4 Secrets Of A Strong Mind

May 14th, 2018 by LaRae Quy

Movies and television depict heroes who have a strong mind. We admire people who push the limits. Heroes and tough guys let us walk in their shoes, if only for a couple of hours. We feel what it’s like to have the mental toughness to break out of a seemingly boring existence, and enter into a much bigger world—one that is full of possibility.

The reality is this: you and I must also be strong-minded if we are to overcome the obstacles we meet every day. We know that it takes more than talent or skill to become a top performer. Research studies indicate that intelligence accounts for 30% of our achievement.

So what does make a good leader, athlete, or parent? The answer is a strong mind that pushes through adversity. It is an inner quality that enables people to work hard and stick to their goals.

The good news is that a strong mind is not something you were born with. It is something that can be developed.

What secret characteristics do heroes with a strong mind possess? They embody these elements:

  • Confidence
  • Persistence
  • Dedication
  • Control

Ok—so maybe the characteristics of a hero are not-so-secret after all. But how can you and I harness their power? How can we create the strong mind that is the trademark of those who live large in a world full of possibilities?

Here are the secrets I learned from my own life:

1. Confidence

When I took the physical fitness (FIT) test at the FBI New Agents Academy, I was the bottom 1% that made the top 99% feel better about themselves. I failed miserably, so my challenge became twofold. First, I needed to maintain confidence in myself. Second, I needed to train so I could pass the rigid FIT test. I worked with a coach at the Academy, who taught me the secret to building confidence.

“When you improve a little each day, eventually bigger things will come. Not tomorrow, not the next day, but eventually a big gain is made. Don’t worry about short, quick improvements. Seek out the small improvements, one day at a time. And when it happens—it lasts.”

Helping new agents boost their confidence is the primary goal of the Academy—before they send agents out with a gun and badge. There were days when my heart raced and my palms sweat just thinking about the new challenges that faced me. But I learned that success would not make me confident—rather, confidence in myself and my abilities would make me successful.

The result? I passed the FIT test and worked as an FBI agent for twenty-four years.

TIP: Confidence is a belief in yourself and your ability to meet your goals. Push out of your comfort zone and expose yourself to different situations. Learn how to push through the uncomfortable. Once you have confidence in yourself, you’ll be amazed what you can accomplish.

2. Persistence

When I interviewed with the FBI, they liked my grit and scrappiness. A hillbilly from a cattle ranch in Wyoming who had clawed her way through college. I sat in front of a panel of polished FBI agents and interviewed for a job as a special agent. If I wanted the job, I’d need to learn how to Grit Up!

I grew up as an unsophisticated ranch girl, and believe me, it takes a while to put a shine on a sneaker. Each curveball thrown my way was met with determination and persistence. Grit was needed to make sacrifices and keep my eye on the larger goal.

Every day at the FBI Academy involved some kind of physical activity. As a trainee, I put in extra training for the FIT test. On top of that, as a class, we boxed each other, engaged in arrest scenarios, and ran around the basketball court holding 5 lb medicine balls. I was tired, depressed, and under pressure. Yet I knew that if I gave up, I would regret it the rest of my life.

So I straightened my back and dug deeper. A strong mind is not built on something slapped together on a shallow foundation. It needs solid rock.

Like a skyscraper, the higher you want to go, the deeper you must go.

TIP: Persistence is the tendency is to see life’s obstacles as challenges to be met, rather than as threats. Don’t whine, point fingers, or blame others for your predicament. You can be the hero of your own life and choose your destiny.

3. Dedication

On my first day at the FBI Academy, I didn’t feel like a superhero. In fact it wasn’t until after four grueling months of being placed in dangerous and awkward situations that I felt I had what it takes to do the job.

In the deepest part of me I knew that I would make the FBI my career. It was not a stepping-stone to something better that might come along. I was a disciple of my own deep values and beliefs. I had the will to subjugate my feelings to those values.

In his book, The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, Stephen Covey writes, “If you are an effective manager of your self, your discipline comes from within.”

TIP: Strong-minded people have a dedication that comes from a purpose in alignment with their deepest values.

4. Control

Push-ups were the most difficult aspect of the physical fitness test for me. After several of them failed to be counted, I began to “psyche myself out,” worrying whether I could do it all!

A strong mind shuts out feelings of fear and inadequacy. Instead, it focuses on how to reach the goal. Control your own emotions, thoughts, and behavior, rather than trying to control other people.

The best way to control your situation is to invest energy into it so you understand all aspects. This allows you to pinpoint the soft underbelly of the challenge. Throw out preconceived ideas of what you can, and cannot do. If you put your shoulder to it, you will find that grit trumps talent every time!

Life-long training is a fact of life for FBI agents. It starts the day we arrive at the FBI Academy and ends the day we sign our retirement papers.

This constant training creates the sort of mentality that prepares for the worst and practices ahead of time to overcome it. We’ve either gathered the evidence, slapped on the handcuffs, or run the drills so we know what to do in case the sh*t hits the fan.

TIP: Control is having a certainty that you are able to shape your destiny and not passively accepting events as fate.

© 2018 LaRae Quy. All rights reserved.

You can follow me on Twitter, Facebook, AND LinkedIn

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.”

4 Ways To Erase Painful Memories From Your Mind

May 7th, 2018 by LaRae Quy

Like every kid, I have some painful memories from childhood. We never bought milk at the grocery store; instead, we had Spot, a mangy-looking Holstein who often grazed on weeds rather than grass. 

She kicked, and twitched her filthy tail, so Dad had to hobble her every night when he milked her. No one liked Spot; she smelled bad and her milk was tainted with the taste of weeds. I complained every time I was forced to drink a glass of milk. Chunks of coagulated cream floated on the top, and often there were flecks of dirt—or something worse—resting at the bottom.

“You need milk to grow tall and strong,” my Mother would assure me. I held my nose and drank the weedy stuff, leaving as much of the dark flecks at the bottom as I could.

Much as our body is built on the foods we eat and drink, our mind is built on our memories and experiences. As we all know, the residue of our experiences can be thrown into two piles: those that are beneficial and those that can cause harm.

There are many painful memories that we replay in our mind: conversations with our boss, disagreements with colleagues, arguments with partners and spouses. Many of us were called names or bullied as kids in school. Often those hurtful comments rear their ugly head when we meet new people.

We beat ourselves up for things said, and left unsaid; when we play that same scene over and over, it only increases our fear that we’ve said or done the wrong thing.

Mental toughness is the ability to control thoughts, emotions, and behavior in ways that will set you up for success. If you are mentally tough, you can find ways to erase painful memories from your mind. Here are 4 ways:

1. Interrupt Your Tendency to Brood On Negative Memories

Studies have shown that even when positive experiences outnumber our negative ones, the pile of negative and painful memories will always grow faster. Our mind is like Velcro for negative experiences and Teflon for positive ones! The solution is not to suppress negative or painful memories, but rather to encourage more positive ones.

