10 Questions Every Successful Person Needs To Ask About Fear

July 5th, 2015 by LaRae Quy

The first time I pulled the trigger on a shotgun at the FBI Academy, but the recoil was so powerful that, I not only thought one of my tooth fillings had been jarred loose, my right shoulder felt like it had been hit with a sledgehammer! I didn’t fall backwards, but I needed to regain my balance before I lowered the nuzzle and prepared for the next shot.

10 Fear Questions

Instinctively, I became afraid of a weapon that could literally kick my butt. As I hesitated, my firearms instructor started shouting, “Lean into it! Treat it like a lover. Hold it close and hold it tight—NOW!”

I wasn’t at all sure I wanted to jump back into it so soon, and surely holding it tighter would only produce a stronger recoil? But the instructor was inches from my face and he looked pissed so I did what I was told.

That day I learned something important about fear—to increase safety, move toward the threat.

While this may sound counterintuitive, research has shown that new memories which produce fear remain unstable and malleable for a short period of time—so the sooner I moved toward my fear of the weapon, the more successful I would be able to overcome it.

If we don’t intervene during this window of time when the new fearful memory is still unstable and not fully formed, it becomes embedded in our mind.

My fear on the firing range with the shotgun is nothing compared to the chronic fear faced by soldiers in combat and women in abusive relationships. Special Forces instructors suggest we can all learn how to face our fears if we use mental toughness to focus on both our thinking and our behavior.

Everything you want is on the other side of fear– Jack Canfield

Whatever situation you are in, here are 10 questions that every successful person needs to ask themselves to overcome their fear:

1. How Can My Fear Be A Guide?

Before we can master our fear, we must first acknowledge it. Rather than avoiding it, become aware of it and use it as a guide to sharpen focus and decision-making. Do not let fear get out of control and become panic.

2. How Can My Fear Be Turned Into An Opportunity?

A little fear keeps you on your toes. It keeps you from becoming complacent. It can be an excellent opportunity to develop courage, confidence, and discipline. Ask yourself, “What can I learn from this?”

3. How Can I Focus On My Goal Rather Than On My Fear?

Do not let your precious energy be wasted on fretting. One of the characteristics of willpower is the ability to focus, and once you focus all your energy on your goals, you are less likely to see failure as an acceptable alternative.

4. How Has Fear Prevented Me From Doing What Is Important To Me?

If you are letting fear keep you from doing what you really want to do, it is paralyzing you. Break it down into small steps. Focus on progressing toward your goal a little more each day. Memorialize each step as a victory to help you keep moving ahead.

5. How Can I Acquire Information About What I Fear?

Most of our fear is generated when we are faced with the unknown. One of the best ways of beating back this fear is to continually try new things so you become comfortable with moving into the unknown. Then we won’t be as surprised or overwhelmed when something new or different presents itself.

Most successful people want to push themselves beyond past accomplishments. In order to do this, they push themselves outside their comfort zone. This means facing the fear of failure continually so they can predict their own responses when stressed and stretched.

This self-awareness provides valuable information about what they fear, the circumstances under which their fear rears it’s ugly head, and how they can best move forward when faced with it.

6. How Can I Learn The Skills Necessary To Master My Fear?

Whether you are in Special Forces, on a high school football team, or an FBI agent investigating a case, the answer is the same—train! Practice the skills you will need repeatedly until they become second nature.

When you’ve trained how to respond to a crisis, you respond automatically to a checklist of skills that you’ve already mastered. You do not become fearful; you become intense and focused.

7. How Can I Go It Alone?

You can’t! Facing fear is easier when you’re accompanied by other people whom you know and trust. Strong ties with other people are important. When we have supportive friends or colleagues by our side, we are more confident and better able to cope with problems.

8. How Can I Stop Feeling Fearful?

Remember that your limbic brain system is programmed to pay more attention to negative information that produces fearful responses. It’s our survival instinct at work. And we tend to remember negative or traumatic information better than neutral or even positive experiences.

To counter this, you will need to hunt for the good stuff in every situation. Find at least 5 positive responses to every 1 negative response.

9. How Can I Retrain My Brain To Look At My Fear Differently?

Every time your fearful memory is retrieved, it becomes unstable again for a brief period of time. Just as my memory of the shotgun recoil was unstable, it opened a window during which the memory could be updated and changed.

It is possible to modify fearful memories when they are retrieved if you “get back in the saddle” and confront the very thing you are afraid of.

10. How Can I Modify A Fearful Memory?

Researchers agree that we must expose ourselves to our fear—but in a safe environment! The exposure also needs to last long enough for the brain to form a new memory. Your brain will recognize that the fear is no longer dangerous in your current environment.

Look fear in the face. You will be amazed at how unscary it really is.

OK, now it’s your turn! What questions or actions do you find help you move past your fears?

© 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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7 Science-Based Ways To Find Happiness

June 28th, 2015 by LaRae Quy

My family were cattle ranchers in Wyoming. Every bit of extra money went into cattle, veterinary supplies, and spools of barbed wire. Whenever I’d feel unhappy about not being able to buy something for myself, my grandmother would remind me that it didn’t matter how much we owned as long as we enjoyed what we did have.

7 Science-Based Ways

Happiness is about a lot more than laughing and being silly. It is a profound feeling of satisfaction of a life well-lived. It is not pretending to others, and ourselves, that we are content and fulfilled in life.

