whatever makes them feel good.
This habit of taking refuge in the imagination allows Sevens to stay upbeat and avoid difficult feelings without ever having to register pain. The Enneagram’s biggest practitioners of “the power of positive thinking,” Sevens are hard-wired to focus on what makes them feel good: people they like, interesting ideas to think about, good food to eat, beautiful places to go. They don’t necessarily “try” to think positively, it just happens. They like to solve problems and tackle challenges, but to cope with what really feels problematic—unpleasant emotions and whatever stirs them up—Sevens tend to “move on,” look to what’s ahead, and do whatever it takes to generate happier emotions. They escape from an uncomfortable present to a rosier future.
While people with a Type Seven style are classified as “fear types,” most Sevens report they don’t experience much fear in their everyday life. However, their coping strategy is an unconscious response to an underlying fear of being limited and of feeling their suffering or their anxiety. Sevens often report feeling bored or anxious rather than fearful. Even Sevens who do feel fear and don’t consciously run away from fear or pain are still shaped by an adaptive strategy that employs many different ways of focusing on what’s pleasurable as a way of distancing themselves from any awareness of unpleasant emotions.
- CORE MOTIVATIONS OF A TYPE SEVEN PARTICIPANT: WHAT “DRIVES” A SEVEN?
The strategy of focusing on what’s positive and staying upbeat leads Sevens to pay attention to whatever feels most exciting, stimulating, and fun. If it’s not awesome or interesting or delightful, it drops off the Seven’s radar screen—so Sevens notoriously have trouble focusing on work tasks that are less than exciting. Sevens are not famous for their attention to detail and most Sevens I’ve talked to absolutely detest paperwork. It can be extremely difficult for someone who leads with the Type Seven style to not be distracted by something better when they are doing something that’s not very fun. They may even feel actual physical pain in their bodies when they have to focus on details they don’t care about for an extended period of time.
Sevens like to relate to people, engage in enjoyable activities, and think interesting thoughts. As mental types, they live a great deal of the time in their imagination, both taking refuge there from anything sticky they might want to (unconsciously) avoid and utilizing their imaginative function to do the work they do. Their inner experience is a lively, ever-changing, creative workspace where they invent new possibilities, visualize the future, and play with new ideas. It’s a mental playground where they spend much of their time entertaining themselves—in fact, some Sevens prefer living in their imaginations to living in reality. They can create optimistic visions of what could be in an idealized future in such a way that what they think and dream about seems more real than what is actually happening.
- SEVENS AT WORK & IN RELATIONSHIPS
Generally, individuals with a Type Seven style see the world in terms of what could be true if everything was as great as they imagine it to be. Their view of life is so deeply coloured by optimism they may have a difficult time attending to what’s right in front of them in the real world if it’s not so pleasant. The tendency to put a positive spin on things is so deeply ingrained, they may not know they are doing it and may believe that they are perceiving what’s real.
Sevens relate to the world in terms of how great everything is. They notice all the positive things that are happening and all the reasons they have to feel good. As the saying goes, the world is their oyster, filled with exciting new experiences waiting to be had. However, they also sometimes sense forces out there that could potentially limit their freedom and their options. This is why they prefer flat organisations to hierarchies and engage in “soft rebellion” in response to authorities who might limit them by telling them what to do. They intellectually charm or manipulate people so they can keep the party going, retain their freedom, and avoid feeling trapped.
Sevens in leadership positions are often motivated by a desire to make the world a better place, especially because they are so good at imagining how the world might be improved. They generally see life as full of exciting things to try, and endeavour to have a diverse variety of experiences and taste all the wonderful things they see. They view the world from an intellectual perspective—through the mental activity of planning for fun and thinking about all the things they want to do, participate in, and accomplish. They are the most emotional of the Enneagram’s three head-based styles, but, like Fives and Sixes, they may often think about feelings rather than sinking into their emotions.
The following character traits also define the Type Seven personality style.
- Ability to generate imaginative visions and outcomes. Sevens like to think about the future—they tend to be original, innovative thinkers who solve problems in ingenious ways.
