Inhabiting the Sage Perspective

Article by Steve Harvey, Associate Impromptu

Since stepping back from full-time work I have become engaged with Positive Intelligence (PQ). Some of you, I know, are familiar with it. For those who aren’t, the proposition is both simple and powerful. It is based on the essential premise that our effectiveness, relationships, and wellbeing correlate to how much time we spend self-sabotaging, through the wily interference of our “saboteurs”, versus the amount of time we are accessing and acting from the wisdom and strategies of our “sage”.

In simple terms we can shift this balance moment-by-moment, by noticing when we are caught in a saboteur thought, emotion, or response, doing some mini-meditations based on one of our five physical senses (PQ Reps in Positive Intelligence parlance), and selecting a sage alternative. For example, if I am cut-up by another motorist, rather than being consumed by the anger and disapproval of my ‘judge’ saboteur, I can stop myself, shift my attention to noticing the sensation of my fingertips on my steering wheel, let go of my negative emotion and look at the situation through my ‘explore’ power, being curious rather than condemnatory.

One of the key pillars of PQ, an aspect that serves to elevate it from it being yet another tool for self-awareness and self-management, to positioning it as a potential way of being, is the Sage Perspective. Essentially, the Sage Perspective encourages us to find the gift and opportunity in any circumstance or situation, no matter how difficult or dire. So, for instance, if your team misses a project milestone, rather than dwell on negative consequences (real, or imagined), you might turn your mental, emotional and practical energy toward maximising opportunities. For example, the issue may stimulate you to focus your attention on the priority to free more time for coaching of key individuals in the team, or propel you to finally having the uncomfortable conversation with the project sponsor about scope creep that you have hitherto avoided, or encourage you to step back to look at the project plan with fresh eyes and learn from mistakes made at inception, a learning that can be applied to both this project and future ones.

My own example relates to the desperately challenging events following my daughter’s diagnosis of anorexia nervosa, some years ago. As many of you may be aware, anorexia is a deeply pernicious illness that, at any instant, threatens to suck one into a vortex of despair. It tests and stretches every sinew of parenting to a point of exhaustion, and then asks for more. In so many ways it was the most horrible experience I have ever encountered.

And yet, as I reflect, the experience afforded a multitude of gifts and opportunities. A deeper and more understanding relationship with my daughter. A positive evaluation and testing of our family values. Accelerated development of self-awareness. A powerful opportunity to explore empathy. A prompt to step back and deeply review life’s priorities. The establishment of powerful sibling bonds. Latterly, the insight, knowledge and experience to support other parents and families struggling with an anorexic loved one.

Inhabiting the Sage Perspective isn’t about minimising or negating terrible challenges, nor is it about ‘positive thinking’, identifying the silver lining, or synthetic optimism. It isn’t about dismissing the costs nor the aching. But is about a crucial shift in energy away from the dark, and toward the light, genuinely embracing the potential for joy, growth, insight, connection, learning, purpose, to connect with a hopeful meaning that prevents us from being consumed, overcome, overwhelmed, and potentially destroyed by adversity. Above all, the Sage Perspective, is a way of orienting to ourselves, to others, and to the world, that is powerfully embedded in a philosophy of choice.

So, perhaps today, find your own possibilities to inhabit your Sage Perspective. Try with small things. Maybe when you’re a few minutes late for a meeting, or have a minor run-in with a colleague, or spot a small error in a report you have been working on for weeks, or when your train gets cancelled. In those moments, rather than allow your saboteurs to seduce you into negative thinking, find the gift. Be creative, be curious, be inventive. Make a mindset shift. It’ll make a difference, not just to you, but to others around you too. They will notice, and smile.