9 Powerful Ways To Build Confidence

August 23rd, 2015 by LaRae Quy

During a mock trial, I was selected to be a witness and cross-examined by a criminal lawyer. The purpose of the mock trial was to give FBI agents an idea of how defense attorneys would try to distort our words and use them against us, especially in front of a jury.

9 Powerful Ways To Build Confidence

We were in a real federal courtroom with real lawyers and judges. I had never testified in a court of law before—I felt inadequate, uncertain, and afraid that I would blow the case by saying the wrong thing.

Sure enough, I answered the defense attorney’s question and she immediately twisted the meaning of my words. I wanted to say, “That’s not what I meant,” but she had already moved on to another topic. I was flustered and my lack of confidence plummeted ever further.

When she asked another question, I kept my answer very short. I knew that I risked sounding defensive but I simply did not have enough confidence in myself to engage with her at any length. Realizing that my lack of conviction about her client’s activities would not present a real threat, I was quickly dismissed as a witness.

All I remember about that entire exchange is how crappy it felt to be both humiliated and impotent as a government witness in a mock trial.

Lack of confidence can rear its ugly head at any time. No one is immune because we are most vulnerable any time we’re out of our comfort zone or experience change in our life.

Confidence is closely linked to mental toughness because it takes a strong mind to conquer fear, anxiety, and worry.

Our brain is naturally wired to pay more attention to negative thinking because bad news has alerted us to danger for centuries. Our cave dweller ancestors went out each day to “get lunch” not “be lunch.”

But not everything that is new or different is a threat to our survival these days. The good news is that we can train ourselves to be more confident. Here are 9 ways:

1. Isolate Your Fear

In my case, I was afraid of making a fool of myself in front of my colleagues during the mock trial. I was afraid of what they might say and think if I screwed up.

Other common fears are: fear of how others perceive us, fear of being physically hurt, fear of commitment, or fear of failure.

It is important to dump the ego and get right down to the origin of your fear.

2. Take Action

If you hesitate and wring your hands, your fear will only grow.

I should have prepared better, worked harder to anticipate the way the defense attorney would parse my words, and trusted my own judgment.

3. Deposit Positive Memories in Your Memory Bank

We are bombarded with so much information that our brain stores information in a way that makes sense to it.

So, if you lack confidence, all your brain will remember about a specific event are those things that confirm you messed up.

If you hold a memory freighted with lack of confidence, go back and revisit it to make sure you are remembering correctly. Often, you will find out that others did not perceive or remember an event the same way.

At the end of each day, examine it. Remember all the positive and good things that you said, did, or accomplished that day. Reflect on all the positive victories and go to sleep with those memories on your mind.

4. Withdraw Only Positive Memories

It is easy for any negative thought, with enough encouragement and recall, to turn into a mental monster. The best way to defeat it is to ruthlessly nip it in the bud.

Find at least 3 things every day for which to be grateful. Write them down. Smile when you think of them.

Successful leaders move forward with confidence because they learn from their fears and failures, and then let them go.

5. Respect Yourself

If you don’t respect yourself, why should anyone else? I can’t think of any situation where a doormat is someone who is respected.

If you are not in a situation where you do not feel respect from others, change your situation; do not walk—run. The devil you don’t know is NOT worse than the devil you know.

Perhaps this means changing friends, jobs, or relationships—whatever it takes, place yourself in a position where you respect yourself and others reciprocate these positive feelings.

6. Sit In The Front Row

I always sat in the front row of every class I ever took. It takes confidence to sit in the front row and be noticed, but the more you do it, the easier it gets.

Start today and sit in the front row of every meeting, conference, or class you attend. Start getting comfortable with being noticed.

7. Make Eye Contact

Body language is important in building confidence. I immediately categorize people who do not look me in the eye as losers, whether they are or not. This means they have to work extra hard to convince me they are not.

Failure to make eye contact indicates either 1) they feel inferior to you and lack confidence, or 2) they are guilty of something.

This may be a great clue when interviewing suspects, but it’s not the message you want to be sending to your team members.

8. Walk Faster

I’ve had people come up to me out of a crowd and say they knew I was an FBI agent because of the way I walked—fast!

You know what, my time is important, and where I’m going is important—or I wouldn’t be going. Don’t be an average walker, or an average thinker. Moving with intention says, “I’m going to be successful.”

