Do you “lose it” more than you’d like, at home and/or work?
This stress-response pattern isn't inevitable.
I’ve been working for several years to build up my “mental fitness,” also called Positive Intelligence (PQ), and that of my clients. High Positive Intelligence is the capacity to face what or who is in front of you with the best of yourself in the driver’s seat (more often than not).
The concept is simple, the practice more difficult.
What it takes is acute self-awareness in the moment and a developed capacity to shift out of normal, initial negative reactions into more thoughtful, proactive next steps.
It’s literally a brain journey. And, depending on the size of the issue, one that can sometimes feel like climbing a mountain. But, like climbing a mountain, the right tools and training make it easier.
Negative reactions occur in what I call the “911 response” side of our brain, which surveys 24/7 for physical or emotional threats.
When we stay in the 911 negative, though, it’s like we’re trapped in the ambulance, being rushed to the hospital, with few options and not much control.
This past weekend, I found myself in a relatively small situation that could have gone worse without having this kind of insight and capacity.
I was working most of Sunday on a tough project with a deadline. As I started out my day, I was feeling focused and positively challenged. Meanwhile, my daughter was supposed to be doing a little homework, but began struggling with her fear of her own deadlines; and my husband was offline, not feeling well.
As my daughter’s emotional response to her homework and her teachers' expectations escalated and became more negative, and I tried to help, my positivity waned and my capacity to show up declined, for her and for my work.
I started feeling grumpy.
My frustration rose and at one point, I may have said something like, “Fine. Don’t do it then, see how that goes with your teacher.”
And I noticed this.
What was happening?
We can look at this situation in many ways, but through the mental fitness lens? I was losing my positive charge.
You might be thinking, “But, that’s natural!”
You’re right. That first negative response is natural. What we do after the initial response, though, becomes a CHOICE. If our mental fitness is built up for it.
Continuing down the "natural response path" isn't typically optimal for our relationships, work performance or peace of mind.
I start most days with “PQ repetitions,” which are micro-mindfulness mental exercises designed to do a couple of things:
1. Relax, energize and "charge" the brain and
2. Increase the brain's capacity to move thoughts and attention on command to a better part of our brain
Think of it like this: when you eat breakfast, you can’t expect that it will keep your body running all day long. You have to stop and recharge your body by feeding it with good energy sources.
Have you considered that the same is true for our minds? Even if we meditate or do yoga first thing in the morning, the positive effects wane as the day progresses.
The more challenging our day, the more we need to charge our brain throughout. Even just for 15-20 seconds at a time.
In my case, I’d been working through the day and hadn’t stopped to recharge. The Positive Intelligence app on my phone prompts me to do these exercises 3x/day on weekdays, but not on weekends.
I PAUSED. Took a few deep breaths. Did my favorite PQ repetition, rubbing my palms up and down together with my attention focused on the sensations of touch.
And because I've been taking my mind regularly to the mental fitness gym, I quickly shifted into empathy, an emotion that we can not access from the 911 response center of our brain.
I extended empathy to my daughter, who was stuck in a fear loop, and to myself, trying to manage a lot at the same time and not "nailing it."
And found myself feeling more connected, present and capable of being a positive presence for my daughter, myself and the work at hand.
This is just one small way that my taking the Positive Intelligence Program two years ago and applying it to my daily life has been a game changer for me, and my family. And of course, for my clients.
Am I perfect now? Nope.
But that was never the destination. Enjoying the daily journey and rising to the challenges of life with greater awareness, positivity and perspective more often than not?