7 Ways Negative Feedback Can Build Mental Toughness

November 22nd, 2015 by LaRae Quy

One of my more humbling, and humiliating, experiences occurred when our Firearms Instructor gave instructions during one of our annual night shoots for an arrest scenario where I would be the one to make the arrest. I had my gun in one hand and a flashlight in the other. Tucked into my belt were the handcuffs.

7 Ways Negative Feedback Can Build Mental Toughness

All went well until I went to handcuff the prisoner. My night vision is not so great so I replaced my weapon in the holster as I grappled for the handcuffs—while holding the flashlight in my other hand.

In the dark, I didn’t realize I hadn’t properly holstered my weapon, which fell onto the pavement with a clatter. The guy I was trying to arrest (another FBI agent) tried not to laugh as I fumbled in the dark to snap open the handcuffs. In the end, I put the flashlight on the ground next to where my weapon had landed and just felt my way around my prisoner’s wrists.

Without looking at me or saying a word, my Firearms Instructor picked up my weapon and handed it to me as I tried to pretend all had gone well.

But in his critique in front of the entire group, he let everyone know it had not gone well. At all. His feedback felt like barbed wire being pulled across my face.

I felt about one inch tall when I left the firing range later than night. It was one of those experiences that left me wondering if I had simply chosen the wrong career.

But I needed to toughen up and become more resilient if I wanted to learn how to filter junk feedback from good information in order to improve.

Here are 7 ways negative feedback can help you build mental toughness:

1. Increases Self-Awareness

If you are able to accept feedback without getting angry or defensive, you probably have a great deal of self-awareness.

If you think you never make mistakes, you are a narcissist—either that or stupid. But if you are humble and self-aware, you recognize that you need feedback to continue climbing the ladder of success. You understand that there is always something you can do to be better.

2. Fuels Personal Growth

Great athletes spend hours studying films of their performance. They are great because they are good at accepting all kinds of feedback, and then use it to fuel their personal growth. Low-performers tend to take feedback personally or feel they are above taking criticism seriously.

High-performers are better at accepting feedback because they know it is essential for growth.

3. Paves The Way For Success

Research by Leadership IQ shows that people who are good at managing negative feedback tend to be more successful than those who cannot. The study further indicates that of those who fail, 26% do so because they are unwilling to accept feedback.

4. Stretches Performance

In another study, it was found that people who ask for feedback are the most effective leaders. According to Joseph Folkman, leaders who are in the top 10% are those who are willing to ask for feedback—both positive and negative.

This study suggests that the worse you are as a leader, the less likely you are willing to ask for feedback because you’re afraid you will hear the truth!

5. Eliminates Personalization

The better you are at accepting negative feedback, the less likely you will view it as an indictment of who you are as a person.

Feedback can be viewed as one more piece of data to analyze, digest, reject, or accept as information to make a better decision. Taking it as a piece of data with which to make future decisions will allow you de-personalize it.

6. Aids in Self-Improvement

Closely related to self-awareness, negative feedback can be valuable data for self-improvement. Be the sort of person who believes there is always a better way to do things.

I tend to say, “Let’s find ways to make the best, even better.”

No one piece of feedback means the end of the world. If, however, you begin to see repeated comments in the same area, you may need to take a closer look at what has been clearly identified as an issue—especially if you don’t recognize it in yourself.

7. Trains You To Pay Attention To The Facts

Look for what is factual in the feedback. For example, your boss criticizes your presentation in a harsh manner. E.g. “It had typos, incomplete transitions, and it rambled! From now on, run everything past my personal assistant first to see if you get a passing grade!”

Your boss could have been gentler in her feedback—yes, but what are you going to do? Cry like a baby? Or, realize that there was more than a grain of truth in everything she said. You really do need to work on spelling and punctuation and you don’t use transitions well.

Do not focus on the anger and frustration of your boss; rather, focus on the errors you made and how you can avoid them in the future.

How have you learned to embrace negative feedback?

© 2015 LaRaeQuy. All rights reserved.

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

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6 Ways To Stay Mentally Strong In Tough Times

November 15th, 2015 by LaRae Quy

As the spokesperson for the FBI in Northern California, I was constantly interviewed by radio, television, and newspaper reporters. If I inadvertently revealed information that was sealed by the U.S. Attorney’s office, I could have been fired or even prosecuted.

