Sage or Saboteur? Who Are You Listening To?

If you think CEOs are supremely confident and invincible, think again. Consider these words recently written by CEOs:

I often feel like I’m a fraud.
I’m feeling very sad and lonely and the antidepressants I’m on don’t seem to be working.
I don’t love myself very much.

Shirzad Chamine takes a great interest in the inner voices of CEOs and helps recalibrate those voices. The Chairman Emeritus of CTI and author of the New York Times bestseller Positive Intelligence discovered the power of inner voices by accident.

His childhood was an unhappy one. He freely admits his parents were “awful,” and at an early age he began rationalizing the world around him by silently judging people. “I’m crap, but that person is crap, too,” he’d tell himself. This little trick also had the effect of making him feel better about himself.

Most of us fall victim to this voice and it’s prevalent in our daily lives. Yet, we didn’t emerge from the womb that way.

“You are born in complete touch with your greatness, beauty and power—a radiance,” says Chamine. “But it begins to fade over time.”

It’s akin to losing one’s innocence. Chamine calls the negative voices in our head “Saboteurs” and says they flourish quite naturally because, after all, that was the default mode of our ancestors. When you’re in survival mode you assume the worst so you’ll be prepared to elude the claws of the tiger.

Robin Williams’ suicide brought sorrow to the world and a renewed focus on depression, addiction and other conditions of the mind and spirit. It’s easy to imagine the inner Saboteur dictating or at least strongly influencing people’s self-destructive tendencies.

I have been abusing drugs and alcohol to deal with stress.
I am self-destructive and I don’t know why.  
I fear dying at an early age of overwork and stress.

Chamine runs seminars for CEOs and other professionals, helping them tame their inner Saboteur and access their inner Sage. The Sage, he says, is the positive voice that serves us—the source of our wisdom and power. The percentage of time the Sage is dominating your mind is your Positive Intelligence Quotient, and Chamine says people with a high PQ live longer and are happier. Research has even shown a correlation between high PQ and increased performance. It’s been said successful entrepreneurs possess an “irrational optimism.”

Just look at the two side-by-side:
  • Saboteur: creates feelings of anxiety, shame, anger, disappointment and guilt
  • Sage: creates feelings of curiosity, compassion, joy, creativity, peace, calm and resolve
It would be overly simplistic to say we have a choice, so choose the Sage. Just snap out of it! It’s not that easy. Humans are complex creatures, tortured, conflicted, shaped by their family of origin and their environment. At least the death of Robin Williams reignited awareness of the availability of mental health support.

I have no idea how to truly connect with my only son.
I’m afraid of ending up like my father who is unloved and will die alone.

When Chamine reads these anonymous comments to a room full of people, the silence is disarming. When he admits they were written by CEOs, there are a few gasps. We shouldn’t be surprised.

Chamine counsels people to label their Saboteur. Make a Wanted Poster and list all of the negative things your Saboteur tells you. Then dump that thinking and the behavior that follows it.

“When The Sage takes over and says ‘I can turn this into an opportunity’ you feel compassion, you become creative; it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.”

There are many resources for people struggling with depression, anxiety and other disorders. One which is highly regarded is the National Alliance on Mental Illness.