Your Employees Wish You Had Emotional Intelligence

April 22nd, 2016 by LaRae Quy

This article originally appeared in The Economist, Executive Education Navigator and is reprinted here with permission:

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In a recent survey by The Economist Executive Education Navigator of more than 4,000 professionals, a sharp divergence emerged between skills that C-Suite executives think they need and those that their employees want them to prioritize. In fact, answers from the two groups were nearly inverse.

In the survey, which was conducted on Economist.com, C-Suite executives most frequently cited technology and finance as the two areas where they sought to improve. Yet when lower-ranking employees were asked what skills they wished their top executives would hone, leadership and emotional intelligence were the most popular answers.

That employees think it would be helpful for their bosses to buff up leadership skills is practically a truism. But emotional intelligence? That’s new and could explain the rise of executive-development courses with names like “Leading with Emotional Intelligence” (Emory), “Mindful Leadership” (Cranfield) and “Leading with Greater Self-Awareness” (Weatherhead).

Sitting in your corner office and still leaning towards that seminar on analyzing Big Data? No harm there. But in case you find yourself wanting to follow the popular mood, here are some links to emotional intelligence programs for leaders.

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Leadership, Trust, and the SyFy Channel

April 17th, 2016 by LaRae Quy

One of the reasons I decided to accept the offer to become the FBI spokesperson in Northern California is because I would be in a leadership position and able to cultivate trust with the public by sharing information about the great investigations being conducted by our agents.

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The public needs to understand how law enforcement agencies like the FBI work. I was not afraid to be transparent about all aspects of our work because I truly believe the FBI is the world’s foremost investigative agency.

I quickly found out that many of my fellow agents did not feel the same way about developing trust with the public. They wanted to keep investigations and their work shrouded in secrecy. What they could never understand is that when things are kept in the dark, they take on a life of their own and that is never good for an organization like the FBI that depends upon the public’s support and assistance to solve most of their cases.

One of my former colleagues called for an internal investigation after the publication of my first book, “Secrets Of A Strong Mind.” A fellow counterintelligence agent, she accused me of handing over too much information to the “other side.” Never mind that it was 1) unclassified, 2) written about hundreds of times before, and 3) common sense!

She is, of course, extremely paranoid and might have made a better CIA or KGB officer than FBI agent. FBI Headquarters sided with me because they know that if I err, it is on the side of portraying the FBI in too positive of a light! The FBI is not a perfect organization but one that I was very proud to represent for 24 years.

Recently, my good friend James Wedick put me in touch with the SyFy channel. They were creating a backstory trailer about undercover work to promote a new TV series called Hunters. They interviewed me, another former FBI agent, and a retired CIA officer.

Here are four things I kept in mind about developing trust when preparing for the SyFy channel’s video:

1. IT’S NOT WHAT YOU DO, IT’S HOW YOU LOOK DOING IT

I was concerned at first because my first reaction to the SyFy channel’s request was—how will this make the FBI look? Hunters is about alien terrorists, after all!

But the more I talked to the producer of the backstory trailer, the more convinced I was that they had two priorities: 1) producing an interesting series, and 2) leveraging as much reality as possible into a storyline created by the same folks who gave us The Walking Dead (one of my absolute favorite TV shows!)

ACTION POINT: Whether it’s a backstory for a show about alien terrorists, or making a presentation in front of your colleagues, approach each and every project with the same amount of integrity because you never know who is watching or listening.

2. TRUST REQUIRES HONESTY

Unfortunately, I worked with a lot of agents who believed that the best way to get the job done was to act tough, and it’s true that is all some criminals understand. But being a tough guy can only get you so far—as many of those same colleagues can attest after experiencing failed relationships, broken families, and endless child support payments.

ACTION POINT: When you are afraid to be honest with yourself, and others, your ability to create trust is extremely limited. People may be too polite to call you a phoney to your face but your credibility diminishes a little each time you open your disingenuous little mouth.

3. EMOTIONAL COMPETENCE IS THE REAL DIRTY LITTLE SECRET

Believe me, you will never hear touchy-feely words thrown about in the halls of any FBI office. There are still a fair number of agents who believe that brute strength and ignorance will take them wherever they need to go.

The truly successful agents, however, know that developing trust requires emotional competence. This includes:

  • Self-awareness—so they can predict how they will react when confronted with the unknown.
  • Empathy—they are able to relate to others in an honest way.
  • Managing their emotions—if they cannot regulate their response to a variety of situations, they automatically lose the upper hand.

ACTION POINT: If you want to be mentally tough, you must be able to control your emotions, and the only way to do that is to become emotionally aware.

4. WORK WITH WHAT YOU’VE GOT; NOT WHAT YOU WISH YOU HAD

When talking to people, it’s important to be able to admit mistakes and to be smart enough to learn from your failures. No one wants to listen to a smug prig.

It requires mental toughness to take a long, hard look at yourself so you can identify your weaknesses right as well as your strengths. Then, forget about trying to change those weaknesses; instead, learn to manage them. Don’t ignore them, but understand how to mitigate the way they limit your progress.

Spend the rest of your time developing your strengths. Not only will you be happier, you will be more successful.