Years of survival among saber-toothed tigers have created a human brain that is designed to change through negative experiences, not positive ones. Natural selection shaped our minds to respond to situations that contain threats to life. The cost of failure to respond to a life threatening situation could be death, whereas the cost of failure to respond to a life opportunity does not carry the same dire consequences. 

This explains why the negative experiences and painful memories from our past stay in our mind for so long.

While self-reflection is helpful, brooding is harmful. When we dwell on our problems, it magnifies our misfortune. In the end, we host our own pity party which increases our distress!

How To Make It Work For You: Mindfulness is the key to living in the “here and now.” When you’re mindful, you are present in the moment. Mindfulness takes practice, but over time, it can greatly decrease our tendency to brood over negative memories.

2. Choose To Forget

 

Have you ever wondered why students who cram to prepare for an exam can cheerfully expunge their brain of all that hard-won learning once it’s no longer needed? Within days, they can barely remember the basics let alone the details. It’s as if they’ve forgotten on purpose.

A recent study shows that, under the right conditions, we can forget what we choose to forget. It’s possible to forget painful memories if we discard the mental context within which the memories were first learned.

The brain that wants to remember needs to keep active the mental context that was present  during the learning experience. For example, our brain’s memory is enhanced when it imagines the sequence of events and their locations. When we think about memorable parties we’ve attended, our mind wanders through the rooms and contexts of conversations. Our brain is able to recall what we experienced first-hand in each location.

The same study provided evidence that we forget things when we discard the mental context and images that go with the painful memories.

How To Make It Work For You: Vision is the most dispassionate, the least emotional, of all our senses. Reduce your painful memory to only the visual image rather than the actual first-hand experience. This will help dislodge the context of the memory so your recollection of it becomes thinner and less potent over time.

3. Replace Painful Memories With Positive Ones

Like pulling weeds, the pesky things won’t go away unless they’re pulled out by the roots. Often, it takes mental toughness to be inquisitive enough to get to the root of our memories. Look at your life as an investigator would look at it.

Delicately probe the deep roots of a recurring negative memory. The tips are often found in childhood experiences. Deliberately interrupt that negative memory with a positive one in order to pull it out at its core. When you do, you’re building new, positive neural connections.

It takes active effort to pull painful memories from our mind and replace them with positive ones.

How To Make It Work For You: Pair a bad memory with a good one. Each time you think about a painful memory, shift your thoughts to the good one.

  • When you remember a childhood feeling of sadness, recall being loved by other people in your life.
  • Give those positive feelings of love and appreciation 20-30 seconds to really sink in.
  • Add the power of language by saying: “I got through that, I’m still here, and people love me.”

4. Get Control Of The Painful Memories

The most common mistake most people make when they try to erase painful memories is to control, or suppress, their negative thoughts and feelings. This does nothing but create a vicious loop of more negative feelings and emotions. The more you feed this loop, your painful memories will only become more intense and persistent over time.

You cannot control or stop the way you feel, but you can learn to change the way you react to negative emotions. If you choose to remain a victim, you have no way to empower yourself. You’ve given your power away to those who hurt you. It is not your fault you were the victim of an unpleasant situation, but it is your fault if you choose to remain a victim long after the incident.

How To Make It Work For You: First, be aware that painful memories are in the past and are not relevant to you now. Second, since you cannot control or repress them, learn to observe them instead. Go ahead and feel painful memories, but stay calm around them. The secret is to remain relaxed and change your response.

© 2018 LaRae Quy. All rights reserved.

You can follow me on Twitter, Facebook, AND LinkedIn

Get my FREE 45-Question Mental Toughness Assessment

Sign Up for my How To Build Confidence on-line training course

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

4 Science-Based Ways To Develop A Strong Mind

April 30th, 2018 by LaRae Quy

My grandmother knew how to develop a strong mind with lots of spunk and grit. She was a crack shot with a shotgun. She never allowed me to say “I can’t” when she told me to do my chores. Come summer, she was the kind of person who would rather burn her front yard than mow it.

My grandmother never had more than an 8th grade education, but she knew something that researchers at world-class universities are just now understanding.

And that is, every time we say the words “I can’t” we are creating a feedback loop in our brain that impacts the way we’re going to behave in the future. We’re reminding ourself of our limitations. What we’re really saying, “I don’t have the confidence to do this.”

Have you ever said to yourself:

  • Public speaking is not my thing, so don’t blame me if it goes badly.
  • I don’t like to perform under pressure so don’t blame me if I screw up.
  • This project is too much, so don’t blame me if it’s not a success.

There are many different regions of the brain, and an MRI scan can show what parts of the brain light up when we think. If you make a fist, your hand would represent the cerebral cortex—the thinking part of the brain. This is the part of the brain that finds new ways to think and generate solutions; it is more logical in it’s approach.

But the moment something creates fear or discomfort, we move into another part of the brain. The thumb underneath your fist would represent the limbic system—the reactive or emotional part of the brain.

The limbic system may be small in size, but it’s powerful because it controls our survival instinct. When we’re confronted with an obstacle that threatens us, we move from the cerebral to the reactive limbic system and it creates the “fight” or “flight” reactions that have kept humans alive for centuries. I describe the limbic system as our feeling brain because it’s the home of our small but powerful gut instinct. It helps us deal with emergencies and threats to our life.

The feeling brain is 100% self-protective and it’s not a good place to be when we need to make decisions as we face adversity. We don’t need to flee from every challenge just because it scares us. The feeling brain can’t discern between anxiety about a threat to our safety, and anxiety we experience when we speak in front of a group of people.

All it knows is that if we’re in discomfort and feel anxious. Instinctively, it tells us to flee or withdraw, so we obey and say, “I can’t.” To develop a strong mind, we have to switch gears to consciously move out of the reactive limbic system and into the thinking cerebral brain. When we face adversity and obstacles, it’s vital for the two parts of our brain to work together so the best decisions can be made.

Here are 4 science-based steps to develop a strong mind:

1. Prioritize Information

You create a strong mind when you prioritize information because it forces the brain to interact with information rather than simply react to it. One excellent way to force the limbic system to interact with the cerebral brain is to create visuals with whiteboards and then list your projects. Visuals help the two parts of the brain sort out the day’s activities together. Otherwise, we risk the chance of them fighting against one another for attention and energy.

After you’ve prioritized, you develop a strong mind when you strip away all the fuss and focus only on the most important projects. Bill Gates said something he learned from Buffett was to keep things simple. “His ability to boil things down, to just work on the things that really count, to think through the basics — it’s so amazing that he can do that. It’s a special form of genius.”

Tip: If possible, assign a theme to each day. When you focus on one specific type of work each day of the week, it helps you stay accountable and monitor progress. It also helps you stay focused on work.

2. Use Your Brain To Manage Stress

As an FBI agent, I had to develop a strong mind because I was frequently confronted with stressful situations.

Research has shown that law enforcement personnel develop a strong mind when they learn how to manage their fear and anxiety. It’s not that they don’t feel discomfort; it’s that they have been trained to manage that discomfort so they are hardier and more resilient.