9. Speak Up

A sign of a true milquetoast is someone who doesn’t speak up. Instead, they feel their opinions don’t matter and that no wants to hear them.

Each time you clam up you are injecting more confidence-poison into your system. Your feeling of inferiority and inadequacy will just keep growing.

Bite the bullet and speak up! Practice what you are going to say ahead of time so it sounds good. Keep it short and pithy.

You will be amazed at how good it feels!

How do you build your confidence?

© 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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9 Tough Truths About Your Fear Of Change

August 16th, 2015 by LaRae Quy

One of the most irritating things working for the FBI was their transfer policy—it was always changing and it was always dictated by the needs of the Bureau. When you received an assignment you didn’t like, you could either accept it or quit. There was very little room for negotiation or discussion.

Change - jump

As a new agent, I worked on two different squads in six months. It is also the FBI’s policy to rotate agents to various parts of the country. In the first three years, I was transferred to three different cities.

It was not easy to pull up roots, disrupt relationships, and start over with each new transfer or assignment. The anxiety level went up because there was nothing but tension and uncertainty ahead of me.

When we don’t know what the future holds, it doesn’t matter whether we’re starting a new job or being transferred across the country—the fear of change is there.

The only ones who like change are babies with wet diapers—and that’s because they know what to expect. The rest of us are left trying to understand how to cope with the unexpected in life and the fear that change produces.

Our resistance to change finds its roots in fear of the unknown.

Change means moving into our discomfort zone. Psychologists explain that victims of domestic violence are often so afraid of changing the status quo that they stay in abusive relationships rather than risk the unknown. For those who experience continual physical or emotional abuse, the abuse has become their comfort zone.

This is why it is so hard for them to move out—it has become familiar, predictable and known. Ironically, moving in the direction of “safety” is actually moving into their discomfort zone.

The truth of the matter is that you will never be able to control everything. You need to have faith that things will work out because sometimes what you can’t change, ends up changing you and in the process helps you grow as a person.

Leaders who successfully navigate change know they are empowered because they have resilience, an important component of mental toughness. They are capable of getting through anything.

Here are 9 tough truths about change. It:

1. PLACES YOU WHERE YOU SHOULD BE

As crazy as it sounds, every situation teaches you important lessons about yourself and your reaction to your situation. Often, when things are falling apart, they are actually falling into place.

2. ALLOWS YOU TO LEAVE THE LIFE YOU DON’T WANT

Making a big life change is scary. The only thing scarier is not making it and staying in the rut in which you now find yourself.

3. BRINGS OUT TRUE FRIENDS

Talk is cheap so pay attention to which people stick with you during the changes you experience in life. Change brings out the true quality of your relationship in the long term.

4. EXISTS TO TEACH YOU LESSONS

Life is full of mystery and every time you experience change, you are better prepared to embrace the adventure of living.

5. REMINDS YOU THAT YOU ARE NOT ALWAYS IN CONTROL

Surrender can be difficult, but change reminds you that sometimes it’s OK to let go.

6. EMPOWERS YOU TO GROW INTO YOUR FULL POTENTIAL

While you’d rather not admit it, the deepest pain you’ve experienced in your life has produced the greatest growth. It’s the tough and painful choices that end up being the most worthwhile. Just remember that while pain can teach you a lesson, it must also be released.

7. NUDGES YOU FORWARD

While you’d rather not admit it, the deepest pain you’ve experienced in your life has produced the greatest growth. It’s the tough and painful choices that end up being the most worthwhile. Just remember that while pain can teach you a lesson, it must also be released.

8. KEEPS YOU FROM GETTING STUCK IN THE PAST

Nostalgia can be a good thing at times, but if it keeps you chained to visions of what you used to be, it’s time to embrace who you can become. You risk an empty state of mind if you cannot move beyond a fabled past. By living in the past, you construct self-limiting beliefs about what you can do in the future.

9. HELPS YOU FIND YOUR HIGHER SELF

The deepest part of you will never change. You are created by God to be the person you are. Life’s unpredictability becomes easier when you connect with that part of yourself.

Change can empower you to lead with your personal strengths and a strong mind.

What have you learned change in your life?

© 2015 LaRaeQuy. All rights reserved.