- Good brainstormers. Sevens’ normal mode of thinking is very much outside the proverbial box. They love nothing more than getting together with like-minded friends or colleagues and coming up with thrilling new angles on how to do things or see the world.
- Synthesizing minds. Sevens have a talent for finding connections between things that might seem disconnected to other people.
- Positive outlook. Sevens are masters of positively reframing things and seeing the spectacular in life.
- Preference for having many options. Sevens want to be free to take advantage of whatever opportunities may pop up, so they like to keep their noses to the wind and their options open.
- Tendency to rationalise doing what feels good. Most Sevens have never met a rationalisation they couldn’t get behind. Finding good reasons for doing whatever they want to do supports their ability to avoid limitation and feel okay about their choices. They may often not even realise they are rationalising their “bad” behaviour.
- Enthusiastic and energetic. Sevens tend to support others in powerful ways, through the sincere passion and intense positive feelings they can mobilize on behalf of a project or an idea.
5. UNDERSTANDING WHY SEVENS THINK, FEEL, AND BEHAVE THE WAY THEY DO?
Sevens are mental types who enjoy playing with ideas and thinking new thoughts. They live in their imaginations—as a place to think stimulating thoughts that generate positive emotions and (potentially) to escape from whatever is going on that might not be so positive. Sometimes described as having a “monkey-mind,” Sevens’ thinking moves from one thought to another like monkeys swinging from branch to branch. They excel at entertaining themselves and others through their mental activity, often have quick wits, and use their minds to think themselves out of uncomfortable situations, charm their way around limits or instantly recast a bad situation as a good one. By nature hedonistic and anticonventional, their mental flexibility also acts as a defence against becoming stuck in or trapped by an unpleasant experience or a limiting authority or power structure.
Sevens like feeling good and dislike feeling bad, and believe that people can choose one or the other at will—they can focus on “positive” emotions, like joy or excitement, and disregard, ignore, or evade “negative” ones, like fear or pain. Although they are the most emotional of the three “head types,” they don’t see the value in feeling difficult emotions and rationalise their avoidance of pain, automatically doing whatever it takes to feel good and ignoring any negative data that might inspire a bad mood. They sometimes express an aversion to boredom, but this may be code for not wanting to slow down enough to allow the deeper, darker emotions they avoid to bubble up.
Sevens move rapidly—they think fast, talk fast, and do things fast, so it can be hard for others to keep up with them. Their tendency to get distracted can mean they have a difficult time maintaining their focus on what they are supposed to be doing, especially if it threatens to be boring or dull. They may have difficulty following through on commitments and finishing tasks on time, and their preference for new ideas may lead them to put more things on their own plate—one Seven I met at a training said, “A week before a deadline I have four things to do, but two days before the deadline I will have 10 things to do.” However, successful Sevens find ways to work around their tendency to lose focus, like the Seven I know who tells herself she needs to do a particular task to have the fun she wants to have later. As you might expect, Sevens are also very good at celebrating achievements and planning for next steps.
6. WHAT YOU’RE REALLY GOOD AT AS A SEVEN
- Maintaining an optimistic, positive attitude; keeping spirits up. Sevens are good at keeping things light, focusing on what’s working, and imagining best-case scenarios. They realise that when you believe things are going to go well, they usually do.
- Imaginative and creative planners. Sevens bring a spirit of play to the planning process. They enjoy using their imaginations to creatively plot out innovative visions and how to get there in work and leisure.
- Fast-paced. Sevens can be counted on to move things along and not get bogged down, whether they are leading a meeting, planning a project, or burning through their to-do list.
- Enthusiastic supporters. Sevens can be inspiring leaders who motivate people through their sheer enjoyment of doing the work and engaging with their colleagues.
- Innovative and forward thinking; futuristic. Sevens automatically imagine what the future is going to be like—they are very good at creating plans and mental pictures about what could or will happen.
- Good at reframing negatives into positives. Sevens automatically turn what sounds negative into something to feel good about. They easily point to the positive data or the silver lining in a difficult set-up.
- Celebrating successes. Not everyone realises how important it is to celebrate victories as a way of reinforcing what works—but Sevens do. And they may also give themselves (and their partners, or team) treats along the way to keep their spirits up.
