Archive for April, 2014

How to Move Forward When You Feel Overwhelmed

Sunday, April 27th, 2014

As the spokesperson for the FBI in Northern California, I was in a constant race to meet reporters’ deadlines. Each day started with a new crisis, whether it was a bombing, kidnapping, or arrest—the flow of information into my office was overwhelming. 

Adversity - boat in storm


I discovered that 60 seconds is long enough to give a radio interview chocked full of information, and that five minutes is sufficient to prepare for a live TV interview. But, by the time I had replied to 40 emails, another 120 had appeared in my inbox!

I was under constant pressure from national and local reporters to comment on pending cases, yet if I inadvertently provided details of a case sealed by the U.S. Attorney’s office to the media it would be grounds for dismissal and possible prosecution.

Lunch was optional, as were bathroom breaks. One of my assistants came into my office one day and said, “I can actually feel the stress in this room.” I like adrenaline rushes, but the job was wearing on both my mind and body. 

Many people feel the pressure of responsibilities, getting tasks done, and the constant overwhelming volume of work that is placed on their desk.

Feeling overwhelmed can leave us feeling so paralyzed that we become less and less productive, not only risking our job but also our health as well. We need mental toughness to put mental disciplines into place so we can move forward when we’re feeling too much pressure.

Here are 6 suggestions: 


Your brain uses energy like every other part of your body: a typical person’s brain uses approximately 10.8 calories every hour. 

Since your brain is drained of power as you use it, this explains why it’s easy to get distracted when you’re tired or hungry.

Your best thinking lasts for a limited time. It’s good for a sprint but it cannot take you through the day at the same pace.

Knowing this, start your day differently: since prioritizing your priorities takes energy, make this your first task. Otherwise, you will end feeling overwhelmed when you cannot see a way to get through your day’s work.


Visuals are a great way to activate the mind. That’s why storytelling, pictures, and metaphors work so well—they generate an image. 

Visuals are laden with information. They provide color, shape, size, context, etc. Since they take less energy than words, they are efficient ways for the brain to process information.

Use visuals to represent each priority so you can see how it will look as you approach your goal and again as you tick it off your list.


Grab a pen and paper and write down your prioritized projects for the day. This saves your brain from the need to recall and review each one. Save your energy for getting those task done!


The idea is to schedule the tasks that take the most energy for when your brain is fresh and alert. Not everyone is a morning person, so perhaps you’re most alert after you’ve exercised or taken a nap. 

Understand the rhythm of your own body so you are aware of your own mental energy needs and schedule your priorities around them.

Most people respond to issues as they arise; instead, divide your day into blocks so you can schedule projects that require an agile mind during those times when your mind is freshest. Block out other times for routine tasks.


Most non-urgent tasks can wait until you have time to do them. These tasks might be good ones to delegate to others. Learn to say “no” to projects that are not among your priorities.


Most successful leaders have learned how to simplify complicated ideas into a few core elements. It’s the best way to make complex decisions. The elevator pitch was created to encourage entrepreneurs to succinctly summarize their business idea to investors into no more than 3 simple sentences. 

This is incredibly difficult to do, but when you reduce complex ideas into a few simple concepts, it’s far easier to access those ideas in your mind.

Salient, succinct, and specific points take less energy for the brain to process and provide effective visuals for the mind.

By following these steps, you can use mental toughness to learn how to  discipline your mind and prevent it from feeling overwhelmed. 

What tips do you have to keep from becoming overwhelmed?

© 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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Use Emotional Intelligence To Become A Self-Aware Leader

Sunday, April 20th, 2014

FBI agents who work undercover are given a series of psychological tests to determine their level of emotional intelligence. Emotional intelligence, specifically self-awareness, enables agents to predict their responses when confronted with the unknown that accompanies undercover work.

Self-awareness - squirrel



These psychological tests were constructed and administered by the FBI’s Behavioral Science Unit. I spent a week being assessed by FBI instructors and attending classes intended to drill into me the importance of emotional intelligence if I was to become a successful undercover agent.

Emotional intelligence is recognizing and understanding emotions, both your own and those around you. Since self-awareness is the ability to accurately perceive your own emotions, your competence as a leader rests on your ability to stay alert to them so you can manage your behavior in different situations.

A high degree of self-awareness requires a willingness to tolerate the discomfort of focusing on feelings that may be negative. It can take mental toughness to move through that discomfort, but it’s essential because the more you know about yourself, the better you can predict your reactions.

He who knows others is wise. He who knows himself is enlightened—Lao Tzu

It’s important to understand, however, that self-awareness is not about discovering deep, dark secrets about your inner world. Instead, it is about developing a straightforward and honest understanding of what makes you tick.

