How Women Stay Strong At Work: Create New Rules

September 14th, 2014 by LaRae Quy
This entry is part 1 of 1 in the series How Women Stay Strong At Work

When I was assigned the crappy counterintelligence cases no one else on my squad wanted, I decided to be mentally tough and take matters into my own hands by submitting an undercover proposal to FBI Headquarters.

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I knew if I sat there and played by the established rules, I’d never get past the roadblocks in front of me—I was both a female and a rookie.

FBI Headquarters loved the proposal because it was fresh, and different from the tired formula that had been used so many times before by the other male agents on my squad. 

People approach obstacles in both business and life in one of two different ways—insight or analysis. I had used insight to find a way around the barrier in front of me.

1. INSIGHT

 

  • Insight is fluid because it is primarily based upon observation.
  • Often referred to as intuition, it is the ability to be comfortable with few facts, few rules, and few constraints.
  • It encourages an open mind that looks for both cause and effect.
  • Allows you to see the problem in a new way, connect the problem to other relevant data, release past experiences that are blocking the solution, and view the problem in a larger, coherent context.

 

The insightful or instinctive method is more effective when people approach unique barriers or roadblocks and new learning is required.

2. ANALYSIS

 

  • Analysis involves finding solutions through deliberation and methodical trial and error.
  • It relies upon our ability to “think” or use our cognitive functions to push through adversity, problems, and stumbling blocks that are in front of us.
  • It requires focused attention that follow rules.
  • People who approach obstacles from an analytical point of view tend to seek out more visual information.

 

The analytical method of solving problems works well when there are tried and true formulas and where new methodology is not needed.

When women leaders face roadblocks and obstacles at work that can not be overcome by traditional approaches, often they need mental toughness to challenge the status quo by creating new rules that are innovative and effective. 

Do not be afraid to break the rules or established ways of viewing the world. Here are 4 tips:

 

TIP #1 Create An Open Mindset

This means allowing your attention to wander and noticing new possibilities. You will gather a broad base of information by being curious about all aspects of your situation, not just your own interpretation of them.

Science has shown that when you blur your attention focus, your prefrontal cortex calms down. This makes it easier to ask questions like “how”, “why”, and “if.”

TIP #2 Consider Alternatives

Rigid ways of thinking about a problem, roadblock, or obstacle will not help you move out of your rut. If it was that easy, someone else would have already found a way to do it.

 

TIP #3 Slow Down Your Cognitive Thinking

Instead of thinking about ways to solve the problem or overcome the obstacle, spend time observing—yourself, the situation, and the people around you.

When trying to break through a barrier, carefully study your environment to see which approaches work, and which ones do not.

Since you are not re-inventing the wheel, you  have the option of slowing down your thinking and take in the results of how others have overcome adversity in your environment so you can learn from them.

 

TIP #4 Abandon Strict Rules

Forget what you think might or might not work. Be flexible. Place fewer restrictions on your thoughts and behavior. Think outside the box!

How have you created new rules when confronted with obstacles or barriers?

© 2014 LaRaeQuy. All rights reserved.

 

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Use Mental Strength To Raise Your Emotional Intelligence

September 7th, 2014 by LaRae Quy

As an FBI agent, I was trained to size up a person with just a glance. But here is a secret—you can too, because humans have an amazing capacity to process complex information.

Emotional Intelligence - lots of happy faces

Our brain has an amazing ability to bring order out of chaos and place people, words, and behavior into patterns that make sense to sense to us. Below is a paragraph that raced across the Internet a few years back:

Aoccdrnig to a rscheearch at Cmabrigde Uinervtisy, it deosn’t mttaer in waht oredr the ltteers in a wrod are, the olny iprmoetnt tihng is taht the frist and lsat ltteer be at the rghit pclae. The rset can be a toatl mses and you can sitll raed it wouthit porbelm. Tihs is bcuseae the huamn mnid deos not raed ervey lteter by istlef, but the wrod as a wlohe.

Brains have an attention filter that helps us find patterns in information so we know what to pay attention to and what we can safely ignore. In the caveman days, it helped us be alert to predators; in the information age, however, the amount of data that assaults our brain on a daily basis is staggering.

Studies suggest that we now receive five times as much information as we did in 1986. Every day the average person produces six newspapers worth of information compared with just two and a half pages 24 years ago—a 200% increase.

All of this information is competing for resources in your brain, whether it’s important data like medical information and financial updates, trivia updates on sports and hobbies, or emotions like anger and love.

As a leader, do not forget that your emotions originate in your brain alongside your intellect and thoughts. Since the processing ability of your conscious mind is limited, your brain’s attention filter plays a crucial role in seeking out emotional patterns that are important to you. 

Here are 4 ways you can raise your emotional intelligence:

 

1. BEWARE OF ALWAYS LOOKING FOR THE BIG PICTURE IN LIFE

You can use mental strength to be emotionally intelligent if you remember that your brain’s ability to focus on the “big picture” stuff in life can leave you missing important details.

Self-awareness is getting to know the small, but important details about your own life.

