Values are the guiding principles by which we live or, at least, they are aspirations that help us align our actions with our principles. Without values, we would be living in an immoral or amoral world of interpersonal confusion and existential chaos. At the same time, too strong an adherence to our values can create a counter-effect of personal and interpersonal difficulties. And too strong an identification with these values keeps our type structures in place, thus inhibiting our growth potential.

Enneagram 3s emphasize three important values: competency, recognition and success. They often think or say the following: “People need to be effective in whatever they do.” “It’s important for people to receive acknowledgment and recognition for what they do.” “Success in whatever a person undertakes really matters; otherwise, why do it?” Enneagram 3s also take satisfaction in setting very clear goals; being able to quickly create effective and efficient paths for goal accomplishment; and being responsive and adaptive to a variety of different environments.

These three values – competency, recognition and success – support the Enneagram 3 “ego ideal” of being the “effective person,” a person who is capable to achieve whatever they set their minds to do . The “ego ideal,” according to Enneagram author and teacher Jerry Wagner, is the idealized self that people use as a positive definition of self, a partial answer to the question “Who am I?”

The issue is that while our type-based values are positive ones, we can hold onto these values so tightly and narrowly – after all, our idealized self depends on our firm belief in these principles – that these values can become impediments to our growth.


Skill, capability, proficiency, aptitude, expertise, and experience all contribute to helping an individual feel more empowered and self-confident. These very same characteristics, taken at the team, community, or global levels, contribute to increasing our effectiveness in organizations, families and even the pursuit of socially conscious endeavors. So what is the down side for Enneagram 3s? An extraordinary emphasis on competence has several non-useful results: 3s can falsely believe that their entire worth is based on feeling and being perceived as competent; 3s can devalue themselves and others when they do not appear optimally competent; and 3s feel they must prove their competence over and over again. The  price paid by 3s is exhaustion and a lack of self-valuing.


Recognition and acknowledgement from self and others feels good. There is, more often than not, a scarcity of positive reinforcement, as people look to fix what is broken rather than to affirm what is working well. However, here are some of the challenges 3s experience from being so focused on recognition: 3s become dependent on the perceptions and responses of others for their sense of self-value rather than finding this from within; 3s can lose touch with what they really want particularly if it doesn’t bring the external recognition to which they’ve become accustomed; and 3s can feel conflicted when they are interested in something that doesn’t bring with it external approval. Should they do it, should they not?


Feeling successful and working toward successful outcomes is something everyone benefits from being able to do. Our work lives and personal lives are often enriched by this ability. But sometimes 3s do this to an extreme, defining themselves as being of value when they can achieve and be successful, and defining themselves as failures when they cannot. In fact, not being successful, for 3s, is the equivalent to being a failure and being a failure is equivalent to having no value whatsoever. Feelings of failure can lead 3s into a deep hole of uncertainty, anxiety, lack of focus, and despair.


Values are the foundation of civil communities. Type-based values are organizing principles for people of each type. However, when our values are held too tightly, they limit our development.

Ginger Lapid-Bogda PhD, the author of seven Enneagram-business books, is a speaker, consultant, trainer, and coach. She provides certification programs and training tools for business professionals around the world who want to bring the Enneagram into organizations with high-impact business applications, and is past-president of the International Enneagram Association. Visit: |