11 Toxic Habits That Keep You From Success

May 3rd, 2015 by LaRae Quy

Even though I did not appreciate the discipline imposed upon me by my 4 months at the FBI Academy, it did teach me to master and maintain good habits. I realize now that what I did on a daily basis for those 4 months taught me how to direct my time and energy into habits that would lead to my success as an FBI agent.

Success - wall climbing

The definition of habit is an acquired behavior pattern regularly followed until it has become almost involuntary.

Success needs more than inspiration—it requires good habits that lead to concrete action steps.

You may possess many skills and traits, but if you let toxic habits undermine your efforts, breaking the bad habit could be the game-changer for success you need.

Here are the 11 worst habits holding you back from success:

1. Fritter Away The Morning

If you waste your morning, you’ve lost your day. If you’re not a morning person, find a way to give yourself a kick in the butt so you get started. Create a routine that is easy to remember and even easier to follow. Give yourself tasks and deadlines to get you started; and then never leave anything that you started in the morning unfinished at the end of the day.

2. Cry When Criticized

This club has a lot of members because no one wants to be criticized, but accept the fact that there is a huge difference between constructive criticism and vicious words spoken by petty critics.

You’re confident enough to walk away from small minds that only want to tear you down.

3. Blame Others

When I started whining about how unfair life was as a kid, my grandmother would look me in the eye and tell me to grow up. And that is my advice to you as well. Always take responsibility for your own actions. If you have any doubts about how ugly it looks and sounds to blame others and make excuses for yourself, take a closer look at our politicians.

Suck it up, admit your mistake, and move on.

Thanks, Grandma.

4. Confuse Money With Success

America has become so obsessed with money and all the stuff it will buy that it’s hard to have an intelligent conversation about what success should really mean to each one of us. Success is doing something with your life that gives you value and meaning.

Success is not just about making more money or going home with the most toys.

5. Refuse To Sacrifice

There are some who might consider the Marine Corp Base in Quantico, VA a great place to spend 4 months—however, I am not one of them. But, during my time at the Academy, because of the starkness of my surroundings, I did get into the habit of sacrificing things that I wanted in the short term to achieve the more important goal—to become an FBI agent.

The road to success is not one of excess. You will need to focus, sacrifice, and set priorities.

6. Complacency Will Kill You

One thing FBI agents learn early on in training is it’s not the streets or guns that will kill you—complacency is what will put you in harm’s way! Aways be alert and aware of what is going on in your environment. Opportunities are where your luck will hide, so always be searching for ways to make own your luck.

Complacency is where you go to wither up and die.

7. Complain About Working Hard

My grandmother told me, “You’ll never get to the top if you sit on your bottom,” and then she’d hand me a shovel to clean out the horse barn. If you work harder than everyone else, you will achieve the success you are looking for.

No one has ever drowned in a pool of sweat.

8. Permit Negative Thoughts To Take Over

I came very close to being washed out of the Academy because I wasn’t a good athlete. The FIT test was hard for me, and I was tempted to let the spiral of negativity keep me from achieving my goal. Our survival-driven brain is wired to pay more attention to negative thoughts than positive ones, so we really do need to work harder at remaining positive when things get tough.

Mental toughness is positivity on steroids—LaRae Quy

9. Neglect Your Family

Family looks different for everyone. Sometimes it’s our children and the people to whom we are related, but just as often it also includes those we love and hold close to us.

You need to spend quality time with them and not neglect those relationships if you want true success in life.

10. Maintain Mediocre Friendships

Since you don’t have choice in who you’re related to, be very careful in picking friends that will support you—in both good and bad times. My husband is an introvert who only counts a couple of buddies as close friends. I throw a much wider net and count lots of wonderful people as friends. The number doesn’t matter, but you don’t have either the time or the energy to surround yourself with mediocrity. That goes for friends, too.

11. Forget To Be Grateful

When you stop being grateful, you have the worst kind of heart trouble. It’s impossible to be negative or depressed when there is gratitude in your heart.

What bad habit have you broken lately?

© 2015 LaRaeQuy. All rights reserved.

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Author of “Mental Toughness For Women Leaders” and “Secrets of a Strong Mind.” 

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10 FBI Tips On How To Spot A Liar

April 26th, 2015 by LaRae Quy

FBI agents are trained to read other people and uncover what is hidden so they can get to the truth of a situation. Their job is to recognize language inconsistencies and other verbal cues to spot liars and deceptive behavior.

10 FBI Tips To Spot A Liar

It would be nice if every job candidate, negotiating partner, and supplier told the truth—but they do not. In addition, many business owners and entrepreneurs get embezzled by the employees they trust.

In the world of business, being successful often means being able to spot liars and people who are deceptive. How do you know when someone is telling you the truth? And if you do believe something you are told, how can you be sure it’s not because you want it to be true?

Here are 10 FBI tips on how to spot the liar:

1. Build Rapport

Coming across as empathetic in a conversation gets the person to open up more than when the interviewer is cold and accusatory. Developing rapport is the place to start.

2. Fill In The Blanks

Instead of asking direct questions, tell the person the story as if you already know all the facts. Make it a statement—the guilty party will supply details and make corrections.

3. Surprise Them

The person knows they are guilty and will be prepared for your questions. If you ask them something they do not expect, they will usually stumble when put on the spot.

