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February 5, 2012 at 7:19 PMComments: 2 Faves: 0

Competitive Personality: Advantage or Disadvantage?

By Jeffrey VanWingen M.D. More Blogs by This Author

People seem to be wired differently. There are many ways to describe the general groupings of us in regards to personality, but they generally boil down to a couple major classifications. On one hand exist the laid-back, easy going, “Type B” people. On the other, the driven, competitive, “Type A.”

While of course, no one necessarily fits into one box exclusively, in simply considering these groupings, our mind jumps to label people in our own circle - are friends, family and colleagues. Then we wonder, does one group have advantage over the other? 

This blog will examine the advantages and disadvantages of belonging to the second, driven, Type-A group.

The Origins of "Type-A"

  • 1950's. The term Type A Personality was first used in the 1950’s. Used to describe highly competitive, driven, aggressive, ambitious, time-conscious and impatient people, those with this personality are characterized as being driven to succeed, pushing themselves internally with multi-tasking and deadlines.
  • And Now. Later, in 1996, Type A Personality was further characterized as being expressed in three distinct ways: free-floating hostility, time urgency and competitive drive.

The Down-Side to Type A Personality

Free-floating hostility can be triggered by even minor incidents and unfortunately, is often directed at those around the Type A personality.  Time urgency often causes frustration with pace and progress. A competitive drive can lead to stress and an achievement-driven mentality. 

There are health impacts too. From the onset, Type A Personality was touted as a risk factor for heart disease. 

Original studies and conventional wisdom in this regard have been questioned in the last decade.  One 10 year study conducted examined closely the genetics and personality traits of a closely related population.  No link was found between Type A Personality and heart disease. (1)  Another study found that only those who expressed the hostility component of Type A Personality were at risk for heart disease. (2)  With regard to other health consequences for competitive, driven, Type A personalities, no other statistical links have been made regarding cancer, chronic disease, suicide or divorce.

The Up-Side to Type A Personality

The benefits of such a personality seem obvious.  These persons are more motivated and thus accomplish more.  They are more prone to rise up the corporate ladder or be singled out as leaders.  They get things done.

Some of the most successful people out there would fall into this category!

Achieving Balance with a Type A Personality

As wonderful as all the drive can be, Type A behavior can present some definite challenges as well.

When there are only 24 hours in a day, having a competitive drive can leave other important life factors in the dust -  such as proper diet and rest. Further, we all need to relax and take a break. Getting along with others can be an issue  for Type A's when they succumb to the notion that others should behave and react as THEY do. 

The secret to finding success is to harness the good here and moderate the bad. 


Seek a coach or a mentor who seems to do this well. Schedule times of relaxation regularly and stick to the schedule. Prioritize and see the importance in those things easily sacrificed such as proper diet, exercise, and rest. Keep in mind: such breaks actually help recharge you and make you MORE effective when it's time for work!

Learn to work with others and tolerate people with different personalities. This may involve professional counseling if it becomes a problem in the workplace or with the family.

Harness that drive to achieve happiness and balance in life—good things will come.

Of course no-one necessarily fits in a box as such and different levels of expression can exist.


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  • I will pass on the site to my family.. they will enjoy reading your articles. Oh and p.s. half my family is type A so watch out! Thanks for sharing.

  • Categorizing people as either Type A or Type B is a bit simplistic, (as this article alludes to) but It'd be interesting if you wrote the "sequel" to this article, focusing on he advantages/disadvantages of Type B personalities! :)

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