When you’re asked about who you are, you probably provide details such date of birth, place of birth, address, employment, and social security number. Truth is, that is nothing more than a legal description. 

To answer from a place of self-awareness indicates you’ve done a lot more work—digging down and excavating the significance of your own stories and experiences to uncover the hidden jewels of your personality, and not being satisfied with statistics put down on a piece of paper.

 

2. MOVE ON FROM THOSE TIRESOME KNEE-JERK RESPONSES

You can use mental strength to be emotionally intelligent if you choose which responses that you want to be stronger and more dominant.

As you become aware of your decisions, choices, and habits, you can identify the ones that produce the best results. Each time you act out of anger, you strengthen your mind’s anger response; the only way to stop this negative pattern of behavior is to recognize it as an emotion that does not produce the best results for you.

Similarly, if you act out of kindness you will strengthen your mind’s kindness response.

As you become more aware of which of your responses are triggering the better choices for you, you empower yourself. If you are not aware, negative responses will tend to perpetuate themselves and you’ll most likely find yourself repeating them—even though they are not productive.

 

3. LET GO OF THE CRAP THAT IS HOLDING YOU BACK

You can use mental strength to be emotionally intelligent if you let go of addictions, negative emotions, and fear-based behaviors. 

As you get to know yourself, you will learn how to replace them with actions that are based on principles, values, and strengths. This is the essence of an empowered leader with mental strength.

 

4. LET EMOTIONAL INTELLIGENCE EMPOWER YOU

You can use mental strength to be emotionally intelligent if

 

  1. You live for a higher purpose – empowerment is wise and discerning.
  2. You nurture yourself and others – empowerment is compassion.
  3. You develop your skills and set an example for others – empowerment places value on people.
  4. You let go of the past and are renewed by your experiences – empowerment is forgiving and uses everything in life for growth and renewal.
  5. You observe yourself and others without judgment or expectations – empowerment is engaged with reality and the richness of the world
  6. You believe in yourself and trust in the goodness of life – empowerment is courage to deal with life under all circumstances.
  7. You celebrate your existence and share your happiness – empowerment is happy to add the richness of experience with everyone.

Emotional intelligence empowers leaders because it allows them to dig deep within themselves and lead from a place of mental strength and strong heart.

© 2014 LaRaeQuy. All rights reserved.

 

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How Ego Can Help You Become More Successful

August 31st, 2014 by LaRae Quy

While we all wrestle with ego, I am someone who feeds on being acknowledged for my achievement and performance. As such, image has always been very important to me.

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Working FBI undercover assignments was a natural transition for me because my ego thrived on changing my image so I could pick and choose my special mask of success.

As with many things, moderation is important to ego. Too much ego can be detrimental to your success. Left unchecked ego can spiral out of control and become self-centered. 

Successful leaders use mental strength to rein in their ego and keep it from alienating those around them. They pick and choose when to let their ego benefit their performance and use it—just enough, at the right moments, to make a difference.

Here are four reasons successful leaders need a healthy ego:

 

1. IT DRIVES THEM TO SUCCEED

Ego is essential to success because it will drive you to always be your best.

Psychiatrist Michael Maccoby provided an insightful analysis of people who are driven by ego and image in his book, The Gamesman. Here is an excerpt:

They are cooperative but competitive; detached and playful but compulsively driven to succeed. Their main goal is to be known as a winner and their deepest fear is to be labeled a loser.”

Does this describe you or someone you know?

So, Jeremiah, if you’re worn out in this footrace with men, what makes you think you can race against horses? If you can’t keep your wits during times of calm, what’s going to happen when trouble breaks loose?”—Jeremiah 12:5, The Message

 

2. THEIR INSPIRATION IS CONTAGIOUS

Ego is essential to success because it leads to truly believe that everything you do is important.

When ego is influencing your emotions, behavior, and thinking, you will be incredibly enthusiastic about ideas that are important to you. Team members will walk away from a conversation with you saying, “Wow, this is exciting—what an opportunity!”

If one mark of leadership is the ability to generate enthusiasm about goals or ideas, then your ego can be incredibly helpful to you.

 

3. PERFORMANCE ALWAYS ROCKS

Ego is essential for success because it motivates you to perform.

This means not only working hard yourself, but finding ways to genuinely motivate others around you.

The techniques that are commonly used are flattery, forming strategic alliances (my personal favorite), trading favors, and—manipulation. You may not feel comfortable owning up to using manipulation as a form of motivation, but let’s face it—influencing people to perform by pushing their buttons is effective leadership.

As we know, manipulation can be used in negative ways, but if we are pushing people toward a goal that will benefit them as well as you, your performance will rock.

 

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

Ego is essential to success because it understands how image influences the way others perceive you.

People have an image of what a successful FBI Agent should look like. Well-pressed suit, white shirt, athletic—and male. Nothing succeeds like the appearance of success. 

As a female FBI agent, I quickly learned that a successful image was just as important for me as it was for my male counterparts. My ego became caught up in how my image would impact my success.