Tip: Here are two ways to manage stress:

Be grateful. Gratitude emanates from the limbic system, and because of this, we can use gratitude to influence other emotions such as anxiety and fear.

Write down what you feel. When we write down, and then think about those emotions, we can boost our ability to counter the negative emotions we experience at the time. If we keep a journal, it moves us from the limbic system into the cerebral. It’s important not only to think about why we are grateful, but also to focus on the feelings attached to our gratitude.

3. Label All Emotions, Not Just the Good Ones

Now that you’ve written down and identified your emotions, the next step to develop a strong mind is to label them. All of them, not just the nice ones. Many people only want to admit emotions that are warm and fuzzy or ones that make them look good. We’ve all had to learn how to turn shit into sugar so be honest with yourself.

When we label our emotions, it does not increase them. In fact, when you label your fear or anxiety, it lessens your discomfort. It’s very important, however, to keep the label to one or two words because if you open up dialogue about it, you will only stir up the limbic system.

Tip: When you reflect on your feelings and label them, you use your thinking part of the brain to control your emotions instead of allowing them to control you. You move out of the fight/flight mode so you can think about the issue at hand.

4. Train Your Brain To Remain Positive

We develop a strong mind when we change our interpretation of a situation. Since we have an innate bias toward negativity, we process bad news faster than good news. This is because our feeling brain is always survival-driven. This also explains why we’re driven to avoid losses far more than we’re driven to pursue gains. Our emotional responses flow from our appraisals of the world.

My grandmother knew that it was not lack of fear that creates a successful response; it’s how we deal with fear and anxiety. For FBI agents, leaders, or grandmothers everywhere, let your discomfort be a reminder that you need to seek out the positive in your situation. Sometimes you need to look really hard, but it’s always there.

Tip: Social psychologist Barbara Frederickson recommends that when you’re under pressure, you can develop a strong mind if you pause and reflect on five things in life that are truly important to you. Pause after each one to ponder them for several seconds. Ground yourself in the simple reality that no amount of hassle or worry can rob us of what matters most.

© 2018 LaRae Quy. All rights reserved.

You can follow me on Twitter, Facebook, AND LinkedIn

Get my FREE 45-Question Mental Toughness Assessment

Sign Up for my How To Build Confidence on-line training course

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

Why Mental Toughness Gives You A Competitive Advantage

April 23rd, 2018 by LaRae Quy

The biggest challenge I had in graduating from the FBI Academy was meeting the physical fitness standards. I was a slow runner and found pushups very difficult. I did not have a competitive advantage. As a result, I failed the interim FIT test and was almost washed out of the Academy.

Instructors and coaches at the FBI Academy expressed concern that I was not athletic enough to become an agent. My first response was, “How is running 2 miles in 10 minutes going to help me be a better investigator?”

This was my reasoning was this: 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 brawn would not make me a better agent. My athletic training, however, had created a set of mental skills to give me a competitive advantage that I would utilize throughout my 24 year FBI career.

Research and common sense tell us that top athletes have a competitive advantage because of their physical talents and dedication to training. However, they also succeed because of their ability to deal with the psychological pressures of their sport. Mental toughness is extremely important for any athlete aiming to be the best.

The real question of coaching in sports is this: Are you mentally tough enough to compete?

There was a recent study of athletes who successfully completed sport injury rehabilitation. The study 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. The same mindset is needed by leaders, entrepreneurs, and business owners who need to stay ahead of their competition. Here is a closer look at why mental toughness gives you a competitive advantage:

1. Goal Setting

When you set a goal, you identify something you want, and also something you are willing to pursue in order to achieve.

Setting a specific goal makes you more likely to achieve it. This becomes important when you want a competitive advantage so you can take your sport to the next level, make a change in your career, or overcome 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. This is what will give you the competitive advantage you need in life.

TIP #2 FOCUS ON A DIRECTION

Set your training 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 NEEDED

You will have a competitive advantage when you use mental skills to focus on the right thing—the direction you want your life to move. Don’t make the mistake of getting married to your goal. Often, goals need to change as our circumstances change. Goals are the steps to reach your vision, what really matters to you. 

2. Positive Thinking

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. They 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 give you a competitive advantage and help get you through any setback that comes your way.

TIP #1 FIND 5 POSITIVE THOUGHTS

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 stickPositive 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. Negative thinking will never give you a competitive advantage.

3) Imagery

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. Dopamine is a powerful mental toughness tool that can give us a competitive advantage. 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.

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 performance, they are less prepared and more stressed when things don’t workout. 

TIP#2 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 competitor.
  • Prepare for the hard questions from your supervisor.
  • Rehearse your response to conversations that might come up.

This is enough to get that important shot of dopamine. It can give you a competitive advantage so you can move beyond your self-limiting beliefs about yourself and current circumstances.

© 2018 LaRae Quy. All rights reserved.

You can follow me on Twitter, Facebook, AND LinkedIn

Get my FREE 45-Question Mental Toughness Assessment

Sign Up for my How To Build Confidence on-line training course

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

6 Ways To Get Through Adversity

April 16th, 2018 by LaRae Quy

Anything worthwhile will require us to learn how to get through adversity. All of us will experience roadblocks in our careers, relationships, finances, and health at some point in our life.

If we want to get through adversity, we need to develop a mindset of mental toughness so we can keep on the move. Successful people understand that mindset beats strategy every time.

I learned at an early age that the way I thought about the problems before me would be way I would overcome them. When my brother and I were kids, Dad pointed out a still used to brew whiskey on our Wyoming ranch. We were on horseback and rode past a few barrel rings and a wall of rocks. Tucked into a steep draw, it was surrounded by aspen trees and a little cow trail that led to the bottom of the canyon near our house.

At that time, my brother and I collected antique glassware as a hobby. We planned to go back to the whiskey still and look around for old bottles at a later time. It should be easy enough to find, we thought. So after school we told our parents we were going out to play and would be back in time for supper. We walked up the canyon, and when we saw a draw that looked familiar, we started up.

Our ranch was located in the scatterings of the Snowy Mountain Range at an altitude of 7,000 feet. Summers are short in that country. The green aspen trees that looked lush and cozy when we rode past them a few months before, were now barren and cold.

Night fell much earlier in the winter months and dusk had begun to set in. We could not find the whiskey still but continued on until we reached the top of the draw. When we saw Laramie Peak in a distance, we knew we had climbed over 2,000 feet out of the canyon bottom.

We had climbed up the wrong draw, night was coming, and we had no flashlights. The rattlesnakes had hibernated for the winter, but conditions were still adverse. It was dark, the terrain was steep and rocky. The temperature had begun to drop at an alarming rate.

At the ages of ten and eleven, my younger brother and I learned young to how to get through adversity.

Here are 6 ways that will help you get through adversity as well:

1. Keep Your Eye On The Target

This was not the first time my brother and I had to embrace the suck. Winters are harsh on a Wyoming cattle ranch. We leaned into misery and pushed through our discomfort zones on a daily basis. Water in the cattle tanks froze over and we swung axes to break through three-inches of ice. Bales of hay needed to be loaded onto trucks and fed to cattle. The worse the weather, the more our livestock depended upon us for food and water.