However, our greatest strengths, can also be at times our Achilles’ Heel. For Sevens this might show up in the following ways:
- Maintaining an optimistic, positive attitude; keeping spirits up. Sevens can go too far in envisioning a rosy scenario when they overlook important information that might not be so good—just ask a Type Six! They may also avoid talking about conflicts out of a fear of being trapped in something uncomfortable.
- Imaginative and creative planners. Sevens can go so far into their imagined utopian visions that they lose touch with what’s real. It’s important tie a vision to reality so you can actually make it happen. And this can be a real blind spot for them—they (especially One-to-One Sevens) just think things are way more awesome than they are.
- Fast-paced. Sevens sometimes skim along the surface of things, when slowing down and going deeper into a task may be what’s required to get the job done well. Their attention to detail can suffer and they can be sloppy (and not necessarily care).
- Enthusiastic supporters. At times Sevens may be too enthusiastic about something that’s not so great as a way of avoiding facing bad news.
- Innovative and forward thinking; futuristic. Sevens sometimes miss out on experiencing what’s happening in the present moment out of a fear that it might be hard to handle. And since the present moment is really all we can experience, they can end up depriving themselves of experiencing their life as intensely as they want to.
- Good at reframing negatives into positives. Sometimes it’s important to understand the negatives in a situation so you can deal with them in an effective way, as opposed to just putting a positive spin on them.
- Celebrating successes. Sevens sometimes want to get to the celebratory party before the goal is actually reached. This can create problems, like when my Seven friend and I were in a canoe and he started celebrating the fact that we’d made it through some scary rapids before we actually made it all the way through—and tipped us over.
Fortunately, Sevens’ sincere interest in doing whatever they can to be effective and get results can often motivate them to pay attention to how their relentless positive outlook can sometimes derail things. When they can balance what’s great about their optimism and enthusiasm with an ability to slow down and consider different points of view and all of the data, everybody wins.
7. HEALTHY VS. UNHEALTHY SEVENS
When stressed to the point of going to their “low side,” Type Sevens can move so fast that they create chaos and confusion in their wake. Stressed out Sevens easily become distracted, may appear manic and ungrounded, and may have a difficult time slowing down long enough to really listen to what people are saying and face difficult facts. Some may retreat into positive fantasy such that they refuse to see the truth of what’s really happening—especially if what’s happening threatens to inspire bad feelings, like disappointment, anxiety, or pain.
Sevens on the low side can become more relentlessly positive and run faster and farther away from darker emotions and potential conflicts. They may speak more rapidly and their thoughts may become erratic and unfocused. They may (unconsciously) seek to manipulate through intellectual charm, or try to force results that satisfy their personal self-interest, without regard to what’s best for others. Or, they may desperately avoid getting close to anything that pushes them into what they (unconsciously) fear most, being limited by outside authorities or feeling trapped in unpleasant emotions. They may become more removed, more aggressive, or more insistent on focusing on what brings them pleasure.
On the “high side,” healthy Sevens can balance their preference for positivity with an ability to slow down and take in all relevant information and points of view—including what’s not so positive. They can find ways to deal with the hard stuff as a way of providing a sound foundation for making things better. More self-aware Sevens can catch themselves in the act of distracting themselves and steady their focus more and more often. They can also stick with things longer—relationships or conflicts or difficult situations—to work things out and find resolutions that bring about good feelings that go deeper and last longer.
Emotionally intelligent Sevens learn to feel their emotions all the way to their depths, even when they are painful, understanding that feeling all their emotions leads to a richer and more satisfying experience of life. When Sevens operate from their high side, their natural positivity, humour, and lightness has an even more potent effect, because it is supported and grounded in their willingness to experience all of life, even the darker parts. When Sevens learn to make their fear of pain conscious, they can be more present, more balanced, and more powerful. Instead of just skimming along the surface of their experiences, they can risk sinking down deeper into the moment and getting more of what they want the most—a more intense taste of being alive.
