“We achieve more by focusing on the positive, especially as a leader.”
Many people get in their own way, according to Chamine, founder of PI. He analyzed this behavior. Based on his research, he developed various ‘saboteurs’. Baak explains: “Those saboteurs resemble the critical voice inside your head. It tells you that you can’t do something or focuses on what goes wrong. In short, these are negative thoughts only, which can express themselves in different ways: avoidance, controlling, restlessness and victimization.”
Hand on the stove
Your saboteurs are here for a reason. They are aimed at survival and theoretically very useful. Unfortunately, it appears that many people’s saboteurs are too prevalent. Chamine illustrates this with an example: your hand is on a hot stove. Upon doing this by accident, a shock reaction occurs. This is a good thing, of course. It makes sure you take your hand of the stove. The consequential pain will be minimized. Saboteurs are also forms of shock reactions. They are useful when taking immediate action, but can be harmful when you are lingering in the negative thought. In that case, the initial shock reaction will be ignored. Your hand will remain on the hot stove, which comes with painful consequences.
On the other side of the saboteurs are your sages. These are feelings such as curiosity, empathy, gratefulness and calmness. They can be found in a different part of the brain. This is helpful, says Baak: “It is an art to force your brain to shift to the other side. This way you can exchange your negative perspective for empathy and creativity.” Your thinking becomes positive!
Small, physical exercises can help you practice this. “For example, you can rub your fingers together. By really feeling the sensations, you get out of your head,” Baak explains. “It is similar to shifting the gears of your car to neutral. Afterwards, you can start accelerating again.” It all comes down to self-awareness, Baak noticed: “You need to know yourself very well. Now, I know I should not follow my head when I’m tired. If I don’t feel well, my thoughts are unproductive, which relate to my exhaustion. That is not the best moment or mindset to solve complex problems.”
Training a muscle
Recognizing certain patterns and, more importantly, acting accordingly is like training a muscle. Your brain follows certain neuronal pathways. Baak compares them to the tracks used for glass playing marbles. “The more you take a certain pathway, the more ingrained it gets. Changing these pathways takes time. That is normal and completely fine: when you just start going to the gym, you can’t bench press 100 kilograms.” So, in order to create a positive mindset, behavioral change is crucial. This is no magic trick, but comes down to discipline and practice, Baak stresses: “Behavioral change consists of merely 20 percent of knowing how it works and 80 percent is practice, practice, and practice some more.”
The same goes for Baak herself. She noticed this especially when she started a leadership position, while being educated as an engineer. “I think in systems. Because of this, I notice where things go wrong. Then I immediately want to improve this, but when working with other people, this cannot always be done in such a manner. More importantly: this way, the focus lies on what is not going right. Therefore, I now try to focus on the positive as a manager.” This is working: Baak says they achieve more, because there is more positive energy. She mentions that while she already knew this was the correct way of working, it never really worked out before. This is because it was not her natural way of thinking.
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