We've come to associate sleepless nights, crammed schedules, and meals on the road or at our desks as some kind of accomplishment.
I assure you, as a recovering Type A, it's not.
I had no idea how bad I was until I met my husband, who prompted me to reexamine my priorities. Previously, I'd always taken a little bit of pride in people referring to me as "Type A."
Because Type A's get stuff done. They're leaders. They multitask. They are productive. They can respond to challenges with just the right amount of gumption and, in some cases, hostility.
There's been enough written about how Type B's can take cues from their Type A counterparts to make better use of their time, stick to a schedule, and juggle multiple tasks simultaneously.
Let's flip the assumption that more is more and instead suggest that Type B behaviors and thought patterns stand to be extremely beneficial for a Type A person's overall physical, mental, and emotional health.
Friedman & Rosenman (1959) (both cardiologists) found that people with type A personality run a higher risk of heart disease and high blood pressure than type Bs. Their theory was based on an observation of the patients with heart conditions in their waiting room.
Unlike most patients, who wait patiently, some people seemed unable to sit in their seats for long and wore out the chairs. They tended to sit on the edge of the seat and leaped up frequently.
What was unusual was that the chairs were worn down on the front edges of the seats and armrests instead of on the back areas, which would have been more typical. They were as tense as racehorses at the gate. The two doctors labeled this behavior type A personality.
The Problem With Being a Racehorse
Type A's derive satisfaction out of accomplishing a task. But the problem is, as soon as we've completed one task, that frees us up to worry about the next ten. There is no such thing as free time in a Type A's world.
What We Can Learn From Type B's
My friend strolled behind me and said, "Slow down. What are you doing?"
"WE'RE GOING TO BE LATE!" I explained, because, duh.
"Ok," he said. "Well, if we're already late, let's just get there when we get there."
I reluctantly slowed down, just a little. Get there when we get there. I ruminated on the idea of a life not ruled by clocks. It seemed impossible. Still, I trusted my friend. I resumed a normal, human pace. We got there when we got there. Nobody cared. Nobody noticed.
Slow Down To Enjoy More
He still does things like insist we pull over on the side of a busy highway to check out a cool sunset or rock formation. In fact, when he proposed on top of Phoenix's Camelback Mountain, he first pulled me off to a quiet spot by saying, "Let's go look over there for a minute." I honestly thought he wanted to show me a bug or something.
My husband is impressed by my ability to guess the time, sometimes to the exact minute, based on my feeling of how much time has passed since I've last looked at a clock.
But I am impressed by (and envious of) his ability to stay present in an activity, or in a conversation, or with his work, and lose himself so completely that he will emerge two hours later and apologize for being gone for what he perceives as 10 minutes.
Conversely, Type B's are less fettered by the logistics and more inclined to just try something. They aren't worrying if it will conflict with something else on their schedule or how it will appear to their boss or if it requires taking some time off of work. They try new things for the sake of doing them.
Other Personality Types
Certain individuals trigger something competitive in us, while others make us happy to be flexible and agreeable. Maybe you are Type A at work, but have a messy desk in your home office.
The takeaway point is that despite our reification of "busy = good," evidence suggests that hyper-productivity does nothing for our long-term happiness and health.
So the next time you're whiteknuckling the steering wheel in traffic, passing all the slow drivers, just remember: You'll get there when you get there.