8. THE THREE KINDS OF SEVENS: HOW THE THREE INSTINCTUAL BIASES SHAPE THE THREE TYPE SEVEN SUB-TYPE PERSONALITIES
According to the Enneagram model, we all have three main instinctual drives that help us survive, but in each of us, one of these three impulses tends to dominate our behaviour. The Type Seven style gets expressed differently depending on whether a person has a bias toward self-preservation, social relationships within groups, or one-to-one bonding.
The Self-Preservation (or Self-Focused) Seven
Self-Preservation Sevens focus on getting what they need through taking advantage of opportunities and creating a network of friends and allies. They may experience more anxiety than the other two kinds of Sevens, and cope with this through finding creative ways to meet their needs for security and support. The most practical, materialistic, and hedonistic of the three Seven sub-personalities, Self-Preservation Sevens are very pragmatic, and good at making things happen and creating wealth to support a sense of security in the world. They tend to rely on only those they trust, and may surround themselves with a “good mafia” of friends and allies they can go to when they need something or want to feel protected. And while they can be generous in offering support, they may also fail to be fully aware of the degree to which their own self-interest drives their friendly transactions.
Sevens with an instinctual bias toward self-preservation tend to always have their nose to the wind to sniff out good opportunities. They can be talkative, friendly, pleasure-seekers who enjoy the finest life has to offer—their self-preservation focus, combined with their Seven programming, leads to a love of indulgence and a search for security born of the need to have the freedom to do, go, work, eat, and drink as they choose. This Seven, more than the others, may be aware of their fear and even a bit paranoid at times—and their usually subtle antiauthoritarian streak may surface if someone tries to constrain their movements or control their actions.
As leaders, Self-Preservation Sevens tend to be practical and pragmatic—they generally evaluate the business environment more realistically than the other Sevens do and base decisions on both optimism and their own self-interest. They may employ intellectual charm and an upbeat attitude to win people over and establish connections, and will energetically implement plans and projects to get where they want to go without always considering the larger impact of their pursuit of their own self-interest. Rationalizing that what’s good for them is good for everyone, they may pursue the work they want to do in the way they want to do it, and have a difficult time submitting to other authorities or being influenced by direct reports. They may try to smooth rough spots in relationships through personal appeal and humour and focus on pleasure as a way to soothe fears. At their best, Self-Preservation Seven leaders mix good business sense with careful planning and a positive outlook to get what they need, support the people they work with, and have fun doing it.
The Social (or Group-Focused) Seven
Social Sevens are what is called the “counter-type” of the Sevens—while many Sevens are “self-referencing” and focus on their own inner experience, needs, and wants, Social Sevens (often subconsciously) focus their energy and attention on supporting others, giving to others, and alleviating pain in others as a way of avoiding experiencing pain themselves. They can even experience a kind of taboo on selfishness, as they sense their own desires for things, but deny or postpone them in support of an ideal of being of service to the group.
Like Type Twos, Social Sevens can put a great deal of energy and enthusiasm toward supporting and giving to others. They may feel motivated to offer more to others and take less for themselves, while at the same time expect or hope that if they support the group, the group will take care of them. Social Sevens are often drawn to jobs that involve healing, holding, or easing the pain of others, perhaps in an unconscious effort to ease their own pain without having to actually feel it. The “New Age” movement is in some ways a cultural reflection of the Social Seven mentality—imagining a global environment in which people are more free and more open to new experiences that free them from the constraints of the past.
As leaders, Social Sevens can be enthusiastic visionaries who imagine a better world. They may have utopian fantasies and sunny outlooks, even while they engage with people facing illness, grief, or other real-life difficulties. Social Seven leaders may work passionately in support of causes or try to improve working conditions so people can be more effective and enjoy what they do. They may demonstrate leadership through sacrificing their own needs and desires as a way of emphasizing the wisdom of making sure others get what they need to do the work they need to do and to be happy doing it. Although they may at times use enthusiasm to inspire (or manipulate) people into following their lead, and they may have a deep desire to be recognized for their dedication to being of service, they usually express a sincere commitment to the welfare of others. At their best, they combine selfless service with a clear and enlivening vision of all that can be done to improve people’s lives.
