In my last several blog posts, I introduced you to the concept of Positive Intelligence™ and how it can help you overcome self-sabotage, how it might be the answer to a major flaw in coaching, and how it can help you develop the Mental Fitness you need to exercise more choice over you life and feel more in control. Then we explored the importance of Factor Analysis and the first of three core muscles in mental fitness: the Saboteur Interceptor muscle.

Today, we’re digging into the other two core muscles: the Sage muscle and the Self-Command muscle. 

In Positive Intelligence, the counterpart to the Saboteur is known as the Sage. In Star Wars terms, we’d call this the Jedi Light.

The Sage muscle is so important for us to cultivate. Part of doing this (and doing it well) is learning to view our circumstances in less black-and-white terms, to view life as less linear, because it helps us to appreciate where we are and what we have in the present instead of viewing an individual event or circumstance as simply “bad” or “good.”

There’s a Taoist parable I love that illustrates this so well. It goes like this.

An old farmer’s stallion won a prize at a country show. Afterward, his neighbor stopped by the farm to congratulate him, but the old farmer said, “Who knows what is good and what is bad?”

The following day, thieves stole the farmer’s stallion, a personal and an economic loss. The neighbor visited the farmer again to commiserate with him, but the old man simply replied, “Who knows what is good and what is bad?”

After a few days had passed, the spirited stallion escaped from the thieves. He joined a herd of wild mares and led them back to the farm. This time, the neighbor stopped by to toast the farmer and celebrate his joy and good fortune, but the farmer responded, “Who knows what is good and what is bad?”

The following day, while trying to break one of the mares, the farmer’s son was thrown off the horse and fractured his leg. The neighbor called to offer his sympathies and share the farmer’s sorrow, but the old man’s attitude remained unchanged. Again, he said, “Who knows what is good and what is bad?”

The following week the army passed through the farmer’s town, forcibly conscripting soldiers for war. But they did not take the farmer’s son because he couldn’t walk. And the neighbor, finally understanding the sage farmer’s words, thought to himself, “Who knows what is good and what is bad?”

We can ask ourselves a similar question about our life circumstances: “Which perspective is true?”

The Saboteur would say, “This is BAD,” while the Sage would say, “This is a GIFT.”

There’s a Cherokee fable about two wolves that also helps illuminate the struggle between the Saboteur and the Sage. A grandfather tells his grandson about the battle between the two “wolves” in each of us, one good and one bad. The grandson asks which wolf wins the battle, to which the wise grandfather replies, “the one that I feed.”

This fable gives us a wise answer to that question about which perspective is true: 

Whichever you believe. 

Listen to the Sage as often as you can. Feed it and give weight to it. That muscle will strengthen and help defend you against the Saboteur.

At the end of the day, it’s important to know and understand that you are not in charge of your own brain. YOU are not running your own mind. 

If you were, why would you walk up at 3:00 in the morning worried about tomorrow? Why would you judge yourself? Why would you get mad at your child? Of course you’re not actively choosing those things. 

But if it’s not you, then who is in charge?

The Saboteur. All of us are out of our minds. And, as I’ve said before, when you’re up to your ass in alligators, it’s difficult to remember that your original intention was to drain the swamp.

That’s where the Self-Command muscle comes in. 

With practice and discipline, we can develop both our Sage muscle and our Self-command muscle to intervene on our behalf and regain control over our brains.

There’s a concept — a discipline, really — in Positive Intelligence called PQ reps. They are a set of exercises we can return to again and again to give ourselves control over our brains.

Here’s a 10-second PQ rep you can do right now: rub your fingers together for ten seconds. It sounds simple and a little silly, but it works.

There are plenty of other PQ reps that you can incorporate into your daily life to help center your mind and help you regain control. Here’s an essential one:


Make noticing a habit, and do it often.

While drinking your morning coffee, take 30 seconds to notice the warmth of the mug in your hands, the steam rising up to your face, the aroma of the freshly-brewed beans.

Make a point to check in with your body and the way it connects, interacts with, and responds to your environment.

You don’t have to go out of your way to do this at the gym or the yoga studio. You can do it in little ways throughout the day.

You can notice the lather of your shampoo and the warmth of the water in your next shower. 

You can notice the softness of fresh sheets against your skin and the smell of clean laundry fresh out of the dryer. You can notice the smell of freshly-cut grass and the way it feels under your bare feet.

Practice doing this. And practice doing it when things get a bit difficult.

When someone cuts me off on the way to work, the Saboteur wants you to be angry. But you can notice the feel of the steering wheel in your hands. Or the music on the radio. Or that the driver looks like they’re about 102 years old and may not see as well as they used to.

The more you can do this, the more you’re in Self-Command mode. 

Being able to do this will help you to be less reactive. With time and practice, you’ll find that you get less angry less often. You’ll be more resilient and able to let things roll off your shoulders.

A well-developed Self-Command muscle will help you feel less volatile, more even-keeled, and more in control of the way you respond (and don’t react) to the world around you.

And let me tell you, that can make all the difference.


Positive Intelligence™ is trademarked by Shirzad Chamine

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