Today I want to share something with you that I call the N.I.C.E. method, which is my way of joining the spiritual aspect of growth (intangible, beyond our scope, and something that we can’t make happen) with the practical side of things (the faithful action; moving towards what God has for us and throwing off or replacing unhealthy patterns with intentionality; and the ability to choose what God might have for us.)
Inside the Enneagram 101 course, we talk a lot about lowercase “beliefs” and uppercase “Beliefs.”
- (b)eliefs (lowercase beliefs)are how our Enneagram types move through life, things that we have come to believe are necessary for us to cope and feel okay in this life. We try to do this in our own strength and in our own way, kind of coming at life in a way that we can subdue it and make it an okay place for us to be.
- (B)eliefs (uppercase beliefs) are our faith; what do we believe about life’s big questions beyond ourselves? What do we believe about how God moves in and through us? What do we believe about how change happens? And what do we believe about how can be okay in the midst of not being okay? This is on, its face, possibly theology; but really at its core, it’s what we want to embrace, what we want to lean into, what beliefs we want to embody and live from.
One of the ways that we can put growth into practice in a faithful way is by noticing where we tend to fall into well-honed patterns; these grooved ruts that are difficult to get out of, where we lean on those lowercase beliefs and replace them (over time, and with faithful action) with patterns that honor the things we actually believe at our core. This is where N.I.C.E. comes in! It’s that faithful action, where the tangible meets the intangible, where the rubber meets the proverbial road, and where we can see growth happen in a way that has nothing to do with behavior modification. Because here in Christian Enneagram Coaching and in Christian Enneagram University we are not about behavior modification. That’s helpful for dogs; that is not helpful for humans! We’re about meeting the spiritual with the action, meeting our spirit with our beliefs and helping how we show up in life, how we move through life–the actions, the choices, the intentionality that we want to embody– really come from what we believe. That’s the beauty of growth; that’s the difficulty of growth; that’s the frustration of growth. But the N.I.C.E. method can help you put something into practice, recognize what’s going wrong, shine a light on where you might want God to be working in your life, and meet God where that is. Let’s dive in!
What is N.I.C.E.?
N.I.C.E. is an acronym that I came up that stands for Notice, Inquire, Choose, Evaluate. Let’s break each of those down.
N = Notice
Noticing is really all about getting to know your type and the patterns that you have that are unhealthy, even the ones that had a valid reason for starting, but are no longer healthy, or are keeping you from being intentional; they become this automatic response, something you can’t help but to do. The brain is a fascinating place, and one of the things it’s really good at is patterns. As we move through life; as we cope, make decisions, and figure out what “works”, we continue to do those things and make the same choice over and over, or have the same reaction over and over, and it becomes a pattern. “Noticing” is really setting up a support system (that includes ourselves and other people possibly) that has “alarm bells” to alert us to when we’re falling into an unhealthy pattern.
The skill of noticing is so important, because we can fall asleep to ourselves and our type so often! We can end up just living out these patterns without even thinking about it; we just do it, because that’s what we’re used to. “Notice” helps us recognize that we don’t have to be used to this; we can make a change!
I = Inquire
“Inquire” is where we get really curious, but in a completely nonjudgmental way. The quality of our questions really impacts the capacity that we have for deep understanding and for actual growth, and so in that vein, we want to stay curious instead of shaming ourselves in any way. Rather than asking, “Why did I do that? Why do I keep doing that? What is the matter with me?” we want to get to the reason behind the pattern in a gentle way.
Remember, there is always a reason for our patterns; there is a reason that you have learned to have those reactions. “Inquire” helps us get to the heart of that, and also understand the circumstances around it. There’s a lot of predictability to our automatic reactions, our “autopilot self” when we’re just living out our type’s tendencies and behaviors, and “Inquire” just really helps us match up what we’re noticing with our motivations and why that’s going on from a place of gentleness, recognizing that we had a reason to cope the way we did.
We were living with the information that was available to us and the hard circumstances that we were in, and so we lived through it in whatever way we could. And now that we have this faith and this uppercase Belief, we know that we don’t have to live from that anymore, but we also recognize, “Oh, this is a hard pattern to quit. This is a difficult thing to work through or grow past.” “Inquire” helps us be curious about it without having to be perfect suddenly.
C = Choose
The C in NICE is “Choose”, and this is where we get to make a game plan, to create a framework for how we are going to meet that same circumstance where I have that automatic reaction, but this time make space, bandwidth, or capacity for an intentional choice in the moment, instead of just living out what I’m used to. This is where you ask yourself, “How can I come into that predictable circumstance with intentionality and being able to live from my belief, my core, my understanding, my faith, my belief about what God is calling me to in that circumstance? How can I create capacity and room and space to not fall back on what I’m used to, and instead respond from a place of faith and abundance, rather than reacting from a place of insecurity or lack?” We really want to be able to respond to life instead of react to a circumstance; to live out what we’re called to be and how we’re called to show up instead of reacting from a place that is simply coping. We want to thrive in life, and that requires intentionality, so “Choose” helps us set up a game plan and figure out what it could look like to be intentional, knowing our tendencies and knowing what’s going to ‘set us off,’ but knowing that we can make a different choice in that moment.
E = Evaluate
You never want to just leave yourself with a “pass or fail”; we want to know, after we encounter that predictable circumstance again, if we are leaning on our uppercase Beliefs now and living from them. So after that circumstance has happened, “Evaluate” it by asking yourself some follow-up questions:
- What happened? Did your game plan work?
- Are you honing that new groove that really embodies what you believe, or are you continuing to fall back into your pattern?
- What went right?
- What would you change next time?
- How did it feel? What were you thinking in the moment? What was your gut reaction to what was happening?
- How can you support yourself to further this growth?
I say that learning a new pattern is like riding a bike or like trying to use left-handed scissors if you’re right-handed; it is completely counterintuitive, and it feels like you’re going against everything that you want to do. That’s usually a good sign that you’re heading in the right direction if you’ve done your game plan!
“Evaluate” is really helping yourself to see that not only do you have the capacity and ability to choose intentionally, but it’s okay to make mistakes because you have developed patterns over time that felt like they were serving you, and you recognize now that no there’s a healthier way to be and to show up. There is a way for your responses in life to match up with your uppercase B Beliefs, and there’s a way to support yourself as you move towards that and take that faithful action towards that change. “Evaluate” is all about giving yourself all of the grace, but also honing that game plan.
That’s just a really quick overview of what the NICE method is inside Christian Enneagram University. I really hope that this was helpful for you, that you had some examples of patterns come up for yourself that you want to try out this NICE method on. That’s the kind of growth that we are about inside Christian Enneagram University, on the podcast, on Instagram… That’s what I’m about is helping you find those areas for growth, but not do it on your own. Have this faithful action coupled with the truths that are bigger than you, and that’s where you see lasting growth.
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