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Enneagram vs. Big 5: What’s the Best Personal Development Tool for You?

Updated: June 10, 2024
7 minutes read
In the fascinating realm of personal development and personality psychology, two prominent frameworks stand out: the Enneagram and the Big 5 model. Today we delve into the depths of the Enneagram and the expansive landscape of the Big 5 model.
What you will learn

Each offers a unique lens through which to understand the complexities of human behavior and character. While enthusiasts of both systems passionately advocate for their preferred approach, the truth is that both hold immense value in unraveling the intricacies of personality. We’ll uncover the nuances of each system, highlighting their strengths, applications, and the profound insights they offer into the rich tapestry of human nature.

What are the 5 main differences between the Enneagram and Big 5 personalities?

Enneagram v. Big 5 personal development tools comparison

The Enneagram and the Big 5 personality model are two distinct frameworks used to understand personality, each with its own approach and focus. Here are five main differences between them:

  1. Structure and Number of Factors:

The Enneagram identifies nine basic personality types, each with its own core motivations, fears, and desires. It focuses on inner motivations and underlying psychological dynamics.

The Big Five model, also known as the Five Factor Model (FFM), consists of five broad dimensions of personality: Openness, Conscientiousness, Extraversion, Agreeableness, and Neuroticism (OCEAN). It describes personality traits on a scale instead of distinct categories.

  1. Origins and Philosophy:

The Enneagram has roots in ancient (spiritual) traditions and modern psychological insights, focusing on deeper motivations, fears, and defense mechanisms.

The Big Five model emerged primarily from empirical research in psychology, aiming to capture the most fundamental dimensions of personality that are consistent across cultures and contexts.

  1. Level of Detail:

The Enneagram offers a more detailed and nuanced understanding of personality, delving into specific motivations, fears, growth paths, and defense mechanisms associated with each type.

The Big Five model provides a broader but less detailed description of personality, focusing on five broad dimensions of traits without specifying the underlying motivations or psychological dynamics.

  1. Stability vs. Flexibility:

The Enneagram suggests that individuals have a dominant personality type that remains relatively stable throughout their lives but can also evolve and grow over time. 

The Big Five model emphasizes that personality traits are relatively stable over time and across different situations, with individuals showing consistent patterns of behavior and tendencies.

  1. Areas of Application:

The Enneagram is often used for personal growth, self-awareness, understanding interpersonal dynamics, and enhancing relationships and teamwork.

The Big Five model has a wide range of applications in psychology, including research, clinical assessment, organizational psychology, and career counseling.

Both the Enneagram and the Big Five personality model offer valuable insights into personality but differ in their underlying theories, level of detail, and applications. You may find one framework more suitable than the other – but this depends on your specific needs and interests.

Now, let’s dive into both systems and take a closer look at what how they work, what they can do for you, and what they can help you achieve.

What is the Enneagram and how does it work?

How the Enneagram can help you unlock the secrets of your personality.

The Enneagram is a personality system that categorizes individuals into nine distinct types, each representing a set of core motivations, fears, and desires. Unlike many other personality frameworks, the Enneagram focuses not just on behavior but on underlying motivations that drive behavior. A short summary of each type can help you get a better feel for the system itself.

The Enneagram is for you if you seek a deeper understanding of yourself and others. Whether you’re really into personal development, want to enhance or better navigate your relationships, or are in the field of counseling people and giving life coaching. 

Ultimately, the Enneagram is for anyone curious about human nature, who wants to explore the complexities of personality. It can be a valuable tool for navigating life’s challenges and unlocking your full potential.

We’ve also compiled a very detailed overview of the Enneagram in this article. 

What are the benefits of the Enneagram?

One of the primary benefits of the Enneagram is its depth of insight into the human psyche. By understanding our core motivations and fears, we can gain clarity on why we behave the way we do and begin to recognize patterns that may be holding us back. This awareness can foster personal growth, improve relationships, and lead to greater self-acceptance and compassion.

  1. Deep Self-Understanding: Gain insights into your core motivations, fears, and desires.
  2. Enhanced Relationships: Improve communication and empathy by understanding others’ perspectives.
  3. Personal Growth: Recognize patterns of behavior and develop strategies for self-improvement.
  4. Spiritual Development: Explore spiritual aspects of personality and transcend ego-driven patterns.
  5. Holistic Approach: Embrace the interconnectedness of mind, body, and spirit in personal development.

How do I find an accurate Enneagram test?

While there are many Enneagram tests available online, it’s essential to choose one that is reputable and well-regarded. Look for tests that provide detailed descriptions of each type and take into account the complexity and nuance of the Enneagram system. With Personality Path’s assessment, you get a detailed and reliable result. We offer a widely respected test that many find helpful in identifying their type and starting their growth journey.


You can get started here.

What is the Big 5 model and how does it work?

The Big Five model, also known as the Five Factor Model (FFM), is one of the most widely accepted frameworks for understanding personality. It describes personality traits along five broad dimensions that provide a comprehensive overview of an individual’s personality profile. The five factors are often remembered using the acronym OCEAN:

Openness to Experience: This factor reflects the degree to which a person is open to new experiences, ideas, and ways of thinking. Individuals high in openness tend to be curious, imaginative, creative, and open-minded.

Conscientiousness: This refers to the extent to which a person is organized, responsible, dependable, and goal-oriented. Individuals high in conscientiousness tend to be disciplined, efficient, and self-disciplined.