4. Ask For The Story Backward

Truthful people tend to add details and remember facts the more they repeat their story. Liars, on the other hand, memorize their stories and keep them the same. Ask the person to recall events backward rather than forward in time.

For example, start at the end and then ask them to explain what happened right before that point. And so on…

For truthful people, this makes recall easier. For liars, they tend to simplify the story so they don’t contradict themselves.

5. Withhold Evidence

If confronted with evidence of guilt too early, the person will either clam up or become hostile. Instead, give them the opportunity to make a confession. If they don’t, allude to evidence in such a way that they realize you know the facts.

6. Listen More Than You Talk

Liars tend to talk more than truthful people in an attempt to sound legitimate and win over their audience. Liars also tend to use more complex sentences to hide the truth. Here are some other things to look for:

  • Stress usually increases the speed of speech.
  • A stressed person may also talk louder.
  • Cracking in the natural tone of the voice often occurs at the point of deception.
  • Coughing and clearing the throat are good signs of tension at the point when they occur.

7. NO Is A Key Word

A person is most likely showing deceptive behavior when they:

  • Say “no” and look in a different direction (upward, downward, etc)
  • Say “no” and close their eyes
  • Say “no” after a hesitation
  • Say “noooooooo” stretched over a long period of time
  • Say “no” in a singsong manner

8. Be Wary Of Compliments

Watch out for someone who is trying too hard to make a good impression:

  • Emphasizing respect for your qualities and talents
  • Forming a mutual bond by reminding you of common friends and activities you share
  • Offering lots of praise and pleasantries
  • Laughing at all your jokes (a sure give-away)

9. Watch for Changes in Behavior

Take the time to notice subtle changes in behavior when you are interviewing them:

  • Exhibiting lapses in memory at critical times even though they’ve been alert in earlier conversation
  • Providing small crumbs of information to questions asked
  • Moving into a more formal way of speaking indicates that the conversation is hitting a point of stress
  • Using extreme superlatives or exaggerated responses, such as saying awesome instead of good

10. Ask follow-up questions

If the person exhibits uneasiness with a specific question, take the time to explore further. For example, “Explain this gap in your résumé” may lead to an answer such as, “I was recuperating from hip surgery.” Often, the deception that you’ve uncovered may be related to a personal embarrassment or a desire to be “the perfect candidate.”

What ways have you found to spot liars?

© 2015 LaRaeQuy. All rights reserved.

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Author of “Mental Toughness For Women Leaders” and “Secrets of a Strong Mind.” 

Co-author of Energize Your Leadership

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Why Highly Successful People Have A Plan B

April 19th, 2015 by LaRae Quy

Excerpt from my “Energize Your Leadership” chapter.

For me, becoming an FBI agent was Plan B.

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Growing up on a cattle ranch in the middle of Wyoming, I yearned for a life of excitement. I graduated with a Business Degree because I thought it would open doors in the world of fast-moving finance. It didn’t take long for me to find the routine of an office job terribly boring—there was no adventure, no excitement, no real challenges to keep my mind alert and creative. 

After a bit of research, I decided that the U.S. Foreign Service was the answer to my dilemma. Lots of travel to exotic lands and immersion in foreign cultures—it sounded like my dream job. I carefully ticked off all the requirements needed to apply, filled out a background form and sent off my application.

I did very well on the personality test, but I failed miserably on the language aptitude test so my application was thrown out.

The word “failure” hung over my head: I did not get into the Foreign Service. I didn’t know where to go or what to do next.

Yet, growing up on a cattle ranch had instilled in me a strong sense of persistence and determination. If something didn’t work out right the first time, Plan B was quickly called into action. If cattle needed to be fed or watered (which usually meant life or death for them) I would keep at it until I found a way to move forward and get the job done, no matter how long it took.

After failing the Foreign Service, I realized that I needed to put Plan B into action in my own life and refocus on what other options were out there for me. I wasn’t going to wallow in self-pity. Since I had already researched U.S. Government jobs, I knew I also qualified for the FBI. I submitted the application. Six months later, I was in the FBI New Agents Training Academy at Quantico, VA.

I have never looked back.   

Successful people are those who are good at Plan B. Why? Because by trying and failing, we learn what doesn’t work—and with that comes the knowledge we need to understand what will work.

1. Find Gratitude And Redefine “Failure”

Succesful people, from whatever organization or walk of life, tend to repeatedly cite one specific personal failure when explaining their success. Usually, the failure was one that was traumatic and difficult to transcend. Filled with desperation, they felt as though they’d hit rock bottom.

As Warren Bennis said, “It’s as if that moment the iron entered their soul; that moment created the resilience that leaders need.”

Too often, “success” is simply mediocrity. It’s where we stop on our way to being the person we really wanted to be. We are smart, talented, and full of untapped potential—and too afraid to move into the discomfort of the unknown and push our boundaries.

Why?

  • We’re afraid of failure.
  • We’ve not learned what will work, and what won’t.
  • We have no Plan B to implement what we’ve learned.

2. Become Your Own Hero

The key is to not linger too long on anything that clearly isn’t working. This means failing frequently.

Only by trying many different things will you find the one way that points to the best future. But when you do, you become your own hero!

