Enneagram Three: The Achiever


Mar 1

The Three is motivated by a desire to impress others and gain influence, and fears being seen as worthless.

Welcome to part three of the Enneagram series! If you are a Type Three (like me!), this post is meant to offer some clarity into your personality and ideas for improving your work life. If you are not a Type Three, chances are you know one. My hope is that this gives you greater compassion and appreciation for the Achievers in your life.

In this series, we will be heavily referencing The Modern Enneagram, which was one of the options for #dropcapbookclub on Instagram. Because the votes were tied, we will be going through Gary Vaynerchuk’s Crushing It in book club, but I will be doing this blog series on the Enneagram for those of you who want to learn more about this wonderful personality tool. You can grab a copy of The Modern Enneagram on Amazon, which will give you additional thoughts and insights into your type and how it plays with others.

We’re going to focus on each personality in the context of a work environment. Our lives are incredibly complex, and The Modern Enneagram explores family dynamics, romantic relationships, and personal development, but we won’t be exploring those issues in this series.

In each type’s post, you’ll learn:




The Modern Enneagram starts with a story of “Julia” (who is a Type Seven) and I found it extremely helpful in understanding how the Enneagram model might be applied to a real person. So let’s start with our own story of a fictional Type Three named Claire. Keep in mind that the point of this story is to notice the patterns of motivation, not the specific circumstances or behavior.

“Claire is a 23-year-old professional ballerina living in New York City. She enjoys the ability to perform for a living and spends her time off-stage teaching pilates classes and building her personal brand by recording and selling at-home barre workouts.”

We’ll use Claire as an example of a Type Three as we dive into the deeper personality and core motivations of this type.

artwork by Elicia Edijanto

artwork by Elicia Edijanto

Core Motivation

Motivation – motivated by a desire to impress others and gain influence

Basic Fear – fear of being worthless

“Claire thrives as an ambitious performer and online entrepreneur. As a child, she quickly realized that she had a passion and particular talent for dance, which quickly turned into an obsession. She spent hours cutting out photos of dancers and the beautiful cities they performed in, begging her mom to take her to see performances on the weekends. She was extremely committed and disciplined as she learned the art and technique of classical dance, showing up early to her studio and staying long after the other dancers had left. She was hard on herself, but knew that her dream was to be the best and to one day dance with the troupes she had always admired. When she was finally able to move to the Big City to pursue her dream, she threw herself completely into her work, finding new opportunities to advance in her career. As a performer she is able to enchant her audience, but she also enjoys the ability to inspire others through her online business for at-home barre workouts.”

Claire’s Unfolding Story

“Claire’s motivation makes her an excellent dancer and inspiring teacher. She works harder than anyone else and always has a smile on her face. She contributes to the energy of their performances and is dedicated to the troupe’s growth and improvement, knowing exactly how to speak to the potential in others.

When Claire feels successful, she radiates optimism and seems to have endless energy to push herself further. She is the first to offer to step in when there’s a problem, or solve a difficult challenge. Others admire how she naturally steps into a leadership role and encourages others in their own progress and performance. She is popular among the other dancers and has easily built an online following.

However, at the first sign of a failure or mistake, Claire can slip into an average or unhealthy state. Because she is so hard on herself and committed to exuding a persona of grace and excellence, she often experiences deep shame when her attempts are not successful or others notice her stress and frustration. Claire desires the admiration of others, and is afraid that if she shows any sign of weakness, she will be replaced. She worries that she will be humiliated and cast out if she does not meet the expectations of others.

If left unchecked, Claire can become opportunistic and deceptive. Determined to hide her failures, she may take shortcuts and sabotage others so that she can stay on top. As it becomes harder to maintain the image she has built for herself, she will become jealous of others’ happiness and successes. She’ll begin to put others down to feel better about herself. This fixation on the competition will leave her feeling worthless and shameful.


In states of stress, Threes take on the characteristics of an unhealthy and apathetic Type Nine. Fearing potential failure and humiliation, Threes can become highly anxious and isolate from those who are able to give them support and helpful feedback.

When stress progresses, they become opportunistic. They covet others’ success and work harder to maintain their facade and perception of success.

how to counteract stress for a type three

1. Be honest with yourself and others about your genuine feelings and needs.

“When Claire experiences failure (or perceived failure), she takes a moment to write down what she is feeling in that moment and then she calls her best friend to share her mistakes and embarrassments, being careful not to exaggerate. She knows that the most important thing is to honestly identify negative self-talk instead of suppressing thoughts of inadequacy into her subconscious where they will be rewritten and overlooked.”

2. Pause in your busy day to connect with someone you care about.

“Claire’s drive and ambition can cause her to become self-absorbed. She now makes it a point to regularly connect with her friends and family, even if it means she has to say no to a personal opportunity. She knows that it is healthy for her to be in community with people who know and love her, no matter if she is successful or not. She also celebrates the accomplishments of others, but not so far as to try to gain attention for herself.”