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

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7 Surprising Ways You Can Increase Your Willpower

August 9th, 2015 by LaRae Quy

The majority of complicated and sophisticated cases worked by the FBI take several months, if not years, to solve. It can take willpower to doggedly continue to pursue new leads and maintain the hope of bringing the case to a conclusion.

Willpower - man on top of mountain

Whether I was sitting across from parents whose child had been abducted, elderly people who had been swindled out of their life savings, or a young executive coming to grips with the fact that her company was the victim of corporate espionage, I felt the full heft of responsibility as the lead investigator.

I was committed to these people, and I promised that I would do everything in my power to bring justice in each of their situations. The idea that I might fail them was scary.

You do not tell the parents of a missing child that the case is “too hard,” give up, and walk away. No—this is when you realize how willpower plays such a crucial role in mental toughness.

There are times when you simply must keep moving forward—family, career, and life depend upon it. Surrender is not an option.

Every day we are tempted to surrender and quit. It might be a cookie that is tempting us to stray from a diet, a warm bed in which to sleep late and miss work, or the feel of cool water on a beach instead of spending time strategizing our next career move—we all need willpower to decide the direction in which we will take our life.

Willpower is the ability to resist impulses with discipline and self-control. Researchers are discovering that willpower is a mental muscle, and certain physical and mental habits can weaken or strengthen our self-control.

Here are 7 surprising ways you can increase your willpower:

1. Don’t Leave Home Without Your “Why”

To activate your willpower, you must remind yourself why something is important to you. If you are engaged in meaningless tasks or jobs, willpower will not save you.

When you have a purpose and are pursuing a goal that has meaning and value for you, your willpower can be tapped into because you are committed to something important to you.

2. Keep Front Sights On Your Goal, Not Your Fear

When you focus on the goal, your concentration is channeled into a productive cycle of thinking. Instead of worrying, or becoming fearful, focus on planning how you will move toward your goal and overcome your obstacle.

Once you get your mind straight, and focused on your performance, options and plans of action become clearer.

3. Wrap Your Behavior Around Your Goal

It is easier to muster the shot of energy you need if you define your goals as specific behavior. For example: if I my goal was pushups, I should specify a number, like “35 good pushups” rather than just “do more of them.” If it’s a behavioral choice, the goal becomes a natural outgrowth.

Nordstrom is a great example of how a company can define its goal in terms of behavior: superior customer service. Sales and customer loyalty are the by-products of Nordstrom’s behavior.

4. Good Habits Are The Magic Bullet

Charles Duhigg explains in his book, “The Power of Habit,” that habits cannot be eradicated; instead, they must be replaced. Habits are most malleable when we keep the same cue and the same reward.

If you want to change a habit, you must find an alternative routine. You may need to change your environment to make sure what you should do is easy and what you shouldn’t do is hard.

For example, perhaps you want to accomplish more first thing in the morning—study your habits to determine why you tend to feel groggy when you wake up. You may need to go to bed earlier, stop taking sleeping pills, or avoid alcohol in the evening.

For a habit to stay changed, people must believe change is possible. While belief is essential, it often only emerges with the help of a group—even a group of two people is large enough to change habits.

The best way to accomplish any change is by having a supportive group of friends around you.

5. Do The Hardest Thing First

Once you’ve set your goal, it must become a priority. Wishing for something to happen won’t make it happen. Reorganize your day so that you have time to make your goal a reality.

You have the greatest amount of mental energy in the morning. The National Academy of Sciences reports that a survey of parole board judges determined that the judges were most likely to give a favorable ruling earlier in the morning. The odds of a favorable ruling plummeted right before lunch.

6. Master Your Mindset

In the old days it was believed that willpower was a limited resource, or that it could be jumpstarted with a sugary drink. Failure of willpower over bulging waistlines and dead-end careers could be blamed on our biological limits.

This myth has been debunked by newer research. According to a study conducted by The National Academy of Sciences, 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.

7. Be The Person Too Stupid To Quit

There is a reason we admire people who have achieved long, happy marriages and overcome difficulties in life. Those individuals remain persistent even when it doesn’t appear that success is guaranteed.

There is value in delayed gratification—some things are worth holding on to; the key is knowing which ones.

