What do you actually think about yourself? In the world of shiny, happy, confident Insta-you, at the end of the day, when you’re alone with your thoughts, what do you say to yourself?
NY Times Bestselling Author and CEO of Positive Intelligence, Inc., Shirzad Chamine, asked more than 100 CEOs this question, to which they answered anonymously on flashcards. During a recent talk at Stanford University, he read some of the answers aloud.
“I’m rarely at peace with myself.”
“I’m self-destructive and I don’t know why.”
“I don’t love myself very much.”
“I’m feeling very sad and lonely, and the anti-depressants I’m on don’t seem to be helping.”
“I battle with constantly ranking and judging everyone around me, in all settings, all the time.”
One of Chamine’s missions has been to unravel the drivers behind our condemning thoughts, steering away from a sabotaging mind to a serving mind. Over time, he developed strategies to help people break out of self-destructive mental loops and become happier and more productive at work and in life.
Strategy #1: Learn How to Meditate in Stressful Situations
The majority of people who meditate do so early in the morning, when things are quiet and they’re preparing themselves for the day ahead. But one long commute, one intense meeting, and two urgent deliverables later, those calming, positive thoughts are AWOL.
“You need to learn how to activate that brain in the middle of war, in the middle of challenges, in the middle of crises,” Chamine says. “Most meditators don’t learn how to activate that brain when they really need it.”
He shared a practical tip to spark mindfulness and calm in any situation: Slowly rub your index finger against your thumb, so that you can feel the individual ridges of your fingerprint. Try it for 10 seconds at a time. Focusing on that sensation can help ground you and break a negative mental cycle.
Strategy #2: Recognize All the Forms Your Mental Criticism Comes in
Chamine identified a handful of types of negative voices that are capable of sabotaging your happiness, productivity, and positive feelings of self-worth — a group he calls Saboteurs. The dominant Saboteur everyone carries with them is the Judge — the voice inside you that judges your own actions and the actions of everyone else. Hiding behind the Judge is a host of smaller Saboteurs — the Controller, the Restless, the Stickler, the Pleaser, the Avoider, the Victim, the Hyper-Vigilant, the Hyper-Achiever, the Hyper-Rational. Chamine examines each in detail in his bestselling book, Positive Intelligence.
Chamine says some of the world’s most outwardly successful people are ruled by their various Saboteurs. Using negative emotions as fuel to push them, they’ll ultimately fall short of their true potential. “So long as the Saboteurs are pushing you to your level of success, you will never be happy, because every step of the way is littered with negativity,” he says. “Your path to highest performance is not through the Saboteurs.”
Strategy #3: Listen to Your Inner Sage
The counterbalance to each person’s cast of Saboteurs is a calm, positive, optimistic voice that Chamine calls the Sage. Rather than picking apart every mistake you make and every shortcoming you find in the people around you, your inner Sage instead tries to see the positive in every negative.
“One of the number one tools that high performers use, every time life throws [challenges] at them, one of the ways they quickly recover to a positive place … is to ask the question, ‘How do I turn this into a gift and opportunity?’”
Looking for the gift, no matter how small, in each negative experience helps reframe the thoughts associated with the experience.