How To Raise Mentally Tough Kids

October 4th, 2015 by LaRae Quy

When I was offered a position as an FBI agent, I was told one of the things they liked most about me was that I came from a large cattle ranch in the middle of Wyoming. I was not one of the pampered and coddled kids so often produced by modern parents and growing up in the suburbs.

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Living on a ranch, I learned the meaning of the word “responsibility” because my daily chores included feeding horses, cows, cats, dogs and a meager number of chickens that managed to escape the jaws of hungry coyotes.

The word chore means “a necessary but unpleasant task.” In fact, I couldn’t join after-school programs or participate in sports because my first responsibility was always my chores waiting for me at home.

In the rough Wyoming winters, the very weather I most wanted to avoid is exactly when I was most needed by the animals who depended upon me for their food, water, and shelter. It mattered when I was late—or simply forgot because of my own selfish behavior. I saw it in their eyes as they waited with expectation for me to take care of them.

I was not raised to be a wimp because I’d rather be snuggled up next to a fireplace in a snowstorm, nor to be self-indulgent because I’d rather be doing something that was fun rather than a chore that was work—I was raised to be mentally tough by understanding the importance of grit, accountability, and self-reliance.

A 2014 Braun Research study surveyed 1,001 U.S. adults and found 82 percent had regular chores as youth, but only 28 percent expect the same for their children.

The reason?

Kids are so busy learning foreign languages, sports, and other skills that will catapult them to success as adults that they have no time for the rigors, discipline, and dull routine of household chores.

There is no doubt that the discipline of learning in general, and sports in particular, will lead to confidence and self-reliance. But according to Richard Rende, co-author of “Raising Can-Do Kids,” decades of studies show that household chores are a proven predictor of success.

To raise kids who are mentally tough in today’s world means they need to succeed academically, emotionally, and professionally. Academics, sports—and yes, chores—all need to be present if you want your child to have the mental toughness they will need to thrive as adults.

Here are 5 tips on how to raise kids who are mentally tough:

1. Start Early

Dr. Marty Rossmann found that young adults who began chores at the age of 3 were more likely to have good relationships with family and friends, to achieve academic and early career success, and to be self-sufficient.

2. Create A Need For Empathy

While livestock in the backyard may not be suitable for most suburban families, when your child learns to care about someone or something besides themselves, they become empathic and responsive to the needs of others.

In a startling survey by psychologist Richard Weissbourd, he discovered that almost 80% of high school students chose either achievement or happiness over caring for others.

Parents can readjust their child’s skewed priorities by teaching them to be loving and kind at home. Pets are a great place to start, just as I grew up loving animals.

3. Stick To Your Guns

Many kids do have household chores, but when they come whining and complaining about how much homework they have to do, parents are tempted to let them off the hook.

Big mistake.

You are sending a dangerous message to your kid about their responsibilities and priorities by saying that achievement is more important than sticking to their commitments. They may be able to sweet-talk you into giving in, but eventually they will meet someone who is not concerned that they’ve got a full plate.

I mean, how well do you think whining and complaining about a busy day is going to work with their boss?

4. Use The Right Language

Studies have found that being described as a “helper” gives a child a positive role and identity, as opposed to saying the child is “helping.”

A helper is an individual of action who helps others.

5. Praise Often

Remember to acknowledge when your kid has done their chores and to praise them correctly by saying, “You did a great job because you worked so hard.”  When you affirm that they have succeeded because of the effort they put out, they will understand that it always takes effort to do a job well.

This creates a growth mindsetI can learn to be smarter, better, or more skilled.

Never say, “You did a great job because you are so smart.” This creates a fixed mindset that leads a child to believe their success is dependent upon their intelligence, skills, or attractiveness.

6. Keep Allowances And Chores Separate

Experts advise that external rewards, like money, can actually lesson a child’s motivation to help out with chores. Rewards teach them to turn altruistic acts into business transactions.

7. Teach Independence

Why do American children depend on their parents to do things for them that they are capable of doing for themselves?

According to the Wall Street Journal’s “Field Guide to the Middle Class,” while a 5-year-old in Peru’s Amazon region can be found climbing trees to harvest papayas and “helping haul logs thicker than her leg to stoke a fire,” an 8-year-old in America’s Los Angeles region can be found lying on his back on a sofa, ordering his dad to untie his shoe—and being scolded only because he didn’t say “please.”

We’re all very busy, and sometimes it’s just much easier to do the chore ourselves rather than see it done slowly and imperfectly. But parents are the ones who must teach their kids to be capable and independent.

Click here for a list of suggested chores by age.

How have you raised your child to be mentally tough?

© 2015 LaRaeQuy. All rights reserved.

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Author of “Mental Toughness for Women Leaders: 52 Tips To Recognize and Utilize Your Greatest Strengths” and “Secrets of a Strong Mind.” 

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WILLPOWER —The Secret To Getting What You Want In Life

September 27th, 2015 by LaRae Quy

A few years back I entered a 6 mile race called the Jingle Bell Run with some of my fellow FBI agents. Within the first few yards they pulled away and left me behind. Desperate to keep my legs churning under me as fast as I could, I drew a bead on their quickly disappearing backs until they were so far ahead of me I could no longer see them.


And then, as we entered the last mile, a woman pushing a stroller sailed past me. The child sitting in the stroller weighed about 40 pounds—to add insult to injury.

I wish I could tell you this was a joke, but it wasn’t. I felt both defeated and humiliated. I watched as the woman’s back quickly disappeared into the crowd as well. By now, I was limping along with runners from the Shady Rest Retirement Community.

I thought about dropping out of the race altogether, but I willed myself to keep moving ahead even though I was gasping for breath and barely able to move.

The capacity to say “no” to the call of temptation and desire to quit is called willpower.

Willpower is the ability to find the energy, motivation, and enthusiasm to keep going even when you’re tired, anxious, and looking for a way out.

