Enneagram Type 3 Personality - The Achiever - Competitive Achiever
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Enneagram 3 - Competitive Achiever Description

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Enneagram Threes are likely to value achievement and want to be the best. As a result, efficiency, results, recognition and image are very important to them. Threes strive for success in their chosen field and tend to be highly flexible and willing to adapt to achieve their goals. At their best, others will experience Threes as hard-working, principled and receptive, offering the gifts of hope and integrity to the world. In an unhealthy state, the Three's over-expressed need for achievement may seem self-important and inconstant. This stems from a sense of self-worth that is built on what the Three does, rather than who they are.

“The world values winners. I must succeed at all costs. I must avoid failure. I am what I do - to earn my place, I must be the best at what I do.”
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The gifts of the Enneagram Three include:

  • Ambition: Threes are ambitious and have the will and energy to strive to be the best at whatever they take on. They believe in their ability to succeed.
  • Efficient:The resourceful Three knows how to do things in a way that is efficient and productive.
  • Adaptable: Along with being willing to adapt to achieve their goals, Threes are able to adjust to different situations, people or environments skilfully.
  • Driven: The Three's high energy and enthusiasm for projects gets things done and pushes others to perform as well.
  • Results-Oriented: Setting goals and applying themselves to achieve these are as natural to Threes as breathing. They are focused on the end-result.

Typical Action Patterns:

As a "doer" and goal-directed type, Threes focus on the task at hand and are energetic in working towards their goals. The adaptive Three is often referred to as the "chameleon" as they change their persona and adapt their role, behaviour, communication and presentation to suit the audience they are trying to impress. The competitiveness of the Three will come to the fore at work and in recreational activities. Some Threes are very drawn to activities that allow for individual competition and achievement, while more social Threes are drawn to winning teams. In a team environment, the Threes may find themselves drawn to leadership roles and others are likely to experience them as very energetic and confident. They dress for success and will make sure that the way they look serves their purpose, ambitions and audience.

Typical Thinking Patterns:

Threes are likely to be very adept at framing mistakes and failures as "learning opportunities", allowing them to quickly move on from these failures rather than dwelling on them and taking the setbacks personally. They find it easy to connect to data that supports their point of view, while other information will quickly fade away. As an intellectually calculating individual, the Three's mental energy is focused on their goals and what it takes to achieve them. Their thought processes are likely to be quick, enabling them to adapt to changing situations rapidly. Threes frequently "assess" or read the situation to ensure that they are acting, engaging and communicating in a way that will enhance the chances of success. The Three's competitiveness is linked to their habit of mentally comparing themselves to others, leading to feelings of being better than or worse than others. Threes tend to over-identify with their work, whether that work is corporate, parenting or creative, to the point that what they do defines who they are.

Typical Feeling Patterns:

Threes are good at detaching from their emotions, to prevent feelings getting in the way of achievement. They prefer to set emotions aside and will seldom have any time for self-reflection or talking about feelings, especially feelings that relate to anxiety, sadness and fear. While sad and anxious feelings are present in the Three, they find it easier to connect to frustration and anger. Threes are unwilling to risk the good opinion of influential people and so if the people involved are key to success, the Three will struggle to fully connect to these frustrations. A lot of a Three's feeling Center will focus on how other people are reacting to them. Their optimism is projected outwardly, but on the inside Threes may be feeling more distrustful than their positive behaviour reveals to others. Projecting confidence is very important to Threes, who want to look confident and will mask feelings that may detract from this image. Others are therefore likely to experience Threes as unmoved, focused and even somewhat serious. Under continued pressure or when faced with the possibility of failure, Threes are, however, likely to become more short-tempered and snappy.

Blind Spots

  • Threes are very aware of presentation and image, and this can become self-deceptive when they start believing their own PR. In over-identifying with their public image, Threes may lose touch with who they really are and create confusion between the real self and their job or role in the world. Others may also tune into this, experiencing Threes as insincere, opportunistic and uncaring.
  • The Three finds it difficult to discuss negative issues and will often rush or dismiss such conversations. This will be particularly true if the criticism points towards mistakes and shortcomings.
  • Strong goal-orientation and drive may lead to others experiencing the Three as impatient, rushed and dismissive - behaviours which will be intensified when the Three is dealing with people that come across as incompetent and may make them "look bad".
  • A Three's confidence can be projected as certainty. Whereas certainty easily seems like a good thing, it can seem dismissive of alternative perspectives, thereby keeping people out of a conversation. It may decrease their openness to the Three's inputs, plans and goals.

Growth through the wings

Click below to explore the Wings

Type 3 Wing 2: Motivate others   Type 3 Wing 4: Show your emotions

Enneagram 3 Subtypes

The Enneagram Three's need for success is defined and expressed differently by the three different Subtypes.

Self Preservation
Self Preservation
Subtype Key:
Security (countertype)

This SP dominant instinct Three countertype dislike advertising their achievements, strengths and accomplishments overtly, and avoid being seen as image-oriented. In spite of this it is important to them to be recognised for their hard work and excellence. This subtype is reliable, efficient and productive and aspires to do the right thing. Their pursuit of material security and self-sufficiency through hard work may lead to workaholism.

(Sexual) Instinct
Subtype Key:

This charismatic and enthusiastic Three focuses their competitiveness on supporting others, seeing success in relational terms. They tend to believe 'if those around me achieve success, then I am successful' which may lead them to mistype as a Two. Personal power allows them to persuade others and shape the course of events. They tend to compete for the attention and affection of those closest to them, and may suppress their own feelings to make themselves more attractive to others. This character want to create the perfect image around gender identity and how they express themselves.

(Or Group) Instinct
Subtype Key:

The Social Three desires influence above all and tends to skillfully read and adjust to the social norms and requirements of teams or organizations. Highly competitive, good with image making, they enjoy being in the spotlight and confidently market their ideas, accomplishments and successful image. Looking good and successful is very important and they may cut corners or cover up failure, so long as the finished product makes them and their team look good.

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