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Transcript – Season 3, Episode 5- Transcend identity: The Power of the Enneagram with Courtney Smith – Part One

Courtney Smith [00:00:01]:

Identity formation is really important as a young child and even maybe even into your early 20s. It’s just that if we continue to double down and continue to try to calcify into this identity, that problems arise. And so that midlife crisis that many people face, from my perspective, it’s like the operating model who I think I am. I’m now in situations that the operating model doesn’t work for. And now what do I do?

Dr. Caneel Joyce [00:00:32]:

Allowed. You are allowed to be whole.

Joyce I’m here to affirm that you are not missing anything. Just imagine with me for a moment that you are and always have been enough. You have always been enough. Imagine that. Allowed.

When you were born, you were whole, perfect. And somewhere along the way you learned that parts of you were not allowed here. What are the pieces of you that you have put into the basement? And how can you reclaim the wholeness.

Dr. Caneel Joyce [00:01:09]:

That is your birthright?

Courtney Smith [00:01:11]:

You are allowed to grow. You are allowed to dream. You are allowed to be exactly who you are and to become the next version of who you want to be. Start your journey of exploration with me right now on Aloud.

Dr. Caneel Joyce [00:01:25]:

You are allowed to be whole. Welcome to Allowed. I’m your host, Dr. Caneell joyce and I’m joined here today by partner in crime Courtney ‘Truth Bomb’ Smith.

Courtney Smith [00:01:42]:

Hi, Caneel.

Dr. Caneel Joyce [00:01:43]:

Hi truth bomb. Hi, Courtney. Courtney is a deep expert in the enneagram, personal growth, all kinds of things. I’m going to ask Courtney to describe a bit about her background and what brought her here. And then we are going to dive into a conversation around personal growth and what often keeps us from having the experience that we want. 

All of us come into looking at ourselves and trying to become better humans, usually because there’s some change we want to see or experience, whether it’s outside in the world around us or we are working on some change internally. And yet many of our efforts are actually misled and can further exacerbate whatever the issues are that we’re trying to resolve. So we’re going to talk a bit about that and then a unique way that Courtney has found to use some very, very old time tested tools and a system called the Enneagram, which we have talked about on previous episodes of this show. 

I wanted to bring Courtney on the show because she is not just a really fun person, but also a deep expert in the enneagram and like me, is devoted to the path of conscious leadership and has found a way that these two models, frameworks, theories intersect and can be put to use in a really practical, useful way immediately that makes them feel very tangible and demonstrates their utility not through the mind, but through a really, genuinely different experience that you could have by using the tool. 

So we want to get into at least pointing you in the direction of some of those opportunities, and we’ll see where it goes from there. In my experience, once we get going, sometimes we don’t know where things are going to go, but it’s always somewhere interesting. We’re going to have fun today. That’s the goal. So, Courtney, tell us a bit about yourself and your pedigree and what brings you here.

Courtney Smith [00:03:38]:

Thank you Caneel.

Courtney Smith [00:03:40]:

Well, you and I met at a CLG group. It’s been like coming on two years ago, and I first was introduced to the Enneagram, I guess it was six or seven years ago, through my first CLG group.

Dr. Caneel Joyce [00:03:53]:

And CLG is a Conscious Leadership group. So in past episodes I’ll link to in the show Notes, we’ve had one of the founders of the Conscious Leadership Group onto the show, Diana Chapman. Many of the episodes, many, many the vast majority of the episodes of this entire podcast, seasons one and two, are all covering different aspects of the model and framework of Conscious Leadership that this group uses. So Courtney and I are in this practice group together

Courtney Smith [00:04:17]:

And as you’ll find, if you look at CLG, there’s a variety of tools and traditions and wisdom knowings, I guess you would say, that CLG brings to the table, and one of them is the Enneagram. And for me, the experience of being introduced to the Enneagram. In my prior lives, I’d worked as a consultant. I’d done big change management, big consolidation projects at big companies, and then had taken some time off to parent our three children. 

But for me, the Enneagram was this big, I guess truth bomb around, really shedding light in my professional life as to why you would try to push change through organizations and time after time, again, you wouldn’t get the change you wanted. And it really, for me, provided a system of knowing and a system of understanding of how people get in their own way. They say they want to go someplace, yet they’re not able to get there. And I think the Enneagram really illuminates that at the same time that I had that prior history as a consultant, had really kind of come up in the business world against why change fails. In my own life, I was making my own changes. Out of one, I want to go back into the workforce. I see myself not parenting, not being the kind of spouse that I want to be. 

