How often has this happened to you? You’re having a conversation with a colleague, a team member or your spouse or child and you notice yourself starting to get stressed or irritable, and before you know it, you say or do something unintentionally that causes or prolongs a conflict? Or you’re already tired and stressed so you reach for some junk food or alcohol even though you know it’s not good for you. Or you get stuck in repetitive negative thoughts about yourself, other people or your circumstances.

Congratulations. You’ve just been hijacked by a saboteur. Shirzad Chamine, well known business and executive coach and founder of the Positive Intelligence© program analyzed the ways that his clients self-sabotaged and found that there were 10 common unconscious thought/emotion/action patterns that cause problems. He has personified these patterns and given them names: the Judge, Avoider, Controller, Hyper Achiever, Hyper Rational, Hypervigilant, Pleaser, Restless, Stickler, and Victim. Each of these saboteurs has a story and a specific effect on you and the people around you.

For example, the Judge constantly judges you, other people, and your circumstances and events as either good, bad or neutral. Due to what psychologists call “negativity bias,” 80% of the time we judge things as bad. The Judge’s story is, “If I don’t criticize you and make you feel bad then you won’t be motivated to be better in the future,” or “If I don’t make you feel bad about your situation, you won’t be motivated to improve it.” Of course, this story is a lie. Feeling bad about yourself or your situation may cause you to make some improvements, but this negative motivation doesn’t result in lasting change or happiness. In fact, negative emotions result in decreased ability to think of creative solutions to your challenges and decreased ability to inspire or motivate yourself and others.

What is the solution to dealing with these saboteurs and the negative emotions they cause? The solution is to activate your inner wisdom, what Shirzad calls your Sage, and to intentionally use specific positive thoughts/emotion/action patterns that Shirzad calls Sage Powers. The first and most important of these powers is developing your ability to Empathize with yourself and others. Then you can Explore the limiting beliefs that hold you back and Innovate to think of creative solutions to your challenges. Using the Navigate power you can discover and articulate your values and purpose so that when you use the Activate power you can take clear-headed, laser focused action that aligns with your values and purpose.

How can you switch from Saboteur to Sage mode even in the middle of difficult challenges? First you learn to recognize and intercept the saboteurs as soon as you notice the negative emotions that they cause. Then you interrupt the saboteurs by doing short mindfulness exercises that Shirzad calls “PQ reps.” He calls them “reps” because just like doing physical reps in the gym, the more you do the stronger your saboteur interceptor “muscles” become and the heavier the challenges that you can deal with.

You activate the Sage Powers by using the Sage Perspective, a specific positive mindset where you ask yourself, “How can I convert this situation into an opportunity or gift?” Virtually any situation can be converted into a gift of Knowledge (what can I learn from the situation to improve it or avoid it in the future,) a gift of Power (how can I use this situation to practice my five Sage Powers and make them stronger,) or a gift of Inspiration (what laser-focused positive action does this situation inspire me to take?)

The real genius of the Positive Intelligence program is that it recognizes that these insights are only 20% of the solution. The other 80% is the consistent practice that is encouraged by the phone app and the peer support groups called pods. It is this consistent practice that actually “rewires” your brain and produces long-lasting positive results and happiness.