ACTION POINT: Forget about romanticized versions of who you wish you were—see yourself for who you truly are, and then make that person as fiercely awesome as possible!

Play the trailer below. I hope you enjoy watching it as much as I did making it! 

presented by the SyFy channel

© 2016 LaRaeQuy. All rights reserved.

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

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4 Ways Mentally Tough Leaders Get Organized

April 10th, 2016 by LaRae Quy

As the spokesperson for the FBI in Northern California, I woke up and went to bed with with a crushing number of emails, meetings, conference calls, interviews, and things that all needed to get done—now!

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I worked all day only to come home at night and spend several more hours trying to get out from under the workload. My grueling schedule had nothing to do with poor organizational skills; instead, it reflected the way I thought about the tasks before me.

I needed to become a mentally tough leader to overcome the psychological obstacles that prevented me from getting more organized with my time.

Taking control of your emotions, thoughts, and behavior takes mental toughness because you need to be very intentional about how you overcome the mental obstacles that slow you down.

Leaders, entrepreneurs, and business owners have a lot to get done—and only 24 hours in the day in which to do it!

Here are 4 ways you can be mentally tough and get organized:

1. MENTALLY TOUGH LEADERS ADMIT PROCRASTINATION TRAITS

We tend to shrink from specific tasks for several reasons but there is nothing you can do about it until you become aware of why you are procrastinating. Ask yourself, “Why do I keep not wanting to do this?”

Perhaps for one of these reasons:

  • Overcoming the learning curve is daunting if it’s a new project
  • Fear of making a poor decision
  • Expectations of perfection
  • Boredom for the task has set in—this one will sink you. If you’re bored with your task, it’s time to be honest about how you can change either your attitude or your assignment.

BOTTOM LINE:  Stop blaming distractions and drill down to uncover the real emotional obstacle that is slowing you down.

2. MENTALLY TOUGH LEADERS STOP FOCUSING ON TOO MUCH PROGRESS

Leaders, entrepreneurs, and business owners need to spend an inordinate amount of time mulling over strategy and future steps. This type of thinking is open-ended and involves uncertainty—this is your most important work.

But, many times we get bogged down in relatively unimportant work—stuff that needs to get done but doesn’t move the needle toward where you are headed.

Once you realize that 1) you engage in both types of work, and 2) both are necessary, it’s easier to grasp why some types of work trigger bigger returns than others. When you do, it changes the way you think about how to organize your day.

The important work is what will take you to the next level of performance; the unimportant work will keep you right where you are.

Both have their place in our daily routine. Unimportant work leaves us satisfied—we’ve accomplished something and crossed an item off our to-do list. Important work, however, makes us happier.

We are happier when we’re focused and immersed in something that provides with value and meaning. According to Daniel Gilbert, author of Stumbling On Happiness, a wandering mind is not a happy mind.

Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi contends that the concept of flow happens when we are engaged in important work that is very satisfying and our attention is focused on something that is good and concrete. We enter a state where we’re giving full and rapt attention to something that we’re good at and is important to us.

BOTTOM LINE: Schedule time for your important work in each day of your week.

3. MENTALLY TOUGH LEADERS NIP MONKEY MIND IN THE BUD

Mentally tough leaders do not ignore noise and distractions—that is impossible! But they can control their restless and unsettled “monkey mind” by quieting it as soon as they recognize it.

This is a basic premise of mental toughness: If we are aware of what we are thinking, we can chose our behavior.

Meditation takes a mentally tough mind because it is constantly saying “no” to intrusive thoughts and emotions.

BOTTOM LINE: Identify and eliminate those behaviors and thoughts that mess up your schedule. Conduct a review of how your monkey mind sabotaged your day. The error is not messing up; the error is not fixing it so that you don’t mess up next time.

4. MENTALLY TOUGH LEADERS AVOID PEOPLE WHO KIDNAP THEIR TIME

I learned to say “no” to people who had nothing better to do than sit around and talk. As Warren Buffett said, “The difference between successful people and very successful people is that very successful people say “no” to almost everything.”

I came to work every day focused on what was important for me to accomplish that day.

Dan Ariely aptly points out that saying “no” feels bad and hard because humans are social creatures. Most of us want to be nice and a team player.

BOTTOM LINE: Guard your time carefully by spending it with people who can help you become the person you want to be. It may feel good to say “yes,” but you need to focus on what is important to you.

How do you organize your day so you can be your most productive?

© 2016 LaRaeQuy. All rights reserved.

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

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4 Ways To Overcome Spectacular Failure

April 3rd, 2016 by LaRae Quy

I was a new agent and had just been given my first surveillance assignment. I sat outside the subject’s house and waited. And waited. For something—anything—to happen. Hours later, I found myself asleep. Actually, it was a supervisor who found me and blew his horn. I jolted awake but I had been caught; it was both an embarrassing experience and a spectacular failure.

The pain of my failure was so acute that I never wanted to experience it again.

As leaders, entrepreneurs and business owners, you will experience failure and setbacks; and by now, you also probably know that you can learn a lot from them.