6 Ways To Stay Mentally Strong In Tough Times

Often, I’d fret that my words would be taken out of context or that I would be misquoted. I worried and lost sleep as I waited until for the interview to air or be printed.

As entrepreneurs and business owners, you know what it feels like to worry when times get tough and you’re faced with uncertainty. This is when you need to be mentally strong so you can keep moving forward.

Here are 6 ways to stay mentally strong in tough times:

1. Control Your Thoughts

When times get tough, the first thing we do is start to worry. But we need to control our thoughts because they control our emotions and behaviors.

Anxiety and fear are housed in our limbic brain system, but mentally tough people have figured out how to ignore them—or at least, control them.

TIP: Name Your Fear

Instead of pretending that you are not scared, admit what is creating the fear. Research has indicated that recognizing and acknowledging one’s fears are critical steps towards tackling and overcoming them.

If you try to suppress a fear or worry, it won’t work—the brain is smarter than that. Instead, name your fear or anxiety for what it is and you will actually lessen your discomfort. It’s very important, however, to keep the label to one or two words because if you open up a dialogue about it, you will only increase the emotional state of the limbic system.

2. Prepare For The Lonely Work

Self-awareness is not a prerequisite for climbing the ladder of success—but it sure helps to keep you there.

Self-awareness empowers you because it instills a confidence that comes from a deep understanding of who you are and why you are special. It’s called lonely work because this is one thing you truly must do for yourself.

TIP: Spend Time With Yourself

  • Get to know what makes you tick
  • Learn your strengths so you can use them
  • Accept your weaknesses so you can minimize them
  • Develop your strengths and manage your weaknesses; forget about trying to change who you are by trying to “work” on them
  • Give yourself permission to shine in those areas in which you are blessed

3. Get Priorities Straight

A recent Gallup poll indicated that 90% of workers were not engaged in their jobs. This is a modern day phenomena that started after Adam Smith, the father of industrial capitalism, stated that people were naturally lazy and would work only for pay.

Mentally strong entrepreneurs and leaders understand that wages are important—of course they are! But, if you are naive enough to believe that chasing after that almighty dollar will bring you happiness, I have a piece of swamp land in Wyoming to sell you.

TIP: Engage In Work That Provides Both Value And Meaning

Mentally strong people are smart enough to know that when they get their priorities straight, it does several things:

  • Provides work that is both engaging and meaningful
  • Offers opportunities to learn and grow.
  • Allows control over what we do and how we do it

4. Take A Risk

In firearms training I learned one thing: it’s not risk that will kill you, it’s complacency. Sitting in the same spot all your life will bite you in the butt when the unexpected lands at your feet because you won’t know how to move forward with confidence and flexibility.

The mentally strong use tough times as opportunities to take a risk because they understand that risks, and the change they produce, are what will save you from a life of complacency—and stagnation.

TIP: Calculated Risks Make It Easy

As an FBI agent, my colleagues and I took smart risks by planning what could go wrong, and then forging ahead.

Calculated risks mean looking at all the positive and negative outcomes and then proceeding forward by putting all of that information to best use.

5. Be Grateful—ALWAYS

Gratitude is the most powerful emotion in the world. It allows you to love not only yourself, but others as well.

Mental toughness strengthens our ability to distinguish positive emotions from negative ones. We can use this awareness to strengthen positive emotions like gratitude and control negative ones like anger. 

Another thing about gratitude—it is impossible to grateful and negative at the same time.

TIP: Keep Focused On Being Grateful When Life Is Taking A Down Turn

We perceive an act as more worthy of gratitude when:

  • it cost someone (either time or effort)
  • it is perceived to be of value
  • it is not obligatory or habitual in nature
  • the result produces relief or happiness

6. Control What You Can Control

When making an arrest, agents are given specific assignments; for example, “Cover the back door so the criminal can’t run away.”

It is the agent’s responsibility to control what they can control; they do not worry about what others are doing or any other aspect of the arrest.

TIP: Ignore The Things You Can’t Control

In the same way, you must ignore the things over which you have no power. You have limited resources, so why waste them on things that are out of your control?