If we are mentally tough, we are able to identify where, and how, we can change our emotions, thoughts, and behavior so we choose to live happier lives.

My grandmother was right—happiness is a choice. And here are 7 science-based ways to find happiness:

1. Help Others

To make yourself feel happier and enrich your life, help others.

According to Adam Grant, “When I looked at one end of the success spectrum and said, ‘If Givers are at the bottom, who’s at the top?’  I was really surprised to discover, it’s the Givers again. The people who consistently are looking for ways to help others are over-represented not only at the bottom, but also at the top of most success metrics.”

A recent study indicates that good deed-doers, or altruists, are more likely to be committed to their work and less likely to quit their jobs. Those who help others are also happier at work than those who don’t make helping others a priority.

Helping others may have a ripple effect that makes not only those who are performing the good acts happier, but may also boost happiness among other members of the community.

Dr. Barbara Fredrickson told PBS, “By creating chains of events that carry positive meaning for others, positive emotions can trigger upward spirals that transform communities into more cohesive, moral and harmonious social organizations.”

2. Plan Experiences And Savor The Anticipation

With busy work schedules it is sometimes difficult to plan ahead for vacations or breaks. But research shows that the highest spike in happiness comes during the planning stage of a vacation as people savor the sense of anticipation.

Even if you can’t take the time for a vacation right now, put something on the calendar. It can be a month or year from now. So whenever you need a boost of happiness, you can remind yourself of it.

There’s also a logical assumption that most people make when spending their money: that because a physical object will last longer, it will make us happier for a longer time than a one-off experience like a concert or vacation. According to recent research, it turns out that assumption is completely wrong.

Studies have shown that when making purchases, the anticipation of purchasing items resulted in significantly more happiness and excitement than waiting for the purchases to arrive. We buy things to make us happy, and we succeed.

Why?

Immediate rewards cause soaring levels of dopamine, a neurotransmitter that helps us feel good. Those levels start to level off, however, while receiving the reward. New things are exciting to us at first, but then we adapt to them.

Whether it’s a vacation, time spent with friends, or a new purchase, you will be happier if you can savor the anticipation of the actual event.

3. Be True To Yourself

According to Bronnie Ware, an Australian nurse who spent several years caring for patients in the last 12 weeks of their lives, the most common regret of the dying is that they wished they’d had the courage to live a life true to themselves, not the life others expected of them.

When people understand that their life is almost over and look back, they see how many dreams have gone unfulfilled. The regret comes from dying while knowing that they had not honored their dreams by the choices they made, or not made.

To be happy, we need the courage to express our true feelings. Too many times we suppress them to keep peace with those around us. But when this happens, we end up living a mediocre existence and never become the person we were capable of becoming.

As a result, bitterness and resent grows—both toward ourselves and others.

When we are true to ourselves, we are being authentic. Our identity comes from within, from our core. It is not dependent on what we achieve or possess or the opinion of others.

4. Nurture Relationships

One of the conclusions of the Grant Study (a 72 year study of the lives of 268 men) was this: “The only thing that really matters in life is our relationships with other people.

This response does not surprise behavior psychologists who want to understand why simply existing—why being merely housed, fed, safe, and alive—is empty and meaningless to us. What more do we need in order to feel that life is worthwhile?

The answer that comes up again and again is that we all seek a cause beyond ourselves. Human beings need relationships which do not always produce happiness, and sometimes produce pain, but we all require devotion to something bigger than ourselves for our lives to have value and meaning.

Nurturing relationships improves our happiness, even for introverts. Those deep relationships can be with either family or friends. Daniel Gilbert explains it:

“We are happy when we have family, we are happy when we have friends and almost all the other things we think make us happy are actually just ways of getting more family and friends.”

Modern psychological research shows that being kind and nurturing relationships has benefits for everyone involved—they tend to have better psychological well-being, fewer depressive symptoms and higher life-satisfaction.

5. Practice Gratitude

Gratitude increases happiness and satisfaction with life.

The reason?

Gratitude changes your outlook. It is closely linked to positive thinking and optimism.

A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty—Winston Churchill

A conscious focus on blessings produces emotional benefits. Optimism has been proven to improve the immune system, prevent chronic disease, and help people cope with adversity. Grateful people are happier, receive more social support, are less stressed, and are less depressed.

Recent research by Martin Seligman indicates that optimists and pessimists approach problems differently, and their ability to cope successfully with adversity differs as a result. Pessimistic people tend to view problems as internal, unchangeable, and pervasive, whereas optimistic people are the opposite.

6. Pursue Work That Has Meaning

Do you ever find yourself so completely immersed in what you’re doing that you lose track of time? Think a minute about this. When does this loss of time and total engagement typically occur for you?

The loss of self-consciousness that happens when you are completely absorbed in an activity— intellectual, professional, or physical—is described as “flow” by psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi.

In order for a flow state to occur, the activity must:

  • Be seen as voluntary
  • Be enjoyable
  • Require skill and be challenging (but not too challenging)
  • Have clear goals towards success.
  • Let you feel as though you have control
  • Provide immediate feedback with room for growth

The new field of Positive Psychology shows that the happiest people are those that have discovered their unique strengths and virtues—and then use those strengths and virtues for a purpose that is greater than their own personal goals.