Nothing in the world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent—Calvin Coolidge

How do you increase your willpower?

© 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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10 FBI Tricks For Effective Persuasion

August 2nd, 2015 by LaRae Quy

Some of my biggest laughs come from watching Hollywood movies and TV shows depicting FBI agents as indestructible bullies walking that fine line between good and evil. They are either taking the law into their own hands in their pursuit of justice or abusing their power to crush the little people that get in their way.

10 FBI Tricks For Effective Persuasion

The silliness of it all is pure entertainment for someone like me, a former FBI agent. The danger that lurks, however, is that impressionable audiences actually start to believe all the crap they see, read, and hear.

Bullying, intimidation, and rudeness pump up hormones and get everyone’s juices flowing. The results are good ratings.

The fact is, FBI agents use persuasion to get the job done in the majority of cases—not brute strength and ignorance.

As sales people, executives, and leaders, you deserve to know the truth—persuasion is a skill that is as instrumental to your success as it is to an FBI agent.

Persuasion, at it’s core, requires emotional intelligence because it is essential that you have enough awareness of emotions to develop rapport with another individual.

Emotional awareness is an essential component of mental toughness, because if you aren’t savvy enough to read other people, you will never be able to adapt your own approach to accommodate different personalities.

There are a few tricks of the trade, and here are 10 that will help you to get people to lean toward your way of thinking when it matters most:

1. Leave A Strong First Impression

There is a reason FBI agents wear suits and workout every day. They portray the image of someone who is both professional and capable of handling themselves in every situation.

Most people make snap decisions within the first few seconds of meeting you. They then spend the rest of the conversation justifying their first impression.

Take advantage by paying attention to your appearance, posture, voice, and mannerisms. The secret weapon is likability and it can make a huge impact on your success.

2. Greet People By Name

Dale Carnegie, the author of How to Win Friends and Influence People, believed that using someone’s name was very important. He said that a person’s name is the sweetest sound in any language for that person.

Research shows that people feel validated when they are referred to by their name—just don’t over do it!

Personalize your interactions with others by using their name. Not everyone is good at remembering names, so you may need to collect business cards and make notes on the back of them to help jog your recollection.

3. Tilt Your Head

Common sense tells us that if you nod when you’re listening to someone, it indicates that you are in agreement.

But, when you tilt your head and nod, you are sending a more powerful non-verbal message that indicates you are listening, comfortable, and receptive.

4. Limit Your Speech

To be most effective, talk no longer than 30 seconds at a time in a given conversation.

According to researcher Andrew Newberg, the human brain can really only hold on to four things at a time, so if you go on and on for five or 10 minutes trying to argue a point, the person will only remember a very small part of that.

Speak briefly, sticking to one or two sentences or around 30 seconds worth, because that’s really what the human brain can take in.

5. Mirror Their Behavior

Mirroring is observing a person’s body posture and then subtly letting your body reflect their position.

Mirror neurons fire when you reflect an emotion you see in others. Researchers have discovered that those who had been mimicked were much more likely to act favorably toward the person who had copied them.

It’s an effective way to build rapport and increase a person’s comfort level when you need to use persuasion to get your point across.

6. Paraphrase And Repeat Back

One of the most positive ways to persuade others is to show them that you truly understand how they feel—even if you disagree with them.

Studies have shown that when you listen to what someone has to say, and then rephrase it as a question to confirm that you understood it, they are going to be more comfortable talking with you.

FBI agents use this to help them get confessions, but you can use this same trick because people are more likely to listen to what you have to say once you show them that you care about them.

7. Smile, Always

It should be no surprise that a smile creates the highest positive emotion—but it has to be a real smile!

In a genuine smile, the lips are drawn toward the cheekbone, eyebrows rise, and pupils dilate to open up. There is no more more powerful persuasion tool in the world, or more disarming, than a genuine smile.

8. Don’t Correct People When They Are Wrong

Dale Carnegie also pointed out in his famous book that telling someone they are wrong is usually unnecessary and is a catastrophic move if you want to persuade someone to do something for you because it’s an attack on their ego.

