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Why Build Such Short Fences?

So, we moved from Ohio, where we were born and raised and raised our 2 kids, to SW Colorado at the end of 2007. Ohio is not known for having fair weather or mild winters, so we were not shocked at the snowstorms here. But, we were amazed at how much warmer 25 degrees can feel when it’s in a dry climate, instead of the humid, damp cold of Ohio.

We had experienced our first downhill skiing in Pennsylvania and New York where we got conditioned by the icy snow conditions we were usually faced with during a weekend skiing trip. Once we called Colorado home, I finally understood what people meant by powder skiing and getting a tan in between runs!

That said, we dove right into the downhill skiing at the local ski resort, just 30 minutes up the mountain from where we live. It’s called Purgatory - haha...Are you sensing another blog on that name?! Purg can get a dump of 2 feet or more of fresh powder in just 48 hours, so when the storm passes, ya grab your gear and head up to where even sizable homes are buried in the white stuff.

Anyway, early on, in our skiing adventures we were told a true story from one of our original Durango friends who happens to be a ski instructor at Purgatory.

Here’s the scene: A young woman from a southern state was riding a Purgatory lift with our friend (I’ll call him Jim). He was politely making small talk with her, and then she dropped this question:

The one thing I don’t get about Colorado is why do you build your fences so short?

From Jim’s account of the incident, he was able to withhold a belly laugh, keep a straight face, and reply to her:

Well, ya see, the fences aren’t really short; it’s that the snow is so high, you only see the tops of the fences.

Now if that isn’t a great lead in, I don’t know what is! Short fences, huh? Hmm...It brings to mind a similar image that became a cliché long ago: the tip of the iceberg.

Now what could short fences and iceberg tips have in common with the Enneagram personality model?

With short fences and icebergs, what you can see on top belies the actual size of them, if you could see below the surface. The distinction of the Enneagram personality model is that it is designed to get you below the surface of your visible behaviors, to explore the motivations that drive your decisions, behaviors, and priorities.

While I was in training for my Enneagram Practitioner certification, one of the many books that came into my path was Deep Coaching by Roxanne Howe-Murphy, Ed.D. It is a textbook-rich resource for integrating the use and power of the Enneagram into a coaching practice.

I am sure to wear out the binding of my paper copy due to referring to it so much; and I feel like I’ve barely scratched the surface (pun intended) of all the author has so generously made available to those who dig in.

Roxanne has utilized an iceberg analogy to create a visual model for each Enneagram type.

Above the surface – otherwise known as the tip of the iceberg – are things like our gifts, what we look like when we are at our best, our behaviors (when not stressed), our impact on others, and our focus of attention.

Beneath the surface, we find out our core coping strategy, inner critic message, sense of self, and what we look like when we are stressed – missing the mark (= not acting out our gifts).

Why consider what is above and below the water line or fence line?

Well, if you are actively - or considering – putting energy into the journey of becoming who you were created to be, it requires self-awareness. And that self-awareness starts with an honest look at both the asset side and the challenge or shadow side of the package that is you.

In Enneagram-speak, that is getting your arms around your type structure – the resourceful side as well as the non-resourceful side each type structure contains. In Roxanne’s manual she describes this journey as moving from constriction to expansion. You could just as well label it as the path from disintegration to integration, or false self to true self, or old man/creation to new man/creation (biblically speaking). More specifically, her book is written for coaches who are trained in the Enneagram, and she is offering coaches this visualized process of helping a client move toward the most flexible, softened version of their particular type structure.

I invite you to consider...

Could you build an accurate iceberg model of your way of doing and seeing life, acknowledging both what is above the water (or fence) line and below it? Maybe you would appreciate a professional partner to accomplish this?
If you have a realistic view of what your type structure involves, what is 1 area where you can see the value of moving towards softening or expanding from what your natural bent might be? What aspects of your life might benefit from an exploration of such - relationally, professionally, personally?

Before concluding this post, may I veer off just a tad and share a personal illustration of this concept of fences? As I have said previously, I prayerfully consider a Word for the Year (WFTY) each January, to focus my focus. I can never predict how that chosen Word will show itself in the various domains of my life during the twelve months I am zeroed in on it, looking for the unfolding of its purpose in my journey to become who He created me to be.

In 2018, my WFTY was more of a phrase: No [de-,of-] fenses = No fences.
Let me translate: If I am not defending myself or taking on offenses from others, I will experience life without constriction or limits = freedom.

I could write several posts just sharing what that WFTY journey was like...The short version: Once I was focused on noticing these ‘fenses,’ I saw them pop up almost daily. Staying on this path was not about being comfortable; rather, about being uncomfortable – challenged even – by my ubiquitious reaction of being defensive or offended! Here's a truism that sets a high bar for me:

When we are living out of our true self, we are unoffendable. attempt a change this big brought me quickly to my need for God’s Spirit. And thank God, He has promised us such supernatural requisite help; and also that the God who started this great work in you would keep at it and bring it to a flourishing finish on the very day Christ Jesus appears. (Phil1:6).

Even as I type this, I can hear His whisper in my ear: No worry, I am not in a hurry, My Beloved ENG.

If you would like to follow me on this adventure, and receive notice whenever I post something new, please subscribe. (It’s simple – at the bottom of every page on the Perils & Pearls blog site. *No need to be a 'member.')

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Blessed to play a part~


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Mar 17, 2023

Understanding our motivation for our actions is critical to transformation and change. Thank you for this wise advice! Appreciate your coaching!! Cheering you on!

Mar 18, 2023
Replying to

Thank you for the encouragement!


Mar 17, 2023

Love your writings,Geri, and the truth they contain within! Please keep sharing your inspiration….

Mar 18, 2023
Replying to

Thanks. If there be any good in it, it’s His truth.

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