And the Enneagram seemed to shed just as much light on in my own personal journey, where and why I was getting stuck. And so for me to have a tool that really kind of seemed to provide a narrative or sort of a deeper understanding of why people can’t be the people we want to be was profoundly moving. And so I really went kind of head into this tool in a very immersive way. And, yeah, love talking about it, love working with it.

Dr. Caneel Joyce [00:06:05]:

I think one of the things that is really unique about you. And my experience is I don’t know a lot of the Enneagram world because of how just insanely interesting and fun this tool can be. Especially, there’s a lot of popular culture media out there that’s using it as a personality tool first and foremost. But it can be just a very light, fun, easy I mean, I do Enneagram pool parties. It can be super casual and fun. And I know that you have a lot of casual and fun in your personality, and you come from an intellectual background of tremendous rigor. So for the Enneagram to pass muster with you, I think, says a lot about the potential value of this tool to a much broader, more cynical audience.

Courtney Smith [00:06:55]:

I’m blushing a little bit. That’s okay. So I start my career path. I went to Yale Law School. I majored in Mathematical Economics at Wake Forest, and I really sort of started my professional life. I never practiced law officially, but I really relied on economic modeling, linear, logical, analytical ways of reasoning, looking for holes and arguments to see where things fall short. That is the lens I bring to anything I work on. And so I started working as a consultant at McKinsey. Did that for several years and then went in house for a client I was working for there, Kande Nast, and did a bunch of projects there as the newspaper industry was under massive transformation, did a couple of other things and then moved to Women’s Reproductive Health, which had been this long standing interest of mine. Did some volunteer work, served on the board at Planned Parenthood as I was raising our three small children, and then went back to school and got a Master’s in public health and really brought that consulting background to the world of women’s reproductive health and the broader healthcare landscape. So that’s what I was doing professionally when I stumbled upon the Enneagram and was deeply skeptical that this tool really was all that it says it could be. 

I fought it. I asked a lot of questions. I showed up at workshops, and my teacher, Russ Hudson, created a lot of space for me to push back. And so I think that one of the reasons I love about the Enneagram that I love about the Enneagram and I love teaching the Enneagram is that anything I teach has been kind of hard won in my own sort of wrestling with it.

Dr. Caneel Joyce [00:08:44]:

Yes. So Russ Hudson is one of the co authors of The Wisdom of the Enneagram, which is one of our favorite kind of reference books and highly recommend it. We’ll link to that in the show notes, but I think this is how did you happen to stumble upon this tool? How did that happen?

Courtney Smith [00:09:01]:

It was through Conscious Leadership Group.

Dr. Caneel Joyce [00:09:04]:

It was through that. And so you were brought into Conscious Leadership Group? What brought you into that?

Courtney Smith [00:09:08]:

So I was in a transition starting back into making the decision that I don’t want to only just be a stay at home mom. I was in the middle of getting my Master’s in Public Health, doing some volunteer work and also doing some freelance consulting work. And as I was making that transition back and sort of this dawning realization that I hadn’t been working because I wanted to be this really good mom and partner, yet me not working seemed to be getting in the way of me being a really good mom and partner. 

And so Conscious Leadership Group was really the first tool that helped me understand why I was making trouble for myself. And it was really because of feedback I was getting in my personal life that the choices you’re making are not you’re not getting the results that you’re looking for. And so I’m really grateful to the tools of Conscious Leadership to help that transition for me and the Enneagram in particular. As one of those people who likes to work with the head and the mind, I want to know why these tools are working. I want to know what they’re doing inside you to produce change. And the Enneagram provides a framework or a narrative for understanding why a certain tool is actually the thing that unlocks something for you in a way that all the other stuff you’ve tried hasn’t.

Dr. Caneel Joyce [00:10:30]:

There’s a phrase that you use back there I’ll do my best to paraphrase or remember, which is that the things that you are doing are not producing the results that you want. It’s not producing the experience that you want to be having. And so on this show, we often will pause to make sure that you as a listener know that this is not just a conversation that you’re listening in on, but welcome here. Have a seat next to us on the sofa. This conversation is you are very much a part of this conversation. 

So at this point, imagine I’m turning to you actually, because I genuinely am. I just turned toward my microphone to talk to you and I’m going to pose that question to you. Where in your life, in your personal life are you getting feedback suggesting that the way you are responding, the way you’re behaving, is not producing the results that you want? Where in your personal life are you getting that feedback? This is not producing what you say you want to have. And I want you to find a place, doesn’t matter how big or small it is relative to others. There’s no best answer to this. But I do think it’ll be helpful grounding in this conversation moving forward if you can have that as an anchor point for yourself. 