This doesn’t mean you let people off the hook, but I’ve used something called the Ransberger Pivot many times and it’s an effective approach (unless you’re dealing with a nut or a radical in which case nothing will work):

This is the idea: instead of arguing, listen to what they have to say, and then seek to understand how they feel and why. Then you explain the common ground that you share with them, and use that as a starting point to explain your position. This makes them much more likely to listen to what you have to say, and allows you to correct them without them losing face.

9. Say Please And Thank You

Researcher Robert Cialdini has shown that people respond to politeness! Treat people with respect. By simply adding the phrases “please” and “thank you” when making a request, compliance is much easier to achieve.

10. Flattery Works

This one may seem obvious at first, but there are some important caveats to it.

For starters, it must be sincere for it to be persuasive.

Second, remember that we look for cognitive balance by keeping our thoughts and feelings organized in a similar way. So, if you flatter someone who has high self-esteem, they will like you more because you validated how they feel about themselves.

What other persuasion tricks would you add?

© 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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Vulnerability —The Road To Courage And Success

July 26th, 2015 by LaRae Quy

When people meet me, they expect me to have the kind of bravado that is portrayed by FBI agents on TV and in movies—confident with no signs of weakness or vulnerability. Nothing could be further from the truth!

Vulnerability

The happiest and most successful FBI agents with whom I worked alongside had the self-awareness to know that it takes a great deal of courage to be vulnerable. To be authentic and seen for who you truly are is not for wimps.

Less courageous leaders pretend they are strong and will never break. They never acknowledge their weaknesses or vulnerabilities.

The possibility of greatness opens up when we are are truly prepared to move through our fears—in other words, allow ourselves to be vulnerable. Too often, it is much easier to settle for highly functioning mediocrity in our life rather than to risk exposure to criticism and the possibility of failure.

Humiliation is what you feel in front of others; shame is what you feel alone—LaRae Quy

According to Brene Brown, the root of shame is fear. “The questions we are living by—what are we supposed to fear, and who is to blame?—are exhausting for us spiritually, emotionally. Fear consumes an enormous amount of energy in our lives…we are spending so much time and energy being afraid that we are not fully walking into our power and our gifts.”

Our culture tells us that in order to be successful, we cannot live an ordinary life. Unless you are grabbing lots of attention and have lots of followers, you are not successful. Just look at the wildly popular “Keeping Up With The Kardashians.”

But in truth, success has become another word for narcissism. No wonder vulnerability is so scary—it has become synonymous with failure and things to be avoided.

SWAT, Navy SEALS, Special Forces, and FBI agents are trained to understand that fear is a healthy gift because courage is the product of our vulnerability, not of our strengths.

Here are 4 reasons vulnerability is the road to courage—and success:

1. Forces Self-Awareness

Who looks outside, dreams; who looks inside, awakes―Carl Jung

For those who think that self awareness is a touchy-feely approach to leadership and that emotional intelligence is a waste of time, think again. The tough guy blasting his way through obstacles is very popular in movies and books, but it’s fantasy.

In a 2010 study by Green Peak Partners and Cornell’s School of Industrial and Labor Relations, a high self-awareness score was the strongest predictor of overall success.

Emotional awareness is a requirement for mental toughness. It doesn’t take rocket science to understand that successful leaders who are aware of their weaknesses are in a better position to hire people who will compliment them and make up for those areas in which they are weak.

Assuming that is, the leader is willing to admit they have weaknesses—in other words, acknowledge their vulnerabilities.

What we do not accept about ourselves can often be the very thing that derails us, so bringing awareness to this is important for your future success.

2. Builds Resilience

Vulnerability is the combination of uncertainty, risk, and challenges. Welcome to life! To pretend you are not vulnerable would leave you in a perpetual state of denial and stress.

Resilience is our ability to withstand challenges to our established way of life—to bend without breaking. As such, vulnerability may be considered the soft underbelly of resilience. Our ability to be vulnerable stimulates the brain to find ways to adapt to our constantly changing environment.

Allowing a vulnerability to surface creates a disturbance in our environment, and our autonomic brain responses are mobilized in order to provide stability.

When the brain detects a threat to our status quo, it triggers increases in chemicals like cortisol and metabolic hormones. This is a healthy, albeit primitive, stress response that ensures our survival. The ability to adapt to stressors in our environment allows us to bounce back when we hit the unexpected.

3. Grow—Or Wither Up And Die

We are so afraid of suffering or feeling pain in any form that we would prefer to live unfulfilled lives rather than experience discomfort.

