Just Back Off Type-A, Or Else!

Maturity (old age) brings with it wisdom. Often we find ourselves needing wisdom much earlier in our life to protect us. Sometimes wisdom comes to us and we don't see the value in it until it is too late.

Researching as I have over the last 15 years as to why I went mad, I found that there are many factors involved in 'burnout'. I discovered for me a major factor was my Type-'A' personality. 

I was a typical Type-A guy who had the three common traits; competitiveness, time urgency and hostility. Throw into the mix perfectionism and that equals a high tendency towards burnout and depression.

Here's what I try to do more of these days to successfully avoid going down a path that leads to nothing but darkness;

Competitiveness - I am still very competitive in my business, doing everything that I can to provide the best service possible to my clients and to promote my work. I still work long hours, keeping busy, continually looking for that additional edge that I can offer.

But this time I compete with myself instead of those around me. Previously I competed with those around me and I would do whatever it took to succeed. I simply wanted to beat them. If I did not 'win' in the competition, I felt terrible and self-deprecated for days or weeks afterwards.

Now if I do not succeed as I thought I should have (and it is just that, my own thoughts) I dismiss it and move on to the next challenge. There are plenty of challenges to take up my time without adding regret into the mix.

Time Urgency - I wanted to be the best, to be number one, and to get there immediately. As a builder I had to be the best tradesman, then as a construction foreman I had to be the one who was admired, then as a cop I wanted fast promotion, then as a Detective I had to get to Detective Inspector rank, and as a crisis negotiator I had to be the National Advisor. No matter what I did I had to get to the top as fast as I could.

Once I got what I wanted I never took the time enjoy the moment, I moved quickly on to the next desire. "What's the next move up from here and how fast can I get there?" I would ask myself. And when I didn't get there within a short timeframe I held jealousy foremost in my mind for those who got there first.

These days I know that there is no such need for urgency. It will happen when the time is right, when I have learned enough, when I am ready.

Perfectionism - I have always wanted to do everything just right, and to an extent I still do. I still give everything to be at my very best and if someone feels it is not quite good enough or isn't what they wanted, I change to what they want. 

I now know that perfectionism is a self-assessment. What is the very best in my view may not be good enough from another's viewpoint. I will give 100% and know that I have done all that I can. If it is not up to my standard and I can't do anything about it to get it there then I move on.

Hostility - Research tells us that Type-A's often display high levels of anger, envy and a lack of compassion. The first two were certainly the case for me, compassion is something that my mother gave to me and for which I am very grateful to her. 

Previously I often displayed anger. When I feel anger swelling inside I now take a long, slow, deep, quiet breath and once I have filled my lungs completely I count to five while holding my breath.

Anger starts with a psychological reaction which leads to a physiological reaction. The quickest way to overcome this is to use a physiological (deep breath and hold) and psychological (counting inside my head) response.

Saying ‘No’ – I added this one into the mix because I found that I was unable to say ‘no’. Because of this I was always busy, both at work and at home. I will never be able to say ‘no’, I know that. I want (need) to be busy, I want to help, and I want to succeed.

Now I say ‘no’ by reducing the things that aren’t so important. Home and work will always be important to me and will always come first, in that order.

But now I spend less time trying to fit so much into every day. The lawns can wait, that car needn’t be pristine, I don’t need to run 10 kilometres each day, I can phone someone instead of sending an email, I can take 30 minutes out between business meetings.

I wish I was this wise when I was much younger, but then I guess I would never have learned so much about myself.