(Estimated reading time 4 minutes)
Do you ever feel like you’ve got opposing forces inside of you: the angel and devil on your shoulder or the two wolves fighting inside you.
A boy, wrestling with internal conflict, turned to his grandfather. He explained that two wolves were fighting inside him. One was darkness and despair, the other was light and hope. Afraid and uncertain of his future he asked his grandfather which wolf would win the internal battle, to which the grandfather replied, “the one you feed.”Legend of unknown origin
For Star Wars fans, you might describe your internal conflict as being between your inner Jedi and Sith, or as best selling author and Stanford professor Shirzad Charmine calls it, your inner Sage and Saboteur.
Charmine proposes that each of us has the voices of both Saboteur and Sage inside us. You might find the Saboteur showing up as the harsh judge who criticizes and berates. Perhaps the Saboteur reveals itself as the Stickler who drives you to elusive perfection and never lets you rest or celebrate a job well done. Maybe it’s the Victim or the People Pleaser. The Saboteur motivates you through negative emotions like fear, stress, anger, guilt, shame and insecurity. Whatever saboteurs you face, you can be sure they are impacting your life in ways known and unknown. If you’re interested in discovering the saboteur cast at play in your life, you can take Charmine’s free assessment. Be warned, though, once you learn about these characters, you will start noticing them in many of your interactions with yourself, others and your circumstances. The good news? When you finally become aware of the ways your Saboteurs show up, you are in a position to weaken their hold on you.
Charmine teaches that Sage and Saboteur live in different parts of our brain. With some simple exercises, we can learn to activate our Sage muscles. These exercises build grey matter in the region of our brain that houses the Sage. The development in this area of the brain is visible after just a few weeks of exercise on an MRI scan. What’s so desirable about the Sage? It motivates you through positive emotions like empathy, curiosity, creativity, passion and purpose. It allows you to see even tough situations as the stepping-stone to some gift or opportunity. Who couldn’t use more of that kind of resilience and ability to re-frame in their life?
If creating awareness of saboteurs is the initial step, this is closely followed by learning to adopt the Sage perspective and by building your self-command muscle. Each time you notice the Saboteur, name it, stop and do what he calls PQ reps (Positive Intelligence repetitions). Then, once you’ve activated your PQ brain, choose to look for the Sage perspective. It’s the PQ reps that activate the part of the brain that houses our Sage and allows us to view a situation with more empathy, curiosity, creativity, passion and purpose.
Sounds good, right? Let me tell you, it is useful, but it is not easy. Just like building any muscle, it takes time and lots of repetition. I’m in week 4 of an intensive program Shirzad is offering to train coaches in this material, and I’m excited about being able to incorporate this more with my coaching clients.
Here’s some of what I’ve noticed while practicing these techniques myself
- I’m much more conscious of Saboteurs.
- I feel less stressed and calmer.
- I’m more able to be compassionate with myself and others.
- I’m enjoying the PQ reps, which align strongly with mindfulness principles. You can practice PQ reps in many ways throughout your day. The premise is to stop and focus on one of your senses for a few minutes every hour or whenever you feel your saboteurs are active. Here are a few examples: listen to the sound of your breathing, feel your feet against the floor, really taste that coffee or notice the details of that picture in front of you. These exercises seem simple, and I wondered about their effectiveness at first, but I have noticed an increase in my ability to switch to a Sage perspective.
If you want to learn more about this, you can listen to Shirzad Charmine’s Tedx talk.
This week’s photos
I’ve been practicing building my PQ muscles by seeing things in a new way – the light and shadow, the shapes and colours. I express that in part through one of my hobbies, photography, but it’s also one of the reasons I love coaching. I get to look with a fresh set of eyes. I get to find and share the unseen and unappreciated in people. If you’d like to experience seeing yourself in a new way that celebrates who you are, I’d love to talk with you about coaching.
The kind of coaching I do is all about you. It’s not a program. I tailor my coaching to precisely what you’re going through right now. It’s about you learning to understand you – exploring your dreams, defining your goals, seeing the ways you sabotage yourself, building your self-command muscle, finding your Sage perspective and discovering your core values. When we coach, you’ll notice I use whatever is front and center for you at each session to help you get a deeper understanding of yourself and find the next step forward.