TYPE THREE: The Achiever

If you are an Achiever, you are an energetic, adaptable and achievement-oriented personality with a strong belief that love and recognition are only for winners.

You habitually focus your attention on tasks, roles and image.

You tend to project any feelings of inadequacy onto others. These include idleness (wishing people would get moving and be productive), being a nobody, a failure, a rookie amateur… and you push these feelings about yourself out of your awareness. Your challenges include being overly competitive, overworked and impatient. 

You get a lot of approval for what you do and you spend time (consciously or unconsciously) presenting a particular persona which can change depending on the environment you are in and the people with whom you’re spending time. This is all done in service of connecting to others. You believe the persona you are projecting is who you really are which is self-deception of your own authentic self with feelings that can be messy. Ultimately, you discover all this doing and success orientation separates you from others who desire an authentic relationship with you.

Each Enneagram Type has its own idealization, avoidance and defense mechanism which holds the idealization “in place”. 


“I am successful. I am a winner.”



Identification; the unconscious modeling of one’s self upon another person. (What does a winner look like? How does a winner act? How do winners talk? What do they talk about?)

3s use identification as a gatekeeper to help avoid feelings of failure and maintain a successful self-image.


  • Moderate your pace. Notice what happens as you slow down.
  • Welcome feelings as normal even if they aren’t shiny and fast.

  • Understand that failure is a normal part of being human and not a disaster.

  • Notice how you place disproportionate attention on assumed “winners.” Remind yourself that most people are more than their medals or the things they reveal to the public.
  • Realize that real love is for you as a human being rather than for what you accomplish.
  • Many Threes tell me they can’t meditate. So, if you are working on becoming more mindful, begin by just slowing  down and taking a slow walk and looking around to appreciate what surrounds you.
  • Learn to listen without an agenda. Slow down and be curious about what is underneath what others may be saying. Be mindful of interrupting or finishing another’s sentences.
  • Practice self-compassion and self-forgiveness when you feel you have failed.


Authenticity; a state of being where you are not living for how you are viewed in the eyes of others. Your authentic self comes from the inside where your value is inherent and not dependent on what you compulsively DO.
Remember a time when you let go of all the DOING, you slowed down and were simply in the present moment without having to do anything to impress anyone else.

Feeling grateful for something helps keep our focus and energy on it.

This is helpful when working with the Enneagram because gratitude automatically shifts focus away from those things which habitually grab attention to perhaps more productive or nourishing things. Intentionally cultivating a gratitude practice is an excellent way to broaden our focus of attention.


Cultivate gratitude for anything that does not involve their effort to achieve: a sunny day, a beautiful moon, their child’s smile…


Threes expect recognition for a winning image and style.

Reinforce regard for the person, separate from what they do.

Expect intolerance and speed during difficulty or in the face of darker emotions.

Slowing down feels like failure.

Hold fast and be present when your 3’s genuine feelings emerge.

They get tenuous and confused.

Remember, while 3s avoid their feelings, they still are heart types and are looking for connection.

Time spent doing things together, laughing, driving or high energy activities are a way to connect. 

Expect 3s to tune out negative feedback, particularly if they don’t agree with it.

It’s helpful to reframe it as a growing experience.

Expect 3s to confuse ideas about emotion with authentic emotion.

Share how you feel.

When 3s are moving so fast (perhaps doing something productive as you try to have a conversation), share if you feel unimportant or worthy of some down time.

Don’t be surprised when you discover things about them which they never shared.

They may unconsciously withhold news about themselves or people important to them particularly if it holds a possibility of failure or doesn’t portray a good image.

Learning to recognize the patterns of type, accepting them with compassion and learning to relax them, brings us to the present moment where life can be experienced more fully. Recognizing these patterns in others helps us understand and relate to them.


Watch Leslie give a short introduction and explanation of Type Three, The Achiever:

Interested in learning how we can support you through Enneagram typing or coaching? Click here.

Sources: Helen Palmer; Bergamo Intentional Learning Community, Type Three panelists; Enneagram Studies in the Narrative Tradition

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