Viktor Frankl, who survived a Nazi concentration camp, once said “What man actually needs is not a tensionless state but rather the striving and struggling for some goal worthy of him.”

7. Keep Moving

The importance of exercise in pursuing happiness is based in hard-nosed neuroscience. Most of  are aware of what happens to our body when we workout, but our brain is also affected.

Once we start exercising, our brain recognizes this first as stress. Our blood pressure increases and the brain thinks we are either fighting the enemy or fleeing from it. To protect ourselves, our brain releases a protein called BDNF (Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor).

BDNF is a reparative element to our memory neurons and acts as a reset switch. That’s why we often feel so at ease and things are clear after exercising—which leads to happiness.

At the same time, endorphins, another chemical to fight stress, is released in our brain. Endorphins tend to minimize the discomfort of exercise, block the feeling of pain and are even associated with a feeling of euphoria.

According to Gretchen Reynolds, author of “The First 20 Minutes,” the first 20 minutes of moving around provide most of the health benefits.

How do you find happiness?

© 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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7 Steps to Create A Resilient Mind

June 21st, 2015 by LaRae Quy

When I first joined the FBI, I was informed about the FBI’s transfer policy—which meant I could be sent anywhere in the U.S. As an agent, this was just as important as the squad to which I was assigned. So I pulled back from developing relationships and buying a home until I had been assigned to my permanent Field Office.

7 Steps To

After a couple of years of living in transfer-hell limbo, I learned that every few years the FBI’s transfer policy changed!

At this point, I decided I needed to live my life like a normal human being. I could not continue living in fear of the change that would be produced when I got transferred.

Change frightens us because they are voyages into the unknown. But the unknown is ultimately an invitation to grow our talent so our potential can continue to unfold. To refuse to begin our journey of change can be an act of great self-neglect.

Because to change is one of the great dreams of every heart—to move beyond self-limiting beliefs, boredom, and lack of confidence.

If you have mental toughness, you will do anything to break the cycle of behavior that disempowers you. You will need to push your limits and that takes resilience—moving into your discomfort zone crosses a threshold that awakens a variety of emotions: confusion, fear, excitement, sadness, and dreams.

There should always be a healthy tension between the life we have settled for and the potential that still calls us.

Why Is Change So Hard?

We opt to continue the old pattern rather than risk the danger of difference.

Research by social psychologists indicate that we are comfortable when our thoughts, feelings, and behavior are consistent, and uncomfortable when they are not—which produces cognitive dissonance. Change, and moving into our discomfort zone, means admitting that our past behavior was either wrong or that somehow we are now making a break from the past.

And this triggers anxiety.

Our brain is uber alert for change of any kind in our environment. When our limbic brain detects an abnormality, our animal instinct takes over. As a result, our first reaction is to either fight or run away.

Resilience is not only the ability to bounce back from obstacles, it is also the ability to bounce through them as we continue to move into the unknown that change often brings with it.

When you are mentally tough, you have the ability to interpret your emotions. When you do this, you understand that the anxiety you are feeling is normal—and even to be expected.

Questions Are The Most Important Tool In Your Mental Toughness Toolbox

Psychologist Marilee Adams suggests that questions can virtually rewire our emotions, thoughts, and behavior. According to her research, questions that we ask ourselves can open our mind up to learning, connection, satisfaction, and success.

Questions are piercing little darts that expose hidden anxiety, and once they elicit an honest answer from us, we are able to name the beast in the room—that is, the fear we are experiencing.

It is, however, essential to honestly name what is going on before you can trigger change in emotion, thought, or behavior.

Mental toughness is the ability to look into your mind and call it the way it really is—with no sugar coating or apologies.

Resilience is the ability to take it all in, without losing heart, without judging yourself, and keep marching forward.

Just as our soul responds to truth, so does our brain.

7 Steps To Create A Resilient Mind

STEP ONE: Create A Sense Of Urgency

If you cannot accept an urgent need to change, you never will.

STEP TWO: Put Together A Personal Board of Directors

Think about how you might connect with people who are wiser and more experienced than yourself. Identify two or three (or more) people you admire and respect with whom you can sit down with on a quarterly basis to review your progress. Turn these mentors into your own personal Board of Directors. These are the same people you can turn to when times get tough as well.

STEP THREE: Make A Plan

If you are going to change by moving into your discomfort zone, you need to have a strategy in mind of how you’re going to do it. Keep it simple, and review it often to make sure you’re still on course.

STEP FOUR: Talk It Up

Self-talk is incredibly powerful because our brain wants those inner dialogues to be consistent with our feelings and behavior. When we ask ourselves questions about why we are experiencing anxiety about the change in front of us, we open the option of finding positive responses to them.

STEP FIVE: Hunt The Good Stuff

Positivity is essential if you want to be resilient in the face of tough times. This does not mean ignoring the negative, but it does mean you will have to hunt the good stuff if you want to remain positive.

STEP SIX: Take Small Steps

Small wins are critical because they make the change real. Most importantly, small steps produce confidence as we smash outdated self-limiting beliefs.

They also create the opportunity to build momentum. Again, this is critical because each small step creates more confidence.

STEP SEVEN: Be Diligent

Habits are hard to break because they are found in deeper structures of the brain. This leaves much of our working memory available to deal with everyday surprises and situations. Habits don’t need as much of the brain’s energy, so changing them takes a lot of attention. Stay aware of a change until it becomes a new habit.

