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Why You Need to Understand and Accept Your Productive Type A Tendencies

Why You Need to Understand and Accept Your Productive Type A Tendencies

Are Type A tendencies all bad? If you have ever been accused of having a Type A personality you may cringe at the memory. However, there is good news. Fresh research shows there are a few traits you may want to adopt, even if you are not a classic Type A, if you hope to be hyper-productive.

Being called a Type A personality is usually not a compliment. After all, the term was coined in the 1950s by two cardiologists, Drs. Meyer Friedman and Ray Rosenman, who were pooling the traits shared by their cardiac patients, inspired by the nervous energy displayed in their waiting rooms. (They wore out the seats in the same impatient way.) These doctors noticed this and other similarities and together forged a breakthrough hypothesis for leading indicators of the disease.

However, there’s a new interpretation on the scene. The simplistic link between Type A behaviors and cardiac arrest has been shaken and a more nuanced picture has emerged. It’s simply the difference between causation and correlation – just because people who have a disease tend to drive cars, for example, doesn’t mean that driving a car causes the disease.

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There is actually a kind of Type A Behavior that is positive, while many others remain negative. Based on my review of the latest research literature, I have broken down and re-grouped these behaviors into three typical personalities so they can be more clearly understood, separated and managed.

Negative Traits

Type A Emotives
These are anxious, impatient people who display a certain hostility when they don’t get their way in life. They often experience high stress which affects the lives others: the kind of negativity which leads to the cardiac issues Friedman and Rosenman were looking for.

Many have ulcers, chew their food too fast and spend a lot of time shouting angrily in order to “motivate” others. They are easy to recognize (and avoid) but don’t see any problem with their way of doing business. Of course, they often pay the price.

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Type A Competitives
These obnoxious types are often bullies who induce stress in other people. Winning is most important to them– oftentimes, no matter what. They believe that “losers” are to be avoided. They love to keep score in public so that others can know how well they are doing.

These types rise quickly in companies, but often lose out when they continue to compete with their own subordinates even after they have “arrived.” The teamwork that’s so critical to success eludes them, which is why they often indulge in triathlons, marathons and other extreme, individual sports. Even when there is no competition, they’ll create one.

Positive Traits

Type A Productives

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These are time-conscious individuals who tend to be highly organized. They drive themselves hard, often ignoring their discomfort in order to produce results. Over-commitment is a reality as they believe in their power to adapt… with their high energy, they usually do so effectively. They are improvement-minded and are always looking for ways to get better using the latest technology and ideas — whatever may help them finish quickly… assignments, long articles and other people’s sentences.

While the definitions of these three types were originally bundled into a single whole, it’s better for us to understand them separately. Doing so allows us to accept and nurture our Type A Productive side while managing and mitigating our tendency to engage in the other two traits.

The fact is, Type A’s teach themselves to be as productive as they develop, starting in their teens when they begin seeing their efficiency as a tool to accomplish results. It’s the reason they love self-improvement opportunities: these are all the better for expanding their capacity to deliver in all areas of life.

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Of the three styles, Type A Productives run the highest risk of being misunderstood. The reason? They usually have at least a small slice of the two negative types as well, causing other to dismiss their attempts to be more productive. Unfortunately, the baby (high productivity) is often thrown out with the bathwater (stressful competitiveness).

If you have even a few Type A tendencies you don’t need lose the support and admiration of others. Keep on pushing for hero-level productivity, even as you amp up your interpersonal skills. Take the accusation of being a Type A personality for what it can be… a compliment.

Featured photo credit: imcreator.com via imcreator.com

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Francis Wade

Author, Management Consultant

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Last Updated on July 17, 2019

The Science of Setting Goals (And How It Affects Your Brain)

The Science of Setting Goals (And How It Affects Your Brain)

What happens in our heads when we set goals?

Apparently a lot more than you’d think.

Goal setting isn’t quite so simple as deciding on the things you’d like to accomplish and working towards them.

According to the research of psychologists, neurologists, and other scientists, setting a goal invests ourselves into the target as if we’d already accomplished it. That is, by setting something as a goal, however small or large, however near or far in the future, a part of our brain believes that desired outcome is an essential part of who we are – setting up the conditions that drive us to work towards the goals to fulfill the brain’s self-image.

Apparently, the brain cannot distinguish between things we want and things we have. Neurologically, then, our brains treat the failure to achieve our goal the same way as it treats the loss of a valued possession. And up until the moment, the goal is achieved, we have failed to achieve it, setting up a constant tension that the brain seeks to resolve.

