A joint article by Amélie Papin and Anita Sauvage

From acknowledging negative emotions to building a positive outlook

Covid-19 has affected all of us in many ways, personally and professionally and coping with the uncertainty it has brought has been challenging.

For many of us, the priority was firstly to focus on the “here and now”, dealing with all the emotions regarding new ways of working, organizing a home office, keeping a business afloat, managing teams from a distance while taking care of the family and trying to make time for ourselves.

As the disruption of the pandemic continues, the livelihoods of many leaders, business owners and that of the entrepreneurs like @Amelie and I have been challenged and, in many cases, threatened. More than ever, taking care of one’s emotional well-being is crucial.

Our clients have regularly asked us how we coped (and continue to cope) with business slowdown, remote working, new challenges, and the uncertainty as Covid-19 continues to permeate many aspects of our lives.

Well… We hit the jackpot! At the beginning of 2020, @Amélie and I (@Anita and I) were very lucky to be selected amongst thousands of coaches across the world to become certified in a pioneering, ground-breaking, research-based Positive Intelligence Mental Fitness programme. The programme, developed by Stanford Lecturer, Coach and CEO Shirzad Chamine, has its roots in neuroscience, cognitive & positive psychology, and performance science.

As we embarked on the initial 6-week programme just before the lockdown, building new mental muscles helped us deal with the uncertainty caused by Covid-19. It gave us simple, powerful, and sustainable tools to rewire our brain so we could shift our emotional responses to those that would serve us best.

Shirzad explains that: “The key to Mental Fitness is to weaken the internal saboteurs who generate all your negativity in the way they respond to challenges. Your saboteurs cause all your stress, anxiety, self-doubt, frustration, regret, shame, guilt, and unhappiness. Your Sage lives in an entirely different region of your brain and handles challenges in ways that produce positive emotions like curiosity, empathy, creativity, calm and clear-headed laser-focused action.”

Acknowledging negative emotions  

When confronted with such a challenge, it is perfectly understandable (and human) to experience negative emotions:

  • the worry of losing money as many contracts were put on hold,
  • the fear that losing clients would jeopardize your ability to keep the business going,
  • the anxiety caused by not being able to see your close relatives and friends and the worry about their safety,
  • the concerns about the wellbeing of those who were furloughed and your team members who felt isolated,
  • the worry caused by an underlying health issue and how this virus may impact your recovery,
  • the feeling of loneliness caused by remote working,
  • the stress of having to become an improvised teacher while trying to work remotely / keep the business afloat,
  • the guilt about not having anticipated something like this could happen,
  • the frustration of social distancing.

For us, the encounter was like being at a crossroads and wondering which one we would choose.  As we kept receiving calls from our clients announcing that they needed to postpone or cancel our contracts for the time being, we were worried that our business may not recover from this difficult period.  Our saboteurs (aka negative mind-chatter)were at play, beating us for our (perceived) shortcomings. And it is totally normal. We all have them.

Uncertainty is part of our life even without the threat of a worldwide pandemic and a global economy in tatters. There are many things that none of us can control. But if we keep focusing on them, the fear or frustration will become even greater.

>> Discover your top Saboteurs by taking this free assessment.

Choosing your response

Imagine if your brain was constantly on survival mode. Would you be able to make an important decision? Chances are it would be difficult. Staying with your saboteurs (which are one’s over-used strengths) is not an option.  

As Shirzad asked us at the beginning of the programme: “Is pain good for you? Would you keep your hand on a hot stove?” It would be crazy wouldn’t it?

Instead we learnt how to notice and stop these mind-chatters that were hijacking our thoughts. We took the time to reflect on these thoughts to help us prevent judging ourselves, others, and circumstances from surfacing.

As one needs physical exercises and stretches to build bodily strength and agility, one also needs exercises to strengthen their mind, mental performance, and lift their mood. That is the essence of Mental Fitness.

Amongst many examples of how this training helped us cope with the numerous challenges:

Amelie: “In order to calm my restless mind, breathing exercises particularly do the trick for me. They allow me to get out of my thinking-mind and into my physical body. I enjoy listening to my breathing and noticing how deep or shallow it is. I like to observe if I am breathing more from the belly or my lungs. It is also fun to feel the cold air entering and warm air leaving my nostrils. And I particularly love putting my hand on my heart to feel it beating, it reminds me that I am alive and I am grateful to wake up every day and have the opportunity to empower others in their journey to well-being.”

Anita: “One thing that really had a positive impact on my behaviour during lockdown was to use the authorised daily one-hour exercise to go for a walk and do some of my daily sensory Mental Fitness challenges (the PQ reps as we call them in this programme); for example, scanning my body while moving, or focusing my attention on specific visuals or sounds, especially when I noticed my saboteurs trying to highjack my thoughts. These practical and simple exercises prevented me from having this surge of negative emotions and allowed me to remain focused on what truly matters to me and my clients. Something I’m still doing daily.”