Here are 7 ways you can use willpower to get everything you want in life:

1. Keep Your Eye On The Big Picture

Make sure your goals and priorities are clear in your mind. You must be able to make the choice that matters when you run into difficulties and feel like giving up.

Willpower takes energy because you must use mental toughness to control your thoughts, emotions, and behavior.

2. Connect Your Activity To Your WHY

To activate your willpower, you must be able to remind yourself WHY it’s important for you to do something.  When you have a purpose and are engaged in activities that are freighted with both value and meaning, you have the beginning of willpower because you are committed to your goal.

Dump the trivia because meaningless tasks do not activate willpower.

3. Pare Down Decisions

School uniforms are popular for a reason: they reduce the number of choices students have to make every morning. President Obama only wears blue or gray suits. He told Vanity Fair that he doesn’t want to make decisions about what he wears because he has so many other decisions to make.

Fewer decisions allow you to find the energy, motivation, and stamina to keep going even when you’re tired or anxious.

4. Train Your Brain

You can make the willpower centers of your brain more dense and better connected by meditating every day. Neuroscientists have found that meditation leads to better focus and self-control after just 3 hours of practice. MRI scans show increased neural connection in brain regions responsible for impulse control.

Don’t worry if you think you are “bad at meditation.” The act of constantly pushing away intrusive thoughts is precisely what trains the brain and strengthens willpower.

5. Defer Gratification

Success usually comes down to choosing the pain of discipline over the ease of compliance. So, if you want to succeed at something, at some point you will need to ignore doing easier things in favor of doing something harder.

Willpower is the ability to delay gratification, resisting short-term temptations in order to meet long-term goals.

6. Be Optimistic

When we increase our optimism, we increase our willpower to accomplish a task. When we mix optimism with willpower, it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. Studies have shown that if we raise our expectations of success, we find ways to overcome the temptations or obstacles that might pop up along the way.

Our ability to overcome an obstacle depends upon how likely we think we’ll be able to overcome it.

7. Change Your Mindset

People who think that willpower is limited are always on the lookout for signs of fatigue. But people who believe that willpower is not limited only dig deeper and find more resources.

Recent findings by Greg Walton and Carol Dweck fly in the face of what has been preached about willpower for years—that willpower is limited and that we need constant glucose boosts throughout the day.

If we have a growth mindset, we will work harder and dig deeper to find the willpower we need to overcome our obstacle or reach our goals. According to Walton and Dweck, willpower can indeed be quite limited—but only if you believe it is. When people believe that willpower is fixed and limited, their willpower is easily depleted.

But when people believe that willpower is self-renewing—that when you work hard, you’re energized to work more; that when you’ve resisted one temptation, you can better resist the next one—then people successfully exert more willpower. It turns out that willpower is in your head.

I’m glad I finished the Jingle Bell Run because every obstacle I work through makes the achievement that much more valuable. Giving up is often the easiest option in today’s world, but it’s important to think about how that choice may affect your life ten years from now.

Don’t live a life of regrets.

How do you increase your willpower?

© 2015 LaRaeQuy. All rights reserved.

You can follow me on Twitter

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Author of “Mental Toughness for Women Leaders: 52 Tips To Recognize and Utilize Your Greatest Strengths” and “Secrets of a Strong Mind.” 

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6 Reasons People Don’t Listen To You

September 20th, 2015 by LaRae Quy

Recently, I was talking to an individual whom I truly like, but we were in a crowded room filled with lots of people I knew. My eye wandered over my friend’s shoulder as I mentally prioritized those I needed to contact as soon as our conversation ended.

6 Reasons People Don't Listen To You

My friend tried to catch my eye and drag me back into our conversation. I nodded mechanically while my eye kept sneaking over her shoulder to take in the social patterns developing in the room.

Eventually, she said, “I’ve lost you. Let’s talk later.”

I felt terrible, but I knew she was right. I was pretending to listen as I recited a mental tally of whom I needed to talk to before the evening ended.

Situations like this can range from annoying to destructive. According to Pamela CooperVice President of the International Listening Association, “Listening is really hard work and it takes a great deal of concentration.”

If you want people to listen to you, you must have the mental toughness to be brutally honest with yourself.

Think about your own listening skills, or better yet, thicken your skin and ask a good friend or your spouse for their honest evaluation. To be a good listener it takes more than just hearing what the person is saying—it requires a conscious desire, conscientiousness, and practice.

People don’t listen to you because you don’t:

1. Stay Engaged

To be a good listener, you have to be present—which means not being preoccupied either physically or mentally. Dump the clutter from your mind and pay attention to what is being communicated to you now.

When you are distracted by other people or technology, it makes the other person feel unimportant.


  • If you’re in a busy room, focus on the person with whom you are talking rather than what is going on around you
  • If you’re talking on the phone, turn your back on the computer and give the person your full attention
  • Stop thinking about arguments, reports to be finished, or where you are going to dinner

2. Open Up Your Body Language

Body language communicates what you are thinking and feeling more accurately than the words you use.

No matter how interested you appear to be, if your feet are turned toward the nearest exit you are signaling that you are anxious to make an escape. Crossing arms or hands in pockets also exhibits nervous behavior. These small physical gestures can discourage others from approaching you.


  • Lean forward and nod occasionally
  • Face the person who is speaking
  • Open up your posture by uncrossing the arms
  • Make eye contact

3. Leave Your Assumptions Behind

If your brain thinks that it knows the answer, it will only accept information that confirms your beliefs.

Making assumptions and generalizations are hard-wired into our thinking. But, if you can generate genuine interest in the topic, or person, you can over-ride this tendency and create an open mind.

When listening to another person, it may help to assume you know nothing about what they are telling you.


  • Check your assumption out loud with the person with whom you are talking
  • Ask a question such as, “So you mean…” and let the person confirm or correct

4. Ask Questions

The two most powerful words in a conversation are: “Tell me.”

