Shirzad Chamine recently held a leadership seminar for the CEOs of companies most of us would recognize. These CEOs and billionaires – incredibly successful and powerful men – were asked by Chamine to anonymously write down their deepest fears on 3x5 cards. Chamine told his audience at Safety 2015 in Dallas: “This is the bad news.”

Chamine read the cards to the audience. A sample of the comments from these powerful and seemingly successful business leaders includes:

  • I’m terrified of failing as a leader of my business.
  • My air of confidence is false. I don’t have a plan for my life.
  • I’m just successful because of luck.
  • I’m rarely at peace. I’m constantly comparing myself to others.
  • I don’t love myself very much.
  • I’m afraid of how my materialism is impacting my children.
  • I’m afraid of ending up like my father, who is unloved and will die alone.

Chamine, who is on the faculty at Stanford and Yale business schools, asked a group of Stanford MBA students to do a similar exercise. Nearly all of the students expressed similar fears; that they were afraid of failing, that they were rarely truly happy, that they weren’t “good enough.”

“The details are different but the gist is the same,” said Chamine. “Life is difficult. Life is challenging. It is hard being a human being!”

The good news, he told the audience at Safety 2015, is what he shared with those CEOs and students: We can stop sabotaging our lives if we stop telling ourselves that we are not good enough. According to Chamine, we all have “saboteurs” in our heads, 10 of them, if you believe Chamine.

These saboteurs – judge, controller, avoider, stickler, victim, hyper achiever, restless, pleaser, hyper vigilant, hyper rational – cause fear, stress, anger and shame, and severely limit our success and happiness.

“You were born in touch with your joy and beauty before saboteurs started messing with you,” said Chamine. According to him, we create these saboteurs as a self-defense mechanism. It’s easier to judge ourselves and find ourselves lacking than to admit important people in our lives have failed us or are judging us and finding us lacking.

In turn, we start judging others. As Chamine noted, “It’s a lot easier to see the spinach in someone else’s teeth [than your own].”

Chamine said there is good news. He showed attendees how research on positive intelligence can help us achieve our full potential for professional success and personal fulfillment. According to him, neuro-science technology can be used to weaken saboteurs.

He asks people to create a wanted poster with the name of their saboteur (find yours at www.positiveintelligence.com) and its characteristics, the lies it tells, the way it limits our belief in ourselves and the negative emotions it feeds.

Once that’s done, when those negative emotions come up or we start to doubt ourselves, we should change the way we approach big events or challenges, Chamine suggested. Instead of telling ourselves, “You’re going to fail tomorrow,” we should say “My judge saboteur is telling me I’m going to fail tomorrow.”

The Sage and Jedi Mind Tricks

The alternative to these saboteurs is the “sage,” says Chamine. He calls the sage our “true” voice and said that while saboteurs are part of the “survivor” brain that causes shame, guilt and regret, the sage brain – the positive intelligence brain – is responsible for curiousity, empathy, joy, creativity, peace, calm, resolve and gratitude. These are all qualities he attributed with a laugh to Jedi knights.

When looking at life from the sage perspective, “Everything can be turned into a gift and opportunity,” said Chamine. Rather than agonize or get angry because something has gone wrong, empathize, explore, innovate, navigate and activate, he suggested.

Chamine recommended thinking like a Jedi knight and being calm, zen and focused in the face of chaos and challenges and not worrying about everything going on around us. He said that focusing for 10 seconds at a time on a physical sensation – feeling our butt in a chair or thinking about our breathing – will quiet the saboteurs in our survivor brains and allow our brains to shift to positive intelligence. By weakening saboteurs, strengthening the sage and strengthening the positive intelligence quotient (PQ) brain, we create new neural pathways that become “highways, automatic habits of the brain.”

When this happens, Chamine promised, teams perform 31 percent better, sales teams sell 37 percent more and we’ll live 10 years longer.

Happy people often become successful, said Chamine, but success rarely brings true happiness. To be happy and successful, we must nurture the sage, be a Jedi and strengthen the PQ brain.