Fair or not, perception is reality—this is why slick advertisements work so well. The ego learns early that one of the most effective ways to impress others is by looking good while performing to get attention and acknowledgement. 

At a young age, I instinctively knew that ego, image, and success were about more than clothes. I learned to dress up my personality as well because I wanted to do whatever it took to succeed.

Ego is essential to our success only if we use mental toughness to control, use, and apply it so that it benefits our performance as leaders.

When has your ego been essential in your success?

© 2014 LaRaeQuy. All rights reserved.

 

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4 Ways Negative Thoughts Are Holding You Back

August 24th, 2014 by LaRae Quy

I grew up very poor. My parents were hard working cattle ranchers in a remote area of Wyoming. There was no money to pay a hired hand, so my brother and I started helping out with chores at the age of 6.

Adversity - give up!

By the age of 8, I could stack bales of hay, grease the baler, and move a hundred head of cows into another pasture.

As a girl, I was expected to marry and start a family, not pursue a career. The standing joke was that college was for young women looking for an MRS degree. After all, higher education was not needed to work on a ranch.

Indeed, no one else in my family had attended college and aspirations ran no further than finding a steady job that could support a family in rural Wyoming. Many of my relatives failed to even graduate from high school.

I grew up hearing these self-limiting messages that looked at life in negative terms of what I couldn’t do rather than in positive terms of what I could accomplish.

There were times when the negativity of others threatened to sabotage my own efforts to move beyond my circumstances.

I had the support of my parents to pursue a college degree, and I learned many lessons from them, not the least of which is that there are no guarantees in life, so you might as well take a chance on doing what you love.

Here are 4 ways negative thoughts can hold you back from living the life you want:

 

1. YOU WERE TOLD BY PEOPLE WITH AUTHORITY THAT YOU CAN ONLY GO SO FAR

Negative thoughts holding you back often find their origins in childhood when adults and other authority figures tell you that you will never become what you aspire to be—a teacher, doctor, or engineer. The implication is clear: you do not have the mental strength to move out of your circumstances.

For me, those circumstances had deep roots in poverty, tradition, and a culture that distrusted anything different or unfamiliar

Even though my parents supported my decision to go to college, other people in my community wondered if I thought I was “too good” to stick it out where I’d been born and raised. 

It’s tempting to give up and not try for anything beyond the predictions and admonitions of others. While many of these people are well-intentioned, they feed negative, limiting, and inaccurate narratives about what it possible once you put your mind to it.

 

2. YOU DO NOT WANT TO MOVE OUTSIDE YOUR COMFORT ZONE

Negative thoughts holding you back are trying to keep you in a box, labeling you with an identity that is not necessarily the one you want.

I had a voice playing inside my head that warned me of hidden dangers if I moved beyond what was comfortable and safe. Have you ever heard the same voice?

It’s telling you that it’s OK to never ask for that promotion because you’ll just end up humiliated and disappointed—so why bother?

Listening to this voice may feel comfortable at first, but if we capitulate to it’s dire warnings and avoid going after what is really important to us, we face another voice—the one that tells us we’re a loser, no one loves us, and that we have no worth.

 

3. YOU STILL ACT AND THINK AS YOU DID AS A CHILD

Negative thoughts holding you back find strength in rules established in your past.

All of the self-limiting beliefs I had about myself were formed when I was a child. As I moved toward adulthood, they became stumbling blocks. “When I was a child, I spoke and thought and reasoned as a child. But when I grew up, I put away childish things.” (I Cor. 13:11 NLT)

But putting away beliefs that form the way in which we see ourselves is not easy. 

The defenses we formed as a way to protect ourselves as children often remain in place long after circumstances have changed. Those defenses turn into rules for behavior that we make for ourselves. Often, they are negative thoughts about what we shouldn’t, can’t, or won’t do in life.

Being quiet in our household may have kept us from getting yelled at as a kid, but acting timid as an adult can prevent us from getting to know people at a deeper level.

 

4. YOU ARE PARALYZED BY FEAR

Negative thoughts holding you back are always based in fear. 

Fear held me back from exploring a better life for myself—fear of the unknown, failure, or rejection. I have learned that I’m much more resilient than I ever gave myself credit for being.

When I left the comfortable world of my childhood, I identified the obstacles I would likely face as I struck out on my own, made plans on how to overcome them, drew up Plan B in case I needed a back-up strategy, and reminded myself of how I had faced bigger obstacles at home like striking rattle snakes and charging bulls.

Negative thoughts still rear their ugly head, but I have learned how to not let them hold me back in life.

How have you gotten rid of negative thoughts that threatened to hold you back?

© 2014 LaRaeQuy. All rights reserved.

 

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5 Great Pieces Of Advice About Success

August 17th, 2014 by LaRae Quy

FBI agents are expected to be successful investigators. When a child is kidnapped, success in finding the kidnapper is not a desired outcome; it is a requirement.

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When facing distraught parents, you know deep down that you will do whatever it takes to bring that child home. Success is possible, but it takes mental toughness to sort through the hard facts about what it takes to succeed.

