One of the many things I have planned for 2014 is to read 12 books that are related to the topic of happiness. The reason I want to do that is not only to have more food for thought for The Positude Blog, but also to develop a better understanding of how to write and structure a book. That is eventually the goal of this blog, namely to publish a book.
The first book I have chosen is called "Positive Intelligence" by Shirzad Chamine. I'm just half-way through, but there are already some very interesting thoughts and concepts that resonate with me and that coincide with my own theories and ideas about what makes us happy in life.
One thing I mentioned earlier is that your mind is both your best friend and enemy. Remember this example?
"If you are in a room with 10 people and 9 of them hold something good in their hands while 1 person points a gun at you, you would focus on the gun and completely disregard the 9 positive things in the room. One might say "of course, the guy is holding a gun", but that's exactly the point. As humans, we are unconsciously programmed for survival. That's why our brain is wired to identify threats, danger and negative things in our environment and that's why thinking positively requires an extra effort." – Breaking the Habit of Thinking Negatively
If you don't want to think in such extreme examples, just try to think of how your increased happiness fades shortly after you achieved what you thought would bring you lasting happiness. Shawn Achor mentioned in his book "The Happiness Advantage" the example of students who get accepted to Harvard. It's a big achievement that certainly causes euphoria and increased levels of happiness ... but almost all students shortly succumb to the stress and fears of their student lives. Just think of your last time you achieved what you thought would make you happy and think how long it actually lasted? Think of all the "eye-opening" trainings you attended and books you read. Chances are those lessons and insights resonated strongly with you, but that their effects fizzled.
According to Shirzad Chamine, this is a self-inflicted phenomenon caused by our mind to sabotage you. Your mind is your best friend, but it's also your worst enemy. In his book "Positive Intelligence", Shirzad identifies 10 different types of Saboteurs – internal enemies that express themselves through "automatic and habitual mind patterns, each with its own voice, beliefs and assumptions that work against your best interest." Let me present you 5 of these 10 Saboteurs.
- "What is wrong with me? Why do people not like me?" (The Judge)
- "What an idiot ... if you can't do it right, don't do it at all" (The Stickler)
- "Maybe he will like me more if I do him that favor?" (The Pleaser)
- "I'd be such a loser if I don't get the first place" (The Hyper-Achiever)
- "Why does that always happen to me? I wish someone would help me" (The Victim)
Some of these voices might be familiar to you. As I wrote in my post Breaking the Habit of Thinking Negatively, 75-80% of your daily thoughts in life are negative. These 10 Saboteurs are the ones to be blamed for that. Knowing that, the question is not if you have any of these Saboteurs, but which of them you have. Surprisingly enough, we develop these Saboteurs as a result of our efforts during childhood to make sense of the world around us. It's our brain's attempt to protect us and to survive (just think of going to school and the emotional stress this can be for a child). Once be become adults, these mind patterns are fully engraved in our brains and often enough we don't even notice that we have them (after all, they have been around with us since the beginning).
The good news is that these Saboteurs can be identified and weakened (something that I will address in detail in another post). More interestingly though, the effect of these Saboteurs can be measured! Shirzad came up with a concept that he calls PQ. The same way how someone has an IQ and EQ (Emotional Intelligence = the ability to identify, assess, and control the emotions of oneself, of others, and of groups), people also have a PQ (Positive Intelligence). High PQ would mean that your mind acts as your friend far more than as your enemy. Low PQ would mean the contrary.
To put your PQ into context, just imagine that your overall potential as a human is determined by a multitude of factors. There are – for example – your skills, network, experience, as well as your IQ and EQ. But at the end of it all, it's your PQ that determines how much of your potential you are actually achieving. By raising your PQ, any challenge or difficulty in life can more easily be turned into a gift and an opportunity for more success, happiness and peace of mind.
The reason why I like this book thus far is that it's a solid attempt to put more science behind some commonly accepted wisdoms. It's hard to put data into the world of "thinking positively", but Shirzad has an interesting approach to it. Independent of that, I believe that not everyone in this world is gifted with a sense of self-reflection and thus capable of improving their perspective on life (and their happiness as a result). Expressing this inequality through the concept of a PQ is something I find very plausible and worth discussing.