Spiral Dynamics: Identity Through Values

Spiral illustration with each level labeledSpiral Dynamics (SD) is a system of understanding societal values (or vMemes) based on Psychology professor Clare Graves’ work from the 1970’s and furthered by Don Beck. More recently, it has been combined with the work of Ken Wilber and Integral philosophy to further understand humanity. SD focuses on sets of hierarchical values and needs that must be met before progressing to the next level. Although there has been controversy around the hierarchical nature of these values definitions, SD gives a good outline of the various values, focus, and consequently identity of different people at different stages in their lives.

For more information:



Where do you see yourself in the spiral?



Type and Tarot

Three tarot cards: the Hierophant, the Fool, and TemperanceThe tarot is more than just a deck of cards with interesting pictures. Most people think of it as a fortune-telling tool, but it is also a way to see your personality type depicted in images. Specifically, the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator and Enneagram can been seen to correspond to two of the three sections of a tarot deck.

The tarot is a deck of 78 cards that emerged in the Middle Ages as a card game, then later became known as a fortune-telling device. Nowadays, it is also often seen as a personal development tool to use with visualizations and journaling.

There are three parts to a tarot deck: the Major Arcana, 22 “big-picture” themes representing archetypal energies; the Minor Arcana, 40 “everyday challenges” cards divided into four suits, which differ depending upon the deck (pentacles/diamonds/earth, swords/spades/air, cups/hearts/water, and wands/clubs/fire); and the Court Cards, 16 “people cards” (page, knight, queen, and king) also divided into the four suits. This allows for a broad range of images and situations to explore.

The Court Cards are ideal for depicting Myers-Briggs type: 16 cards and 16 types. And, the Enneagram types, along with the wings, correspond to the Major Arcana cards (archetypal energies = your motivations and values). The Court Cards Correspondences Table gives the relationship between Myers-Briggs type and the cards, along with examples, and the Major Arcana Cards Meanings and Correspondences Table gives detailed information on how Enneagram type relates to the cards.

So, who are you in the tarot?

Defining Your Identity With Your Mission Statement

What is Your Mission? written on chalkboardWith the new year comes new commitments, plans, and a new start for a new, better you. One way of figuring out who you want to be in the new year is defining your life purpose, or why you exist now and how you will know your life was successful.


Your Mission Statement is a primary way to figure this out. It is a declaration of what your life is about and the legacy you want to leave. It gives meaning to your life, and directs, guides, and motivates you even when times are tough. It includes your Passions: knowledge, values, and skills/strengths and Goals/Aspirations/Dreams for the future. Below are some exercises to help you craft your Mission Statement.


1. Who/What/When/Where/Why/How

  • Who—Choose a simple phrase as a metaphor for who you want to be in life (e.g., “I’m the …”: fountain of wisdom, teacher of teachers, butterfly of hope”, etc.)
  • What—What general theme/focus/goal that is important to you? (e.g., promoting safety, inspiring creativity, healing trauma from violence, giving love, etc.)
  • When—Is there a periodic cycle involved? (e.g., every festival, in the mornings, etc.)
  • Where—What sector/area of life/cause is important to you? (e.g., environment, development, education, health, your community, etc.)
  • Why—What are your core values (the things you can’t live without)? (e.g., creativity, fitness, truth, order, freedom, play, etc.)
  • How—What are your skills—the things you’re best at? (e.g., writing, persuading, building, connecting, etc.)

2. The 90-year-old Me

Imagine yourself at 90 years old or so, having lived a full, long life that you’re extremely satisfied with. Looking back, how would you answer these questions:

  • What am I most proud of in my life?
  • What matters most to me?
  • How did I really make a difference?
  • When people think about me, how do they talk about me and describe me?
  • What were my greatest lessons? How did I use that knowledge in my life?

3. The Fun, Free Me

How would you answer these questions about how you find happiness in the present:

  • What do you do when you loose track of time? (How are you “in the Flow”?)
  • What things do you notice that others may not?
  • What do you love doing?
  • What sparks your creativity?
  • What would you do if you knew you couldn’t fail?
  • What is your ideal day like? (What are you doing? Who are you with? Where are you?)
  • What are your five strongest memories that immediately come to mind of happy times in your life? (What were you doing? Who were you with? Where were you?)


Now, once you’ve found some of these answers, it’s time to craft your Mission Statement. This is a sentence on who you want to be in life, how you ideally see yourself. Using a metaphor from the above “Who” question, begin to write your statement. Include the Who, What, and Why, and ideally How, if you know it, answers. Then, use this statement to periodically edit as necessary until you find a sentence that gives meaning and guidance to who you are and what you strive for in life this year and beyond.