So think of this is a kind of coaching style friendly conversation we’re having, like Courtney and I often have, just the two of us. And I think it’s useful to think about where are you feeling you could use the word stuck or frustrated. And we’ll keep referencing back to that for you. I love this. So this is what got you here. Now let’s move off of anygram and into the juice, as it were. What are most people seeking when they enter into something like a CLG or a personality workshop or what are most people, in your opinion, seeking when they attempt to do growth?

Courtney Smith [00:12:27]:

My perspective is most people are wanting to be better humans and they are feeling really connected and dedicated to the relationships they have. They want to be a better parent. They want to be a better partner. They want to do their work more effectively, or there’s something that they want in their life that they haven’t been able to achieve thus far. Some sort of relationship or a career shift, some sort of repair or healing with parents or extended family. People are looking usually to be better at the life they’re living, which I think is, I always find deeply moving. People are that dedicated to showing up better.

Dr. Caneel Joyce [00:13:11]:

There is something really beautifully selfless about approaching the work of personal growth. Like when you genuinely approach it and you’re not just looking for a quick fix or how do I convince myself that there is no issue here or that it’s everyone else’s fault? And it’s more like, no, I’m really showing up ready. If I find out that there’s some change that’s available to me that would help me be the person I want to be, I’m I’m willing to change. Like, that is quite selfless and beautiful.

Courtney Smith [00:13:41]:

Yeah. And I think there’s also something about us realizing that often the people that we care about the most are people that we’re in contact with the most. They’re sort of mysteries to us and wanting to know about ourselves, but also wanting to deeply understand what’s going on with the person that’s sitting across from us. So I hear that a lot when people come for workshops. Help me understand this person I care a lot about.

Dr. Caneel Joyce [00:14:10]:

Interesting. I work with mostly CEOs and founders, and they often are coming saying, I know that who I am now is not who I can be six months from now because the company is growing so quickly. I need to keep evolving. I need to stay a little bit ahead of what the company needs from me. And so I need to grow, like, at a crazy pace. I need to evolve. I need to be, like, free up any friction in between where I am now and where I need to go next. And I need to be able to respond to the moment instead of just operating as I always have. And so that’s a freedom they’re looking for that I’ve found. Also some of the tools and frameworks we’ll get into later have been really helpful for.

Courtney Smith [00:14:55]:

Yeah, I mean, I think this idea that what has gotten me here is not going to take me to the next place I need to go and a recognition, how do I let go of what feels familiar? And that’s how I use the enneagram. But I think any sort of personal growth story involves some sort of I’m willing to let go of what’s familiar because I know it’s not what I need next.

Dr. Caneel Joyce [00:15:17]:

It’s scary letting go of the familiar.

Courtney Smith [00:15:19]:

Yeah. We like the familiar.

Dr. Caneel Joyce [00:15:21]:


Courtney Smith [00:15:22]:

Even when it’s not working for us, right.

Dr. Caneel Joyce [00:15:23]:

Well, all living beings see homeostasis. We’re just looking to conserve our energy and change, consumes energy. And this is where I think about we think about this. Where are we getting feedback in our lives that we’re not getting the results we want?

Courtney Smith [00:15:41]:

Well, that becomes the ingredient that helps us, that motivates us to step out of the familiar, right?

Dr. Caneel Joyce [00:15:47]:


Courtney Smith [00:15:48]:

Is finally getting enough information, because what the familiar provides, even if it’s not working for us, it’s at least predictable. And so there has to be something that’s worth risking for to give up that I know how this is going to go.

Dr. Caneel Joyce [00:16:04]:

So on a prior episode of this show, I went into a topic called the change formula, and I think you’re referencing this as well. So the change formula says that we are, by default, always resistant to change. And in order to become willing to change, we have a few different levers we can work with, and there’s not that many. And basically, willingness to change is a function of how uncomfortable are you with the current state of things. 

So that’s the we call that the big D, the D for discomfort. And then on the other hand, how clear and compelling is the vision of where things could go, how things could be that are different from now? So that’s the V, the vision piece. So basically, the formula is D times V equals willingness to change, and it’s a multiplication equation, which means that if either of those factors are equal to zero, that means the whole entire thing is equal to zero. 

So if we don’t have discomfort with how things currently are, then there is no change. And if we also don’t have vision for where we’re going, there is no change. So you can add in once you have those two things going, you can make it easier on yourself. Right? You can add in support. You can add in next steps. You can create structures around yourself that make that path easier. 

