Archive for September, 2013

Pull Painful Memories From Your Mind

Sunday, September 22nd, 2013

Growing up on a ranch in Wyoming, I have some painful memories. 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 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 than are beneficial and those that can cause harm.

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 and marsupial lions 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. Your experiences really, really matter. To pull the weedy, painful memories from our mind and replace them with positive ones takes active effort.

1. Painful Memories Are Usually Best Healed When Replaced With A Positive One

Like pulling weeds, the pesky things won’t go away unless they’re pulled out by the roots. Mental toughness is being inquisitive about 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.

For example:

  • 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.”

2. Let A Positive Emotion Be The Antidote

You cannot run away from or resist painful memories or focus exclusively on positive ones. But by being mentally tough, you can learn to manage the way in which painful memories interfere with your current outlook on life.

When you have a positive experience today, take the time to let your mind absorb it fully so it can help erase the power of a similar negative experience from the past.

Leadership begins with the way you lead our own life. Be an example to your team, and when you feel upset and negative, feel around for the tip of the root of whatever is bothering you. Over time, you can build new, positive structures in your brain.

© 2013 LaRaeQuy. All rights reserved.

You can follow me on Twitter, Facebook, AND LinkedIn

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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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When Life Sucks!

Sunday, September 15th, 2013

When life sucks, it’s hard to be around perpetually perky people. My college room mate had unrelenting positivity and I frequently responded with sharp-tongued barbs intended to wilt her enthusiasm. It never did though—no matter what obstacle or barrier I presented, she found a way around it.

As I growled and sniped, however, I couldn’t help but be impressed by the way she always came out on top of the situation. As an over-achiever, this was irritating to me—but it turned out to be a game-changer.

As I moved into the real world after graduating from college, the obstacles and barriers popping up in my life seemed to take on new, gigantic proportions. The sarcasm and negativity that had seemed clever in the old days no longer seemed so witty.

When I applied to the FBI as a new agent, I quickly discovered that, while no one could be called perky, most agents could be described as possessing unrelenting positivity. Even when life sucks, a case looks hopeless, or a barrier appears unsurmountable, there are differences between agents who survive and those who thrive in their circumstances.

The game-changer for me came when I finally understood that mental toughness is unrelenting positivity in the midst of uncertainty and risk. The strong minded know how to look for the positive when life sucks. Follow these tips:

1. Accept That Reality Will Change

Life evolves, so be smart and stop acting surprised when it does. It is natural to react with anger and skepticism because these emotions are trying to ensure your survival. But new situations can provide you with opportunities to learn important lessons about yourself such as your reactions, values, vulnerabilities, triggers, and how to take better care of yourself.

2. Change Is Always Preceded By Chaos

Arrests are a mix of organized chaos. As much as FBI teams would prepare for an arrest, there was always the element of the unknown—would the suspect shoot, grab a hostage, or go berserk? Chaos can keep us on our toes to anticipate the unknown, and the changes it will bring with it. This means being diligent, alert, and aware of our surroundings.

3. Choose Your New Reality With Intention

As situations change, you will be presented with multiple new realities and you will have an opportunity to chose your new one. Choose the one that is most likely to lead to positive growth.

4. Chart Your New Reality With Care

Be aware that most of us automatically look at change as a negative experience. As a result, you tend to look at your new situation as permanent, pervasive, and personal. Once you realize this, you strengthen your mind to accept your new direction with a more positive attitude.

5. Take Small Steps

Your emotional, survival-driven brain will feel safer if you take the time to chart your new reality with small and positive steps. With each success, you will train your brain to feel more comfortable with taking more, and eventually, bigger steps toward your new reality.

6. Reframe Your Situation

As long as you are learning, you’re are growing. Even if the circumstances are not ideal, or of your choosing, there is always something good to take away from them. Reframe your situation by asking a simple question: “What am I learning from this?”