Unfortunately, the truly useful failures that change our thoughts and behavior (as opposed to merely stupid decisions) are somewhat rare. But it is possible to treat all failure and setbacks as strategic input on how to improve performance next time.

It didn’t take long for the supervisor who found me asleep on the surveillance assignment to spread the word to my colleagues. I swallowed my pride, kept a positive attitude, found ways to get interested in my assignment, and rewrote the ending by changing the focus from what I did wrong to what I was doing right.

Here are 4 ways you can overcome spectacular failure and setbacks: 

1. PUNCTURE THE EGO AND ADMIT YOUR FAILURE

The higher up the chain of command, the harder it is to admit a mistake.

But, the best thing a leader can do is share a few personal failures with other team members. This is where a big dose of humility and a small ego will serve them well. Mentally tough leaders do not always have to be right.

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When you communicate this to other team members, it does several things:

  1. Assures them you won’t point the finger of blame at someone if something goes wrong
  2. Encourages others to be more open, and honest, about their performance
  3. Creates an environment of innovation and experimentation
  4. Indicates that you truly understand the consequences of creative problem solving
  5. Gives others permission to bring potential problems to leadership’s attention earlier rather than later

Too often, leadership talks about a strategy of “trial and error” but their reaction to failure undermines their message.

2. MAINTAIN THE RIGHT ATTITUDE ABOUT FAILURE

People with strong mind make their emotions obey their logic.

Mental toughness is managing your emotions, thoughts, and behavior in ways that will set you up for success. Your rational and thinking brain may understand the value of risk and failure, but your emotional, limbic brain system does not!

The only way to take control of your emotions is to focus on what you are actually learning from the experience.

As your brain learns, it adapts. What created fear, initially, is tempered by the thinking brain’s ability to see positive outcomes in the midst of a disappointment, failure, or setback. The more you fail, the less you’re afraid of it. And that is a good thing because it means you’re in control of your emotions.

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If you focus on what you’ve learned, it suppresses the negative emotional reaction.

Remember—the key to success is avoiding the same mistake next time—so fail, but learn the lesson.

3. START ASKING THE RIGHT QUESTIONS ABOUT FAILURE

Rather than having all the answers, ask more questions.

The best questions always start with, “How, when, why, and what?” These are open-ended questions that invite conversation and discussion.

Curiosity is the foundation of life-long growth. If we remain curious, we remain teachable so that our minds and hearts grow larger with each passing day. We can retain our beginner’s mind by always looking forward and discovering new experiences and uncovering new information.

Success seduces us into becoming set in our ways. “It’s working,” we say to ourselves, so we settle into comfort zones that begin to look more and more like ruts as we age.

TIP:

Curiosity is important for peak performance because it:

  1. Makes your mind active instead of passive
  2. Encourages you to be more observant of new ideas
  3. Opens up new worlds and possibilities
  4. Creates an adventurous response that leads you in a new direction

4. WRAP FAILURE UP THE RIGHT WAY

Behavioral scientists have indicated that the way in which we predict our future behavior is determined by our past memories.

If team members end a project with a sense of failure and hopelessness, their only memory of the experience will be negative. They will not move on to another project with a sense of growth.

As the leader, entrepreneur, or business owner, you have the power to create an atmosphere of trust and appreciation—whether or not the project was a failure or a success.

In the book, The Other “F” Word, the authors suggest that the best workplaces are formed on a foundation of trust, and trust is not forged when things are going great. Instead, it is formed when things are not going great because this is when team members learn who has their back.

TIP:

There is a difference between failing, and learning from your failure. Learning from failure is an active process that requires you to put as much thought into it as you do how you plan to achieve success.

It’s easy to fall into the trap of complacency when confronted with a failure or setback because it takes more effort to extract the lesson to be learned than it does to shrug, give up, and move on.

The way in which you deal with failure determines how you will achieve success—LaRae Quy

What recommendations do you have for ways that leadership can pass failure with flying colors?

© 2016 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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3 Tips To Get You Through Any Challenge

March 20th, 2016 by LaRae Quy

A few years back, I faced a challenge that literally changed my life.

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I was on a treadmill for my annual physical and the attending physician suddenly shouted for me to stop—immediately. He said the test was showing I had ischemia, a condition wherein the heart does not get enough oxygen and stops beating, resulting in instant death.

The FBI sent me to a heart specialist and prohibited me from participating in firearms or any activity that involved physical exertion. The ischemia scare was a life-changing event for me; it’s the primary reason healthy athletes drop dead.

I suffered a long period of high-magnitude stress. In the months that followed, it was determined that my heart gulps for oxygen, corrects itself, and recovers quickly. While my physical condition was eventually diagnosed as excellent, I had suffered my first health crisis.

A challenge is amplified when we don’t see it coming, when we don’t have any control over it, and when it’s something we’ve never had to deal with before.

I had to find a way to get through this challenge, so I turned to research conducted by the U.S. Army on Post Trauma Stress Disorder (PTSD). We all deal with stress, trauma, and crises in different ways.

When faced with a traumatic event, most people react with symptoms of depression and anxiety, but within a month or so are physically and psychologically back to where they were before the trauma. They accept responsibility for their actions, forget about blaming others, and move. That is resilience.