3. Take breaks.

“Claire can often feel the pressure to continue to do more, even when she really needs a break. Her inner critic never feels like she has done enough, so she has a hard time knowing when to stop. Now, she knows the best way to put her ambition in the back seat is to schedule frequent times to rest and reflect on what she has accomplished, even the small victories. The moments of pausing allow her to regain perspective and adopt a hopeful outlook.”

4. Become involved in projects that do nothing to advance your personal goals.

“By adopting a philanthropic passion, Claire is able to see her role in the world as more than her personal ambition. When she feels drained and overcome by the pressures of performing and achieving, she is able to take comfort in knowing that she is more than her records of accomplishment, and see that there are more important issues than how she is being perceived.”

5. Discover your own core values and resist doing what is “acceptable” just to be accepted.

“Claire now takes time to discover what she truly values, outside of the expectations and pressure from others. She regularly writes down a list of dreams and ideas that she feels a personal connection to, making sure that she is a building a life she wants, and not just a life that others want for her.”

Work Environment

The most important thing for a Type Three to experience at work is opportunity. As a Type Three entrepreneur, it is crucial that you have a clear understanding of your ultimate mission and short-term goals so that you can identify the difference between essential and non-essential opportunities. Here are three other ideas for incorporating your Type Three strengths in your business:

  1. Focus on investing in meaningful work. Honor your integrity, and be true to yourself by recognizing your own interests and being selective in your commitments. Prioritize personal fulfillment over cheap recognition and people-pleasing.

  2. Consider taking time away. As a Three, you are prone to burnout. Consider how you might manage your capacity and avoid spreading yourself too thin. You may be able to restructure your business to allow for seasons (or days) of focused engagement and restful retreat.

  3. Lead with connection. One of your greatest strengths as a Type Three is your charm and the ability to speak to the potential in others, understanding exactly what they want from you. Communicate to your customers and clients that your personal relationship is an important part of your brand’s experience.

“When we first met Claire, she was an ambitious performer and successful entrepreneur, who loved pushing herself to accomplish more. Her work ethic and optimism were an inspiration to her troupe and the customers who purchased her programs. As a professional performer, Claire was frequently able to celebrate her achievements and gain recognition for her efforts. However, the pressure of living up to the expectations of others was a constant source of fear. When she began to feel that she was failing others and making too many mistakes, she would spiral into jealousy and shame, taking shortcuts to save her reputation.

By gaining a deeper understanding of herself and how she handles stress, Claire will not only be an inspiring leader in her troupe, but lead a more balanced life. When she is able to reign in her ambition, she will understand the importance of patience, and doing things the right way, even if it’s a difficult or long road to success. By prioritizing her community and personal relationships, she now has a safe place to honestly own her mistakes and acknowledge her unfulfilled dreams and desires. She will make her greatest contribution when she commits to a unified mission and is able to work alongside those she cares about for a cause that is bigger than herself.

Although Claire will struggle with comparison her entire life, she will begin to experience the peace and contentment that comes from being truly known and valued. She is constantly working to keep her ambition from driving her life and allow others to see her messy parts. She recognizes that change takes time. Instead of focusing on her failures, she now takes time to celebrate her progress, honestly share what’s going on, and shift her focus away from herself to support and connect with others. She has found that by sharing the good and the bad, others tend to draw even closer to her and admire her resilience.

It turns out that her greatest strength is her ability to see the potential in all things and speak to the desires of others. By honestly owning her story and letting people see who she really is, she has now created an opportunity to be recognized for the very things she can never lose.

“How do you like this new series? Do you identify as an Enneagram Type Three? Comment below with your own story!”

If you enjoy learning more about the Enneagram and are curious about how to lead with your personality in your business, you may enjoy participating in our Enneagram for Entrepreneurs course. Click the link below to find out more!

Read or leave a comment 





Leave a Reply

  1. Julissa says:

    Loving this series! I already sent the link of the perfectionist to my sister in law and she replied to me almost crying because she thought it was so her it was scary!
    I’m in between number 4 and 3! I took your test and it said number 3, but I can’t shake the feeling that I have number 4 as well… I guess I’ll see soon enough!

    Thank you for doing this <3

    • Kadie Smith says:

      I love this! Well, we didn’t get into it on this series, but everyone has a wing of one of the numbers on either side, which means you’re probably a 3, wing 4 or a 4, wing 3. A great way to determine between the two is to think about how you approach emotions! I would read Susan Stabile’s ‘Road Back to You.’ I think it will be helpful!

  2. Max says:

    Hi, I’m an enneagram 3w4. Just wanted to let you know that this has been one of the best articles I’ve ever read about enneagram 3. And I’ve read a lot, lol.