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Ideally, this tension is resolved by driving us towards accomplishment. In many cases, though, the brain simply responds to the loss, causing us to feel fear, anxiety, even anguish, depending on the value of the as-yet-unattained goal.

Love, Loss, Dopamine, and Our Dreams

The brains functions are carried out by a stew of chemicals called neurotransmitters. You’ve probably heard of serotonin, which plays a key role in our emotional life – most of the effective anti-depressant medications on the market are serotonin reuptake inhibitors, meaning they regulate serotonin levels in the brain leading to more stable moods.

Somewhat less well-known is another neurotransmitter, dopamine. Among other things, dopamine acts as a motivator, creating a sensation of pleasure when the brain is stimulated by achievement. Dopamine is also involved in maintaining attention – some forms of ADHD are linked to irregular responses to dopamine.[1]

So dopamine plays a key role in keeping us focused on our goals and motivating us to attain them, rewarding our attention and achievement by elevating our mood. That is, we feel good when we work towards our goals.

Dopamine is related to wanting – to desire. The attainment of the object of our desire releases dopamine into our brains and we feel good. Conversely, the frustration of our desires starves us of dopamine, causing anxiety and fear.

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One of the greatest desires is romantic love – the long-lasting, “till death do us part” kind. It’s no surprise, then, that romantic love is sustained, at least in part, through the constant flow of dopamine released in the presence – real or imagined – of our true love. Loss of romantic love cuts off that supply of dopamine, which is why it feels like you’re dying – your brain responds by triggering all sorts of anxiety-related responses.

Herein lies obsession, as we go to ever-increasing lengths in search of that dopamine reward. Stalking specialists warn against any kind of contact with a stalker, positive or negative, because any response at all triggers that reward mechanism. If you let the phone ring 50 times and finally pick up on the 51st ring to tell your stalker off, your stalker gets his or her reward, and learns that all s/he has to do is wait for the phone to ring 51 times.

Romantic love isn’t the only kind of desire that can create this kind of dopamine addiction, though – as Captain Ahab (from Moby Dick) knew well, any suitably important goal can become an obsession once the mind has established ownership.

The Neurology of Ownership

Ownership turns out to be about a lot more than just legal rights. When we own something, we invest a part of ourselves into it – it becomes an extension of ourselves.

In a famous experiment at Cornell University, researchers gave students school logo coffee mugs, and then offered to trade them chocolate bars for the mugs. Very few were willing to make the trade, no matter how much they professed to like chocolate. Big deal, right? Maybe they just really liked those mugs![2]

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But when they reversed the experiment, handing out chocolate and then offering to trade mugs for the candy, they found that now, few students were all that interested in the mugs. Apparently the key thing about the mugs or the chocolate wasn’t whether students valued whatever they had in their possession, but simply that they had it in their possession.

This phenomenon is called the “endowment effect”. In a nutshell, the endowment effect occurs when we take ownership of an object (or idea, or person); in becoming “ours” it becomes integrated with our sense of identity, making us reluctant to part with it (losing it is seen as a loss, which triggers that dopamine shut-off I discussed above).

Interestingly, researchers have found that the endowment effect doesn’t require actual ownership or even possession to come into play. In fact, it’s enough to have a reasonable expectation of future possession for us to start thinking of something as a part of us – as jilted lovers, gambling losers, and 7-year olds denied a toy at the store have all experienced.

The Upshot for Goal-Setters

So what does all this mean for would-be achievers?

On one hand, it’s a warning against setting unreasonable goals. The bigger the potential for positive growth a goal has, the more anxiety and stress your brain is going to create around it’s non-achievement.

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It also suggests that the common wisdom to limit your goals to a small number of reasonable, attainable objectives is good advice. The more goals you have, the more ends your brain thinks it “owns” and therefore the more grief and fear the absence of those ends is going to cause you.

On a more positive note, the fact that the brain rewards our attentiveness by releasing dopamine means that our brain is working with us to direct us to achievement. Paying attention to your goals feels good, encouraging us to spend more time doing it. This may be why outcome visualization — a favorite technique of self-help gurus involving imagining yourself having completed your objectives — has such a poor track record in clinical studies. It effectively tricks our brain into rewarding us for achieving our goals even though we haven’t done it yet!

But ultimately, our brain wants us to achieve our goals, so that it’s a sense of who we are that can be fulfilled. And that’s pretty good news!

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Featured photo credit: Alexa Williams via unsplash.com

Reference

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