The study found that some have a tougher time and may need counseling and medication to get through. There are a few individuals, however, who actually have post-traumatic growth. They, too, first experience depression and anxiety, but within a year they are actually better off than they were before the trauma, crisis, or challenge.

These were the people I needed to learn from, and so do you if you’re in leadership, a business owner, or an entrepreneur because you’ve also faced your share of challenges. If you have mental toughness, you will learn from your experiences so you are stronger than when you started. 

Mental toughness is managing our emotions, thoughts, and behavior in ways that set us up for success.

Here are 3 tips on how you can use mental toughness to help get you through any challenge:

1. THINK ABOUT YOUR CHALLENGE DIFFERENTLY

Soldiers who experienced a crisis or trauma were able to reframe the trauma in such a way that they could extract meaning from it.

Although they are able to reinterpret their situation, it is not blind optimism or disingenuous positive thinking that creates the change. The suffering is real; the difference is that they use positivity as a mental framework for turning their suffering into achievement and self-improvement.

ACTION: Post-traumatic growth does not mean you will be free of the memories or grief. If you try to put your life back together and pretend that nothing has happened, you’ll remain fractured and vulnerable. But if you accept the breakage, you can cultivate growth within yourself, become more resilient, and open to new ways of living.

2. USE DIFFERENT LANGUAGE WHEN TALKING ABOUT YOUR CHALLENGE

Mental toughness in the face of crisis and trauma is not simply about coping; it is intentionally choosing to change the way your see yourself and the challenge you are experiencing. It is not choosing to be a victim.

It is estimated that we say between 300 to 1000 words to ourselves per minute. If we speak positively to ourselves, we can over ride fear, worry, and anxiety when faced with adversity or trauma. Emotions are processed by the limbic brain system.

Brain imaging has shown that negative emotions interfere with the brain’s ability to solve problems and other cognitive functions.

ACTION: Since the brain responds so powerfully to negative emotions, you must intentionally choose positive thoughts to interrupt the brain’s tendency toward negativity.

3. SHARE YOUR CHALLENGE TO DEVELOP DEEPER RELATIONSHIPS 

People who experience post traumatic growth are able to do so only when they deepen their relationships with others. Their depth and appreciation for those relationships is extraordinary.

Soldier Fitness programs have identified these key areas as essential for resilience and post traumatic growth:

  1. Re-connecting with families, relatives, friends, co-workers, and neighbors. Positive growth from trauma is nurtured by supportive relationships.
  2. Volunteering, in whatever capacity, to ease the pain and suffering of the general population. The benefit we receive when helping others is as great as the feelings of wellbeing from those we help.
  3. Asking help from other people when everything seems insurmountable. This is the time to let go of individualistic attitude in favor of collective efforts.
  4. Turning to one’s faith as a source of solace and comfort. Numerous studies have discovered that religious and spiritual activities can moderate depression and stress.

ACTION: You are stronger than you think you are. Remember to focus on how to change your emotions, thoughts, and behavior when a challenge or adversity comes your way.

Consider the words of Warren Buffett in a recent Wall Street Journal article: “The truth is, everything that has happened in my life… that I thought was a crushing event at the time, has turned out for the better.

How have you turned a crushing event or challenge in your life into something for the better?

© 2016 LaRaeQuy. All rights reserved.

You can follow me on Twitter

Get my FREE 45-Question Mental Toughness Assessment

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 Ways To Train Your Mind To Think Like A Winner

March 13th, 2016 by LaRae Quy

One of the first things I learned as an FBI Agent was that to be successful, I would need to think like a winner.

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When pulling a gun to make an arrest, there is no room for error—not only did I need to be right, I needed to come out on the winning side.

My state of mind directly impacted my performance. I needed to be mindful, in the present moment, and in complete control of what was surging through my thoughts even if I was nervous, stressed and under pressure.

Thinking like a winner is not rocket science; it sounds easy, but many entrepreneurs and business owners fail to do this because they are not consciously aware of their thoughts.

Without awareness of what we are thinking, we cannot control where the mind goes—and as we all know, the mind can sometimes have a life of its own.

Here are 5 ways to train your mind to think like a winner:

1. Run The Show To Think Like A Winner

Run the show by controlling your thoughts, rather than letting your thoughts control you.

To do this, you will need to become more connected to them throughout your day. Controlling our thought process isn’t as easy as it sounds because we don’t notice how little control we have over the way our mind thinks. One thought follows another, and out of habit, we let our subconscious take us through most of the day.

We have arrived at where we are today because our thoughts have brought us here, but where we end up tomorrow depends a great deal on where our thoughts take us.

Meditation is an excellent way move out of your subconscious and be an observer of your own thoughts, even the ones that frighten you.

WHAT THIS MEANS FOR YOU:

As an investigator, I learned to continually question my assumptions about almost everything! But by doing so, I trained my mind to be alert about everything going on around me.

Move out of your subconscious by intentionally choosing to observe, question, challenge, or dismiss new pieces of information that come your way.

2. Stimulate Your Mind To Think Like A Winner

Introducing humor and playing with ideas are both extremely stimulating. If we train our brain to seek out new information, we no longer need to rely upon our external circumstances to provide mental stimulation.