Repeated failure will build mental toughness and show you with absolute clarity how you must move forward if you are to succeed. It’s actually a curse to have everything go right when you first start out because you will start to believe you have the golden touch . . . and when you do inevitably fail, you’ll be demoralized.

3. Lose The Shame

We are afraid of failure because, essentially, we have a fear of shame.

Most of us are motivated to avoid failing because we cannot manage the basic emotions of disappointment or frustration that may emerge; instead, we feel deep shame that we are imperfect—and vulnerable.

Failure offers the gift of bringing priorities into focus. If something doesn’t hold value for you, then giving up and moving on to something different does no more than prick your pride.

If, however, you risk losing something important, you will work hard and do what it takes to tackle the obstacle that stands between you and success.

When has Plan B inspired your success?

This article is an except from my chapter in “Energize Your Leadership,” a collaborative book project with 16 experts advice on how to ignite, discover, and breakthrough. Pick up your copy now!

© 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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8 Powerful Secrets For Self-Improvement

April 12th, 2015 by LaRae Quy

After a brief hiatus, the FBI has reinstated the annual FIT test so they can assess the overall health and fitness level of field agents. On a yearly basis, the continued maintenance and development of each agent’s physical fitness will be placed into their personnel file.

8 Powerful Secrets For Self-Improvement

The FBI is concerned about the breakdown of their most precious asset—the agents.

The inevitable fact of deterioration is true not only for FBI agents, but for you as well. You need to continually refresh, renew, and stretch past your comfort zone if you want to invest in yourself.

Because this is the thing: continued growth is essential for safety. I’m not just talking about physical well-being; I’m also talking about your relevance in your business and job.

Self-improvement means staying professionally and personally fit. It often requires lifestyle changes that will necessitate adjustments in the way we think.

Self-improvement is not a course in miracles. It is something that takes hard work. Perhaps the real secret to becoming a better person is coming to grips with the fact that everyone has to work hard—very hard, to become the person they know they can be.

It also takes a positive attitude because we all have demons, baggage, anxieties, worries, and fears. The trick is controlling them—and that takes mental toughness.

Here are 8 Secret Steps To A Better Self:

1. Go Ahead And Talk To Yourself

Special Forces and Navy SEALS use self-talk as a powerful mental toughness tool when confronted with obstacles and adversity. Research estimates that we say 300-1,000 words to ourselves per minute.

  • Teach yourself to react positively to your circumstances so you can override the emotional part of your limbic brain system that regulates anxiety.
  • Positive self-talk can shift the way you see your stressors.
  • Mental toughness is recognizing that even in the roughest circumstances, we are never helpless.

2. Formulate Action Plans

Lasting change ultimately requires you to make the new behavior automatic.

  • Prepare yourself for specific situations. “If I am offered a glass of wine, I will say “no”.”
  • Frame your intentions as positive actions: “I will not speak in derogatory terms about my supervisor behind her back.”
  • Picture yourself carrying out your plans.

3. Launch A Personal Research and Development Program

Every good company spends time and resources on R&D. If you are planning to invest in yourself, you should do the same. Take a closer look at how you can discover hidden talents, interests, and skills. Your personal R&D might look something like this:

  • Buy 5 new magazines every month.
  • Visit 5 new websites every week.
  • Every time you meet someone interesting, ask them what they’re reading.
  • Take a vacation to somewhere new.

4. Try Out A New Pair Of Training Wheels

As long as we’re talking personal R&D, do something at which you are a beginner. Like any newbie, you will fear failure and rely upon training wheels to keep you upright. That’s OK. If you wobble and fall down, you’ll already know how it feels when you get knocked down by the competition. The sting won’t come as a shock and you won’t waste precious time whining about it.

  • Come out swinging.
  • Live by your wits.
  • Let your ego get bruised.
  • Be stronger when you finish than when you started.

5. Recruit A Board Of Personal Advisors

As Plato said, “The people we hang around are like dirt; they either help us grow and thrive, or they make us wither and wilt.”

  • Look around the conference room.
  • Who do you admire? Who do you know the least?
  • Invite them to lunch.
  • Stay in touch with the people who believe in you.
  • Cultivate people who will challenge you to be your best self.

6. Learn a New Habit

This requires you to choose between something pleasant and familiar or something much less so.

  • Think about how this goal will help you become the person you want to be.
  • Even if the goal originated from an external source, such as doctor’s warning to lose weight, you can still make it your own by finding your personal reasons to pursue it.
  • Try to come up with fun ways to learn your new habit.

7. Believe It To Be True

Studies have shown that people with unrealistic expectations are the ones mostly likely to give in to temptation and stick with old habits. Long-term lifestyle changes require you to control your impulses and stop making excuses for why you’re not changing your behavior.

  • Visualize your success along with the specific obstacles you will face.
  • Avoid situations that will trigger a bad habit that you want to break.
  • Forgive yourself if you slip up; keep moving forward.

8. Find Out Your “Why”

A powerful motivator for self-improvement is to figure out exactly why you are pursuing a particular goal or course of action in the first place.

  • Find your personal motivation to change a negative habit.
  • Listen politely to advice, but stick to your guns and choose your own goals.
  • At the end of each day ask yourself, how would you would rate each conversation, interaction, and decision you made on a scale of 1 to 10?
  • Now, ask yourself what it would take to make it a 10?