For some, it might be the politics of your organization; for others, it might be your environment. Whatever it is, realize that you can only control the things that come under your purview. You might want to save the world, but do yourself a favor and take it one step at a time.

Mental toughness separates the successful entrepreneur and business owner from the mediocre. People who are mentally strong know how to keep moving when they hit tough times.

How have you stayed mentally strong when confronted with obstacles and adversity?

© 2015 LaRaeQuy. All rights reserved.

You can follow me on Twitter

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

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Mental Skills Every Business Leader Can Learn From Athletes

November 2nd, 2015 by LaRae Quy

When I went before the New Agents Review Board, my instructors expressed concern that I was not athletic enough to become an FBI agent. I stood a strong chance of being washed out of the FBI Academy.


My first response was, “How are 50 pushups going to help me be a better investigator?” Agents don’t use their physical muscles to puzzle their way through the facts of an investigation. Instead, they use their mental skills.

Only later was I able to recognize that while brawn would not make me a better agent, my athletic training was creating a set of mental skills that I would utilize throughout my 24 year FBI career.

As entrepreneurs and business owners, you will need these same mental skills to keep moving forward when you hit a roadblock or an unexpected obstacle stands in your way.

In a recent study of athletes who successfully completed sport injury rehabilitation, it was determined that the top 3 mental skills reported were Goal Setting, Positive Thinking, and Imagery.

I was not surprised by this list because these mental toughness tools can produce the right attitude to move everyone toward success. Here is a closer look at the mental skills every business leader can learn from athletes:


Setting a goal is not only identifying something you want, but also something you are willing to persevere in order to achieve.

Setting a specific goal makes you more likely to achieve it, and that is especially important when you want to make a change in your career or business, or if you run into an obstacle on your journey toward that goal.

TIP #1 Set Goals For The Right Reason

Stop fantasizing about winning the lottery or making $10 million. Instead, set goals that align themselves to what really matters to your happiness and future well being.

TIP #2 Set A Direction

Set your life in a direction so that the pursuit of it will produce the life you want. If the journey is the right one, don’t worry if goals change or evolve with time.

TIP #3 Change The Goal If It’s Not Taking You In The Right Direction

Use mental skills to focus on the right thing—the direction you are moving. Don’t make the mistake of getting married to your goal.


There is a big difference between being an optimist and being a positive thinker.

Positive thinkers are not necessarily happy or optimistic.

Instead, positive thinkers are blunt realists who look misery right in the eye and confront the most brutal facts of their day without expecting things to change. They adapt to their circumstances without ever losing hope.

Positive thinking is a mental skill that will help get you through any setback that comes your way.

TIP #1 Find 5 Positive Thoughts To Counter Each Negative Thought

The brain is naturally wired to pay more attention to negative rather than positive information because negative alerts us to emergencies and threats to our life.

When confronted with something that feels overwhelming, you will need to find 5 positive thoughts to counter each one negative thought that comes to mind. Sometimes it’s hard to find something positive in your situation and you have to look really hard.

TIP # 2. Reflect On Each Positive Thought For 20 Seconds

Take the time to really think about each positive thought. Let it soak in, don’t gloss over it.

Negative thoughts are like velcro; they stick.

Positive thoughts are like teflon; they slide away easily.

TIP #3 Stop Using The Word “Can’t”

This is the only 4 letter word I never heard in the FBI.

Every time you say “I CAN’T” you create a negative feedback loop in your brain that keeps getting stronger and stronger. Synaptic connections thicken the brain tissues over time, wiring in that negativity.


The benefits of using imagery and visualization is an incredible tool to develop mental toughness. This mental skill is based on solid science. By visualizing your successful performance repeatedly, your brain stores that information as a success.

TIP #1: Visualize Your Success

When we give our brain a detailed portrait of our end goal, our brain releases dopamine, a powerful mental toughness tool to steer us toward success. This is the chemical that becomes active when we encounter situations that are linked to rewards from the past.

