An Overview of Sevens

How Motivation Creates Personality

We are shaped by our environments, but we are not blank slates. The assumption behind the Enneagram is that we are born with a general motivation: a sense that some value would be particularly meaningful, and the absence of that value would be particularly devastating. We can’t explain why, but the assumption does seem to help people make sense of their lives in a way that other assumptions can’t. From that motivation, we start learning which behaviors bring that value closer to us, and which ones make our worst fears come true. From this we develop habits, and in time those habits become so automatic that we call them character traits.

This is why personalities can seem so rigid, but also change over time. We tend to stick with behaviors that have worked in the past, but what worked in one situation might not work in another. Over time we might make a conscious effort to change our personality, but what motivates one person to change might not motivate someone else. This is where those core values come in: we do the best job of changing our behaviors when those changes support our core values.

As a writer, understanding how each of your character’s traits ties back to their motivations will tell you which situations to place them in, to create compelling arcs and meaningful conflicts.

Motivations of Type Seven

Sevens long for experiences. They hate the sense of being deprived, confined, or about to miss out on something. They are excited by possibilities and like to keep their options open.

This motivation creates a tension between work and play. For immature or unhealthy Sevens the idea of jumping to the next thing is so inherently exciting, so it is difficult for them to commit to any course of action. As Sevens mature, they understand that their own indecision is another avenue for missing out. They can learn use their enthusiasm about future options to help them commit to a path that will open up still more exciting opportunities.

A Seven’s inner conflict, then, centers around delayed gratification. All good things will, at some point, require a level of work, which means tolerating boredom and discomfort. It is hard for Sevens to buckle down and endure this. Often what got them excited about a project was the idea that it was something new and exciting, unlike the old, boring thing they were stuck in before. Each Seven has to find their own way to deal with this, whether it is making their own fun, finding work that is dynamic and challenging enough to satisfy them, or simply maturing enough to understand that the good and bad come in cycles, and change is inevitable.

Backstory and Character Traits

All Sevens will encounter the reality that sometimes life is dull and they cannot always do what they want. They will also often realize that they can create fun for themselves by entertaining others, and often escape dull responsibilities by being funny. They typically learn that being the cheerleader for others can create a many-hands-light-work situation. As a result, Sevens often develop the following character traits.

  • Excitable. Sevens love to anticipate things. They become very good at talking up the positives of a future possibility in their own minds. When they are motivated, their enthusiasm is often highly infectious.
  • Playful. Sevens love an opportunity to laugh or goof off. They often get through boring situations by creating their own fun, which can be a great asset to anyone around them… assuming their playfulness is not a distraction.
  • Innovative. Sevens like to think on the go. They are the assertive mental type. Some Sevens are extremely intelligent and some not so much, but they all seem to thrive on opportunities to improvise.
  • Spontaneous. Sevens like to move quickly from decision to action. If something seems like a good idea, they will do it.

Within that, there is incredible variety between Sevens. Your character is your own, but here are some characters who illustrate some of the range that exists with this type.

  • Alexis Rose from Schitt’s Creek was born into wealth and given a free reign to do as she pleased. She became a hedonistic, shallow socialite who skipped high school to travel internationally. She regularly endangered herself but soon discovered she was clever enough to get out of most situations, which encouraged her to be even more irresponsible. When her family lost their fortune and is forced to relocate to a small, impoverished town, she learned to face the consequences of her actions, especially when it came to romance and playing with people’s hearts. She eventually went back to school and by the end of the show she has started a promising small business as a publicist.
  • Lorelai Gilmore from Gilmore Girls was also born into wealth, but because her parents were far more controlling, all her privileges felt oppressive. When she got pregnant as a teenager, she decided that the new adventure of running away to raise her kid herself gave her the freedom and self-determination she needed. For many people this would have been a disastrous decision, but for Lorelai this gave her the motivation to develop responsibility. She became a loving a mother and a successful manager of an inn, though she never lost her irreverence, independence or sense of humor.
  • Chris Traeger from Parks and Recreation seems like a classic, goofy, carefree Seven, except for his odd, self-depriving dedication to health food and exercise. We learn in the season 3 episode “Flu Season” that as an infant he had a rare blood disorder and barely survived. This gave him an intense fear of death and illness: many Sevens have a suppressed anxiety around these issues, and for Chris they rose to the surface earlier. His arc is a great illustration of the depth of anxiety that lies behind a Seven’s happy face, and a positive role model for overcoming it.
  • Gi-Hun from Squid Game was raised in poverty, and frequently able to distract himself from his family’s circumstances with simple children’s games. While there were paths out of poverty, the work culture in South Korea was arduous, intensely competitive and required skills that were harder for him to access with his level of education and finances. As a result, his love of games turned into a reckless gambling addiction, which the creators of the games prey on.

