Complete Enneagram Type 3

Personalty Type THREE: The Achiever

The Success-Oriented, Efficient Type:
Adaptive, Excelling, Driven, and Image-

Generally, Threes are effective, competent, adaptable,
goal-oriented, ambitious, organized, diplomatic, charming, into performance, and image-conscious.

Threes get into conflicts by being expedient, excessively driven,
competitive, self-promoting, “appropriate” instead of sincere, boastful, and grandiose.

At their best, Threes are inner-directed, authentic, modest, admirable,
well-adjusted, gracious, interested in others, and self-accepting.

Recognizing Threes
Type Three exemplifies our desire to be our best self, to
develop all of our potentials, and to value ourselves and others.
Threes are the “stars” of the personality types—people of tremendous
drive, ambition, and belief in themselves. Threes want to excel, to be
the best at whatever they do, and they are willing to put in the effort
it takes to do so. Threes can be found at the gym, taking classes at
night, putting in extra hours at work, learning how to coordinate their
best colors when they dress—basically doing what it takes to shine.
While Threes are energetic and ambitious, they are also diplomatic—they
want to be liked and esteemed by others. They strive to be presentable
and appropriate, not wanting to come across in ways that would be
disapproved of. They know how to put their best foot forward and
present themselves in a way that highlights their energy and confidence.

Threes are, above all, goal-oriented. They get a particular
objective in their sights and then actively engage in activities that
will bring them closer to whatever they seek. They pursue their dreams
tirelessly, and cannot understand why others are not similarly
motivated. Thus, Threes also enjoy sharing self-development tips,
explaining how to make money, lose weight, develop career skills, and
so forth. They are hard workers, diligent and effective—and they like
helping others to be that way, too.

To achieve their goals, Threes learn to be highly adaptable. They
are able to change course when necessary and may even do so several
times, including a change of career, if that is what it takes. They may
try different approaches to problems until they find a formula that
seems the most effective. Similarly, Threes quickly adapt to different
social settings, always wanting to be appropriate and to exemplify the
values of whatever group they are in. While their adaptability can be
an enormous asset, it can also be overdone, leaving Threes unsure of
who they are or what their own deepest values are.

In all of their dealings, Threes value efficiency and effectiveness,
and they are often prized by businesses for these values. They are
extremely goal-driven, and once they are given a task to perform, will
do their best to make sure that it is done as quickly and efficiently
as possible. The problem is that Threes can be efficient to a
fault—becoming accomplishment machines, brushing their real feelings
and needs aside to “get the job done.” This way of living can leave
Threes feeling empty and emotionally isolated, despite the successes
they may be having.

Problem arise because Threes learned in childhood that they are only
valuable for their accomplishments and self-presentation. They believe
that they will only be loved if they become extraordinary in some field
of endeavor. Thus, the pressure to be outstanding in whatever they do
is intense and draining. Even if they are not working at a career and
are primarily keeping a home, they will strive to have the most
outstanding home in their neighborhood and to be “Super-Mom” or
“Super-Dad.” Threes find it difficult to stop or rest when they are
caught up in their drive for success. They believe that to do so is to
risk failure—and most Threes would rather die than fail and risk being
humiliated. Their drive for success can also create conflicts with
their personal or family life. Similarly, intimacy issues are not

When Threes push themselves too hard and are unable to deliver
everything that they would like to, they may resort to presenting
successful images to others rather than letting people know their
actual state or emotional condition. They attempt to convince others
and themselves that they have no problems and that they are doing
great, even though they may feel depressed or even burnt out. They
believe that they can “fake it until they make it,” but if Threes do
not slow down to deal with their emotional problems, sooner or later, a
crash is inevitable.

In brief, Threes want to feel valuable and
worthwhile, to excel, to be affirmed, to be effective and efficient, to
perform well, to be “the best,” to have attention, to be admired, and
to impress others. Threes do not want anything that looks like failure,
to sit around “doing nothing,” to be overshadowed by others, to look
unprepared or awkward, to be average, to ask others for help or
support, or to be caught in distortions of the truth.

Their Hidden Side
Beneath the surface, Threes have deep anxieties about their
personal value. They feel that unless they maintain a certain position
or image in life, they will be devalued, rejected, and tossed aside as
worthless. Thus, they feel a constant inner pressure to “have it
together,” to not need much intimacy or personal support, and, above
all, to constantly perform at maximum efficiency. Unless you knew a
Three very well, you would never suspect the degree of emotional
vulnerability and insecurity that they conceal beneath their smooth,
efficient surface. The fact is that despite Threes’ apparent social
ease, there is great loneliness and a belief that they must not need
help or support. As much as possible, Threes try to avoid their
feelings of shame and isolation, but a large part of their growth
entails allowing these feelings to arise and become integrated into
their functioning self.