So I see the enneagram as actually a tool that helps with all of those aspects of the change formula. I can become much more clear on how uncomfortable I am that I didn’t even realize I was uncomfortable. Like, I’ve been holding my breath so long, I didn’t know I was holding it. I also can become a lot more clear in the vision of who do I need to be to have the experience I want to have? So the vision becomes more crisp and then the support structure, because I suddenly have a map, whereas before I was lost in a fog of repeating the same patterns over and over again and not knowing I am the source of the patterns. So the thing that’s often getting in the way, though, of why people can’t change in the change formula, maybe you don’t have those factors activated. 

But where do we get to this idea of the identity? And what do you mean by identity?

Courtney Smith [00:18:14]:

So I would call identity. It’s a constellation or a collection of habits of being, feeling and stories about the world that we take ourselves to be. Certain ways we show up either with certain traits, habits, activities, roles, certain familiar feeling states and certain recurring stories about how the world works and how I need to show up in order to be successful in this world. All of these things, when they begin to be part of how I define myself, they become part of identity.

Dr. Caneel Joyce [00:18:54]:

Can you give an example perhaps by going back to an earlier time before you learned these things? Could you describe how you were identifying yourself back then?

Courtney Smith [00:19:03]:

Yeah, so, like a really good one in terms of my own growth is this idea of I’m responsible, I’m a responsible person. And for someone who’s trying to work and be a good mom and be a partner, there’s a lot of balls being thrown at you right. In terms of how to take care and manage all of these spinning plates. And if you’re the kind of person who defines themselves as a responsible person, the idea that you might let one of those plates go feels really scary.

Dr. Caneel Joyce [00:19:36]:

Because if I am responsible and then I stop being responsible somewhere, that means I am not.

Courtney Smith [00:19:43]:


Dr. Caneel Joyce [00:19:43]:

It’s the death of me.

Courtney Smith [00:19:44]:

Yes, exactly.

Dr. Caneel Joyce [00:19:45]:

So I grip onto that. I need to be responsible.

Courtney Smith [00:19:49]:

Yes. And many of these things are so because identity starts at a very early age, precognitively you might not even have language for who you take yourself to be. So it’s not only like, oh, I would never be able to drop this plate because then I might be an irresponsible person and who would I be? It’s that I don’t even consider dropping the plate to begin with. It’s not even in the realm of possibility.

Dr. Caneel Joyce [00:20:18]:

The plate is attached to my hand.

Courtney Smith [00:20:20]:

Exactly. And so now I’m really contracted and really overwhelmed because I don’t feel like I have any options or choices.

Dr. Caneel Joyce [00:20:28]:

And then the whole world begins to organize itself around you because you have continually demonstrated you’re not dropping the plate.

Courtney Smith [00:20:35]:


Dr. Caneel Joyce [00:20:35]:

It just gets reinforced in you that you must be the responsible one.

Courtney Smith [00:20:39]:

Right. And this is how identity ends up becoming this self-fulfilling prophecy, right. Where the minute I say I am this, I’ve created a lens through which I’m seeing the world. So now I’m going to be filtering for where to take this example, where do I need to be responsible? Visa vis work, visa vis my partner, visa vis my children versus empowering them or relaxing or having fun or all these other kinds of ways I might choose to be with them. I’m now filtering how they’re interacting with me through a lens of responsibility.

 And I’m also broadcasting that that’s the kind of person that I am. And so they’re going to be reinforcing that sense of identity because that’s how I’m showing up in the world now. I’m in a feedback loop where it feels like all the information I’m getting from people is just doubling down on this story of mine about who I am.

Dr. Caneel Joyce [00:21:36]:

So, for example, you walk into an event, say there’s like a barbecue, and you are walking in thinking, I am responsible. That’s just a part. That’s just how I am. How do you navigate in that barbecue that then how you put it broadcasts that you’re the responsible one, and then what happens when that gets broadcasted?

Courtney Smith [00:21:58]:

So one thing is going to be and again, this is going to be happening at a level where you’re not even aware of it. It’s going to be like the iceberg that’s underneath the water, right? There’s going to be certain habits and certain ways you’re going to be conducting yourself, but there’s going to be a bunch of stuff that you don’t even know is behind the scenes driving it. So one thing that happens is once I begin to think of myself as responsible, anything that’s the opposite of responsible, I’m not going to dare move toward. So the idea that I might be the person that has fun, that starts dancing, that just sort of does whatever I want, maybe flirts, that’s going to be off the table for me because it’s going to be in contradiction and feel unfamiliar to this identity suit of responsibility that I’m walking around with.

