Archive for July, 2013

Wishful Thinking is for Wimps

Sunday, July 28th, 2013

As a kid, wishful thinking was dangerous. My summer job was to pull fifty-pound bales of hay into piles so Dad could scoop them up easier with his loader tractor. Mom and my brother were on the haystack arranging the bales as dad dumped them. When I looked around, there was nothing but miles of bales all lined up for as far as I could see, waiting for me to move every single one of them.

At that time, Bewitched was my favorite TV show and I daydreamed about having magical powers to make all the bales of hay go away. I moved in a daze of wishful thinking, wanting enough magical power to zap myself to a place that was cool, clean, and fun . . .

My Grandmother spent the day in the hayfield as well. Her job was to set the irrigation after the hay bales had been picked up. Suddenly, I was buried in a cloud of thick dust when she abruptly put on the pickup brakes and stopped beside me. She had noticed that my mind was elsewhere and I wasn’t paying much attention to my job.

Grandmother was a realist and knew wishful thinking was a waste of time. She was a very practical person; she knew how to rebuild engines and her salad bowls all said Cool Whip on the side.

“Just remember,” she shouted out from the pickup. “Wishful thinking is for wimps. Now get those bales in piles like you’ve been told to do.”

She left me choking in the dust she stirred up when she spun the back tires getting back onto the road. I never argued with my Grandmother. Her favorite back scratcher was a toilet brush and she never hesitated using it to spank me, either.

I grew up believing that wishful thinking and positive thinking were much the same thing. Neither had much heft to them. I preferred to think of myself as a realist. But when I entered the FBI Academy and found myself surrounded by people who had survived shootouts and active combat, I learned that mental power is just as important as physical power.

1. Wishful Thinking Is Watered Down Positive Thinking

When we focus on the future of our dreams, our minds enjoy and indulge in those images as if they were real. We don’t stop to think about the chances of them becoming real or the hurdles that will need to be overcome. Instead, we enjoy the fantasy.

Wishful thinking is believing the world is shaped by our wants and desires and that by focusing on the good, the bad ceases to exist.

This type of thinking is not only for wimps, it’s downright harmful. Unfortunately, much of what we think and understand about positive thinking is tainted by the triteness of wishful thinking. Instead of wimps, we need leaders with mental toughness who are strong thinkers.

Strong thinking is a blend of positive thinking and mental toughness. Strong thinking requires a curious mind and a can-do attitude. It requires leaders to think intentionally about their circumstances in a way that equally and fairly measures both the pros and cons, and then move forward within that framework.

2. Wishful Thinking Is Dangerous

This type of thinking tricks you into thinking your mind is always on your side, not sometimes helping you or sometimes working against you—which we all know it is quite capable of doing.

Wimps utilize wishful thinking so they don’t have to accept the fact that things are going in the wrong direction. Instead of wishing your life away to the future, use strong thinking to change how you experience your situation so it fits into your goals.

Here are some tips:

  • Develop the positive aspects
  • Look for opportunities
  • Create new goals
  • Gain strength from stress
  • Keep ego in check
  • Remain self-assured and confident
  • Believe their destiny is in their hands
  • Focus attention on their environment rather than on themselves
  • Discover new solutions
  • Immerse themselves in the activity of the solution
  • Continually assess and re-assess
  • Pay attention
  • Enjoy life in any circumstance
  • Feel gratitude
  • Forgive others
  • Develop self-strength
  • Censor their strengths, weaknesses, abilities, skills, and habits
  • Re-wire their brain for new patterns of behavior
  • Achieve mastery over life
  • Look at life as an adventure
  • Create adventurous responses to adversity


© 2013 LaRaeQuy. All rights reserved.

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

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Stop Whining And Change Your Attitude

Sunday, July 14th, 2013

Stop whining was the response from FBI leadership after the terrorist attack of 9/11. FBI Director Robert Mueller required all terrorism leads coming into the FBI field offices be followed up, no matter how mundane or trivial. He was determined to prevent another terrorist attack from happening again. It put a tremendous burden on investigative resources and agents complained that chasing down bogus leads took precious time away from real cases.

As the spokesperson for the FBI in Northern California, I was briefed on all substantive cases in the event the media wanted additional information. One of them was a report from a local bank that their security personnel observed a male teenager selling drugs near their front lobby. The exchange was also on surveillance tape.

The teenager was carrying a large backpack, and when bank security walked by, they picked up a reading on their mobile biohazard sensors. Worried that the teenager might have an explosive device, bank security detained the teenager and contacted both the local police and the FBI.

It turns out that the teenager actually had been tested that morning for a thyroid condition, and the nuclear residue left over in his system had triggered the biohazard sensor. However, when the parents arrived they were furious at the security personnel and accused the bank of invading their son’s privacy. Even though their son had been caught red-handed selling drugs, they threatened to sue the bank and contacted a lawyer to pursue the matter.

The parents were so clearly in the wrong that even their normally greedy and unscrupulous lawyer told them they had no case.

This entire incident illustrates exactly what is wrong with this country today: no one is willing to take responsibility for their actions. Instead of being horrified that their son was peddling drugs on the streets of San Francisco, they pointed the finger at bank security and blamed them because their son was caught!

Many Americans refuse to stop whining and continue to blame others for their problems and mistakes instead of stepping up to take responsibility for their own future. Parents are worried that their children will not have a richer, better life than they did. Contrast that with the attitude in China and India, where young and old are excited about their future.

Until Americans can stop whining, stop blaming others, and complain about hard work, other nations around the world are stepping into the void.

