Want To Get Mentally Fit?

Sometimes, I think I just get lucky. OR, maybe I have been blessed. It all depends on your perspective, I guess.

My spiritually spooky grandmother, Glennie Mae McBrayer, would make some pretty outrageous claims on the guidance of the Spirit, which she brought from the moors of Scotland to the hill country of Texas. As I get older, I seem to appreciate her perspective more. Maybe you just need to have a rearview mirror with a long enough view to recognize, see such things.

But this has the spooky quality that would bring that twinkle to Glennie’s emerald eyes.

It began with a phone call from a coaching colleague who lives in Memphis, (Memphis in the meantime, baby) while I was driving down live oak-tunneled, Spanish moss-dripping Frederica Road on St. Simons Island, definitely a setting for revelatory moments. My normally well-measured Methodis colleague was excitedly telling me about some guy named Shirzad. “Shirzad?” I replied. “What the hell is a Shirzad? A new Tesla Model 3 turbo-charged?”

“No.” Rick replied curtly, long-tired of my comedic attempts. Rick quickly told me that he had run across an article that might interest me in its connection to Emotional Intelligence. I encouraged him to send me the article, so I could add it to pile upon the mounting stack of things I need to read. Shirzad? Shirzad..,,exotic. The name seemed to stay with me, residing in my awareness. Haunting me? No, but definitely pulling me into an unknown vortex.

And within a week, I found myself leading a retreat for a pack of priests who had been introduced to this guy’s book, Positive Intelligence by Shirzad Chamine. Turns out, Shirzad is a professor at Stanford, who through his research in neuroscience, performance science, and organizational psychology, has provided 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 am transposing it to South of God as a way of sharing a good thing.

I began my dive into this theory by going to Dr. Chamine’s website at http://www.positiveintelligence.com . There you will find a brief description of what he means by “positive intelligence”, or PQ, 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, mental pauses that trip us up, derail us from our goals and intentions. 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 however, stuck with your Saboteurs. 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 and application of Emotional Intelligence. Fortunately, these capacities can be developed with attention and energy, increasing one’s mental fitness.

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 book-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 below.

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

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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 utilize or develop others’ capacity.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. The Pleaser- goal is to gain acceptance and affection by helping, pleasing, flattering, or rescuing. You lose sight of your own needs and later 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.
  8. 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.
  9. 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.
  10. 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.

How’s that for a start? Recognize a few Saboteurs that visit you in the middle of your work day, or maybe during the night? As you will see, the key is to see them coming, and intercept their lies. It’s not easy because you have been well-trained, over a long period of time, and, it works somewhat. But you are not able to function at a high level nor are you really happy. But, here comes the good news.

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:
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:

  1. To explore with great curiosity and an open mind.
  2. To empathize with yourself and others, to bring compassion and understanding to the situation.
  3. To innovate and create new perspectives and outside-the-box solutions.
  4. To navigate and choose a path that best aligns with one’s core values, mission, and greater purpose.
  5. To activate and take decisive action without the distress, interference, and distraction of the Saboteurs.
    (Side note: This follows along the lines of some of the main competencies in Emotional Intelligence and the process I have pointed to before called Creative Interchange= trust, curiosity, creativity and tenacity)

The Mental Operating System:
The overall strategy is to:

  1. Recognize and weaken one’s Saboteurs;
  2. Strengthen your Sage;
  3. Strengthen your Positive Intelligence (PQ) Brain muscles

Let’s dive a little deeper into these Big Three.

  1. Recognize Saboteurs- identify those thought and emotional patterns, seeing that they do not serve you. Identify and label them when they show up. Intercept them so that they don’t rule the day or dominate your mind. Have a sense of humor about them!
  2. Strengthen your Sage-consciously shift to the Sage perspective (all situations offer you an opportunity of learning and growth), intentionally accessing the powers therein to handle the situation at hand. Have confidence that you have a Sage within.
  3. 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, altering neural pathways, 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 gym 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 dgalloway@gallowayconsulting.net or drdavidgalloway@msn.com.

Bottom line, Positive Intelligence offers a way to train and strengthen your mind so that you are more effective and happy.

8 thoughts on “Want To Get Mentally Fit?

  1. David, you may want to look at a book titled “All Together You” by a woman therapist in Atlanta. It is somewhat mainline Christian in its theology. But, it suggests (like exploring your shadow) that even those internal characters mentioned by Shirzad have something to offer us. The authors name is Jenna Riemersma. And, it was Michal who introduced me to her book! Indeed, what I read is that if we can have CI with all the parts of ourselves they can be a source of richness or “salvation” (wholeness!). See you Monday. Peace, Mike M

    Sent from my iPad



    1. Michael, all roads lead to Rome (once a RC always a RC)… all roads lead to God… thus, all roads lead to Creative Interchange!