Dr. Caneel Joyce [00:22:50]:

It’s work. Like, you get to the barbecue, a lot of fun. You get to the barbecue, and then you’re like, okay, what is there to be responsible for here? Have I been responsible up until this point?

Courtney Smith [00:23:06]:


Dr. Caneel Joyce [00:23:06]:

And what will I need to be responsible for later?

Courtney Smith [00:23:10]:


Dr. Caneel Joyce [00:23:11]:

And I can imagine this also makes a lot of the world becomes a problem for you. I can imagine if I’m at the party, you’d have a lot on your hands, like, oh, no, I need to be responsible for what happens here.

Courtney Smith [00:23:26]:

Right. So if the party is not going to help me get my jobs done, by definition, even though I’m going to the party, I’m not at the party.

Dr. Caneel Joyce [00:23:35]:

You’re kind of disengaged. Yeah. You don’t know how to engage.

Courtney Smith [00:23:37]:

I’m not, because it’s not helping me be responsible. So it just feels like a big distraction from all these other things that I need to do and get done.

Dr. Caneel Joyce [00:23:46]:

This is how I feel at baseball games. I’m like, there is nothing to be creative with or go deep on it’s. Also contained in the structure of this game, there’s no cheerleaders to watch. Yeah. There’s nothing for me here. This is not my thing.

Courtney Smith [00:24:05]:

It’s not helping me with my familiar sense of who I am.

Dr. Caneel Joyce [00:24:08]:

Yes. I can’t find my groove, as we say. Yeah, okay. Yes. So then this then impacts how you relate to others, right? Because it sounds great to be responsible.

Courtney Smith [00:24:22]:

I mean, who wouldn’t want to be responsible?

Dr. Caneel Joyce [00:24:25]:

But then it’s like the rigidity of that structure, right?

Courtney Smith [00:24:30]:

Because maybe sometimes the most responsible thing to do is to actually just dance or actually just be in the moment and listen to someone. And all of those ways that actually are sort of being responsive are no longer available to me because of my simplified definition of what responsible is.

Dr. Caneel Joyce [00:24:52]:

Yeah. Okay. So that is identification. I’m identifying myself with quality of responsible, and I’m narrow-mindedly doing so. So I’m favoring certain aspects of being over others, which means I’m necessarily xing out or putting into my shadow other attributes that might be true of me if I had a more open-minded sense of who I was.

Courtney Smith [00:25:21]:

Well, yeah, because a lot of these identity structures also get created when we’re not that old, so they’re not super complex and nuanced. So they tend to have a very black-and-white quality to them, and they tend to really sort of be very simple, responsible.

Dr. Caneel Joyce [00:25:38]:

Is this okay? Like, kind is being nice, not sharing any so-called negative feedback.

Courtney Smith [00:25:48]:


Dr. Caneel Joyce [00:25:48]:


Courtney Smith [00:25:49]:


Dr. Caneel Joyce [00:25:50]:


Courtney Smith [00:25:50]:

And so they tend to have quite a narrow quality to them because these words were not we didn’t live and experience these words as sophisticated grown ups. We came into contact with these concepts and developed a sense of identity in a time when we were pretty simple.

Dr. Caneel Joyce [00:26:10]:

We were writing a pretty simple rulebook with big crayolas.

Courtney Smith [00:26:14]:

And also there’s really good science, right, that rules that are simple, they may be wrong a certain percentage of the time, but they also are really fast to learn and very fast to implement. And so from a neuroscience perspective, in terms of why do identities arise, there’s a lot of efficiency to be gained from a brain science perspective, making assumptions about patterns in terms of how the world’s working and how I need to show up. It allows us to have shortcuts. And shortcuts, by definition, need to be efficient. Simpler shortcuts are more efficient. So none of these identity structures really allow complexity, which is great in terms of developing an ego when you’re a small child. But as we get to be grown ups and are facing much more difficult problems and complicated situations, they’re not going to give us the flexibility that we need to fully face what we’re up against.

Dr. Caneel Joyce [00:27:14]:

If we were to push this example to the extreme, how would being responsible as an identity, how would that end up showing up as pain later on connecting it to this idea of finding that you’re getting feedback, that how you’re operating is not getting the results you want. Can you help us see how responsible somehow backfires?

Courtney Smith [00:27:34]:

Yeah, I’ve lived it.

Dr. Caneel Joyce [00:27:36]:

So tell you all about it.

