Archive for March, 2014

5 Unconventional Ways You Can Lead From The Heart

Sunday, March 30th, 2014

I spent Saturday morning at my local gym working out with a trainer. As I repeated repetitions with free weights, my trainer kept yelling, “Lead from the heart.” I write and speak about mental toughness, but his exhortation to lead from the heart in my workout struck a new cord. 

PODCAST:

Heart - tree branch

Mental toughness begins with heart, and my friend, Lolly Daskal, is an expert on how to lead from the heart. I’ve learned a lot from her and how important it is to listen to the wisdom of our inner calling.

How important is heart to mental toughness? Mental toughness is finding a way to continue moving toward our goals, even in tough times—but if our heart is not the driving force behind those goals, failure will be enough to persuade us to give up and try something else. 

Glimpses into our heart’s desire cannot be plucked from the air. We must integrate both feeling and thinking because when we lead from the heart, we feel an expansion of self and meaning in life. The experience lingers in our consciousness and gives a sense of purpose, integration with others, and empathy.

Let’s look at 5 nonconventional ways you can not lead from the heart: 

1. Relive the BEST Parts of Your Childhood

Go back and remember the fun things you liked to do as a child and young adult. They gave you autonomy, purpose, and a sense of fulfillment. 

Our brain keeps growing until the age of twenty-five, by which time we develop a more mature sense of long-term planning and critical thinking. As adults we become afraid of the unknown and cease to utilize play and creativity as a way of exploring our heart’s desire.

To lead from the heart, it is not enough to love what we do; we must also find meaning and purpose in it.

If your path has no heart, you are on the wrong path.

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Rekindle the passions of your heart from your early years. This does not mean you have to quit your job, but it does require that you take a critical look at:

  1. what you are doing, and
  2. which aspects of your job speak to your heart (so you can pursue them)

2. Learn How to Skip Rope — Again

As adults, we stop being playful and creative because we become more sensitive to rejection, failure, and other pinpricks to our ego.

Creativity is developing original ideas that have value. It is finding connection between things that are not connected. Creativity requires that we do two things: 1) embrace risk, and 2) find and identify new patterns. The irony is that these two requirements are what makes play so much fun!

When you are concentrating on something that matters to you, then you are working from the heart.

There are no rule books and instead of avoiding the unknown, the risk you are facing only tightens your focus. 

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Notice those times when time does not matter because you are so absorbed in what you do, and risk is not a deterrent. 

3. Follow Your Calling by Looking at Your Brain

Too often, we associate our brain with thinking only, but our brain is also where we experience emotions and process feelings.

Research has shown that when we are truly engaged in what we are doing, and experience feelings of fulfillment, large patches of our prefrontal cortex are deactivated. These regions of our brain silence our inner critic and leave us less inhibited and much more open to unique experiences.

When we follow our heart’s calling, we’re calm, confident, and content.

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When we are leading with our heart and feel a reward from our activity, our brain releases dopamine which stimulates excitement, curiosity, and motivation.

4. Put Your Heart Into It

We need to push ourselves. Peak performance shows up when we’re using our skills.  This means challenge. When we push ourselves in the right direction (toward our calling), we are intrinsically motivated to perform. 

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If you are following your heart, you will experience the same “runner’s high” as athletes do after they finish their races. Your brain chemicals will be surging, alerting you to what fulfillment and accomplishment with meaning feels like.

5. Take a Hard Look at The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly

You either embrace the challenges of life or you shrink from them. Mentally tough people acknowledge that life is full of both good and bad, positive and negative, but they cultivate a growth mindset that uses strategies to keep moving forward. 

One of the most essential strategies is honest self-evaluation. If you have a growth mindset, you accurately evaluate your capabilities in order to learn more efficiently. If you have a fixed mindset, it makes it harder to adapt and remain flexible to life’s changing environment.

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Self-knowledge accumulates over time. You cannot be mentally tough by blaming your weaknesses and failures on others.

Mental toughness is combining awareness with action. There is a decision at every step, and the decision to listen to the calling of our heart is the surest path to a strong mind.

How do you lead from the heart?

© 2014 LaRaeQuy. All rights reserved.

Get my FREE 45-Question Mental Toughness Assessment

You can follow me on Twitter, Facebook, AND LinkedIn

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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6 Reasons Mental Toughness is Positivity on Steroids

Sunday, March 16th, 2014

Admiral James Stockdale was held captive for eight years during the Vietnam War. He had the mental toughness to make it out alive after being tortured 22 times and losing many friends in prison.

