If you’re a Type A personality like I am, you see the opportunity for competition in everything; you wear the descriptions “high strung” and “hard to please” as badges of honour; Britney Spears’ “Work Bitch!” is your theme song; your tolerance for incompetence is zero; you never rest on your accomplishments; and you’d rather challenge a date to a foot race than share a Netflix snuggle.

You’re working so hard. But to what aim?

Late one night in my home office, I experienced a shift of thought that stirred me. Now, I’m not into the yoga-breathing, scented candle-burning Zen stuff, but upon a rare moment of quiet reflection, after prying my eyes away from the blue-lit din of my computer screen, I thought, “I’m working so hard, but I am not very happy.”

The question rang in my ears: Had I expected working hard to equate happiness?

Was I really working towards what I wanted or just spinning my wheels? The initial matter therefore needed a refocus: I’m working so hard, but to what aim? The former question often mistaken for the latter: thus the trap of the Type A personality.

Since the 1950s, the term Type A has become a blanket title for describing those who are driven, ambitious, and competitive. A common aspect of it is the addiction to work. It is easy to achieve a false sense of accomplishment simply by burning out on effort, but are we really reaching our goals? (The platitude comes to mind, “Don’t work harder; work smarter.”) It’s part of our societal psyche to view happiness as the pinnacle of pursuits. Just look at the faces of the pedestrian traffic in the peak, downtown commuting hours and you’ll see we are a proud culture of stress and panic mistaken for achievement.

Happiness seems more like a shifting entity that is a by-product than a target. So my sense of lamentation must not have been about happiness–instead, it was goal related. I realized that I do not agree with happiness as a goal, because how could happiness ever be quantified or achieved?
In that quiet moment in my home office, I shifted gears and put my focus not on the vacuous chasm of happiness but rather on the leading steps towards my personal goals–my aim for greatness. What had I achieved recently? What were the details of the goals ahead? And what are the tangible (and still ambitious) steps I can take towards reaching them? Suddenly, the chaotic ethos of it all was replaced by calm efficiency.

Without trying, I felt happier.

With some difficulty, I am instilling into my own life a new rigour in self-analysis. I recognize that I no longer want to see myself as a competitor, but as a leader. In doing so, I have to be able to see the greater picture–to actually understand what has been accomplished in order to choose in a path that would not otherwise be pursued.

I challenge myself to break from the norm and lead, trusting that my Type A will not be watered down by the change. Happiness then becomes an intermittent by-product of a more grounded path towards personal success and greatness.