Questions are incredibly important in any conversation. People like to be heard, and when you ask a question, it signals that you are not only listening to them but that you are also hearing what they have to say.

If you take an genuine interest in the activities of others, they will return the favor.

Questions allow you to dig deeper and discover more about specific areas on which you are unclear so you can gain a better understanding of a person’s priorities, values, and interests. Because of this, it is easier to connect with others and develop meaningful relationships.


  • Open-ended questions provide great opportunities for people to elaborate on specific topics
  • Questions keep conversations flowing
  • Asking for clarification helps you understand someone’s point of view
  • Asking questions of yourself will keep you from becoming defensive

5. Create Empathy

Sometimes we don’t really want to hear what other people have to say! We love our own opinions and thoughts and would prefer to shut out those of others.

Once we close down, however, we risk becoming judgmental and opinionated. More importantly, we miss out on what others have to share with us.

If you can develop the ability to hunt out shared experiences, it is easier to take in the big picture and create empathy.


  • Suspend judgment—even if you have firm beliefs on the subject
  • Take in the entire message with no interruptions
  • Seek out bits of information with which you agree so you can find some shared ground
  • Place yourself in the other person’s shoes

6. Shut Up

There is a time to speak and a time to shut up and listen. Effective communication requires reciprocity. If you aren’t a good listener, do not be surprised when others don’t make listening to you a top priority.


  • Shut up if you don’t have something significant to contribute to the conversation
  • Shut up if you can’t find something positive to say
  • Shut up if you don’t intend to hold your part of the bargain
  • Shut up if your only contribution is to whine and complain

How have you become a more effective listener?

© 2015 LaRaeQuy. All rights reserved.

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Author of “Mental Toughness for Women Leaders: 52 Tips To Recognize and Utilize Your Greatest Strengths” and “Secrets of a Strong Mind.”

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How To Use Mental Toughness To Impress Anyone—Even Your Boss

September 13th, 2015 by LaRae Quy

Richard was the sort of FBI agent everyone wanted to be. Even his supervisor walked a few paces behind him because Richard looked the part—he absolutely oozed sophistication, confidence, and success.

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He gave me this very important bit of advice early in my career: “It’s not what you do, it is how you look doing it. From the way you look, to how you think about this organization, to the way you speak and represent yourself to the public.”

Some people, like Richard, command respect, admiration, and loyalty. They exude the qualities of both confidence and competence—and one thing I’ve learned is that those two always travel in pairs.

If you are competent, you will be confident. If you are not competent, no matter how confident you try appear you know you’re an empty suit and full of bullsh*t. It will only be a matter of time before you’re found out.

And have you noticed—the person who is the most respected is also the most successful!

Mental toughness boils down to the way we think. If we think we can accomplish a thing, we can. It is harnessing the power of our mind to break through our barriers and accomplish our goals.

If you believe your are inferior, you are—regardless of your qualifications. The way we think affects our behavior, and this is the essence of mental toughness:

Manage your thoughts, emotions, and behavior in ways that set you up for success.

How you think determines how you act.

How you act determines how others react to you.

Let’s take a look at how you can use the way you think, feel, and behave to impress anyone—even your boss:

1. Look Important

Call it shallow but Richard was right: it’s not what you do, it’s how you look doing it.

It doesn’t matter whether you are a man or a woman, don’t leave the house without your polish. Spend that extra amount of time to make sure you are sending the message you really want to send.

Having spent hours on surveillance, I’ll tell you one thing: FBI agents can usually spot a criminal just by looking at them. It may not be fair, but it’s a fact: the way you dress, comb your hair, and carry yourself speaks volumes about how you feel about yourself.

Before you step out the door, ask yourself how your colleagues, competitors, and neighbors see you. What do they think about you, based on your appearance?

And yes, I already know that intellect should be the criteria upon which we judge a person. In theory, this is true. But this is the real world of hard knocks where you can lose a promotion, a relationship, or a chance to take on new project simply on the basis of how you come across to others.

If you haven’t already figured it out, first impressions may be the only impression you’ll ever make. And they stick in the mind of the other person because it is the only criteria they have for evaluating you.

You are what you think you are. Do not ever think small, so start with the first thing first—your appearance.

2. Think Important

My career before the FBI was a department store manager at a large retail chain. It was a brutal and thankless job, and many of my colleagues moped around like the walking dead during the holiday season.

If asked what they did for a living, Irma would say, “I persuade women to buy polka dot blouses instead of striped ones this season.” Edith would reply with, “I work long hours and get paid minimum wage.”

When I was interviewed by the FBI, I answered that question by saying, “I am helping to build the country’s largest retail chain.”

Attitude is everything. If you think that you, and your work, is important, it will be. That sort of attitude is both inspiring and infectious.

The way we think tells others a lot about our potential for responsibility. There is an amazing correlation between a person’s job attitude and their job performance.

Do not think of your present job, even if it isn’t perfect, as a necessary evil. Instead, think on a broader scale. Make suggestions for ways to grow the business. Look at time in the C-suite as opportunities to learn and soak in the attitude and thinking of others who are more successful.

Your thoughts have incredible power. Be mentally tough and channel those thoughts into power horses.

The key to success is thinking positively about yourself and your contribution to the job. Enthusiasm is contagious, so be that germ that spreads first-class performance.

3. Speak Important

The words you use are important. They have a lot of power because they energize our thoughts. Words are thoughts spoken out loud. The words we say to ourselves can either inspire or destroy, depending on what our brain hears.

When you think you can’t accomplish a goal and want to quit, your brain puts barriers around achieving the goal; often these are no more than self-limiting barriers because you’ve told yourself you can’t do it.

Research estimates that we say 300-1,000 words to ourselves per minute. So teach yourself to react positively to your circumstances so you can override the anxiety that can come from negative thinking.

