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Mental Fitness

How to Increase Your Happiness

Federal employees return to office

Published August 08, 2023
by Positive Intelligence

We all seek happiness, but what does true happiness look like, how can you unlock it, and how do you sustain it? First, you need to uncover the true definition of happiness. Second, you have to unravel the big lie you tell yourself about happiness. And third, you must learn the strategies for improving and sustaining happiness in a significant way.

What defines happiness?

“Happiness is an hour-by-hour, minute-by-minute choice that you make,” says Shirzad Chamine, founder and CEO of Positive Intelligence.®

Every individual experiences a variety of emotions in response to life’s events. Happiness is about experiencing positive emotions — the emotions you feel when your Sage (your positive self) is in control. Happiness decreases when your Saboteurs (your negative inner voices) are in control.

Improving your happiness requires improving your mental fitness, which is your state of mental wellbeing — it represents your ability to make decisions, your awareness, and how you respond to life’s challenges. It involves developing core psychological resources and becoming aware of how you think, behave, and feel.

Mental fitness describes the ability to quiet your Saboteurs and tap into your Sage. You activate Sage responses to life’s significant challenges when mentally fit. You’re better at managing stress, dismissing negative emotions as unhelpful, and seeing the gift and opportunity in every challenge you face. Mental fitness helps you generate happiness.

The big lie we tell ourselves about happiness

“The big lie that we tell ourselves is that happiness is conditional,” says Chamine. Conditional happiness is a false premise, much like conditional love. Unconditional happiness is the only happiness that is sustainable.

So much of your stress comes from trying to get what you think is critical to your happiness. Once you get that thing, you then worry about losing it. Research shows that people experience a “baseline happiness” level. When good things happen, an individual’s happiness can jump way above the baseline, but eventually, it comes back down.

What sets your baseline happiness? The relative strength of your Saboteurs vs. the relative strength of your Sage. Because happiness generates internally, if you weaken your Saboteurs and strengthen your Sage, your baseline happiness will increase over time.

What are Saboteurs?

In the Positive Intelligence (PQ) Program, Saboteurs are described as the voices in your head that generate stress and negative emotions. They negatively impact the way you handle work and life’s challenges. They sabotage your potential for happiness, and they decrease your performance.

What is Sage?

Your Sage is your positive self. Your Sage perspective shows you that every problem or challenge can be converted into a gift and opportunity. Five Sage Powers help provide this perspective: Empathize, Explore, Innovate, Navigate, and Activate. Your Sage Powers allow you to handle life’s challenges more positively.

It is impossible to fully engage your Sage Powers without first intercepting your Saboteurs, starting with the Judge, the master Saboteur. The Judge is the universal Saboteur that afflicts everyone. It is the one that beats you up repeatedly over mistakes or shortcomings, warns you obsessively about future risks, and wakes you up in the middle of the night worrying. It also gets you to fixate on what is wrong with others, yourself, or your circumstances.

How your Saboteurs reduce your happiness

The Judge is particularly adept at sabotaging your happiness. Here are some of the lies the Judge tells you that get in the way of increasing your happiness:

Judge of Self

I can’t be happy until I’m more worthy and perfect.

Judge of Others

I can’t be happy until people around me are more worthy and perfect.

Judge of Circumstance

To be happy, I need to get all the good things and avoid all the bad things.

How the Accomplice Saboteurs affect your happiness

In addition to the Judge, the Accomplice Saboteurs are actively sabotaging your happiness. You may hear one or two of these voices more than the others. Be on the lookout for what they may say about your happiness:


I’ll be happy if I avoid dealing with conflicts or uninteresting tasks.


If I work hard enough, I can control what’s important to me.


The next achievement will bring me lasting happiness.


Not feeling messy human emotions makes me happier and more objective in relationships.


Being prepared for every imaginable outcome makes me feel safe and happier.


Putting others ahead of myself is noble and makes me happy.


I can have more peace and happiness by trying to make everything right.


I can maximize my happiness by chasing all the exciting things.


Happiness may be possible for others, but not for me.

How your Sage Powers increase your happiness

“Everything can be turned into a gift or opportunity,” says Chamine. Here’s how your Sage Powers work to increase your happiness:


With yourself: I am worthy of unconditional love.

With others: Others are a mixed bag of beautiful Sage and off-putting Saboteurs, just like me.


There is endless wonder and fascination possible in every moment if I only look for it.


It is always possible to find a path of ease and flow. If it’s feeling hard, I will keep looking.


Every challenge presents a possibility to live by my values and inject meaning into my life.


Pure action (fearless, calm, clear-headed, laser-focused) is its own reward, regardless of the outcome.

Build mental fitness to improve your happiness

“Happiness happens because you choose to invest in the mental fitness that is the foundation of happiness,” says Chamine. “It comes back to all of the principles of PQ.”

The PQ Program for mental fitness helps you strengthen the three muscles needed to improve and sustain your happiness.

1. Saboteur Interceptor Muscle

If you experience a negative emotion for more than a few seconds, you’re in Saboteur mode. A strong Saboteur Interceptor Muscle allows you to label your negative thoughts and emotions at the moment and then let them go. Studying your Saboteurs and discrediting their lies and limiting beliefs is part of building the Saboteur Interceptor Muscle.

2. Self-Command Muscle

Developing your Self-Command Muscle boosts your ability to command your mind to quiet the Saboteur region and amplify the Sage region. Using simple daily exercises, you become practiced at commanding your mind rather than allowing your Saboteur-hijacked brain to run you.

3. Sage Muscle

A strong Sage Muscle helps you handle challenges with a calm mind and positive emotions. The Sage Muscle employs the five Sage Powers of Empathize, Explore, Innovate, Navigate, and Activate. You’ll have access to these powers once you’ve activated your Sage brain. Doing PQ Reps (10 seconds of focusing only on one physical sensation like touch, sight, or sound) helps you develop your Sage Muscle.

To get started on increasing your happiness, take the Saboteur Assessment to identify the Saboteurs that are holding you back.

Then, learn more about how the PQ Program for mental fitness can help you and your team increase your happiness and wellbeing.

Discover Your Saboteurs

The first step to conquering your Saboteurs is to identify them and expose their lies and limiting beliefs.

Saboteur Assessment
Saboteur Intro

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