Positive Intelligence takes the reader into the worlds of neuroscience, psychology, and business without feeling overwhelming or stuffy. Author Shirzad Chamine does a wonderful job telling the story of how the mind can be simultaneously your best friend and worst enemy. He argues that it all depends on recognizing the key “characters” at play in your mind, and then consciously picking which character we want to spend the most time in conversation with. This is a must read for anyone in a leadership position, a creative entrepreneur, or anyone interested in building a stronger relationship with themselves and others. Positive Intelligence can help you do better by thinking better.
The Characters at Play
Chamine represents the parts of the brain that developed early in our evolutionary history, and are primarily related to our “fight, flight or freeze” stress response, as a motley crew of misfits. He calls them “Saboteurs.” These characters are directly responsible for preventing you and your team (family, friends, colleagues) from meeting your true potential.
The Saboteurs are: The Judge, Avoider, Victim, Pleaser, Hyper-Rational, Hyper-Achiever, Hyper-Vigilant, Stickler, Restless, Controller
Your ability to counter the work of the Saboteurs is contained within the Prefrontal Cortex, the most recently developed brain structure. This part of the brain is primarily responsible for maintaining present moment awareness, and aiding in decision making, understanding, recollection, memorization, and inhibition of thoughts and actions. Chamine calls this part of the brain the “Sage,” and represents its capabilities with the following five powers.
The Sage’s Powers: Empathy, Exploration, Innovation, Navigation, Activation.
Just from reading the list associated with The Saboteurs and The Sage, one can begin to identify the power each group may hold over our thinking and actions. It is up to the reader to understand which Saboteur is their primary driver and begin to change its course with the wisdom of the Sage.
Ask yourself: How much more effective do you believe you can be at work and/or home if you were better able to understand the conversation between your Saboteurs and your Sage?
Building your PQ Muscles
Positive Intelligence (PQ) is the percentage of time you are in conversation with your Sage versus being derailed by your Saboteurs. Chamine argues that building awareness of this balance between the two is like training a muscle. Knowing how to train your brain for The Sage to take the steering wheel is the key to achieving fruitful outcomes. Otherwise, without a high degree of control and understanding of this relationship, any growth or change initiative will fall short. At best, there may be slight improvement, but lasting change will be unsustainable.
To build your PQ muscles, and therefore to strengthen your Sage, requires being in present awareness. Mindfulness practice is all about building PQ muscles. If you are the type to assume you have to be meditating for hours each day to master this, you are not alone, as this is a common misconception. However, the science proves otherwise. Spending 10 – 15 minutes everyday in present awareness is enough to start promoting change in your thoughts and behaviours. You can even benefit from these exercises if they are broken up into smaller time increments throughout the day.
Take any moment in your day and place your attention acutely on one, or more, of your five senses (sight, smell, hear, touch, taste). Here are there simple, yet effective ways to build your PQ muscles.
When eating a meal close your eyes and pay attention to all the tastes, textures, and smells associated with what you are eating. Can you notice the cool crunch of the cucumber in your salad? Or the warm chunk of tomato in your pasta sauce? What about the way the sip of water feels as it goes down your throat?
As you take a shower allow your attention to be shifted to the the experience of taking a shower. Do you notice the sensation of the water on the various parts of your back? How does the shampoo feel, smell, sound as you lather it into your hair? Do you notice the rhythm of the water as it hits the floor?
Sometimes you feel like you have been swept away by your Saboteurs, which is also known as “feeling bogged down,” or simply over stressed. When this happens, Bring yourself back into the present moment by flexing your PQ muscles. Do so by placing your fingers together and holding your attention on the sensation it creates. Do you notice what your fingers feel like pressed together? Do your fingers feel cool, moist or hot?
Try this out for a week. See if you notice how much more aware you become of your day’s activities and also how often your Saboteurs take control of the chatter in your mind. The more you become self-aware of the mind’s process, the more you can do better, by thinking better.
Get the book: