Archive for January, 2014

9 Ways You Can Conquer the World

Sunday, January 26th, 2014

I may have wanted to conquer the world, but my first FBI supervisor had other thoughts. He was a tall, affable guy named Bill who tended to assign the sticky cases to the newest agent on the squad—me. Bill handed me a dog-eared file that had obviously been kicked around for a few years. The case was so old that one of the witnesses had died! 

Mental Toughness - win the race

I started to complain but Bill held up his hand and said, “What I expect from you is an adventurous response.”

What in the hell was an adventurous response? I had joined the FBI because I was seeking something unique and exciting. The more I thought about Bill’s admonition, I realized that adventure can not only be found in  our experiences. It can also be found in the way we think.

An adventurous response is looking for the possibility in every situation, even when it doesn’t look all that great at first glance. Bill’s suggestion brought me to a closer understanding of the role of positive thinking in developing mental toughness. I was a new agent, but Bill understood that if I focused my attention on the positive aspects of my case, I would mature into the kind of person who looked at both life and work as an adventure.

When leaders have an adventurous response to life’s vicissitudes, they can conquer the world.

Here are 9 ways:

1. Start Early and Win the Morning

If it takes caffeine to get you started in the morning, go for a full cup. If you procrastinate in starting your day, what does that foretell about the way you’ll approach the rest of it? Eat a good breakfast, pray, read the Bible, workout—feed your mind, body, and soul first thing every morning.

2. Surround Yourself With People Who Care

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.

If you surround yourself with positive people who build you up and believe in you, you can conquer the world. No matter how many you have in your network, if you want to be truly successful you will need three types of people:

  • People who are older and more successful to learn from
  • Those who are your contemporaries for encouragement
  • Others who are below you in experience to keep you energized

3. Believe and Act As If Everything Is a Gift

Instead of appearing like Pollyanna, think about it like this: Assuming everything is a gift is a great way of looking at the problems that will undoubtedly pop up in life and business. Choose an adventurous response by remaining positive so you are not intimidated by obstacles.

4. Write in a Journal

Goals, dreams, and ideas that are not written down are not real.

Journals can:

  • Force you to clarify what you want
  • Motivate you to take action
  • Filter the best opportunities
  • Help overcome resistance
  • Enable you to celebrate your progress

5. Engage in Mindfulness, Prayer, Meditation, or Yoga On a Daily Basis

Research has shown that the benefits of mindfulness are not just for individual health, but also for corporate bottom lines. Stress-reduction doesn’t just make us happier and healthier, it’s a proven competitive advantage for any business that wants one.

6. Ask Questions, Lots of Them, Always

Raising new questions, exploring possibilities, and regarding old problems from a new angle activates our imagination and stimulates our thinking. Continually ask yourself these questions:

  • What is my purpose on earth?
  • Where is my heart telling me to go?
  • What should I stop doing?
  • When should I start doing something else?
  • What is my petri dish?

7. Try, Try, and Then Try Again

If you want to try something new, you will fail at first; if you don’t fail, then it wasn’t really anything new at all. Failure is a wonderfully clarifying process because if you fail and give up, then you’re heart wasn’t in it. Move on so you can get somewhere better.

If, however, you fail and do not accept defeat, keep at it until you find the secret to unlocking the potential, in both yourself and your obstacle.

8. Start At the End, and Then Don’t Stop There

Decide what you want to do, who you want to be, and where you want to end up. You cannot conquer the world setting average goals for yourself. Aim at nothing and you will hit it every time. 

Never start small where goals are concerned. Most people don’t set goals too high and miss; they set goals too low and hit. Your decisions will be better when your ultimate goal is ultimate success. 

9. Don’t Stop Thinking About Tomorrow

To set and achieve a goal isn’t the finish line for people who are successful. To achieve one goal is simply a launch pad for the next huge goal. 

When you become successful in one field, you will find that you have the skill set to be remarkably successful in other fields. Do not settle for running one race. Expect and plan to win a number of them.

Mental toughness is choosing how you respond to life’s circumstances rather than leaving things to chance. Once you do, you can conquer the world.