Resilience is the key to producing the confidence, joy, and fulfillment that lies on the other side of the discomfort zone.

How are you resilient when faced with change or when moving into the discomfort zone?

© 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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How To Use Mental Toughness To Face Down Stereotypes

June 14th, 2015 by LaRae Quy

All Hell’s Angels members wear black leather biker jackets, right? That’s what I thought when I accompanied my fellow FBI agents into a grubby bar where an old Don Williams song was playing.

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How To Use Mental Toughness

I had been shown a photo of the Hell’s Angel guy we were looking for—he was described as tall, shaved head, with a single silver hoop in his left ear.

My fellow agents and I were wearing suits and carrying concealed weapons—we stuck out like a sore thumb in the biker bar. Only a few continued their conversations as the bartender greeted us—the rest were waiting for our response.

Suddenly, a guy in a black leather jacket got up and started walking out the door. His head was shaved, but he was a little shorter than the man we were looking for. Still, he looked like a Hell’s Angel and I stepped in front of him, raising a questioning eyebrow at the case agent.

The case agent shook his head so I stepped out of the way. The guy in the leather jacket smirked and headed out the door.

The Hell’s Angel we were actually looking for was sitting at the bar in a white t-shirt, khaki shorts, with the single silver loop in his left ear. The case agent had seen him the moment he walked in.

I had a stereotyped idea of what a Hell’s Angel guy should look like. Stereotypes can become a burden—or in my case, an embarrassment.

The truth of the matter is that we all stereotype and generalize—we have to! Generalizations make our lives easier to manage because they help us manage the constant information that bombards our brain. Generalizations are conclusions we make about people and situations that come so fast that we don’t have to spend time thinking about them.

But negative stereotypes that are dangerous and inaccurate are alive and well, so how can facing them down make us mentally strong enough to overcome them?

Here are 3 ways you can use mental toughness to face down negative thoughts, bias, and stereotypes:

1. Recognize Your Brain Has A Built-In Confirmation Bias

That means your brain stores information that is consistent with your own beliefs, values, and self-image. This selective memory system helps keep the brain from getting overloaded with too much information.

Research suggests that while we like to think that our beliefs are rational, logical, and objective, the truth is that our beliefs are usually based on the information that confirms our ideas while we ignore other information that challenges them.

Generalizations are unstable because they change over time. As more information becomes available, make it a habit of educating yourself on what is new and different. Too often, we create a rule of thumb at one point in life and never take the time to re-evaluate its credibility. Times change—and so do you.

  • Which generalizations have helped you make smarter choices?
  • How important are hunches in setting rules of thumb?
  • How do you probe further into issues to make your generalizations?
  • Are these rules of thumb can you rely upon in the future?

If we’re aware which generalizations influence our choices and responses, we can identify the ones that help us to react with resilience and accuracy.

2. Understand How Stereotypes Can Affect Your Performance

A stereotype threat occurs when a negative stereotype about your situation or your abilities weakens your confidence in yourself and interferes with your effort to move toward success.

If we know that we’re not expected to perform as well as others, this increases our stress levels and hampers performance.

For example, in the U.S. women are very scarce in math-centric fields. Girls are told from an early age that they do not have an aptitude for Science, Technology, Engineering, or Math (STEM) so they opt for other professions.

This is a stereotype threat that becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy since most women opt out of STEM careers because of the bias and isolation.

On the other hand, in a research study that presented a positive racial stereotype concerning their superior quantitative skills, Asian American women performed better than men or non-Asians on math tests. In this case, the stereotype boosted their confidence and behavior.

3. Acknowledge Your Barriers And Burdens

When you face down a negative stereotype about yourself, your situation, or others on your team, you are developing the mental toughness to acknowledge your burdens and barriers.

A 2012 study indicates that when we have to stretch our minds to come up with less predictable and mundane solutions, we stimulate creativity and mental flexibility. When we are mentally strong, we are able to acknowledge the burdens and barriers in our life without giving up hope of our future success. When we do, several things happen:

  • Develop effective strategies to deal/cope with negative stereotypes
  • Encourage flexible thinking and improve cognitive performance
  • Change the way women see their careers
  • Stimulate creativity
  • Cultivate a flexible mindset capable of counteracting a stereotype threat

Women in STEM careers who challenge the stereotypes they encounter in their field actually develop the same cognitive skills that are so highly valued!

Research shows that the mental effort of imagining someone behaving in non-stereotypical ways can actually make the mind stronger and more resilient. Just as the body eventually adapts to increased physical demands so that muscles become stronger, the mind adjusts to the burden of deflecting stereotypes.

Mental toughness is learning how to control our mind, rather than letting our mind control us. Awareness of how positive and negative generalizations affect our behavior is essential for our success. 

How have you faced down negative and dangerous stereotypes? I’d love to know!

© 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.” 

FBI Firearms Tips To Focus Your Mind For Success

June 7th, 2015 by LaRae Quy

FBI firearms instructors bark out reminders that maintaining front-sight focus is essential if we want to hit the target. Front-sight focus is concentration and single-mindedness when aiming a weapon on the firing range or at a terrorist. 

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FBI Firearms Tips To Focus

You can use the same focus to work through a mess when things go wrong at work as well.