It takes courage to invite pain, suffering, and discomfort into our life. We cling to the old way of doing things because we lack certainty and fear the unknown. Instead of taking a closer look at why we feel so vulnerable, we gun our engines and stay on course.

That means you stop learning, stretching, and growing. In essence, you die, although your body may not be buried until decades later.

Innovation and creativity demand vulnerability. Every entrepreneurial undertaking is courageous and risky. Experimentation is at the heart of innovation, so instead of feeling powerless by this vulnerability, replace it with the wisdom earned from each of your experiences.

Until you realize that innovation and vulnerability are played by the same hand, you will always balk at moving past your comfort zone.

4. Reins In Your Ego

The small mind is binary—everything is either good or bad, yes or no. It looks for comparisons and judgments.

The great mind synthesizes new information and alternative points of view. To be great, you must allow yourself to be vulnerable.

The ego hates this! The ego always wants to be right. New ways of thinking, about ourselves and our situations, threatens it—and that is exactly why change is so hard for so many people.

The most successful people I know have realistic assessments of their own abilities—strengths, weaknesses, and their affect on others. They do not let their ego interfere with identifying what gaps need to be filled or admit that someone else on their team may have an idea that is even better than their own.

Vulnerability can be scary. But if you are mentally tough, you will develop the courage to be vulnerable about who you really are—because that is the only way to be truly successful.

When has your vulnerability allowed you to be more courageous and successful?

© 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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4 Key Behaviors Of Resilient People

July 19th, 2015 by LaRae Quy

At ten years of age, I rode my bike on a cow trail near our ranch house in Wyoming. I sped along at a good clip, too fast to notice a coiled rattlesnake on the other side of rock—until the snake struck out at full length. My bike flipped, and as I landed, I felt dozens of pricks all over my arms and hands. My mind raced with fear because I thought the rattlesnake had bitten me.

4 Key Behaviors

We lived on a remote ranch in the mountains and it was a two-hour drive on dirt roads to a hospital.

At ten, I prepared myself to die of snake poisoning.

Right about the time I was mourning the loss of what could have been a spectacular life, I noticed that I had landed in a pile of cactus. The wreck of my bike told me the rest of the story—the snake had struck the spokes of the front wheel and was now struggling to get out of the broken and bent spoke wires.

My first instinct was to run home to safety, but my parents had taught me that nothing can be accomplished by running, so I found a good sized rock and made sure that particular rattlesnake would never terrorize my cow lane again.

Then I loaded the bike on my shoulders and carried the sorry mess home.

Our reaction to adversity plays a big role in determining how fast we get back on track with life. New research shows that resilience to adversity in our life may be linked to how often we face it. The number of blows a person has taken may affect their mental toughness more than any other factor.

The School Of Hard Knocks has been around for awhile. The early Christians learned this lesson when they were being thrown into dungeons by the Romans. The apostle Paul wrote the following in a letter: “We also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character, and character, hope.” (Romans 5:3-4).

Resilience is not only the ability to bend and bounce back from adversity, it is the strength to bounce though them as well. When I was an FBI agent, I realized that it is a person’s level of resilience that determines who succeeds and who fails.

A person with a strong mind is someone who can predict the way they will respond to events in life so they can choose the better alternative. They can look back at how they’ve responded to situations in the past, learn from those experiences, and apply that knowledge to future ones.

Living through adversity gives you the confidence that you can come out at the other end of almost anything. Here are 4 key behaviors of resilient people:

Tip #1: Decide Who Is In Control

My first reaction to the rattlesnake was a healthy dose of fear. At some point, however, I had a choice of letting that fear control me—or not. If it did, it meant I ran home and waited for my parents to take care of both the snake and my bike. If I didn’t let fear control me, it meant I got myself out of the situation using my own resources.

Develop an understanding of your fear. Chances are good that your fear sprouts from feelings of insecurity or doubts you may have about yourself.

It takes courage to look inwardly into the darkest part of your personality. We all contain bits of light and dark; we all contain bits of gold and lead.

Tip #2: Face Down Reality

If you want to be resilient, you must be able to look the reality of your situation square in the face.

