The question my wife and I are most often asked about my book, I’m a Type A—How the Heck Will I Ever Retire?,” is whether or not it has changed my behavior. In other words, do I practice what I preach? Elaine usually just rolls her eyes at this suggestion, and mutters something about it being helpful that at least she better understands why I act the way I do.
Not exactly a ringing endorsement from the wife!
I disagree (no surprise, coming from a Type A), and I hope to prove it, right here and now.
I have a painting project to do today, a task which I normally loathe. It is a relatively small area (the closet in our laundry room), so it shouldn’t take very long to accomplish. My first inclination as a Type A would be to rush through it, slinging paint all over the place (including the floor and any innocent nearby objects) like a crazy person. The purpose of this, I suppose if there is any, is to release me from the annoying experience of painting, ASAP.
Of course, I have all the wrong brush sizes and no roller because I am too impatient to go to the hardware store to purchase them (that would set me back by an hour, based on my projections of travel and shopping time), which will only add to my frustration while painting. But that is a whole other issue, and let’s slay one dragon at a time.
In my book I admonish Type As to shift their thinking and behavior from “productive, efficient, rushing” to “pacing, take your time, rest” and from “end result” to “the process”; I instruct that “there is never a good reason to rush”; and finally, I recommend that it is beneficial to “find some joy each day.” I’m going to implement these concepts with my painting project today and immediately record my findings below. A fun experiment!
I plan to take my time with each brush stroke, not worry about finishing quickly, and calmly enjoy the experience as much as possible. I will quiet my mind and immerse myself in the experience. It might end up taking me twice as long, but I want to determine if some joy, or at least less suffering, might be discovered. So here goes.
Painting…painting…why did I agree to take my time with this?…painting…painting…what are these strange feelings…painting…painting
I am finished.
I can report that the whole process was, in fact, much more enjoyable by not rushing through it! And I’m not just saying that—I’m a pretty honest guy. It was significantly more pleasurable. Also, I certainly made fewer mistakes and had a lot less cleanup afterward, which are positives. I even rested about halfway through, when my painting hand became tired and I was thirsty. When I stopped to rest, my wife instinctively asked, “Are you finished?” You can’t blame her; I don’t think she has ever witnessed me resting in the middle of a project before!
On the other hand, the decision to record my feelings for purposes of this article made it difficult to quiet my mind. Since I was analyzing, judging, and mentally recording my feelings much of the time, I was unable to calm my mind as much as I had hoped. There’s a lesson in there: why did I need to make this project more challenging and productive by writing a damn article about it? Why couldn’t I simply just experience and enjoy it for its own sake?
Overall, I feel good that, at the very least, as I proceed through my life I continue to gain increased awareness of some of the “traps” I tend to fall into, and am able to modify my attitude and behavior for the better. This provides hope to all of us supposedly “hopeless” Type As!