Relationship Issues
Threes often report that they feel confident in their ability
to attract other people. They are usually charming and magnetic,
and they know how to behave appropriately. Also, many Threes spend
significant time and resources cultivating their personal presentation.
They work at being in good physical condition and are often well-groomed.
They want their partner to be proud of them and their accomplishments,
so they often are drawn to people who they believe will appreciate
them. The problem is that Threes fear that many parts of themselves
may be less than outstanding or even unacceptable. Fears of potential
rejection may prevent them from letting people get close to them.
Significant relationship issues include the following:

  • Holding the partner to strict standards that the partner does not wholeheartedly share.
  • Presenting a favorable image that they later fear they will not be able to live up to.
  • Fearing that people only want them for their looks or abilities.
  • Not speaking up when they need help or support, then resenting the partner for not supporting them.
  • Workaholism as a way of avoiding intimacy.
  • Pre-emptively leaving relationships out of fear of rejection,
    or having serial relationships (“conquests”) as a way of bolstering
    their self-image.
  • Haranguing the partner for not reflecting well on them, for behaving in ways that do not support the Three’s self-image.

The Passion: Deceit (Vanity)
Deceit here is primarily a kind of self-deception. Threes
convince themselves that only their image and their performance are
valuable. They subconsciously feel that their own natural inner
qualities are inadequate or unacceptable, so they strive to become the
sort of person that they believe others would look up to. They have an
idea of the qualities, talents, and appearance that they need to have
in order to be acceptable, and they work tirelessly to embody those

Thus, Threes convince themselves that they must always be
outstanding, superb, and exceptional—the best at whatever they are
focusing on. To be any less than this is to fail, to be worthless. This
is like the child who gets straight A’s but is then tormented by
getting an A-minus or a B-plus, or the athlete who wins several gold
medals but then feels like a failure for getting a silver or bronze.
This kind of self-rejection and self-deception causes Threes a great
deal of suffering. Once Threes lose themselves in these
self-deceptions, truth becomes whatever works to keep their self-image
going, and they are able to deceive others, often without any apparent

At Their Best

Healthy Threes are excellent communicators, motivators, and promoters,
and they know how to present something in a way that’s acceptable and
attractive. In the workplace, they can be very effective at building
morale and company spirit. They value excellence and accomplishment and
truly enjoy helping others discover how to shine. Even when they are
not “coaching” others, they often inspire people to become like them in
some way.

Healthy Threes are able to do this because they believe in
themselves and invest time and energy in developing their native
talents. They value themselves, their lives, and the people they love,
seeing life as an opportunity to offer what talents they have been
given to the world. They are also “adaptable” in the best sense of the
word. If they see that they are doing something incorrectly or that
their methods are not reaping positive results, they are willing to
learn another way and to change. Further, healthy Threes are not in a
contest with anyone. They deeply enjoy working with others toward
shared goals and do not need to outshine their peers.

Thus, healthy Threes may or may not have significant
accomplishments, but others are impressed by their realness and their
heartfelt sincerity. They model an honesty, simplicity, and
authenticity that inspires people. They do not try to impress others or
inflate their importance; rather, they see their limitations and
appreciate their talents without taking themselves too seriously. At
their best, they are also tender, touchingly genuine, and
affectionate—they truly become “heroes” and “role models” who inspire
others by their outstanding achievements, humility, and warmth.

Personality Dynamics & Variations


Under Stress (Three Goes to Average Nine)
When Threes drive themselves too hard, their stress can go
beyond what they can normally cope with. When this occurs, they tend to
go on “autopilot,” attempting to just get through things without being
bothered, in the manner of average Nines. Threes going to Nine become
more passive and fall into routines. They lose their focus and involve
themselves with busywork to at least give the appearance that they are
getting things done. If stress continues, however, they may begin to
become shut down, listless, and depressed, losing interest in their
projects and withdrawing from people. They feel little energy or
enthusiasm and simply want people to leave them alone and give them
space. They can become stubborn and resistant to offers of help at
these times, not wanting to hear that they have a problem.

Security (Three Goes to Average Six)
With most people, Threes make every effort to be diplomatic
and well-mannered. They do not want to say things that would be
off-putting to people if they can avoid it. But when Threes feel that
their relationships are secure, they can be more open about expressing
their anxieties and frustrations. They may keep a “positive frame of
mind” all day at work, only to come home and download their
dissatisfaction onto their spouse or partner. (“I think my boss is
going to go nuts on me when he finds out we still haven’t got this
report nailed down.”) Feelings of self-doubt, dread, suspicion, and
anger at others’ incompetence can all surface in contrast to the
Three’s usual “can do” attitude.