  2. Dear David,

    To answer the question, you’re asking me through your blog: Yes, I want To Get Mentally fit! And in case you wonder how I do this… Well not by using Shirzad Chamine’s book … by living Charlie Palmgren’s two books from the inside out. And should your next question be Why? (Start with Why? baby – Sinek, 2009). Because Positive Intelligence is a nice paraphrase of ‘The Chicken Conspiracy’ (Hagan & Palmgren, 1999) and “The Ascent of the Eagle’ (Palmgren, 2008). This should not surprise us since Charlie is, as you know, a master in describing human behavior and a PhD in Applied Behavior Science (for some fifty years).

    And, indeed, Shirzad’s Saboteurs are all created by what Charlie calls ‘The Vicious Circle’ and Shirzad’s Sage is what Charlie calls the (our) ‘Original Self’.

    Shirzad identifies ten Saboteurs, which makes his model amazingly sophisticated, although one could easily add some more. What do you think of the Narcissist and the Psychopath? The key is indeed to see those saboteurs coming and to intercept their lies, as you write.

    The Original Self (the Sage in Shirzad’s words) represents the deeper and wiser part of each of us. It is the Self we’re born. And you rightly point out that the Sage has access to five powers of the Creative Interchange process. You mention the four of Charlie’s ‘Accent of the Eagle’: trust, curiosity, creativity and tenacity. If you take a look at my interpretation of Creative Interchange and thus what I call my Crucial Dialogue Model you’ll find in the middle Shirzad’s #4, and in the four quadrants, first Shirzad’s #1 (Authentic Interaction), Shirzad’s #2 (Appreciative Understanding), Shirzad’s #3 (Creative Integrating) and finally Shirzad’s #5 (Continual Transformation).

    The Saboteurs are nurture and the Sage is nature is another way to make the link between Shirzad and Palmgren (whose mentor was Henry Nelson Wieman). BTW, your blog made me smile when you wrote that you were leading a retreat for a pack of priests who had been introduced to Shirzad Chamine’s book, Positive Intelligence. I hope they’d read Man’s Ultimate Commitment (Wieman, 1958) and understood the similarity between those two books.

    The Mental Operating System is nothing more and nothing less than living Creative Interchange from within, which weakens one’s Saboteurs, transforms the created self in the direction of the Creative (Original) Self and transforms our Brain through challenging our Mental Models.
    Remember my magic formulae: CI2: Continuous Improvement through (living) Creative Interchange!

    Bottom line, I won’t get a copy of the book and won’t dive more deeply in Shirzad’s since I’ll continu living Creative Interchange and thus the books of Palmgren and Wieman as best as I can and in a continual transforming way. Therefore, I have more than enough on my plate.



    1. Johan, as always, brilliant reply. though might admonish you to practice some appreciative valuing of my man, Shirzad, even though he is not our friend and colleague, Charlie.
      Shirzad is attempting to communicate in a particular and peculiar context, so I would give him his due. I am glad that you too saw the connection between the two.
      Finally, I am particularly intrigued with Shirzad’s use of a phone app to operationalize the heady stuff of mental fitness. It is something that I hope we might apply in spreading the Gospel of Creative Interchange….you, Evangelist, you! Cheers.


  3. David, I thought I gave in my comment to Caesar what is due to Caesar (in this case your man Shirzad). If you perceive, using your ‘colored’ consciousness, that I did not enough appreciative valuing of your man, I can tell you, hand on heart, that this was in no way my intention. Paraphrasing two books of Charlie in one own book is an exceptional achievement. What I wrote was my opinion based on the facts you gave me. As always written text gives, according to mostly misinterpreted studies of Abraham Mehrabian, only seven percent of the full meaning of the message.

    What I concluded from your blog was that I should not give the little time that I have to my disposal to study Shirzad, given I am occupied more than enough in living Creative Interchange the Continual improving way in everything what I do. And what I did reading your blog was using the left loop op ‘my’ Crucial Dialogue Model (Communication and Appreciation) and came to the insight that the ‘Delta’ between ‘Positive Intelligence’ and ‘Creative Interchange’ is ‘small’; therefor I decided to stop there and then and not to pursue the right loop of the CDM; which I voiced in my comment.

    I am sure that Shirzad’s phone app is a useful way to operationalize that stuff of mental fitness and I fully agree that it would be a great help for living Creative Interchange too. In fact, such an app (based on Artificial Intelligence?) could warn us of we ‘slip slide’ from the Creative Interchange track into the direction of our Vicious Circle. We shouldn’t forget that for Wieman, science and technology had to be directed toward the service of that force which creates, sustains, and fulfills human life (Wieman, The Source of Human Good, 1946).

    See you on Thursday!


    1. Johan, I have been appreciatively focused on your CI field guide over the weekend. Superb work. I told Charlie on Friday how much explication and elaboration you have provided me. My comment on your comment (meta-comment) was intended playfully. I do think that we need to train an appreciative eye to other’s work, and you are helping me do that. Creative Interchange describes an embedded dynamic in Creation itself, never fully describable but apparent to those who look with discernment. You are one, and teaching me to become one.
      I fully get “limited time”. Funny as we get older, that Truth becomes more apparent. But it was/is always the case, which is why what we choose to study, to write, to do is an ethical choice. Our time is limited, although the illusion of limitless is so seductive.
      As the Knight of the Holy Grail says, You have chosen well.


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