Front-sight focus is the ability to look at the front sight of a weapon after lining it up with the target. A good shooter remains aware of their surroundings and always has their objective in mind, but their attention narrows to that single piece of steel a few inches in front of them.

I learned how to focus on the front-sight, engage in one shot at a time, and not worry about either anticipating the recoil or where the next bullet would hit.

Because of my FBI firearms training, I’ve also learned how to practice front-sight focus in my investigations so I could distinguish between what was important and what was a distraction. This type of focus leads to success in both business and life.

Distractions often occur when our inner nag starts fretting about all the things that need to get done. As a result, intrusive thoughts constantly interrupt our productivity, and we end up second-guessing our choices.

In his book, Getting Things Done, David Allen talks about the importance of making a Next Action List rather than a To-Do List. Instead of writing down the thing that needs to be done, write down what action needs to be taken.

1. Write Down Every Item That Gets Your Attention

Sit down in a quiet place with a pen and paper and let your thoughts ramble.

What is on that To-Do List? Whether it’s small or large, important or not, write down every single thing that either needs a decision or has your attention.

Do not take the time to prioritize the items. Listen to the voice of that inner nag and write down whatever pops up.

2. Identify Your Action Step

Cross out each item on the To-Do List, and instead, identify the specific next action to be taken regarding that item.

For example, if you need to buy a birthday present, write down “Drive to Nordstrom.”

Now, carve out the time and day that you will take your action step. “I will drive to Nordstrom after work on Tuesday.”

3. Clarify The Actions

Many times the actions you need to take won’t be able to be accomplished in the near future.

For example, one of the items on my current To-Do List—“Write an article on why emotional awareness is essential for mental toughness.” Even now, there is a part of me that wants to skip over that item and ignore it.

Why? I experience low-grade anxiety over the fact that it will take a big chunk of time to research the topic and pull together enough information for a decent article.

To avoid the anxiety, I need to break down the action to be taken into small steps. This item as it is written is far too vague and broad. As a result, my brain feels overwhelmed by trying to tease out all the elements that will be needed to finish the article.

If I attack the problem using a Next Step List, I will write down the following: action “I will spend Friday morning writing the article.”

If I clarify the actions, I will add, “I will spend half an hour Thursday afternoon preparing an outline for the article so I’m ready to start writing the next morning.”

As with FBI firearms training, I narrowed my focus to one action step to be taken immediately, while at the same time registered awareness of the bigger picture.

The Science Behind The Need To Focus: The Zeigarnik Effect

Science explains why this approach works in helping you to focus your mind for success. Research behind the Zeigarnik Effect proves that the unconscious mind needs the conscious mind to make a plan on how to finish a task or accomplish a goal.

The unconscious mind signals the conscious mind, which may now be focused on new goals, that a previous activity was left incomplete. This lack of closure that comes from an unfinished task creates intrusive thoughts that don’t go away until the person returns to complete the task.

So writing down an item on a To-Do List creates anxiety for the unconscious mind because it needs more than a goal—it needs a plan!

It’s also important to note that the persistence of intrusive thoughts is not an indication that the unconscious mind is working to finish the task, nor is it the inner nag pushing us to finish the task right away.

The unconscious mind needs specifics like time, place, and opportunity. Once the plan is formed, the unconscious stops nagging with constant reminders.

If you have a presentation to make at 8:00am, your unconscious mind wants to know exactly what needs to be done. You may have 100 other items that also need attention, but you can relax and not worry about the inner nag bothering you again about it if you make a plan to review your notes at 7:00am that morning.

It is human nature to finish what we start, and front-sight focus is how we pay full attention to one goal at a time to get the best results.

What tips can you add on how to focus your mind for success?

© 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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5 Rules To Sharpen Your Mental Toughness

May 31st, 2015 by LaRae Quy

After 9/11, hundreds of FBI agents were pulled from their assignments and reassigned to counterterrorism squads. Leadership was not concerned that these agents had no experience with terrorism cases, because they are taught in the FBI Academy to have mental toughness—the confidence to know that you will prevail in whatever situation you find yourself.

Competitive

In truth, everyone can benefit from mental toughness training—athletes, executives, and anyone in leadership positions.

Why?

We all need to find ways of turning negative thinking into positive behavior. Athletes can psych themselves out by seeing other athletes that are in better shape. Entrepreneurs and leaders can become overwhelmed by the competitive demands of the marketplace.

To be successful, we need to develop the mental skills to carry us beyond our current situation and create breakthroughs that take us into the winner’s circle.

Here are 5 rules to follow that will sharpen your mental toughness:

Rule #1 Develop Emotional Awareness

To be mentally tough, you need to have a deep understanding of what makes you tick so you can follow your calling and create a richer life.

Mental toughness is often associated with sports activities where athletes need to bulldoze their way through to the finish line. And yes, strong minds are needed to build strong bodies that are physically competitive.

But any top coach worth their salary will tell you that the will to win has to come from within. That requires athletes to have mental toughness so they can control their emotions, thoughts, and behavior in ways that will set them up for success.

Mental toughness is accepting our feelings without being controlled by them.

The Rule of Emotional Awareness states that we need to be acutely aware of our emotions, and the emotions of others, so we can follow our calling and create a richer life full of meaning and value.

Rule #2 Push Through Your Limits

Mentally tough people know that to reach their potential, they need to get comfortable with being uncomfortable.

World class experts fail a lot. They like to play at things that are too hard for them and accept challenges that are too big.

