How to Use the Enneagram for New Year’s Intentions You’ll Actually Keep

Silhouette of a priestess holding the vessel of cosmic creativity.


I’m going to eat healthier. I resolve to lose 10 pounds. I’m going to be nicer to my kids.

Maybe you’ve made New Year’s resolutions before, too—and most likely had a hard time keeping them, maybe even broken them?

I’m with you.

Until a few years ago, I’d largely given up on resolutions and intentions. They just felt like another thing on my very long to-do list that I didn’t have time for, so why add another thing?

Maybe you gave up for a different reason. Maybe you have time but you can’t quite find the energy or the ability to put your ideas into concrete reality? Or maybe you do go for your vision and then don’t quite feel fulfilled by it?

The Enneagram is a map of the soul to help us understand ourselves, revealing how our behavior relates to inner motivation, including how we set intentions and follow through on them. It is a system of nine types of personalities, all nine of which we have within, but one of which primarily runs our behavior. (If you don’t know your type, try this online quiz.)

Let’s take a look at how the Enneagram can shed light on why we may have trouble consciously making, following through, and feeling fulfilled by our New Year’s resolutions. In particular, the lens of the three Social Styles triads can help us hone in on our intentions by elucidating how the types try to get their desires and needs met—either they confidently go after them (types 3, 7, 8), they withdraw to try to get them met indirectly (types 4, 5, 9), or they try to balance their needs with those of others (types 1, 2, 6). 

The ASSERTIVES (3, 7, 8) are the types that know what they want and see no reason not to go for it. They set their intention and then make it happen—and usually quite quickly. They are confident, action-oriented, and have no trouble placing themselves and their desires and needs first. 

Threes tend to use their ability to set goals and efficiently achieve them, not letting their emotions slow them down. They get a lot of juice from being seen as successful and avoid failure at all costs. If you identify as a Three, give yourself time to consult your heart. Look within to discover what will truly bring meaning and value to your life, rather than settling for validation from others.

Sevens put a premium on feeling happy, fulfilled, and free. They like to have a lot of experiences planned so that if one thing doesn’t feel satisfying, they can jump into another. But, as we know, quantity is not the same as quality. As a Seven, you are likely able to reach your intentions with lightning speed, but this year practice slowing down to land and revel in the experience, so that you get to take in the sense of satisfaction you get from attaining your intentions.

Eights are movers and shakers. They know how to make things happen and, often unconsciously, tend to turn the tables in their favor so they come out on top. If you are an Eight, your task is to remember others when you are setting intentions. Consider how your actions might affect others and consciously choose to empower the people in your life, rather than push them aside as you go for your vision.

THE WITHDRAWNS (4, 5, 9) are three types that take their time and turn inward, away from the outer world, to find themselves. They may take longer to figure out what intention to set and may have trouble choosing something that has a real-world manifestation.

Fours tend to go within to consult their feelings on everything. They often have a LOT of feelings, especially painful ones, and they can fall into a pattern of fantasizing about how bad their life has been or of creating a more stunning imaginary life they would like to live. If you identify with type Four, try setting intentions that are attainable in the real world and be willing to live the ordinary, concrete changes that are needed day by day. 

Fives withdraw inside their minds and often behind closed doors. They have very active minds and love to analyze, conceptualize, study, and figure things out. As a Five making resolutions, let yourself go for something even if you have not quite thought everything through yet or understood it completely. You can tweak it as you go—the main thing is to get started! 

Nines want to feel peaceful and in harmony with the world, and the way they do this is by retreating into a “happy place” in their minds. Intentions often aren’t comfortable! As a Nine, try something different this year: Be willing to get uncomfortable while you let yourself really spend time thinking about what isn’t going well in your life. And once you begin making change, stick to it even when the going gets rough! 

THE DUTIFULS (1, 2, 6) interface with the world feeling like they have to meet other people’s needs in the right way before they can meet their own. While everyone has an inner self that criticizes and tries to keep them on track, these types tend to closely follow the voice of their inner critic regarding getting their needs met. This can cause intentions to be questioned—are they doable? Are they worthy? 

Ones (my primary type) are overly conscientious, trying to be “good” people who always do the “right” thing. This makes it hard for us to give adequate attention to our own needs and desires and can make us critical of those who do (perhaps at others’ expense?). In setting an intention, it’s hard for us Ones to pull apart what we really want vs. what we SHOULD be doing. And then the intention starts to feel like just another to-do item. If you’re a One, spend some time getting beneath the should-driven mind. Get in touch with your body and heart so you can create clearer intentions for yourself. 

Twos are the most other-oriented of the types. They try to help and be of service to others in order to feel connected and loved. With their attention so firmly placed on the other, and the inner critic making it clear that to do otherwise would be selfish, it can be very difficult for Twos to let themselves focus on their own desires. And then it can be just as difficult to carry the intention through once set because the call of others often overrides it. This year, if you're a Two, practice turning toward yourself—YOUR feelings, YOUR needs and desires, to see a deeper truth.

Sixes are highly responsible and trustworthy types who try to feel a sense of security and safety. They tend to consider all sides of an issue and often have trouble making a decision (or resolution) they can stick with—they’ll want to back out if it threatens their sense of security. They also often have a hard time feeling like they’re ready to launch and able to follow through. As a Six, cultivate a quiet mind so that you are not muddled by concerns of security. This will open the way to an intention you can truly dedicate yourself to.

You may be able to relate to one or more of these descriptions, but which one seems most like you? Which one is driving the show more than the others? If you’re not sure, try choosing one and see if understanding the underpinnings of this type helps you to be more conscious in creating and keeping your New Year’s intentions.

In working with Enneagram type habits, I’ve found it helpful to frame my intention as “I am ready and willing to…,” a technique I learned from spirituality teacher Sara Avant Stover. I find this helps me to view my intentions as a north star, a touchstone to remind me what I am ready to do and what I am willing to do in order to live my life more consciously in the new year. 

Illustrations by Elena Ray and Jose Chavarry via Flickr (cc)

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