Mental toughness - boxing gloves

Stockdale was interviewed about his experiences as a prisoner of war several years later by Jim Collins, author of the famous book Good to Great. Stockdale gave insightful answers about how he managed to survive torture, starvation, and other horrible conditions. At one point, Collins asked him, “Who didn’t make it out alive?”

Stockdale’s answer was blunt: “Oh, that’s easy, the optimists. Oh, they were the ones who said, ‘We’re going to be out by Christmas.’ And Christmas would come, and Christmas would go. Then they’d say, ‘We’re going to be out by Easter.’ And Easter would come, and Easter would go. And then Thanksgiving, and then it would be Christmas again. And they died of a broken heart.”

Positivity is one of the most important components of mental toughness. When listening to Stockdale’s story, it becomes obvious that positivity is about more than optimism vs pessimism.

Mental Toughness is about people putting faith in themselves to prevail rather than trusting in circumstances to change.

Stockdale said, “I never lost faith in the end of the story, I never doubted not only that I would get out, but also that I would prevail in the end and turn the experience into the defining event of my life, which, in retrospect, I would not trade.”

The message is clear: 

Successful leaders must never confuse faith that they will prevail in the end with the discipline to confront the most brutal facts of their current reality, whatever these might be.

For some, the barrier is a self-limiting belief; for others, it’s an economic obstacle filled with risk, uncertainty, and deception. 

Leaders and entrepreneurs who are mentally tough are positive thinkers—they have to be if they intend to overcome obstacles and break through barriers. 

Here are 6 reasons mental toughness is positivity on steroids:

 

1. Showing Gratitude Enhances Well Being

Admiral Stockdale reminds us that no matter how difficult our circumstances, they could always be worse. Be thankful, no matter how much pain you feel in your life.

As an FBI Agent, there were many times when I woke up and dreaded the day’s assignment. Like all jobs, some days were tedious, boring, and repetitious. Nicknamed by some as The Federal Bureaucracy of Investigation, I didn’t let the paperwork and inane bureaucratic procedures dampen my attitude.

Gratitude is intentional; it’s a way of seeing the world by focusing your mind on what you choose to see

Of all the attitudes we can acquire, surely 

the attitude of gratitude is the most important,

and by far the most life-changing~Zig Ziglar

 

2. Laugh Till It Hurts, Even When It Does Hurt

Humor is relaxing and life-giving. It can break the tension when we start to feel overwhelmed with our circumstances.

The physical effects of laughter on the body involve increased breathing, oxygen use, and heart rate, which stimulate the circulatory system. It also moves the brain into other ways of thinking because it introduces the concept of play in adults, which boosts creativity and innovation. In addition, humor is increasingly recognized and valued as an important way to release stress and bring a better mood and perspective into difficult situations.

Hospitals, soldiers, and law enforcement organizations like the FBI frequently use laughter and humor as a means of helping people remain positive thinkers in the midst of dire circumstances. 

 

3. Get By With A Little Help From Friends

Negative thoughts can spread faster than positive ones. Surround yourself with people who have faith in you—and themselves.

One of my best moves has always been to surround myself with friends who ask “Why not?” instead of “Why?” Positive attitudes like this are always contagious. Avoid the whiners, naysayers . . . and other losers. If I’d listened to them, I would never never lived my dream of becoming an FBI agent.

If you want to get ahead in business and life, surround yourself with smart and positive people rather than negative and immature ones.

Most people don’t aim too high and miss; they aim too low and hit—anon

 

4. Ignore The Toxic Bystanders

Theodore Roosevelt once said, “It is not the critic who counts, not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena.” 

Stop talking about the difficult situation and start doing something about it. By talking only, you risk becoming a critic, and when you become a critic, you tend to search out the negative aspects of people or things, rather than the positive. If you doubt me, start reading Op-Ed columnist Maureen Dowd—she is a great writer but her relentless pursuit of finding fault in others does nothing more than remind us she is never the one in the arena.

 

5. Stop Being A Ninny…Risk Failure

Every great leader, whatever walk of life they are from or organization in which they reside, always go back to the same failure to explain their success. The failure, without exception, was traumatic and personally very difficult. It made them feel as though they’d hit rock bottom and filled them with desperation. 

As Warren Bennis said, “It’s as if at that moment the iron entered their soul; that moment created the resilience that leaders need.”

