If You’re An ‘A -Type’, Consider Ditching These 5 Habits
What do you associate with an A-type personality? Probably traits like attention to detail, a planner, self-starter, meticulousness and ambition.
These are incredibly positive traits, but there is also a shadow side to being an A-Type, the main one being a desire to control everything in your world.
With control as your driving force, you develop habits along the way that are so ingrained that you don’t even notice them anymore. They are mind sneakers that can cloud your thinking and how you experience your days.
If you’re an A-type, ask yourself if these habits resonate with you, and if so, consider placing them under a microscope and see if they still serve you:
You want a return on every moment.
When you’re working, you seldom experience guilt because you can justify the time you put into the task. It’s the same with time spent on reading or activities that still relate to work– the time invested has a return, so you can do it guilt-free.
This thought process of needing a return on every moment of your day creates tension when you want to do something non-work related.
You feel stressed because there is an internal conflict about how you would love to spend your time and what you are actually allowing yourself to do. Think about a hobby you enjoy, like cycling or photography (or fill in the blank), but you’ve told yourself a story that you’re too busy to waste your time on it despite the fact it will bring you immense joy.
This mental tug of war then leaves you feeling more depleted with a growing sense of resentment. You develop this passive-aggressive approach to your life because you feel you’re being held back from what you love the most and can’t understand why you have no work/life harmony.
When you realise this is self-inflicted, you can begin to change it.
I remember agonising over spending time on a blogging course when I had so much other ‘real’ work to contend with. I had to sit in the discomfort of feeling like I was wasting time when in fact, I gained so much from doing it.
Exposure is the antidote to anxiety; spend time on something you love without a link to work and experience how much more fulfilled, energised and rejuvenated you feel. You discover that the return is your happiness, which is the ultimate investment.
You expect others to do it your way.
You’re a high performer, meaning you can take on a project and run with it from start to finish. Working with others can become challenging because you expect people to operate as you do, and you experience frustration when things don’t go according to your expectations.
How can you replace expectations for agreements to prevent the cycle of expectation, assumption and ultimately stress? Can you bring more empathy to the situation by viewing it through the other person’s lens? What could make it challenging for this person to complete the task — insufficient skills, a lack of information or underlying fears of judgement?
Be aware of how often you repeat the phrase ‘But they should know what to do by now’. Clearly, there is a disconnect so ask yourself if you’re creating a safe space for this person to tell you if they’re unsure or need some help.
When you can replace assumptions and expectations with communication, you no longer need to micromanage to maintain control over a situation and create a more enjoyable experience for everyone involved.
You move too fast.
Habits are not just behaviours but patterns of thinking. As an A-type, I know it’s time to slow down when my thinking begins to speed up, and I’m talking way into the future.
Even though planning is a positive trait, and you do it effortlessly, you can also cross the line and begin to ruminate over the plan playing it in your mind on repeat. You anticipate every possible scenario but tend to bring the worst one into the present and practice living it as if it’s happening. As Seneca says,
‘We suffer more in imagination than in reality’.
Whatever the specifics are for you, recognise when your mind goes into overdrive. Notice it and tell yourself to slow down. Take a breath and insert a pause so you can respond wisely rather than react thoughtlessly.
You want life to work on your timing plan.
Let’s take a lesson from nature; you can’t force plants to bloom until they’re ready. Winter won’t leave any earlier because you’re done with it.
Before I got engaged, I had raised the discussion about ensuring we’re on the same page and aligned on where we’re headed. This was the diplomatic way of making sure there would be a proposal down the line. After he assured me we were on the same page, I left it because I knew rushing him would be futile.
After our engagement, I learned that the ring had been in his bedside drawer for nine months at the time of that conversation. It was already in motion; I just didn’t know it.
Fast forward to our thirteenth year of marriage, this lesson has transformed how I view every aspect of my life.
When it comes to your goals and dreams, what if you told yourself, it’s already on its way? All you need to do is live your days to the fullest, not in the uncertainty and frustration of wanting to control every detail. The A-type in you wants exact dates, timings and explanations, but we can’t control the external circumstances nor rush life’s timing plan.
All you can control is taking action one micro win at a time in the direction of your goal, but you cannot control the outcome. If you are so rigid about what it needs to look like, you may miss the opportunity entirely because it didn’t fit your mould.
Replace the need for life to happen according to your timing plan with a willingness to let go of how and when it will arrive, and you will begin to experience a softening in all areas of your life. I don’t mean weakness or apathy but shifting from a firm grip around your days to a gentler one to allow life to unfold as it’s meant to because it works on its own timing plan, not yours.
You focus on the outcome.
I’m all for goal setting and achievement, but if you only pay attention to the outcome of your efforts and not the process, you may succeed but not feel fulfilled. Personal development expert, Tony Robbins, says success without fulfilment is the ultimate failure.
Where do you fill the well of fulfilment if it’s not in the actual attainment of the goal? The question to ask is, who are you becoming on route to the goal? Have you sacrificed your health, relationships and happiness when you achieve it or have you grown into the person worthy of the goal?
You may have missed the point if you don’t find joy and meaning in the day-to-day process. Are you growing, contributing, or using the challenge as fuel?
When I gave my TEDx talk in 2018, all I wanted was to get the script out of the way so I could focus on the stage performance. After draft 15, I began to resent the process because I believed it blocked me from the main goal — getting stage ready. After all, that’s where the glory lies (or so I believed at that time).
Fast forward to after the talk, which was fourteen minutes of polish. Afterwards, I felt pretty low and lost because I had emphasised the outcome and what it could mean for my career. Guess what — no one cared. It didn’t shift the needle to something life-changing. It’s a nice accolade, but I thought it would transform my world, and because I had placed so much emphasis on the result, it didn’t feel fulfilling.
After sitting with this feeling of loss, I realised it was my greatest gift. If I had gone from draft 1 to the stage, I would never have grown as I did and leant valuable lessons I still use today. As an A-type, my greatest gift in that journey was the realisation that the process was not in the way; it was the way.
As an A-type, the need to control is in your DNA. This article aims to bring awareness to when this habit can sabotage you rather than serving you.
When you find yourself moving into a place of contraction and stress, ask yourself if you may be placing too much emphasis on some of these habits:
- You want a return on every moment.
- You expect others to do it your way.
- You move too fast.
- You want life to work on your timing plan.
- You focus on the outcome.
The more self-awareness you can bring to your habits, the easier it is to change them. I’m not saying give up being an A-type because this is what has brought you to where you are now. To quote leadership coach Marshall Goldsmith:
‘What got you here won’t get you there’
The pathway forwards is remembering that no matter your external circumstances, you always have total power over your inner world.
Here’s to using your power for good,