This can be extremely important when we’re in a situation where we feel trapped or immobilized.

WHAT THIS MEANS FOR YOU:

My fellow FBI agents frequently used humor to defray tense and stressful situations. Humor helps our mind change the way it views our stressors. Laughter is a physical response that relaxes us.

By training your mind to be playful, it will make it easier to take in new information from outside your current situation and then use this new information to help you think through problems.

3. Visualize Your Success To Think Like A Winner

The benefits of visioning our performance is based on solid science. The very act of giving our brain a detailed portrait of our end goal ensures the release of dopamine, a powerful mental toughness tool to steer us toward success.

Dopamine is the chemical that becomes active when we encounter situations that are linked to rewards from the past. It enables us to not only see rewards, but to move toward those rewards.

A Harvard study has demonstrated that our brain cannot tell the difference between a visualized image and reality.

WHAT THIS MEANS FOR YOU:

Defensive tactics was an exercise in visualization because we were taught how to anticipate the movements of a person avoiding arrest. By visualizing what could go wrong, we prepared ourselves to be successful.

You can do the same thing: if you have a speaking engagement or a meeting, visualize what you will say and how you will say it.

4. Tap Into Your Inner Self To Think Like A Winner

Vicktor Frankl, a Holocaust and concentration camp survivor, described the source of his strength under extreme adversity. Frankl concludes that the most important trait of survivors is a strong sense of doing their best in all circumstances, while not being primarily concerned with advancing their own interests.

The actions of the survivors are motivated by an inner voice that taps into their sense of purpose—not by their external conditions. They had the mental toughness to keep moving ahead, regardless of their circumstances.

WHAT THIS MEANS FOR YOU:

While the FBI is not a touchy-feely group of people, they are able to tap into their purpose and passion—it’s what motivates them to chase terrorists and other criminals.

If your only goal is to make money and buy more stuff, you are thinking liking a loser, not a winner. You are one of the narcissistic people who fall apart when external conditions turn threatening because you are only intrinsically motivated to help yourself. 

5. Get Specific Sooner To Think Like A Winner

Getting specific requires us to:

  1. Prioritize and make choices.
  2. Identify our unique message
  3. Become a master of a few things instead of a “know it all.”
  4. Be humble about the things in which we are not an expert
  5. Foster gratitude for the things in which we do excel

WHAT THIS MEANS FOR YOU:

The shotgun approach works only if you are not sure of your options, but a laser focused approach is what will yield the best results once a decision is made.

Smart people specify, prioritize, and focus on specific opportunities that they know will most likely lead to their success. These 5 steps outlined above are embedded in common sense and validated by top notch research and science. Discovering how to make them work for you is your own secret to success.

Training your mind to think like a winner is not always easy, and like anything else, it takes practice.

How have your trained yourself to think like a winner?

© 2016 LaRaeQuy. All rights reserved.

You can follow me on Twitter

Get my FREE 45-Question Mental Toughness Assessment

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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The Positive Side Of Negative Thinking

March 6th, 2016 by LaRae Quy

I grew up in a family that survived by preparing for the worst: blizzards, drought, broken fences, and the threat of wildfire. There was a positive side to this negative thinking—as ranchers who made a living by raising cattle, we kept them fed, watered, and safe from Wyoming’s fierce winters and suffocatingly hot summers.

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I remember Dad always anticipating the worst possible outcome as the severe seasons rolled by so he could prepare, and land on his feet when confronted with the unknown.

As an FBI agent, we planned arrests by giving priority to what could go wrong. We were not optimists who hoped everything would go according to plan.

Both my Dad and my fellow FBI agents were intelligent thinkers who were mentally tough. That is, they weighed the possibility of a negative outcome with equal heft as the possibility of a positive outcome.

Intelligent thinking is another term for positive thinking. Let me be clear—positivity is not optimism that always expects things to change for the better, nor is it pessimism that always assumes the worst will happen.

It is often as difficult for optimists to be positive thinkers as it is for pessimists. Positive thinking is not denying the contribution of negative thinking. In fact, it’s wise to prepare for the worst that could happen in business and life.

The term “positive thinking,” however, has been polluted by the relentless cheer of motivational speakers who pressure their audience by goading them to stamp out all traces of negativity.

While this approach seems to be popular with some audiences, it’s not a particularly sophisticated—or realistic—approach to life.

Mental toughness is not being afraid of negativity; instead, it is learning how to harness its power so it works for you.

Here are 5 ways negative thinking can make you a positive thinker:

1. Be A Positive Thinker By Accepting Your Negative Emotions

Observe all of your emotions and sensations as they come to the surface—not just the feel-good ones. Do not try to suppress a negative emotion simply because it’s negative. Be honest about what you are feeling.

TIP: Acknowledge all of your emotions and try not to judge them as being positive or negative. Then let them pass. The key is to not dwell on those emotions which are counterproductive or undesirable.

2. Be A Positive Thinker By Embracing the Possibility of Failure

The all-positive approach of motivational speakers is relentless in its pursuit of perfection. The more realistic approach of positivity, on the other hand, does not reject failure. In fact, positive thinkers embrace failure as a challenge—a call to action to keep moving forward.