Any tips to offer on how people can conquer their world?

© 2014 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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Why Leaders Need To Move Outside Their Comfort Zone

Sunday, January 19th, 2014

After twenty years as an investigative agent, I found myself in a comfort zone. Safely ensconced in familiar territory, I balked when asked to be the spokesperson for the FBI in Northern California. It sounded like fun—even a little glamorous since I would be interviewed by local and national news media. So why did I hesitate when offered the job? 

I would move from being the senior agent on my squad, where I knew everything about my job, to a new situation where I knew absolutely nothing. None of my former skills as an investigator had prepared me to handle probing questions from reporters. I would move out of my comfort zone as I represented the FBI in news conferences. And then I would need to prepare for live television interviews! The FBI needed someone who could come across as witty, credible and polished.

I am the type of person who comes up with the best retorts about twenty minutes after the question is asked—I needed to learn how to think quicker on my feet.

I was a beginner, starting over with a manual and basic training. My pride balked at being referred to as a trainee—my secretary, assistants, and clerks knew more about handling the media than I did!

I had to learn the ropes from the bottom up. It was tempting to feel humiliated by my lack of experience; instead, I felt humbled by all I had yet to learn. There was no resentment, only a slow understanding that we are all students of life.

Entrepreneurs, leaders, and small business owners need to place importance on putting themselves in new situations. They will be required to learn new techniques and skill sets. And they will be confronted by competition that forces them to be creative. And agile mindset will be needed so they can find new ways to solve new—and old—problems.

Here are four reasons why people in leadership become great when they keep learning:

1. Keeps Ego in Check

The ego is always asking “How will this make me look? How will I benefit?” Ego looks for ways to prove it is right and others are wrong.

People with healthy leadership habits do not need to prove or disprove anything. They have the humility to hold “what they do know” with “what they don’t know.” Holding this kind of tension leads to wisdom and not just easy answers.

When we keep ego in check, there is room for the wisdom of others to get in.

We are able to listen more deeply, learn with an open mind, and adapt new skill sets. 

When we allow ourselves the luxury of trial and error, like a child learning to walk, we experience a feel-good neurological response that can be stronger than the ego. When tackling new and difficult challenges, we experience a rush of adrenaline, a hormone that makes us feel confident and motivated.

2. Summons Courage

It takes courage to move out of your comfort zone and into your zone of discomfort, where you feel awkward, clumsy, and alone. This can be especially difficult for those in leadership positions who feel they need to continue to hone their core competencies, but our comfort zone is a tremendous enemy of peak performance. 

When people in leadership get into a comfort zone, they strive to stay right there—where they have found success. But it is the average leader who stops at success, because success and peak performance are often two different things. Whole lives are spent reinforcing mediocre performance.

It takes courage and mental toughness to continually move in the direction of your biggest goals and ambitions and not stop at success.

3. Avoids Stagnation

The more accomplished we are at something, the harder it is to learn.

Once we become experts in our field, the need to learn is no longer either urgent or necessary. This, in turn, increases the likelihood that we will fuse our skill with our identity. 

Walking into a discomfort zone and risking failure threatens to unravel our identity. Our reaction to learning something new is often fierce and visceral because it can strike at the core of who believe ourselves to be. 

Once we choose not to learn, however, we risk stagnation. Unfortunately, the only difference between a rut and coffin are the dimensions.

4. Enlarges Core Competency

Moving out of our core competency leaves us feeling vulnerable and weak as leaders. We’ve become inured to having the right answers and confidence in our choices. 

A beginner’s mind, on the other hand, is flexible and agile as it leaves behind old assumptions and gropes for new ways to move forward. 

This is exactly the mindset we need when confronted with obstacles and adversity! We may not be able to rely upon our developed skills when facing a new barrier or challenge, but if we’ve continually and deliberately placed ourselves in situations that are beyond our core competency, we are more prepared to deal with them.

With experience and practice, we can predict our response to the unknown with greater accuracy. This is another important component of mental toughness—the ability to choose our response when confronted with the unknown rather than simply react to our circumstances.