Positive self-talk can shift the way you see your stressors. It can help you become more flexible in the face of change and uncertainty. Mental toughness is recognizing that even in the roughest circumstances, we are never helpless.

What sort of impression do you think you make on others?

© 2015 LaRaeQuy. All rights reserved.

You can follow me on Twitter

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Author of “Mental Toughness for Women Leaders: 52 Tips To Recognize and Utilize Your Greatest Strengths” and “Secrets of a Strong Mind.”

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9 Powerful Ways To Build Confidence

August 23rd, 2015 by LaRae Quy

During a mock trial, I was selected to be a witness and cross-examined by a criminal lawyer. The purpose of the mock trial was to give FBI agents an idea of how defense attorneys would try to distort our words and use them against us, especially in front of a jury.

9 Powerful Ways To Build Confidence

We were in a real federal courtroom with real lawyers and judges. I had never testified in a court of law before—I felt inadequate, uncertain, and afraid that I would blow the case by saying the wrong thing.

Sure enough, I answered the defense attorney’s question and she immediately twisted the meaning of my words. I wanted to say, “That’s not what I meant,” but she had already moved on to another topic. I was flustered and my lack of confidence plummeted ever further.

When she asked another question, I kept my answer very short. I knew that I risked sounding defensive but I simply did not have enough confidence in myself to engage with her at any length. Realizing that my lack of conviction about her client’s activities would not present a real threat, I was quickly dismissed as a witness.

All I remember about that entire exchange is how crappy it felt to be both humiliated and impotent as a government witness in a mock trial.

Lack of confidence can rear its ugly head at any time. No one is immune because we are most vulnerable any time we’re out of our comfort zone or experience change in our life.

Confidence is closely linked to mental toughness because it takes a strong mind to conquer fear, anxiety, and worry.

Our brain is naturally wired to pay more attention to negative thinking because bad news has alerted us to danger for centuries. Our cave dweller ancestors went out each day to “get lunch” not “be lunch.”

But not everything that is new or different is a threat to our survival these days. The good news is that we can train ourselves to be more confident. Here are 9 ways:

1. Isolate Your Fear

In my case, I was afraid of making a fool of myself in front of my colleagues during the mock trial. I was afraid of what they might say and think if I screwed up.

Other common fears are: fear of how others perceive us, fear of being physically hurt, fear of commitment, or fear of failure.

It is important to dump the ego and get right down to the origin of your fear.

2. Take Action

If you hesitate and wring your hands, your fear will only grow.

I should have prepared better, worked harder to anticipate the way the defense attorney would parse my words, and trusted my own judgment.

3. Deposit Positive Memories in Your Memory Bank

We are bombarded with so much information that our brain stores information in a way that makes sense to it.

So, if you lack confidence, all your brain will remember about a specific event are those things that confirm you messed up.

If you hold a memory freighted with lack of confidence, go back and revisit it to make sure you are remembering correctly. Often, you will find out that others did not perceive or remember an event the same way.

At the end of each day, examine it. Remember all the positive and good things that you said, did, or accomplished that day. Reflect on all the positive victories and go to sleep with those memories on your mind.

4. Withdraw Only Positive Memories

It is easy for any negative thought, with enough encouragement and recall, to turn into a mental monster. The best way to defeat it is to ruthlessly nip it in the bud.

Find at least 3 things every day for which to be grateful. Write them down. Smile when you think of them.

Successful leaders move forward with confidence because they learn from their fears and failures, and then let them go.

5. Respect Yourself

If you don’t respect yourself, why should anyone else? I can’t think of any situation where a doormat is someone who is respected.

If you are not in a situation where you do not feel respect from others, change your situation; do not walk—run. The devil you don’t know is NOT worse than the devil you know.

Perhaps this means changing friends, jobs, or relationships—whatever it takes, place yourself in a position where you respect yourself and others reciprocate these positive feelings.

6. Sit In The Front Row

I always sat in the front row of every class I ever took. It takes confidence to sit in the front row and be noticed, but the more you do it, the easier it gets.

Start today and sit in the front row of every meeting, conference, or class you attend. Start getting comfortable with being noticed.

7. Make Eye Contact

Body language is important in building confidence. I immediately categorize people who do not look me in the eye as losers, whether they are or not. This means they have to work extra hard to convince me they are not.

Failure to make eye contact indicates either 1) they feel inferior to you and lack confidence, or 2) they are guilty of something.

This may be a great clue when interviewing suspects, but it’s not the message you want to be sending to your team members.

8. Walk Faster

I’ve had people come up to me out of a crowd and say they knew I was an FBI agent because of the way I walked—fast!

You know what, my time is important, and where I’m going is important—or I wouldn’t be going. Don’t be an average walker, or an average thinker. Moving with intention says, “I’m going to be successful.”

9. Speak Up

A sign of a true milquetoast is someone who doesn’t speak up. Instead, they feel their opinions don’t matter and that no wants to hear them.

Each time you clam up you are injecting more confidence-poison into your system. Your feeling of inferiority and inadequacy will just keep growing.

Bite the bullet and speak up! Practice what you are going to say ahead of time so it sounds good. Keep it short and pithy.

You will be amazed at how good it feels!

How do you build your confidence?

© 2015 LaRaeQuy. All rights reserved.

You can follow me on Twitter

Get my FREE 45-Question Mental Toughness Assessment

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Author of “Mental Toughness for Women Leaders: 52 Tips To Recognize and Utilize Your Greatest Strengths” and “Secrets of a Strong Mind.” 

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9 Tough Truths About Your Fear Of Change

August 16th, 2015 by LaRae Quy

One of the most irritating things working for the FBI was their transfer policy—it was always changing and it was always dictated by the needs of the Bureau. When you received an assignment you didn’t like, you could either accept it or quit. There was very little room for negotiation or discussion.