TIP: Do not give up and walk away, searching for something easier at which you will finally succeed. If achieving this goal is important to you, continue to approach the problem, but from different angles while at the same time honing your talents and skills.

3. Be A Positive Thinker By Looking for Positive Options

Positive thinking is embracing the reality of a negative outcome in a situation, but continually looking for and finding the positive options that every situation offers.

Thoughts are stubborn; once you let them take hold and grow roots, it is very difficult to erase them from your mind. Whatever grabs your attention rules your life. So, you need to control your thinking.

Researchers confirm that the very thing your mind focuses on is the same thing that you will start to notice in your daily life.

Your survival instinct has warned you of the possible negative outcome; now, you need to counter that warning with a positive response that will prepare you as you move toward the obstacle.

TIP: Recognize the negative aspects of your situation, but don’t dwell on them. Turn your attention to the positive options available to you.

4. Be A Positive Thinker By Believing You Can Prevail

Positivity is believing we can prevail in our situation, regardless of the circumstances. Prisoners of war and Navy SEALS have found that their belief in their own ability to prevail in extreme and adverse conditions is what kept them alive.

Survival, in one form or another, is at the heart of mental toughness. It is prevailing over our circumstances and moving forward.

TIP: When things look tough, you will need to have the grit to be persistent and understand that failure is not the end—it simply represents another way to approach our situation.

5. Be A Positive Thinker By Differentiating Between Visioning and Fantasy

Visioning is based on solid science. By visioning our performance repeatedly, our brain stores that information as a success. And with each success, our brain releases a neurotransmitter called dopamine. This is the chemical that becomes active when we encounter situations that are linked to rewards from the past.

Use your dopamine not only to see rewards, but to move toward them.

Dreams can easily turn into fantasies if we let our thoughts get out of control, and fantasies can actually lessen our chance for success. Those who are adamant optimists about a positive future will experience a greater shock when things go wrong. If people fantasize only positive beliefs about their future, they are less prepared and more stressed when things don’t workout they way they had hoped.

TIP: For you to be a leader, you must see things as they really are. Then see them the way you can make them better.

Mental toughness is not just surviving through tough times, it is thriving, and not letting the environment control your thinking. Don’t pretend the negative aspects of your situation don’t exist, but don’t dwell on them. Instead, believe you will prevail by looking for, and finding, positive options.

What suggestions do you have for learning how to harness the power of negativity?

© 2016 LaRaeQuy. All rights reserved.

You can follow me on Twitter

Get my FREE 45-Question Mental Toughness Assessment

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 Successful People Never Blame Others

February 28th, 2016 by LaRae Quy

As a young adult looking for the perfect job, I wanted to blame others for why my life wasn’t spectacularly successful.

Success - finger pointing

It was always someone else’s fault—not recognizing my potential, not giving me a chance, not giving me a second (or third) chance.

I became an FBI agent at the age of 25 but I still balked at taking full responsibility for my actions, whined when things didn’t go my way, and pointed fingers at someone else when things went south.

This attitude was challenged the first day of my training at the FBI Academy. I was there to learn lessons. And once I learned a lesson I moved on the next one. The pieces shifted into place when I realized that if I failed to learn a lesson, I needed to keep finding opportunities to learn it again and again until it stuck.

For entrepreneurs and business owners, it means having the mental toughness you need to get through the failures and hard times, without giving up or blaming others for your situation.

Here are 5 reasons why successful people never blame others:

REASON #1: When You Don’t Blame Others You Become Resilient

The FBI Academy and my first couple of years as a field agent quickly knocked these negative traits out of my system because to be successful, agents need to be resilient.

To be resilient is to recognize that if you are dissatisfied with certain aspects of your life, then it is your responsibility to take the initiative and do something about it.

TIP: Take responsibility for your actions—stop whining, blaming others, and pointing fingers if you don’t get what you want.

REASON #2: When You Don’t Blame Others You Become More Confident

Lack of confidence in ourselves and our abilities is a major reason we blame others when something goes wrong.

Instead of being open or curious about learning more, a part of us shuts down. Sometimes we blame ourselves as much as blaming others. Focusing on why we failed at something does nothing more than chip away at our confidence; instead, dig down and uncover what we can learn from the experience.

TIP: Consciously and deliberately move into an exploratory frame of mind that is more curious about learning than shameful of making mistakes.

REASON #3: When You Don’t Blame Others You Stop Making Excuses For Yourself

Blaming others for our own actions is nothing more than making excuses for ourselves. In the process, we will have learned nothing from what has transpired and so the lesson inevitably will have to be learned again…and on it goes.

Stop blaming others for what you have or don’t have, or for what you feel or don’t feel.  When you blame others for what you’re going through, you deny responsibility and perpetuate the problem. Blaming is just another sorry excuse, and making excuses is the first step towards failure; you and only you are responsible for your life choices and decisions.

When we blame others, we give away our power.

Often, our thinking is caught up in blame and dealing with the pain of our thoughts and what it all means rather than simply and quickly doing what we need to do.