Summers were even worse because we fixed fences, greased bailers, trailed cattle, and put up hay instead of playing with the neighborhood kids. Ooops, did I mention there were no neighborhood kids because our ranch was so isolated?

The lessons I learned to get down the mountain stayed with me the rest of my life. I spent four months at the FBI Academy in new agent’s training. We trained hard, day in and day out, no matter the weather conditions—in snow, wind, rain, or heat. Whenever I thought I couldn’t push myself any further, I remembered that cold night climbing back down a mountain when I was eleven years old. I knew I had what it took to get through adversity because I’d done it before.

How To Make It Work For You:  As entrepreneurs and business leaders, you also need ways to keep your team focused and fired up. High-performance companies provide a vision for a brighter future. This vision keeps employees focused and excited about the future. It prepares them to get through adversity because they can see beyond the current roadblock.

2. Grit Up

My brother and I were not sure how to get back home before we found ourselves in complete darkness and freezing temperatures. We decided that if we stayed with the cow trail it would ultimately lead us to our destination. But we’d lost the trail! We hopped over rocks and fallen trees in an attempt to find it.

We developed a strategy: as long we were headed downhill, we were headed in the right direction. The draw had many smaller ones that meandered over the sides of the canyon and we were tempted at times, but time was important and we knew the quickest way down was the way we came up. We persisted and found the cow path again.

As an FBI agent, there were many times when I needed to grit up and remain persistent if I hoped to solve a case. FBI investigations do not come with a set of instructions on how to solve them. It can take many attempts, many failures, many iterations, before the answer is found.

How To Make It Work For You: To get through adversity, attack the problem from a different angle if your first, or tenth, approach doesn’t work. Learn to pivot when needed. Where there is a will, there is a way.

3. Keep A Lid On Emotions

While neither my brother or I panicked, we were scared—but we never let negativity set in. We acknowledged our fears but remained confident in our ability to get home safely.

I have drawn my weapon while making an arrest. I was scared and afraid of what I would need to do if the person resisted.

It’s always important to acknowledge emotions, but to get through adversity you need to remind yourself that you have the mental toughness to manage the negative ones. You may not be able to change the conditions but you can change the way you deal with them. It’s possible to have self-control in an out-of-control environment.

How To Make It Work For You: You can control your team’s emotions when you get their buy-in. As a leader, help everyone connect with the vision you have. This becomes even more important when things look tough.

4. Accept Responsibility

My brother and I had no one to blame but ourselves. This was no game we were playing and we had to have the strength to look at our adversity realistically and take responsibility for getting ourselves back home. Our parents had no idea we had headed out to find the whiskey still because we hadn’t told them.

As an FBI agent, I found that self-examination would be one of the most important ways I could become a more effective leader and achieve my goals. When I confronted obstacles and adversity, I was not afraid to question my thinking. Often, this self-examination uncovered biases or assumptions I had made that either contributed to the obstacle or stood in my way of overcoming it.

How To Make It Work For You: Self-awareness leads to emotional intelligence—a better understanding of yourself and how you interact with others. A self-examination includes a regular review of values, desires, and fears. This honest assessment can lead to a reinvention of goals and beliefs.

5. Pace Yourself

My brother and I both knew that if we stopped, we’d freeze to death before morning. On the other hand, if we depleted our resources, we’d be unable to continue.

I learned it was important to pace myself while running obstacle courses at the FBI Academy. I was not a strong runner, and while I enthusiastically charged out the gate, I knew I’d need to pace myself to last the entire obstacle course.

The same logic applied to my investigations: if I depleted my resources, ran myself to exhaustion, and then needed to respond to a fast-moving break in the case, I was in serious trouble. This can happen in any area of our life; we move so fast that we fail to recognize what goes on around us. Whether we call it alertness or paranoia, it’s always prudent to look to the horizon for both threats and opportunities.

How To Make It Work For You: We can work hard, but we don’t always work smart. To be high-performers, we need to pace ourselves because it allows us the time to prioritize our values and what is important to us. To learn more, read the chapter called The 20 mile March in “Great by Choice” by Jim Collins.

6. Create Community

My brother and I were a team and we worked together to get back down the hill. We provided moral support for one another. We jumped across waterfalls and mucked through inches of mud to follow the meandering cow path.

The personal leadership skill of camaraderie is one of the first lessons taught at the FBI Academy. For the first three weeks, new agents are not allowed to leave the Marine Corp base. Instead, we were expected to develop a supportive community that would be needed during our four months of training.

The concept of total team accountability as part of the culture is a core tenant of SEAL training and life in the “Teams.” From week one they are taught to hold themselves and their classmates to the highest standard. Peer reviews play a pivotal role in a student’s success. And they carry that concept over into the Teams as part of their peer-to-peer learning culture. Failure to execute is not an option.

The ability to relate to others was one of the most effective skills I developed in my career as a counterintelligence agent. Everyone has the need to be heard, and the need for information that can be put into action. The listener is a essential role because even very successful leaders need people who are allied to their cause.

My brother and I made is safely home that night to parents who were very worried.

How To Make It Work For You: If you learn how to get through adversity, it will help you turn underachievement into superior achievement. As long as you can stay alive, you are still in the game.

© 2018 LaRae Quy. All rights reserved.

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7 FBI Traits That Will Make You A Better Leader

April 9th, 2018 by LaRae Quy

I loved being an FBI agent because there was a sense of meaning and purpose every time I walked into the office. The FBI’s mission is to protect the American people and uphold the Constitution of the United States.

I worked hard to solve complex problems. You might be imagining movies, gun battles, and running down bad guys. In truth, a lot of what I did as an agent wasn’t all that different from many of the challenges you face as entrepreneurs, leaders, and business owners.

I was good with a gun, I admit, but most of my time was spent working with people who had different opinions and a conflict of interest. This created problems I couldn’t just shoot. Instead, they required people skills; I suspect many of you can relate.

Today’s business world is volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous. If you want to move your career or company forward, you have to learn how to be a better leader:

The FBI does not hire new agents based on their skills. Instead, they hire by the traits and values exhibited by applicants and then train new agents with the skill sets they will need. If an agent has the right values, traits, and abilities, they can learn anything.

This is where most businesses have it backward. Instead of hiring people because of their traits and values, they hire skill sets and then try to backload the company’s culture and values.

If the goal of leadership is to empower people to make their own decisions, then here are 7 FBI traits that will make you a better leader:

1. Confidence

Boosting confidence is the primary goal of the FBI Academy—before they send agents out with a gun and badge.

As a new agent, there were days when my heart raced and my palms sweat just thinking about the new challenges that faced me. But I learned that success would not make me confident—rather, confidence in myself and my abilities would make me successful.

If you don’t believe in yourself, how can others believe in you? It took a bit of acting on my part in the beginning, but the more I acted confident, the more confident I became. Feedback from others was positive, which in turn, gave me more confidence!