But this is key: In the process, they’re always getting valuable feedback.

You cannot be mentally tough if you cry like a baby because it’s scary when left in the dark. Guess what? Life frequently throws a wad of darkness into our midst—even when we aren’t expecting it or don’t want it!

We are confronted with the unknown everyday, and we choose to either navigate it with success or avoid it like a wimp.

Mental toughness requires us to push through the limits that we’ve imposed on ourselves, or have been imposed upon us by family, teachers, or society. We need to practice moving into our discomfort zone—frequently. Each time we fail we need to take the time to stop and analyze what we learned from the experience. With these experiences comes the confidence that we won’t break like a china doll in the process.

A message to all wimps: You cannot grow if you don’t move out of the center where it is safe and well-lit.

Instead, follow your calling and celebrate each time you break a new frontier. It is ironic that you must move to the edge to find your center.

The Rule of Push Limits states that becoming comfortable with new challenges and embracing things that are hard is key to building mental toughness.

Rule #3 Transform Your Mind

To be mentally tough, you need to keep a tight rein on your thoughts.

We become what we think.

We are impacted by our thoughts because neuroscience is proving that we can actually rewire our brain by changing the way we think.

Recent research in the field of neuroplasticity explains how new neural pathways and synapses can be created by changing our thoughts, emotions, and behavior. In other words, mental toughness is not something you were born with, it is something you can develop!

Neuroplasticity replaced the former opinion that the brain was a static organ that stops growing by the age of 25. Now we know the brain is capable of changing throughout our lifetime.

Norman Vincent Peale made the expression “The power of positive thinking” very popular several decades ago. Instinctively he knew, without the benefit of neuroscience, that if we change our attitudes we can empower ourselves to achieve the impossible.

The Rule of Transform Your Mind states that by changing the way you think about self-limiting beliefs and other obstacles in your life, you can rewire your brain in such a way that it is always working for you and not against you.

Rule #4 Focus Your Energy

If you want to be mentally tough, you must be able to focus your mental and physical energy.

When we focus, we are present to what is happening right now, not in the past or the future. It’s important to keep the mind and body completely engaged in the actual performance and NOT the outcome of the performance.

Olympic athletes are excellent examples of how to channel talent into success. They do not rely on luck to take home the gold medal. World class experts practice with laser focus with a specific goal in mind. But it’s not just repeating the same task over and over—it is deliberate practice, and that has certain features:

  • Break down each task into individual parts
  • Work on the hard stuff
  • Get feedback so you can get better
  • Put your ego on the back burner
  • Remain steadfast in your goals

The Rule of Focused Energy states that deliberate practice takes willpower, persistence, and training to achieve personal mastery.

Rule #5 Pursue Personal Growth

If you are seriously interested in sharpening your mental toughness, you need to read. Books. Articles. Blogs. I have never met a mentally strong person who was not a voracious reader.

The reason?

The mentally tough are learners who understand that the world is not made of up of winners or losers; instead, the world is made up of learners or non-learners. If you have mental toughness, you learn new skills and expand your horizons, study to become more intelligent, and find ways to make yourself more likable and attractive.

If we were born smart and talented, we don’t know to work hard because it all comes naturally to us. So when times get tough, we give up.

Mentally tough people are scrappy folks who know that just because you started out the smartest, it doesn’t mean you’re going to end up the smartest.

The Rule of Pursue Personal Growth states that we never stop learning, improving ourselves, and growing our mental strength.

Are there any other rules of mental toughness that you would 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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Why Self-Compassion Is An Essential Skill For Great Leadership

May 24th, 2015 by LaRae Quy

One of the most difficult things I had to do when working a fraud investigation was look a retired couple sitting across from me in the eye and tell them that the FBI would not be investigating the criminals who had scammed these people out of their life savings.

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It was truly one of the worst days of my life. The old folks had been duped into investing their entire retirement fund into a scam, and while it was all they had to live on, it still did not meet the threshold for an FBI investigation.

How could I tell them that their life’s work was not enough to capture the FBI’s attention?

A negative voice in my head kept saying that somehow I should have been able to tie their case to another scam—anything to make it work! But the truth of the matter was that I had no evidence to take it to the next step.

I criticized my ineptness and lack of creativity; I mercilessly judged myself for shortcomings when that voice in my head would not shut up. Ironically, while I felt compassion toward the retired couple, I could not extend that same kindness toward myself.

Leadership training courses and workshops on emotional intelligence spit out quotes and inspirational messages on how to be empathic, collaborative, and self-aware. But they rarely delve into the stickier issue of self-compassion. Why not?

Because self-compassion is seen by many as being too self-centric. As leaders, we are exhorted to be servant leaders, lead by example, put others before ourselves, and nurture the well-being of the team.

Meanwhile, leaders like Elon Musk and Donald Trump thrive as bullies in the work environment because they surround themselves with suck-ups who feed their ego.

Where is the healthy balance? No one wants the personal life of either Musk or Trump—losers when it comes to a relationship with self. And based on divorce rates, with others as well.

Try these 4 tips to dampen the voice of your inner critic and express more self-compassion:

1. Remember You Are Not Perfect

Stop lying to yourself that you are awesome and perfect. Because you are not. You are human. When you remember this, it is easier to forgive yourself, and when you do, you also feel less anxiety about your performance.

