The Five Vital Qualities

child looks through magnifying glass at white daisies.


Being curious supports an open-minded attitude of inquiry. It helps lighten the experience of self-discovery and allows us to not take ourselves too seriously.

Try this exercise:

  • Remember a time when you were truly curious about a situation or  an aspect of yourself that had some significance for you.
  • What was it that allowed you to be curious?
  • What did you discover?
  • What was the impact of this discovery on you?
  • Being curious is already available to you. Naming it is a way of remembering to access it.


Recognizing your personality patterns can be embarrassing and can sometimes trigger feelings of grief. Having compassion means meeting  yourself with non-judgement and kindness–even if there is pain, even if there are aspects of yourself that you would rather not acknowledge. 

Try this exercise:

  • Remember a time when you felt real compassion toward yourself. If you can’t remember such a time,  think instead  about a time when you felt compassion toward something or someone you cared about.
  • How did it affect you to experience this compassion?
  • What was different about this experience for you? 
man standing with closed eyes and hands on heart
seated woman faces away overlooking campsite with mountains and pine trees in background

Radical Honesty

One of the great paradoxes we encounter in our dedication to knowing the truth is that our personality takes us in the opposite direction of what nourishes us at a deep level. Radical honesty is what helps us recognize this paradox.

Try this exercise:

  • Remember a time when you came to a new realization about yourself that felt deeply true. Maybe you received feedback from a caring person, feedback that dissolved some old idea you had about yourself. Perhaps you began to see yourself in an altogether different light.
  • Try writing about that experience.
  • What old idea or illusion about yourself did you release?
  • How did that affect you?

Trusting the Process

The process of exploring your true nature is a trust walk. This journey invites you to trust you are being guided in the right direction and supported as you move into new territory.  You are being guided and supported even if evidence of that is missing. Small steps matter. Every time you take a tiny action that feels right for you but is possibly foreign, the work is being done.

Try this exercise:

  • Recall a time when you were trying to make something happen in a way you wanted it to happen, but instead surrendered, letting it unfold in its own way.
  • What happened?
  • What was that experience like for you?
  • What did you learn from this?
stone pathway leads up a green hillside with pink flowers and purpleish clouds overhead
blue boat in river overgrown with trees and plants

Summoning Your Courage

The journey into new territory, including unfamiliar inner realms, means summoning courage. To gather courage, it helps to feel propelled by something more important than whatever challenges (such as feelings of discomfort, fear, or self-doubt) might arise.

Try this exercise:

  • Recall a time when you took action, kept going, or stood your ground, despite feeling scared or unsure.
  • How did this experience impact you?
  • What does courage feel like for you?

As you call upon these Five Vital Qualities, read about the Enneagram Iceberg Model to learn more about the nine ways we “do” life.

Five Vital Qualities are from pages 102-109 in Deep Living with the Enneagram: Recovering Your True Nature, by Roxanne Howe-Murphy.