A beginner’s mind is opening up to the possibilities of what might be. It is a non-grasping, patient, and confident understanding of what it means to live our fullest potential. It is having the mental toughness to always be humble, and always strive to reach peak performance.

How you do anything is how you do everything.

How do you motivate yourself to move out of your comfort zone and into a zone of discomfort where you can learn new skills?

© 2014 LaRaeQuy. 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.” 

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What Grabs Your Attention Rules Your Life

Sunday, January 12th, 2014

My parents taught me to pay attention to my environment and be alert for rattlesnakes on our cattle ranch. They hid underneath sagebrush and cactus. My most prized Christmas present every year was a new pair of thick leather high top boots. They were tough enough to withstand a rattler’s sharp teeth if I should get bitten.

After many years of being alert of my surroundings, awareness of my immediate physical situation became a habit. Even after I had grown up and left the ranch. My ability to remain observant while in chaotic and quick moving circumstances was one of the primary reasons I became an FBI agent.

Habits don’t happen overnight. They are a repeated behavior that leaves us comfortable and safe. Therefore, we continue to choose more of the same experiences. When our attention is focused like this, our nervous system leaves us wanting more of the same.

For example: Whatever act of attitude gets your attention, the more frequently that act of attitude will manifest in your life. 

If you focus on anger, anger will show up. If you focus on looking for the positive in your situation, positivity will show up. And if you focus on finding a way to pursue your goal, determination will show up.

Pinpoint the focus, and put your attention on whatever you want to grow in life.

Start with Intention

Intention is a choice to act in a certain way. Without it, we spin and turn in all sorts of directions. Intention is an essential component of mental toughness. It is an ability that we can learn and strengthen over time to commit to a specific outcome. And regardless of distraction, to move forward. 

Intention is the key to transformation. Get serious about what is important in life and come up with a game plan to make it happen. Work on your intentions until they become perfectly clear.

Be intentional about:

  • Thoughts: Make corrections when you uncover thoughts that are not in alignment with your intention. “As a man thinks in his heart, so he is“~Proverbs 23:7a NKJV)
  • Words: Keep your conversations positive about the direction you’re moving. “Kind words are like honey—sweet to the soul and healthy for the body”~Proverbs 16:24 NLT
  • Deeds: Ensure that everything you do moves you closer to your intention. “Even children know by the way they act, whether their conduct is pure, and whether it is right”~Proverbs 20:11 NLT

Follow Up With Attention

We pay attention when we notice the importance of an act or person. We intentionally focus our attention on what is important in our life and those areas we want to grow.

Our consciousness can handle only so much information, so we have selective attention. One key part of the brain which focuses on attention is the Reticular Activating System (RAS). It filters out important information that needs more attention from the unimportant that can be ignored. Without the RAS filter, we would be over-stimulated and distracted by noises from our environment around us.

Whatever we choose to focus our attention on will make it past the mind’s filtering system. The RAS alerts the cerebral, thinking brain of changes in the environment such as:

  • Physical needs: when we’re hungry, we pay attention to food
  • Choices: if we decide to buy a Volvo (a MUST see video by the way!), we see them everywhere
  • Names: we notice the names of those whom we love
  • Emotions: if something evokes an emotion in us, it has our attention
  • Contrast: we pay more attention to things that are in contrast to other things
  • Novelty: the brain notices things in our environment that are new experiences for us

Mental toughness keeps attention focused on those attitudes and behaviors that you intentionally identify as important to you in life.

These positive influences will help you to move forward, and not get distracted, when faced with an obstacle or adversity.

End On A Happy Note

If you start with positive intentions, you will notice the importance of things that will move you toward your goals. This includes people, events, and situations. The result produces fulfillment and happiness.

Intention→Attention→Results

This outcome shouldn’t surprise you.

Research shows that people who maintain a positive mindset are the happiest. They also perform better in the face of challenge. Shawn Achor call this the “happiness advantage.” Every business outcome shows improvement when the brain is positive.

