Type A personalities are known for their fiery ambition, perfectionism, competitiveness, and go-getter attitudes. Yet, research shows they can often struggle with stress and anxiety, aggressive communication, and relationship troubles.
Use these 7 actionable tips to optimize your Type A personality so you can be unstoppable at work while maintaining balance in your personal life.
What is a Type A Personality?
“Type A” personalities are strong-willed, fast-moving, dominant, and often workaholics. People also refer to this personality as “The Achiever” or “The Director” because they make excellent leaders, entrepreneurs, and politicians.
Positive Type A personality traits include:
- Ambitious and work-focused
- Natural leaders
- Competitive and high achieving
- Passionate; often fiery
- High energy and fast-moving lifestyle
- Focused and dedicated
- Determined and strong-willed
Nonetheless, Type A’s—like all of us— have a range of weaknesses that take a bit of work to overcome.
Negative Type A personality characteristics include:
- Workaholics who often place careers before relationships or struggle with work-life balance
- High levels of job stress or interpersonal tension
- Inflexibility (“my way or the highway”)
- Tendency toward perfectionism
- Aggressive communicators who may be bad at expressing emotions
- Associate their sense of self-worth with their achievements
- May get bored easily
Below are 7 survival tips for optimizing your Type A personality and overcoming common Type A challenges.
Type A vs. Type B vs. Type C vs. Type D Personalities
There are dozens of personality theories and behavior patterns explaining people’s unique character traits and dispositions. For example, this personality quiz can help you find where you rank on the big 5 personality traits.
Types A, B, C, and D offer yet another way to understand how different types of people interact in the world.
This personality model started when the “Type A” personality was first defined by cardiologists Meyer Friedman and Ray Rosenman in the 1950s. They found that this high-stress archetype was more prone to heart disease and stress-related health issues
Although this became a debunked theory due to inconsistencies in the data potential and purported funding from the tobacco industry, psychologists took hold of the “Type A” personality concept. They defined its opposite as “Type B.”
But just like introversion versus extroversion over-simplifies social preferences, Type A versus Type B archetypes don’t tell us the whole story.
Modern perspectives have removed the dichotomy of the two altogether. The prevailing personality theory has expanded to include Type A, B, C, and D personalities, which stand for:
- A= Achiever aka “The Director”
- B= Balanced aka “The Socializer”
- C= Creative aka “The Thinker”
- D= Distressed aka “The Supporter”
Keep in mind that these are generalizations and all personalities exist on a spectrum:
|Personality Characteristics||Type A (Achievers)||Type B (Balanced)||Type C (Creatives)||Type D (Distressed)|
|Nickname||“The Director”||“The Socializer”||“The Thinker”||“The Supporter”|
|Career Focus||Workaholic (highly competitive and ambitious)||Procrastinator (less competitive and highly adaptable)||Hard-working perfectionists (excel at problem-solving)||Always working (love repetition and dislike change)|
|Stress Level||High stress and energetic||Low stress and easy-going||Careful, cautious, and low-stress||Routine-oriented and often anxious|
|Communication Style||Can be aggressive communicators (often talk more, listen less)||Fun-loving and even-tempered||Conscientious and rational communicators||Shy but compassionate and dependable|
|Social Style||Can be socially inhibited and bad at expressing emotions||Lover of people (highly extroverted); excels in relationships||Often more withdrawn||Avoid social interaction (often introverted)|
Thankfully, personality is never “set in stone.” Success at work or in life is not linked to one specific personality type but to finding the right niche for your personality.
In other words, it’s about playing to your strengths and changing your habits to meet your goals.
A large-scale 2017 study found that employees whose personality traits align with their job earn more than people in unsuitable positions. When comparing a Type A vs. Type B personality in the workplace, these results make perfect sense:
- Type A’s tend to thrive in a fast-paced, deadline-driven career. They are more likely to enjoy lots of responsibilities, communicating with a large team, and accomplishing goals.
- Type B’s enjoy a flexible job with a laid-back work environment. They are more likely to prioritize their creative “flow” time and connections with others.
So Type A’s fit the modern entrepreneur and C-level stereotype, but there are plenty of highly successful business people who are Type B, C, and D as well. The reality is that people are highly nuanced, and most of us can find relatable traits in all personality types.
4 Type-A Personality Examples
Thanks to their passionate appetite for success, Type A personalities are well-suited to life in the public eye. Many celebrities and entrepreneurs are easily recognizable as characteristic Type-A’s.
Who is the best example of a type-A personality?
- Gordon Ramsey: Known for his fiery temper and rapid pace in the kitchen, Gordon Ramsey is a notorious Type-A. He sets high standards and pushes people to their limits but is also highly successful and innovative in his field.