The more you develop these new mental muscles, the easier it becomes to rewire your brain and increase this grey matter that helps you shift from worry, anxiety, and fear, to a calmer, clear-headed, peaceful feeling.

Being able to quieten these negative thoughts (you know… the ones that are definitely not helpful when it comes to making laser-focused decisions), allowed us to go beyond what we were doing before the pandemic, and explore how we could transform our future business to align with the new needs of our current and future clients.

Moving forward

Change is the only constant and not only in times of uncertainty. Think about it… You can never control the direction or the size of the waves, but you can learn to surf them. A positive mindset is what can help change your perspective on these chaotic events happening across the world. And choosing love instead of anger, worry or resentment is the only option in our book.

When we mention positive mindset and love, we are not referring to something that is simply a fluffy feeling. And while there is demonstrable evidence that people who think more positively are healthier and happier, “thinking positive” or “thinking happy” is not enough.

It is more about “positive doing” and taking the next positive step. We’re talking to what we call in Mental Fitness, the Sage powers: the love for ourselves and others without judgment (Empathise), the love for discovery (Explore), the love for possibilities (Innovate), the love for meaning and purpose (Navigate), and the love for making things happen (Activate).

Doing things differently

Amelie: “I sought actions which in the long run would have a much higher/bigger payoff than what they were costing me in the moment (what we call in Mental Fitness “applying the Gift of Knowledge”).

I took a leap of faith: I hired a Coach, joined the Positive Intelligence Coach Training programme, delivered workshops online. I invested in myself. In my learnings. In my growth. In my future.  So that I could better serve myself and most importantly my clients. It was like putting an oxygen mask on myself first so that I could put it on others afterwards.

Throughout this process, I pushed my boundaries, got out of my comfort zone, delivering projects I never thought I could deliver before, building new meaningful connections, expanding my reach and growing my business in a new profound way. Overall, I think that dealing with this situation has taught me how to handle a potentially bigger and more important challenge in the future. “

Anita: “Looking at what one could influence is a lot more empowering than being stuck with what one cannot control; indeed, one thing that came to my mind early March was that, if I was not active in keeping in touch with clients and colleagues based in different countries, I might run the risk of being forgotten (Hum! Can you see my inner saboteur on the horizon?). I believed that committing to these connections was more important than ever. 

Taking the perspective that every outcome or circumstance can be turned into an opportunity, I reconnected with some past networks that were now all virtual. These new collaborations were also much more meaningful as I applied one of the Sage powers called Navigate to choose my whys based on my internal compass: what is it that kept me going, my purpose, revisiting my values, reinforcing my passion for my job, writing the next chapter of my life.

This allowed me to be more laser-focused and positive in my interactions and offers. It made a real difference in the development of my innovative and practical virtual sessions on Emotional Intelligence and Mental Fitness. It opened my world even more by creating opportunities in Canada, USA, India, Europe and Malaysia. What’s not to like about it?”

Whatever perspective you hold becomes your reality…

Clearly this programme has opened a world of possibilities. And every time we feel that our saboteurs are about to take over, being over-critical on our choices and fuelling some assumptions based on nothing tangible, we always do a few more PQ reps, remember /re-explore our whys to help us shift to a calmer, more positive mindset. Ready for another new day to come!

We are not saying all of this to boast. On the contrary, we want to remind you that it is possible to move forward, even if that means that you can’t quite clearly see where it will take you. This is our invitation to you for full accountability because whatever perspective you hold becomes your reality.

Remember: when you feel discouraged by obstacles you see on your path to success/performance, ask yourself: “What’s something I can do now/today that later I’ll be happy I did?” (what Shirzad would call “the Gift of Inspiration”).

Our brain is wired to stay in its comfort zone, and it doesn’t like change, so it may be difficult to see the gift in every opportunity and the answer might not be immediately obvious…but keep asking!. And start small: go 5 or 10% beyond your comfort zone and see how it feels. Overtime, you will be able to discover the gift.

Stay tuned… Boost your Mental Fitness

Prioritizing our Mental Fitness is more important than ever. At a time when we need this work the most, Anita and I (Amelie and I), as trained PQ Coaches and collaborators with Shirzad and the Positive Intelligence team, are excited to announce that we have teamed up and will be hosting two virtual introduction sessions that you won’t want to miss!

We will introduce you to Mental Fitness in more detail and through live actionable practices, we will help you start to unlock your Positive Intelligence and boost your Mental Fitness.

You will also discover our 6-week Mental Fitness programme (a combination of Positive Intelligence’s weekly video sessions, exclusive daily app-guided exercises, and weekly coach-led sessions).

>> Ready to boost your Mental Fitness? Register for our free virtual introduction sessions onEventbrite!