Happiness is not about being oblivious to negative situations in our environment. It’s about developing the mental toughness to find ways to do something about them. Leverage positivity in leadership to move forward and find both meaning and happiness regardless of your circumstances. 

Positive thinkers seek out information that is actionable, interesting, and relevant. Leaders who create positive responses to their situations use words like opportunity and challenge together. 

Our thoughts, words, and deeds turn into habits of behavior. They can enrich our lives once we understand how to intentionally focus our attention on experiences we want to repeat. What grabs our attention rules our life.

What grabs your attention?

© 2014 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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3 Ways To Make Gratitude A Stronger Emotion

Sunday, January 5th, 2014

As an FBI agent, I was surrounded by people who had a strong sense of right and wrong. Research shows that emotions are strongly connected to our morality—the ability to tell right from wrong. Since strong emotions were closely connected to my fellow agents’ morals, it allowed them to move into adverse and dangerous situations to protect the well-being of others. 

Gratitude - squirrel

Gratitude and indignation are both moral emotions. Gratitude is a positive emotion that encourages reciprocal altruism, well-being, and appreciation. Indignation, on the other hand, is a negative emotion that is closely related to anger and revenge—it motivates individuals to punish cheaters.

Mental toughness strengthens our ability to distinguish positive emotions from negative ones. We can use this awareness to strengthen positive emotions like gratitude and control negative ones like anger. 

Understanding our emotions is the key if we want to control them.

Mentally tough people learn how to connect with emotions that attract more of the things that represent our moral standards. In turn, we live and do what is right.

As leaders, we can find ways to make gratitude a stronger emotion. We can use mental toughness to strengthen our gratitude emotion. When we do, we control the negative emotions that impact the way we treat not only ourselves, but those around us.  

Here are 3 ways we can make gratitude a stronger emotion:

1. Be Intentional

Intentional behavior is the ability to move ahead with a thoughtful and deliberate goal in mind. This means we can make gratitude a stronger emotion. To do so, we need to seek out and identify specific acts for which we can, and should, be grateful.

We perceive an act as more worthy of gratitude when: 

  • it cost someone (either time or effort)
  • we perceive it to be of value
  • it is not obligatory or habitual in nature
  • the result produces relief or happiness

2. Keep Focused

Most FBI agents and law enforcement officers enter their career to arrest criminals who exploit the needs and weaknesses of others. Over time, however, their idealism is threatened because life is rarely lived in absolutes.

The black and white of justice frequently morphs into shades of gray. Good is often found in the midst of the bad, and bad sometimes results from good intentions.

We become mentally tough when we learn to live with the paradox of contradiction and not run from the mystery of life.

It’s especially important to remain grateful when life takes a down turn:

  • Seek out events and people that represent the things that embody your moral standards
  • Express gratitude when you see them
  • Let go of your need for the “right” way to be “your” way
  • Clarify what you know to be the truth in your heart, get to know it better
  • Remember that truth is it’s own best argument

3. Lose the Ego

Narcissists believe their presence entitles them to special rights and privileges. They often make demands of others and they are selfish. People with large egos tend to be ungrateful. Instead, they believe they deserve the favors and gifts that others give to them. 

It’s impossible to give full attention to both ego and gratitude at the same time.

When you appreciate something or someone else, your ego must move out of the way. 

Deepak Chopra makes these points about ego and gratitude:

  • Ego can get stuck on being right or wrong
  • Real gratitude isn’t passing and temporary
  • Gratitude takes openness and the willingness to set your ego aside
  • No one is grateful for things they think they deserve.
  • Gratitude is unearned, like grace
  • When it is deeply felt, gratitude applies to everything, not simply to good things you hope come your way

We can strengthen our gratitude emotion over time. It will take mental toughness to intentionally seek out and find the people and circumstances for which we can be grateful. We also need to focus on the priority of being grateful, especially in tough times. And finally, we need to demand the ego to be put it in its proper place.

What tips do you have for making gratitude a stronger emotion?

© 2014 LaRaeQuy. 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.” 

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