TIP: You become a better leader when you cultivate ways to signal your confidence to others, especially using body language.

When our brain receives a clear image of confidence and competence, it takes that good impression and makes a snap judgment. This allows the brain to move on to other issues.

2. Humility

A few years back my squad was set to arrest a fugitive known to be armed and dangerous. Since I was the case agent, everyone assumed I would be the one to make the arrest. The fugitive was a big guy with broad shoulders and sure to resist arrest, and defensive tactics had never been my strong point.

It is humbling to admit to yourself, or others, that you are not the best person for the job. It’s OK to admit it and turn to another person more experienced or better prepared, and ask for their help.

You may not need help in arresting a fugitive, but you may need to surround yourself with people who are more experienced or better prepared, and ask for their help. The best leaders are confident enough to surround themselves with people who are smarter and more talented.

They are also humble enough to learn from these people because they understand they will get a better outcome as a result of their involvement. 

TIP: You become a better leader when you are willing to listen to, but not be dominated by, the talent around you. If you are the smartest person in the room, you’re in the wrong room.

3. Good Values

For insiders, FBI stands for Fidelity, Bravery, and Integrity. These are the values that drive the organization.

Leadership is not a skill set; it is rooted in who we are and what matters to us. Our values are defined by what we are willing to struggle for when the chips are down. It’s doing the right thing and doing the best we can because that is who we are.

Ultimately, our values define our struggles. When we choose better values, we get better problems to solve. We need to be motivated by something more important and greater than our own happiness. If we are not driven to take our life to the next level by something more than our own selfish desires, we are the definition of a narcissist.

TIP: When you prioritize good values, you become a better leader because they produces true confidence and genuine humility. Decisions are easier because the answer is always “do the right thing.”

4. Kindness

Not all FBI negotiations involve the barrel of a gun. The most successful agents find ways to get along with people, pure and simple.

It is rare that an agent can dictate how a relationship is going to unfold. In the movies we hear lines like, “OK, this is what you’re going to do for me.” In reality, we need to look for what’s mutually beneficial if we’re looking to cut a deal or negotiate.

The best way to accomplish this is to find common ground, and this is accomplished by being sensitive to the needs of the other person. Exhibiting kindness helps us become a better leader because bullying, extortion, or browbeating rarely gets constructive results.

TIP: Mentally tough leaders who are kind know how to inspire their people in a way that, in turn, creates a commitment for their mission.

5. Tough

It may seem that kindness and toughness are contradictions, but they are actually very compatible. There are times when a leader needs to hold people accountable and draw a clear line that differentiates between acceptable and unacceptable behavior.

Great leaders don’t worry about being unpopular or making everyone happy. They’re always reminding themselves that their job is to improve the organization.

While rules and standards provide structure for people, tough leaders are not afraid to buck the system to get what they want. They know how to interpret the cultural norms of the office or company and are respectful, yet persistent, in presenting new ideas for projects.

It is the mixture of toughness and kindness that opens doors without alienating the standard bearers that have calcified in their corner office desk chair.

TIP: You become a better leader when you stumble and make mistakes but are tough enough to take control of your reputation and manage the way you are perceived.

6. Listening Skills

I didn’t know what to expect when the FBI sent me to a training course on hostage negotiation.  As an unassuming man stood in front of the class and welcomed everyone in dulcet tones, I was looking around for the hard ass who had talked down a terrorist in New York the week before. The man spoke politely but I didn’t listen because I wanted to hear from the hostage negotiator!

Guess what? He was the hard ass hostage negotiator. That week I learned the key to agreements, whether you are negotiating with a kidnapper or a client, is that they happen only when both sides are willing to listen.

This is a skill that will help us become a better leader because when we listen, we get insight into how other people think, feel, and behave. It is counterproductive to be aggressive, pushy, and demanding. Instead, good listeners are likable and create an environment that feels both safe and comfortable. They are secure enough that they are not threatened by listening to someone who may have more talent or experience.

TIP: It’s a good idea to repeat what you think you heard the other person say. It lets them know you really are listening, and gives you an opportunity to let their words soak in.

7. Emotional Intelligence

The FBI is not a touchy-feely organization; agents prefer terms like competence and persistence to explain their success. The words emotional intelligence rarely escape their lips. Yet face-to-face interviews remain the FBI’s top investigative technique.

Emotional intelligence is an ability to walk into a room and understand what others might be feeling, and through that insight, communicate to them in effective ways. Awareness and curiosity about their own emotions, as well as those of others, place leaders in a stronger position to not only recognize the negative ones but to anticipate how they could spin out of control.

TIP: Emotional intelligence helps you become a better leader because it enables you to build on relationships with others and then use those relationships to accomplish your goals.

I actually have come to learn that the way to evaluate leaders is not from skills through abilities to values but to actually start the other way. If a leader has the right values and the right abilities, they can learn anything. If you hire and promote backwards and start with, ‘so what are their skills? What jobs have they had?’—you may miss the fact that they don’t have the abilities you need and the values you need”—James Comey, Former FBI Director

© 2018 LaRae Quy. 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.”

 

6 Ways To Become A Charismatic Leader

April 2nd, 2018 by LaRae Quy

The most charismatic leader I have ever met was an FBI supervisor who had a powerful personality, a powerful sense of humor, and a powerful ability to motivate the agents who worked for him.

Many of our most effective leaders are labeled charismatic and yet it was not something they were born with. They acquired it through knowledge and practice.

We can learn effective leadership skills. In the same way, charisma is a process of learning how to motivate others to help achieve group goals. We are not born with a natural ability to win the hearts and minds of others.

Many people confuse charisma with likability and while likable people can be persuasive, charismatic leaders have thoughtfully fine-tuned their public image into one where they are seen to be someone who advances the interests of the group they represent.

Charisma is not something possessed by a leader; it is foisted upon the leader by followers. It is a gift bestowed by the group because the leader has conveyed to the group that they all share the same sense of worth, vision, and goals.

German sociologist Max Weber did not believe charisma was a rare quality possessed by certain lucky individuals. Instead, he said that what is important is how the individual is regarded by his/her followers. In other words, followers distinguish the leader from others and confer charisma on him or her.

A charismatic leader is someone who is emotionally competent—a core component of mental toughness.

Here are 6 ways to become a charismatic leader:

1. Win The Hearts Of Followers

Charisma centers on the capacity for a leader to be seen by followers as someone who advances the interests of the group. We trust the leader to take us in the right direction and believe he/she is one of us.

It’s important, however, that the group feels on equal footing with the leader, so find ways to confirm in their minds that you are all in it together and that your self-worth is tied to their best interests.

The inaugural addresses of Franklin D. Roosevelt and John F. Kennedy represent charismatic leadership. FDR spins a tale of how he overcame adversity while JFK reminded people of youth and opportunity. In neither case was the charisma that flowed from their speeches self-evident. Rather, both were constructed to win over their followers.