As seasoned FBI agents know, successful people never stop learning how to continually refresh, renew, and stretch past their comfort zones.

What powerful tip for self-improvement can you share?

© 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 Body Language Signals Successful Business Owners Never Ignore

April 5th, 2015 by LaRae Quy

A young man recently asked me what I considered to be the most important skill he would need to develop if he wanted to become a successful FBI agent. I told him that emotional intelligence—being able to pick up on the moods of others—would be one of the most essential skills he would need.

Body Language - hands

The reason?

The ability to accurately pick up on the stress and vulnerability of people gives you an immediate advantage in how to move forward most successfully. It varies from, “Maybe this is not the right time to pitch a new deal” to “This is the perfect time to push harder on this issue.”

Empathy.

It’s the one thing that allows you, as a business owner, to speak to the needs and desires of others. 

Most business owners understand what empathy is, and some are good at reading other people’s needs and desires. When people feel they are understood, they respond in positive ways.

FBI agents need people to cooperate with them in their investigations. Forget what you see in movies and read in books—the tough guy approach of blackmail and coercion works best in fantasy, and not real life.

When we reach people in a way that touches them deeply, we help them tap into their best selves and achieve amazing results. Successful business owners understand the importance of engaging their talent, and they are savvy about how to read body language to gage the emotions of others.

If you are looking to grow your business, here are 9 things you should look for when reading the body language of others:

1. Smile First

Very few people are actually happy to see an FBI agent. But, a fake smile can be seen a mile away so I knew I needed to proceed cautiously no matter how glad they sounded about meeting me.

TIP: Dump the botox and live with creases around the eyes—those lines are essential if you want to give a real smile and signal that you are genuinely happy about seeing them. If you don’t see crinkle lines around their eyes when they are smiling, watch your step.

2. Eyebrow Flash

The second body language message that alerted me to the real emotions of the person I was meeting was a lack of eyebrow flash. We subconsciously raise our eyebrows a bit when we’re genuinely pleased to see someone. This is especially true for people whom you know or have met before.

TIP: Think twice if the person does not raise their eyebrows when they see you, even if they verbally indicate everything is OK.

3. Mouthy Movements

When people are stressed, their lips start to disappear! Paul Ekman has produced a lot of information on micro-expressions, but my rule of thumb is to watch the mouth as a conversation unfolds because it will subconsciously signal what the person is feeling.

TIP: When lips disappear, the person is stressed. When lips purse, they are disagreeing with what you said or are considering another idea.

4. Nervous Hands

When hands cover the mouth, the brain is trying to suppress the deceitful words that are being said. Professional liars and politicians train themselves to lie without exhibiting the tell-tale gestures that goes with it.

TIP: When the hand touches the face at any time during your conversation, pay attention to what was said and how often the gesture is repeated.

5. Head Tilt

Most FBI interviews begin like this: the other person answers questions while sitting in a rigid position and holding their head straight. After they become comfortable, they will usually tilt their head as they engage in conversation.

TIP: A head tilt is a powerful way to convey that you are comfortable with the conversation. It is incredibly hard to tilt your head when you’re experiencing negative emotions.

The face is used more than any other part of the body to cover up lies. The more ambiguous the expression, however, the more difficult to look for accurate body language.  Then, it’s important to look for clusters of gestures. For example:

6. Clenched Hands

I’ve been in many meetings where the person speaking is clenching their hands in raised position (usually elbows on the table or hands resting on the table) and smiling while they’re speaking.

TIP: This is a sign of frustration and the person speaking is holding back a negative attitude.

7. Neck Scratch

Many times a person who is being deceptive in their answers will scratch their neck with their index finger.

TIP: The average number of scratches is about five and it is a signal of doubt or uncertainty.

8. Chin Stroking

When you’re making a suggestion or sharing an idea, many times the listener will bring one hand to their face—this is called an evaluation gesture. The most common form of evaluation gesture is a chin stroke.

TIP: The chin stroke is a signal that the listener is going through the decision-making process. Watch for the body language that follows: arms and legs crossed means they are not favorably impressed, while leaning forward and open arms means they’re open to your idea.

9. Restless Feet

My former FBI colleague, Joe Navarro, is an expert on body language.  He says that our feet, along with legs, are the most honest parts of the body. Most of us are trained to control our facial expressions. How many of us heard, “Get that look off your face” while growing up? But no one pays attention to what the feet are doing—except skeptical FBI agents.

When we are happy and content, our feet will bounce or move. In the same way, when the other person’s foot is turned toward the door when you’re talking to them, it signals they want to leave.

TIP: Pay attention to what a person is doing with their feet. If they are bouncing, chances are good that they have happy feet, and all is going well.

Successful business owners know that to get the most from their teams, they must learn how to read body language accurately so they can reach team members on an emotional level.

What other body language signals would you add?

© 2015 LaRaeQuy. All rights reserved.

You can follow me on Twitter

Get my FREE 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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6 Habits Smart Leaders Never Forget

March 29th, 2015 by LaRae Quy

Over a 24 year career, FBI Firearms instructors made us repeat the same series of actions on the firing range. After awhile, it got so repetitive that I wondered how I would fare in a shootout if I didn’t have my firearms instructor barking out orders on what to do next!

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In fact, our repeated behavior patterns became involuntary. In short, they became a habit.