Integration (Three Goes to Healthy Six)
As Threes let go of their fears of failure and worthlessness,
they start to feel less competitive with others. They relax and find
that they feel most valuable while working cooperatively with others
toward shared goals and aspirations, like healthy Sixes. They learn to
freely offer support and guidance to the people in their lives, but
more importantly, they also learn to ask for support when they need it.
Threes ordinarily put themselves under such pressure to accomplish
their goals with little or no help that it comes as both a surprise and
a relief to them that others are happy to help them in their endeavors.
In short, Threes learn to trust others and to build lasting bonds with
people. They become more selfless and courageous, embodying real
qualities of leadership and self-sacrifice. By letting go of their need
to outshine others, Threes become truly extraordinary human beings.

The Instincts In Brief

Self-Preservation Threes: The Workaholic (Ichazo’s “Security”)

Self-Preservation Threes feel their value is dependent on
their ability to take care of basic security needs. They strive to be
practical and to make sure that they and their family have
more-than-adequate resources. For many Threes this means some kind of
financial success. Thus, Self Pres Threes work constantly to ensure
they are building up a solid foundation. The problem is that they often
find themselves unable to stop working. Because they believe their
personal value is at stake, they cannot easily slow down or lighten
their workload. To even take a weekend off could lead to financial
failure—or so they believe. This lifestyle eventually takes its toll on
their health and relationships. They may fit regular work-outs at the
gym into their busy schedules in order to stay healthy but frequently
neglect to rest and take quiet time. Others can find it difficult to
make intimate contact with Self-Pres Threes once they are caught up in
their drive for security and success.

Of the three instinctual variants of this type, the Self-Pres Three
has the most difficulty contacting feelings. They tend to express
affection through accomplishing things for their partner and by meeting
practical expectations. But they may begin to see all of their
relationships in terms of functional roles, transactions, task lists,
and how well they and the people in their lives are fulfilling these
roles. While this can be efficient up to a point, it often ends up
creating distance between Self-Pres Threes and the people they care

Sexual Threes: The Catch (Ichazo’s “Virility/Femininity”)
Sexual Threes feel that their value comes from their
desirability, so they do whatever they can to enhance their
attractiveness to others. Many movie stars, models, and popular singers
are Sexual Threes. They know how to project attractive qualities but
also how to be a blank screen that others can project their desires
onto. They often possess great charm and magnetism, yet they fear being
dismissed by others for lacking some essential ingredient. As Sexual
types, they want to have a strong intimate connection with someone, but
because of the Three’s image issues and underlying feelings of shame,
they are often insecure about letting people know them too well. Thus,
many Sexual Threes are able to gain attention and interest from others,
but they fear that once they get someone’s attention, they will be
unable to keep it.

Sexual Threes want to be appreciated for their depth and
intelligence too, but they fear that others are only interested in them
for their attractiveness. Some Sexual Threes may go through periods of
rebellion, downplaying their physical attributes for a while to see if
people still like them and to find out more about themselves.
Ultimately, this type grows by recognizing their own value
directly—that is, without believing that it only exists reflected in
the admiring eyes of others.

Social Threes: The Status Seeker (Ichazo’s “Prestige”)
Social Threes seek value by gaining social recognition—by
having tangible signs of progress and success. They want to be
recognized for their hard work and achievement (Employee of the Month,
diplomas, awards) and to have ways of measuring their rise up the
ranks. Social Threes are very adaptable, concerned with fitting into
whatever culture they find themselves in, be it corporate or national.
If they move to another country, they are able to adapt to the norms of
that country more easily than most other types. If they join a
spiritual community or ashram, they quickly become well adjusted to the
social expectations of that community. The Social Threes are the most
concerned with being appropriate and with avoiding any behaviors that
would cause offense. At the same time, they are highly ambitious and so
must balance their drive to excel and to surpass others with their
desire to have others like and accept them.

Thus, of the three instinctual variants of this type, Social Threes
are at the greatest risk of losing track of their core values and
goals. They may adapt so successfully that they find themselves adrift
without tangible goals or a clear path for achieving them. In this
regard, they can resemble Sevens, moving from one promising project to
another as they adapt to different opportunities that present
themselves. Social Threes can also get into trouble by attempting to
rise faster than they are able or by taking on tasks that they are not
yet ready or qualified to perform. The desire to please and to impress
can become a powerful magnet that can derail the Social Three from
pursuing real, achievable goals.


