Enneagram Type 3 Achievers/Motivators are typically energetic, optimistic, self-assured and goal-oriented. Gifted at focusing on goals and achieving them, the Achiever 3 personality personifies the “human doing” rather than human being. This person is highly productive, efficient and can be extremely motivating to others. They want to be the best in any situation and can be overly concerned about the opinions of others.
They have an innate ability to motivate others. This type is a very action-oriented, often successful person who naturally presents a positive image to the outside world. Gaining the admiration of others is important to them, and they put a lot of energy into the achievement of their goals. Achiever 3s typically align around “roles” (predefined ways of being) and focus on being successful in that role. In this way, Achiever 3s can sometimes confuse themselves for other types. However, they usually recognize their Achiever 3 identity when they uncover that their primary motivation is to be “the best.” A classic example is a nun who looks like a Helper 2 but who eventually realizes she actually wants to be recognized as the best nun more than she wants to helpful.
The magnifying glass goes towards being successful in the eyes of other people. They see what brings success and approval from others. Their attention moves away from anything that could be recognized as failure, particularly in the eyes of others.
Enneagram Type 3 Gifts to the World
Achiever 3s are gifted leaders and motivators. Highly inspirational and often charismatic, they can naturally organize and energize groups. Goal-oriented and highly effective, they can successfully achieve their targets. The supreme motivators of the Enneagram, Achiever 3s help others reach their full potential.
Enneagram Type 3s Typically Report
1) A Desire to be the Best in Every Situation
Achiever 3’s attention goes to success and a desire to be recognized as the best in almost all situations. They generally don’t like doing things they aren’t good at, and they are typically competitive, even in environments where it doesn’t make sense.
“I knew I was an Achiever 3 when I attended a neighbor’s party. I’m a white guy living in a largely Hispanic neighborhood, and this was a Mexican party. I walked in the door, and my mind immediately went to how I could be the best Mexican at this party. And I’m a white guy—I’m not going to win that contest. But it was in my mind…”
2) Packaging Up Inconvenient Feelings and Emotions and Putting Them Aside to Deal with Later
Achiever 3s are efficiency machines and very action-oriented. They often report impatience with others who are slowing down their achievement. In the same manner, emotions can slow them down. They often suppress their emotions as they see them as weaknesses. Achiever 3s may report going through very emotionally difficult times but freezing the emotions out and “putting them in a box to deal with later.” To the rest of the world this can look cold or shut down, but for an Achiever 3, it is a coping mechanism to allow them to continue on their achievement quest.
“It’s not my favorite thing about myself, but it is true. If something becomes too intense, I just shut down around it—put the feelings in a box, and we’ll deal with that later…”
3) Public Admiration and Praise is Important to Them
While not all Achiever 3s readily admit it, most will privately say that public admiration and praise is quite important to them. Their main motivator is popular acceptance and recognition. Achiever 3s feel their identity from the outside in, so having a strong internal compass free from external influence is difficult for them.
“I use public praise as a marker for how I’m doing. Without external approval, I really don’t know….”
Hear directly from Type 3s about shape-shifting the truth. This was part of a Type 3 workshop featuring the Narrative Tradition (a panel of Type 3s discussing their experience as a Type 3).
Tools for Compassion If You Have Enneagram Type 3s in Your Life
1) Tell them what you like about their character and don’t focus on their achievements
Achiever 3s over-identify with their achievements and activities and under-identify with their character and emotional makeup. Telling them what you like about their behavior and character can be very eye-opening and healing for them.
2) Give them honest but not overly critical feedback
No one likes criticism, but Achiever 3s almost can’t bear to hear it. If you have negative feedback to give to an Achiever 3, make sure to deliver it in a balanced, constructive way. This is a type who does learn from criticism, but too much negative criticism will be blocked completely.
3) Be aware they don’t like to dwell in negative emotions or situations where they might fail
Achiever 3s like to focus on their successes and on positive emotions. They gravitate away from areas in which they are likely to feel negative emotions and towards areas in which they’ll get positive feedback. Achiever 3s sometimes avoid or drop relationships entirely if the situation becomes too negative or difficult.
Subtypes for Enneagram Type 3
“Security” Self-Preservation Subtype:
The self-preservation Achiever (3) expresses a focus on achievement and a drive to succeed in an understated, humble way. This is a person who considers it bad manners to openly brag about accomplishments, although most self-preservation Achiever (3)s privately admit they do enjoy public praise and admiration.
To the outside world, this is a hard-working, successful, humble person who excels professionally in their chosen field. This Achiever (3) goes beyond wanting the image of success. It is important to them that they actually are good in their respective fields and roles. Internally, this person is often experiencing a great deal of anxiety. They address
this anxiety by working harder in an attempt to achieve more security. They have the title “Security” because of their preoccupation with work, efficiency, and security.
Self-preservation Achiever (3)s are motivated to work very hard to achieve security. On the positive side, there is a certain genuine quality with self-preservation Achiever (3)s as their drive for excellence extends beyond the image. They put in long hours and much effort to be truly great at their chosen goal.
On the less positive side, with so much energy focused on work and security, there can be little mental and emotional space left for these Achiever (3)s to engage deeply with others. Though they may work hard to maintain relationships, they may have trouble making deep connections. Partners need to learn to deal with workaholism. These Achiever (3)s struggle with expressing vulnerability and getting help from others. They are fiercely autonomous.
