Are You A Type R? Can You Become One? Should You Try?

In our hurry-up, no-holds-barred, get-on-board-or-get-out-of-the-way world, many people still subscribe to Type A and Type B personality theory.

Type A people are thought to be characterized by out-sized ambition, high energy, and competitiveness. (They’re also thought to be susceptible to stress and heart disease.) More “relaxed” people are sometimes described as Type B.

But according to an innovative new framework, the future lies with Type Rs—people, businesses, families, and even entire communities that turn challenges into opportunities in times of upheaval, crisis, and change.

This new framework is explored in Type R: Transformative Resilience for Thriving in a Turbulent World. The authors are a mother-daughter team. Stephanie Marston is a pioneering psychotherapist focusing on stress and work-life issues. Her daughter is Ama Marston, a strategy and leadership consultant who’s worked with many Fortune 500 companies and the United Nations. I interviewed the latter to explore the applicability of their approach to multiple situations.

Rodger Dean Duncan: A foundational thesis of your book is that Type R people (or organizations) use challenging circumstances as catalysts for growth–springing forward rather than bouncing back during tough times. What are some of the mindsets that seem to constrain people from “springing forward” in adversity?

Ama Marston: As individuals, leaders, teams, businesses, and even nations we resist change, particularly when it comes in the form of events or mounting pressures that are disruptive, stressful, and at times traumatic. Yet the desire to maintain the status quo and behave as we previously have is one of the greatest barriers to our ability to learn, grow, adapt, and better function in the face of new realities. An aversion to uncertainty or the belief that we should avoid it can also lead to unproductive decisions guided by fear or avoidance.

If we don’t acknowledge these changes and challenges and respond in ways appropriate to our shifting circumstances, rather than behaving as we always have, we’ll overlook opportunities and may even make matters worse. For instance, California faced a drought for several years before its leaders and policymakers were able to garner sufficient response and changes in behavior from the public and industry. This placed the state and those reliant on its agriculture at greater risk and compounded the drought’s impacts.

Another of our pitfalls is assuming there’s only one approach or solution to a given problem. This limits our ability to reframe and find appropriate solutions. And finally, we often look at success as being a matter of innate talent. Yet much of success comes down to skills such as our ability to cope with challenges, adapt, and stay engaged.