Extraversion: A very commonly known trait, this measures the extent to which a person is outgoing, sociable, energetic, and assertive. Extraverted individuals thrive in social settings, enjoy interacting with others, and often seek stimulation and excitement. 

Agreeableness: Agreeableness reflects the degree to which a person is compassionate, empathetic, cooperative, and considerate of others. Those high in agreeableness are warm, friendly, and trusting, and they value harmonious relationships. 

Neuroticism: Neuroticism, also sometimes referred to as Emotional Stability, measures the extent to which a person experiences negative emotions such as anxiety, depression, moodiness, and insecurity. High levels of neuroticism are associated with emotional instability, stress, and vulnerability to psychological distress.

How does the Big 5 assessment work and who is it for?

The Big Five model is typically assessed through self-report questionnaires or observer ratings. Individuals rate themselves or are rated by others on a series of items that measure each of the five factors. Scores on each factor can range from low to high, and individuals’ profiles across the five factors provide insight into their personality traits and tendencies.

The Big Five model is used across various fields, including psychology, sociology, organizational behavior, and human resources. It’s designed for anyone interested in understanding and studying personality, including researchers, clinicians, counselors, educators, employers, and individuals seeking self-awareness and personal development.

Researchers and Psychologists: Researchers in psychology and related fields use the Big Five model to study personality traits and their impact on behavior, mental health, relationships, and other aspects of human functioning. Psychologists utilize the model in clinical settings for assessment, diagnosis, and treatment planning.

Employers and Human Resources Professionals: Human resources professionals and employers use the Big Five model for personnel selection, career development, team building, and leadership development. Understanding employees’ personality traits can help in assigning suitable roles, improving team dynamics, and fostering a positive work environment.

Educators and Counselors: Educators and school counselors can use the Big Five model to better understand students’ personalities, learning styles, and social-emotional needs. Tailoring teaching methods and interventions based on students’ personality traits can enhance academic achievement and socioemotional well-being.

People seeking Self-Understanding and Personal Growth: If you’re interested in self-awareness, personal development, and improving your relationships, the Big 5 model can provide some insights. However, this is not its primary area of use.

What are the benefits of the Big 5 model?

The Big Five model offers a comprehensive framework for understanding personality, validated across cultures and widely applicable in psychology, education, business, and personal development, providing insights into individual differences, promoting self-awareness, improving relationships, and predicting life outcomes.

  1. Validity and Reliability: Extensively researched and validated across cultures.
  2. Practical Applications: Useful in psychology, education, business, and personal development.
  3. Self-Awareness and Growth: Promotes self-reflection and personal development.
  4. Improved Relationships: Enhances communication and empathy for better interactions.
  5. Predictive Value: Traits predict various life outcomes, aiding in understanding human behavior.

Where can I take the Big 5 assessment?

The Big 5 assessment is widely available online through coaches and reputable websites. Many career centers, counseling offices, and corporate training programs also offer the assessment as part of their services. Be sure to choose a reliable source to ensure the accuracy of your results. 

We’ve compiled a list of the best personality tests and where to take them online here.

Which personality test is right for me?

Ultimately, the choice between the Enneagram and any other personality assessment depends on your personal preferences and goals. If you’re drawn to understanding deeper motivations and underlying fears, the Enneagram may be a better fit. If you’re more interested in practical applications and behavioral tendencies, the Big 5 model could be more suitable. Some individuals find value in exploring both systems to gain a more comprehensive understanding of themselves and others.

What do the results of both tests tell you?

Enneagram or BIG 5 personal development tool - which one is right for you?

Photo by Brett Jordan on Unsplash

The results of both the Enneagram and Big Five tests provide insights into different aspects of personality. It’s up to you and what you need from the assessment, which suits you better.

The Enneagram helps you understand:

  1. Core Motivations and Fears: The Enneagram identifies your core motivations, fears, desires, and defense mechanisms associated with one of nine personality types.
  2. Growth Paths: It highlights opportunities for personal growth and development by understanding your type’s patterns of behavior and potential areas for improvement.
  3. Interpersonal Dynamics: The Enneagram helps you understand how your personality type interacts with others and how to navigate relationships more effectively.
  4. Self-Awareness: It promotes self-awareness by revealing underlying psychological dynamics and patterns that influence your thoughts, feelings, and behaviors.

With the Big 5 model you can get more insight into:

  1. Broad Personality Traits: The Big Five assesses your personality across five broad dimensions: Openness, Conscientiousness, Extraversion, Agreeableness, and Neuroticism.
  2. General Tendencies: It reveals your general tendencies and preferences in various aspects of personality, such as openness to new experiences, organization, sociability, empathy, and emotional stability.
  3. Predictive Value: The Big Five traits have been linked to various life outcomes, including academic and career success, relationship satisfaction, and mental well-being.
  4. Practical Applications: It offers insights applicable in diverse contexts, including career counseling, team building, interpersonal relationships, and personal development.

So, while the Enneagram focuses on deeper motivations, fears, and growth paths associated with specific personality types, the Big 5 provides a broader overview of general personality traits and tendencies that influence behavior and life outcomes on a less nuanced level. 

Both tests offer valuable insights into different aspects of personality and can be complementary in enhancing self-awareness and personal growth. In conclusion: Why not both?

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