I no longer needed to think about what to do when pulling my gun and aiming it at a target. My actions were involuntary so my mind could be used for something more productive—like assessing the crisis unfolding in front of me.

Good habits are the product of mental toughness—managing your emotions, thoughts, and behavior in ways that set you up for success in business and life. Smart leaders use good habits to direct their time and energy into activities that are important to them as they move toward reaching their goals.

Here are 6 habits that smart leaders never forget:

1. Look for Happiness, Not Success

Smart leaders pursue the things in life that brings them happiness. 

They are not seduced into thinking that success and happiness are the same things. When they hit tough times, they use mental toughness to keep moving forward because their heart and passion are hitched to a cause—failure or adversity is not enough to compel them to quit and move on and settle for something that provides less value and meaning in their life.

TIP: Ask yourself these two questions: “What will make me happy?” and “What will make me successful?” Do not mistakenly assume these two questions are one in the same.

2. Examine Every Mistake For Lessons Learned

Smart leaders know that mistakes teach you some of the most important lessons in life. 

They understand that the only real mistake they can make in life is not learning from their misstep, or choosing to do nothing because they were too afraid of making another one. 

TIP: Become a smart leader by taking chances—opportunities are where luck hides. It’s not about something falling into your lap; it’s about taking chances and finding your luck.

3. Explore All Opportunities, Whether You Feel Prepared Or Not

Smart leaders do not need to feel 100% ready when an opportunity arises.

They understand that all great opportunities will stretch them beyond their comfort zone. They will be stretched emotionally, intellectually, and philosophically. 

TIP: Since luck hides in opportunities, move forward with mental toughness so you can manage your emotions, thoughts, and behavior in ways that will set you up for growth. These opportunities will continue to show up throughout your life, so make the most of them—even if you don’t feel 100% ready!

4. Focus On Priorities And Say “NO” To The Rest

Smart leaders know how to say no, both to themselves and others.

They have learned that self-control helps them avoid impulsive decisions, stress, and burnout. Saying “no” is very different from saying, “I don’t think I can.” Saying NO to things, people, and opportunities that are not a priority for them is a powerful way to exert self-control.

TIP: Saying NO is a way you can honor your goals and priorities so you can find the time to successfully achieve them.

5. Pursue Peak Performance, Not Perfection

Smart leaders focus on developing peak performance by continually moving into their discomfort zone.

They know that they will never reach their full potential if they become complacent and comfortable, so their grasp is always a bit beyond their reach.

TIP: Researchers agree that the gap between your skill level and your peak performance should hover around 4%. Anything more will discourage you from trying harder; anything less will not push you hard enough to move forward.

6. Cultivate A Culture of Flexibility

Smart leaders have an agile mind so they adapt to changes in their environment.

They know that fear of change is paralyzing and a major roadblock to their happiness. They learn how to embrace changes by continually placing themselves in situations where they are uncomfortable and change can be expected. And then, when they are confronted with the unknown in business and life, they are better able to predict their response. 

TIP: Intentionally place yourself in situations where the outcome is not known. These situations will create new ways of thinking about obstacles and roadblocks that show up unexpectedly in your life. You will have the confidence to keep moving forward instead of reacting with fear and paralysis.

While success and happiness can be defined in many different ways, learn how to make these 6 habits your own. 

What habits have helped make you successful?

 

© 2015 LaRaeQuy. All rights reserved.

You can follow me on Twitter

Get my FREE 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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5 Powerful Ways A Strong Mind Breaks Through Barriers

March 22nd, 2015 by LaRae Quy

As an FBI agent working counterintelligence cases, I learned that ignoring problems in investigations will not make them go away. They must be worked through and not allowed to become a barrier in finding the answer.

Overcoming Obstacles - sword

Working through problems is not limited to FBI investigations. Breaking through the barriers that show up in life and business takes mental toughness to face them so you can manage your emotions, behavior, and thoughts in a way that will set you up for success.

In our country, barriers are synonymous with failure and shame. Barriers are things to be avoided so we can keep moving toward our goal. Contrary to how we think about problems and barriers, they are not the problem—it is the way in which we respond to them that holds us back. 

The way in which we look at barriers is as important to living a full life as is how we pursue meaningful activities and build healthy relationships. No matter our age, our mental toughness is created by our ability to cope with the challenges of life.

Here are 5 powerful ways strong minds use mental toughness to break through your barriers:

1. Create The Will To Move Forward

Strong minds use mental toughness to light a fire in their belly—and fight back!

How you handle your fears will ultimately determine where you go and what you do with your life. It is your choice to live fully—or be incapacitated by the fear of the challenges and barriers that are inevitable if you plan to move forward. 

A desire to fight back keeps you in control. The key is to acknowledge your fear by confronting it face to face. This tactic robs fear of its power. 

2. Stop Pretending It Doesn’t Matter

Strong minds acknowledge that moving through a barrier to reach a goal is important to them!

Admitting defeat to a barrier means we are acknowledging limitations, but more often than not, barriers are those things in life we come across that are simply self-limiting beliefs about what we can or cannot do. 

Our first reaction is to pretend crashing through the barrier isn’t important—we make up excuses for our failure. We maintain the illusion that the walls surrounding us are not really keeping us imprisoned or in a rut. 

