Monday, September 5, 2011

Unwinding The 'A' Type Personality

According to a recent source it seems that Type A personalities can be described as as ambitious, aggressive, business-like, controlling, highly competitive, impatient, preoccupied with his or her status, time-conscious, and tightly-wound. People with Type A personalities are often high-achieving "workaholics" who multi-task, push themselves with deadlines, and hate both delays and ambivalence. Then there is the Type 'B' personality types who are the perfect contrast to those with Type A personalities. The 'Type B's are generally patient, relaxed, easy-going, and at times lacking an overriding sense of urgency.Because of these characteristics, Type B individuals are often described as apathetic and disengaged by individuals with Type A or other personality types.

Before I arrived in Cambodia one of the psychological tests that I had to do was one that classified me as a "Type A" personality type. That was not surprising considering I was working on a trading floor, an environment that is fast paced, competitive, aggressive and involves multi-tasking at a variety of levels. But here in Cambodia, being a Type A can be a detriment because the pace of life and the way things are done, have a way of unwinding a 'type A' personality. I am learning that if I can get one thing done per day outside my language lessons then I am making progress. This was affirmed recently by one of our long term partners. It certainly is a far cry from the level of productivity and efficiency that we in the West are used to, but to thrive in this environment it is not about speed but about a steady pace. 

Why do things operate so 'slow' over here. It's all about perspective. I happen to think that the heat has an impact on people's energy levels. You certainly cannot go at the same pace when its hot. But the roads here are bulging with large SUVs which are surrounded by tuk tuks and the motorcycles who weave in and out of the road. You cannot even drive fast if you want to. The average speed on a good day must be about 30kms or 40kms at best and yet in this 'slow' driving society, it does not seem to bother the Khmer. Yes, the horns are honking readily but that has more to do with letting the other drivers/motorists know that the person is nearby. No one gets upset, there seems to be little road rage, everyone goes with the flow. Even if you are stopped at a traffic light and look over to any one and smile, they typically smile back at you. I think Cambodians have a lot to teach us about patience. In fact, this environment will teach you patience and if you don't want to learn patience, you will quickly become frustrated. One must adjust their expectations and adjust them quickly. Thankfully as I am getting older, I think this environment has certainly started that journey of transforming my 'A' type driven personality and teaching me to relax and be a bit more laid back especially if things on my 'to do' list do not get done in the time frame that I would desire. After all, as I often remind myself, 'its not about me, its about God.!'

A case in point, last week a new filing cabinet was set up in our office and I went to the local 'Office Supply' store to buy those hanging file folders. Well you think there would be standard sizes but alas, when I came home, they were too big for the filing cabinet I had purchased. So today, off I went for a walk since the store was 10 minutes from my home to exchange the file folder size. However, I discovered that unlike Canada where you can go to a different location of the same franchise to return or exchange a product, here it does not operate the same. It seems, that one must go back to the same location you bought the product at. A quick call to my tuk tuk driver and we were on our way down Preah Monivong street which thankfully was not too far away. I managed to get the items exchanged and was once again excited to set up the hanging file folders (yes even the smallest activities can bring delight) only to discover again that they did not fit the filing cabinet size. Talk about frustration! To top that off, the power plug supply cables that I had purchased did not fit the plug size in the apartment. So I had to ask myself, why on earth would people sell such products, if they are no use in this place.

So its back to the office supply store tomorrow for a 3rd trek and possibly back to the office furniture store to see if they have any suggestions on how to resolve this hanging file folder situation. This may not seem like a big deal and really in the whole scheme of things it is not, but part of the cultural adjustment, is recognizing that little things like this have the potential to become explosive later if one does not cultivate the right attitude.  It is times like this that one can easily get irritated and frustrated, but I am learning to laugh ---this is Cambodia---its good to be mindful of that. Things are not like Canada and that means, being patient with the process and giving one's self permission to relax and not worry despite the apparent inefficiency.

But in all of this, God can work with Type As and Type Bs because He has created us in His image. Regardless of how we are wired, He is the One who is re-wiring us through these experiences so that we reflect more His attitudes and His characteristics in and through us.  It is again an important reminder to me that God is more interested in who I am becoming than what I am doing. Author and speaker Beth Moore once said that she wanted her life to reflect the maximum amount of God's glory that He would allow possible. In learning to 'be', God indeed is transforming all our old habits, and making us new creations in Him that will ultimately reflect His glory in greater measure. 

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