How To Make It Work For You: Use stories and anecdotes when you speak to others. They help people feel engaged, and as a result, they will feel connected with you.  When you show your team how you’ve worked together with others in the past, it assures them that you’ll do it again. Stories and anecdotes also provide a way for others to visualize how they could have been a valuable team member if they had been there.

2. Make People Feel Special

No matter who you are, take the time to make the person across from you feel important and fascinating. Make them feel as though you are completely with them as you follow their conversation. 

A study conducted by Harvard professor Daniel Gilbert estimated that 46.9% of the time our mind “wanders.” To make a person feel special, focus on what they say and reflect back on what you heard. We are active listeners when we have a moment-to-moment awareness of what’s happening. In the middle of a conversation, if your mind is somewhere else, your eyes will glaze over and your companions will notice. Make an effort to be in the moment.

Most of us wait for someone to finish speaking before we offer our response. Instead, ask them questions. It’s another way to let others know that they are special and you are truly interested in what they have to say.

How To Make It Work For You: 1) Nod occasionally, not frequently; 2) Ask questions, even if it means interrupting them because it shows that you are genuinely interested; 3) Don’t let your eyes wander— stay fixed on their face; and 4) Pause for a couple of seconds before responding. This lets others know that your response will be thoughtful.

3. Use The Right Words

Solidarity in vision and direction of the company inspires people and increases group optimism for the future. When group identity is strong, there is more likelihood of referring to the group as “us.” Use words like us and we rather than me and I. When you’re dealing with diverse groups, divide and conquer. Find ways to use the words us and we when talking to each group separately. Each group needs to be left with the impression that you are on their side.

But here is where charisma becomes more of an art than a science—never let others feel that you are not genuine in the way you reach out. Show diverse groups that you understand the unique struggles they face, and that by advocating for one it does not imply you are abandoning the other.

When President Reagan was asked what voters saw in him, he responded, “I think they see themselves and that I am one of them.”

A charismatic leader is someone who clarifies what we believe rather than telling people what they believe. They are able to lead their audience to draw the conclusions one desires rather than spelling out those ideas for them. A charismatic leader allows their story to unfold rather than issue an order or proclamation. This allows followers to make up their own mind. In doing so, you’ve implied that you rely on your followers to use their own intelligence and experience to draw the right conclusions.

How To Make It Work For You: Use words that people can relate to. Charismatic leaders use words that are concrete rather than abstract. “I feel your pain” creates an emotional tie whereas a phrase like “I understand” does not. The most charismatic leader is the one talks to people’s gut rather than their brain.

4. Be Sincere

A charismatic leader watches their body language because they know it’s vital that they give the impression they are open and sincere to the people they meet. Paul Ekman’s research tells us that it takes as little as 17 milliseconds for people to read another person’s face. We may present a primary expression to others when we meet them, but if the micro-expression that we leak is incongruent with the primary expression, people will know in their gut that you’re not sincere.

Studies have shown that our brains do not know the difference between imagination and reality. Visualization is another important mental toughness tool because we can trick our mind into believing we will succeed at a task.

How To Make It Work For You: Think of something pleasant when meeting others. It will show in your face. When you smile, make it sincere. That means your cheeks must push up and create wrinkles around your eyes. Yes, wrinkles can be a good thing.

5. Learn How To Read Body Language

The brain controls all behaviors, both conscious and subconscious. This premise is the cornerstone if you want to understand verbal and non-verbal communication.

The limbic system is that part of the brain that reacts to events around us—in real time and without thought.

These reactions are genuine and are considered to be the “honest” part of our brain. The limbic brain enlists the body to send messages about what it is really feeling. The body will signal stress and discomfort in a variety of ways, and we interpret these behaviors as body language.

How To Make It Work For You: Turn off the volume of your favorite television show and watch without any sound. Figure out what is going on in the scenes. Then watch the scene again, only this time with the volume turned on. This practice will help you become more attuned to verbal and non-verbal cues.

6. Create A Strong Persona

Charismatic leaders communicate with confidence and clarity. People sit up and pay attention. They are clear and articulate with their words and ensure that each statement has a purpose.No matter what the situation, they articulate their goals and vision.

Warren Bennis wrote, “Good leaders make people feel that they’re at the very heart of things, not at the periphery. Everyone feels that he or she makes a difference to the success of the organization. When that happens, people feel centered, and that gives their work meaning.”

A strong persona means that you are confident in your abilities but not puffed up because of them. It also means that you have no self-doubt about your talents and skill sets.

How To Make It Work For YouA strong persona does not require great physical strength or ego; however, it does require two things: 1) full display of your core competencies (intelligence, kindness, empathy, etc) mixed with 2) warmth of personality.

© 2018 LaRae Quy. 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.”

5 Tips From The Stoics On How To Develop Mental Toughness

March 19th, 2018 by LaRae Quy

As an FBI agent, I became an observer into the lives of people under investigation. Upon my retirement from the FBI, I completed graduate studies at San Francisco Theological Seminary. In the process, I became a more thoughtful observer of my own life.

I started to embrace the Stoic claim that many of the things we desire are not worth the pursuit. Instead, Stoic philosophy focused on how to develop the mental toughness to manage negative emotions such as anger, grief, anxiety, and fear.

Stoicism was the forerunner of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, one of the most effective psychological tools used by therapists today. CBT proposes that when we change the way we think about a problem, it leads to a change in behavior. Mental toughness can be defined as managing our emotions, thoughts, and behavior in ways that set us up for success.

The ancient Stoic philosophers had great tools to help fight the helplessness that sets in when it feels like the world is against you. Stoics knew how to develop mental toughness. Stoicism sounds serious but it started with a bunch of guys in togas who sat on porches almost two thousand years ago and taught philosophy. Stoa means porch so stoicism is actually porch wisdom.

Here are 5 tips from the Stoics on how to develop mental toughness:

1. Train In Winter

We must undergo a hard winter training and not rush into things for which we haven’t prepared.”—Epictetus

Roman armies disbanded during the winter unless engaged in a series of raids. Epictetus believed that there was no such thing as Spring training for soldiers—or anyone for that matter. To land on our feet, we must keep our mind active all the time.

It’s too late to train or prepare when the shit hits the fan or when the stakes are high. As entrepreneurs, business owners, and leaders, you already know you can’t read a book on basketball and then go to the NBA. You know you must always prepare for what life might throw at you, so when it does, you’re ready.

When we train and prepare, we continually learn new skills. Neuroplasticity is the ability of the brain to continuously create new neural pathways. When we repeat skills we are trying to learn, we strengthen those neural networks.

How To Make It Work For You: You learn how to develop mental toughness when you train your mind to think and prepare for the challenges ahead. Keep your brain alert and active all the time. If you can’t actually perform a particular task, simply visualize yourself doing it. Your brain cannot tell the difference.

2. Embrace The Test

I judge you unfortunate because you have never lived through misfortune. You have passed through life without an opponent—no one can ever know what you are capable of, not even you.”—Seneca

When I look back over my 24 year career as an FBI agent, you know what I remember the most? The difficult times. The hardest training at the FBI Academy and the most frustrating investigations were also the moments that were the most formative for me.

