Hurry sickness, n. A malaise where a person feels chronically short of time so tends to perform every task quickly and to get flustered when encountering delay.

Hurry sickness came into our vocabulary in the 1950s when San Francisco cardiologists Dr. Meyer Friedman and Dr. Ray Rosenman were researching causes of heart disease and came up with the now infamous Type A personality: “a 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.” (“Type A Behavior & Your Heart,” Alfred A. Knopf, 1974)

Type Bs often are simply described as the opposite of As, leading some (often As) to describe Bs as apathetic or disengaged. This view is too black and white. There are many people who are mellow yet still ambitious, who take the “art of the long view,” focusing on hitting flow and being effective over the long haul, preferring to work in Quad 2 (important but not urgent) than in Quad 1 (important and urgent). As the saying goes, “It’s performance that counts.”

The Type A–Type B dichotomy is an interesting way to sort people but may be overly simplistic. According to researcher Dr. Redford B. Williams of Duke University, the hostility component of a Type A personality—a high level of expressed anger and hostility—is the only significant risk factor that constitutes a problem, not the other elements of Type A behavior.

Most of us want to be productive, make a difference, achieve significantly, AND be happy and connected. The challenge is to find that sweet spot: long periods of flow and engagement where we are motivated, maybe even driven, but still have the patience and wisdom to enjoy life and the people in it, to daily count our blessings, to pace ourselves for the long haul.

If living a life of balance were easy, we would all do it and the challenge would lie elsewhere. My best tools to achieve balance and peace of mind are

– Keeping a regular journal, often late at night or over a weekend. I tell myself, just a line or two will do. Then the pen flows and worries and cares run out onto the page and leave me feeling peaceful.

– Frequent inspirational reading, even if only five or ten minutes before bed, which often turns into 20 or 30 as I become engaged.

– Regular physical activity.

– Putting in significant family time FIRST (the biggest of the big rocks) and then filling in other obligations. Yes, sometimes I have to reschedule when work becomes pressing but when I’ve built up a big emotional bank account at home it usually works out.

Closing quotes:

“We continue to shape our personality all our life. If we knew ourselves perfectly, we should die.” — Albert Camus

“If you are distressed by anything external, the pain is not due to the thing itself, but to your estimate of it; and this you have the power to revoke at any moment.” — Marcus Aurelius

“The world we have created is a product of our thinking; it cannot be changed without changing our thinking.” — Albert Einstein

“There are thousands of causes for stress, and one antidote to stress is self-expression. That’s what happens to me every day. My thoughts get off my chest, down my sleeves and onto my pad.” — Garson Kanin, American film writer and director; 1912–1999

“There is more to life than increasing its speed.” — Gandhi

“Angels can fly because they take themselves so lightly.” — Anonymous