Here are five great pieces of advice to keep in mind about success:

 

 1. SUCCESS REQUIRES AN ABUNDANCE OF WILLPOWER

For years we’ve been told that willpower is limited—it’s best saved for a sprint, not the race.

Psychologist Carol Dweck, author of Mindset, strongly disagrees. She believes that willpower is limited only if we believe it is. We put boundaries around ourselves when we believe willpower is limited.

But if we are mentally strong leaders who believe that if we work hard, we will be energized to work more, then we are creating willpower. 

As FBI agents working on child kidnappings and other crimes, we worked long hours in strenuous conditions and forged ahead to embrace even more challenging activities.

It turns out that willpower is in our head! 

 

2. SUCCESS COMES EASIER IF YOU MAINTAIN A POSITIVE ATTITUDE

We are significantly more productive when we’re feeling positive about our situation, even during tough times. 

One of the most important characteristics of mental toughness is the ability to find positive aspects in the middle of negative situations. Positive thinking does not give up or shut down when we’re hit with an unexpected roadblock. Just the opposite—positivity nudges our brain to seek out more possibilities. We’re smarter and more creative as a result.

Creative thinking was often the difference between success and failure in many of my FBI investigations.

Even pessimists can learn to be positive thinkers. 

For each negative thought you have, write down 5 positive ones to counter it. If you cannot find 5 positive thoughts, write down 5 things for which you are grateful. Do this for several weeks and you will see begin to see changes in your behavior: not only will you connect better with others, you will also manage your stress.

 

3. SUCCESS IS ABOUT FAILING AS MUCH AS WINNING

If we want to be successful, we must learn how to fail.

Another way to build mental toughness is saying “yes” to situations where you know there is a likelihood you will fail. FBI training continually put new agents in situations where failure was imminent. 

This may seem counterintuitive to anyone who strives to be successful—after all, why would you intentionally place yourself in a situation where you might make a mistake or fail? 

There are three reasons: 

  1. Success comes from stretching yourself toward peak performance. If you do not keep moving into your discomfort zone, you will stop growing. And when that happens, you surround yourself with mediocrity.
  2. Success requires that you analyze and critique your failures because you learn something about yourself that you did not know before. Strong minded leaders allow this knowledge to show them how to be successful next time around.
  3. Success hinges on choosing to put yourself in situations where you will fail or come up short so you’ll be aware of your reaction. This is incredibly important in today’s volatile work environment since your ability to predict your response to a disruption will allow you to land on your feet, rather than be caught off guard and simply react, and perhaps not in ways that help your leadership move forward.

 

4. SUCCESS IS THE PRODUCT OF HAPPINESS, NOT VICE VERSA

Most us believe just the opposite—that success will bring us happiness, but the reverse is actually true.

Shawn Achor, author of The Happiness Advantage, says that if we work harder to achieve our goal, we think we’ll be happier. But research is clear that every time we experience success, our brain changes the definition of what success means. In essence, success will always be an elusive goal, so if we’re expecting happiness to be the result of our hard work, we’re most likely never going to get there!

Instead, increase levels of happiness in the midst of a challenge, and you will find that your success rate will increase as well. It’s important to remember that joy is a deeper emotion that is connected with well being, living a life of meaning, and living according to values.

A joyful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones—Proverbs 17:22 (ESV)

 

5. SUCCESS REQUIRES A GOOD KICK IN THE BUTT EVERY SO OFTEN

It’s tempting for us to whine and complain when life doesn’t turn out the way we expected or planned. We feel life isn’t fair when we compare ourselves to others.

Here is the bitter pill for you to swallow: what you’re feeling has nothing to do with fairness; it’s all about entitlement.

You have total control over your attitude, so if something is wrong put that mental energy into making the situation better—unless you plan to whine about it forever.

Your words have power, especially over you. Don’t talk about what’s wrong. Talk about how you’ll make things better, even if that conversation is only with yourself. Positive self-talk is a cornerstone in training for Special Forces, FBI agents, and anyone who wants to be successful.

When I stand before God at the end of my life, I would hope that I would not have a single bit of talent left, and could say, “I used everything you gave me”—Erma Bombeck

© 2014 LaRaeQuy. All rights reserved.

 

You can follow me on Twitter

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5 Toxic Beliefs About Perfection That Ruin Careers

August 10th, 2014 by LaRae Quy

I am a recovering perfectionist. I set high goals and beat myself up when I fail to meet the mark. The verbal attacks I’ve unleashed upon myself would be categorized as emotional abuse if they were inflicted by a parent!

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5 Toxic Beliefs About Perfection That Ruin Careers

I’m not the only one who struggles with the toxic and negative messages that our mind produces in the relentless pursuit of perfection.

Great leaders strive to achieve excellence for many reasons. For some, the need for perfection is deeply embedded in a personality type that feels compelled to keep moving toward goals with a high level of integrity. Some are are trained to believe perfection will take them to a high level of success. Still others try to quiet a strong inner critic.

