Archive for July, 2012

6 Easy Ways To Face Fear

Sunday, July 29th, 2012

When I was six years old, my Grandfather bought my brother and me a black and white Shetland pony that we named Socks. I was thrilled because I now had a horse of my very own and one small enough I could reach the stirrups to get on without having to find a big rock to use as a stepladder.

 

I quickly learned that Shetland ponies in general, and Socks in particular, are strong-willed creatures who are not above using their superior strength to make life miserable for their six-year-old riders. Unfortunately for me at this time in my young life, Dad was an excellent horseman and I wanted to be just like him. He would say, “If you can’t learn to ride that pony, you’ll never get a bigger horse.”

A love/hate relationship grew between Socks and me. I’d saddle him up and get on but when I tried to ride him around the yard, he’d stubbornly refuse to move beyond the barn. My humiliation was complete because Dad saw that I couldn’t control the pony. Worse yet, I was scared of Socks because I was afraid he’d buck me off if I became more aggressive.

This must have been about the time I came to idolize John Wayne—not just because of his Western movies but because he was quoted as saying, “Courage is being scared to death, but saddling up anyway.” I knew just what he meant because it took all the courage I had to face fear and saddle Socks and wait to be humiliated—yet again.

I’ve always liked John Wayne’s definition of courage because it implies that courage is the ability to pick yourself up and move into action in spite of fear.

Courageous people are still afraid, but they face fear and don’t let it paralyze them.

Once you give in to fear, a pattern begins to develop. Each time you avoid a fear and feel relieved that you have, you reinforce the behavior so that in the future you continue to avoid the fear by giving in to it. It becomes a vicious cycle.

If you listen carefully, however, there is a tiny voice inside that is saying: you will die full of regrets for a life that might have been if you do not face fear and move beyond it.

At our deepest level, we were created to move forward with our hearts. The word courage is derived from the Latin word cor, which means heart. At the core of courage is our heart. And our heart expresses the person we are truly meant to be. Only through courage can we be empowered to move into the unknown without fear.

A strong mind is an attribute of the heart. The opposite is fear that produces confusion and lack of clarity. If your path has a heart, you know deep down that it is the right one for you. If you have taken a path without a heart and one that does not have a deep connection to your heart, it is prepared to destroy you.

I’ve seen this happen with people who pursue a career that will lead to money, fame, or power, assuming these things will bring them happiness. It doesn’t. Others settle for unfulfilling careers and relationships thinking that their life is good enough. It isn’t.  Still others chase life hoping they can catch passion. They can’t.

“Remembering that I’ll be dead soon is the most important tool I’ve ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life. Because almost everything – all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure – these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important. Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart.” Steve Jobs

If your path has no heart, you are on the wrong path. It takes a strong mind to connect your inside heart with your outside circumstances.

Courageous leaders face fear by admitting that they are on the wrong path and that changes need to be made.

Here are 5 easy steps to build up courage to face fear and follow your heart:

  1. Take out a piece of paper and write down 5 of your biggest fears.
  2. Listen to what your inner voice is telling you about how each one of these fears is affecting different areas of your life.
  3. Get in touch with your gut—what is your first reaction when you think of how your fear is impacting: career, relationships, spiritual growth, travel, family, finances, health, and education.
  4. Write down 5 activities that would help you overcome each fear.
  5. Rank the activities from high to low in terms of producing anxiety.
  6. Start with the activity that produces the lowest anxiety and work your way down the list.

If you ever feel that the next step is too big, then break it down into two smaller steps.

I did face fear, and little by little I learned how to ride Socks. My Grandfather rewarded me a few years later with a quarter horse big enough that I had to find rocks to use as a stepladder for several years to come.

How do you face your fears? How do you know when you’re following your heart? 

When You Trust Others, You Feel Good

Sunday, July 22nd, 2012

Most people do not react with enthusiasm when the FBI comes knocking at their door. It usually means either they, or someone they know, is in trouble.

As a former FBI agent, I once interviewed a man who smiled pleasantly at me while sitting in his living room, but he kept looking at his watch and his feet were pointed toward the front door. I knew he didn’t want to hear what I had to say, but he had met with a Russian spy named Igor on several occasions and I needed to know why.

He provided enough information for me to determine two things: 1) His contact with Igor was legitimate, and 2) He and Igor both liked wheat vodka and were likely to spend more time together as Igor tutored him on the finer points of Russian liquor.

What came next was no surprise to the man, because when I asked if he’d let me know when he next met with Igor, he said, “I don’t want to get Igor in trouble.”

No trouble, I assured him. In fact, just the opposite—I would like to meet Igor at some point in the future, but only after I’d learned more about his goals in life and where he was in that journey. This is where the man could help me. He could tell me about Igor’s life, dreams, and fears.

Trust me, I said. I’m not looking to arrest Igor. I want to make his life better, if possible. I didn’t finish by saying that Igor’s life would be better if he worked for the FBI, but I suspect that the man already knew that was part of the game being played out in his living room.