Dopamine enables us to feel good about our experiences and gives us confidence to move toward those rewards. To boost this brain response:

  • Imagine how events will unfold.
  • See yourself winning or achieving your goal.
  • Hear yourself being positive about the challenge before you.
  • Form a clear mental picture and do it several times a day.
  • Create a positive frame of mind.
  • Find images that represent your goal and post them where you’ll see them regularly.

If you don’t see yourself as a winner, neither will anyone else.

TIP #2: Differentiate Between Visioning and Fantasy

Visualizing is not fantasy or wishful thinking. Fantasies can actually lessen your chance for success. Your brain can tell the difference, and looks at fantasies as a threat!

If people fantasize about their future, they are less prepared and more stressed when things don’t workout they way they had hoped.

TIP#3: Move Ahead With Fearlessness

Use imagery and visualize how you will succeed in various situations you might encounter in the future. For example:

  • Visualize how you will react and respond when criticized by a colleague
  • Predict your performance in the morning meeting
  • Be prepared for the hard questions that will come from your boss.
  • Rehearse your response to situations/conversations that might come up.

This is enough to get that important shot of dopamine. It can help take you beyond your self-limiting beliefs about yourself and move you beyond your current circumstances.

Which one of these mental toughness tools have you used to keep moving forward?

© 2015 LaRaeQuy. All rights reserved.

You can follow me on Twitter

Get my FREE 45-Question Mental Toughness Assessment

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

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How To Read People —9 FBI Tips

October 25th, 2015 by LaRae Quy

One of the best interrogation seminars I attended was led by a muscular man with a face that looked as though chiseled out of a block of wood. A member of Special Forces, he told me and 30 other FBI agents that the best way to elicit information from another person was to—

How To Read People

—learn how to read them. That, he said, requires two things: careful observation and developing rapport.

I was stunned. I expected all sorts of tips on how to be sneaky with my questions and intimidating in my manner.

“Always remember that you cannot read people accurately if you don’t spend time with them and if they don’t trust you,” he said.

As a business owner and entrepreneur, you do not need to be a top notch interrogator to figure out what is going on in someone’s head. The signals are always there; all you need to do is know what to look for.

Here are 9 FBI helpful tips for reading people:

1. Create A Baseline

Spend enough time around a person to get to know their quirks and patterns of behavior. For example, some people clear their throat, look at the floor when talking, cross their arms, scratch their head, stroke their neck, squint, pout, and jiggle their feet frequently.

In others, however, these same behavior might be indicative of deception, anger, or discomfort.

Before you can make any judgments or assessments about an individual, create a baseline of their normal behavior.

2. Look For Aberrations

Start looking for inconsistencies between the baseline you’ve created and the person’s words and gestures.

For example: your boss normally nods when in conversation with others but when you start talking to her, the nodding stops. Pay attention! Is it you, or is the topic you’ve introduced?

3. Notice Clusters of Gestures

No one gesture or word necessarily means anything; but when several behavioral aberrations are clumped together, take notice.

For example, not only does your boss stop nodding, she also angles her body away from you, leans back, and compresses her lips.

You are reading her accurately: she has a problem—either with you or with the topic that you’ve introduced into the conversation.

4. Compare And Contrast

Move your observation up a notch to see if/when she repeats that same behavior with others in your group.

Continue to observe her as she interacts with others in the room. Does her expression change? Does her posture and body language change? Have you noticed a specific change in her behavior toward you?

5. Walk This Way

Notice the way a person walks. People who shuffle along, lack a flowing motion in their movements, hug themselves, and keep their head down, often lack self-confidence.

Do not be that person! Walk with alertness and purpose, and keep your shoulders back and head held high. When you do, you are signaling to the world that you have an important place to be and an important task to accomplish.

6. Mirror, Mirror On The Wall

Mirror neurons are built-in monitors in our brain that reflect other people’s state of mind.

We are wired to read each other’s bodies. A smile activates the smile muscles in our own faces, while a frown activates our frown muscles.

According to Paula Niedenthal in Psychology of Emotion, we are programmed to observe each other’s emotions so we can appropriately react, empathize, or assert our boundaries.

When we see someone we like, our eyebrows arch, facial muscles relax, head tilts, and blood flows to our lips making them full.

If this is not reciprocated, that person is sending you a clear message: they do not like you and/or are not happy with your performance.

