Enneagram Motivations: Discover What Moves You

26 June 2024

enneagram motivations

The Enneagram motivations explain what inspires each Enneagram type to behave the way they do and what drives them toward specific goals. A detailed insight into each Enneagram's motivation also sheds light on other important aspects of their personalities.

Moreover, understanding your Enneagram type and its core motivation will allow you to find the strength to persist and achieve everything that matters to you more easily.

Therefore, in this article, we’ll explore where each Enneagram type draws its motivation from and what kind of beliefs drive it.

Let’s begin!

How is Enneagram Type Determined?

The easiest way to determine your Enneagram type is by taking the Enneagram test. However, when talking about what determines each Enneagram type in the sense of what the categorization is based on, that would be Enneagram motivations and their life strategies.

Each of the nine Enneagram types is defined by their fundamental Enneagram motivation and a set of core fears, strengths, desires, and aspirations. These core elements interact and shape each individual's behavior and emotional landscape.

This is why the Enneagram theory is so flexible and versatile. Though it is essentially based on nine Enneatypes, it allows for a lot of distinctions and nuances between individuals who fall into the same type.

Moreover, the concept of Enneagram wings explains how each type is influenced by two neighboring ones on the Enneagram diagram, introducing a lot of diversity into the theory. As a result, there are two subtypes for each personality, and the Enneagram motivations of each type are also influenced by these Enneagram wings.

Enneagram Motivations: Discovering the Why of Each Enneatype

Enneagram Motivations: Discovering the Why of Each Enneatype

Enneagram motivations and fears are important because they allow us to learn about each Enneagram type’s childhood wounds and emotional landscape.

Let’s explore each type's core, intrinsic motivation, and how it shapes their destiny and life in general.

#1. Enneagram 1 Motivation

A woman sitting in a beauty salon

Enneagram 1 motivation essentially stems from their need to win the approval of their caregivers, who imposed perfectionist demands on them.

The messages they were surrounded by while growing up emphasized the importance of morale, virtue, justice, and responsibility. Their role models and/or caregivers embodied these traits, and Ones learned that to be loved, respected, and accepted, they needed to have these traits, too.

Plus, they might have experienced harsh punishments or judgment when their behavior didn’t comply with the demands of their caregivers.

As a result, One’s perfectionism isn’t skin deep; it dives much deeper, propelling One to be good in a moral, ethical, and altruistic sense. However, Ones aren’t interested in being the best—they simply give their best to do everything the right way, which often results in them becoming the best.

So, it is safe to say that One’s core motivation, which is to be morally and ethically good, drives them to lead exemplary, inspiring lives dedicated to altruistic goals.

#2. Enneagram 2 Motivation

Hands reaching out to one another - enneagram motivations

Enneagram 2 motivation comes from their earliest experiences of being emotionally neglected. They were typically raised by caregivers who didn’t recognize or didn’t have the capacity to cater to their emotional needs and were preoccupied with their own emotions.

As a result, Twos learned very early that to ensure connection, they have to take care of other people’s emotions. Their core motivation revolves around ensuring connection, earning love, and being needed and wanted. So, whatever they do, Twos ultimately only want to be loved and cared for.

This doesn’t mean that Twos aren’t ambitious, though; their ambitions are simply driven by their need to be loved and needed by others. They work to ensure that love by making themselves indispensable as friends, partners, colleagues, and parents, deeply fearing that if they are not needed, they will be abandoned.

Moreover, since their primary preoccupation is to cater to others’ needs, they have highly developed intuition and are great at anticipating them. Their compassion and emotional intelligence became their crucial strength, propelling them to also choose careers that align with this strength.

#3. Enneagram 3 Motivation

Lifting the world cup trophy in the air

Enneagram 3 motivation is the result of growing up in an environment that emphasizes achievements and results and doesn’t value or recognize the process that leads to those results.

Three’s caregivers provided affection, respect, and attention to Three only when they performed well at something or everything. So, Threes learned that the only way to ensure love and connection is to excel at whatever they are doing.

As a result, the Threes embody contemporary perfectionistic culture, which places a premium on outer image, recognition, and status and fosters competition. They are strongly driven to be number one in everything because they believe that only success is what makes them valuable and worthy of love.

This is also why Threes are prone to workaholism. They are usually aware of the hard work they have to put in to ensure success. However, since the focus is mainly on achievements, some Threes are also prone to using hacks and tricks to get the recognition they crave.

#4. Enneagram 4 Motivation

enneagram motivations

Enneagram 4 motivation can be described as the need to be seen, heard, and understood for who they truly are. Similarly to Twos, Fours also experienced some kind of emotional neglect but responded to it by focusing more on their own emotions than on other people’s.

They also often report experiencing some kind of abandonment while growing up, which shaped their motivation toward preventing future abandonment. Since they were too young to understand the real reasons for abandonment, they started believing that they were somehow responsible for it by being inherently flawed in some way.

In other words, thanks to the egocentrism typical of children in specific developmental stages, Fours tend to feel guilty for their loss, which gives them at least some sense of control over their emotions.