Challenges in life are unavoidable. Researchers believe that if we can learn to accept them as children, it will help our chance of success as adults. Children who learn to handle their own problems are also the ones with exceptional achievement as adults.

There is a Chinese saying “Chi Ku Shi Fu” (eating bitterness is good fortune) that highlights the idea that there is the opportunity for wisdom and growth in the midst of misfortune. While we don’t have control over the situations that life will bring to us, we do have a choice as to how we will react to them.

How To Make It Work For You: You learn how to develop mental toughness when you face your opponents, challenges, and misfortunes with an open mind. Look for ways to learn from your challenges. You may need to dig deep, but claim the wisdom from those times you are tested. It will you move to a higher level of well-being and perspective.

3. Prepare On Sunny Days

It is when times are good that you should gird yourself for tougher times ahead…so it is that soldiers practice maneuvers in peacetime, erecting bunkers with no enemies in sight and exhausting themselves under no attack so that when it comes, they won’t grow tired.”—Seneca

Seneca writes that we should prepare in advance so that nothing ever takes us by surprise. In today’s language, he wants us to develop resilience in the face of adversity. We should toughen up before the crisis hits us so we know how to respond.

When we spend time thinking about the downside, Cognitive Behavior Therapy says that we decatastrophize it. Remember CBT? The Stoics invented it. Don’t be the person who freaks out at work when something goes wrong. Be prepared and handle it with finesse and aplomb.

How To Make It Work For You: You learn how to develop mental toughness when you ask “What is the worst that could happen?” This is not pessimism; it’s being realistic. Take the time on a sunny day to prepare yourself to respond in an effective manner when the storm hits.

4. Find Your Hidden Power

Consider who you are. Above all, a human being, carrying no greater power than your own reasoned choice, which oversees all other thing, and is free from any other master.”—Epictetus

Epictetus walked with a limp as the result of being chained up as a slave. For Stoics like him, the only thing you ever really have control over are your deliberate thoughts. You can’t control other people, you can’t control your situation, and you can’t always control your own body. So the only thing over which you do have control is your emotions, thoughts, and behavior—the essence of mental toughness.

We need to accept that there are many things over which we have no control. We can, and should, try to influence them if we can. But once you begin to feel you need to control other people or situations, it’s likely that emotions will get out of control if things don’t go your way.

How To Make It Work For You: You learn how to develop mental toughness when you acknowledge that it does no good to worry about things you can’t control. Instead, spend your time on things over which you have complete control, like your goals and values. If you do this, you’ll avoid the anxiety that comes with the need to control.

5. Color Your Thoughts

Your mind will take the shape of what you frequently hold in thought, for the human spirit is colored by such impressions.”—Marcus Aurelius

The Stoics had some great tools to help fight negative feelings because when you know how to deal with the negative, it gives you more time for the positive.

If we maintain a negative outlook, soon everything we encounter will seem negative. When we color our thoughts with negativity, it bleeds into other parts of our life as well.

Stoics believed that we are moved to action by positive emotions, such as a sense of indignation at having witnessed an injustice, or a desire to make the world a better place for everyone. Negative emotions color our thoughts, emotions, and behavior in unproductive ways.

How To Make It Work For You: You learn how to develop mental toughness when you seek the positive in your situation. Believe you will prevail in your circumstances rather than believing your circumstances will change.

© 2018 LaRae Quy. 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.”

6 Things Confident Women Never Do

March 5th, 2018 by LaRae Quy

As a female FBI agent, I needed to come across as confident when interviewing suspects. Confidence sent the message that I was both competent and in a position of authority.

I focused on conveying the right body language with shoulders back, head up, and making direct eye contact. I spent time preparing for the interview by looking at the facts of the case and thoroughly going over the analytics, assessments, and witness accounts.

This process was important because it removed all doubt of my competence in my own head. It imbued me with the confidence that I could find the truth and make reliable conclusions.

Confidence should never be confused with arrogance. Arrogance is thinking you are better than somebody else; confidence is knowing you are competent and expecting to be treated with respect.

I learned from my fellow FBI agents that men can suffer from lack of confidence as acutely as women, but females struggle with a more complex array of confidence issues than men because media and slick advertising promote the image of professional women as thin, dressed in designer clothes, and wearing stiletto heels.

But it doesn’t stop with this—there are few areas in a woman’s life that are not targeted for improvement, and with that comes the implication that she is far from perfect. Some areas of low confidence include: not worthy of a promotion, too fat, wrong skin color, not educated enough, not worthy of love, not athletic enough…the list goes on.

No wonder women lack confidence! In truth, confidence has nothing to do with beauty, height, weight, skin, clothes, relationships, or intelligence. Confidence is a gift that only you can can give to yourself. If you have it, no one can take it from you. On the other hand, don’t look to others to give it to you, either.

Here are 6 things confident women never do:

1. TAKE THEIR DAY FOR GRANTED

Confident women never forget to start their day with gratitude. Gratitude puts your life into perspective. Start and end each day with at least 5 positive affirmations about what you are thankful for about yourself.

Gratitude is a powerful emotion for mental toughness because it reminds you to be confident in yourself and your abilities. How can you be thankful for what you’re going to receive if you aren’t grateful for what you already have?

Bottom Line: Confidence is about progress, not perfection. Positive things happen to positive people.

2. AVOID MAKING EYE CONTACT WITH EVERYONE THEY MEET

Confident women never miss an opportunity to flex their confidence muscle during their day in the world. They make eye contact with everyone they meet because they have the confidence to initiate conversations and spread their influence. They know their thoughts have the ability to make a valuable and impactful contribution to other people.

Bottom Line: Women with confidence can look a man in the eye and control the situation, and not trivialize the encounter by allowing it to turn into flirting.

3. STAY INSIDE THEIR COMFORT ZONE

Confident women never shrink inside their comfort zone. Instead, they are curious abut the world around them and look for ways to explore it.

Women with confidence believe in their ability to gain knowledge and solve problems. Self-esteem is believing in your competence—learn from your failures and mistakes so you do not repeat them going forward.

Bottom Line: Past failure does not predict future failure— develop the mental toughness to stick with it because when you do succeed, that experience will give you more confidence.

4. SPEAK IN QUIET TONES

Confident women never fade into the background by speaking in low tones. They know how to crank up the volume so their opinions and views are heard. This does not mean they are shrill or boisterous.

I do not have a loud voice, but I do have a strong one. When I have something to say, I say it loud enough and enunciate clearly so people both hear and understand.

Bottom Line: If you don’t have anything of value to say, keep your mouth shut. Don’t lose credibility by blabbing just so you can stay in the conversation.

5. OFFER LIMP HANDSHAKES

Confident women never offer a limp wrist or dead fish handshake. They clamp down and shake hands with authority. Women, in particular, can be bad about this and it sets a weak and feeble message from the very beginning. Practice your handshake if need be, but get it right.

In an FBI interview, if there is a conflict between what the suspect is saying and their body language, agents will always give more credibility to the non-verbal message.

