By David Galloway
I discovered a book, Positive Intelligence, written by Shirzad Chamine, a professor at Stanford, that provides an amazingly sophisticated and accessible model of human behavior. I wrote this summary for a number of my clients that I am working with in my coaching practice.
I began my path into this theory by going to Dr. Chamine’s website at www.positiveintelligence.com. There you will find a brief description, a history of the research, and basic information. Shirzad starts by describing something that we know all too well in our everyday lives…Saboteurs. Those are the voices that come from our past which question our abilities and reasoning. Most of us have two or three Saboteurs that dominate our thinking. When you go to the website, you can take a ten minute assessment that is free, resulting in a document that shows you which Saboteurs tend to dominate your mind.
Positive Intelligence does not leave you there. It also points out our innate capacity for wisdom, which is called The Sage. The Sage has five capacities which also can be identified and strengthened. They are empathy, exploration, innovation, navigation, and activation. These five “powers” reminded me of the capacities mentioned in the theory of Emotional Intelligence. Fortunately, these capacities can be developed with attention and energy.
Shirzad’s unique contribution to mental fitness is his use of specific exercises that interrupt and intercept our Saboteurs, as well as strengthen the Sage capacity. He frames this as self-mastery.
Below you will find a description of the Saboteurs, and how they get in your way. I give a brief introduction to the Sage. And then, I offer a brief summary of the “operating system” that gives you a key to understanding how you are living life now, and a strategy to make you both more productive AND happy. I have worked with all kinds of people on increasing productivity, or adopting a mindset of continuous improvement. Positive Intelligence adds the component of personal satisfaction and happiness that I find most attractive.
I hope you will consider getting a copy of the book, or the books-on-tape, so that you can dive more deeply into this powerful way of thinking. If you have questions, feel free to email at my address above.
Let’s start where I started: The Saboteurs. I recommend that you do the online assessment at the website before reading my descriptions, but that’s your call.
The Ten Saboteurs
- The Judge– universal to all. Constantly compels one to judge oneself or others. Justifies itself by the lie that without it, the unambitious would not produce. Masquerades as “tough-love” of reason.
- The Avoider– focuses on comfort, the positive and the pleasant. Avoids difficult and unpleasant tasks and conflicts, using procrastination and side-stepping. The lie is that you should just be positive.
- The Controller– runs on anxiety-based need to be in control, to take charge, bend people’s will to your own. Dichotomizing in that you are either IN control or OUT. The lie is that you need high control to get results. This creates resentment in others and does not develop others’ capacity.
- The Hyper-Achiever– dependent on constant performance. Self-respect and esteem rides on success rather than internal validation for happiness. The lie is that your self-worth is conditional on performance. Result is unsustainable workaholic tendencies.
- The Hyper-Rational– relies on rational processing of everything. Leads you to be impatient with peoples’ emotions. Results in a cold, distant, and intellectually arrogant person. The lie is that the rational mind is the most important. Leads to impatience with non-analytically minded people.
- The Hyper-Vigilant– intense and continuous anxiety about danger and what could go wrong. With such danger threatening, you simply can not afford to rest. The lie is that the danger is too big to handle and the only way to handle is extreme vigilance.
- The Pleaser– goal is to gain acceptance and affection by helping, pleasing, flattering, or rescuing. You lose sight of your own needs and become resentful. Side effect is that people become dependent on you. The lie is that you are a “pleaser” because you are a “good” person, a “do-gooder” when actually you are trying to gain affection and acceptance indirectly.
- The Restless– constantly in search for a “better deal”. You are never satisfied or at peace, as you scan the horizon for the next shiny object, or challenge to conquer. You lose focus on relationships and things that matter. The lie is that being so busy, you create the illusion that you are living fully, when in truth, you are missing the dance.
- The Stickler– seeks perfection, order, and organization. It makes you and others uptight and anxious. It saps your energy by insisting from yourself and others a too rigorous measure of perfection. The lie is that perfectionism is the highest calling and that it does not exact too high a price.
- The Victim– wants you to recognize the deep pain and hurt as a way of gaining attention and affection. Often this appears in martyr’s attire, and leaves people feeling frustrated in the inability to make you happy, as you constantly remind them of your sacrifice. The lie is the belief that making people feel sorry for you is the best way to attract caring and attention for yourself.
The Sage is presented after the unveiling of the various Saboteurs. As there are ten Saboteurs, there are five powers of the Sage, capacities that we all have.
The Sage represents the deeper and wiser part of you. The Sage brings perspective to the engagement, not losing himself/herself in the drama of the moment. The Sage sees any challenge as an opportunity and a gift for learning. It has access to five powers:
- To explore with great curiosity and an open mind.
- To empathize with yourself and others, bring compassion and understanding to the situation.
- To innovate and create new perspectives and outside-the-box solutions.
- To navigate and choose a path that best aligns with one’s values, mission, and greater purpose.
- To activate and take decisive action without the distress, interference, and distraction of the Saboteurs.
(Side note: Creative Interchange= trust, curiosity, creativity and tenacity)
The Mental Operating System:
Recognize Saboteurs– identify those thought and emotional patterns, seeing that they do not serve you. Identify and label them when they show up. Have a sense of humor about them!
Strengthen your Sage-consciously shift to the Sage perspective, intentionally accessing the powers therein to handle the situation at hand. Have confidence that you have a Sage within.
Strengthen your PQ Brain Muscles– remember the Survivor Brain, which is more primitive and responds to fear, typically fight or flight, as opposed to the PQ Brain that brings into play the five powers of the Sage.
A key to the unique genius of Positive Intelligence is to strengther one’s capacity of self-mastery. Build that muscle through reps of mental focus, mindfulness, being aware in the moment. Literally, focus your awareness on any of your five senses for TEN seconds. Stop the thinking process and become aware of your physical sensations. This activates the PQ Brain and develops this capacity through time and reps. It rewires the brain, adding versality to the tendency to stay in “automatic” or default mode of the Survival Brain. Feeling the physicality and sensation of three breaths is just about one rep, but other physical, body awareness can be creatively engaged. Physical exercise, daily routines, mindful savoring of meals, listening to music, participating in sports, being with loved ones can offer opportunities to build this PQ muscle.
A specific program, aided by an ingenious app on your phone, is available to focus on building these mental muscles, just like you would go to a gyn to develop physical muscles.
Again, if you have questions or want to talk more about this work of identifying your Saboteurs, focusing on your Sage capacities, and strengthening your mental muscles, feel free to email me at email@example.com.