Remember, the only difference between a coffin and a rut are the dimensions.

3. Learn To Kick Butt

Strong minds create the confidence they need to kick butt!

Many people never break through barriers to live a fuller life because they lack the confidence to do so. Lack of confidence holds many people back simply because they don’t think they’re ready. The truth is that nobody ever feels 100% ready when an opportunity arises. 

Opportunities and barriers are two sides of the same coin: they force us to stretch ourselves and our comfort zones, which means we may not always feel confident at first. 

Confidence is the difference between feeling unstoppable or being too scared to move forward. The more confidence you have in yourself, the more likely you are to succeed.

4. Embrace The Life That God Has Given You

Strong minds find the positive aspects of their situation!

  • Sometimes things must change so you can change. 
  • Sometimes you must break a little so you can peek inside to see the power of your own life and story.
  • Sometimes mistakes must be made so wisdom can be earned.
  • Sometimes rejecting barriers and obstacles is to reject life itself.

5. Push Through

Strong minds push through the problems, obstacles, and barriers in their life.

Every aspect of growth arrives outside of your comfort zone. Have the courage to move forward if the risks feel right. Stretch yourself even if it means feeling uncomfortable. 

Barriers are things to push against to grow stronger. 

If you’re not a little bit uncomfortable on a daily basis it means you’re not growing. If you’re not a little bit scared everyday, you’re not learning. And when you’re not learning, you’re done.

If you expect life to be easy, challenges will seem difficult. If you accept that challenges may occur, life will be easier.

How have you broken through your barriers?

© 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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11 Signs You Have What It Takes To Be A Success

March 15th, 2015 by LaRae Quy

FBI counterintelligence agents use personality assessments and behavioral analysis to determine whether the foreign spies they are investigating can be recruited to work for the U.S. Government.

Successful financial plans

But these approaches are not limited to spy agencies; corporations and investors have also relied upon innate psychological factors to pinpoint traits—such as a need for achievement and a propensity for risk-taking—to guide their choices in whom they promote or fund.

The reason? The stereotypical image of what it takes to succeed clings in our minds—these ingrained patterns of thinking allow our brain to think fast by placing people into categories that, most of the time, are accurate. 

The problem arises when we don’t update our stereotypes and rules of thumb when new, more accurate information comes our way. 

Many of us continue to make strong connections between psychological traits and performance. In reality, however, research by psychologists such as Carol Dweck has proved that what it really takes to succeed is the mental toughness to learn the qualities needed for top level achievement.

Innate traits that have been viewed as essential for high performance are not always the same characteristics needed for achievement.

Mental toughness is a much better indicator of whether you have the traits to take it to be a success. Here are 11 signs you have what it takes to be a success:

1. CRAFTY

One of the best TV shows about mental toughness was MacGiver. He was the definition of an agile mind that always figured out how to make everything work. It’s never about having enough resources; it’s about combing positive thinking, creativity, and grit to being resourceful with what you have.

2. ACTION, NOT ANALYSIS

It’s easier to sit on your butt and write about concepts than it is to roll up your shirtsleeves and make something happen. Get over your fear of failure or making the wrong decision by experiencing real-life situations and learning to think on your feet.

3. ROCK THE BOAT

Only pansies and wimps are afraid of getting into a little hot water every now and then.

If you have what it takes to succeed, you’ll never be satisfied with the status quo. New and better ideas will almost always be resisted by fat bosses who don’t appreciate anyone rocking their boat.

So rock on!

4. CHEMICAL SURGE

When you are excited, motivated, and eager to make your business stand out, you know what it feels like to be doing something that brings you satisfaction and fulfillment. Your brain knows too, and it’s pumping dopamine, a brain chemical that surges when you’re following your heart.

You can’t fake dopamine—if it’s there, it is creating energy and excitement about what you’re doing.

5. THE BUCK STOPS HERE

If you aren’t willing to learn how to take your business and life to the next level, you will wilt in the face of challenges, blame others when things don’t work out, and try to pass the buck. If you have what it takes to succeed, challenges will only motivate you to try harder.

If you have the mental toughness to take your career to the next level, nothing will look insurmountable. 

The best lessons in life usually show up as roadblocks—LaRae Quy

6. UNIQUE

If you aspire to be a cookie cutter version of someone else, remember that cookies crumble into crummy little pieces when pressure is applied. 

If you have what it takes to be a success, you will find and celebrate your uniqueness because odds are excellent that is the very quality that will set you apart from the competition. Don’t copy others and don’t worry about following the crowd. 

7. PLAY BIG

Go ahead and push a controversial idea. You may get slammed, but take a close look at why—you can learn from the rejection if you don’t let your ego get bruised by it. The idea may need tweaking, its time may not have come, or you may need to brush up on your presentation style.

You don’t need to wait for praise or validation before moving forward. If you have self-doubt, recognize it for what it is and learn to not let it dictate your actions and behavior.

8. PLAY SMART

Dump the ego and surround yourself with people smarter than you. As has been said many times, “If you’re the smartest person in the room, you’re in the wrong room”—anon. 

Regardless, it pretty much sums up where you need to be headed if you plan to be a success—look for a room filled with smarter and more creative creative people than yourself. Be a collector of information so you can make the best decisions.

