Every self-help junkie knows this: The reasons why we don’t realize our potential and achieve the level of success we want in life isn’t because we are not smart, rich, or popular enough.
Rather, it’s our tendency to trip ourselves up over and over again that is stopping us from living the life of our dreams. We give up too early, avoid the difficult things that are crucial for our success, rationalize our mistakes, allow fear and insecurity to paralyze us into inaction or interfere with our thinking and communication, and the lengthy list goes on.
In other words, our worst enemy isn’t the companies or individuals we thought are standing in our way. It is our mind, or more accurately, our habitual dysfunctional thinking patterns that are routinely sabotaging us, and often with our permission and blessing!
That’s why taming our mind or that of others is one of the most written about subjects in books ranging from business success and weight loss to parenting and personal happiness.
Positive Intelligence: Why Only 20% of Teams and Individuals Achieve Their True Potential by Shirzad Chamine is one of these change-your-mind-change-your-life books. But unlike other books which are quickly forgotten after I have finished them, I found this book leaves a lasting impression in my mind.
In essence, as the title suggests, this book is about positive intelligence, which is defined as “the control you have over your own mind and how well your mind acts in your best interest.” Positive Intelligence Quotient (PQ) is an expression of it in percentage, ranging from 0 to 100.
The higher your PQ, the more control you’ll have over your mind. This means less mental hurdles to overcome and more attention and mental resources will be focused on achieving the things you want in life.
Positive Intelligence offers a simple but effective framework to raise your PQ (you can get a free PQ assessment here). Central to the whole Positive Intelligence framework are the Saboteurs, the Sage and the PQ brain muscles. I’ll briefly explain these three key concepts, how they work together, and at the same time refer to chapters in the book where more details can be found if you wish to explore further.
The Saboteurs are the habitual thinking patterns we have developed in response to perceived threats when we were young. These immature coping mechanisms may be effective when we were young, defenceless and scared, but as you’ll soon find out, they become a major source of misery if we continue to hold on to them as adults. Why then is it so hard to get rid of these internal saboteurs? For one, they are deeply entrenched in our self identity due to years of habitual trigger. That’s also why we accept and believe the voices of the Saboteurs so readily since we perceive them as the voices of our trusted self, and this in turn makes spotting them difficult if we are not mindful of them in the first place.
In the book, author Shirzad Chamine listed ten common saboteurs which you’ll no doubt find familiar. Those that appear regularly in your self talk are your top Saboteurs.
- Judge: The Judge is the inner critic living in each of us that criticizes each and every thing relentlessly. It is a potent source of stress, anxiety, guilt, regret and disappointment in life. The Judge is also the master saboteur which activates the other saboteurs and use them as his accomplice.
- Stickler: In chasing after the elusive perfection, the Stickler, or better known as the perfectionist, creates a living hell for himself and those around him.
- Pleaser: The Pleaser is the doormat who doesn’t know how to say ‘No’ and thinks that pleasing other people is the way to survive in life.
- Hyper-Achiever: The Hyper-Achiever values himself in terms of how much he has accomplished. But of course with the help of the Judge, the Hyper-Achiever is never really satisfied with any of his achievements. Enough is never enough for the Hyper-Achiever. So on and on he slogs on.
- Victim: You’ve probably met people who go around playing the role of a victim to gain special attention and care. He is not acting. It’s just that the poor me identity is so strong in the Victim that he can’t tell it is just another self-sabotaging pattern that his mind is playing on him.
- Hyper-Rational: The Hyper-Rational can be liken to an cold icy Queen who goes everything by facts and figures and leaves no room for emotions, which she deems as useless and of course irrational.
- Hyper-Vigilant: A chronic worrier, the Hyper-Vigilant jumps at the slightest sign of threat and can never be at ease.
- Restless: The Restless is like a hyperactive kid that fiddles with one toy, loses interest, and then move on to the next in the next minute. He is always busy with something because to him, doing nothing feels like the end of the world.
- Controller: The Controller is just a slightly more polite way of saying the Control Freak. Things are either in his control or out of his control, and his mission in life is to control as many things in his life as possible.
- Avoider: The Avoider always has a way to avoid or run away from something. Rationalization is his best way to ‘tai-chi away’ (the Chinese way of saying to push away) all responsibilities without making him feels bad.
Being able to recognise your top saboteurs is an important first step in preventing them from hijacking your mind. Take the FREE TEST HERE
If you think our mind is nothing but a bunch of expired self-limiting thinking patterns, do not despair. The good news is, our mind is also home to redeeming positive qualities which the author has personified as a Sage that lives within us.
While the Saboteurs like to pigeon-hole everything as good or bad, the Sage makes no such distinction. The Sage accepts things as what they are. Hence, even nasty outcomes can be accepted by the Sage as gifts and opportunities. This is a major difference between the Sage and the Saboteurs.
You can think of the Sage as the good wizard, Dumbledore, in the Harry Potter series, and the Judge as Voldemort while his minions are the accomplice Saboteurs. To fight the wicked wizards, Dumbledore has five powers at his disposal. These powers are inherent in all of us and you only need to learn how to call on them at the appropriate time. They are:
- The power to explore with childlike curiosity.
- The power to empathize with others as well as yourself.
- The power to innovate, brainstorm and generate fresh perspectives and solutions without inhibition.
- The power to navigate and choose the best route that is consistent with your values and mission.
- The power to activate and act decisively free from the influence of the Saboteurs.
PQ Brain Muscles
The PQ brain refers to the regions of the brain where the Sage’s powers reside. On the contrary, the Saboteurs live in primitive parts of our brain which the author called the Survivor brain.
By activating your PQ brain muscles, with the help of simple activities that shift your attention from the mind to your physical sensations, you shift yourself from the Saboteur mode to the Sage mode of operation.
The value of Positive Intelligence lies not so much on the techniques that the author has proposed. After all, they are only a combination of tools used in life coaching and mindfulness practice. Don’t get me wrong. They are definitely useful but if you have read enough self-help books, you can probably think of alternative exercises that can bring about similar results.
Its true beauty, however, lies in making unconscious habitual mind patterns which are otherwise indistinguishable from the self identity into instantly recognizable and easy to understand forms. Indeed, there is little chance of winning the mind if you do not even know the tricks it pulls off against you.
So what we really get in this book is a practical and measurable system that teaches you how to identify your internal enemies, weaken them and at the same time activate them with lesser and lesser frequency, thus making a higher level of success a real possibility for those who consistently put it to work in their lives.