The One-to-One (or Relationship-Focused) Seven Leader
One-to-One Sevens are idealistic dreamers who have a very strong focus on how things could be or how they imagine them to be. In contrast to practical Self-Preservation Sevens, One-to-One Sevens have a need to idealise reality and see the world through rose-colored glasses. They are light-hearted “enjoyers” who can be extremely idealistic, to the point of being naïve. They tend to be very enthusiastic, and their enthusiasm can be infectious. And they may be highly suggestible when it comes to being affected by other people’s enthusiasm or idealism.
These Sevens look at life and work with an extreme sense of optimism—they have a tendency to be almost too happy, and are the Sevens who have the hardest time taking in negative data. Their highly positive view of life is a way to distract themselves from what they experience as a nearly intolerable sense of reality—especially when reality is dull, boring, or difficult. They imagine how things could be and then tend to act as if the positive vision they imagine is real. They may live more in the happy world they create in their heads than the actual world, with its problems and traffic jams and struggles and pain.
As leaders, One-to-One Sevens want to know that everything is okay—I’m okay and you’re okay and we’re okay. And it can be hard for them to see and acknowledge when things are not okay. They can be high-minded visionaries who feel an intense commitment to manifesting the positive view of their work they create in their minds. Alternatively, they can cause problems when they don’t pay attention to anything bad or difficult that might be happening—and they don’t want to see that they aren’t paying attention to the bad things that are happening. When they are less self-aware, they may not recognize they are living more in their imagination than the real world. But when they understand their programming, they can balance their need to idealise with a clear-eyed sense of what’s really happening. When these leaders have the emotional intelligence to recognize their tendency to avoid negative data, they can counter-balance it by asking for support in evaluating all the data in a given situation. When One-to-One Sevens can see that their passion, optimism, and enthusiasm may cloud their vision in negative ways, they can learn to be more aware of their tendency to overcompensate for their fear. When they can do this, they can focus more energy more effectively on making some of the awesome things they imagine a reality.
9. HOW SEVENS MIGHT STRUGGLE IN WORK AND IN RELATIONSHIPS: STRESS-POINTS AND TRIGGERS
Type Sevens sometime feel like working or being in relationship with others is hard because:
- Not everyone sees things as positively as I do. Sometimes people rain on my parade by arguing against my perspective or dwelling on the negative stuff.
- I want to solve problems quickly and move on, but other people often want to talk about what’s going wrong longer than I think we need to.
- I like to score quick victories I can feel good about—so it bothers me when people slow me down, especially with a lot of detailed description about why something won’t work.
- I like to have a lot of freedom to manoeuvre, and sometimes I’m pressured to do things a certain way, according to certain rules and procedures.
- Some people don’t enjoy work as much as I do.
- I have a hard time if I have to deal with other people’s negative feelings or input.
- I don’t like to have to operate according to what authorities tell me to do. I like to do what I want to do without feeling constrained or having to take others’ opinions into account.
- Sometimes people don’t take me seriously because I like to make work fun.
Type Seven’ peeves may include:
- When meetings or get-togethers aren’t well run, are boring, or drag on and on.
- When people respond to my work or ideas with a lot of negativity.
- When people tell me their problems and expect me to fix them.
- When colleagues or a partner tries to place limits on my work/freedom or controls what I’m doing.
- When people shoot down my ideas instead of letting me have space to brainstorm as much as I need to.
- When the people I work with aren’t friendly and pleasant.
- When people don’t understand my need to have fun at work.
- When people are excessively serious and process-driven so there’s no room for creative thinking.
- When people dwell on what’s not working instead of focusing on solutions.
- When I’m forced to do a lot of paperwork or jump through bureaucratic hoops.
- When people tell me what to do, especially if it seems ridiculous, meaningless, or unnecessarily difficult.
- When people don’t appreciate the good job I did and instead nitpick about little details that they think aren’t right.
- When someone says “no” or “we can’t do that.”
- People who go into too much detail and don’t get to the point.
- Being micromanaged.
What’s Great About Working and Being In Relationship with Conscious Seven
- They are fun-loving, they are fun to be around, and they make work and life fun.
- They focus on what’s positive as a way of lifting morale and encouraging people to envision a successful result.
- They keep things moving.
- They are easy to like and they will want to like you (if they possibly can).