 

6. Offer A Helping Hand to Others; It’s Not All About You

People may think that, as an FBI agent, I learned to look only for the worst in others. Not so. I discovered that no matter the offense or background, people respond positively when they are treated with dignity. If I could offer that bit of humanity to someone who had hit bottom, I had found a way to give my gift to another.

It was a small change in thinking that made a huge difference for Admiral Stockdale. If you choose to be positive, have faith that you will eventually succeed by trying over and over again. Do not be frustrated by each individual setback—you will find the mental toughness to succeed. 

How have you found positivity helps you through difficult times?

© 2013 LaRaeQuy. All rights reserved.

Get my FREE 45-Question Mental Toughness Assessment

You can follow me on Twitter, Facebook, AND LinkedIn

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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5 Powerful Ways To Increase Your Mental Toughness

Sunday, March 9th, 2014

Sally is an ambitious entrepreneur who believes mental toughness is bulldozing her way through obstacles and adversity. If a barrier prevents her from moving forward, she thinks that by continuing a full frontal assault, she will eventually break it down. 

adversity - alligator

Sally’s approach may work in football, but not in life and business. Not every obstacle that comes up in life can be broken down by pounding fists at it.

Mental toughness is misunderstood by many entrepreneurs, executives, and leaders. Too often, it is associated with a hard-headed mindset that refuses to yield when circumstances change. 

Mental toughness is not something we’re born with—it’s something we can learn, and not only during tough times. We can choose to develop skills that will increase our ability to prepare for life’s unavoidable struggles.

Here are 5 powerful ways to increase your mental toughness:

1. Learn to Adapt to New Circumstances, So Lose the Ego

As entrepreneurs and leaders, it takes more than good intentions to keep your company running strong. Sally’s problem was that she did not take the time to ask herself, “What has changed?” Instead of being willing to adapt to her changing situation, she plowed on as though everything was business as usual.

Gather your team together at least twice a year and ask questions, such as “What’s new in the industry and are we on the cutting edge of that change?” “Do we need to update our strategy?”

2. Be Willing To Change Tact and Try Something New

Mental toughness is acknowledging that changes in the industry means changing strategies in order to keep moving forward. This can be very difficult for people who are goal-oriented, because for them abandoning a goal is akin to acknowledging failure. Unfortunately, they become married to the goal rather than the endgame.

In truth, changing tact can be just plain smart.

If life were predictable, you might be able to chart your life out with five-year goals. But life is full of unexpected surprises, and being unwilling to yield and reroute to reach your destination threatens to expose a hard head, not a tough mind.

Be smart enough to know the difference.

3. Experience Your Emotions — Yes, All of Them

Mental toughness is not about suppressing negative thoughts so you can be happy and optimistic all the time, even when adversity strikes. Conversely, it’s about being honest in acknowledging your entire range of emotions and giving each equal attention.

Once you fail to respect the negative emotions you’re feeling, you are being neither honest with yourself or behaving with authenticity.

The key is to chose, with intention, to give more heft to the positive aspects of your situation. This will take mental toughness, but like developing muscles, it is easier the more you do it.

It’s natural to automatically see the negative in a tough situation; our limbic brain system is warning us of danger. But not all adversity is life-threatening—so learn how to find positive options in your situation.

Sometimes the positive is simply the lesson learned, so we don’t make the same mistake next time!

4. Stop Feeling Sorry for Yourself and Blaming Others; We’re Sick of Listening to You

Blaming others is an emotionally retarded way of dealing with obstacles and adversity. Blaming others is a lame way to explain yourself when the chips are down and times are tough. Everyone is confronted with obstacles and adversity—some are simply more visible from the outside than others.

If you think that those who face less adversity in life are happier, think again. In fact, research has shown that people who face adversity, and overcome it, are among the most fulfilled.

No one is owed a free ride. If you want something, go out and get it.

5. Learn How to Be Grateful — It’s Not All About You. Really.

Expressing gratitude is not a naive form of positive thinking. Instead, it is a way of thinking about the way we receive benefits and giving credit to others. To do so, often means humbling ourselves and getting ego out of the way.

People are actually more successful at reaching their goals when they express gratitude throughout their day. One study found people who were more grateful were 20% more likely to make progress than those who were not.

Developing mental toughness is a work in progress. While there is always room for improvement, we can prepare ourselves to be mentally tough so we can deal with life’s adversities when the unexpected happens.

What tips would you add to increase mental toughness? How is the best way to develop mental toughness?

© 2014 LaRaeQuy. All rights reserved.

Get my FREE 45-Question Mental Toughness Assessment

You can follow me on Twitter, Facebook, AND LinkedIn

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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