2. Differentiate Between Self-Esteem And Self-Compassion

There is a big difference between self-esteem and self-compassion. There’s been an explosion of literature and workshops on how to build self-esteem but the unintended result has been an epidemic of narcissism.

In Jean Twenge’s book, Generation Me, she shares the results of a study that examined the narcissism levels of over 15,000 U.S. college students between 1987 and 2006. During that 20-year period, narcissism scores soared, with 65 percent of modern-day students scoring higher in narcissism than previous generations.

Ironically, as we try to see ourselves as better than others, our sense of worthiness takes a dive. This emotional rollercoaster can lead to depression and anxiety—a reminder that we are not perfect.

In fact, a striking finding of Twenge’s study was that people with high self-esteem were much more narcissistic than those with low self-esteem. In contrast, self-compassion was completely unassociated with narcissism.

3. Reframe Negative Thoughts

Negative thoughts are horrible things that are really tough to beat into submission. When we succumb to them, we automatically think the cause is permanent, pervasive, and personal.

It’s going to last forever, it’s going to undermine everything, and it’s my fault.

Martin Seligman is the author of Learned Optimism and he is quoted as saying, “I am a dyed-in-the-wool pessimist. The techniques that I write about are ones that I use every day.”

So what are those techniques to ward off negative thoughts? He has a three-step process:

  • Recognize that the thought is there.
  • Treat that thought as if it were said by some third person whose job in life was to make your life miserable.
  • Learn to dispute it, to marshal evidence against it. With practice, you will get better and better at neutralizing it.

4. Talk To Yourself In A Nice Way

Experts in The Brain documentary made the claim that we say between 300 to 1000 words to ourselves a minute. The Navy SEALS and Special Forces use the power of positive self-talk as a way of getting through tough times.

For example, by instructing recruits to be mentally tough and speak positively to themselves, they could learn how to override fears resulting from the limbic brain system (amygdala), a primal part of the brain that helps us deal with anxiety.

Positive self-talk is self-compassion. You can also visualize a compassionate person saying positive things to you such as someone who loves you saying kind words, or a supportive supervisor affirming a job well done.

As a leader, you need to cultivate self-compassion. When you have self-compassion, you have feelings of self-worth, will be less embarrassed when you screw up, and less likely to take things personally.

And that is the type of leadership we all need.

How are you self-compassionate when things are not going according to plan?

© 2015 LaRaeQuy. All rights reserved.

You can follow me on Twitter

Get my FREE Mental Toughness Assessment

Get my FREE Mental Toughness Mini-Course

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 FBI Tactics To Win An Argument

May 17th, 2015 by LaRae Quy

I was the agent on duty and the woman in front of me was livid, accusing the FBI of harassment and invasion of privacy. As the duty agent, it was my responsibility to listen to her claims and determine whether they had merit or not.

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It quickly became evident that she was working for an individual who had recently been indicted for money laundering and racketeering. So yes, the FBI was interviewing people to get a better idea of who else might be involved. Logically, that net would be cast wide.

Too wide for the likes of the woman determined to battle it out with me in the interview room.

FBI agents are rarely described as warm and fluffy, but neither are they the snarly, snarky shoot-from-the-hip of investigators often depicted on TV and in the movies. The reason is simple: there is a technique to winning an argument or calming down an individual to the point where they not only see reason, but agree to cooperate with an FBI investigation.

There are many types of warfare, and all of them involve some type of escalation between opposing opinions and points of view. Sun Tzu wrote an ancient Chinese treatise called “The Art of War.” His strategies could also be applied to business tactics today:

  • “The supreme art of war is to subdue the enemy without fighting.”
  • “To fight and conquer in all our battles is not supreme excellence; supreme excellence consists of breaking the enemy’s resistance without fighting.”
  • “He who knows when he can fight and when he cannot will be victorious.”

An argument usually includes heated conversation, but in the business world it can also be a set of reasons aimed at persuading others to take a particular action or adopt an idea.

Either way, here are 10 FBI tactics on how to win an argument and get your point across:

1. Do Not Attack

Attacking someone else’s idea puts them into a fight-or-flight mindset.

Remember the advice of Sun Tzu—break down the enemy’s resistance without fighting.

2. Start Off Friendly

When you make your point in a very friendly manner, you automatically disarm others. It also keeps them from going for a defensive stance or position.

3. Show Respect

Make an effort to respect the other person’s point of view, no matter how ridiculous it sounds to you.

4. Ask Open-Ended Questions

These type of questions allow the other person to explain themselves and not box them into a “right or wrong” answer. It encourages interaction and discussions.

5. Argue The Facts

The single worst thing you can do during an argument is base your conversation around your feelings alone. Present the facts but use mental toughness to control your emotions.

Strong minds have emotional intelligence. This means they can control their emotions instead of letting their emotions control them.

6. Ask How, Not Why

Asking “how” their statement is right is not freighted with as much emotion as asking them “why” it is right. When someone tells you why they are right and you are wrong, it will make them more confident in their convictions. Asking them how will force them out of their emotional, limbic brain system and into their thinking, cerebral brain.

7. Concede

One of the most effective ways to defang an argument in its tracks is to say, “You are right.” This does not mean you are forfeiting your point of view, but it does mean that you are acknowledging that they have a valid point.

