Positive Intelligence Quotient: How to Increase Your PQ

This article is an excerpt from the Shortform book guide to "Positive Intelligence" by Shirzad Chamine. Shortform has the world's best summaries and analyses of books you should be reading.

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What’s a Positive Intelligence Quotient (PQ)? What’s a good exercise to increase your PQ?

The Positive Intelligence Quotient measures your ability to keep your Sage in control and your Saboteurs at bay. Shirzad Chamine explains that higher percentages indicate greater control. Only 20% of people have a PQ of 75% or more, showing that Saboteurs often outweigh the influence of the Sage.

Read on to learn about the Positive Intelligence Quotient, and take an exercise to increase your PQ.

Understanding the Positive Intelligence Quotient

Your overall ability to keep your Sage in charge and your Saboteurs at bay makes up your Positive Intelligence Quotient (PQ), writes Shirzad Chamine. In his book Positive Intelligence, he rates the Positive Intelligence Quotient based on percentages, with 100% meaning your Sage is always in control and your brain is always working for you, while 1% would mean your brain is always working against you. Even though a score of 51% would mean your brain is working for you the majority of the time, Chamine has found that a score below 75% still means that the overall impact of your Saboteurs outweighs the impact of the Sage, suggesting that the negative impact of your Saboteurs is three times stronger than the positive impact of your Sage. He says that only 20% of people have a Positive Intelligence Quotient of 75% or more. 

(Shortform note: The reason the Saboteurs’ influence so heavily outweighs the Sage’s may be the result of humans’ negativity bias. Like the Saboteurs, this bias benefits us when we need to identify real threats, but it becomes harmful when it leads us to ruminate on everyday stressors. Since it’s not possible to eliminate stressors in our lives, overcoming the effects of the negativity bias requires consciously focusing on and more thoroughly processing positive things so they have a greater impact on our minds than the negative.)

Understanding your Saboteurs is the first step to increasing your Positive Intelligence Quotient, and consciously employing your Sage’s powers is the second step. Chamine offers some exercises to strengthen your Positive Intelligence Quotient brain to make this process easier.

How to Increase Your PQ: An Exercise

Remember, your Saboteurs exist in your survival brain and your Sage exists in the more advanced part of the brain that helps you thrive. Therefore, Chamine recommends that you use an attentional exercise to shift your thinking from the survival brain to the advanced part of the brain. The more you do this exercise, the more easily you’ll be able to shift your brain into the Sage state because your brain will form and strengthen new neural pathways to facilitate this shift. This will make your Sage stronger, improving its ability to combat your Saboteurs and enabling you to improve your overall thinking and every aspect of your life. Chamine designed these exercises to fit into your schedule so you don’t have to set aside extra time to do them.

To do this exercise, you’ll shift your attention away from your brain and onto your physical senses for at least 10 seconds at a time. For example, you may focus your attention on what you see in front of you, on the ambient sounds around you, or on the sensations of your clothes on your body. Whatever sense you choose, allow the sensory experience to fully occupy you and shut out the noise in your brain. Doing this for ten seconds—or approximately three breaths—counts as one repetition of a Positive Intelligence Quotient brain exercise. Chamine recommends doing 100 repetitions per day. 

You can do this exercise when you’re doing any activity, whether it’s focusing deeply on the feeling and taste of your food as you eat it, tuning in to the feeling of your muscles straining while you exercise, or immersing your brain in the physical sensation of hugging a loved one. In fact, you may find that you already do such attentional work during activities like showering, which requires little thought and involves a lot of physical stimuli. This may explain why people find themselves having more sudden insights while showering. 

In order to establish this exercise as a routine and make it easier to remember to do, Chamine recommends doing a few reps every time you go to the bathroom, since that’s something you do several times per day. He also recommends doing a few reps any time you notice one of your Saboteurs trying to derail you, which is also likely to happen several times per day. If you do this consistently for a few weeks, the exercise will become a habit.

Positive Intelligence Quotient: A Mindfulness Practice

The brain’s ability to change its structure in response to stimuli is called neuroplasticity. Neuroplasticity allows you to turn a behavior into a habit—and it’s also what allows you to learn how to shift into your Sage state more easily. The attentional exercise Chamine describes is a type of mindfulness, and research shows that practicing mindfulness can improve neuroplasticity. It can also improve mental health issues like anxiety and depression. 

However, research suggests that conditions like depression can interfere with your brain’s neuroplasticity, making it harder to change. In cases where you’re trying to improve such conditions, it can be beneficial to pair your mindfulness practice with medication, as research suggests that certain antidepressants and other drugs can improve neuroplasticity.

Beyond increasing your Positive Intelligence Quotient, other benefits of mindfulness include improved sleep, reduced blood pressure, improved memory, and better chronic pain management.

In addition to Chamine’s exercises, there are many ways to practice mindfulness. Some of these include spending more time focusing on your senses—like focusing on the taste of your food throughout your entire meal rather than just 10 seconds at a time. You can also use techniques such as body scan meditation, which involves paying close attention to each part of your body as you mentally scan it from top to bottom or bottom to top. You can also use kid-friendly activities like a sensory scavenger hunt—finding one thing in your environment that appeals to each sense—to teach children how to be mindful.
Positive Intelligence Quotient: How to Increase Your PQ

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Emily Kitazawa

Emily found her love of reading and writing at a young age, learning to enjoy these activities thanks to being taught them by her mom—Goodnight Moon will forever be a favorite. As a young adult, Emily graduated with her English degree, specializing in Creative Writing and TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language), from the University of Central Florida. She later earned her master’s degree in Higher Education from Pennsylvania State University. Emily loves reading fiction, especially modern Japanese, historical, crime, and philosophical fiction. Her personal writing is inspired by observations of people and nature.

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