Perfection is seductive because it hints at the promised land; however, it’s more about the ideal than the real when leaders let it sabotage their business and life.

Here are 5 toxic beliefs about perfection that will ruin your career:

 

1. PERFECTION COUNTS MORE THAN COMPETENCY 

Leaders ruin careers when they confuse perfection with competency.

No one expects you to be perfect; they do expect you to be competent. When you lead from a place of competence, you lead from a place of strength. 

Competence alone can’t make you a leader, but being an incompetent leader provides unlimited opportunities for you to be ineffective. Knowing what to do—professional competence—is vital. Being competent doesn’t mean that a leader knows how to do everything, but rather that they know what to do and how to get it done.

Your competence will instill confidence not only in yourself, but in those following you as well.

 

2. PURSUIT OF PERFECTION IS A GOOD USE OF TIME

Leaders ruin careers when they fail to realize that their time is worth money.

Successful people make decisions on how to make the best use of their time. They do not focus on perfection or being the best; instead, they work on doing what is needed to get the job done.

Henry Ford once was quoted as saying: “It has been my observation that most people get ahead during the time that others waste time.”

Do not waste your time trying to be perfect; instead, invest your time in addressing the issues that are creating roadblocks in your path toward success.

 

3. PERFECTION MEANS HAVING ALL THE ANSWERS

Leaders ruin careers by thinking that they need to have all the answers. 

Once you give up the need to have all the answers, you will be able to appreciate the feeling of freedom that comes with it.

As a leader, you don’t need to have all the answers or have superhuman traits. The difference between you being a successful or not so successful leader depends on how you deal with the questions you do not have an answer for. 

Resist the urge to be a perfect know-it-all and step back. Do not be afraid to respond by probing and asking even more questions—but focus on asking the right questions so the answers will lead you closer to finding success.

 

4. PERFECTION IS IMPRESSIVE

Leaders ruin careers by believing that others will be impressed if they turn in perfect performances. 

You do need to be impressive as a leader, but if you rely upon perfection to make those good impressions, you will be living beneath a mask. The reason? When you spend so much time manipulating everyone’s perception of you, you are forfeiting something far more important—your authenticity.

Don’t worry about what others want you to be, or their judgments of you. You know in your heart who you are, what provides meaning and value to you, and where your journey is taking you.

You do not need to be perfect to be impressive. Instead, let others be inspired by the way in which you deal with your imperfections.

 

5. PERFECTION INCREASES CHANCES FOR SUCCESS

Leaders ruin careers when they start believing perfection will lead them to success. 

Often, success is learning on the go so we can pivot to meet new challenges or demands of our environment. The desire for perfection will cripple our need to adapt to fast-moving situations where minds need to remain nimble and flexible. 

The rules of the game change every day, as new information is taken in and processed. Leaders who are mentally strong are constantly moving and adapting until they find something that works.

When the path ahead is not clear, the desire for perfection is a hindrance to eventual success because it impedes a nimble mindset.

I have always found that Mary, mother of Jesus, was a great example of a person with a nimble mind. When the virgin discovers that she is pregnant, all she asks the angel is one simple clarifying question, “How will this be,” Mary asked (Luke 1:34 NIV). 

Not if but how, and then she trusts the how even though it defies logic and pushes the boundaries of her understanding of what can and should happen.

Her example is a one of confidence, grace, and calm—and that is perfect freedom.

What other toxic beliefs about perfection can you add?

© 2014 LaRaeQuy. All rights reserved.

 

You can follow me on Twitter

Sign up for my FREE Mental Toughness Mini-Course

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Most Important Tip For Building Mental Strength—Keep Moving or Die

August 3rd, 2014 by LaRae Quy

While at the FBI Academy, I worked with a coach to help me train for the physical fitness test. After a few weeks, I reached the magic number of 25 pushups and then fizzled. Hard as I tired, I couldn’t move beyond those 25 pushups.

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I was stuck. I had hit a plateau.

Athletes understand that plateaus are normal, as do CEO’s, scientists, and other successful professionals. When we are stalled, we’re often left with the question: what to do next?

The answer to this question matters a lot. Leaders who keep moving often find that the way they  made their way through plateaus ended up teaching them very important lessons about themselves.

The only way to survive when you’re stuck or stalled is simple: keep moving or die.

Here are 5 steps to keep you moving:

 

STEP ONE: TAKE RISKS

Leaders with mental strength keep moving forward by taking on challenges that will help them grow. These challenges are guaranteed to be unpleasant and will push them into their discomfort zone. 

The biggest reason we stay stalled is because we don’t like to fail. We stick with activities and goals that we know we will be successful in achieving. We would rather protect our ego than do something wrong, make a mistake, or be seen as a failure.

To be successful, you must keeping moving or die of mediocrity. There is little or no chance you will move out of your current level of competence or success unless you take a risk and move out of your comfort zone.

 

STEP TWO: EMBRACE THE SUCK FACTOR

Leaders with mental strength know that failing sucks. But if they want to be anything more than mediocre, they also understand they need to give themselves permission to fail. Many times.