Courtney Smith [00:27:40]:

The first thing is there’s a real challenge in terms of saying no. If we’re getting tasks and activities requests handed to us from a bunch of different parties, there’s going to be an overloaded quality that then by necessity happens because we’re not able to say no, actually, this is not mine to do or no, heaven forbid, I don’t want to do this. As the system gets overloaded with tasks, I can speak for myself. I become a total pain in the ass, and I get reactive, I get angry, I get impatient. The straw that broke the camel’s back, the one smallest request that comes from my kid, could you make my lunch? For my lunchbox? There’s a way outsized reaction because this is the 100th responsibility that I’m juggling on top of 99 more that the kid doesn’t see. 

So there’s this bubbling quality of suffering, dissatisfaction over efforting that is underneath this facade of I’m being responsible. It’s a very high price to pay internally. And it means the way in which a lot of these, at least in my experience, the way I conducted myself. Really, yeah, I made the lunch or yeah, I wrote the report, but it wasn’t a good experience for myself or for others involved.

Dr. Caneel Joyce [00:29:04]:

I feel like a lot of in your 20s, you’re often figuring out what is my identity? Who am I relative to others in a more adult way? And then the 30s is about doubling down on the and seeing how much you can do. It like, oh, I’m the responsible one. Let me show you how big that can be. Let me show you how much I can be responsible for around the world. And then midlife is like this breaking point where in Alcoholics Anonymous they talk about my life had become I forget the language they use, but it had become unmanageable. And it sounds like there’s an addictive quality to the identity. You pass a point where you can continue the charade that it’s working.

Courtney Smith [00:29:47]:

Yeah, I think that’s a really good point. And the enneagram has a lot to say about this idea, and you were speaking to it earlier like the tools that got me here are not the tools that get me there to my next phase. Identity formation is really important as a young child and even maybe even into your early 20s. It’s just that if we continue to double down and continue to try to calcify into this identity, problems arise. And so that midlife crisis that many people face, from my perspective is it’s like the operating model of who I think I am. I’m now in situations that the operating model doesn’t work for. And now what do I do?

Courtney Smith [00:30:29]:

And if I don’t have a tool to help me now undo some of the work I needed to do in order to be like a well-functioning human in my early days, that attachment to identity is going to get me into more trouble. And I’m ready now to actually do the opposite of what I needed to do first.

Dr. Caneel Joyce [00:30:50]:

Yeah, there’s lots of big, d discomfort that shows up at midlife or really in any high-stress, life-changing situation where you might start noticing, like, I’m not fulfilled, I’m not happy. This feels meaningless. Everyone around me that I thought was helping is a problem. I can’t do it anymore. I’m exhausted and burnt out. I don’t know who I am. This has all been the wrong path. I’m with the wrong person. I am the wrong person. And a lot of these discomforts, they feel like they’re like different flavors of the pain of being out of presence. I’m not aligned with myself in myself, nor with you, nor in the environment, nor in the set of commitments I’ve made. 

There’s this lack of alignment that creates a lack of alignment, and at some point, you’re just like, wait a second. Harder, faster, better, more of what I’ve been doing. I keep thinking that’s the answer and solution, and it’s only getting worse. But I am toolless at this point. I don’t know how to fix it. And that’s when you’re brought to your knees, and that’s the perfect time to reach out to a coach, by the way. It’s the perfect time when you’re feeling the ‘I officially surrender. I don’t know how.’ That’s such a good place to get to. So if you’re feeling uncomfortable in some area of your life, don’t worry. Hopefully it’ll get worse, hopefully it’ll get worse fast. And then you’ll get to that point, and you’ll be ready for something new to come in. Because life abhors a vacuum, so you need the tools to fall away so that you can get a new set, and get your system upgrade that you’ve been waiting for.

Courtney Smith [00:32:43]:

Well, yeah, and I mean, I loved how you asked all those questions because, A, you’re normalizing. What I think hits all of us at one point in our lives, and as you say, we all have a unique set of words we use to describe, my life is meaningless, or I don’t know what I’m doing here, or all of those, I made a mistake. And there’s no reason to discard the old tools unless there’s reason to. And so those questions popping up are actually an essential part of the growth process, because otherwise, there’s no need to change what you’re doing.

Dr. Caneel Joyce [00:33:24]:

That’s when you’re wrestling, I think, with the proverbial cocoon and trying to get out exactly. To be a little more cheesy about it. That’s when you’re about to become a butterfly. 