- They are sincerely interested in people and will want to get to know you.
- They won’t want to dwell on what’s not working; they like to find solutions.
- They tend to be diplomatic and friendly when conducting business or their relationships.
- While they have preferred ways of doing things, they are open to listening to others and will try to adjust so team members feel heard and supported.
- They often see the best in people and encourage them to do their best.
- They are often humorous and charming.
- As leaders, they tend to treat direct reports more as peers than underlings.
- They will want to give the people they work with a great deal of freedom.
Typical Challenges for People Who Work with Sevens or Are In Relationship With Them
- It can be hard to talk to them about what’s not going well.
- They may not have the patience or the emotional fortitude to do what it takes to identify problems, talk them through, and work things out.
- They may have difficulty focusing on projects that don’t excite them.
- They may overbook themselves, arrive late to meetings, or appointments, and forget commitments.
- They may get so excited about new ideas that they don’t slow down to examine potential problems and develop a workable implementation plan.
- Although they may know a great deal about diverse subject areas, their knowledge of specific topics may be shallower than you might expect.
- Their own strong desire for freedom of movement may mean they don’t provide much structure or direction for their direct reports.
- They may move so quickly, they inadvertently leave people behind.
- They like to keep their options open and so may not commit to a plan of action in a timely way.
10. SELF-MANAGEMENT CHALLENGES THAT SEVENS MIGHT WANT TO WORK ON IN THERAPY
Overdoing the preoccupation with what’s positive. Of course you know that there are many positive aspects to being so positive—but there is also a downside, like there is with everything. If you can’t rein in the need to put a positive spin on everything, you may miss something important when you avoid the negatives.
The need for speed. Sometimes the people around you may feel like your fast pace means you are running away from something. If you can slow down and smell the proverbial roses, you may be able to take in more of what’s happening and have a richer, deeper, better experience—which is usually what you are aiming for anyway.
Self-referencing and acting from self-interest. You can be a very generous, supportive person, but your attention is first and foremost on yourself. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but when you overdo it without knowing it, you may alienate people when you don’t pay attention to their needs and desires too.
Excessive concern with avoiding limits. It may occasionally be beneficial to meet the challenge of having fewer options or adjusting to outside constraints. Even if it just lessens your fear around limitation, that might be good for you.
Living in your imagination (as opposed to reality). If you are a One-to-One Seven, this is your specialty. While it is a strength to be positive and enthusiastic, in some instances, bad things can happen when you believe more in the reality you create in your head than the objective reality you live in with other people.
Fear of suffering. Chances are if you really learn to allow yourself to feel more of the bad stuff you automatically avoid feeling, it won’t be as bad as you thought it would be. And if you become more conscious of your fear, you can release yourself from being so driven by fear—often fear that you don’t even realize is driving you.
11. LIFE-TRAPS THAT SEVENS MIGHT WANT TO WORK ON IN THERAPY
Here are some potential blind spots that Sevens might struggle to see in themselves:
- How the quest for fun, positivity, and pleasure is driven by a need to avoid pain. When I introduce Sevens to the Enneagram types and they begin to see themselves in the Type Seven archetype, they often say, “I relate to every part of the description, except for the part about avoiding pain; I don’t do that.” Distracting themselves from uncomfortable feelings—and the way their fast pace and desire to feel good all the time is driven by a flight from pain—can be a blind spot for Sevens.
- The value of pain and discomfort as a way of connecting to deeper emotional truth. Sevens’ programming tells them that there’s nothing good about feeling bad. It’s hard for them to see any upside to difficult feelings and uncomfortable emotions. But our emotions represent a kind of inner guidance system, and knowing how you feel is an important part of being human and being able to access what’s real for you.
- The impact on others of your relentless focus on what’s positive. Sevens want very much to be taken seriously. But, if you are a Seven, you may sometimes unintentionally contribute to the perception that you are a lightweight or not very serious. And sometimes it’s hard to trust someone who only wants to look at the good stuff.
- Your own ability to deal with uncomfortable emotions. Self-aware Sevens say that one reason they avoid feelings like anxiety, pain, discomfort, and boredom is they fear if they allow themselves to open up to these feelings, they will be trapped in them forever. But this is based on the automatic instinctual response that they can’t handle those feelings. It helps to own your capacity for emotional strength and resilience.
