Go with Your Gut {Book Club}

“A humble self-knowledge is a surer way to God than a search after deep thinking.” Thomas À Kempis

This week we are jumping back in to our discussion of the Enneagram using Ian Morgan Cron and Suzanne Stabile’s book The Road Back to You. This section covers the gut triad, which includes types 8, 9 and 1. Maybe you read these chapters and found yourself emphatically raising your hand, saying, “Yep, that’s me!” Or maybe you elbowed your spouse because suddenly they made a whole lot more sense. The chance is that even if you aren’t an 8, 9 or 1, your teammate is or a sibling or someone in your community.

Here’s a quick description of each of these types from the book:

Type 8- The Challenger: Healthy 8s are great friends, exceptional leaders and champions of those who cannot fight on their own behalf. Average 8s tend to be steamrollers more than diplomats, and have little patience with people who are indecisive or who don’t pull their weight. Unhealthy 8s are preoccupied with the idea that they are going to be betrayed.

Type 9- The Peacemaker: Healthy 9s are natural mediators. They see and value the perspective of other people and can harmonize what seem to be irreconcilable points of view. Average 9s, while they come off sweet and easygoing, are stubborn and out of touch with their anger. Unhealthy 9s have trouble making decisions and become overly dependent.

Type 1- The Perfectionist: Healthy 1s are committed to a life of service and integrity. They are balanced and responsible and able to forgive themselves and others for being imperfect. Average 1s have judging and comparing minds that naturally spot errors and imperfections. Unhealthy 1s are obsessed with micromanaging what they can, and asserting control over something or someone is their only relief.

While each of these three types is very different, the commonality is that they respond to life from their gut, or with anger. 8s externalize their anger, 9s forget it, and 1s internalize it.

As I read over these chapters, I wondered if there are certain types that are more drawn to overseas work, or if our expat/worker culture values certain types. The descriptions of type 8 left me thinking, “That sounds like the ideal cross-cultural worker!” And I’m definitely not an 8, yet here I am. I know deep down that each type brings its own set of strengths and weaknesses to our line of work- and I would love to hear more about what you think those are as we discuss each week’s section. Do you think that agencies and other expats can value one type’s strengths over another?

In the Road Back to You study guide, the authors introduce a practice called SNAP. I share this with you as a resource for your journey of discovery, and a way to dig deeper into your personal experience with the Enneagram. SNAP is an acronym that stands for Stop, Notice, Ask and Pivot. Here’s how it works:

Stop: pause for 2 or 3 minutes, multiple times throughout the day, and give your full attention to the Father and what is happening in your life right then. Take some deep breaths, find a spot that is quiet, do what you need to do to give your attention to what’s happening in you and around you.

Notice: pay attention to your behaviors, daily patterns and thoughts. How are you relating to what’s going on around you? Are you caught up in the more reactive, default behaviors of your number?

Ask: the authors give four questions to ask yourself in this process. What am I believing right now? How does it make me feel? Is it true? Who would I be if I let go of that belief?

Pivot: then we have to consciously choose to throw aside the usual scripts we follow and make different choices, and continue to increase our self-awareness.

Try out SNAP this week, whether you’ve figured out your number or not. I would love to hear how it goes or if you think it might be helpful!

Let’s keep the conversation going in the comments! If you are an 8, 9 or 1, what resonated with you from these chapters? What do you wish people understood about you? If you are one of the other six types, what do you most appreciate about the people in your life who are an 8, 9 or 1? What questions do you want to ask them in order to keep seeking understanding?

Photo by Iciar Ormaechea on Unsplash

You also might want to check out these Instagram accounts to keep learning more about the Enneagram!

Your Enneagram Coach 

Enneagram and Coffee

Here’s the schedule for the rest of the book:

January 22- Chapters 6-8

January 29- Chapters 9-12


  1. MG January 14, 2019

    My husband is definitely a 9! His strengths abroad are a relatability and ease with people from all walks of life, an ability to see all sides of the issue in team conflict (and work towards resolution), and he easily forgives and forgets. He seems to intuitively understand WHY the people he’s ministering to hold certain beliefs or practices and then is able to tailor how he shares good news with them in a way that addresses their WHYs, even though he is not gifted in evangelism. However, he definitely has some cultural hot buttons (driving patterns, bureaucracy, people who lie to save face, etc) that make his anger flare big and bright. It always resolves quickly, but he’s had to become more self aware of those bursts to be an effective and consistent witness in our community 😀

    1. Sarah Hilkemann January 15, 2019

      MG, this is a great list! I love that you and your husband can see all the ways he is gifted for his role and those areas that need growth and awareness. Thanks for sharing!