9. RESPECT OTHERS

When you respect others, you are building a bridge of trust. Some have said that being trusted is an even greater compliment that being loved—and I would agree. Trust increases understanding and buoys collaboration, and that can make all the difference in the world.

10. STAY POSITIVE

It’s important for you to maintain a strong positive mental attitude about yourself and your situation, especially when times get tough. As you create the life you want, it’s essential that you keep your mind positive. If you begin to doubt what you’re doing and want to quit, your brain will actually respond by putting barriers around achieving that same goal!

11. SELF-IMPROVE

Learn how to evaluate your own performance. This means asking for feedback from those around you, and being willing to listen with an open mind. Seek opportunities to improve. Self-improvement usually means breaking bad habits and creating new habits that will help you build your confidence.

These 11 traits are essential signs that you have what it takes to be a success and move through uncertainty, rapid change, and increased competition with both vision and purpose.

 

© 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.”

How Women Can Find The Perfect Mentor To Guide Them To Success

March 6th, 2015 by LaRae Quy

As a female FBI agent, there were very few other women in my office—or in the building, for that matter. The closest thing to a mentor I had was my male training agent, who viewed me as more of a burden than an opportunity.

Woman leader

But it had been to my advantage to be raised on a cattle ranch in the middle of Wyoming. It was a tough environment—fast food was hitting a deer at 60 miles an hour. My grandmother had ammo on her Christmas list. And there is one thing you never say to a grandmother who is a crack shot with a rifle—“It’s not my fault.”

This was exactly the type of mental toughness I needed when I found myself as a new agent in an FBI squad with few allies and no obvious mentors waiting to take me under their wing. Instead of blaming others, I knew that I would need to find my own way to move forward if I wanted to be successful.

On my first squad, my desk was next to a hardened older agent named Leo who looked at me with suspicion—could a woman be relied upon to have his back if we found ourselves in a shootout? He thought not, or at least had his doubts. I could tell by the way he treated me—with quiet disdain.

Not all mentoring relationships need to be formalized. Leo was an unwitting mentor who would be horrified to think that I considered him as one! But I watched how he worked his cases. He was a thorough investigator who pursued any and all leads. And when he didn’t have any, he still kept at it.

Mentors teach, coach, guide, and motivate. Leo did all of these things for me, without knowing it. I used the information I learned from him, about reading body language and listening for verbal cues, during the rest of my career. I never liked Leo, and we never so much as had a cup of coffee together, but he was one of the best mentors I ever had.

Why is it important for you to have a mentor to guide you toward success? Even more importantly, what characteristics make a good mentor for you?

The term mentor has become watered-down in the last few years. It can encompass anything from self-help books, to touchy-feely therapy sessions when times get tough, to a wise and trusted guide through business and life.

March is Women’s History Month, and as I reflect on #IWD2015 (International Women’s Day on March 8, 2015) I want to share with you some of the lessons I’ve learned about how women can find the perfect mentor to guide them toward success:

1. Be Wary—Very Wary, Of Praise

Like most overachievers, I look for praise in almost everything I do. 

As a first grade student, I was never satisfied with anything less than an A. My teacher, Mrs. Archie, was very stingy with praise, so you can imagine how much I disliked her. She let me know right away that I was not the smartest person in the room, so when I did get an A she responded with, “You’ve worked very hard to get this grade.” I didn’t realize it at the time, but she was creating a growth mindset in the way that I looked at my obstacles. 

Researcher Carol Dweck discovered that our mindset affects our ability to fulfill our potential—to grow and learn, take risks, bounce back from adversity, and to build healthy relationships.   

If we have a “fixed mindset,” we believe our qualities, including our intelligence, are something we were born with and cannot be changed.  If we have a “growth mindset,” we believe that we can cultivate and grow our basic qualities, including our intelligence.

Some of the brightest people avoid challenges, dislike working hard, and wilt in the face of difficulty. In other words, it’s not always the people who start out the smartest in the room who end up being the smartest.

A perfect mentor will challenge you to create a growth mindset.

2. Create A Strong Mind

My grandmother was a larger-than-life force in my life. When things didn’t work out the way I expected, she taught me how to be mentally tough. She had no time for people who would not take responsibility for their situation.

I didn’t sweat it when I found no females to mentor me as an FBI agent. I knew that if I wanted to be treated as an equal, I needed to act as an equal. Whining, complaining, blaming others, and making excuses wouldn’t get me anywhere. 

If women are going to use the excuse that they can’t make their way up the corporate ladder because they can’t find other women to mentor them, then they probably aren’t taking their careers very seriously. Take responsibility and find the best person to inspire you to be the best you can be.

Here are the questions I ask myself when looking for a mentor from among the people around me:

  • How can they help me be better at my job?
  • Are they respected by subordinates, peers, and superiors?
  • What skills do they have that I need to develop?
  • How much more do they know more about (this project) than I do?
  • In what ways are they willing to share that knowledge?
  • Will they give me the honest feedback I need?
  • Why do I admire them?
  • How will working with them make me a better person?

A perfect mentor will show you how to develop the mental toughness needed to get you through the roadblocks that are in the way of your success. 

3. Play Big

In the FBI, power meetings among male leaders were held during happy hour—the ones I was never invited to attend. In many larger corporations, power meetings are held in the men’s bathroom during bio-breaks. Either way, the opportunity for women to participate is limited.

