Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Exploring Personality: Part Five -- "I'm the best there is at what I do."

"Recognition is the greatest motivator."

Preface: Enneagram types 2, 3, and 4 make up the emotional triad of the enneagram chart. These three types both act on and react to the world based on how they feel. Decisions are emotion-based and relationships are of primary importance. These three types also tend to be preoccupied with success and status or success as in how it relates to status. These are the romantic, love-is-all-you-need people.

The Achiever

Last post (in this series) we were talking about those people that get involved in everything because they want to help. Now, we move on to those people that get involved in everything because they want to be in charge. Not that being in charge is goal; they just want to be as successful as possible, which usually ends with them being in charge. This is that person you knew in high school who was student council president... and president of the honor society... probably captain of the sportsball team... and, maybe, even captain of the debate team. All of that and a 4.0 GPA to boot. None of these things is because the person is more talented than other people or smarter than other people but because the person is more driven to succeed. The classic example of the overachiever.

Meet Type Three: the Achiever.

Achievers derive their sense of worth from being successful. Or, rather, through the admiration they receive from their success. They are driven to surpass those around them in whatever field or arena they're in. They need to be the best. As such, their image becomes an all-encompassing thing for them. Status becomes an obsession.

Achievers are almost always extroverts. They thrive on attention and admiration, and those things can be difficult for introverts to deal with (who certainly don't develop lifestyles of attention-seeking behavior). But Achievers, unconsciously, look for those things that will bring them the most attention. And they're going to look good doing it. They're good at social situations, often charismatic, and adept at getting into the spotlight.

However, their drive for accolades causes them to lose touch with themselves. Of the three emotional types, Threes, so focused on what they need to do to get others to notice them, forget about themselves. From a young age, Threes become inherently good at figuring out what those around them esteem and pursuing those activities. Even if those things are not things they care about or have any aptitude for. For instance, a very academically oriented child may take up a sport (like football) and focus on getting good at that one thing if that is the thing his father holds as valuable. Or a girl may grow up trying to be as boyish as possible to please a father who wanted a son. Generally, by the time Achievers have reached adulthood, they have completely lost touch with the things they were naturally drawn to as children.

At their heart, Threes feel or fear they are worthless. This is the motivation to success and validation. If they receive external validation, it submerges their internal fears. It also submerges their internal desires and can result in "relationships" (including marriage) that only exist to meet external "demands" of success, i.e. "I must have a spouse who is attractive and/or wealthy."

Generally speaking, Achievers are decisive. They know what they need to do to get ahead in any situation. However, put them in unfamiliar surroundings and they can lose the ability to make decisions. If they can't see or feel their way to success in the new environment, they can relinquish their ability to make decisions to those around them, going along with the popular or most forceful opinion. Put into a situation where they can't rise to the top (because there are other more talented people around them), they can become vindictive and undermining, doing their best to sabotage the efforts of others and bring them down to their own level. Or just make them look bad.

When a Three is in a place of security, the Three knows he is valuable even in failure. They can become committed to others and inspire a desire to succeed in those around them. Threes can be very charismatic. Whereas an insecure Three may inspire loyalty from others due to their decisive, charismatic personality, a secure Three returns that loyalty and will strive to lift others up, not just stand on their shoulders.

Just as a note, the Three is also known as The Performer, but that is not meant in an entertainment kind of way (even though many Three do become entertainers of various types). It is meant in the way that Threes must perform at high levels due to their internal motivation to succeed.


  1. Wow! I am finding this all fascinating, Andrew!!! Fascinating. I wish I could say I was a Helper, but after reading this, I have A LOT of Achiever attributes. This has got me pegged. I totally base so much of my self worth on whether or not I'm successful… I know in my brain this is wrong, but it's totally how I think!

  2. I like to achieve, but I'm an introvert and actually tested as a One. Is that still the loneliest number? ;)
    Great series, Andrew!

  3. Reminds me of Dead Poet's Society. You do meet people who seek that outside validation at the expense of their own interests and ideals. And I imagine we're all a combination of these personalities to a degree.

  4. Morgan: Well, if you are a Three, you could be a Three with a Two (Helper) wing. The wings inform the main personality. I'm not going to spend much time talking about wings, because that would just be too much info.

    Sandra: Ones achieve for a different reason than Threes. It all goes back to core motivation, which is what I like about the Enneagram. I'll get to the Ones... eventually.

    L.G.: There is a bit of overlap in some of these, but I think you'll see as we go along that there will be types where you will be, "That is just not me."

  5. These are excellent pieces. I feel like I should have them cut and pasted to look at while I write stories.

  6. So, I went back to your last post and it was like reading about me. Let me clarify. The "old" me who used to do everything for everybody. I said yes to extra projects at work, I volunteered to cook for the weekly meeting way too much. I had zero self-esteem and that made me feel better about myself. My boundaries sucked. Now, they are much better. Unless it's my kids…that I need to work on. The current article reminds me of my brother. Nuff said about that.

  7. Briane: Well, I'm not stopping you.

    Elsie: Being in a negative place (like low self-esteem) can certainly highlight our personalities.