- Steve Jobs: The infamous founder of Apple was a born leader. Steve Jobs embodied the Type A personality with his quote, “stay hungry, stay foolish.” He was never satisfied and always striving for more. He loved taking charge and working toward lofty goals but was known for his abrasive personality and high expectations.
- Dwayne Johnson: Charismatic actor and former wrestler, “The Rock” is known for his bold presence, charisma, and ultimate “doer” attitude. He is highly driven towards success and known for diving headfirst into his passions.
- Wendy Williams: Known for her unapologetic, fiery personality, the media personality Wendy Williams is undeniably excitable, fast-paced, and ambitious. She built her career with her Type A tendencies like radical independence, outspokenness, and the courage to say things other people were afraid to talk about publicly,
7 Survival Tips For Type A Personalities
While this high-achiever personality has an abundance of incredible qualities, it’s essential not to be “too Type A” and inadvertently ignore everyone else in favor of your goals.
Optimizing your Type A personality can be as simple as being more self-aware, improving your communication, and integrating daily wellness habits to create more balance in your life and relationships. Here’s how:
#1 Create work-life balance with these daily actions
The most notorious Type A trait is their go-getter attitude regarding their career and business. They have ambitious goals and a passionate drive to make their dreams a reality. They’re determined to be successful, no matter what!
But this incredible quality can also be their Achilles heel—Type A’s may struggle with:
- Maintaining a healthy work-life balance
- Prioritizing their career over family or friends
- Turning “off” their work mode
Research shows that blurred work-life boundaries can lead to excess stress and emotional exhaustion. Type A’s may find it especially necessary to draw lines between their work and personal lives.
Action Steps: Set boundaries around your work to feel more balanced.
- Set precise work hours (such as 8 to 5 with a 1-hour lunch break) and stick to them
- Follow a morning routine centered around self-care (such as working out, cooking a whole-foods breakfast, going to a yoga class, or journaling)
- Avoid defining yourself solely by your career title
- Put your phone away while with family and friends
- Try a new hobby that is unrelated to your work
- If working remotely, create a space in your home that is only for work (avoid working on your bed or from your couch)
- Delegate tasks or hire new employees to help reduce your stress levels
- Keep separate sets of “work clothes” and “lounge clothes” to allow you to shift between states mentally
- Close your laptop and calendar to mentally allow yourself to “clock out” for the day
Learn more about How to Set Boundaries: 5 Ways to Draw the Line Politely.
#2 Take responsibility for your mistakes with the A to P Method
We’ve all heard of the dreaded “blame game.” It’s a game no one can win, yet many Type A still inadvertently plays it. One of the darker sides of this personality is their tendency toward manipulating accountability:
- When something goes right, they want to take all the credit.
- When something goes wrong, it’s everybody else’s fault.
Because of Type A’s love of success, they often associate their self-worth with their achievements. So if something goes wrong, they feel like a failure and may try to deflect responsibility onto others.
In other words, admitting you’re wrong can feel like a personal attack on your self-confidence. But taking the blame for your mistakes doesn’t have to be a massive ego blow. Instead, look at admitting you’re wrong as a sign of courage, self-awareness, and maturity.
Your team and your significant other will probably take notice and be pleasantly surprised by the new pattern.
Action Step: When you make a mistake, follow the simple A to P (Acknowledge to Propose) protocol to accept responsibility and move forward:
- Acknowledge what you did wrong without trying to shift the blame: “I was late to the important meeting because I didn’t leave in time” (not because of traffic, your kids, or your spouse).
- Take responsibility for exactly where you messed up in the situation, rather than focusing on anyone else’s mistakes. Even if others share the blame, remember that you are only responsible for your actions: “The project didn’t get finished in time because I failed to check in with the team and clearly define their roles” (though others contributed to missing the deadline).
- Say something ASAP by openly admitting you were wrong to the other person/people involved: “I was planning to go to your performance, but I messed up and didn’t make it. I know it was my fault for not planning better.”
- Apologize: “I’m sorry I messed up, and I take responsibility for my mistake.”
- Validate their feelings: “I understand you’re disappointed, and I would be, too.”
- Propose a solution for moving forward: “I’m going to go through the document and correct my errors. In the future, I’ll be sure to have a lot more time for this assignment, so I don’t feel so rushed.”
#3 Congratulate others for their achievements
For better or for worse, Type A’s tend to be a bit overbearing. They tend to have extraordinarily high standards for themselves, and they sometimes project these expectations onto other people.
If you find yourself constantly dissatisfied with others’ achievements, you may inadvertently convey that no one is ever good enough for you.
The former chief officer of Netflix, Patty McCord, tells the story of significant success at the company.
The Netflix CMO said, “Guess what, we just hit 1 million subscribers!” Everyone was jumping for joy and so excited about the massive milestone.