Change - jump

As a new agent, I worked on two different squads in six months. It is also the FBI’s policy to rotate agents to various parts of the country. In the first three years, I was transferred to three different cities.

It was not easy to pull up roots, disrupt relationships, and start over with each new transfer or assignment. The anxiety level went up because there was nothing but tension and uncertainty ahead of me.

When we don’t know what the future holds, it doesn’t matter whether we’re starting a new job or being transferred across the country—the fear of change is there.

The only ones who like change are babies with wet diapers—and that’s because they know what to expect. The rest of us are left trying to understand how to cope with the unexpected in life and the fear that change produces.

Our resistance to change finds its roots in fear of the unknown.

Change means moving into our discomfort zone. Psychologists explain that victims of domestic violence are often so afraid of changing the status quo that they stay in abusive relationships rather than risk the unknown. For those who experience continual physical or emotional abuse, the abuse has become their comfort zone.

This is why it is so hard for them to move out—it has become familiar, predictable and known. Ironically, moving in the direction of “safety” is actually moving into their discomfort zone.

The truth of the matter is that you will never be able to control everything. You need to have faith that things will work out because sometimes what you can’t change, ends up changing you and in the process helps you grow as a person.

Leaders who successfully navigate change know they are empowered because they have resilience, an important component of mental toughness. They are capable of getting through anything.

Here are 9 tough truths about change. It:


As crazy as it sounds, every situation teaches you important lessons about yourself and your reaction to your situation. Often, when things are falling apart, they are actually falling into place.


Making a big life change is scary. The only thing scarier is not making it and staying in the rut in which you now find yourself.


Talk is cheap so pay attention to which people stick with you during the changes you experience in life. Change brings out the true quality of your relationship in the long term.


Life is full of mystery and every time you experience change, you are better prepared to embrace the adventure of living.


Surrender can be difficult, but change reminds you that sometimes it’s OK to let go.


While you’d rather not admit it, the deepest pain you’ve experienced in your life has produced the greatest growth. It’s the tough and painful choices that end up being the most worthwhile. Just remember that while pain can teach you a lesson, it must also be released.


While you’d rather not admit it, the deepest pain you’ve experienced in your life has produced the greatest growth. It’s the tough and painful choices that end up being the most worthwhile. Just remember that while pain can teach you a lesson, it must also be released.


Nostalgia can be a good thing at times, but if it keeps you chained to visions of what you used to be, it’s time to embrace who you can become. You risk an empty state of mind if you cannot move beyond a fabled past. By living in the past, you construct self-limiting beliefs about what you can do in the future.


The deepest part of you will never change. You are created by God to be the person you are. Life’s unpredictability becomes easier when you connect with that part of yourself.

Change can empower you to lead with your personal strengths and a strong mind.

What have you learned change in your life?

© 2015 LaRaeQuy. All rights reserved.

You can follow me on Twitter

Get my FREE 45-Question Mental Toughness Assessment

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Author of “Mental Toughness for Women Leaders: 52 Tips To Recognize and Utilize Your Greatest Strengths” and “Secrets of a Strong Mind.” 

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7 Surprising Ways You Can Increase Your Willpower

August 9th, 2015 by LaRae Quy

The majority of complicated and sophisticated cases worked by the FBI take several months, if not years, to solve. It can take willpower to doggedly continue to pursue new leads and maintain the hope of bringing the case to a conclusion.

Willpower - man on top of mountain

Whether I was sitting across from parents whose child had been abducted, elderly people who had been swindled out of their life savings, or a young executive coming to grips with the fact that her company was the victim of corporate espionage, I felt the full heft of responsibility as the lead investigator.

I was committed to these people, and I promised that I would do everything in my power to bring justice in each of their situations. The idea that I might fail them was scary.

You do not tell the parents of a missing child that the case is “too hard,” give up, and walk away. No—this is when you realize how willpower plays such a crucial role in mental toughness.

There are times when you simply must keep moving forward—family, career, and life depend upon it. Surrender is not an option.

Every day we are tempted to surrender and quit. It might be a cookie that is tempting us to stray from a diet, a warm bed in which to sleep late and miss work, or the feel of cool water on a beach instead of spending time strategizing our next career move—we all need willpower to decide the direction in which we will take our life.

Willpower is the ability to resist impulses with discipline and self-control. Researchers are discovering that willpower is a mental muscle, and certain physical and mental habits can weaken or strengthen our self-control.

Here are 7 surprising ways you can increase your willpower:

1. Don’t Leave Home Without Your “Why”

To activate your willpower, you must remind yourself why something is important to you. If you are engaged in meaningless tasks or jobs, willpower will not save you.

When you have a purpose and are pursuing a goal that has meaning and value for you, your willpower can be tapped into because you are committed to something important to you.

2. Keep Front Sights On Your Goal, Not Your Fear

When you focus on the goal, your concentration is channeled into a productive cycle of thinking. Instead of worrying, or becoming fearful, focus on planning how you will move toward your goal and overcome your obstacle.

Once you get your mind straight, and focused on your performance, options and plans of action become clearer.

3. Wrap Your Behavior Around Your Goal

It is easier to muster the shot of energy you need if you define your goals as specific behavior. For example: if I my goal was pushups, I should specify a number, like “35 good pushups” rather than just “do more of them.” If it’s a behavioral choice, the goal becomes a natural outgrowth.

Nordstrom is a great example of how a company can define its goal in terms of behavior: superior customer service. Sales and customer loyalty are the by-products of Nordstrom’s behavior.

4. Good Habits Are The Magic Bullet

Charles Duhigg explains in his book, “The Power of Habit,” that habits cannot be eradicated; instead, they must be replaced. Habits are most malleable when we keep the same cue and the same reward.

If you want to change a habit, you must find an alternative routine. You may need to change your environment to make sure what you should do is easy and what you shouldn’t do is hard.