The positive aspects of slowing down and being present with your experiences, no matter what you are experiencing. Sevens tend to operate at a fast pace because they are unconsciously running away from any negative emotions or hard-to-handle experiences that might happen in the present moment. But they tend to avoid being aware of the downside of moving so rapidly when they skim along the surface and focus on the future. It actually helps to slow down and allow for a deeper experience of the present moment—and to get in touch with what exactly has you moving so quickly in the first place.
All the types can learn to be less reactive and better at collaborating through first observing their habitual patterns, then thinking about the things they think, feel, and do to gain more self-insight, and then making efforts to manage or moderate their automatic reactions to key triggers.
Sevens grow through first observing, then exploring, and then learning to moderate their habitual reactions to key triggers like feeling limited or controlled by others, having to deal with others’ negative emotions or moods, and having their options foreclosed.
When Sevens can watch what they do enough to “catch themselves in the act” of doing the things that get them in trouble, and then pause and reflect on what they are doing and why, they can gradually learn to moderate their programming and knee-jerk responses. Here are some ideas to help Sevens be more self-aware, more emotionally intelligent, and more satisfied at work (and at home).
- Observe your desire to focus on what’s positive and pleasurable. Notice if it reflects an inability or an unwillingness to look at important negative data.
- Notice if you move, think, and talk at a fast pace. Experiment with slowing down a little to see what happens.
- Notice if you feel any anxiety or fear as you go through your day. See if you can observe it and discover what it’s about.
- Notice if you have an aversion to anything that threatens to limit you in any way.
- Observe what happens inside you when there is something happening that inspires discomfort and how you respond.
- Study yourself to see if you can note what emotions you feel more and less often. Do you spend more time feeling emotions at the positive end of the spectrum? What happens to your more painful or negative feelings?
- Notice what beliefs you have about feeling specific feelings. Do have any fears or beliefs about getting trapped in uncomfortable emotions?
- Is it important to always have a lot of options? Why or why not?
- WHERE TO START WHEN FOCUSING ON YOUR OWN PERSONAL “SEVEN-STUFF”: STRENGTHS TO LEVERAGE & ENQUIRY QUESTIONS THAT I OFTEN ASK TYPE SEVEN CLIENTS
It might helps Sevens to be aware of, actively pay attention to, fully own, and leverage:
- Ability to make work fun and enjoyable. This is a gift that enhances your life and the experiences of the people you work with. It doesn’t even occur to a lot of people that work can (or should) be fun—they view it as a grind or a slog. Seeing work through the lens of enjoyment is a strength of the Seven style the rest of us can learn from and that can give our work lives more meaning.
- Intellectual charm. Sevens can really turn on the charm when they want to. Although you may sometimes use it to wriggle out of commitments and get around inconvenient authorities, this talent comes in handy for relating to everybody at work, whether they are clients or managers or the person whose parking space you parked in because you were running late.
- The power of positive thinking. The ability to automatically and instantaneously reframe negatives into positives has many productive uses—and much of the time probably actually makes things better. And, it just seems true that if you can envision it, it’s more likely to happen.
- Infectious enthusiasm. Feeling excited about projects and plans may give you more influence and support among more people. Sevens have a way of expressing excitement and enthusiasm that makes others want to join the party.
- Enjoyment of relating to people. One of the main points of this book is that most work that gets done in the world today happens through people interacting with people. Sevens sincerely enjoy engaging with people, and this makes you good at a lot of things as leaders and in business generally: selling and promoting ideas and products, schmoozing with clients and colleagues, after-work happy hours with coworkers, and just generally chatting with people at the proverbial water cooler.
- A flexible, synthesizing mind that gives you the ability to make connections. If you are a Seven, you have a nimble mind that finds connections among things that others don’t often see. You can think through problems and find innovative solutions in creative ways that make you a valuable member of any team.
Things for Sevens to Think About, Understand, and Explore
- Why is it so important for you to always focus on what’s positive and pleasurable? What do you fear will happen if you focus on other kinds of emotions and experiences?