When I was tempted to play the victim, I was thought about Leo. He was awkward, ugly and had a quirky personality. He wasn’t invited to happy hour, either. And yet, the truth is this: Leo was a big player in the world of FBI counterintelligence investigations. As my unofficial mentor, he reminded me that people will do things to let you down, and even screw you over—that is life!

So get over it.

Leo refused to think small. He’d never start a sentence with, “I’m not an expert but…“ and then apologize. He taught me that leaders, both men and women, need to play big by taking control of how they react to a situation, and when the going gets tough, to roll up their sleeves and get even tougher. 

He taught me how to recognize self-doubt and not let it dictate my actions.

A perfect mentor will help you to develop confidence in yourself and your abilities.

As women celebrate #IWD2015, find a mentor who can guide you toward success in both business and life.

© 2014 LaRaeQuy. All rights reserved.

 

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10 Differences Between High Performers And Overachievers

March 1st, 2015 by LaRae Quy

As a new FBI agent, I couldn’t wait to work undercover. John le Carre novels and James Bond movies filled my head, so I jumped at chance when the opportunity came up for me to start an undercover operation against foreign spies in the Silicon Valley.

Overachiever

This was my first time out of the gate as an undercover agent and it was exhilarating. It was necessary that I move immediately from idea to action with very little time between thinking and doing. I loved performing and I was good at approaching the targets of my investigation. As a result, I gained attention, made good progress, and received a lot of praise.

Overachievers are high performers. We. Get. It. Done! Whatever the cost. As an overachiever, I know that I can outlast my competition, wear down opposition, and annihilate critics. 

And while we do accomplish our goals, if we don’t get a handle on what is driving us, it can eventually take it’s toll on our health and leave a trail of devastated relationships.

Here are 10 ways you can tamp down your need to be an overachiever and channel your considerable talent and ambition into the longer lasting results of a high performer.

1. Love Yourself As You Love Others

It turns out that there are a fair number of people like me—overachievers who thrive on being successful. In their book, The Wisdom of the Enneagram, Don Riso and Russ Hudson, have this to say about people who are driven to succeed:

“Overachievers fear they will have no value apart from their achievements; they are motivated to perform so they will be loved, accepted, and desirable.”

The idea is to work hard for recognition, to take on leadership roles, and to win. It’s also very important to avoid failure because only winners are worthy of love.

Bill Clinton, Madonna, and John F. Kennedy are famous examples of overachievers.

2. Quiet the Mind that Travels at High Speed

Take time out and allow space for your true emotions to surface. Your emotions are housed in the survival-driven limbic brain system so you “feel” before you “think.” This is why tapping into your gut instinct is so valuable for you as a leader.

Gut thinking is faster than logical thinking. But, until you have mastered gut instinct, give your slower logical, cerebral brain time to process your emotions. 

Taking deep breaths is a good idea, but the reason for breathing is that you’re actually stalling for your logical brain to catch up.

3. Notice When Actions Become Mechanical

Overachievers need to constantly be in motion, and as a result, they are not always leading from their heart. When they aren’t, they lose interest and move on to another project.

High performance leaders stop to reflect and observe before moving on.

 4. Identify When Your Accomplishments Make You Feel More Desirable And Lovable To Others

Stop believing that you’re OK only if others think well of you. Ask whether what you are doing is something that truly has value and meaning for you, or is it just a way to feel valuable and loved?

High performers do not operate from the need to feel valued and loved. They are more interested in building teams and achieving a sense of community in the process.

5. Veer Away From Problems By Introducing New Projects

Stop trying to reframe your failure into a success. Overachievers always look for the winning solution—but high performance leaders look for the optimal solution.

6. Stop Discrediting Sources Of Criticisms

No one is perfect—not even you. 

As Riso and Hudson point out:

Overachievers suffer self-doubt because they believe they need to meet the expectations of others to be accepted. 

As an overachiever, life for you is a competitive struggle; it’s always a question of winning or losing. High performers have the mental toughness to embrace failure because they know they will learn from it.

7. Recognize The Differences Between The Public Self And The Private Self

Differentiate between the image you project and the real person you are. As an overachiever, you are tempted by the trappings of success because they are proof that, “You won the game.” At least this one. 

High performers can listen to their own voice for validation instead of relying on recognition from the outside.

8. Note When You’re Putting On A Show

Stop being a fraud—you’ll love yourself in the morning.

As an overachiever, I could slip on almost any mask and act the part to perfection. The role both protected and motivated me.

High performance leaders are not afraid to be transparent, authentic, and honest.

9. Learn To Tell The Difference Between Doing And Feeling

Shift attention away from the activities surrounding the task to how you feel about the task.

Of all personality types, overachievers have the greatest difficulty perceiving their emotions and understanding their emotions. Instead, they focus on, “Am I successful?”

High performers are mentally tough leaders who are in touch with their emotions, thoughts, and behaviors. They know how to manage them in ways that set themselves up for success.

10. Start Meditation

American culture promotes youth, energy, and a competitive life. It can be difficult to create a quiet mind if we’re always running at high speed. 

Do not stress out about this—notice when meditation becomes yet another activity in which you want to excel!

“The toughest thing about success is that you’ve got to keep on being a success.” Irving Berlin

What advice do you have for an overachiever?

© 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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