Founder Reed Hastings stopped them and said, “Listen, you guys can celebrate, but I’m going for 5 million”. The employees and management team looked at him, confused as if to say, “What are you talking about? We just crossed 1 million! Are you crazy?”
Reed responded, “That’s great. You can do all the celebration you want, but I’ve got my sights on 5 million.”
Being slightly overbearing can drive tremendous results. It might be what helped Netflix reach over 200 million subscribers today.
But the flip side can be counterproductive: If you forget to congratulate your employees, coworkers, friends, or children for their minor achievements, they may feel like they can never please you.
Action Step: Though you may have your sights on the following significant milestones, don’t forget to acknowledge people in your life for their achievements regularly. Try one of these 43 Best Employee Appreciation Ideas or buy a thoughtful gift and card for a loved one after they reach a goal that is important to them.
#4 Use this deep breathing technique in high-tension situations
Type A people have a tendency toward aggressiveness or hostility in stressful situations. Their achievement-oriented personality can lead them to place unreasonably high expectations on themselves and others.
Sometimes, this can come out as straight-up mean:
Thankfully, Type A’s can avoid an explosive “idiot sandwich” moment (and subsequent negative professional or personal consequences) by tuning into your breath. Research shows that deep breathing can tremendously reduce anger and anxiety, improve focus, and improve emotional control.
Action Step: Before making a big decision or reactively responding to a challenging conversation, try this Box Breathing exercise to reduce cortisol (stress hormone) levels and allow you to approach people with a calmer attitude.
- Excuse yourself to a private place for 5 minutes.
- Stand or sit up your spine as straight as possible and close your eyes.
- Use your diaphragm to inhale through the nose, counting to 4 as you breathe in.
- Imagine the air filling your lungs, stomach, and brain.
- Hold your breath at the top for 4 seconds.
- Slowly exhale the air out of your nose for 4 seconds.
- Continue counting to 4 on each inhale, holding for 4, and then exhaling for 4.
- Repeat for 10 full deep breaths. Use your fingers to keep track of how many rounds of breath you’ve taken.
- Open your eyes and return to the situation with clarity.
#5 Overcome perfectionism with these strategies
As overachievers, Type A individuals usually are notorious perfectionists. They agonize over getting things just right and may berate themselves (or others) when projects don’t live up to their ultra-high standards.
If this is you, you may see being a perfectionist as a strong point: it pushes you to create the highest quality work possible.
But perfectionism is often just ruthless self-criticism in fancy shoes.
“Perfectionism is a dream killer because it’s just fear disguised as trying to do your best.”— Mastin Kipp
Research shows that perfectionism is just another form of fear:
- Fear of failure and subsequent shame
- Fear of trying something new
- Fear of public embarrassment
- Fear of not accomplishing anything worthwhile
- Fear of rejection, disapproval, or criticism
- Fear of not being good enough
Constantly striving for perfection is scientifically proven to harm your self-esteem and reduce productivity. It also can lead to a bunch of unnecessary anxiety. If you can learn to embrace flaws, mistakes, and imperfections, you may be able to improve your confidence and work performance.
Action Step: Try these strategies to dial down a notch and embrace more of life’s blemishes and blotches.
- Learn to accept criticism: Perfectionists can have pretty low self-esteem because they take criticism extremely personally. But if you can learn to receive constructive criticism with open arms, life gets a lot easier. Remember that critiques of your work are simply one person’s opinion, and they don’t reflect on your identity as a whole. After receiving criticism, thank the person for sharing their perspective and then internally excite yourself with 5 positive affirmations (here’s a list of 120 of our favorites).
- Focus on the positives: Type A perfectionists sometimes fixate on the negative parts of their work or themselves. Instead, make a conscious effort to list at least three positive things for every one negative thing you find. For example, if you stumbled over a few words during a speech, don’t forget to acknowledge your superb stage presence, eye contact with the audience, and the huge round of applause at the end.
- Practice making mistakes: It may seem silly to make mistakes purposefully, but it can help trick your brain into stopping thinking it’s the end of the world when you fail. Mistakes are opportunities to learn, grow, and (hopefully) have a good chuckle at yourself. Try taking up a new social hobby to allow yourself the freedom to try, fumble, and laugh with friends.
- Set realistic goals: As an ambitious Type A, you probably like to dream big and create lofty goals. But don’t forget that you may be setting yourself up for disappointment and self-criticism straight out of the gate. Try chopping your big dreams into smaller, achievable goals, so you get more dopamine rushes along the way. Use these 5 Science-Backed Steps to Set and Achieve Your Goals.