7. Identify The Strong Voice

Confident people have strong voices. Do not confuse a loud voice with a strong one.

Confidence and power are kissing cousins.

Around a conference room table, the most confident person is very likely to also be the most powerful one: expansive posture, strong voice, and a big smile. The most powerful person is not always the one sitting at the head of the table.

Make sure your body language and behavior make it clear that you are confident and that your message has heft.

8. Use Of Action Words

As an FBI agent, I always looked for clues on what people were thinking, and words were the closest way for me to get into another person’s head.

Words represent thoughts so identify the word that is freighted with meaning.

For example, if your boss says she, “Decided to buy brand X,” the action word is decided. This single word tells you that your boss is 1) not impulsive, 2) weighed several options, and 3) thinks things through.

Another example: if your colleague says, “I won another award,” the action word is another. She is telling you that she 1) has won awards before, 2) is bolstering her self-esteem, and 3) wants you to know she is a winner.

9. Spot Personality Types

Each of us have our own unique personalities, but there are basic clarifications that can help you relate to another person so you can read them accurately.

  • Are they an introvert or extrovert?
  • Are they driven by relationships or by significance?
  • How do they handle risk and uncertainty?
  • What feeds their ego?
  • What are their behaviors when they are stressed?
  • What are their behaviors when they are relaxed?

It takes time to learn how to read people accurately. Start practicing now on people you know and with whom you interact. You can develop the skill by constantly listening and observing actively in every day life.

What tips would you add?

© 2015 LaRaeQuy. All rights reserved.

You can follow me on Twitter

Get my FREE 45-Question Mental Toughness Assessment

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


How To Overcome Adversity —The Big Bounce Back

October 17th, 2015 by LaRae Quy

Kidnapping cases present FBI agents with some of their most challenging investigations. More often than not, the choices that the agent makes has life and death consequences. The goal is always to recover the victim safely and put the kidnapper behind bars.

How To Overcome Adversity

Grit is the word that best describes the attitude that takes hold of an agent when they will not allow themselves to consider the possibility of failure. When someone’s life is at stake, you keep going—no matter how dark the path ahead.

The way in which we look at ourselves, and our circumstances, dictates our attitude when faced with adversity. As entrepreneurs and business owners, you will have several moments where lots of negative thoughts will be occupying your mind.

To jettison those negative thoughts, you may find it necessary to express your situation differently. When you rethink, or reframe, your adversity, it helps to move it into a context that is more favorable.

This is not to make light of tragedy. It’s perfectly normal to be sad when we are immersed in a negative situation. That said, we do not need to let the crap moments produced by adversity sabotage our efforts to keep moving toward success.

1. Reframe Your Situation

Reframing is a fancy word for changing the way you place limits around your goals and behaviors. If something sucks, the most logical thing in the world is to call it out for what it is. But, when you grit up in the face of adversity, it means you seek out new interpretations and perspectives that will help you keep moving forward.

Bad news will never keep a dedicated FBI agent from looking for a kidnapping victim. Instead, the agent will reframe the situation so they maintain a more positive and resourceful state of mind.

Reframing is not about pretending everything is perfect and positive! Instead, it’s about providing you with different ways of interpreting your less than perfect situation so you can expand your possibilities.

2. Reframe The Content

If you reframe the content of your situation, it means you choose what you focus on. Nothing has changed, but instead of wallowing in what did not work, you intentionally choose to focus on what did work.

For example, instead of spending time complaining to everyone that you’ve lost a contract, take the time to analyze why you lost it—learn from the incident. And then move on. No one wants to keep hearing about it…

Ask yourself:

  • Why did we lose the contract?
  • Could we have done something earlier to head it off? What?
  • What can losing this contract teach me about myself? My company?
  • Are there any negative behaviors that need to be addressed for the future?

Another example might include a mistake that you made. Ask yourself:

  • What is positive about this situation?
  • What did I do well?
  • What can I learn about myself from this experience?
  • How can make this information useful for future behavior?

3. Reframe Context

In almost every situation where the interrogation of a kidnapper does not lead to a confession, the interviewing agent always kicks themselves by asking, “What should I have done differently? What could I have said that would have made them buckle and confess?”

