Rewire your brain and shift your perspective through Mental Fitness. One operating system, many applications.

The issue of sustainability

I’ve been developing and perfecting my expertise in Emotional Intelligence (EQ) for over 15 years. I can’t count how many times I’ve spoken about this incredibly valuable and necessary leadership (and personal) skill at conferences, seminars, team building sessions. I’ve supported many CEOs, Directors, leaders in developing / increasing their self-awareness, their emotional self-regulation, their empathy, their motivation, their relationships.

I know it’s worth it. Research shows it’s worth it. And yet, I sometimes wonder which approach I could use to make this development even more sustainable.

Part of my training and coaching offers has always been to catch up with my clients 6 months and 1 year after our coaching relationship ended. What I recorded, when I contacted them, was that improvement results varied significantly from client to client. Although many continued their effort and commitment to developing their EQ skills, for others, it’s was a different matter: 3 to 4 out of 10 after 6 months and 5 to 6 out of 10 after a year showed some signs that they were reversing to “old habits”. I could hear their growing stress, or the decrease in their self-confidence or the controlling attitude they once had resurfacing. Disappointing as it was, they weren’t that surprised and could give me many reasons for losing track of their progress:

  • Lack of time
  • Job pressure to achieve more results
  • So many organisational change projects
  • Turnover within their teams
  • Added responsibilities
  • Economic challenges affecting their organisation
  • And so on…

And I must confess that sometimes I wondered if the approach I took with some clients was the right one for them, if I could have done it better. Until my path crossed the one of @Shirzad Chamine, the author of the New York Times bestselling Positive Intelligence (PQ). As an opportunity to be trained by Shirzad arose through his Mental Fitness Programme for Coaches, I didn’t waver and successfully applied. One of the best choices I ever made in terms of development!

Shirzad’s ground-breaking research shows that the reason why many attempts to grow EQ only lead to temporary progress is because a “more foundational and core intelligence has been ignored, which is a pre-cursor of high EQ” (

According to his research (involving 500,000 participants from 50 countries, hundreds of CEOs and their teams, Stanford University students, world-class athletes), self-sabotage is the main reason these temporary enhancements tend to fade away.

A light bulb moment for me. Remember what I mentioned earlier? As my clients’ progress faded away, I started to question my approach. And yes, it is important to challenge your thinking and to discover how you can improve and grow. This was not the issue. The issue was that I was questioning my ability to help them: self-sabotage in action!

What is Mental Fitness?

Mental Fitness can be defined as our ability to meet and respond to life’s challenges from a positive, instead of a negative, mindset.

First things first… Why using the word “fitness”?

  • Because the brain is a muscle and, like every muscle in our body, we can work on it regardless of our initial abilities
  • Because, like physical activities help us equip our body for the physical demands it will be subjected on, mental fitness (PQ brain muscle) is about getting us ready for all the contexts in life that are cognitively / mentally challenging
  • Because, like physical exercise helps us to feel stronger and better about ourselves, mental fitness helps us to feel stronger and happier.

To increase our mental ability to respond more positively to life challenges we need to work on the 3 core PQ brain muscles that are at the root of mental fitness (what Shirzad Chamine calls: the saboteur Interceptor, the sage and the self-command).

Mental Fitness operating system: building our three core muscles in a nutshell…

Intercept the saboteurs – Remember last time you woke up in the middle of the night wondering if you had done the right thing on your last project or if you had the right attitude at your last meeting? The last time you wondered if you were good enough? If you had done enough?

Stress, anxiety, procrastination, self-doubt, discontent, avoidance, fear, you get the picture! Shirzad has identified 10 saboteurs that represent “a set of automatic and habitual mind patterns, each with its own voice, beliefs and assumptions that work against your best interest”. And we all have some of them. The question is: which ones? Mental fitness requires us to intercept these saboteurs. They will do everything they can to convince you that they are your best friend when they really act as your internal enemy. Little liars in action! The good news is that we can considerably weaken their power by building the interceptor and to stop them hijack our thoughts.
If you wish to discover your top saboteurs, you can take the saboteurs assessment. It’s free.

Strengthen the sage – The sage is our true self. It’s the one that we are born to be, it’s our original self where calm mind and positive emotions take the lead. And its voice serves us. Its strength is rooted in its perspective: any problem / challenge that we face can be turned into a gift or opportunity (or is already one).  It is our friend, not your enemy. And that’s the one that we want to grow by using its five untapped powers (empathising, exploring, innovating, navigating and activating).

Self-command – by strengthening our PQ brain muscles, we command our mind to stop the mind-chatters (the saboteurs) and concentrate on thriving instead (the sage). By directing our attention on five physical sensations, we are able to quiet our saboteurs (survival mode) and shift our focus on the region of the brain associated with positive emotions, peace and calm, clear-headed focus

A proven, measurable, transformational model

I know, it may sound so simple for some of you, how can this really work? Humm… Saboteur maybe?

Well, I’ve been through the initial 6-week programme myself. And I can tell you from experience that this radically new approach has certainly improved (and still does) my well-being, my creativity, my perspective in life. I can operate the shift more quickly and notice more easily when saboteurs try to hijack my thoughts. And that transformation includes how I serve my clients who wish to develop their emotional intelligence.

I found this training so incredibly transformational that I decided to enrol for the exciting first-ever PQ Pioneer coach programme, facilitated by Shirzad. And I love every minute of it.

Personal or professional transformation requires 20% insight (that we can get from reading a book, attending a workshop or a coaching session) and 80% mental muscle building.

No matter what the issue is, as motivational speakers, coaches and trainers, we often work on addressing the symptoms of the issue and we design our interventions with the aim that it will give our clients enough self-awareness to tackle the root causes of what wish they to change in their behaviour or interactions.

The value in Mental Fitness is that it addresses the root cause of our thoughts, emotions, and behaviours, and create a stronger level of self-awareness and empathy (the top two factors that you need to develop to improve your emotional intelligence in my view), but it also automatically boosts your self-regulation, your relationship management and your social awareness.

The value of Mental Fitness is that you build sustainable new habits that will have a lasting impact of your successes and happiness. One operating system, many applications: yes, it will improve your peak performance, increase your well-being and your ability to reduce stress, motivate yourself and your teams, improve your communication your creativity, and increase your self-confidence and happiness, to only name a few!

Yes, it is really possible to just shift from Saboteur to Sage response, even in tough challenges, and it all depends on your mental muscle strength.

Final thought…No matter what life throws at us. We have the power to choose what is good, what is bad, what stays and what goes.

I chose. And you?