It is not always easy to find the positive when life throws us a curveball. But reality changes with every shift of thought and attitude. For me, the reality I am experiencing today is not what it was when I was a student. Mental toughness is that strength of mind that allows us to react with agility and flexibility when confronted with the unexpected.

How have you found the positive when life sucks?

© 2013 LaRaeQuy. All rights reserved.

 

You can follow me on Twitter, Facebook, AND LinkedIn

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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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How To Visualize Success

Saturday, September 7th, 2013

I’ve always been afraid of water and to confront those fears, I had to visualize success. I did this learning how to scuba dive—even before I learned to swim. 

One of the requirements of scuba diving certification was to descend under water ten feet, take off my mask and mouthpiece, and then put them back on again. I was afraid I would drown in those few moments underwater and without oxygen.

What if I lost my mask? How would I get back to the surface? After all, I couldn’t even swim. My instructor was with me, and during practice he had helped me several times. But on the day of certification I would need to do it on my own.

My fear of water had not subsided as I hoped it would. I did not feel safe in the water, especially when I was ten feet under.

The night before the test, I spent hours trying to visualize success by mimicking how I would take off the mask and replace it without drawing a breath or dropping the mask. I walked myself through the exercise time and time again. I saw myself taking a deep breath and then letting go of my mouthpiece. I watched myself pull off the mask with my left hand and hold it tightly as my right hand came around and pulled it back over my face. I thought about how eyes would sting from salt water if I opened them so I would keep them closed tightly. I then observed how I would grab hold of my mouthpiece and bring life-giving oxygen back into my lungs.

I visualized the sequence dozens of times. And when it came time for my scuba dive certification, I performed the underwater portion exactly as I had visioned it. Later that day, I dove 100 feet down a seawall!

Little did I know at the time that I could visualize success and point to solid science to explain why it worked. Achieving my goal was about more than work and discipline—it was also about physiology.

By visualizing my performance repeated, my brain stored that information as a success.

Whenever I could visualize success, my brain released a neurotransmitter called dopamine. That is the chemical that becomes active when we encounter situations that are linked to reward from the past. Dopamine enables us to not only see rewards, but to move toward those rewards as well.

If we can visualize success, it has implications that go far beyond scuba diving certification:

1. VISUALIZE SUCCESS IN BUSINESS LEADERSHIP

Mental toughness is the ability to envision the outcome of an event to trigger the production of dopamine. Sometimes asking yourself a simple question such as “What do I want this meeting to look like?” and then visualizing your performance is enough to get that important shot of dopamine. Start with visualizing every objection and/or question that is likely to come up in the meeting, and your response to it.

 

2. AND IN PERSONAL LEADERSHIP

Visualizing can help you see your own ability to perform in difficult or stressful situations. It can help take you beyond your self-limiting beliefs about yourself and move you beyond your current circumstances. Visualizing encourages leaders to ask “What if?” or “What else?” These types of questions open doors of possibility and opportunity. It’s an invitation to move past the status quo.

3. DON’T FORGET TEAM LEADERSHIP

If dopamine is associated with increased creativity, leaders can use this knowledge to help their teams find ways to be create a more satisfying work environment. Research has determined that dopamine is produced in anticipation of reward, not as the result of the reward.

The very act of giving your brain a detailed portrait of your end goal ensures the release of dopamine, a powerful mental toughness tool to steer you toward success.

From Victor Frankl: “There’s one reason why I’m here today. What kept me alive in a situation where others had given up hope and died was the dream that someday I’d be here telling you how I survived the concentration camps. I’ve never been here before. I’ve never seen any of you before. I’ve never given this speech before. But in my dreams I’ve stood before you in this room and said these words a thousand times.”

© 2013 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.” 

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Beating The Odds – How David Beat Goliath

Monday, September 2nd, 2013

The Old Testament story in the Bible of David fighting Goliath is a story of beating the odds. David was a sheepherder who led a very predictable and ordinary life. He might never have discovered his greatness if he hadn’t taken a risk and stepped into the unknown.