“Alright.” The man smiled again and this time he meant it. We forged a deal that day and continued to meet regularly for the next year. I did not break my word and our relationship moved into one of trust and bonding.

Why do people trust others and cooperate even when it may not always in their best interests to do so? Why do we choose trust others over skepticism or generosity over selfishness? In a recent study, researchers from Emory University in Atlanta have made an interesting discovery:

People trust others because it makes them feel good. They act this way because the brain is hard-wired to cooperate—it associates cooperation with reward.

We’ve long associated cooperation with creativity and greater productivity, but to harvest a scientific explanation for this behavior provides a new way to explore our innate desire to trust and help our fellow sojourners on earth.

The Bible reminds us in the letter to the Ephesians that when we do good unto others, we are most fully ourselves. As leaders, we are at our strongest when we’re most fully ourselves, because this is the moment when we are empowered from within.

As a leader, how can you make it easy to trust others?

  • When you look for the good in others, they will show it to you.
  • When you appreciate the worth in others, it’s easy for them to be their best.
  • When you accept others, they show you their strengths.
  • When you notice others, they feel like they belong and are special.
  • When you need others, they feel the good in themselves.
  • When you look for the beauty in others, you will discover your own best self.
  • When you bring out the best in others, you make powerful friends.
  • When you find the gift of others, you find another reason to believe in yourself.

Why do others trust you? How do you overcome skepticism and doubt to find ways to trust and cooperate with others?

© 2012 LaRaeQuy. All rights reserved.

You can follow me on Twitter, Facebook, AND LinkedIn

Get my FREE 45-Question Mental Toughness Assessment

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

 

 

 

Lead With a Strong Mind and Soft Heart

Sunday, July 15th, 2012

The Letter to the Ephesians in the New Testament is a brilliant summary of what it means to lead with a strong mind and soft heart. The writer tells us that we are most fully alive when we do good to others.

The apostle Paul wrote this almost two thousand years ago, and yet I am surprised at how his exhortation for servant leadership seems to perfectly encapsulate modern thinking. The letter to the Ephesians is a brilliant summary of what it means to lead with a strong mind and soft heart.

The writer tells us that we are most fully alive when we do good to others.

Several times a year the FBI firearms unit requires agents to qualify with their weapon. Our training frequently included various forms of stress tests where we worked in teams to make arrests.

To make the scenarios even more stressful, we frequently were given special guns that shoot paint balls, and then sent out to discover how much control we had over our mental and physical reflexes when making those arrests.

Nothing goes unnoticed with a paint gun shootout. Every mistake is splattered somewhere—the paint bullets can leave bruises and stick to hair for days.

Of more importance, however, were the red splotches that indicated one of our team members had been shot or killed.

We put on goggles and Kevlar helmets; our instructors gave us the arrest scenario and then acted as observers as they watched our every decision and the movements required to carry out our decision.

We entered old houses with attics and blind corners, no obvious plan or path to follow, so we improvised and adapted to our circumstances as we moved along.

When you’re in the thick of it, all you really think about is surviving.

You don’t want to scrub paint off your clothes when you get home or feel the sting of a paint ball hitting your hand or neck.

The trials are physical as well as mental, but in a stress course of this type there are three priorities:

  • The mission
  • Your colleagues
  • And yourself

—in that order.

Paul’s Letter to the Ephesians was right. We are more fully alive and human when we use our talents as leaders to build up our teams and put their needs before our own.

Here are three ways that the paint ball exercises helped me understand how “doing good to others” can create leaders with a strong mind and soft heart:

1. Communication

In our review at the end of the day, the observers talk about what happened and what they saw.

Without fail, the biggest mistakes focused on the lack of communication between the agents.

Many times, one of us could see when another agent was headed for danger or taking too much risk. Rather than warning that person, many of us were too afraid of getting hurt ourselves to find a way to prevent the inevitable paint ball hit.

Our firearms team did not communicate well with one another because we were too caught up in our own dramas. Each was strategizing on what to do next and what to anticipate.

In a hostile and unpredictable environment, it is important to stay in the moment. This may sound easy, but it means staying fully focused on the needs of the people with whom you’re communicating and putting their needs before your own.  This means that you do not come first—and this is why really paying attention to someone else can be so difficult.

Here are a few ways to stay in the moment with another person:

  • Make good eye contact to let them know that your focus is on them.
  • Give them your full attention.
  • Fight the urge to race ahead when they are speaking.
  • Watch for eye movement when speaking because you may have touched a soft spot.
  • Observe their lips when speaking because people compress them when they are stressed.

2. Authenticity

Leadership begins with knowing who we are and what we believe. Authenticity is the need for leaders to be themselves regardless of the situation. For this reason, it is more than self-awareness; it is the ability to share the deepest and truest part of ourselves with others.

In a changing and volatile environment, it’s not how you decide; it’s about why. The why of a decision in the midst of confusion and uncertainty is a fusion of the heart and mind. There is no time for trying to remember business school formats or emergency preparedness plans.

