Who's in Control?

Updated: Sep 4

Episode 2: Strengthening the Self-Command Muscle


In Episode 1 we discussed: Mental fitness is the capacity to respond to life’s challenges with a positive instead of a negative mindset. The benefit of this is better performance, improved relationships, and more peace of mind. Three muscles need to be developed to increase our mental fitness: the saboteur interceptor muscle, the sage muscle, and the self-command muscle.


The self-command muscle is what helps us shift from saboteur to sage perspective, which is another way of saying our self-command muscle enables us to interrupt our automatic thoughts and behaviors so we can actively choose our response. It’s like switching off our autopilot.

To build this muscle simply focus on a single physical sensation and let go of thoughts. Your mind will wander and that’s perfectly normal. When you notice that happening, simply bring your focus back to your body and let go of the thoughts. Every time you bring your focus back to your physical sensations it further strengthens your ability to catch yourself going on autopilot. Every 10 seconds of full concentration on physical sensations is considered one rep of the exercise. The more reps you do, the stronger the self-command muscle gets. The video contains demonstrations of this.

Here’s the neuroscience behind the self-command muscle. As we experience an event, it’s like the neural pathway hits a fork in the road and we can respond from a saboteur perspective or a sage perspective. Over our lifetimes, we tend to build habits of thought and well-worn neural pathways that may favor a saboteur response, especially to very challenging situations. The saboteur response literally becomes the path of least resistance in the brain! As our self-command muscle grows, we’re more able to choose our response. Every time we choose a sage response, we build up the sage neural pathway. This makes it easier to act from a sage perspective in the future.

The Impact of Strengthening the Self Command Muscle, and How Wendy and Lisa Strengthen It

Lisa: I used to stay on autopilot when responding to my husband’s anger or frustration by getting angry and defending myself. As I strengthened my self-command muscle, I’ve been able to see what is really causing my husband’s reaction instead of immediately assuming he’s criticizing me. Building the self-command muscle is an on-going practice I’m not always quick to turn off the autopilot but is getting better.

When I do 2 to 3 twelve minutes sessions a day, it’s amazing how even keeled I stay. When I go too many days without this discipline, I notice my reactive auto-pilot response increasing. I also sneak self-command reps in throughout the day, for example, by really feeling the water, soap and towel on my hands when I wash and dry them.

Wendy: As usual, even with the same training, we take different approaches to these things. I build my self-command mostly in one to five-minute increments, but I do it more often throughout the day. I pay attention and notice when my stress goes up. For example, right as we were starting to record this video, I couldn’t hear Lisa. I could feel my tension rising, so in the moment, I paused for a few self-command reps. This allowed me to calmly work the problem and find the solution that I couldn’t see when I was hijacked by stress.

There are so many ways to sneak these in during the day. On my daily walk, I practice self-command by focusing on my feet and legs as I take each step, or by listening intently to all the sounds I can hear.

Next episode. The Saboteur-Interceptor Muscle and the Judge

We’d love to hear from you. If you have any questions, please contact us at Connect2Potential or Lisa Brewer Coaching. Wishing you all a wonderful week.

Wendy McManus, ACC, CPCC, Leadership Coach, Connect 2 Potential

Wendy McManus knows that thriving teams are the key to stellar results. As a leadership coach, she draws out the true genius in each of her clients, helping them become more confident, capable leaders of their own thriving teams. Wendy’s clients expand their self-awareness and build more authentic relationships with their co-workers, leading to stronger business outcomes. She shines a light on their inner dialogue, which empowers each of her clients to gain massive traction toward their most important goals. Wendy brings her extensive experience, including 17 years of success as a leader in produce marketing, to her work as a Leadership Coach. She is doing the work she was born to do and loving every minute of it!

Lisa Brewer, PCC, CPCC, Leadership and Life Coach, Lisa Brewer Coaching

Taking on new responsibilities often requires an expanded skill set. Lisa helps smart, ambitious project managers, entrepreneurial service providers, and coaches accelerate though this learning curve. She helps them clarify their vision and develop the plans, skills, and behaviors to achieve their goals. Lisa blends coaching, teaching, and pointing to resources to meet her clients’ specific professional and personal objectives. Over Lisa’s 20-year career she’s held positions from project manager to executive director and worked with Fortune 500 companies to nonprofits to small businesses. As her clients apply their strengths creatively and take courageous actions, their confidence, pride, and joy grows.

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