- Try a perfectionist detox: This TEDx talk from “recovering perfectionist” Petra Kolber explains how you can humorously and effectively build a more courageous, joyful life by letting go of perfectionism and people-pleasing once and for all.
#6 Use these stress management tools
The fast pace and urgency of Type A people explain why this personality type may link to an increased risk of coronary heart disease and hypertension. When you are so highly motivated by your goals and ambitions, stress can quickly overtake you.
In addition, Type A’s may have trouble prioritizing their self-care because they are so focused on doing and winning. Stress management is crucial for balancing your energy levels and preventing burnout.
Action Step: Schedule some stress relief practices into your daily routine.
- Science repeatedly shows that meditation has profound benefits. Set a daily reminder on your phone to do a 5-minute stress relief meditation:
- Take a 5-10 minute walk at lunchtime and count how many different types of plants or birds you see. This form of mindfulness brings you into the present moment with your surroundings.
- Try this energizing and stress-relieving 15-minute morning yoga routine.
- Research shows that friendships improve your health and reduce stress. Make a point to schedule coffee or a meal with a friend at least once weekly.
- Switch your phone to airplane mode 1-2 hours before bedtime. Instead of stressing out your brain by scrolling or checking emails, use this time to read a book or spend quality time with your family.
- Type A’s hyperactivity and high-stress levels link to digestive issues. Instead of shoving food in your face on the go, prioritize sitting down for meals and chewing your food more slowly. As a bonus, this can help you feel fuller and less likely to overeat.
#7 Master the art of to-do lists with this hack
As natural achievers, Type A’s are practically born for to-do lists. There is so much gratification from crossing off tasks as you complete them. But because Type A tends to get bored and hop from task to task, you can inadvertently lose focus of the top priorities.
If you feel overwhelmed or scattered, learn to structure your to-do lists properly to prioritize your most important “to-do’s” that will make you feel the most accomplished.
Action Step: Optimize your time and mental bandwidth with this to-do list hack:
- On a piece of paper or whiteboard, make 4 columns: A, B, C, D, and F
- List your top 10-15 tasks for the week or month. Focus on those that take the most brain power and the most time.
- Now, categorize your tasks. If on a whiteboard, transfer these tasks to sticky notes and arrange them in each column. If on a paper, simply write a letter next to them.
- A= Your best work. These tasks come easiest to you and make you feel “in the flow.” They are enjoyable and highly productive.
- B= This is work you’re pretty good at, but it doesn’t make your heart sing.
- C= Work that you are average at. It takes energy, and you tend to procrastinate.
- D= Work that you loathe and feel unproductive and unfulfilled while doing.
- F= Tasks that drain you and you should avoid at all costs.
- Optimize your schedule to prioritize your A work and get through your B work, then see how you can outsource or delegate C, D, and F tasks.
- Watch this video to learn more about Vanessa Van Edwards’ Alphabet Work strategy:
Key Takeaways: Type A’s Can Thrive by Slowing Down and Reflecting
As a Type A, you are practically destined to succeed in your field and lead a life of passionate curiosity. But it’s vital to avoid sacrificing your mental well-being and your interpersonal relationships in the process.
Learn to optimize your Type A strengths and minimize your weaknesses by:
- Setting boundaries with your work: It’s easy to get wrapped up in the excitement of your ambition and become defined by your career, so don’t forget to turn “off” work mode to prioritize your personal life. Setting strict work schedules, reducing device time, and delineating “work areas” of your home office can help you create more work-life balance.
- Taking responsibility for your mistakes: When your self-worth is closely associated with your achievements, you often feel like a failure when you make mistakes. But deflecting blame is usually counterproductive.
- Congratulating others for their achievements: It’s likely that everyone around you already knows that you have high expectations. But you never want them to feel like they’re not good enough. Recognize the minor achievements of your team or your family to make them feel appreciated and valued.
- Using deep breathing: Type A’s have an unfortunate association with being hostile or aggressive communicators in tense situations. Deep breathing exercises can help you calm your nervous system and approach relationships with a less emotional state of mind.
- Overcoming perfectionism: Beating yourself for not getting things “perfect” every time will only hurt your self-esteem and reduce your productivity. Instead, focus on the positives by matching every criticism with at least three compliments for what you excelled at.
- Managing your stress: Type A’s live fast and get things done rapidly. But you don’t want to burn out or harm your mental health in pursuing success. Schedule stress relief practices into your weekly plan to be more effective at work and in life.
- Mastering to-do lists: Rethink your daily tasks by prioritizing your most fulfilling work. Then, give yourself a feeling of accomplishment by crossing important things off as you complete them.
Ultimately, Type A personalities help drive society forward with their zest for success and unmatched work ethic. If you want to take your productivity to the next level, try these 14 Unique Productivity Tips: How to Be More Productive with Less Effort.