There is a big difference between optimists who believe that everything will work out OK in the end, and positive thinkers who do not let optimism distort their sense of reality. Positive thinkers hunt the good stuff and look for positives in the middle of adversity, but they do not expect their situation to change; instead, they find ways to prevail in the middle of hardship.

Resilient people have a very sober understanding of what it takes to survive. This requires the ability to anticipate the worst of outcomes while staying cool at the same time.

My FBI training prepared me to be resilient by showing me how to truly stare down reality. It prepared me to act in ways that allowed me to endure when I was thrown into unpredictable and unstable situations. I trained how to survive before the fact—that was the essence of the FBI’s training program at the Academy.

Tip #3: Find Meaning In Your Life

If you look at yourself as a victim, living through a hardship carries no lesson for you. But, if you are resilient, you will squeeze meaning from your adversity and build a bridge to a better, and more fulfilled, future.

No one exemplified this better than Victor Frankl, an Austrian psychiatrist and Auschwitz survivor. In his book, Man’s Search For Meaning, Frankl describes the pivotal moment in the concentration camp when he became disgusted by how trivial and meaningless his life had become. He realized that to survive, he had to find a purpose. Frankl imagined himself giving a lecture after the war on the psychology of the concentration camp.

When he gave himself a concrete goal, he rose above his sufferings of the moment. He said, “We must never forget that we may also find meaning in life even when confronted with a hopeless situation.”

Possessing strong values creates an environment of meaning because they offer ways to interpret events. The most successful people, and businesses, have a purpose beyond just making money.

Tip #4: Make Do And Get On With It

Life never deals a perfect hand. Perhaps it was never meant to—as Meister Eckhart once said, “If humankind could have known God without the world, God would never have created the world.”

We learn, grow, and stretch by not just surviving adversity, but by thriving in the midst of it. When hardship does hit, resilience is the ability to make do with whatever we have available. Resilient people improvise and experiment until they find a solution to the problem. The key is to make improvising a way of life.

Karl E. Weick, a professor of organizational behavior at the University of Michigan believes there is good evidence that when people are put under pressure, they regress to their most habituated ways of responding.

Again, the way we train ourselves to think, feel, and behave during our regular daily life is exactly the way we will respond when hit with hard times.

What other key behaviors have you noticed in resilient people?

© 2011 LaRaeQuy. All rights reserved.

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5 Surefire Ways To Break Bad Habits

July 12th, 2015 by LaRae Quy

When I attended an undercover in-service at the FBI Academy, several of my training sessions included a mock trial with cross examination by a hostile public defender. The normal human response to a verbal attack is to become angry—maybe even strike back. But that is exactly what I could not do when testifying against the target of an undercover operation.

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My training helped me to develop the self-control I would need to do my job professionally, even when provoked, by staying calm and not reacting with anger in hostile situations.

Self-control separates us from the rest of the animal kingdom. Rather than responding to immediate impulses, self-control is the ability to act the way we want to act when we find ourselves in challenging situations.

When we’re stressed, we tend to rely on ingrained habits—whether they are helpful or harmful. To manage ourselves well, it’s important to know our habits well enough that we’re not surprised by our reactions when we hit tough times.

This is surprisingly difficult because our habits are, for the most part, invisible and hidden in our unconscious mind. For example: you get into your car and drive to work without thinking about it—you operate on autopilot. Autopilot habits allow us to live on low brain-strain.

We don’t need to pay conscious attention to the countless habits that keep us going from day to day. The brain conserves energy this way and makes us more efficient. The problem is accessing this part of the brain when we become aware that our habits are no longer working in our best interests.

Mental toughness is managing our emotions, thoughts, and behavior in ways that will set us up for success. This requires self-control as well as emotional awareness if we are to know which habits need to be strengthened, changed, or jettisoned.

Here are 5 surefire ways to break bad habits:

1. Change The Way You Think About Habits

If you want to develop good habits, it takes willpower.

In his book, “Willpower: Rediscovering the Greatest Human Strength,” social psychologist Roy Baumeister concludes that willpower is limited and depends on a continuous supply of glucose to power the brain.

For years we’ve been told that willpower is needed for sprints—but that it will not last for the entire run.

Now, this claim is being challenged by Stanford psychologists Greg Walton and Carol Dweck.

