The Enneagram Type Three personality – the Performer – endeavors to be successful as defined by their culture, family, and social sphere. They tend to be goal-oriented workaholics whose charm, ambition, energy, and competitive nature serve their need for personal advancement. While hardly lacking in self-confidence, they spend considerable energy to ensure their high regard by others.
Like Ones, Threes like to make progress toward goals using efficient, methodical systems and time tables. However, Threes aren’t encumbered by a rigid set of internal standards that constrain their ability to adapt to changing circumstances. Rather, their laser-like focus on the prize provides the impetus to do what they need to do and be who they need to be to attain it… all the while looking good.
People look up to Threes because of their self-assurance, charisma, and accomplishments. They’re natural-born leaders who enjoy motivating others. That being said, they’re not known for being “touchy-feely” types as emotional baggage can be a drag on performance.
When subject to the influence of the neighboring Two, Healthy Threes become the Charmer. They’re spontaneous, outgoing, vivacious, friendly, helpful, and generous. They retain their need for achievement and public approval but suppress those qualities that might interfere with their desirability.
When subject to the influence of the neighboring Four, Healthy Threes become the Professional. They endeavor to do outstanding work and put their integrity on the line for each project they undertake. These Threes tend to take on a more serious, task-oriented air and may be deemed pretentious or arrogant.
Threes are also influenced by their dominant instinct:
- Self-Preservation Threes work hard to attain a level of success that provides for their material security and stability. While they appreciate recognition for their achievements, they put more faith in the quality of their work and the efficiency with which they prosecute it.
- One-to-One Threes place greater emphasis on their personal appeal than their worldly success. They want to be desired and admired by important others; they take great pride in having an alluring mate to show off. To that end, One-to-One Threes are as invested in their physical packaging as they are in their personal and intellectual competencies.
- Social Threes are status seekers who bask in the limelight and pine for influence and applause. For them, pedigrees and credentials matter as do neighborhoods, cars, social circles, and designer labels. They are great image makers and networkers.
While all of that external focus can pay dividends in terms of personal advancement, it can have a deleterious impact on Threes. Their chameleon nature can cause them to lose sight of who they really are or what they really want. They can become slaves to the images that they’re trying to maintain. They can also be so caught up in work that they fail to make time for restorative activities and authentically intimate relationships.
Under stress, Threes may adopt characteristics of an Unhealthy Nine. They shut down and numb out in response to the relentless pursuit of success. While maintaining an outward appearance of busyness, their attention may be drawn to unimportant tasks. They may also get caught up in a fantasy world surrounding their next big success and put pressing concerns on hold until that day dawns.
The antidote to stress lies in developing the capacity to recognize when you’re living into a false image of yourself rather than speaking and acting authentically. That level of clarity can be attained by taking time to relax and allow for thoughtful reflection on what is really going on. It’s also supported by cultivating trusted relationships that welcome forthright communication. Body, mind, and spirit may also profit from mediation… if you can train yourself to sit still long enough to harvest the benefit!
Threes find strength in movement toward a Healthy Six. From this position, Threes discover the voice of their inner guidance and gain the courage to embody their true nature. They commit to projects and relationships that hold personal significance irrespective of public opinion.
I encountered a lot of Three energy during my graduate studies in business and my career. In fact, I thought that I might be a Self-Preservation Three given the fervor with which I pursued my professional assignments. As such, I have a clear appreciation for the drive toward achievement and the personal cost that it extracts. Mercifully, I’ve had the freedom to step off the treadmill and find more fulfilling means of self-expression… and, dare I say, “success.”