For example, perhaps you want to accomplish more first thing in the morning—study your habits to determine why you tend to feel groggy when you wake up. You may need to go to bed earlier, stop taking sleeping pills, or avoid alcohol in the evening.

For a habit to stay changed, people must believe change is possible. While belief is essential, it often only emerges with the help of a group—even a group of two people is large enough to change habits.

The best way to accomplish any change is by having a supportive group of friends around you.

5. Do The Hardest Thing First

Once you’ve set your goal, it must become a priority. Wishing for something to happen won’t make it happen. Reorganize your day so that you have time to make your goal a reality.

You have the greatest amount of mental energy in the morning. The National Academy of Sciences reports that a survey of parole board judges determined that the judges were most likely to give a favorable ruling earlier in the morning. The odds of a favorable ruling plummeted right before lunch.

6. Master Your Mindset

In the old days it was believed that willpower was a limited resource, or that it could be jumpstarted with a sugary drink. Failure of willpower over bulging waistlines and dead-end careers could be blamed on our biological limits.

This myth has been debunked by newer research. According to a study conducted by The National Academy of Sciences, willpower can indeed be quite limited — but only if you believe it is!

When people believe that willpower is fixed and limited, their willpower is easily depleted. But when people believe that willpower is self-renewing — that when you work hard, you’re energized to work more; that when you’ve resisted one temptation, you can better resist the next one — then people successfully exert more willpower.

It turns out that willpower is in your head.

7. Be The Person Too Stupid To Quit

There is a reason we admire people who have achieved long, happy marriages and overcome difficulties in life. Those individuals remain persistent even when it doesn’t appear that success is guaranteed.

There is value in delayed gratification—some things are worth holding on to; the key is knowing which ones.

Nothing in the world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent—Calvin Coolidge

How do you increase your willpower?

© 2015 LaRaeQuy. All rights reserved.

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Author of “Mental Toughness for Women Leaders: 52 Tips To Recognize and Utilize Your Greatest Strengths” and “Secrets of a Strong Mind.” 

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10 FBI Tricks For Effective Persuasion

August 2nd, 2015 by LaRae Quy

Some of my biggest laughs come from watching Hollywood movies and TV shows depicting FBI agents as indestructible bullies walking that fine line between good and evil. They are either taking the law into their own hands in their pursuit of justice or abusing their power to crush the little people that get in their way.

10 FBI Tricks For Effective Persuasion

The silliness of it all is pure entertainment for someone like me, a former FBI agent. The danger that lurks, however, is that impressionable audiences actually start to believe all the crap they see, read, and hear.

Bullying, intimidation, and rudeness pump up hormones and get everyone’s juices flowing. The results are good ratings.

The fact is, FBI agents use persuasion to get the job done in the majority of cases—not brute strength and ignorance.

As sales people, executives, and leaders, you deserve to know the truth—persuasion is a skill that is as instrumental to your success as it is to an FBI agent.

Persuasion, at it’s core, requires emotional intelligence because it is essential that you have enough awareness of emotions to develop rapport with another individual.

Emotional awareness is an essential component of mental toughness, because if you aren’t savvy enough to read other people, you will never be able to adapt your own approach to accommodate different personalities.

There are a few tricks of the trade, and here are 10 that will help you to get people to lean toward your way of thinking when it matters most:

1. Leave A Strong First Impression

There is a reason FBI agents wear suits and workout every day. They portray the image of someone who is both professional and capable of handling themselves in every situation.

Most people make snap decisions within the first few seconds of meeting you. They then spend the rest of the conversation justifying their first impression.

Take advantage by paying attention to your appearance, posture, voice, and mannerisms. The secret weapon is likability and it can make a huge impact on your success.

2. Greet People By Name

Dale Carnegie, the author of How to Win Friends and Influence People, believed that using someone’s name was very important. He said that a person’s name is the sweetest sound in any language for that person.

Research shows that people feel validated when they are referred to by their name—just don’t over do it!

Personalize your interactions with others by using their name. Not everyone is good at remembering names, so you may need to collect business cards and make notes on the back of them to help jog your recollection.

3. Tilt Your Head

Common sense tells us that if you nod when you’re listening to someone, it indicates that you are in agreement.

But, when you tilt your head and nod, you are sending a more powerful non-verbal message that indicates you are listening, comfortable, and receptive.

4. Limit Your Speech

To be most effective, talk no longer than 30 seconds at a time in a given conversation.

According to researcher Andrew Newberg, the human brain can really only hold on to four things at a time, so if you go on and on for five or 10 minutes trying to argue a point, the person will only remember a very small part of that.

Speak briefly, sticking to one or two sentences or around 30 seconds worth, because that’s really what the human brain can take in.

5. Mirror Their Behavior

Mirroring is observing a person’s body posture and then subtly letting your body reflect their position.

Mirror neurons fire when you reflect an emotion you see in others. Researchers have discovered that those who had been mimicked were much more likely to act favorably toward the person who had copied them.

It’s an effective way to build rapport and increase a person’s comfort level when you need to use persuasion to get your point across.

6. Paraphrase And Repeat Back

One of the most positive ways to persuade others is to show them that you truly understand how they feel—even if you disagree with them.

Studies have shown that when you listen to what someone has to say, and then rephrase it as a question to confirm that you understood it, they are going to be more comfortable talking with you.

FBI agents use this to help them get confessions, but you can use this same trick because people are more likely to listen to what you have to say once you show them that you care about them.

7. Smile, Always

It should be no surprise that a smile creates the highest positive emotion—but it has to be a real smile!

In a genuine smile, the lips are drawn toward the cheekbone, eyebrows rise, and pupils dilate to open up. There is no more more powerful persuasion tool in the world, or more disarming, than a genuine smile.