So a lot of the growth approaches that we use, or even growth approaches that you and I might love, but yet if they’re used at maybe a less sophisticated or kind of easier off the shelf, don’t have to think too hard about it type of a way, you might end up actually further cementing the identity. Is that right?

Courtney Smith [00:33:59]:

Well, there’s a couple of things I could say about this. The first thing is I think and this is one of the reasons I love Conscious Leadership group and some of the other tools Byron Katie and other tools that I know you work with, I can get off the shelf set of tasks that will, quote, make me a better person or help me go after the thing I want to go after. 

But from an enneagram perspective and from an identity perspective, in the way you and I were just speaking, there’s a story or an assumption that’s underlying why I’m failing to do what I need to do. And unless you have a tool that helps you expose that story or assumption about reality or about who you are and begin to poke holes into it, there’s going to be this sort of false way of working with a self-growth tool where you’re kind of superficially going through the motions, but it’s not going to actually ever be automated or part of how you reliably show up in the world. Because the underlying infrastructure around how do I need to be? Who do I think I am? And how do I think the world works, those have not been altered.

Dr. Caneel Joyce [00:35:07]:


Courtney Smith [00:35:07]:

And so there’s not going to be a flywheel of momentum to the change actually being sustainable because you haven’t looked at what did I have to believe in the first place in order for how I’m showing up today that’s no longer working. But what did I have to believe initially that made me choose that in the first place?

Dr. Caneel Joyce [00:35:26]:

So to relate this to language we’ve used on other episodes of the Allowed podcast, we talk about going from be to do to have. And often when we’re approaching any kind of growth or personal change work, we’re looking to have different results. Well, I want to increase sales, or I want a more peaceful marriage, or I want to be more influential in the world. Those are the results that you could have. So that’s the have piece, how people normally approach having more is they think, well, I need to do something different, I need to do something more. So that’s the action, the behavior, the activity. 

But ultimately, what we do, it takes a lot of energy to do something other than what’s? The path of least resistance for us and our path of least resistance like the by default actions, the ones that are already scripted, automated, that we don’t need to think that much about or put any effort into. That’s all determined by how we’re being. So if I’m walking into a room and I’m being, let’s say, hungry, I’m going to have to fight myself if I am going to not eat the snacks on the table because I’m being hungry. 

So I can have a plan all day long that I would like to avoid processed food and by the end of the week I want to have, I don’t know, clear skin. But if I’m walking around into spaces where there’s chips and candy everywhere and I’m being hungry, I’m going to probably end up doing the eating and snacking of those foods and I’m not going to have the results I want. So it’s not sustainable. So I need to get at the root causes first, which is the way of being. And you’re saying that’s the essential programming of the identity, that’s where those root stories and assumptions come from?

Courtney Smith [00:37:14]:

Yeah, they come from. And it was so interesting that you were talking about these different flavors of essence, but I would sort of argue that personality and our identification with it, it’s the way humans this is how we show up in the world, this is how we survive, actually, is that we are plastic in terms of how we act, how we think, how we feel. And that creates this huge range of adaptability initially. 

But as we begin to encounter and hit up against the world in early childhood, it doesn’t go the way that we want and small terrible things happen and big terrible things happen. And when those things happen, we have to come up with a strategy to survive. And those strategies require a story or an assumption about how I’m going to navigate it. Who do I have to be to make it go away? Who do I have to be in order to tolerate it? Who do I have to be to get out of this place? 

All of those have deeply embedded assumptions about when I bump up to life experience and I don’t like it and I’m suffering, what do I do about it? And those are the things that are actually the pillars of how we show up in the world. And when coaches and self-help books work at that superficial level of change, they’re not addressing, there’s really, really good reason actually why you’re not going to change because there’s big pillars in terms of how you like what does it mean to be in this world that are at risk if you dare to do something differently. And that’s very scary.

Dr. Caneel Joyce [00:39:05]:

Let’s turn this back to the coaching at hand. So for you, dear listener, thinking about the area that you pondered at the beginning of the show about someplace you’re getting feedback, you’re not getting the results you want. Have a think about, you know, what? What are the some of the essential beliefs about who you are as a person that are perpetuating or making it the path of least resistance for you to perpetuate, taking those actions that aren’t working out anymore? What are those core beliefs you have about yourself that you have not been willing to sacrifice or question or maybe even see and own. 

And I know for me and for those who do already know the Enneagram as an Enneagram type four, a core operating belief I had was I am different. And if I needed to be different in every single area, eventually that really ran its course because I kept out differenting myself. I would different so much that I was able to create spaces where I really belonged or I could be really successful because I was embraced for my originality. And then very quickly I would be like but I must not be that unique because here I am all accepted. And so now I need to push this away. I need to go off into a new place where I can be different again because I am different. 