Below is the complete Levels of Development diagram for Type Three.
The levels range from most healthy, Level 1, to least healthy, Level 9.
To understand these charts, start with the Basic Fear, at the top right
of the chart. This fear gives rise to the Basic Desire, which is the
Desire at the second level of health, the Level of Psychological Capacity.

The Desire of each level gives rise to the internal Attitudes (the A-Terms)
of each level, which create the external Behaviors (the B-Terms).
Over time, due to internal conflicts, these behaviors and attitudes
create another layer of Fear at that level.

Each new Fear generates yet another desire at the next lower level,
which gives rise to a new set of attitudes and behaviors, creating a
spiral structure in which a person becomes increasingly enmeshed in
self-destructive reactions and increasingly terrifying fears. The
process of growth is to become aware of each of the cluster of attitudes
and behaviors as they occur, bringing conscious awareness into the
moment. As we do this, the underlying fears and desires also begin
to emerge into consciousness, and the person begins to shift up the levels.

For more about this process see Wisdom of the Enneagram,
and Personality Types.


TYPE THREE: The Achiever

Parental Orientation: Attachment with the Nurturing-figure

Self-Actualization: Basic Fear:
Level of Liberation
Lets go of their identification with a
particular self-image, that their value is dependent on their
accomplishments and the positive regard of others
Of being worthless
Basic Desire: Secondary
Level of Psychological Capacity
“unlimited potential”
To feel valuable and worthwhile That they will be rejected (of disappointing others
by being less than outstanding)
Secondary Desires:
3. Level of
Social Value
role models
To develop themselves (to be “all that they can
Of falling behind, of being over-shadowed by others
Social Role: The Best
4. Level of
constant doing
being “on”
To distinguish themselves from others; to be noticed,
valued by others
Of losing the positive regard of others
5. Level of Interpersonal
meet expectations
intimacy problems
“reading” others
To create a favorable impression of themselves
(to impress)
That others will see through them — they will be humiliated,
lose face
6. Level of
“showing off”
openly competitive
giving attitude
mocking/ sneering
secretly needy
To convince themselves and others of the reality
of their image
That they are failing, that their claims are empty,
7. Level of
“cutting corners”
inner emptiness
feel insignificant
“nothing inside”
To preserve the illusion that they are still superior,
still okay
Of being caught, of losing any reason for others
to think well of them (that there is nothing about thempeople
will admire)
8. Level of
Delusion & Compulsion
pathological lying
feel cornered
detached from
To do whatever is necessary to support
their false claims (without being found out)
That their falseness and emptiness will be exposed —
they will be ruined
9. Level of
Pathological Destructiveness
hiding pathology
externally blank
To destroy whoever or whatever threatens them
or reminds them of what they lack
Basic Fear comes true: they are rejected as worthless

Personal Growth Recommendations
for Enneagram Type Threes

Threes grow by recognizing
that they do not need to separate their work and functioning from their
feelings. Threes believe they will be less effective and competent if
they allow their feelings to enter the picture. Thus, they wait until
they are done with their tasks before they pay any attention to their
emotions. Nonetheless, their emotions are always operating, even if
unconsciously. And if Threes neglect them too long, those emotions
start to make functioning much more difficult. Thus, growth for Threes
entails pausing while working and actively checking in with their
feelings. By tuning in to their heart, and becoming more conscious of
their inner life, Threes derive much greater happiness and satisfaction
from their work and from their relationships.

  • For our real development, it is essential to be truthful. Be
    honest with yourself and others about your genuine feelings and
    needs. Likewise, resist the temptation to impress others or inflate
    your importance. You will impress people more deeply by being
    authentic than by bragging about your successes or exaggerating
    your accomplishments.
  • Develop charity and cooperation in your relationships. You can
    do this by taking time to pause in busy day to really connect
    with someone you care about. Nothing spectacular is required—simply
    a few moments of quiet appreciation. When you do so, you will
    become a more loving person, a more faithful friend—and a
    much more desirable individual. You will feel better about yourself.
  • Take breaks. You can drive yourself and others to exhaustion
    with your relentless pursuit of your goals. Ambition and self-development
    are good qualities, but temper them with rest periods in which
    you reconnect more deeply with yourself. Sometimes taking three
    to five deep breaths is enough to recharge your battery and improve
    your outlook.
  • Develop your social awareness. Many Threes have grown tremendously
    by getting involved in projects that had nothing to do with their
    own personal advancement. Working cooperatively with others toward
    goals that transcend personal interest is a powerful way of finding
    your true value and identity.
  • In their desire to be accepted by others, some average Threes
    adapt so much to the expectations of others that they lose touch
    with what they are really feeling about the situation. Develop
    yourself by resisting doing what is acceptable just to be accepted.
    It is imperative that you invest time in discovering your own
    core values.