There’s an adage, if you need something done, ask a busy person. What people say about certain types of professional development is, “I’ll do it when I’m less busy.” Let me encourage you to overcome that mindset when it comes to the PQ training program coordinated by Fundraising Leadership. When you’re busy, now is the time to do it.
The PQ training is based on the book “Positive Intelligence” by Shirzad Chamine. The book discusses the major saboteurs that make us less able to function well and sets the stage for 5 sage powers that help us to overcome those saboteurs. The PQ model is one of a muscle- your Positive Intelligence muscles that need to be fortified to help you overcome the negative saboteurs and strengthen the sages. While I highly recommend the book for anybody, the PQ training program I did takes that mindset to a whole new level by providing a significant number of additional tools and resources with which to build your PQ muscle.
This multi-level resource delivered over 7 weeks includes:
- weekly videos of Shirzad providing context for the ideas, and specific visualizations and exercises
- audios for short 2, 5 or 12 min exercises to strengthen your PQ muscle (PQ reps)
- an app that allows you to track your PQ reps
- coach challenges 3X per day to listen and practice the goal for the day; and
- a weekly meeting with your cohort of others going through the same program
This last thing is like the support group I had for my breast cancer or the writing group some authors and faculty use to make sure they follow up on their promised time to hone their craft. The daily coach challenges often have you visualize a past hijacking by a saboteur, and then rewire that experience to create a positive neural connection to provide an alternative scenario. These help you build daily awareness and capacity to respond to life’s challenges with a positive mindset using the approaches in the book so they can become a more self-sustaining practice.
My highest saboteurs were Controller and Hyperachiever. The program helped me to identify those entities that were barriers to my success as a university faculty and administrator plus prevented me from being happy during some very significant transitions in my personal and professional life. I had always strived to do everything as quickly and efficiently as I could- driving some in my family crazy. I now realize that was, in part, driven by my Hyperachiever, pushing me to do things in an effort to gain something. In another context, I heard the image of art in some eastern cultures of a stone where you have to chip away all the pieces of rock that don’t form the Buddha you have inside the stone. I liken those saboteurs to extra pieces of stone that need to be removed or shaved off so that your ideal self, your Buddha, can shine through.
The five sage powers include Empathize, Explore, Innovate, Navigate, and Activate. Learning about each of these powers and games to practice and support them is part of the book and strengthened by the PQ training program. The PQ reps and the video visualizations help to build the sage muscles to strengthening one’s ability to overcome the saboteurs. These sage exercises help build the antidotes to the negative influences of the saboteurs. You begin to run your mind, rather than your mind running you.
While the book and philosophy presented can be enacted alone, there’s a lot that can be gained by utilizing the support system- both electronic and interpersonal to make that achievement possible in just over a month and a half. In particular, the support group pods created an external accountability network. We discussed our observations, experiences, and challenges in the training program, which added to my learning during the process. We were committed to the success of the other pod members and used daily check-ins via What’s App to help.
I started the program in the middle of May, 2020. I’d just finished a busy semester teaching three classes in the COVID-19 time. I’d undergone a surprising divorce process and was trying to determine the next steps. My partner in the training program was a high-level administrator at a nearby college, also finishing a less-than-ideal semester and dealing with many meetings on how to complete the one term and plan for the next. The upshot is we were both really busy, though, we decided now was the time to take this program on, and I’m so glad we both did.
I wanted to move beyond these transitions and prepare my heart and mind for the next phase, though I didn’t know-how. I’d been offered a gift in this program and decided to take this on with another person I knew. It was all electronic, of course. During the time of the training, I bought a house, packed up my place, and moved. In fact, the coordinator of our group in the program noticed afterward how incredibly calm and focused I was during that crazy time. I now know that was my Activate sage power.
The PQ reps, those 2-12 minutes mindfulness exercises, were a wonderful way to reground myself in the moment, get me out of my head just a bit, several times a day. I found that in the endless 20 seconds of washing hands, I would do my PQ reps and breathe easier and calmer each time. I came to look forward to those times- wanting to reconnect with the moment. I also particularly liked the PQ reps using sounds- listening for the furthest thing you could hear and the closest. I loved doing those exercises when I would be walking in my neighborhood, and I would try to identify the birds and how many distinct ones there were around me at that moment.
Some of the PQ rep suggestions are easy to do during meetings to help ground you during times when you may get sabotaged by your controller or your stickler. Those included ones where you gently rub two fingertips together or where you wiggle all your toes. I also have used the PQ reps recently to calm myself before a big meeting. The other person in my support group indicated that was their approach as well. It made those meetings a lot more productive and positive as I was not being overcome by the saboteur energies who transpire to suck us down into a negative spiral or vortex of less than ideal outcomes.
I also talked to a couple of others who recently completed this program. For one, to overcome the “I’m too busy” mindset, they realized this training would complement something else they were doing. They told themselves- “If I couldn’t make time for innovation,” what would I make time for? This person has a young family and full-time work, so she was plenty busy already. Another person I talked with who did the program had been fairly successful in working on their saboteurs and was motivated to strengthen the sage powers. This person is using those powers to block the saboteurs from getting triggered in meetings or with specific people.
When I coach faculty about their academic writing, I encourage them to schedule time every day for writing, even short times like 15-30 minutes. Many are under the myth that they need to schedule writing in the 2 solid days or weeks or months that they are doing nothing else. I have found that myth to prevent me from even starting to write. Unlike grant proposals or syllabi for classes that have deadlines or due dates, my academic writing rarely was accomplished because of that mindset. That jeopardizes promotion and tenure and thus, can block advancement in an academic setting.
Doing this PQ training program is a little like that. It is less ideal to wait until you have little else going on or are on vacation. For one reason, those situations are not real life. You can’t practice the PQ reps and mindset when you really need them- like when you’ve got due dates, meetings, decisions, and people depending on you. Those are “real” times when your saboteurs are actively working away 24/7. That’s when you need those sage powers and the PQ rep tools more than ever to overcome the things that actively block you from being happy and healthy.
Consider doing this training as a gift to give yourself some mental muscles helping you to cope with all kinds of crap that the world and your past may be putting up to reduce your effectiveness and your happiness. Like your daily vitamins or regular run, I think the PQ training program becomes a daily routine- something that can help you to overcome the pressures of a very engaged life, now especially.
Give yourself that gift of the PQ training program– I’m sure you’ll be glad you did. Especially if you’re “too busy.”
Susannah Gal is currently a Professor of Biology at Penn State Harrisburg, teaching courses in biochemistry, cancer biology, and introductory genetics. She has been a faculty member and the Interim Dean of Libraries at Binghamton University, Associate Dean of Research and Outreach at Penn State Harrisburg, and a Program Officer at the National Science Foundation. Her research has covered enzymes in plants, DNA binding in cancer cells, and DNA computing in collaboration with researchers in many different fields all over the US and the world. In her “down” time, Susannah loves to sing, dance, quilt, garden, and cook international food. She has two adult daughters who live in the Washington, DC area.