In the late 1950s, Drs. Meyer Friedman and Ray Rosenman began noticing similarities in their patients prone to heart disease. It was more than their diet and genetics. It was the similar ways they led their lives. Dr. Friedman noted that these patients demonstrated:

“A particular complex of personality traits, including excessive competition drive, aggressiveness, impatience, and a harrying sense of time urgency. Individuals displaying this pattern seem to be engaged in a chronic, ceaseless, and often fruitless struggle — with themselves, with others, with circumstances, with time, sometimes with life itself. “

Drs. Friedman and Rosenman dubbed this complex personality, Type A.

Type A in car

Type A poster child

As a kid and a young adult, I remember my friends’ fathers in real life and executives portrayed on TV, as Type As. I had finance professors in college and bosses in corporate America who were the epitome of Type A. I actually thought it was the “I’m successful and powerful” personality to adopt once you make it to management. I even wished for that kind of authority and scariness. People listen to and obey Type As.

I married a Type A. My kids used to tell me to honk the horn at slow drivers “like Dad does”. I always thought, “What good is that going to do?”

Type A people seem stressed and it’s stressful for me to be around them for long periods. The foot tapping and micromanaging make cortisol shoot out of my adrenal glands. Environments that foster Type A behavior (highly competitive, fast paced, negative environments) are also antithetical to my nature.

I am a Type B with a smattering of impatience and a keen but selective sense of time urgency, so perhaps I’m a Type B+.

Type B

According to this Huffington Post article, Type B personalities exhibit the following traits:

  • More collaborative than competitive
  • Like to work on their own time, no rushing
  • Laid back but still driven
  • Averse to aggressive behavior
  • More ‘big picture’ and creative
  • Relaxed but not indifferent
  • Focus on outcome rather than details
  • Have higher life satisfaction
Shaggy is an extreme version of a Type B but the image made me smile so I used it.

Shaggy is an extreme version of a Type B but the image made me smile so I used it.

I am slightly biased toward Type Bs. I have Type As in my life that I adore but I worry about them and I no longer have any desire to be like them. At this stage in my life, I want a calm, relaxed, take-it-as-it-comes lifestyle. I am internally energized and intrinsically motivated. I don’t need or want to struggle ceaselessly with outside stimulation. I see where this could be correlated with introversion but I am not sure it is. I know some extremely intense introverts and completely laid back extroverts.

What motivates you?

What motivates you may also determine how you lead your life.

In his bestselling book on motivation titled, Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us, Daniel Pink talks about types that are motivated by external rewards and those that are more intrinsically driven. He calls them Type X and Type I, respectively.

Intrinsic desires such as freedom, mastery and purpose fuel Type I’s. These sources of motivation are virtually limitless. Type I’s find satisfaction in the task itself. Rewards are nice but not the goal. Recognition is felt more as feedback than a required outcome.

Type Xs are driven to reach the end of a task or project in order to receive a reward or recognition.

Are we born to be rewarded or born to be self-directed?

Are we born with I or X motivation? It seems (I)ntrinsic motivation is the default. Behavioral scientist and author of Intrinsic Motivation, Edward Deci and his research partner, Richard Ryan have done countless studies and written hundreds of research papers on self-determination theory. Regardless of the field studied (education, business, medicine, sports, relationships, etc.) most point to the same conclusion. Human beings have an innate inner drive to be autonomous, self-determined and connected to one another. We’ve all seen toddlers with endless curiosity and serious drives to master things.

Do schools and corporate America dull intrinsic motivation? It sure seems like it with their compliance requirements (lack of freedom and autonomy) and the carrot and stick motivation policies (extrinsic rewards/punishment).carrot-and-stick

What type of motivation is most productive in the long run?

If an employee has an adequate salary (competitive and appropriate in the market), then his or her motivation will be based on extrinsic or intrinsic rewards.

Studies show that extrinsic rewards (money, recognition, gifts) may work with a straightforward short-term if/then situation but Type I’s and intrinsic motivation work best in the long run. Type I’s with their interest in the challenge are able to stick it out through difficult times and are able to see beyond the reward, thus giving them more patience and options for problem solving.

Who doesn’t want higher self-esteem, better relationships and greater overall well-being? 

In one study done by Edward Deci, it was found that individuals oriented toward control and extrinsic rewards showed greater public self-consciousness, acted more defensively, and were more likely to exhibit the Type A behavior pattern, thus linking Type Xs (extrinsic rewards) with Type As.

Type I’s, according to Daniel Pink in Drive, depend on autonomy, mastery and purpose to determine their behavior. They are devoted to becoming better and better at something that matters. Self-determination studies show that people oriented toward autonomy (note this is different from independence in that it could include a choice to be interdependent) and intrinsic motivation have higher self-esteem and better interpersonal relationships.

Lasting-MotivationSo, are Type I’s more like Type Bs? Both are self-directed, more intrinsically motivated than competitive, look at the work/relationship and its effect on the world (big picture) and have greater life satisfaction.

Given the link between Type A behavior and heart disease and the correlation between intrinsic motivation and greater life satisfaction, it seems like we would all want to be Type Bs and Type I’s. The good news is it has been proven that any Type X can become a Type I. They just have to fine tune their intrinsic motivation by relearning their innate curiosity and self-determination and tuning out the ubiquitous carrots and sticks that exist in our homes, workplaces and schools. As for switching from a Type A to a Type B, I am not sure that is so easy but I believe awareness and motivation adjustment are the places to start.

Do you struggle to keep up with the tempo of external life factors or do you march to the beat of your own internal drum? Are you externally or internally motivated? Are you Type A or Type B? Type X or Type I? 

If this piece resonated or affected you in a meaningful way, I would truly appreciate it if you would share it with others who may benefit.

Thank you,


** I used I’s for Type Is only to avoid confusion with the word is.