Answers to these questions may be as near to hand as arranging five universal shapes — circle, square, triangle, spiral and plus sign — from most preferred to least. It’s called the Preferential Shapes Test, developed by cultural anthropologist Angeles Arrien.
Arrien found that these five shapes not only turn up in artwork around the world, but also carry the same meaning, cross-culturally. Cool, huh?
Take a moment now to look at the five shapes. How would you rank them? Which one do you most prefer? Call that #1. Repeat until you’ve ordered them 1-5. (Imagine that my crude spiral is actually smooth as you consider it.)
Using their cross-cultural meaning, Arrien demonstrates how these shapes describe five processes all of us use. Your ordering of the shapes will change over the years as you move in and out of their associated processes. In other words, this is not a personality test. Instead, it can be a useful tool in figuring out what would bring you the greatest satisfaction and joy right now.
Here’s what your ranking reveals
- Your current source of inspiration. The thing that has your attention. It’s where you think you are, or where you want to be.
- An inherent strength you’re already demonstrating and which has already attracted feedback.
- Where you really are right now. A source of unlimited creativity, connection and possibility, if only you attend to it.
- The past process that motivated you to move where you really are.
- A process you’ve outgrown, or possibly something you’re denying and refusing to look at.
And now that you’ve decoded the ranking, it’s time for the big reveal…
What the shapes indicate
- Circle. Wholeness, independence, individuation and collaboration. Answers the inner desire to know oneself. When we’re here, we need to feel there’s room for us to be creative, so don’t tie us to tight schedules or rigid expectations. Give us space.
- Plus. Relationships, intersections, connection and bridge building. Answers the inner desire to connect through relationships. When we’re here, we need quality time with others. We’re gifted at networking, bringing people together and building relationships.
- Triangle. The visionary. Answers the inner desire to actualize our life’s calling. When we’re here, we see the potential within ideas, teams and relationships. Put us to work planning.
- Square. Foundation-setting. Stability, grounding and manifesters. Answers the desire for safety, stability and security. When we’re here, we bring results. We can make it happen.
- Spiral. Growth, evolution and change. Answers the call to change and grow. When we’re here, we need to make some changes in our own lives, and we become excellent catalysts for change in the lives of others.
What did you learn? How did that feel? My current ranking shows me in a Plus process, so I’m excited to see the Circle turn up as an inherent strength. Who’s up for a collaboration?
Learn more about Angeles Arrien and her work, visit her site.
Photo credit (sculpture): brian glanz
Photo credit (cat): eva101