8. Don’t Correct People When They Are Wrong

Dale Carnegie also pointed out in his famous book that telling someone they are wrong is usually unnecessary and is a catastrophic move if you want to persuade someone to do something for you because it’s an attack on their ego.

This doesn’t mean you let people off the hook, but I’ve used something called the Ransberger Pivot many times and it’s an effective approach (unless you’re dealing with a nut or a radical in which case nothing will work):

This is the idea: instead of arguing, listen to what they have to say, and then seek to understand how they feel and why. Then you explain the common ground that you share with them, and use that as a starting point to explain your position. This makes them much more likely to listen to what you have to say, and allows you to correct them without them losing face.

9. Say Please And Thank You

Researcher Robert Cialdini has shown that people respond to politeness! Treat people with respect. By simply adding the phrases “please” and “thank you” when making a request, compliance is much easier to achieve.

10. Flattery Works

This one may seem obvious at first, but there are some important caveats to it.

For starters, it must be sincere for it to be persuasive.

Second, remember that we look for cognitive balance by keeping our thoughts and feelings organized in a similar way. So, if you flatter someone who has high self-esteem, they will like you more because you validated how they feel about themselves.

What other persuasion tricks would you add?

© 2015 LaRaeQuy. All rights reserved.

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Author of “Mental Toughness for Women Leaders: 52 Tips To Recognize and Utilize Your Greatest Strengths” and “Secrets of a Strong Mind.” 

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Vulnerability —The Road To Courage And Success

July 26th, 2015 by LaRae Quy

When people meet me, they expect me to have the kind of bravado that is portrayed by FBI agents on TV and in movies—confident with no signs of weakness or vulnerability. Nothing could be further from the truth!


The happiest and most successful FBI agents with whom I worked alongside had the self-awareness to know that it takes a great deal of courage to be vulnerable. To be authentic and seen for who you truly are is not for wimps.

Less courageous leaders pretend they are strong and will never break. They never acknowledge their weaknesses or vulnerabilities.

The possibility of greatness opens up when we are are truly prepared to move through our fears—in other words, allow ourselves to be vulnerable. Too often, it is much easier to settle for highly functioning mediocrity in our life rather than to risk exposure to criticism and the possibility of failure.

Humiliation is what you feel in front of others; shame is what you feel alone—LaRae Quy

According to Brene Brown, the root of shame is fear. “The questions we are living by—what are we supposed to fear, and who is to blame?—are exhausting for us spiritually, emotionally. Fear consumes an enormous amount of energy in our lives…we are spending so much time and energy being afraid that we are not fully walking into our power and our gifts.”

Our culture tells us that in order to be successful, we cannot live an ordinary life. Unless you are grabbing lots of attention and have lots of followers, you are not successful. Just look at the wildly popular “Keeping Up With The Kardashians.”

But in truth, success has become another word for narcissism. No wonder vulnerability is so scary—it has become synonymous with failure and things to be avoided.

SWAT, Navy SEALS, Special Forces, and FBI agents are trained to understand that fear is a healthy gift because courage is the product of our vulnerability, not of our strengths.

Here are 4 reasons vulnerability is the road to courage—and success:

1. Forces Self-Awareness

Who looks outside, dreams; who looks inside, awakes―Carl Jung

For those who think that self awareness is a touchy-feely approach to leadership and that emotional intelligence is a waste of time, think again. The tough guy blasting his way through obstacles is very popular in movies and books, but it’s fantasy.

In a 2010 study by Green Peak Partners and Cornell’s School of Industrial and Labor Relations, a high self-awareness score was the strongest predictor of overall success.

Emotional awareness is a requirement for mental toughness. It doesn’t take rocket science to understand that successful leaders who are aware of their weaknesses are in a better position to hire people who will compliment them and make up for those areas in which they are weak.

Assuming that is, the leader is willing to admit they have weaknesses—in other words, acknowledge their vulnerabilities.

What we do not accept about ourselves can often be the very thing that derails us, so bringing awareness to this is important for your future success.

2. Builds Resilience

Vulnerability is the combination of uncertainty, risk, and challenges. Welcome to life! To pretend you are not vulnerable would leave you in a perpetual state of denial and stress.

Resilience is our ability to withstand challenges to our established way of life—to bend without breaking. As such, vulnerability may be considered the soft underbelly of resilience. Our ability to be vulnerable stimulates the brain to find ways to adapt to our constantly changing environment.

Allowing a vulnerability to surface creates a disturbance in our environment, and our autonomic brain responses are mobilized in order to provide stability.

When the brain detects a threat to our status quo, it triggers increases in chemicals like cortisol and metabolic hormones. This is a healthy, albeit primitive, stress response that ensures our survival. The ability to adapt to stressors in our environment allows us to bounce back when we hit the unexpected.

3. Grow—Or Wither Up And Die

We are so afraid of suffering or feeling pain in any form that we would prefer to live unfulfilled lives rather than experience discomfort.

It takes courage to invite pain, suffering, and discomfort into our life. We cling to the old way of doing things because we lack certainty and fear the unknown. Instead of taking a closer look at why we feel so vulnerable, we gun our engines and stay on course.

That means you stop learning, stretching, and growing. In essence, you die, although your body may not be buried until decades later.

Innovation and creativity demand vulnerability. Every entrepreneurial undertaking is courageous and risky. Experimentation is at the heart of innovation, so instead of feeling powerless by this vulnerability, replace it with the wisdom earned from each of your experiences.

Until you realize that innovation and vulnerability are played by the same hand, you will always balk at moving past your comfort zone.

4. Reins In Your Ego

The small mind is binary—everything is either good or bad, yes or no. It looks for comparisons and judgments.

The great mind synthesizes new information and alternative points of view. To be great, you must allow yourself to be vulnerable.

The ego hates this! The ego always wants to be right. New ways of thinking, about ourselves and our situations, threatens it—and that is exactly why change is so hard for so many people.