  2. Rachel Kahindi January 15, 2019

    I’m a 9, and my husband is an 8. I had already figured out that conflict is good favorite pastime. And knows I will avoid conflict at (almost) all costs. I’ve had to learn to debate with him for “fun.” And he’s had to learn that if I bring up an issue it’s very important because I wouldn’t mention it otherwise.

    As far as ministry goes, my strengths are empathy and diplomacy. His are fighting for justice (or anything really) and networking. Our types work well together. I am the sensitivity censor (I tell him, “don’t say it like that, say it like this”), and he is the one who gets out there to do the work I hate, which he loves.

    I really loved the part where he was talking about asking his wife where to go for dinner. People who want to understand 9s in their lives could take some notes from his method.

    1. Rachel Kahindi January 15, 2019

      Edit: “conflict is his favorite pastime. And he knows”

    2. Sarah Hilkemann January 15, 2019

      Rachel, thanks for sharing these lessons you and your husband have learned about each other! I love how you are able to help each other and work together well, rather than dwelling on the differences.

      I’m not a 9, but I thought the illustration about picking a place to eat was really good too! I don’t usually speak up with an opinion, but if I do and then it gets changed I think, “This is why I don’t speak up or say it doesn’t matter!” It was a good reminder to listen well to people and ask good questions.

  3. Ruth January 15, 2019

    I am a one, with a fairly strong nine wing. I knew I was probably a one the first time I read this book when I got to the part about how to load a dishwasher. I have had some form of that conversation with friends a few times. When I get something from IKEA, I do actually lay all of the parts out and double check them against the instructions before I start. And my inner critic is loud, although I have learned how to quiet it some and actually enjoy life. This is where looking back to when I was 20 helps me. My inner critic was much louder and I had not learned how to say no to doing the things I feel I should do to have fun. When I graduated college, I regretted how many good concerts I could have gone to for pretty cheap student price tickets, because I was either studying, working, or saving money (i.e. doing the things I should do that I thought were all far more important than having fun).
    I am realizing that in my current work, I’m good at the parts that are structured and the expectations are clear. The part that is more ambiguous is much more of a challenge for me. Someone more entrepreneurial would probably be a better fit. And yet–I also have to question if my own expectations are too high…. Having a spiritual director or mentor has been really helpful in helping me figure some of those things out (and usually encouraging me that I’m doing better than I think I am).

    1. Sarah Hilkemann January 15, 2019

      Ruth, thanks so much for sharing! It is always encouraging to me to hear people say they are a more healthy version of themselves, where they can look back and see the growth. I’m not a 1 but I get you on a few of the 1 characteristics, as I’m a perfectionist and can have high expectations (sometimes unrealistic) of myself and others. I struggled with working in an incredibly flexible, unstructured and unpredictable environment overseas! It made me realize that while it is important to be stretched and out of our comfort zone, I also needed something that was *in* my comfort zone. I couldn’t function completely out of it 24/7. This felt like a failure at first, but I think it is important to just understand and grow in who we are.

  4. Lisa O'Brien January 16, 2019

    Well, I came into this book not knowing which number I am. Then I read the chapter on Ones. Oh my. I’m pretty sure that is who I am. But I have a hard time completely claiming it before I finish the book. (Probably just classic evidence of my One-ness!) Reading through it I felt like I was having flashbacks to various moments, experiences, and relationships in my life when I was clearly demonstrating that I am a One (mostly being reminded of my unhealthy exhibits) and it revealed why clashes occurred. It’s got me thinking about how it impacts my motherhood, and how I need to make adjustments. My kiddos are still young, so their numbers may not be fully formed yet, but I want to see if I can figure it out to some degree…so I can do a better job with them. This book may just inspire me to dig deeper into this phenomenon to see how I can overcome my classic One struggles.

