“Your mind is your best friend, but it is also your worst enemy. And Positive Intelligence is the relative strength of these two modes of your mind.”
— Shirzad Chamine
Having previously ran a branch of an international non-profit organization that focuses on mental health, the topic certainly has become something that I’m quite well acquainted with.
Yet, to my surprise, it wasn’t until recently that I learned about mental fitness and positive intelligence.
What exactly is mental fitness?
When it comes to our physical health & fitness, just because we’re physically healthy doesn’t automatically mean that we’re fit (and vice versa). And our mental health & fitness work similarly.
In order to become mentally healthy and fit, we’d have to work on both. That said, the more mentally fit we are, the easier it becomes for us to maintain a good state of mental health.
Simply put, if you’re mentally fit, you can handle life’s great challenges without mental stress or adverse effects of negative emotions.
And according to Shirzad Chamine, a professor at Stanford and the New York Times Bestselling author of Positive Intelligence, mental fitness is a measure of the strength of your positive mental muscles (Sage) versus the negative (Saboteur).
And what is Positive Intelligence all about?
Positive Intelligence or the Positive Intelligence Quotient (PQ) is a measure of how mentally fit you are.
Backed up by research done with over 500,000 participants of various ages and backgrounds, it has been found to be the best predictor of how happy you are and how well you perform relative to your potential.
In his book, Shirzad wrote “Your potential is determined by many factors, including your cognitive intelligence (IQ), your emotional intelligence (EQ), and your skills, knowledge, experience, and social network.
But it is your Positive intelligence (PQ) that determines what percentage of your vast potential you actually achieve.”
Calculated as a percentage (from 0-100%), your PQ illustrates just how much your mind is acting as your friend vs. enemy. The higher you score, the more mentally fit you are and the more that you see your mind & thoughts as an ally rather than a foe.
Shirzad noted that 75% is the ‘critical tipping point’ where one would be regarded as ‘mentally fit’. Why such a high number, you ask? The reason is that we tend to have a negativity bias. In fact, research has shown that negative thoughts/emotions are at least 3 times as strong as positive ones.
At 75%, you’re being lifted with the internal dynamics of your mind and the remainder 25%, being dragged down by them.
Think of it this way, during a work performance review, you may receive plenty of positive feedback & praises and one single constructive criticism, yet studies show that you’re more likely to remember and single out your focus on that one less than stellar feedback above all others.
So how can we work on becoming more mentally fit?
First things first, take the free test to find out your PQ score. This way, you’ll know where you’re at and make comparisons as you work on your mental fitness.
In order to get an accurate reading, it’s advisable for you to take the test 3 times. And note that you should take it on a ‘normal’ day – whatever that looks for you. The point is that you shouldn’t take it on a day that you got a promotion nor should you take it on a day where you’re feeling blue.
You should also answer honestly, when you do so, you should get a relatively similar score each time.
I consider myself a positive person, yet to my surprise, I scored an average of 60%, which is well under the 75% tipping point. While I was a bit ‘bummed’ about it, I come to find out at a Virtual Mental Fitness Webinar I attended that out of the 12 participants, my PQ score was the 2nd highest.
So, if you scored lower than you expected, don’t despair as this is perfectly ‘normal’. Most importantly, there’s something you can do about it!
Other than your PQ score, I recommend taking the saboteur assessment (it’s also free). In the report, you’ll find out your saboteurs – your greatest strengths that can easily become your weaknesses when you’re not feeling at your best (e.g: stressed, overwhelmed, ill, etc.).
Shirzad explained that our Saboteurs start off as our guardians to help us survive the real and imagined threats to our physical and emotional survival as children. By the time we are adults, we no longer need them, but they have become invisible inhabitants of our mind, controlling our lives.
So if we’re not aware of or ‘work’ on them, they can easily sabotage us and prevent us from becoming our best self.
The good news is that there’s plenty that we can do to boost our PQ and counteract the negative effects of our Saboteurs. We can start by taking on a ‘Sage perspective’ which is all about seeing all events, circumstances, and people we encounter as ‘gifts’ and opportunities for growth.
According to Shirzad, you can strengthen your mental fitness by practicing and applying the 5 sage powers on a regular basis.
These powers work to create a more positive internal worldview, and allow you to focus on what’s in front of you, rather than worrying about what’s next.
- Explore – Looking at a challenge, conflict, or situation with the lens of openness & curiosity instead of judgement and quickly coming up with solutions.
- Navigate – When faced with multiple choices/paths, observing & choosing one that most resonate/align with your values, purpose, and/or meaning.
- Emphatize – Feeling & showing appreciation, compassion, and forgiveness towards others, and more importantly, yourself.
- Innovate – Asking yourself ‘If I know nothing about this topic/work/job, how would I go about doing it?’ or ‘What would be a completely new way of approaching this project/task/situation?’
- Activate – Taking decisive action without the distress, interference, or distraction of the Saboteurs.
You may have noticed that each sage perspective is useful for different types of situations or scenarios and it is indeed most effective when you choose 1 method to focus on at a time. That said, as you strengthen all 5, you may combine the practices as you see fit.
Interested in learning more about Positive Intelligence and how you can strengthen your mental fitness?
Catherine Le Liboux is a certified Personal Growth Coach who specializes in this very topic so be sure to sign up for her Virtual Mental Fitness webinar!