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Dear Vicki: At a family reunion last spring, my sister Leah and I decided we’d go see the fall foliage in New England this year. We’re both single, have been out of college for a few years, and thought this would be a fun thing to do together. Well, it isn’t turning out to be that fun. At least the planning stage. Really, Leah doesn’t even want to plan! She just wants to get in the car and start driving. Does she think we’ll just sleep in the car when all the quaint little inns are sold out? I don’t get it; she was flaky as a child, but this is serious. Every time I call her to discuss the trip, she says that part of the adventure is discovering what’s out there and we’ll take it as it comes. What does that mean? I’m wondering if this is a big mistake. Fall is just a few months away! How do I make Leah see we could be driving into chaos if we don’t have a plan? Signed: Frustrated in Farmington

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Dear Frustrated: Well, this is certainly an excellent example of how different our elemental personalities can be! The fact that you have a strong desire to plan things, are frustrated that you can’t plan, and dearly want to avoid “driving into chaos” makes it pretty clear that you have a primary Wood personality. Two key attributes of Wood people are their appreciation of structure and their focus on the future. When those two are combined, the end result is almost always a plan. Wood personalities excel at looking to the future and deciding what they think the future should hold. It’s a rare Wood person who does not have a plan for almost everything. And thwarted Wood people get frustrated.

Leah, on the other hand, is clearly not a Wood personality. Her desire to take things as they come is a very common trait of the primary Water personality. Water people revel in the wonder of mystery and discovery. They are happiest going with the flow, which some of the more structured elemental personalities (Wood and Metal) often see as “flaky.” In nature, water has very little structure of its own – it’s happy taking any structure offered to it, be that river bed, bottle, or bowl. Trust sits in the Water element and Water people trust that everything will turn out as it should. One would certainly never say that about a Wood personality.

What you and Leah do have in common is the fact that you both look to the future. It was probably the easiest thing in the world for the two of you to decide to take this trip together. Go leaf looking next fall? Sure! But as you can see, the problem is that Leah likely imagined that you would hop in a car, head east, and let the adventure begin. Water people see potentials, possibilities, and surprises in the future (which, unlike Wood people, they enjoy).

For Leah, the unexpected can be seen as a gift. For you as a Wood personality, it usually portends trouble. Driving off into the sunset with no idea of where you will eat, stay, or end up just isn’t your idea of fun. For a Wood personality, that would be a trip to chaos, and chaos is top of the list of what Wood people spend their life trying to avoid.

So, what can you do to save your trip? The best you can hope for is some kind of compromise. And the best way to reach that with Leah is to approach her from an Earth energy perspective. Remember that we all have all five of the elemental personalities in our make-up. We lead with a primary elemental personality that is “flavored,” if you will, by the elemental personality that is the second strongest in us (often called our secondary personality). Somewhere in your energetic personality you have Earth energy. Earth is about family, home, lasting relationships, loving connections, food, and fun. I suspect you are naturally more “Earthy” around Leah anyway because she is your sister, which is a very long-lasting relationship. Leah is probably more “Earthy” around, you, too. And that is the perfect place to be when you discuss your trip.

If possible, ask Leah to meet you for dinner (food is very Earthy) someplace you know she likes. Do not go into this as a negotiation you intend to win (which Woods can do). Instead, start by chatting about family and friends (or even pets). This will bring up the Earth in both of you. Then, while you are eating, try suggesting you look for a few fun places to stay, places that have gotten great reviews or have special rooms, etc. Make the selection of your lodging part of the adventure. You might even do a bit of homework before the dinner so you can tell her about some of the amazing/interesting/imaginative places you have found. Water people love imagination and whimsy, so the idea of staying someplace special like that should appeal to Leah and be something she will want to make happen.

The other plus about discussing the trip with Leah in an Earthy environment is that, in addition to bringing up reminders of your family connection, Earth is what controls Water in the Five Elements model. Earth gently guides water in nature, so an Earthy discussion that leads to a decision will feel natural to Leah, rather than stifling. And it would be a great idea if you wore white to that dinner. White is the color of the Metal element, and Metal is what controls Wood in the Five Elements model. Gently pruning back your own Wood for this dinner will guarantee that Earth really can take center stage for both of you. This means you will have a fun, loving, congenial, and hopefully productive dinner. Blessings to you and Leah, and have a great trip!

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