How to shift our minds from a negative experience into a growth opportunity?

Positive Intelligence by Shirzad Chamine

Why is it in life that we tend to listen to the negative, the worst-case scenario, and the what-ifs and dismiss anything that could indicate a positive outcome or a time for us to grow and learn from the experience? Well according to Shirzad Chamine in his book Positive Intelligence, it is because we listen to those Saboteurs that cause havoc in our lives instead of focusing on our Sage.

So what is our Sage? 

Our Sage works to accept what is, meaning the situation is what it is, it happened and we cannot change it. The Sage wants us to see that every outcome and circumstance is a gift and an opportunity to grow. Now many of you will say some events are not gifts, and I wholeheartedly agree, but a lot of the time the circumstance is an opportunity to grow because the alternative is getting stuck in the trauma and not being able to move forward. 

For example, a person had a terrible childhood of physical and emotional abuse. The Judge may tell them “everyone is like this, you cannot trust anyone”. Or their Hyper-Vigilant Saboteur may say “watch out, the world is a dangerous place.”  The Sage, on the other hand, will work to help them accept that there is nothing they can do about the situation. It happened and it is what it is. The Sage will ask “what did you learn from this experience, there is a gift in there somewhere?” Maybe the person went to therapy and had the opportunity to really learn about themselves, or they decided that they were going to parent differently so their children were able to grow up in a positive environment. 

According to the book Positive Intelligence, we need to take what our Saboteurs say “with a grain of salt” or just ignore them altogether. Our Judge, for example, believes that it knows what is good and bad at any given moment, but that is not necessarily true. 

So how do we step into our Sage? 

Shirzad Chamine has come up with several strategies. The first is the three gifts technique. Think of three supposedly bad situations, and think about how they can be turned into an opportunity or a gift. This may be difficult at first but keep at it. Another technique is to just let it go without any resentment, sadness, or distress. Believe it or not, this is a gift in itself because you do not experience any guilt, regret, or shame and it strengthens your Sage. 

Another way to step into your Sage is by using its five powers; empathize, explore, innovate, navigate and activate. Empathy is about showing appreciation, compassion and forgiveness to ourselves and others. That Judge may be telling us “you need to be tough on yourself”, but that is not necessarily true.  Instead switch to your Sage’s perspective and activate your empathy. Think of holding a puppy or a kitten, or of yourself as a child and tap into those feelings of empathy. If you are angry or upset with someone then visualize them as a child so that you can tap into your Sage power and let the situation go. Remember by letting go we are not saying that the other person was right, we are just trying to move forward. 

Next is exploring, which as children we did all the time. We all knew how to explore with curiosity, openness, wonder, and fascination, yet as adults, we tend to lose this as we get wrapped up in life. When life happens we need to not look at it through the Judge’s eyes, which are narrow, but to look at it through the wonder of exploring and discovering things as they are, not how we believe them to be. 

Innovation is about breaking out of your box, and away from the assumptions that we make and the habits and rules that are holding us back. 

The question to ask is “what is a new way to do this?” 

Navigation is about choosing the various paths and alternatives that are consistent with your own values and what gives YOUR life meaning and purpose. So what happens if you are faced with a fork in the road, what do you do? Well, focus on what is important to you. 

The last one is about activating yourself into pure action where all your mental and emotional energies are being used and not distracted by your Saboteurs. Yet what happens if our Saboteurs start telling us that we “should not be doing this or that?” What we do is anticipate what our Saboteurs are going to tell us and as they arise and we just let them go. For example, think about something that you want to do, maybe it is going back to college, or looking for a new job. What are your Saboteurs telling you? Are you going to listen to them, or just let them go?