Successful leaders do not avoid the things that are hardest for them. Instead, they focus on those areas in which they need to improve. They do not avoid their mistakes or failures—they make the most of mistakes and failures by learning what they have to teach. 

Rather than looking at your failures as a negative thing, look at them as steps toward your success. 

It is your choice as to whether you learn from your mistakes and failures, or if you let them go to waste. 

Never let a good crisis go to waste—Winston Churchill

 

STEP THREE: USE A SCRIPT

Leaders with mental strength who are serious about moving through transitions or breaking through barriers are ready when new opportunities come up. One of the best ways to do this is by writing and practicing their script—they do not just start babbling when opportunity knocks. 

Their preparation gives them both poise and confidence.

You never know when an opportunity to further your career or embark on a new challenge will present itself so be prepared.

Your script is a two-minute speech that summarizes your life, skill set, and aspirations. It is a personalized approach that plays up to your strengths and presented to the person in front of you.

 

STEP FOUR: VISUALIZE YOUR SUCCESS

Leaders with mental strength vision their success when faced with difficult or stressful situations. It helps take them beyond their self-limiting beliefs about themselves and move them beyond their current circumstances. 

Visioning helps open the doors of possibility and opportunity by encouraging you to prepare for meetings by asking yourself: “What questions are likely to come up?” “What objections can I expect?”

Visualize your answers and the way in which you will answer them. The very act of giving your brain a detailed portrait of your end goal ensures the release of dopamine, a powerful mental toughness tool to steer you toward success.

 

STEP FIVE: SURROUND YOURSELF WITH OTHERS WHO ARE GOING THROUGH THE SAME THING

Leaders with mental strength experience the same feelings of demoralization that come with failure and taking risks that everyone else does. That’s why they rebuild their morale by hanging out with others who are experiencing the same situation. They compare notes, trade tips, and remind each other that they are on the right path.

If you want to be a mentally strong leader, you must keep moving forward. If you wait for success to come to you, you will die of mediocrity.

Every morning in Africa, a Gazelle wakes up. It knows it must run faster than the fastest lion or it will be killed. Every morning a Lion wakes up. It knows it must outrun the slowest Gazelle or it will starve to death. It doesn’t matter whether you are a Lion or a Gazelle… when the sun comes up, you’d better be running—African Proverb.

I eventually did move past the 25 pushup plateau, and I did it by visualizing my success.

How do you keep moving toward success?

© 2014 LaRaeQuy. All rights reserved.

 

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7 Reasons You Will Never Become A Mentally Strong Leader

July 27th, 2014 by LaRae Quy

A reporter once asked me whether the FBI provides textbooks for agents to study so they can become mentally strong. The answer is no; FBI agents become mentally strong by facing their situation head-on—no sugarcoating allowed.

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As an FBI agent, I learned that mental strength is not something you are born with. It is something you can learn. If I learned it, so can you, but only if you’re willing to put in the discipline and effort it takes.

You will not become a mentally strong leader if you:

 

1. HAVEN’T A CLUE ABOUT WHAT BRINGS YOU VALUE AND MEANING IN LIFE

Mentally strong leaders live their life with purpose and meaning. They are an active participant in where their life is going. They have found a direction in life and set overarching goals for what they want to achieve.

Without goals to anchor us, we find ourselves adrift in life. We may think we know what our goals are, but if we aren’t living our life around them, then we’re not living our life on purpose.

 

2. REMAIN IGNORANT ABOUT YOUR BLIND SPOTS

Mentally strong leaders understand that they need to frequently, and critically, analyze their performance, especially their failures. When they do, they identity those patterns of behavior that are not productive and nip them in the bud. Unfortunately, “teachable moments” are usually accompanied by feelings of frustration, disappointment, and embarrassment. 

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

 

3. BELIEVE YOU WILL ALWAYS LIVE A CHARMED LIFE

Mentally strong leaders accept the fact that life evolves, and are smart enough to not be surprised when it does. It is natural to react with anger and skepticism because these emotions are trying to ensure your survival. But new situations can provide you with opportunities to learn important lessons about yourself such as your reactions, values, vulnerabilities, triggers, and how to take better care of yourself.

 

4. PRETEND TO KNOW EVERYTHING

Mentally strong leaders have a beginner’s mind that does not need to prove or disprove anything. It has the humility to hold “what I do know” with “what I don’t know.” Holding this kind of tension leads to wisdom and not just easy answers.

When we allow ourselves the luxury of trial and error, like a child learning to walk, we experience a feel-good neurological response. Similarly, when tackling new and difficult challenges, we experience a rush of adrenaline, a hormone that makes us feel confident and motivated.

 

5. AVOID CHALLENGES THAT WILL ULTIMATELY MAKE YOU GROW

Mentally strong leaders have a growth mindset that looks at success as hard work, learning, training, and having the grit to keep moving ahead even when faced with obstacles and roadblocks.

A growth mindset anticipates transitions that come from uncertainty because it interprets failure as nothing more than an opportunity for learning and improvement.