As a result, Fours tend to overcompensate for that feeling of being flawed by emphasizing their uniqueness. Their core Enneagram motivation revolves around proving that they are unique and different from everyone else, as they unconsciously believe that by offering something special to the world, they will ensure they aren’t abandoned.

#5. Enneagram 5 Motivation

A woman reading a book

Enneagram 5 motivation stems from their need to be self-sufficient. They often grew up in an environment where they didn’t have anyone to rely on, which is why they internalized the feeling that their resources were limited and scarce. To manage the lack of care and affection, Fives also minimized their own needs.

As a result, Five’s core motivation is to be self-reliable, independent, and competent in order to prevent being betrayed or abandoned by other people. They recognize that competence and knowledge give them the power to rely on themselves, so their life strategy revolves around gaining knowledge.

While Fives may seem ambitious, the real reason behind their exceptional competence is the need to preserve their independence. They usually become experts in at least one field of their interest but remain uninterested in recognition, fame, or status for the same reason.

However, their Enneagram motivation to be self-sufficient may lead them to accumulate both intellectual and material wealth.

#6. Enneagram 6 Motivation

A man working on his laptop - enneagram motivations

Enneagram 6 motivation revolves around ensuring safety and stability. That’s usually because Six’s earliest experiences of the world led them to conclude that the world is not a safe place and that they need to rely on others for protection.

As a result, their core motivation became to ensure their connection with the community and achieve a constant level of security in life.

Moreover, Sixes often grew up with caregivers who were inconsistent in providing care and affection, so they became preoccupied with stability. For this reason, they tend to make safe choices in life, aiming to create an environment that is stable, peaceful, and secure.

This is also why they are such good planners: they don’t leave anything to chance, taking care to account for the tiniest details and least likely of possibilities.

In general, the outcome of their Enneagram motivation is a destiny that is often similar to that of Type One. Both Ones and Sixes tend to do everything the right way—Sixes because that’s the safest way, and Ones because that’s the most ethical choice.

#7. Enneagram 7 Motivation

enneagram motivations

Enneagram 7 motivation is based on their desire for freedom. Sevens’s earliest experiences are usually very pleasant. They were loved and cherished, and their caregivers usually did their best to protect them from the unpleasant aspects of reality.

With that being said, in some cases, they were denied the opportunity to deal with frustration and unpleasant emotions and were offered distractions the moment they experienced any kind of discomfort. As a result, their dominant motivation in life became to experience all the joys it has to offer and to avoid pain, sorrow, and frustration at all costs.

Therefore, they lead exciting lives full of adventures, discoveries, joys, and pleasures. Full of enthusiasm, they go from one experience to another, often at the cost of failing to develop their talents. They can’t stand feeling bored or stuck, so they constantly create excitement around them.

On the one hand, they are indeed motivated by childlike curiosity, and on the other, they feel pressured to never stop searching for new adventures as they dread the idea of feeling pain.

#8. Enneagram 8 Motivation

A woman drinking a glass of wine

Enneagram 8 motivation is based on their reaction to what they perceive as oppressing circumstances.

Eights’ childhoods often involve a story of them being the youngest or the most vulnerable child who had to fight for attention and against being bullied by their older siblings. They also didn’t get the protection they needed from adults in such circumstances, so they had to grow up very early.

As a consequence, they learned that being weak means being taken advantage of, so they decided to never allow themselves to be weak. Therefore, their core motivation in life is directed toward assuming positions of power. They believe that power, status, and control ensure protection and independence, which they crave, so they work hard to achieve those.

Though they can be just as competitive and status-oriented as Threes, these two Enneagram types are driven by entirely different needs. Nevertheless, they often have similar lifestyles, pursuing one success after another and climbing the social ladder.

#9. Enneagram 9 Motivation

A girl showing a peace sign

Enneagram 9 motivation is based on their need to belong and to protect peace and harmony. This need is actually their earliest reaction to an unstable environment where they likely witnessed plenty of disagreements and often felt abandoned since the adults were consumed with their issues.

As a result, Nines concluded that to prevent abandonment, they had to ensure peace in their environment. They also learned that they have to put other people’s needs first in order to ensure connection. That’s how Nines became exquisite peacemakers who anticipated other people’s needs and mediated conflicts with grace and tact.

Moreover, since being fair and morally correct is also one of the most efficient ways to ensure peace, Nines also developed a strong sense of justice. They want to make everything right to minimize the possibility of friction and conflict.

In general, Nines’ and Twos’ life paths have many similarities, though their motivations aren’t the same. Both are oriented toward connection, but Nines prioritize a sense of belonging to the community, whereas Twos focus on interpersonal relationships.

Use the Power of Self-Motivation!

Maximize your potential by taking the Enneagram test and learning everything about your Enneagram type.

Key Takeaways

This article may paint a picture of Enneagram types as though their motivations are defined by the negative experiences they had in their childhoods. However, the point is to understand the connection between Enneagram motivations and their experiences.

Moreover, while there are many more factors that contribute to each Enneagram type’s life strategy, the fact is that our core beliefs are shaped by our earliest relational experiences. Therefore, Enneagram motivations allow us to tap into those earliest decisions and understand how they limit or support our growth.