- Why is it so appealing to you to focus on the future? What motivates you to be so forward thinking?
- What fuels your drive to move quickly through life? What do you value about having a fast pace? What do you think would happen if you slowed down?
- What kinds of things do you fear most? How does it feel to think about that question?
- Why does it feel so intolerable to be limited? What feels threatening about others putting constraints on you?
- Why is it so important to have options? What does having multiple options do for you?
Sevens can also grow through consciously becoming aware of the unconscious, self-limiting habitual patterns associated with their personality style and learning to embody the “higher aspects” or more expansive and balanced capacities of the Type Seven personality:
- Learn to become conscious of your need to avoid discomfort and pain. Becoming aware of your fears and opening up to the full range of your emotions can give you a deeper and more engaged experience of life and relationships.
- Learn to notice when subterranean anxiety causes you to speed up and realize you have the power to stay safe, even if you engage your fears more consciously.
- Learn to notice when you use your easy charm to intellectually manipulate to get what you want, and consciously open up to the possibility that you will get more of what you want the more you share what you have with others.
- Learn to see when you’re positively spinning out of control and find a way to open up to facing your fears and examining what’s not so great, knowing seeing the bad part will only enhance your enjoyment of the good part.
- Learn to recognize when you are seeing things the way you want to see them or the way you wish they were and take the risk to see them as they actually are, or as others see them, knowing you can survive reality.
- Learn to notice when you are focusing narrowly on your own interest and pleasure, and widen your perspective to include what’s good for others, or how being more sober might serve you, knowing that many pleasures can end up being less pleasing than you thought anyway.
- Learn to see your tendency to amp up the excitement and the enthusiasm as a sign you are avoiding something. Realize that tempering your enthusiasm doesn’t mean things still won’t turn out great—it just means that you will be more open to considering all of what’s real in the moment.
Overall, Type Sevens can fulfill their higher potentials by observing and working against their habitual focus on forward momentum and pleasurable experiences and experiment with playing different roles on teams and widening their perspective to include more kinds of data and emotional truth. When they can combine their high energy, humor, and positive outlook with a greater openness to feeling more kinds of feelings and experiencing situations they would rather avoid, they can stop running so fast and create a more grounded approach to and internal foundation for achieving their positive visions and innovative aspirations.
If you are not a Seven, but would like to learn how to get on better with them, here are a few tips:
- Be upbeat and positive. Sevens appreciate people who are pleasant and fun to be around. They will enjoy working with and relating to you if you endeavour to be enjoyable to be with and keep the mood light.
- Work to achieve mutual respect and appreciation. Sevens will be happy to respect your preferences and your freedom if you show respect for theirs. They want to feel appreciated and will happily appreciate you if they like you and experience you as easy to be around.
- Avoid excessive negativity and criticism. Sevens like to focus on what’s positive, so they can be bothered—and even alienated—by people who express a large amount of negativity. They are usually open to legitimate criticism, but if it doesn’t have an obvious constructive purpose, they may feel hurt and resentful.
- Make some allowances for them to be exceptions to the rule if the rule is unnecessarily constraining. Although, of course, some rules need to be followed by everyone, if you can occasionally let your Seven colleagues or friends bend a rule that is particularly limiting and inconsequential, they will greatly appreciate it (and still get their work done, or stick to their commitments).
- Allow them to work independently as much as possible, or have their own projects. Sevens like to have a lot of freedom to do the work, or carry out certain leisure activities the way they want to do it. They like having someone in relationship with them who trusts them to get the job done and doesn’t control what they do excessively.
- Give them space to generate and flesh out good ideas. Sevens love allowing their imaginations to run wild—they enjoy envisioning different options and possibilities. They will appreciate colleagues who give them room to brainstorm and trust that they will pare the long list of good ideas later, as the next step of the work.
- Understand their implicit discomfort with authority. Sevens aren’t big rebels, but, because they are friendly people who dislike being controlled by outside forces, they may engage in a kind of covert resistance to authority (both at work and in personal rrelationships) that gets expressed through charm and diplomacy. If you work or are in relationship with Sevens, it helps to understand this.