 

6. REFUSE TO KEEP EGO IN CHECK

Mentally strong leaders know how to keep a tight rein on ego. The ego is always asking “How will this make me look? How will I benefit?” It looks for ways to prove it is right and others are wrong.

When we keep ego in check, there is room for the wisdom of others to get in. We are able to listen more deeply, learn with an open mind, and adapt new skill sets.

 

7. HAVE A COWARD’S HEART

Mentally strong leaders have the courage to move out of their comfort zone and into their zone of discomfort where they may feel awkward, clumsy, and alone. 

When we get into a comfort zone, we often strive to stay right there—where we have found success. But it is the average leader who stops at success, because success and peak performance are often two different things. Whole lives are spent reinforcing mediocre performance.

“Mental toughness is believing you will prevail in your circumstances, rather than believing that your circumstances will change”—LaRae Quy

Are you ready to become a mentally strong leader?

© 2014 LaRaeQuy. All rights reserved.

 

You can follow me on Twitter

Sign up for my FREE Mental Toughness Mini-Course

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How To Get Your Voice Heard When Leadership Doesn’t Listen

July 20th, 2014 by LaRae Quy

Dean had a tendency to dominate every meeting or briefing he attended. As a supervisor, he surrounded himself with other like-minded male FBI agents who frequently ignored, dismissed, or interrupted others whose opinion they did not respect.

Woman with bullhorn

As a woman I was tired of not getting my voice heard in meetings where louder voices drowned out what I had to say. How could I change the behavior of leadership?

When I looked around the room, I saw that Dean and others of his ilk were also ignoring some of the other male agents who did not stand out as exceptional performers or leaders. While being a female agent may have had some impact on their behavior toward me, it clearly was also a matter of who was perceived to have anything important to say.  Here is how I used mental toughness to get my voice heard:

1. FIND SOMETHING POSITIVE—EVEN IF YOU HAVE TO LOOK REALLY, REALLY HARD

I had my list of complaints about Dean, but now was the time to focus on the positive aspects of the supervisor, not his faults. For every 1 negative trait, I looked for and found, 5 positive traits about him. As a former U.S. Marine, he was:

  1. Disciplined and conscientious
  2. Possessed clarity of purpose
  3. Used humor to defray tension
  4. Relied upon a high standard of integrity to guide his decisions.
  5. Loyal to his friends

 

2. USE EMOTIONAL INTELLIGENCE

Emotional intelligence is being savvy about the what is important to not only ourselves, but others as well. Awareness is being alert and honest about my feelings of frustration and disappointment that I felt when ignored by Dean and others like him.

Mental toughness is letting go of our ego after we’ve acknowledged our feelings and focusing our attention on someone else instead of ourselves.

When I focused on Dean, I identified one characteristic that seemed to dominate every decision he ever made—integrity. If I wanted to get my voice heard, I needed to appeal to his sense of integrity, not his sense of equal opportunity.

 

3. NETWORK STRATEGICALLY

There is a saying: if you can’t beat them, join them. While collaboration is increasingly important, the silo mentality has arisen for a reason: people naturally tend to form safe tribes with colleagues and avoid those they don’t know well. This is because collaboration with people they don’t know is a threat to their brain. 

The emotional limbic brain is survival-driven, and it tends to trust those with whom we’ve developed close ties or have shared experiences. 

I intentionally sought out Dean, and his buddies, to ask for advice about my cases. I buried my pride and made them partners in the direction I took my investigations. Since Dean and his friends had developed deep relationships, I suspected they would talk about me in my absence, and I wanted those conversations to be complimentary and positive.

 

4. WATCH BODY LANGUAGE

Our emotional limbic brain system leaks all sorts of information through body languageWhen I approached Dean, his eyebrows arched, indicating a genuine feeling of warmth at seeing me. Few people notice this, but an “eyebrow flash” is an automatic reaction when you see someone you like.

Smiling is a sign of submission, which is why many dominant individuals don’t smile. Dean always smiled when he saw me, however, and it was a genuine smile—there were crow’s feet and the cheeks were pushed up.

Perhaps more importantly, is how he didn’t react the same way to others. What was it about them that did not generate warm feelings? It was then that I realized none of them were the first to smile at Dean. They were so focused on being seen by leadership as serious professionals that they lost their ability to smile and have a good time, especially the women who wanted to come across as tough.

Smiling activates our mirror neurons; our brain sees a reaction in someone else and it wants to mirror those same emotions. I always approached Dean with a smile, and he naturally wanted to smile back.

 

5. MAKE PITHY, STRONG STATEMENTS

Dean was a busy guy and very quick witted. I didn’t dawdle when chatting about a case—I came straight to the point with pithy, strong statements. I didn’t waste his time by trying to ingratiate myself in a way that he would not appreciate. 

In our next meeting, the discussion circled around to a topic that Dean and I had previously discussed. He knew he could rely on me to be succinct and make an impact, so he asked for my opinion. I didn’t let him down—I made my statement and then shut up, not using this opportunity to make sure everyone else in the room knew how competent I was. 