They believe that willpower can indeed be quite limited—but only if you believe it is. On the other hand, if you believe that willpower is self-renewing—then you will successfully exert more willpower.

If you believe you have the willpower to keep going, it is not a limited resource.

2. Identify The Triggers

When we are stressed, bad habits can be triggered.

If you don’t know what your triggers are, you will never succeed in changing bad habits. In moments of frustration and vulnerability, we often reach for alcohol, drugs, or food. Likewise, boredom, anxiety, and anger can trigger a bad habit that we’ve developed over the years as a way of coping with those negative emotions.

It is essential to identify the state of mind that triggers your undesirable habit.

3. Eliminate Choices

Don’t put yourself in temptation’s way.

If you love chocolate, stop buying it so it’s not in your kitchen. Make a plan ahead of time for how you will not succumb to the temptation.

If you want to control impulse spending, stop carrying a credit card with you. This will force you to rethink the purchase. If the item is over a specific amount, talk it over with someone else. Chances are good that you’ll think twice about making the purchase.

Willpower is all you need to make sure you stick with it! If you are motivated, you can make a list of the good habits you want to incorporate into your lifestyle and prioritize them.

Baumeister states that “People with low willpower use it to get themselves out of a crisis. People with high willpower use it to not get themselves into a crisis in the first place.”

4. Notice The Way The Habit Operates

Simply put—pay attention!

Notice not only the factors that trigger the bad habit, but also become aware of the behavior that leads up to your habit.

For example, let’s say that you’ve had a bad day at work. You know that you act out your frustration in aggressive driving behavior on the way home. So, instead of letting a white BWM into your lane, you stomp on the gas pedal and almost cause a collision.

You experience a sense of satisfaction at having made someone else’s day miserable. It feels good at first, then it feels bad. But the next time you have a bad day at work, the habit starts all over again.

5. Reward Yourself

Many of us develop bad habits because they make us feel good!

Once you have the urge to indulge in a bad habit, experiment by doing something different instead. What you choose isn’t important. The point is to drill down to determine what is creating the need for the habit.

Charles Duhigg, author of The Power of Habit,” suggests that once we identify a trigger, the key  to changing a habit is to link a new behavior to the old one, and the best way of reinforcing a new behavior is to reward it.

Often success is not about learning a new skill or talent; instead, it’s stopping or altering our current bad habits.

What suggestions do you have for breaking a bad habit?

© 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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10 Questions Every Successful Person Needs To Ask About Fear

July 5th, 2015 by LaRae Quy

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

10 Fear Questions

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

1. How Can My Fear Be A Guide?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

7. How Can I Go It Alone?

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

8. How Can I Stop Feeling Fearful?

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

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

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

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

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

10. How Can I Modify A Fearful Memory?

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

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

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

© 2015 LaRaeQuy. All rights reserved.

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

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7 Science-Based Ways To Find Happiness

June 28th, 2015 by LaRae Quy

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

7 Science-Based Ways

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

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

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

1. Help Others

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

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

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

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

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

2. Plan Experiences And Savor The Anticipation

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

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

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

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

Why?

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

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

3. Be True To Yourself

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

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

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

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

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

4. Nurture Relationships

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

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

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

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

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

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

5. Practice Gratitude

Gratitude increases happiness and satisfaction with life.

The reason?

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

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

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

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

6. Pursue Work That Has Meaning

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

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

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

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

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

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

7. Keep Moving

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

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

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

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

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

How do you find happiness?

© 2015 LaRaeQuy. All rights reserved.

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

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7 Steps to Create A Resilient Mind

June 21st, 2015 by LaRae Quy

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

7 Steps To

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

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

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

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

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

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

Why Is Change So Hard?

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

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

And this triggers anxiety.

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

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

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

Questions Are The Most Important Tool In Your Mental Toughness Toolbox

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

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

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

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

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

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

7 Steps To Create A Resilient Mind

STEP ONE: Create A Sense Of Urgency

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

STEP TWO: Put Together A Personal Board of Directors

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

STEP THREE: Make A Plan

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

STEP FOUR: Talk It Up

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

STEP FIVE: Hunt The Good Stuff

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

STEP SIX: Take Small Steps

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

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

STEP SEVEN: Be Diligent

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

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

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

© 2015 LaRaeQuy. All rights reserved.

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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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