As human beings, we have an exhaustible supply of willpower. “A growing body of research suggests that repeatedly resisting temptation may drain stores of willpower” (APA Dec 2019). Yet, I believe that using willpower is what most of us default to when facing challenging situations or tasks. And, unfortunately, this is why we often fall short of accomplishing what we hope to do, and even more importantly, being who we want to be. Let me give you an example from my own life that may resonate with you.
I am a kind, caring, and hard-working individual. I am a great team player, and I find joy in helping others. However, one quality that I have struggled to grow in my lifetime is patience. It is only in more recent years that I have learned to cultivate a modicum of true patience for myself and others, as a result of my personal self-development work in Positive Intelligence. However, way before learning anything about Positive Intelligence, working in the ER required me to exhibit a great deal of patience on a regular basis- with patients, with patient family members, with team members, and so on. Every time I walked into the ER for a shift, one of my thoughts was, “Please let me make it through another shift without losing it.” So, I would steel myself, and over the next 10-12 hours of my day, I would literally use every ounce of willpower within me in order to not lose my patience. I did this for a long time, and I guess one can say that I was successful in feigning patience, as over the years many colleagues, nurses, and other staff members commented on my “extraordinary” level of patience. They had no idea what this cost me.
The truth was that by the time I made it home, and often for days to come, my patience “cup” was empty. I used so much of my willpower in order not to lose my patience at work that there was nothing left afterwards. What this meant was that my family, those whom I love most in the world, then had to live with the least patient version of me- a not very fun, or light-hearted version. Instead, one that was irritable and expected everything to be “perfect” because I just did not have any willpower left to muster up any tolerance for the smallest of grievances. This, of course, then lead to a whole slew of other saboteur driven negative emotions, such as guilt and shame. Overtime this became a bigger and bigger burden that played a significant role in my feeling burnt out.
What I want you all to know, though, is that “IT DOES NOT HAVE TO BE THIS WAY!!” If any of you are experiencing a similar cycle in your own lives, you have the ability to choose a different way of being. By using the simple techniques of positive intelligence, you can raise your PQ score and live your life to its fullest potential. If you made it through med school and residency, and who knows how many years of clinical practice already, you are certainly more than capable of learning and practicing simple techniques that will change your life forever!
Our brain is our best friend, but it is also our worst enemy. Positive Intelligence (PQ) measures the relative strength of these two opposing forces of our brain. The PQ quotient or score is the percentage of time that our mind acts as our friend rather than as our enemy. A high PQ score means that your mind acts as your friend more often than your enemy. For example, if someone’s PQ score is 80, it means that 80 percent of the time their mind is serving them, and the other 20 percent of the time their mind is sabotaging them. According to research, it seems that a PQ score of 75 is a critical tipping point. Above this number a person is generally being uplifted by their brain (able to connect with their sage powers and wisdom more easily), whereas below this number a person is more often than not feeling dragged down by the dynamics of the mind (being lead by saboteur thoughts and emotions).
Our saboteurs only get us to achieve something by pushing us into action from a place of fear. When our PQ is higher, however, we have easier access to our Sage, which pulls us into action based on positive emotions. Instead of draining, this is energizing. For example, in the scenario above, instead of using all my willpower to maintain patience because I was afraid of “losing it”, with a higher PQ, I could have instead chosen to engage with patients, families, team members from a place of empathy and curiosity. This would have been more fun, and much more energizing.
Unfortunately, we can’t just say to ourselves: “From now on I’m going to approach everyone with love and empathy,” and suddenly just stop feeling impatient, burdened, annoyed, frustrated, etc. We have an entire lifetime of creating and using the neural pathways that lead to immediate thoughts, reactions, and actions that are saboteur based. But, we can work on raising our Positive Intelligence Quotient and Mental fitness by increasing our awareness of those saboteur driven thoughts and actions, strengthening our self command muscle, and building and deepening sage neural pathways.
Again, I invite you to not take my word for it, but as naturally creative, resourceful, and intelligent people, do your own research. You can look up some excellent books that present research data on Positive Intelligence. Some of these include books by Shawn Achor, Tal Ben-Shahar, William Compton, Daniel Goleman, Edward Hoffman, and Martin Seligman. And, of course, as I have mentioned previously, the book by Shirzad Chamine, Positive Intelligence, that breaks down much of the data from other resources into simple techniques that can be incorporated into any schedule or routine to easily grow your Positive Intelligence. Once we build our PQ, we no longer need to rely on willpower to drive our goals, and our willpower cup can stay full to help us out in quick unexpected situations. According to Blair Saunders, a University of Dundee psychologist, “In a specific situation, sure, you can muster willpower to save yourself from falling back into a bad habit. But relying on willpower alone to accomplish goals ’is almost like relying on emergency brake when you are driving your car…‘You should focus on things that drive you toward your goals rather than stopping things that are in your way. What’s more, the human “emergency brake” that is willpower is bound to fail in some instances, causing you to crash.’