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Ready to make a change? Here’s how to make it stick

Behavioral scientists have long known that times of disruption create new opportunities for growth and change. Now that we are emerging from the restrictions of pandemic life, we can look at what we’ve learned in the past year. What habits do we want to keep, and what do we want to change?

I am a leadership coach, and I have an inherent belief that people can change—if they want to. Wanting change and achieving it are two different things. Research shows that insight and information alone aren’t enough to create sustainable change. If we want sustainable change for ourselves, 80% of our effort must build mental muscle and discipline. So how do we build mental muscle? Let’s start by thinking of it as mental fitness.

Mental fitness is our capacity to respond to life’s challenges with positive rather than negative mindsets. It is a choice. 

Mental fitness is a new discipline and program from Positive Intelligence, an organization started by New York Times bestselling author Shirzad Chamine, a former CEO, researcher, and lecturer at Stanford and Yale business schools. Some of us are familiar with IQ, Intelligence Quotient, and EQ, Emotional Quotient. Chamine’s program develops our PQ or Positive Intelligence Quotient. But developing mental fitness involves more than just choosing to be more positive. Instead, it’s a conscious method for not getting hijacked by our adverse reactions. 

Mental fitness is our capacity to respond to life’s challenges with positive rather than negative mindsets. It is a choice.

Your PQ is the measure of your current mental fitness. Research with more than 500,000 participants shows that PQ is the best predictor of how happy you are and how well you perform relative to your potential. It is a synthesis of recent breakthroughs in neuroscience, cognitive and positive psychology, and performance science. 

PQ is built around understanding our Saboteur Powers, as well as our Sage Powers. Saboteur Powers keep us in a negative and reactive mindset. We all have them. They are created in childhood and cemented as we move through life’s challenges. We may think: “I am not good enough. It’s not my fault. I am better than everyone else. I’ll be happy when I accomplish XYZ”. All stress is Saboteur generated. 

By contrast, our Sage Power lives in a different part of our brain. It helps us access positive emotions such as curiosity, empathy, creativity, and calm, leading to clear-headed laser-focused actions. Engaging with our Sage Power is a deliberate response choice.

Choosing to intercept our Saboteur Power and alternatively access our Sage Power is our path to mental fitness. It is built on a daily practice of mental exercises. I think of this practice as Jedi Mind Training. 

When I learned this discipline, I was excited to share it with my coaching clients. Coming out of this pandemic provides an ideal opportunity to change how we respond to life’s challenges. I’d like to share it with you. 

Learn about taming your Saboteur’s and strengthening your Sage powers at NCET’s virtual Biz Café on June 16 from 3 to 4 pm with virtual networking from 2:30 until 3 pm. *NCET (Nevada’s Center for Entrepreneurship and Technology) is a member-supported nonprofit organization that produces educational and networking events to help people explore business and technology. More info at

Susan Mahoney, the owner of Susan Mahoney Coaching, is a certified leadership coach. She believes leadership is a verb, not a title. She helps aspiring leaders become the kind of leaders they were meant to be. Learn more about her at