The journey toward authenticity is twofold:

  1. Discovering our personal values and beliefs
  2. Exhibiting behavior that is consistent with those same values and beliefs.

We can be authentic leaders if we are committed to be being true to ourselves—regardless of the situation we are in or the people around us—so we can be real and genuine.

3. Pre-emptive

We should not be unfazed by the failure of a colleague. If we can alert them to a danger that lies ahead, we should do so. If we pushed aside our selfish desire to get ahead, perhaps there would be fewer bodies lying by the side of the road.

Leaders can create a pre-emptive culture in their own environments. This is the true definition of teamwork, where each member watches the back of the others and warns them against making career errors.

Not every master plan is genius. Not every scheme works. As leaders, you know this better than anyone. Circumstances and environments can change quickly, in business and life, and even the best plan is impossible to follow. If you do good to others by building your team up, your world won’t fall apart when the unexpected shows up.

“Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.” ~ Ephesians 4:29

How can you combine a strong mind with a soft heart? 

© 2012 LaRaeQuy. All rights reserved.

You can follow me on Twitter, Facebook, AND LinkedIn

Get my FREE 45-Question Mental Toughness Assessment

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

 

14 Ways To Live A Life Of Truth

Sunday, July 8th, 2012

It takes courage to look truth in the eye. One of history’s most reviled characters is Pontius Pilate, the judge at the trial of Jesus over two thousand years ago. Pilate asked a fascinating question, “What is truth?”

 

The scene on that Passover night would have been one of chaos as Pilate looked at the prisoner in front of him and felt the deep unease about what he was getting into. He was desperately seeking an answer out of the space between himself and the condemned man whose life depended upon Pilate’s decision.

The clarity of Pilate’s heart spoke over the clamor in his brain. “What is truth?”

We all live out those similar tensions in our heart as we pick up the same question and try to make sense of it. We live in the gap between reality and the illusion of ourselves that is formed by our ego. As Eckhart Tolle said, “The good news is: If you can recognize illusion as illusion, it dissolves.”

The gap between our true nature and our ego is where we struggle to live with the cold hard facts of reality. Once that tension is properly analyzed and understood, we have the groundwork for a strong mind that is empowered to move forward.

Living in the gap between fantasy and reality means coming to terms with the following:

  • Not where you should have been if you had made all the right choices in life.
  • Not where you could have been if you had taken every opportunity offered to you.
  • Not where you wish you were if you didn’t have to be in the place where you find yourself.
  • Not where you think you are because your mind is out of sync with your heart.
  • Not where other people think you are or think you ought to be when they are busy with their own agendas.

Living a life of truth is taking responsibility for your own choices in life and realizing exactly where you are. Once you do, you are empowered to move forward because there is no longer confusion or lack of clarity. When you live life with a deep sense of inner strength, you feel as if you are in touch with a source of energy far beyond your own.

When your heart is aligned with reality, the power liberates.

  • When you do something out of duty, you need to muster all of your energies to get the task done.
  • When you do something out of love, you hardly notice the demand on your energy—in fact, it seems to generate new energy.
  • The difference leads you back to your dreams and desires of your heart. When your heart is engaged, you have more energy and more power.

Leaders like you and I ask the same question as Pontius Pilate. We ask, What does truth look like for me? Where is my heart leading me to go? The only thing stopping you from pursuing what is true for you is fear; the only thing that will get you past this fear is courage. What you do with your life isn’t up to your parents, your boss, or your spouse. It’s up to you and you alone. You are the only one who can push past the illusion and embrace your own truth.

Here are 14 ways to have the courage to live the truth from your heart:

  1. Identify an opportunity that you know is worthwhile but that you’ve been afraid to pursue, and go for it anyway.
  2. Make a commitment to a specific course of action that makes facing one of your fears unavoidable.
  3. Do one thing today that scares you.
  4. Discover a path that has heart for you and find a way you can honor that path right now.
  5. List five things you’ve been procrastinating about and plan to take a little bit of action on all five this week.
  6. Identify five people who can help you achieve your dreams and goals and find ways to bring them into your life.
  7. Using details, describe something that you will make you very happy.
  8. Write down your definition of success.
  9. Make a list of causes you are passionate about and then get involved.
  10. Identify something you’ve always wanted to do but haven’t done.
  11. Keep your word.
  12. Forgive everyone, especially yourself.
  13. Move forward.
  14. Brainstorm a list of 20 new ideas on ways to improve your life.

Finding your own truth will lead to both your heart and your true nature, not the illusion that the ego represents. Fear keeps you from shattering that illusion but if you have the courage to live according to your heart, you will have answered the greatest question of all: What is your truth?

How have you shattered the illusion of ego in your life? How have you been able to distinguish between reality and ego?

© 2012 LaRaeQuy. All rights reserved.

You can follow me on Twitter, Facebook, AND LinkedIn

Get my FREE 45-Question Mental Toughness Assessment

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