Connected Types

Just as a person learns to draw certain traits to themselves, they also learn to push certain parts of their humanity away. However, some of the traits we push away early on end up being the very ones we need in a crisis. The traits Sevens push away from themselves early on are often the same ones that Ones and Fives develop. Later on, Sevens may have “out of character” moments when an abrupt change in circumstances forces them to pick those traits back up again. These types of traits include the following.

  • Organization
  • Quiet reflection
  • Strong sense of right vs wrong

These can be temporary changes, or they can lead to growth, depending on the character’s attitudes and desire for growth. In general, Sevens pick up the traits associated with One in stress, while the Five comes more from a space where they are supported, but not enabled. However, Five-ish traits can also come into play when they are under stress for an extremely long time, past the point where the One’s mentality can help.

  • Because of the shift to One under stress, Seven is a popular type for the reluctant-chosen-one archetype. Unlike Ones, Sevens don’t jump at the call, but as they see more and more costs of not taking up their mantle, they can end up being highly principled, just like healthy Ones. Buffy from Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Aang from Avatar: the Last Airbender and most interpretations of Peter Parker from Spider-man fit this mold.
  • You can also see stressed Sevens become judgmental and, paradoxically, use this judgment to justify nihilism and irresponsibility. The Joker from the Batman universe is often portrayed this way, mocking society’s morals with cruel jokes. Eleanor Shellstrop from The Good Place starts out this way. Having being severely neglected and forced to be responsible at an early age, she learned to judge people as an excuse to push them away and avoid getting hurt. Later, with the support of Chidi, she starts tapping into the healthy, contemplative side of Five and the reformer’s mentality of One.
  • Jake Peralta from Brooklyn 99 was inspired to become a police detective by action films like Die Hard, which portrayed the job as adventurous and challenging. These films also served as a stand-in for his absent father. This motivated him to intentionally integrate some of those One and Five traits: standing up for justice and working hard on cases. At the same time, you can see his core Seven in his tendency to turn everything into a game and neglect responsibilities that don’t relate to his dream of being a detective. Both his love interest Amy and his mentor/surrogate father Captain Holt are Ones who push him to continue growing.

Signs That Your Character is a Seven

  • They are good at getting excited about things, but struggle to stick with them.
  • Either they avoid complaining, or, more often, they complain in a playful way. They don’t like dwelling on things that really bothering them, and might be the last person aware of what actually stresses them out.
  • They can be mistaken as scatterbrained, but when they focus on one situation, they are often resourceful, insightful or quick on their feet.
  • Throughout their life, they have found many things to be excited about, but they have struggled to find a singular “passion.”
  • Their worst fear is to be trapped, confined or limited in some way. Sometimes, if they are getting cold feet, the mere presence of an escape route is enough to calm them.

These traits don’t guarantee that your character is a Seven, and if one or two of them don’t fit, that doesn’t rule out that they are a Seven. The key is in the core motivations, and how those motivations have been shaped by your character’s environment.

Examples of Sevens

  • This is by far the most popular type for Disney princesses: you have Ariel, Rapunzel, Anna*, and Jasmine, which makes up a third of the whole franchise. It makes sense. The whole brand is about singing a rousing anthem to the desire to leave their sheltered existence to see what else might be out there, then sneak off for ill-advised adventures with a cute animal companion. That’s prime Seven territory.
  • Peter Pan is an iconic Seven, running away to a whole other dimension just to avoid the concept of growing up.
  • Mr. Peanutbutter from Bojack Horseman is a great deconstruction of the happy facade of a Seven.
  • Turk from Scrubs is a great example of a healthier Seven who has found a balance between playfulness and responsibility that is personally meaningful. His goofy intelligence uplifts every single scene he is in.

These examples are not exhaustive, but hopefully you can see how this core motivation can be played with to create an incredible diversity of characters and arcs. Thank you for reading, and as always, happy writing!

*Yes, I know technically Frozen is it’s own franchise, but I also choose to ignore that fact because it is ridiculous.

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