Archive for August, 2010

How To Increase Your Inner Strength

Tuesday, August 31st, 2010
A few years back a homeless man armed with a loaded gun burst into the emergency room of Children’s Hospital in Oakland, CA. He grabbed a female employee and shoved the .38 caliber revolver into her stomach as he shouted for everyone to back away.

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After several minutes, police officers showed up with rifles and the man put down the gun. The employee who was taken hostage was not hurt, but several other hospital employees were so distraught that they were sent home for the rest of the day.

By contrast, several of the other employees volunteered to extend their shift to get hospital services back to normal.

Why were some of the employees at Children’s Hospital so distraught over the incident they were sent home, while others bounded back and took on additional duties to keep the hospital open?

No matter the circumstances, when we’re confronted with a crisis situation we need to dig deep and draw from an inner strength that is nurtured by self-awareness. It shouldn’t take a disaster for us to recognize our natural strengths but sometimes we don’t know what they are until we’re confronted with the unexpected. 

I know first hand how difficult it is to predict your response to a crisis situation.

As an FBI agent, I only drew my gun to shoot once, and that was on a busy road in Scottsdale, AZ. I was part of an FBI surveillance team that was following a suspect wanted for extortion, and I happened to be in the passenger seat when we pulled up next to him at a red light on Scottsdale Road.

Since I was the agent closest to him, I tucked my gun under my jacket, opened the car door, and tapped on the suspect’s window. I smiled sweetly and he rolled down his window. When I pulled the gun on him, he was so surprised his foot slipped off the clutch and his car jerked into the middle of the intersection.

His hands were in the air, and then they dropped; I didn’t know whether he was reaching for a gun or just trying to grab the wheel. As it turned out, he bent over to turn off the ignition. And, as it also happened, he had a loaded gun under the front seat.

I don’t remember hearing or seeing my fellow agents surround the car. I kept my gun—and mind—focused on the suspect until he was in handcuffs.

This is my story, but all of us have experienced situations where we could have responded with more resilience, so the question is this: can you develop the skills needed to bounce back after a stressful situation? The answer is yes, and here are some tips:

1. Own It

I didn’t go to work that day anticipating the need to step out of a car on a busy street in Scottsdale to make an arrest. Sometimes life is like that; you need inner strength to get through the situation. Your reaction is produced by your own thoughts. If you believe you can continue after a crisis, then you will. If you doubt yourself, then you won’t.

TIP: Pay attention to your emotions in a crisis because your responses are a direct result of how you think.

2. Toughen Up

Tough-minded does not mean hard-hearted. Tough-minded people simply know how to keep calm and remain focused on their goal. In a crisis, they have the inner strength to dampen the mental chatter that can produce confusion or doubt about their capabilities to rear its ugly head.

TIP: Learn to control the mental chatter that undermines your inner strength. Try mental disciplines like yoga, tai chi, or meditation. They are an excellent way to toughen the mind so it can stay focused.

3. Challenge Beliefs

Once your mind is quiet, you can challenge the beliefs you hold about yourself that are false or can be changed. Athletes will not improve their performance unless they reach for the goal that is beyond their grasp.

If you settle for mediocrity in yourself, that’s what you’re going to get, so don’t be surprised when your response is not what you had hoped it would be. Inner strength gives you the confidence to challenge the beliefs you hold about yourself and enlarge your territory.

TIP: Start with identifying your natural strengths, and then start developing them. Take time to understand your weaknesses as well so you will know how to compensate for them in a crisis situation by responding with your inner strength instead.

Take Away

Develop the skills to bounce back after a crisis by responding with your natural strengths.

Would you be the one to go home after a frightening event; or would you be the one to volunteer to stay and help the rest?

© 2010 LaRaeQuy. All rights reserved.

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Author of “Mental Toughness For Women Leaders” and “Secrets of a Strong Mind.”

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