Mindbeat is privileged to offer a global network of expert coaches. In the second of a new series of interviews to introduce you to our much-loved coaching personalities, Mike Fletcher discusses mental fitness, emotional intelligence and men in kilts with Anita Sauvage, who lives in Bordeaux.
It’s only when Mindbeat coach Anita Sauvage describes the notion of ‘the saboteurs’ as the ‘wee voices in your head that feed self-doubt and anxiety’ that I notice the Scottish influence in her otherwise elegant and distinctive French accent.
We’d been discussing Shirzad Chamine, author of the New York Times best-seller, Positive Intelligence (otherwise known as PQ). Shirzad had opened the door to Anita specialising in mental fitness and positive intelligence coaching by inviting her to become one of the first 500 professionals to take his ‘Mental Fitness Programme for Coaches’ course in 2019.
“I didn’t waiver and it was one of the best choices I ever made in terms of development,” she says. “His research into mental self-sabotage involved 500,000 participants from 50 countries. It gave me the tools and insight to deal with the subsequent lockdowns and improve my mental fitness so that I could emerge from the pandemic a stronger person.”
Anita became a Mindbeat coach in May 2021. She trains clients on how to recognise and intercept saboteurs and how to focus on mental fitness and improving positive emotional intelligence.
“I’ve been fascinated by emotional intelligence for over 20 years as it’s not part of our DNA, it’s something you have to learn,” she says. “My mother was extremely liberal and empathetic. If we didn’t want to do something or not go to school, that was our choice but she taught us to recognise and understand the consequences of our actions, which helps you to develop deeper emotional intelligence.”
Shirzad’s coaching method calls it ‘Strengthening the sage’ – keeping in touch with our true self, where a calm mind and positive emotions take the lead. The sage is strengthened by tapping into our powers of empathy, exploration, innovation, navigation and activation.
Anita explains: “The first step is to notice the chemical reaction that occurs when we’re pushed into survival mode by heightened emotions such as stress and anxiety. You can’t control the chemical reaction but you can control your response. You need to pause, observe and reframe without listening to that wee voice sabotaging your thoughts.
“By redirecting our attention to physical sensations, we can quiet the saboteurs and shift our focus to the right-sided part of the brain associated with positive emotions, serenity and clear-headed focus. Something as simple as stroking your hand, wiggling your toes, staring at an object’s detail, or closing your eyes and focusing on listening to a sound furthest away can reset the neural pathways and declutter your thoughts. Sensory actions induce calm and help us to strengthen emotional intelligence, allowing us to take back control.
“This might appear simplistic, but a massive amount of research backs it,” she continues. “Each time you shift your attention for about 10 seconds, you have performed a ‘PQ rep,’ just like you’d do in the gym but strengthening the neural pathways of your ‘PQ brain’. With meditation, you need a quiet space and no interruptions. But, this can be practised without anyone else knowing. You could be sitting in a meeting or at your desk. These ‘muscles’ build up fast.”
Anita believes that professional transformation requires 20% insight – which we can get from reading a book, attending a workshop or a coaching session – and 80% mental muscle building.
She says: “The value of mental fitness is that it addresses the root cause of our thoughts, emotions, and behaviours. It creates a stronger level of self-awareness and empathy – the top two factors that need development to improve emotional intelligence in my view. But it also automatically boosts your self-regulation, your relationship management and your social awareness.
“It helps us to build sustainable new habits that have a lasting impact on our successes and happiness.”
Anita’s successes include beating cancer and reframing her outlook on the possibility that it could return one day in the future. By staying positive, she feels healthier.
As for her day-to-day happiness? Well, that comes in the form of a certain Scottish gentleman she met when he came to France on a rugby tour.
“He was wearing a kilt and I just couldn’t resist,” she laughs.