The most successful people I know have realistic assessments of their own abilities—strengths, weaknesses, and their affect on others. They do not let their ego interfere with identifying what gaps need to be filled or admit that someone else on their team may have an idea that is even better than their own.

Vulnerability can be scary. But if you are mentally tough, you will develop the courage to be vulnerable about who you really are—because that is the only way to be truly successful.

When has your vulnerability allowed you to be more courageous and successful?

© 2015 LaRaeQuy. All rights reserved.

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Author of “Mental Toughness for Women Leaders: 52 Tips To Recognize and Utilize Your Greatest Strengths” and “Secrets of a Strong Mind.” 

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4 Key Behaviors Of Resilient People

July 19th, 2015 by LaRae Quy

At ten years of age, I rode my bike on a cow trail near our ranch house in Wyoming. I sped along at a good clip, too fast to notice a coiled rattlesnake on the other side of rock—until the snake struck out at full length. My bike flipped, and as I landed, I felt dozens of pricks all over my arms and hands. My mind raced with fear because I thought the rattlesnake had bitten me.

4 Key Behaviors

We lived on a remote ranch in the mountains and it was a two-hour drive on dirt roads to a hospital.

At ten, I prepared myself to die of snake poisoning.

Right about the time I was mourning the loss of what could have been a spectacular life, I noticed that I had landed in a pile of cactus. The wreck of my bike told me the rest of the story—the snake had struck the spokes of the front wheel and was now struggling to get out of the broken and bent spoke wires.

My first instinct was to run home to safety, but my parents had taught me that nothing can be accomplished by running, so I found a good sized rock and made sure that particular rattlesnake would never terrorize my cow lane again.

Then I loaded the bike on my shoulders and carried the sorry mess home.

Our reaction to adversity plays a big role in determining how fast we get back on track with life. New research shows that resilience to adversity in our life may be linked to how often we face it. The number of blows a person has taken may affect their mental toughness more than any other factor.

The School Of Hard Knocks has been around for awhile. The early Christians learned this lesson when they were being thrown into dungeons by the Romans. The apostle Paul wrote the following in a letter: “We also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character, and character, hope.” (Romans 5:3-4).

Resilience is not only the ability to bend and bounce back from adversity, it is the strength to bounce though them as well. When I was an FBI agent, I realized that it is a person’s level of resilience that determines who succeeds and who fails.

A person with a strong mind is someone who can predict the way they will respond to events in life so they can choose the better alternative. They can look back at how they’ve responded to situations in the past, learn from those experiences, and apply that knowledge to future ones.

Living through adversity gives you the confidence that you can come out at the other end of almost anything. Here are 4 key behaviors of resilient people:

Tip #1: Decide Who Is In Control

My first reaction to the rattlesnake was a healthy dose of fear. At some point, however, I had a choice of letting that fear control me—or not. If it did, it meant I ran home and waited for my parents to take care of both the snake and my bike. If I didn’t let fear control me, it meant I got myself out of the situation using my own resources.

Develop an understanding of your fear. Chances are good that your fear sprouts from feelings of insecurity or doubts you may have about yourself.

It takes courage to look inwardly into the darkest part of your personality. We all contain bits of light and dark; we all contain bits of gold and lead.

Tip #2: Face Down Reality

If you want to be resilient, you must be able to look the reality of your situation square in the face.

There is a big difference between optimists who believe that everything will work out OK in the end, and positive thinkers who do not let optimism distort their sense of reality. Positive thinkers hunt the good stuff and look for positives in the middle of adversity, but they do not expect their situation to change; instead, they find ways to prevail in the middle of hardship.

Resilient people have a very sober understanding of what it takes to survive. This requires the ability to anticipate the worst of outcomes while staying cool at the same time.

My FBI training prepared me to be resilient by showing me how to truly stare down reality. It prepared me to act in ways that allowed me to endure when I was thrown into unpredictable and unstable situations. I trained how to survive before the fact—that was the essence of the FBI’s training program at the Academy.

Tip #3: Find Meaning In Your Life

If you look at yourself as a victim, living through a hardship carries no lesson for you. But, if you are resilient, you will squeeze meaning from your adversity and build a bridge to a better, and more fulfilled, future.

No one exemplified this better than Victor Frankl, an Austrian psychiatrist and Auschwitz survivor. In his book, Man’s Search For Meaning, Frankl describes the pivotal moment in the concentration camp when he became disgusted by how trivial and meaningless his life had become. He realized that to survive, he had to find a purpose. Frankl imagined himself giving a lecture after the war on the psychology of the concentration camp.

When he gave himself a concrete goal, he rose above his sufferings of the moment. He said, “We must never forget that we may also find meaning in life even when confronted with a hopeless situation.”

Possessing strong values creates an environment of meaning because they offer ways to interpret events. The most successful people, and businesses, have a purpose beyond just making money.

Tip #4: Make Do And Get On With It

Life never deals a perfect hand. Perhaps it was never meant to—as Meister Eckhart once said, “If humankind could have known God without the world, God would never have created the world.”

We learn, grow, and stretch by not just surviving adversity, but by thriving in the midst of it. When hardship does hit, resilience is the ability to make do with whatever we have available. Resilient people improvise and experiment until they find a solution to the problem. The key is to make improvising a way of life.

Karl E. Weick, a professor of organizational behavior at the University of Michigan believes there is good evidence that when people are put under pressure, they regress to their most habituated ways of responding.

Again, the way we train ourselves to think, feel, and behave during our regular daily life is exactly the way we will respond when hit with hard times.

What other key behaviors have you noticed in resilient people?

© 2011 LaRaeQuy. All rights reserved.

You can follow me on Twitter

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Author of “Mental Toughness for Women Leaders: 52 Tips To Recognize and Utilize Your Greatest Strengths” and “Secrets of a Strong Mind.”

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