An introduction into


There is no shortage of leadership challenges and they come in all sorts of colors and degrees of complexity. What they all have in common? All of them trigger unwanted emotions in our minds, that distract us - sometimes paralyze us - from acting with calm, clear-headed confidence. They distract us from identifying the best approach to the challenge and they prevent us from springing into laser-focused action, but without any of these negative emotions.

What is Mental Fitness?

The ability to activate our “self-command muscle” in our brain, in order to avoid being steered by our own negative thoughts and emotions in case of any upsetting event, but to chose a much wiser response in calm, discerning confidence, that generates positive outcomes  - that is Mental Fitness!

In other words

Your capacity to respond to life’s challenges with a positive rather than a negative mindset

This framework has been developed by Shirzad Chamin and summarized in his New York Times Best Seller "Positive Intelligence". The validity of his mental fitness framework is heavily supported by a whole body of research and scientific evidence.


The tell tale sign for whenever we are about to be driven by our survival brain instead of our clear minded, discerning brain, is that we feel emotions, such as:



 Stress and pressure


 Negative feeling towards self or others 

Negative feelings toward circumstances 


Feeling overwhelmed

Feeling powerless 


Whenever we are feeling any of those and other negative emotions, we have activated powerful  neural pathways in the “survival” part of our brain. When our brain categorizes a situation as a threat - even subconsciously - these neural pathways are being activated. The  triggers perceived as "threats" can be as insignificant (non life and death) as an upcoming sales pitch, for which we may be judged, or a looming project deadline, for which we procrastinate, in a futile attempt to not have to face it today.

Whether it is in low-stakes or high-stakes situations, our survival brain is triggered and activated all the time, because we have trained it to be!


A key to Mental Fitness is to weaken the internal Saboteurs who generate all your “negativity” in the way they respond to challenges. Your Saboteurs cause all your stress, anxiety, self-doubt, frustration, regret, shame, guilt, and unhappiness. Saboteurs include the Judge, Controller, Avoider, Victim, Stickler and 5 others. Your “Sage” lives in an entirely different region of your brain and handles challenges in ways that produce positive emotions like curiosity, empathy, creativity, calm, and clear-headed laser-focused action. You’d perform better and feel happier.

© Copyright Positive Intelligence


At the root level, there are 10 drivers of negative emotion. To some degree they exist in all of us, however which of them are dominant differs from person to person. ALL of our distress in the forms of anxiety, disappointment, stress, anxiety, anger, shame, guilt etc., is entirely self-made. We are personifying these drivers of negative emotions and call then Saboteurs, solely to make it easier to describe and distinguish how they work. The one Saboteur that everyone has, the master Saboteur, is called the Judge. This one represents our ability to quickly judge ourselves, others, or circumstances. In the early times of our evolution as a species, this was a key survival skill. 

Even in our modern times, having a quick judge is saving our lives every day. For example, once we have seen (or imagined) that being hit by a car can be disastrous, we quickly judge the traffic situation each time we want to cross a road on foot.  The problem is that the judge is not discerning. He cannot differentiate between different kinds of situations. He is always active and judges everything and everyone, including ourselves, and he will always generate a fear based response of some kind.   The Judge has nine possible Accomplice Saboteurs, that “help” identify and interpret different kinds of threats. 


If you want to assess which of these Saboteur are more dominant in you than the others, try this free saboteur self-assessment 

Accomplice Saboteurs

© Copyright Positive Intelligence


The truly mischievous nature of our Saboteurs is in the fact that they are telling us the lie that the emotions and reactions they trigger are good for us. 

As in: "But without a constant sense of urgency, I would never achieve anything!" 

For example: our Controller may tell us that in order to win this project, we must oversee (micro-manage) everyone on our team, because people can not be trusted to do their best unless we put them under pressure!

We may have success following the Saboteur's advice - but at a hefty emotional cost for ourselves and other, and without the much better outcome that our Sage Perspective would have been able to generate in the process

What happened in this example, is that this Saboteur has distorted our otherwise wonderful ability to do focused quality work into creating the worst version of ourselves as a leader, constantly mistrusting, fuelling our fear of losing, and in addition making everybody else on the team miserable. What is just as bad, is that we have been triggering the Saboteurs of our people in the process.  Some of which may therefore have activated their own Judge, telling them they will never be good enough to please you, or activating their hyper-achiever in response, or any of the other Saboteurs they might harbour and now feed!



Your Saboteurs claim they are good for you. For example, your Judge tells you that its constant badgering over your mistakes and shortcomings cause you to improve and achieve. It is true that your Saboteurs have successfully PUSHED you to improve and succeed through fear, anxiety, blame, shame, guilt, etc. (Negative Reinforcement). However, research shows that you would succeed even more if you were PULLED by you inherent positive feelings of curiosity, compassion, creativity, love for yourself and others, and contribution and self expression (Positive Reinforcement). 

AND, you would be far happier and less stressed..

But what if we had the necessary Saboteur Interceptor and Self-Command Muscle to stop our Saboteurs and activate the Sage Perspective instead?

From the Sage Perspective, we can generate a gift or opportunity from any outcome, but before we get to do this, we must learn to turn down the volume of the Saboteur voices in our head, before we can begin to even consider listening to the sage part of our brain.  


Mental fitness is about choosing a different response, generated in the Middle pre-frontal cortex of our brain - the place that is capable of creating enormous, positive outcomes through discernment. 

This is very much like "getting sage advice, although from ourselves. If we are in the right mindset - taking a generative perspective - we are capable of activating: The unfettered Exploration of all the facts, with great curiosity The Navigation of choices in the most complex network of cross-roads in our work and life The Activate ability to spring into inspired action Empathy for ourselves and others. The ability to Innovate and create solutions for any problem Let us call these five capabilities our "Sage". In such a mindset - our Sage Perspective - we are capable of creating a gift or opportunity from any situation or outcome. 

Such is the nature of our Sage Perspective. Unfortunately, our survival brain is very strong and dominant. After all, we have trained and strengthened the corresponding neural pathways for a lifetime!  Luckily, for all events we are confronted with, we have a choice to take the Sage Perspective and activate any of its five powers, and build and strengthen NEW neural pathways. 

The bad news is that UNLESS we have built and strengthened the necessary self-command muscle, and build new neural highways, we will automatically choose to take the "neural "highway" of the survival brain's  response! 


are required to take control of your own mind

Saboteur Interceptor

Pause, label and weaken Saboteur voice


5 Capabilities in our brain to deal with any challenge


Ability to switch from negative to positive mindset

More Success. 

More Peace of mind. Better relationships.

Get on the Blue Horizon Training 7-week Mental Fitness Program!