Perhaps the evidence was overwhelming, and yet the kidnapper did not feel compelled to admit to the kidnapping. It’s even worse when the victim has still not been found.

Almost all behavior is appropriate in some context—maybe not the one in which you are currently in—but in another situation, your behavior or decision might be quite acceptable and helpful.

Just because your performance was not appreciated in this context, it does not mean it might not be appreciated in another time or place. This is important to remember so that you don’t come down too hard on yourself when you face adversity and things don’t work out the way you anticipated.

Let’s take the same example as above: you’ve lost a contract so you might ask yourself:

  • What different conversations would have been appropriate?
  • In what context would my choice of words have been the right one?
  • What behavior or words could have saved me in this situation?
  • Can I recognize that situation in the future?
  • When has my behavior helped me in the past?

When faced with adversity, maybe there is no right or wrong way to handle things. What might work in one situation or context may not work in another. Keep reframing things so you can look at all possibilities.

Grit is learning how to bounce back, no matter what your situation.

How have you bounced back from adversity?

© 2015 LaRaeQuy. All rights reserved.

You can follow me on Twitter

Get my FREE 45-Question Mental Toughness Assessment

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

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5 Ways To Develop Thicker Skin To Become More Resilient

October 11th, 2015 by LaRae Quy

Being nice to colleagues is one of the first casualties when work gets stressful. So how can we develop a thicker skin and become more resilient when we’re in a fast-paced environment that produces criticism that stings us?

Thick Skin

Most of us can shrug off a certain amount of criticism by telling ourselves not to take the comment personally. But when you are face to face with someone who accuses you of lying, betraying their trust, or not caring about other team members, it’s hard not to take it a little personally.

Many of us work in fast-paced, high-stress environments and we know how important it is to have a strong mind. So what happens when we realize that we actually do care what people think of us?

Being sensitive to criticism can hold you back. Here are 5 ways you can develop a thicker skin to become more resilient:

1. Welcome Constructive Criticism

Every successful leader and entrepreneur has not only been criticized in their career, but they have also failed spectacularly at something along the way.

If criticism is coming your way because of something you did wrong, be thankful that someone is willing to take the time to let you know how badly you did mess up. So what if the tone is loud and the words are sharp!

Grit up!

If there is a nugget of information that can help you become more successful, grab onto it and let it teach you what you need to know. When feeling down in the dumps after her employees blamed her for glitch on a marketing program, a friend of mine was told by her boss, “It’s time to put your big-girl panties on now.”

Maybe his words were not politically-correct or even polite, but my friend got the message—grow up and face the fact that there will be a few bruises and scars in moving up the ladder of success. The key is to sift through the dross to find the nugget of wisdom—and learn from it.

TIP: Write down the basics of the critical comment so you can go over it later, when emotions have been tamped down, and you can take a closer look at the facts. Address the errors you made and how you will avoid doing the same in the future.

2. Throw Out The Junk Comments

Just as it’s important to squeeze every ounce of understanding out of a criticism laden with constructive observation, be smart enough to jettison the junk comments that reflect more on the person speaking than your performance.

Stress makes us more emotional and blurting out hurtful or negative comments is common. The reason is that stress decreases our “working memory.” which is the amount of information we hold in our mind.

When we are under stress, our working memory doesn’t allow us to access big chunks of information about the individual whom we are criticizing. All our brain can access is why we’re pissed off at this person. As a result, we say things we really do not mean.

This is when we shouldn’t take a negative criticism personally.

TIP: As you think about a conversation or communication, separate fact from interpretation.

3. Nurture Important Relationships

When you are being assaulted by negative comments and criticism at work, it’s critical that you stay close to people who will support and encourage you. If you do not have strong connections with a core group of friends or family, take the time to do so.

Relationships with others reminds us that we are not alone and that all of us struggle. Talk out your fears and concerns. Once you do, you may find that people who exude the outward appearance of confidence and success have the same fears and concerns that you do.

This is where self-care becomes very important.

When you’re stressed, it’s easy to become worn down emotionally and physically. Even minor stressors feel like a major event.

TIP: Seek out supportive friends or family members so you can give and receive the assistance that we all need at times. This includes developing a proper relationship with yourself—make healthy lifestyle choices that remind you that you’re a priority.