Bottom Line: Body language sends a powerful message so make sure you are not sabotaging your career by using powerful words that are weighed down with wimpy body language that is full of self-doubt and lack of confidence.

6. FORGET THEY ARE DEFINED BY THE COMPANY THEY KEEP

Confident women never forget that by surrounding themselves with people who are upbeat and positive, they are making a choice on how their life will be defined.

Plato once said, “People are like dirt. They can either nourish you and help you grow as a person or they can stunt your growth and make you wilt and die.”

If we are not nourished, our souls will choke and wither away. Don’t put down roots in poor soil because we grow where we’re planted. Rich soil empowers us to surround ourselves with friends and mentors who show us how to move forward with confidence as leaders.

Bottom Line: Pick your friends with care—they create the environment in which you will either thrive or wilt. Give everyone the opportunity to be a friend, but share your dreams and goals only with those who value them as much as you do.

Confidence is believing that we are a person of value. We are ultimately responsible for everything that goes on in our lives. People who are confident keep building on their self-worth, and when they do, they convey the competence and authority they need to be successful in business and life.

© 2018 LaRae Quy. All rights reserved.

You can follow me on Twitter, Facebook, AND LinkedIn

Get my FREE 45-Question Mental Toughness Assessment

Sign Up for my How To Build Confidence on-line training course

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

5 Things Positive People Never Do

February 26th, 2018 by LaRae Quy

I make an effort to surround myself with positive people. Positive thinking is a cornerstone of mental toughness because positivity creates a mindset that can adapt to obstacles and roadblocks that show up in both business and life.

Unfortunately, positive thinking has become ensconced in a culture of woolly and fluffy assumptions that imply all we need to do is visualize what success looks like—and it will happen! It has been reduced to weak platitudes and shallow quotes meant to inspire us to soar to greater heights.

Gag.

If that wasn’t bad enough, positive people are also confused with optimists. Let me clarify for you: positive people believe they will prevail in their circumstances rather than believe their circumstances will change. Optimists, however, believe that things will change, and for the better. Positive people rely on their grit and determination to make the most of a bad situation because sometimes, shit happens. They’re stuck in an undesirable situation and no amount of hope will change it.

An optimist can never relax; they can’t afford to let sadness creep in. They can try to follow the famous self-help advice and eliminate the word “failure” from their vocabulary; but then how will they explain failure when it strikes? And it will. Positive people are not afraid of failure because their minds can adapt to their new circumstances and plan for a better iteration next time.

When times get tough, here are 5 things positive people never do:

1. Fall For Sappy Slogans

I’ve read so many articles on how to fill my life with happiness that I’m ready to puke. Happiness is the by-product of vacuous and superficial sappy slogans that prey on our emotions. You want real happiness? Grab hold of something with more substance, like joy and contentment.

Positive people avoid cheery, sappy slogans that are intended to lift the user’s mood when they repeat them. Post-it notes litter mirrors and computers across the country and while they boost our mood for a while, the results are temporary.

Researchers have discovered that there is a distinct difference between happiness and meaning. When we achieve our goal, we experience happiness for a short period of time. When we achieve a goal freighted with value, we experience joy and contentment that provides meaning for our life.

How To Make It Work For You: When you try too hard to convince yourself, and others, that you’re happy and lovable, all you’ve done is remind yourself, and others, of what you don’t have! Instead, focus on goals that are meaningful to you. Happiness is the by-product.

2. Forget To Plan For The Worst Case Scenario

When you remind yourself of what could go wrong, you’re not being a pessimist. You’re being smart. You will encounter rude bosses, conniving colleagues, and pain-in-the-ass customers. Why not prepare for them?

There is a place for those who plan for the worst-case scenario so they can plan on how to turn the situation around and make it successful. They imagine every conceivable setback and obstacle and find ways to cope and overcome the adversity before it becomes a reality. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy suggests spending time thinking about the potential downside of a conversation or event in advance can help you avoid an “oh shit” moment.

How To Make It Work For You: Imagine how you would handle a bad situation. Assume for a moment that a rival buys your company. Jot down a few ways you might come out on top if it happens. For example, arrange to meet key executives of the rival company so they know you’ll handle the situation in a professional and respectful manner.

3. Set Unrealistic Goals

Positive people are always realistic about their goals. Gabriele Oettingen, professor of psychology at New York University and the author of Rethinking Positive Thinking believes that part of the problem is that people tend to visualize their goals as already accomplished without thinking about the obstacles that stand in the way.

If a person is optimistic about the future, they’ll enjoy it in the moment but they won’t get the energy and motivation they need to attain the goal. Oettingen touches upon the need to differentiate fantasy from visualization. Visualization is a science-based way for people to achieve their goals. The problem happens when fantasy raises its ugly head. The brain is smart and it can tell the difference between a desire to stretch our performance to meet a goal and our fantasy about it.

A goal might be to play the guitar. Your fantasy might be for you to perform in a sold-out rock concert. When we daydream about the future, we convince ourselves we’re already there and are less inclined to put in the effort required to reach our goals.

Oettingen feels that a bit of negativity can help us determine whether or not it’s worth it to pursue our goals. Positive people are not afraid to look at the negative side of an equation. They know it might have something important to tell us. When they contrast the future with the current reality, and assess the obstacles, they might let go of the dream and focus on more realistic goals.

How To Make It Work For You: We need to be on the lookout for what might go wrong without allowing negativity to overwhelm us. Positive people can hold the tension of a pessimistic evaluation alongside a positive one.

4. Let Anxiety Take Over

In her book, The Positive Power of Negative Thinking, Julie Norem wrote “At first, I asked how these people were able to do so well despite their pessimism. Before long, I began to realize that they were doing so well because of their pessimism.”

Norem found that pessimists turned their anxieties into action. Because they expected the worst, they were prepared for it and put more effort into finding a solution.

Oliver Burkeman makes an interesting observation in his book, The Antidote: Happiness For People Who Can’t Stand Positive Thinking. He argues that because people are led to believe they should always feel happy and motivated, they often put off tasks that don’t make them happy. If life were perfect and there were no such things as unpleasant tasks, that mindset might lead to success. But, in the real world, this mindset leads into a downward spiral of unaddressed tasks and actions.

How To Make It Work For You: Learn to live with the unpleasant tasks and get on with the job at hand. Co-exist with what isn’t perfect and do something anyway.

5. Ignore The Sweet Spot

Pessimists help us anticipate the worst and prepare for it. People who never worry have lower job performance than those who worry about it on a regular basis. Studies have shown that when CEO’s are optimistic, they take on more risky projects and often put their companies in jeopardy.

Positive people know how to weigh the wisdom of both pessimists and optimists. Pessimists are catastrophes waiting to happen while optimists are impractical. Positive people look for the sweet spot that combines the benefits of both approaches.

How To Make It Work For You: Your success is not determined on whether you are an optimist or pessimist, but rather how you choose your strategies to process information from both sides.

© 2018 LaRae Quy. 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.”