Positive Intelligence

BrainMany years ago, when I was teaching in an elementary school, I read Howard Gardner’s book Multiple Intelligences. My teaching–and my life–were not the same after that. Gardner demonstrated that what we call IQ measures a very narrow piece of a much broader picture of intelligence. Gardner demonstrated that each of us are intelligent in a different set of ways. And, as we learned from Carol Dweck, we can grow our intelligences in all of these areas.

Since then, Daniel Goleman and others have created an entire body of knowledge and research–including powerful assessments–on emotional and social intelligence. We know that emotional intelligence is a major driver in our success in life and needs to be attended to with as much care as we attend to traditional IQ. And, because schools traditionally did little to promote emotional intelligence, we have a lot of catching up to do.

New intelligences continue to be identified–each of which can enrich our understanding of what makes us tick and how we can live rich, meaningful and productive lives.The one that I find most intriguing right now is Positive Intelligence, a term and concept authored by Sharzad Carmine, an executive coach and academic who draws on research in positive and cognitive psychology and neuroscience: (For a summary of his book see here.)

“…your mind is your best friend, but it is also your worst enemy.  Positive Intelligence is the relative strength of these two modes of your mind.  High Positive Intelligence means your mind act as your friend far more than as your enemy.  Low Positive Intelligence is the reverse.  Positive Intelligence is therefore an indication of the control you have over your own mind and how well your mind acts in your best interest.”

Carmine suggests that we can increase our Positive Intelligence by weakening the forces working to sabotage us–that activate what he calls our “survivor” brains, and strengthening what he calls our “sage brains.”

Carmine identifies ten different saboteurs who contribute to our being in “survivor brain” mode. Saboteurs came to be in childhood as a way to survive real and perceived physical or emotional threats (even in the best of childhoods.) While these once might have served us, they now work against our best interests.

The Judge, the “master saboteur,” is generally strong in each of us, while the remaining nine saboteurs are more individualized. Among these are the hyper-achiever, the avoider, the pleaser and the stickler. You can go online to positiveintelligence.com and complete a very quick assessment to help you figure out the relative strengths of your saboteurs.

Despite our saboteurs’ attempts to have us believe they are helping, they are preventing us from reaching our full potential, exacting a toll on our health and happiness.

“The most effective strategy for weakening your Saboteurs is to simply observe and label your Saboteur thoughts or feelings every time you notice them.” 

Contrary to how you might expect to take on an enemy—Carmine doesn’t recommend we take our saboteurs on aggressively. What helps is to notice our saboteurs when they appear and label them. We begin to see that we are not our saboteurs and—and, without a frontal attack—we start weakening the saboteur.

Carmine then provides great strategies including the  PQ (Positive Quotient) rep to weaken our saboteurs and strengthen our sage:

“To develop your biceps you could lift a dumbbell repeatedly. The PQ Brain equivalent of lifting a dumbbell is very simple: shift as much attention as you can to your body or any of your five senses for at least ten seconds.” 

The PQ rep is a simple practice. A 10-second PQ rep is easy to do—and doing one hundred a day means we are rewiring our brains and creating new neural pathways–building greater capacity for resilience and activating our sage brains.

I urge you to go to his website, do the assessment and study the report–which gives you lots of information. You might also be interested in Shawn Achor’s article that gives some additional strategies for increasing your positive intelligence.