TIP: Start to question your thoughts and probe deeper into why you default to “blaming others.” Ask yourself, “Is this really true?” Often you will find the basis of those thought are just plain silly! The key is to question your thinking because once you do, you often discover that what you think you believe really isn’t true at all.

REASON #4: When You Don’t Blame Others You Allow Space For Personal Growth

Too many of us spend so much of our time on going through the motions of living—getting married, buying homes, climbing the corporate ladder—that we don’t focus on personal growth. We do not allocate enough time just for ourselves.

Instead of concentrating on what others did wrong, focus on what you want to go right in your life. And then do it.

Grit up. Be. Fiercely. Awesome!

If you don’t, you will wake up some day and realize that you are no closer to being the person you want to be than you were years ago. You will find that you’ve aged, but never grown into your potential.

TIP: Realize that the next step in living a life full of value and meaning for you will not reveal itself in the future—it is to be taken now

REASON #5: When You Blame Others You Become The Victor, Not the Victim

When you feel the victim, you gain power over the situation by blaming other people for your situation.

Loss of control over one’s life is always associated with feelings of helplessness. There is a very clear link between mental toughness and the way we approach our helplessness.

If we believe a situation is permanent, we’ll remain helpless—we think about our lack of talent, ability, etc—and believe nothing we can do will change it.

But if we believe the cause is temporary, we can act to change it. We feel more in control if we believe we have a possible solution at hand.

TIP: With each problem you face, you can learn a new skill or new fact.

Why do you think you blame others?

© 2016 LaRaeQuy. All rights reserved.

You can follow me on Twitter

Get my FREE 45-Question Mental Toughness Assessment

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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Bulls**t Excuses Holding Women Leaders Back

February 20th, 2016 by LaRae Quy

One of the most formative moments in my childhood came when my dad told me to saddle up my horse Sugar and ride with him to help Uncle Bob move several hundred of cattle to Bear Creek.

Women leaders

We lived on a cattle ranch in Wyoming and I felt certain that, since I was a girl, my brother would be the one chosen to trail cattle and I’d be left behind peeling potatoes with mom. Smug with joy, I rode out of the corral, tossed the potato peeler at my brother as I passed by, and sat tall in the saddle.

It was a day that changed my life because I had stolen a glimpse into a future where I didn’t have to listen to bulls#*t excuses that could hold me, and other women leaders, back.

Here are four:

1. Caving In To Stereotypes

Somewhere on that ride to Uncle Bob’s ranch, I understood that I didn’t have to be held prisoner to a stereotype—no staying behind with the women and swapping double-crust pies recipes for me. I was a cowboy—I mean, a cowgirl. A few years later, I became an FBI agent. If I thought the world of cowboys was full of stereotypes, I came across a few more in the masculine-dominated world of law enforcement.

My philosophy was this: someone stupid enough to rely on stereotypes is stupid enough to make really stupid mistakes.

Wait long enough and they’ll step in something fresh and sticky—coming from a cattle ranch, I could smell it a mile away.

Stereotypes are one of those ugly phrases that are freighted with negative connotations. But unconsciously, we make excuses for ourselves that are based on nothing more than stereotypes we’ve cultivated about ourselves.

For example, whenever we adopt a self-limiting belief, we’ve placed ourselves into a “category” and often refuse to move beyond it.

2. Get The Real Scoop On Women’s Intuition

As a female, I’ve always wondered whether such a thing as “women’s intuition” really exists. More than once I’ve been told that I have this particular feminine gift but I never knew how to respond—because although it was meant as a compliment, it always rang a little false.

A few years back, Professor of Psychology at the University of Texas, William Ickes, began a series of mind reading studies. He expected to find that women leaders would be more intuitive in understanding other people’s thoughts and feelings. Ickes and his team were surprised, however, to find no difference between the men and women they tested.

Just as they were thinking of throwing “women’s intuition” into the myth pile, they did three studies in a row where women leaders scored significantly higher than the men. This left Ickes scratching his head so they went back and took a closer look at what had changed.

As it turns out, in the last three studies the research team had started the study by stating that women, according to the women’s intuition stereotype, would excel.

Once the women leaders understood they would be rated on their intuition, they tried harder to live up to that stereotype, and this is the thing—they did perform higher than the men.

Studies like those conducted by Ickes and his team suggest that it’s not that men are poor mind readers, they’re just unmotivated ones. Women, on the other hand, are motivated by the positive stereotype of women’s intuition. It becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy!

3. Let Go Of What Happened In The Past

The only time you need to look back is to see how far you’ve come.

Recognize that your recollection of the past is not always accurate; our memories are fallible. 

Our memory does not store information exactly as it’s presented to us. Instead, we extract the gist of the experience and store it in ways that makes the most sense to us. That’s why different people witnessing the same event often have different versions.

Learn from past mistakes—turn your ghosts into ancestors that make you who you are today!

4. There Is No Such Thing As “Too Late”

It is never too late to become the person you were meant to be, and live the life you were meant to live.

If you’re not on the right course, change course—the sooner, the better. There is no age limit on starting anew, and settling for a life that is mediocre is a tragic end to the only story your life will ever tell.