The Philistine army had gathered their troops for war against Israel. The two armies faced each other, camped for battle on opposite sides of a steep valley.  Every day for forty days, a Philistine warrior named Goliath broke out from the front line and challenged the Israelites to fight. Goliath was reported to be a giant of a man—he measured over nine feet tall and wore full armor. The Israelites fell back in fear when they saw the huge form of Goliath challenging them and held out no hope for beating the odds.

Described as a runt by his father, David’s job was to run back and forth from herding sheep to bring news of his brothers who were all on the Israelite battle line. He looked at Goliath and asked, “What’s in it for the man who kills the ugly Philistine?”

When he learned that King Saul would offer a huge reward and give his daughter in marriage, David thought of a way of beating the odds and said, “I’m your man!”

The runt of the litter takes on the giant—we love stories of the underdog who musters the courage and confidence to find ways of beating the odds. Here is how David did it:

1. Mastered A Skill Set

David had never fought in battle as a soldier but he had other experiences. He knew how to use a sling and perfectly weighted stones to protect lambs from large and strong predators like lions and bears. He was prepared to use those same skills to protect the Israelites. It took years of practice, but he never became distracted from learning the skills he needed to become a master of his trade.

Mastery is not a function of genius or talent. It is a function of intense focus applied to your area of expertise. Once you master your own skill set, it will give you confidence that you will be successful in beating the odds against big and strong opponents.

2. Acknowledged His Weaknesses

The soldiers laughed at David because he did not have a soldier’s training. The first thing they tried to do was turn David into one of them. They suited him in their armor and gave him a sword. But David was not a soldier and had never trained as one. He said, “I cannot fight in this because I’m not used to it.” The techniques of a soldier were not his own, and he was wise enough to acknowledge what he didn’t know so he could focus on what he did.

You will excel only if you maximize your strengths and stop trying to fix your weaknesses. Don’t ignore your weaknesses but acknowledge them so you are better able to manage them. This allows you to free up time and focus on developing your strengths.

3. Used The Skills He Understood

David met Goliath on the battlefield with a sling and five smooth, carefully selected stones because those were the tools of his trade. He had used these same tools against lions and bears.

While others considered David an underdog, he knew about beating the odds because he possessed a strong arm and good aim. He understood how to use these skills and adapt to his circumstances. He was authentic and didn’t try to live by someone else’s rules. He used the skills and talents he possessed and had developed. In other words, he was unconsciously competent.

When confronted with the unknown in a volatile and hostile environment, lean into the personal strengths and skills that you’ve honed through practice and experience.

4. Pressed Into The Unknown

According to the Biblical account, “David took off from the front line, running toward the Philistine.” David took leadership of the situation when he broken the pattern of the challenge. He moved toward the threat and pressed into the unknown.

In this case, Goliath may not have expected David to move closer and at such speed. He may have been caught unaware and hesitated, thereby giving David an opportunity of beating the odds by using his slingshot.

To increase safety, move toward the unknown—only by moving closer to the threat was David able to see where and how to strike. Opportunities that could not be seen from a distance were made visible as he pressed forward. The closer Goliath came, the more ways David could see of defeating the giant. He saw a small gap in Goliath’s armor that was not visible from a distance.

As Goliath moved in for the kill, David reached into his bag and slung one of his stones at the gap in the armor that protected Goliath’s head. Once struck on the forehead, the giant fell down on the ground. David then took Goliath’s own sword, killed him, and cut off his head. When the Philistine’s saw their hero was dead, they turned and ran.

To increase chances for success, move toward the challenge—when confronted with changing environments and overcoming challenges as a leader, you may also need to leave your place of safety and press forward.

David possessed the mental toughness to find ways of beating the odds and destroying Goliath. Nothing is impossible—you, too, can find a way.

 

 

© 2013 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.” 

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