That was my programming and that had me just continually wandering and wandering and wandering, working really hard in life to continue to out originate myself. So see if you can find some quality of yourself that you have been really holding onto as dear, which is dear and is an essential part of you, but also is not the only part of you. It’s just gotten a lot of airtime.

Courtney Smith [00:40:53]:

And I think the way you’re talking about it to me raises another interesting and really important differentiation in terms of how I try to use the Enneagram. And I think you use it also is all of us have a desire to be seen and understood and the Enneagram and its use of different descriptions of who people are you describe type four can be used to create validation. 

And so a type four might interact with the Enneagram and get the description and say, oh, I’m different. Finally someone understands how different I am. Like yes, I’m different. And what will happen then is bumping up against this tool. The only thing it will do is further calcify this identity structure that is actually what needs to loosen. And so Kanil sort of with her prompt asking the question what’s the belief that stands in your way? It’s not only what’s the long-standing belief about who I am, but do I have a tool that can help me? And am I willing to see all the ways in which this may need to loosen, may want to loosen, may actually be more complicated?

Dr. Caneel Joyce [00:42:10]:

Yeah. For me, a mantra became, and I think Diana gave this to me, let it be boring. Like when I started letting things be boring, I couldn’t believe how easily problems started getting solved. Trying to solve every problem uniquely makes you out of work. I’m so sorry everyone, but I’m going to keep doing it. Probably just expect more of that from me. But the antidote looks like the poison.

Courtney Smith [00:42:37]:


Dr. Caneel Joyce [00:42:38]:

Like oh my gosh, do something boring. Never. Never. And then it’s a set of beliefs about how the world is going to respond. And that’s why it’s so important to actually dare to test the hypothesis. So if my hypothesis is I need to be unique in all situations, and that’s the only one I’ve ever tested, I’m going to keep finding that that’s true. 

One of the strongest biases in human cognition that’s known in all of the psychological research is the bias towards self-affirmation, which means not affirmation like, I am so good. Affirmation is I am so blank. I am the way that I think I am. It’s the reinforcement of the identity. We naturally assimilate all data and all inferences against the core beliefs we already have about ourselves. So to dismantle the identity is a really big deal. It’s big. It takes a long time. It’s a lifelong of fun. It’s the journey. It’s a lifelong journey.

Courtney Smith [00:43:34]:

Well, and I think you sort of touched on it. What’s the upside of it? Actually, one of the costs we bear when we are attached to our identity is, by definition, we can’t be present because we now have very fixed ideas about how we need to show up. And we have lenses on reality that are filtering and thus distorting what we see. 

The cost we bear by continuing to wrap ourselves in the comfy familiar costume of who we think we are, is we actually are not able to be present to what’s actually happening now. And all of those qualities that people talk about when you’re meditating or when you’re in a moment of flow or deep connection, those qualities are not really available to us when we’re wrapped up in identity.

Dr. Caneel Joyce [00:44:39]:

So I think to outline the arc, I think we’ve just traveled, what I’m hearing is most personal growth work, if not all, is initiated to begin some process of change, some process of I want to be better, and how will I know I’m better? There will be a different experience I’m having, different results I’m getting. And most people approach that from the lens of, well, I know I have these tools in my toolkit, and I need to do them more. 

And even when you go and you try out new modalities, you’re really doing more of you, and that’s just you further reinforcing the identity. And the issue with that is that the identity itself is often the trap. It’s the thing that’s keeping you stuck. It’s the thing that’s actually creating and recreating again and again that experience you’re having that you don’t want to have. So breaking out of that well-traveled groove, that’s the secret. 

But what we haven’t got to yet is, now, how do we do that? How do we do that secret? How do we get out of the groove of the identity and begin to dismantle the stories? So that’s where we’re going to go next. In part two, courtney and I are going to get into the nitty gritty of how the enneagram and identity are linked by diving into how identity is formed by each of the points. And we’ll be detailing what embodied essence is experienced by each type. Then Courtney is going to share how you can begin to let go of identity and move toward integration. And this is where we will quickly demonstrate live.

Dr. Caneel Joyce [00:46:14]:

We’ll see you there.

Discover experiences that give your life purpose in your Zone of Genius

Executive Coach Dr. Caneel Joyce reveals a life-changing framework that can help you overcome self-doubt, uncover your hidden talents, and radiate with confidence, one small step at a time.