We need to get over ourselves and put our shoulder into building our future. Here’s how:

1. Stop Whining And Behave

If you want to change your attitude, start with changing your behavior.

Our actions affect our attitude because we are motivated to justify our actions. When we are aware that our attitudes and actions do not coincide, we experience tension called cognitive dissonance.

To relieve this tension, according to the cognitive dissonance theory proposed by Leon Festinger, we often bring our attitudes into line with our actions.  It is as if we rationalize, “If I chose to do it (or say it), I must believe in it.”

2. Chose Your Behavior, Chose the Consequences

As an adult, and as a leader, you need to take responsibility for your actions. The only other option is to go through life blaming others for your lack of competence, innovation, and initiative.

The greatest stress in life is to hold onto an image of yourself that someone else created for you.

If you keep trying to live up to their standards, you will never achieve anything of genuine or authentic value. The only person you control is you.

3. Listen to Yourself When You Speak

In conversations, do you have a habit of blaming others for things when things don’t go the way you want? Rather than accept blame and responsibility for your actions, do you point the finger at coworkers, your parent’s influence, your upbringing, or others?

Stop whining and listen to yourself. If you hear blaming patterns in your speech, you can stop them.

4. Man-Up …. or Lean In

A challenge to man-up assumes the speaker is tougher than the other person. It suggests a lack of manliness and strength. This phrase contains certain sexual overtones because men can use it in a different way than women. After all, it would be hard to imagine a male candidate suggesting that a female opponent needed to be more ladylike to be qualified for the office.

But women today are not afraid of losing their feminine qualities by being tough and resilient, traits that have been mostly associated with masculinity.

The challenge to man-up encourages all of us to muster the courage to do what is right. Man-up and Lean-In are the same thing; both mean that you have the grit to do what needs to be done without making excuses for yourself or blaming others for your situation. It means grow up already!

Leadership is taking responsibility for your own actions, stop whining, stop making excuses when things don’t work out right, and stop blaming others for your mistakes. Instead, develop mental toughness and adopt a Can-Do attitude—all it takes is a little discipline and hard work.

When you stop blaming others and take responsibility, life becomes much easier.

© 2013 LaRaeQuy. All rights reserved.

You can follow me on Twitter

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

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How To Create A Success Mindset

Sunday, July 7th, 2013

I learned to create a success mindset during my 4 months at the FBI Academy as a new agent. Each of us were pushed to the limit of endurance and performance to where we wanted to say “I can’t.” If we weren’t pushed into our discomfort zone, the instructors weren’t doing their job.

In my book, Secrets of A Strong Mind, I talk about my training at the Academy. I expected rigorous defensive tactics training, but I was not prepared for the intense mental discipline that accompanied it.

As it turned out, the FBI’s use of a success mindset significantly impacted the way I have lived the rest of my life. These tactics taught agents like myself how to create new ways of thinking about overcoming obstacles and breaking through barriers. They showed agents how to develop a Can-Do mindset early in our career.

As a trained investigator, I’ve been taught to look for evidence. And there’s actually scientific theory to back up the FBI’s approach to a success mindset.

Neuroscientists have learned that whenever you learn something new, you change your neural connections. When we reinforce a way of thinking, either new connections are formed or old ones are strengthened.

When you maintain a success mindset and think in positive, constructive ways, these connections become more durable and easier to activate. This is a tremendous concept, because it shows us how we can change our attitudes and behavior.

We can train our brain to make positive patterns more automatic. When we look for and become more aware of positive aspects of life, we fight off our brain’s natural tendency to scan and spot the negatives. This allows us to look at obstacles and barriers in new ways.

A success mindset came in very useful, because one of my most successful FBI investigations was also one of my longest—four years. I worked counterintelligence and espionage cases and my job was to identify foreign spies working inside the U.S. and attempt to recruit them to work for the FBI.

Persistence, hard work, and applying the success mindset that I learned at the Academy made the difference between failure and success.

Here are some brain power tactics to help you develop more positive patterns in your thinking and create a success mindset:

1. No Pain, No Gain

Where most folks go wrong is in assuming that if they feel discomfort, they’re not ready for a challenge. Don’t pretend that discomfort does not exist; instead, the goal is to find strategies to cope with the discomfort. New neural connections are created with each new experience.

2. Visualize Your Peak Performance

This is not fantasy or wishful thinking. Studies have shown that fantasies of success can actually be counterproductive. Rather, it is anticipating how things could go wrong and counteracting, by visualizing your positive responses. Visualize how you will react and respond when criticized by a colleague, predict your performance in the morning meeting, and be prepared for the hard questions that will come from your boss.

This will make it easier for you to visualize your inner sense of strength. It’s faking it until you make it . . .

3. Broadcast Your Intentions

We all learn in different ways. Some of are hardwired to process by speaking, others by writing, and others by listening. Talk to friends, write in journals, or speak into a recorder and listen to yourself talk. All are ways we can access different aspects of our brain so we can continue to create positive neural connections.

4. Give Yourself A Deadline

One of the best ways to develop a mindset of success is to put yourself under a deadline so you can achieve your goal even in the midst of interruptions and distractions. The more you can practice “under the gun,” the more confidence in yourself you will achieve. This positive reinforcement is an important component in creating new ways of thinking about your performance, especially when facing obstacles and breaking through barriers.

Success is a mindset. I believe we can change “I can’t” into “I can” by simply changing the way we think.

What are some ways you are creating a success mindset?

© 2013 LaRaeQuy. All rights reserved.

You can follow me on Twitter

Get my FREE Mental Toughness Assessment

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

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