4. Create A Success List

Most critical remarks contain a combination of constructive and junk comments. It’s not always easy to quickly sort out the good, the bad, and the ugly.

Make a list of some of your accomplishments in your current situation. If you don’t feel good about your contributions, you will take the criticism harder.

Whenever you are feeling down or unjustly criticized, take a long and loving look at that list. Remember that you’ve made significant impact on your work environment and that all the negativity flowing around you does not accurately represent your accomplishments.

TIP: Writing stuff down helps you to visualize, so keep paper and pen handy. Typing your list out on a computer does not satisfy the brain’s need for visualization. Remember projects that have gone well, people you have helped out, or prospects who were happy with your services.

5. Examine The Deeper Wound

The ability to look at a criticism objectively has a lot to do with self-awareness. Sometimes the reason a person’s comment hurts so deeply is because it pricks at a deeper wound from our past.

Self-awareness will allow you to identify the original injury so you can gain proper perspective on your reaction to your current situation. For example, if image is extremely important to you, any implied criticism that calls into question the image you are portraying will wound more deeply than other ones.

We often do not realize the tender places from our past, and a rejection found in a critical remark can unconsciously take you all the way back to why you didn’t get the red ball in the playground.

TIP: Spend time getting to know who you are, what makes you tick, and what pushes your buttons. Not all childhood memories will be pleasant, but toughen up. Pretending painful past experiences aren’t influencing your behavior in negative ways today is just plain stupid.

No one gets a pass on life. Scars from life’s battles are the places where we are the toughest and our skin is the thickest. Do not let those experiences slip away before you’ve had the chance to learn all they have to teach you.

How have you developed a thicker skin and become more resilient?

© 2015 LaRaeQuy. All rights reserved.

You can follow me on Twitter

Get my FREE 45-Question Mental Toughness Assessment

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

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How To Raise Mentally Tough Kids

October 4th, 2015 by LaRae Quy

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

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

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

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

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

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

The reason?

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

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

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

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

1. Start Early

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

2. Create A Need For Empathy

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

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

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

3. Stick To Your Guns

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

Big mistake.

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

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

4. Use The Right Language

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

A helper is an individual of action who helps others.

5. Praise Often

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

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

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

6. Keep Allowances And Chores Separate

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

7. Teach Independence

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

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

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

Click here for a list of suggested chores by age.

How have you raised your child to be mentally tough?

© 2015 LaRaeQuy. All rights reserved.

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

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WILLPOWER —The Secret To Getting What You Want In Life

September 27th, 2015 by LaRae Quy

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

1. Keep Your Eye On The Big Picture

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

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

2. Connect Your Activity To Your WHY

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

Dump the trivia because meaningless tasks do not activate willpower.

3. Pare Down Decisions

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

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

4. Train Your Brain

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

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

5. Defer Gratification

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

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

6. Be Optimistic

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

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

7. Change Your Mindset

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

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

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

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

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

Don’t live a life of regrets.

How do you increase your willpower?

© 2015 LaRaeQuy. All rights reserved.

You can follow me on Twitter

Get my FREE 45-Question Mental Toughness Assessment

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

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6 Reasons People Don’t Listen To You

September 20th, 2015 by LaRae Quy

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

6 Reasons People Don't Listen To You

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

1. Stay Engaged

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

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


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

2. Open Up Your Body Language

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

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


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

3. Leave Your Assumptions Behind

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

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

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


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

4. Ask Questions

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

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

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

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


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

5. Create Empathy

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

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

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


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

6. Shut Up

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


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

How have you become a more effective listener?

© 2015 LaRaeQuy. All rights reserved.

You can follow me on Twitter

Get my FREE 45-Question Mental Toughness Assessment

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

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

September 13th, 2015 by LaRae Quy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How you think determines how you act.

How you act determines how others react to you.

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

1. Look Important

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2. Think Important

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

3. Speak Important

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

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

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

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

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

© 2015 LaRaeQuy. All rights reserved.

You can follow me on Twitter

Get my FREE 45-Question Mental Toughness Assessment

Get my FREE Mental Toughness Mini-Course

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

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