Successful women leaders reinvent themselves regularly as new opportunities pop up and they set new goals for themselves. They have the initiative to try new things, even scary ones, rather than remain in a rut that looks more and more like a coffin everyday.

Live a life you are proud of by finding the courage to make the changes you need to make.

I have always believed that people—both women and men—can achieve what they desire if they are motivated. There is a new generation of women leaders in the workplace who are more confident than the women who came before them. They’ve been told they can accomplish anything they put their mind to.

That’s a stereotype I can live with.

Men and women leaders—what stereotypes have you busted through to get where you are?

© 2016 LaRaeQuy. All rights reserved.

You can follow me on Twitter

Get my FREE 45-Question Mental Toughness Assessment

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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What Successful People Know About Failure

February 14th, 2016 by LaRae Quy

When I was ten years old, I was riding my black quarter horse  and helping my grandmother cut a horned bull from the cattle  herd. The bull  suddenly turned, horns first, and charged my  horse. I grabbed the saddle  horn; my horse pivoted on his  back hooves and we got away unharmed.  My first attempt was a failure, but I still needed to  find a way to get the bull corralled….

Success - biker

There is one thing you never say to a grandmother who  has ammo on her  Christmas list: “I can’t.”

My grandmother was a mentally tough woman who never used the word quit or accepted defeat. No matter how difficult the situation, she kept trying.

Nothing grabs our attention like failure. For me, as a ten year old kid, failure meant I was not successful in getting the bull into the corral. Like most people, I defined failure as lack of success.

This attitude is not only antiquated, it is dangerous—because failure is an important learning tool for the brain.

Successful leaders, entrepreneurs, and small business owners all know that understanding how to deal with failure is part of the job. They know they don’t make bad decisions; they just have bad results.

Here are 5 things you need to know about failure and actions you can take:

1. Feed The Brain, It’s Starving

A child learns to walk by falling down; scientists experiment to identify what doesn’t work so it can be eliminated from future experiments. Learning is error-driven.

The limbic brain system has kept us safe for centuries because it pays more attention to negative information that could be perceived as a threat. It taught cavemen to GET lunch, and not BE lunch. This “negativity bias” is what drives learning since negative information gets the brain’s attention faster than positive information.

Failure forces us to integrate new information, and researchers have found the bigger the failure, the more we learn. The brain, you might say, feeds on failure.

2. Whip Back the Monster Called Ego

To the unconscious mind, being successful means being worthy. At the deepest level, success means we are worthy of being loved. And being loved is what matters to us most.

Failure reinforces a belief that we don’t have what it takes to make it in the world. While we don’t welcome them, failures remind us that we are not the center of the universe. If we really think about our experiences, we can see that there are factors beyond our control—indeed, factors that have nothing at all to do with us.

Failure humbles us, and this can be a good thing:

  • Humility is not thinking less of yourself, but rather thinking about yourself less.
  • Humility reminds us that we’re no more important than anyone else.
  • Humility reminds us that no amount of success we’ve had in the past guarantees success in the future.
  • Humility reminds us that it’s not about us.
  • Humility reminds us that each individual on this planet matters.
  • Humility makes us more authentic, which breeds trust.
  • Humility makes us better professionals, better leaders, and better human beings.

3. Keep Grasping for What is Out of Reach

Since we are imperfect creatures, there will always be a gap between what we are and what we can be. Our fear of failure can help us succeed because it sparks our desire to grasp what is just beyond our reach.

This is great motivation for leaders and businesses because failure can create the spark, the inspiration for great achievements.

Our struggle with our own failings can, ironically, bring out the best in us.

4. Explore the Unknown and Make New Discoveries

Psychologist B.F. Skinner once said that when you try something new and produce a result that was not what you expected (i.e. failure), drop everything and study it further because failure can be the portal for a new discovery.

Roy Plunkett, a chemist at DuPont, set out to invent a new refrigerant. Instead, he created a glob of white waxy material that conducted heat and did not stick to surfaces. Fascinated by this “unexpected” material, he abandoned his original line of research and experimented with this interesting material, which eventually became known by its household name—Teflon.

5. Shed Light on Blind Spots

Psychologists find that we tend to repeat the same mistake, and repeat it in endless variety. That is the definition of a blind spot.

Failures are incredibly valuable because they allow us to analyze our performance, and when we do, we identity those patterns of behavior that do not keep moving us forward. Unfortunately, “teachable moments” are usually accompanied by feelings of frustration, disappointment, and embarrassment.

The leaders at Google know something very important about failure; they not only celebrate failure, they budget for it and it’s potential insight. Employees can spend 20 percent of each workday on their own projects even though 80 percent of Google ventures fail.

If people want big success, failure comes with the territory.

BTW, I knew my horse spooked the bull so, like my grandmother, I refused to accept defeat and tried something different: I got off and stood in front of him. The bull swung his head so hard, snot flung from side to side. He eventually turned around and wandered in the direction of the corral. I followed, leading my horse. I did get the bull corralled in the end.

How has failure made you a better leader, entrepreneur, or small business owner?

© 2016 LaRaeQuy. All rights reserved.

You can follow me on Twitter

Get my FREE 45-Question Mental Toughness Assessment

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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