    1. Sarah Hilkemann January 16, 2019

      Lisa, thanks for sharing these discovery moments with us! It makes me smile (although I know seeing how we’ve been unhealthy versions of ourselves in the past isn’t exactly fun!) to see the ways you’ve been processing what it means to be a 1 and how that impacts your relationships and role as a mom. After you finish this book, another great resource is Suzanne Stabile’s book The Path Between Us (she’s the co-author of The Road Back to You). She talks specifically about relationships and how the different types interact with each other. 🙂

      1. Lisa O'Brien January 16, 2019

        Thanks for the book suggestion Sarah! I may just have to read that one!

  5. Rachel January 17, 2019

    I cried when I read the chapter on 1s, because I saw so many of the unhealthy aspects of my personality in it. It’s taken me months to see the positive qualities in being a 1, but I’m getting there, probably another aspect of being a 1. I resonate with the statement, “they compulsively strive to fix all that’s broken in the world, but the work is never finished.” I often feel exhausted by all that needs to be fixed and I’m beginning to realize that it’s not my job. I’m also learning that there are many different ways to do something well, such as having a good marriage, raising kids, eating healthy, serving others, etc. and that helps me release myself and others from unrealistic expectations of what “the right way” looks like. I’m learning to quiet the critic and speak words of truth to myself and my family, being less hard on myself, accepting my imperfections and realizing that they are the things that draw people to me, not my perfections! I didn’t realize that journaling is one of the best ways for me to process what I’m thinking and feeling instead of diving right into doing, but I’ve journaled for over 20 years of my life. I’m also discovering that yoga forces me to slow down, breathe and rest and I love it!

    1. Sarah Hilkemann January 18, 2019

      Rachel, what a powerful comment and perspective! Thank you so much for your honesty of this journey and the ways you are growing in speaking Truth to yourself and showing yourself grace. I love the things you’ve found helpful too as you’ve figured out what you need! Thanks for this. 🙂

  6. Michele January 19, 2019

    I’m STILL trying to figure out my number. I’m seeing more and more how much I’ve changed over the years, especially the 25 years of expat life. From this section, though, I think I can rule out 9, which is what I originally thought I was. I have a number of the traits and I hate conflict, but I can’t say that I avoid it at all costs or that peace is my primary motivation. I think I may have to get a book that digs into subtypes more to nail my number. But I’m really enjoying the comments and getting to know the community here better with ideas of how people around me are thinking /feeling as well.

    1. Sarah Hilkemann January 20, 2019

      Michele, thanks for sticking with the discussion! 🙂 Maybe that’s part of this aspect of the journey- ruling out the types you know you are not. Even if you can’t exactly pinpoint your number, it definitely can be interesting to hear other people’s perspectives and maybe gain insights for interacting with teammates or friends or family members. 🙂

  7. Abigail Zhao February 12, 2019

    In the travel and detour Father’s leading us on, I forgot about this book club! Catching up now, in this rare quiet moment at my husband’s Chinese grandma’s house. (Often the relatives are literally chasing me around trying to make me eat more.?)

    Lisa, that’s an intriguing thought about figuring out your children’s Enneagram types.

    Ruth, good point. That was me in my 20s, too. Thankful I’ve grown in the area of making fun and rest priorities.❤️

    I’m definitely a 1. This was a bit overwhelming to read the description online somewhere, thinking, “Am I really such an angry person?” It’s also interesting that my sister is an 8, and her husband is a 9. All of us are in the Gut/Anger group. But I’ve come to realize that it’s healthy when it’s anger at an injustice, especially when there’s something I can do to improve it. And I’ve started to realize how challenging it can be for my husband to live with the unhealthy parts of a 1. Reading everyone’s thoughts and reflections is so encouraging.

    1. Sarah Hilkemann February 13, 2019

      Abigail, it is never too late to join the discussion! 🙂 So glad you have a little space right now.

      I think your differentiation of the types of anger is important! There is definitely a necessary anger toward injustice and evil that can fuel change and that’s needed. Learning to pay attention to our anger and motives is an important step.

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