“Prestige” Social Subtype:
The social Achiever (3) expresses a focus on achievement by outwardly seeking admiration and highlighting their achievements and successes. They want to shine in front of the whole world. This person can be a social chameleon, shape-shifting to impress as much as possible in whatever environment they are in. To the outside world, this is someone who can look socially brilliant and adaptable. They want to be accepted, so feeling sociable with others is critical.
Internally, this person has a lot of anxiety about being overexposed, and criticism can be devastating to them. They sometimes express a fear that if they look too deeply inside, they will find there is nothing there. This type is titled “Prestige” because of their desire to have the approval and applause of others. Image matters a lot for the social Achiever (3). This is the most externally competitive Achiever (3), and they are concerned about appearances and what looks good.
On the positive side, they can make an externally dazzling partner. They are often accomplished, attractive and work hard to present themselves well.
On the less positive side, they can have difficulty cultivating intimacy because they want so much to make a good impression and to be seen in a positive light. They are reluctant to reveal themselves, particularly their flaws, faults and shortcomings. Because they are good at numbing out their feelings, in extreme circumstances they can be cold and lack empathy.
“Charisma” Intimate Subtype:
The intimate Achiever (3) expresses a drive for achievement and recognition through intimate relationships or by promoting someone or something close to them. This is a person that focuses energy on being attractive and desirable. More shy, sweet, and reserved than the other Achiever (3)s, this person can be uncomfortable with direct recognition and instead focuses their energy on promoting someone or something else.
To the outside world, this is an attractive, sometimes seductive person who often offers enthusiastic support to others. They are highly helpful and supportive, often striving to be the perfect role model – for example, the perfect husband or wife. Internally, this person often feels a deep sadness or emptiness and sometimes fantasizes about a perfect mate and a happy future. This type is titled “Charisma” because of their intense focus on their desirability and attracting the devotion of others.
These Achiever (3)s are helpers and pleasers generally in support of someone else and working hard to make someone else look good. They may work hard to promote their partner or a shared venture with their partner.
On the positive side, they tend to be very helpful, though subconsciously this is a way to prove their lovability. Like all Achiever (3)s, they are goal-oriented, but their goals center around attaining love or desire from others and what they achieve within relationships.
On the less positive side, this Achiever (3) can have a profound disconnection from themselves and from others. They often report feeling an emptiness or a void. This is the most emotional of the Achiever (3)s, and this is someone who is more in touch with their sorrow. There can often be a deep sadness within them.
For more information on Enneagram Type 3 subtypes, I recommend Beatrice Chestnut’s book “The Complete Enneagram.”
3w2: The Charmer
Type 3s with a 2 wing are typically more social, warm, extroverted, and openly seeking approval than their 4 wing counterpart. The 2 wing brings a people-pleasing element, a focus on others, and a more emotionally expressive presentation.
3w4: The Professional
Type 3s with a 4 wing are more introverted, focused on their creative expression, and internally competitive with themselves than their 2 wing counterpart. The 4 wing can bring a level of creativity and familiarity with the darker emotions (sadness, melancholy).
Enneagram Type 3 Levels of Awareness
Achiever (3) When Self-Aware
Self-accepting, authentic and real, the Achiever (3)’s image, inner world and reality align. They are humble, honest, and able to speak from the heart. Compassionate and kind, their influence benefits others. Self-assured, effective, energetic, and efficient, the Achiever (3) goes after their goals while remaining connected to their heart and the emotional world. They are flexible, charming, polite, and accepting of others. They radiate genuine self-esteem and self-acceptance. This Achiever (3) is highly goal-oriented and seeks to embody success in their chosen field. High-achieving, talented, inspiring, and collaborative, the Achiever (3) motivates others to reach their potential.
Achiever (3) With Tightening Defenses
Focus is on achievement and establishing themselves as the best. The Achiever (3) feels some anxiety about not measuring up. Fear of failure fuels more hard work. They become highly competitive with a strong desire to be “the best.” They constantly compare their performance and status to others. They display workaholic tendencies. Image-conscious and insecure about the opinion of others, they shapeshift to try to make the most positive impression in various environments. The drive to look good outstrips the need to be authentic. They are practical and efficient but can also be calculated and transactional. They have difficulty with intimacy and credibility as they fear exposing their full self. The Achiever (3) seeks a supply of external validation as a means to feel good about themselves. They may brag, self-promote, and over-promise as a way to impress others. They may envy the success of others.
Achiever (3) When Fixated
The Achiever (3) can become ruthlessly exploitative as a means of dodging failure and humiliation. They exhibit a lack of empathy, and they feel envy and begrudge the success of others. Maintaining a sense of superiority takes priority and influences their behavior. The desire to maintain a positive image replaces reality. Deception, lies and devious behavior is prominent in the picture. Mistakes, shortcomings and failure are hidden. This Achiever (3) is like the classic Dorian Gray character. They become delusional in their envy of others. Ruthless and malicious in their attempt to destroy the happiness of others, Achiever (3)s at this level become obsessive about whatever reminds them of their own failures and shortcomings.
Enneagram Compatibility: Type 3s in Relationships
To learn more about Type Three Perfectionists and what they are like in relationships, go to page 132.
Tools to Relax the Habit of Attention for Enneagram Type 3s
This page is excerpted from Headstart from Happiness and The Nine Keys by Lynn Roulo.