That day was a turning point. While I have never developed a loud voice, I have developed a strong one.

That is something you can do as well. Use it well.

What suggestions do you have to make your voice heard when in a room with louder ones?

© 2014 LaRaeQuy. All rights reserved.

You can follow me on Twitter Sign up for my FREE Mental Toughness Mini-Course

SRead my book ““Secrets of a Strong Mind,” available now on Amazon.  Coming soon—my second book: Mental Toughness for Women Leaders: 52 Tips To Recognize and Utilize Your Greatest Strengths. Available in interactive eBook, hard cover and paperback.

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4 Easy Ways To Get People To Cooperate With You

July 13th, 2014 by LaRae Quy

Igor was a Russian spy in the United States to steal proprietary economic information. I was the FBI undercover agent assigned to recruit him to work for the United States. My job was to sell Igor on the merits of moving forward with the FBI instead of the KGB.

Collaboration - horse & goat

 

 

It was a tough sell. If caught and his perfidy discovered, Igor risked imprisonment, loss of pension, and abandonment by friends and former KGB colleagues.

For 24 years, I made my living by getting people to cooperate with me. If it wasn’t Russian spies it was supervisors, colleagues, and members of the business community from whom I needed cooperation if I wanted to keep moving ahead in my career.

While the chance of you crossing paths with a foreign spy are minimal, you will encounter investors, financiers, clients, prospects, and other team members you will need to elicit cooperation from if you want to keep your business moving forward.

Here are 4 easy ways you can get people to cooperate with you:

 

1. UNDERSTAND THAT COLLABORATION IS NOT OUR FIRST REACTION

Success in most jobs today requires the ability to develop strong collaborative ties with others. Kare Anderson shares a potent reminder in this quote: “Speak sooner to a strong sweet spot of shared interest to strengthen our friendship and generate more opportunities for us.” 

The key word is “sooner”, and here is why:

Our emotional limbic brain system is survival driven. It’s sole purpose is to keep us safe by warning of us potential threats in our environment. Its first reaction to the unknown or the uninvited that shows up in our life is—to run away!

Obviously, not everything that is new or different is a threat to our safety; however, the limbic brain system does not know that. Furthermore, it doesn’t differentiate between events and people. 

In the absence of positive information about an individual you meet, the limbic brain system warns you to distrust that person. This happens subconsciously, before you have time to think about it.

This is why you must move quickly when collaborating with others to alleviate the innate instinct to react negatively. This also explains why icebreakers are so important at workshops when people are meeting each other for the first time.

 

2. REFLECT WHAT YOU’RE THINKING

The way the brain connects and relates to others is through a series of mirror neurons that light up when we see others perform an action that has specific intent behind it. For example, when we see someone smile in delight, our mirror neurons light up, too, and we smile back. Our brain likes to share the emotion of the person in front of us.

This is why facial expressions are so important. When we see someone experience an emotion, it activates the same circuits in our brain.

If you want a positive response, show it to the other person. Their mirror neurons will register your emotion and their automatic limbic brain response will not be to move away from you.

Remember, the flight emotional response is always the easiest to arouse, so be careful in what you say and how you say it if you want the other person to collaborate with you.

 

3. SHARE PERSONAL STORIES

Positive social connections help you perform better on the job. 

Sharing personal stories activates the mirror neurons and deepens connections between people. Not only will these increase the likelihood of meaningful collaboration, but people with good social connections do better at planning, thinking, and regulating emotions.

When we tell stories that have really helped us shape our thinking and way of life, we can have the same effect on others too. According to Uri Hasson, the brains of the person telling a story and those listening to it can synchronize. Not only are the same language processing parts of the brain activated, but the same emotional parts as well. We can plant ideas, thoughts, and emotions in the brain of the listener. 

 

4. USE THESE TWO WORDS TO DISARM ANY DISAGREEMENT—AT LEAST TEMPORARILY!

Marie Forleo gives great advice on how to win an argument or move away from a confrontational situation. Our natural instinct is to become defensive if our point of view is challenged because our limbic brain system is trying to protect us, but Marie suggests we disarm the potential argument by saying two words: “You’re right.” 

This immediately neutralizes the situation by showing respect for the other person’s point of view—even if it does not coincide with your own. Once the other individual is disarmed, you can follow up with something like, “I see how you feel (or think), but here is another way to look at the situation…”

Try role-playing with a friend and ask for their input. Disarm a heated argument with those two words, “You’re right.” Ask your friend if you are coming across the way you want.

I have found that mental toughness often has less to do with being tough than with being emotionally savvy about what is going on in the brain of those around me. I have used these 4 techniques to get people to cooperate with me, but there are many others. 

What would you add to the list?

© 2014 LaRaeQuy. All rights reserved.

 

You can follow me on Twitter

Sign up for my FREE Mental Toughness Mini-Course

Secrets Cover - thumbnailRead my book ““Secrets of a Strong Mind,” available now on Amazon.