8. Stay on Point

When emotions are high, logic is thrown out the window. Do not be that person! Do not respond to irrational and/or emotional appeals of the other person, either, especially if they threaten to derail the main point of the conversation.

If needed, you can say, “Interesting point and we can talk about that later, but right now we’re discussing…”

9. Use Data

When talking, writing, or consulting about how to develop a mentally tough mind that can create breakthroughs, I back up my assertions with neuroscience data. This is not just me peddling a bunch of bullsh*t to pay my mortgage.

If you want to be taken seriously, use information that has credibility and backed by research.

10. Do Not Let It Escalate

In his book, The Political Brain, Drew Westen writes that when people see or hear information that conflicts with their worldview, the parts of the brain that handle reason and logic go dormant. And the parts of the brain that regulate hostile attacks light up.

When an arguments start, persuasion stops. It devolves into a fight, and that brings another frame of mind to the situation. Suddenly, no one cares who is right or wrong and that is a sure way to fail.

11. Appeal To Higher Logic

Try appealing to worthy motives or universal truths that are hard to dispute.

This is what ultimately worked with the irate woman in the FBI interview room. I agreed that it was unpleasant to have the FBI snooping around and asking questions about her. But, once I explained the higher logic of how the FBI was trying to identify accomplices involved in her boss’s racketeering scheme, she agreed that only by interviewing people “in the know” would law enforcement be able to gather the evidence needed.

She eventually became an FBI informant.

How do you win arguments at home and work?

© 2015 LaRaeQuy. All rights reserved.

You can follow me on Twitter

Get my FREE Mental Toughness Assessment

Get my FREE Mental Toughness Mini-Course

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 You Can Stand Out As A Breakthrough Leader

May 10th, 2015 by LaRae Quy

A mentally tough leader is someone who creates breakthroughs in both business and life.

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In her new book, Stand Out, Author Dorie Clark argues that breakthrough leaders not only need mental toughness, but they also need to stand out from the crowd to get their voice heard so they can make their unique contribution to the world.

Here is what is interesting about what Clark’s says in her book—anyone can have a big idea. Big ideas are not the intellectual property of Silicon Valley or big business. She encourages entrepreneurs to claim uncharted territory around those ideas that create value and meaning for them.

We all have a contribution to make, according to Clark. We all have something to say to the world.

Clark interviewed hundreds of successful people to glean wisdom from their experiences and she shares their stories with you. This is a quick and easy read—in a very good way. She doesn’t bog the reader down with minute details of the stories she shares; instead, she skims the essence of their wisdom and passes it down to the reader.

That is my kind of book!

Stand Out offers succinct and practical tips for breakthrough leaders who are struggling with how to develop their best ideas and ensure they spread. Here are 5 of my favorites:

Tip #1 Find Your Breakthrough Idea

Breakthrough leaders are always asking questions that others have not, and questioning assumptions that others may take for granted. Is there a better way?

“You do not succeed by following the rules and thinking exactly like everyone else.”—Dorie Clark

Start by pinpointing areas in which you are interested and qualified to talk about. What have you been pursuing since childhood? Sometimes you have to experiment with lots of ideas to see which one sticks.

You may not always know in advance what will work, so Clark advises that you start out with a variety and in the process learn which one people care about.

Tip #2 Develop Your Expert Niche

Clark suggests building a narrow base of knowledge in a narrow subject in order to get noticed and move past the competition. It may seem a career-limiting at first, but by doing this you can quickly become known as the expert in that field.

The goal is to move from being an expert, to the expert.

The secret to expanding your niche is to think through related areas where you can add value. Leverage your core knowledge into connections and collaborations that make sense.

Tip #3 Create A Framework

When you create a framework around your big idea, you enable others to understand how it applies to their life.

To make a mark in your field, spell out the fundamental principles behind your idea. By codifying a system, you create a set of touchstones that people can return to for every new situation they face.

A framework automatically creates a delivery system for your big idea to spread.

Tip #4 Build A Network

Spread the word about your big idea by building a strategic network. Blogging is a great way to get your idea out into the world.

Podcasts and interviews are other ways to develop relationships with other breakthrough leaders in the community. Create a hit list of people you want to get to know in your field and then interview them.

Face-to-face is always more effective, and with modern technology such as Skype and Google+ hangouts, it’s accessible to everyone.

Write a book—it’s the biggest business card in the world!

I love this piece of advice offered by Clark: “Challenge yourself to take one piece of content from your big idea and distribute it to five or even ten different channels. Watch how it scales so you can learn where your audience is located and how they are finding you.”

Tip #5 Make The Effort

“Work hard and never give up. No one ever drowned in a pool of sweat.”—LaRae Quy

Clark reminds us that top performers exponentially outwork everyone else. Write articles to get noticed, make YouTube videos, answer emails personally, read every book and article written by the person whom you are interviewing. Be willing to make the sacrifices you need to make in order to get to the top.

Finally, Clark encourages you to find ways to make your big idea sustainable. She warns that you will need space to think and reflect and make new connections.

Don’t be the person who never speaks up or shares their idea with the world.

What is holding you back?

© 2015 LaRaeQuy. All rights reserved.

You can follow me on Twitter

Get my FREE Mental Toughness Assessment

Get my FREE Mental Toughness Mini-Course

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 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.

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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.

You can follow me on Twitter

Get my FREE Mental Toughness Assessment

Get my FREE Mental Toughness Mini-Course

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

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