Successful leaders understand why they do well, what motivates them, and which people and/or situation push their buttons. If you are self-aware, you are far more likely to pursue the right opportunities, use your strengths, and keep your emotions from holding you back.

Here are 5 tips to help you use emotional intelligence to become a self-aware leader:

1. Stop Treating Feelings As Either Enemies or Friends

It’s far too simplistic, and childish, to divide your emotions into two piles: good and bad. So stop labeling them; instead, become aware of each and every emotion without judging it. Observe it, let it run its course, and remind yourself that the feeling was there to help you understand something about yourself.

2. Be Bold and Lean Into Your Discomfort Zone

The biggest obstacle to observing the entire range of your emotions is the tendency to avoid the ones that produce the most discomfort. If you try to avoid certain emotions because they are uncomfortable, you are caught off guard when they do rear their ugly head. Avoidance is a short-term fix. You’ll never be able to manage yourself effectively if you ignore how to deal with the unpleasant stuff. 

Don’t minimize an emotion because it’s not comfortable. You are being arrogant if you think you can control it by using this tactic. Instead, be bold and learn about the emotion so it no longer controls your behavior.

3. Learn What Pushes Your Buttons 

We all have buttons that produce predictable reactions. When the right ones are pushed, we can scream, throw tantrums, or burn with anger. Knowing who, or what, pushes your buttons and how it happens is critical to developing the ability to take control of the situation.

Knowing where your buttons are opens the door to managing your reaction to their triggers.

4. Keep A Beady Eye Focused on Yourself At All Times

Personal surveillance can produce a mother-lode of important information about how you tick. Observe how you react to situations in conversations, meetings, or one-on-one. 

Notice your emotions, thoughts, and behaviors as each of the situations unfold. Slow yourself down so the fast-thinking emotional part of your brain doesn’t overtake the slower-thinking logical part of your brain.

You are in the best position to surveil yourself in all situations, so take the opportunity to notice what your hot button looks and sounds like. Again, this self-awareness will enable you to calibrate your reactions.

5. Stop and Ask Yourself WHY You Do the Things You Do

Your emotions often show up uninvited and unexpected, so stop acting surprised when they do. Emotions serve an important purpose—they are clues you need to pay attention to in order to fully understand yourself.

Even when the emotions are painful, you need to trace them back to their origin to understand their purpose. Pay attention to them, spend time looking for why this emotion surfaced at this time, who triggered it, and in what context?

Self-awareness provides you with the ability to understand why you do the things you do so you can choose your responses instead of reacting to situations around you.

We can all become more self-aware leaders if we learn how to read our own emotions.

“Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.” Matthew 7:7

How could emotional intelligence help you become a more effective leader?

© 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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How Women Leaders Can Kick Butt

Sunday, April 6th, 2014

As a child I grew up believing anything was possible. I knew that women leaders can kick butt, although I didn’t dream of becoming a female FBI agent. I did want to do something unique with my life. Perhaps that was because I spent my childhood being very ordinary; I lived for the day when I could break loose and prove to the world I had a champion’s heart. 



I found the story of Jael in the ancient book of the Bible to be one of the most inspirational stories I read as a young girl in Wyoming. It encouraged me to believe that women leaders can kick butt and that I was capable of accomplishing great deeds, even in the face of tremendous adversity.

The story is found in the Book of Judges

Back then, a soldier named Sisera led the Canaanite army and commanded over nine hundred iron chariots. He had oppressed the Israelites for twenty years. 

Sisera was brutal, and his own mother speculated that he was late getting home from a battle because he and his fellow warriors were dividing the plunder by raping women and hauling off valuables.

The prophetess Deborah was able to persuade a soldier named Barak to gather an Israelite force of ten thousand to fight the Canaanites—and Sisera was soundly defeated. Exhausted, he fled on foot to a nearby settlement that was known to be an ally of the Canaanites where he thought he could find safety.

A woman in that settlement named Jael saw Sisera approaching and went outside to meet him. She offered him hospitality by covering him with a rug and giving him both water and milk to drink. 

Convinced she was harmless and willing to do his bidding, he told her to guard the tent entrance and let no one enter. He then fell into a weary sleep. Jael saw this as her opportunity and as soon as he was asleep, she picked up a hammer and tent peg and softly moved to Sisera’s side.

She raised the hammer in one hand and drove the tent peg through Sisera’s temple with such force that it stuck in the ground!

When the Israelite soldiers came looking for Barak, Jael showed them Sisera’s body. The Bible says there was peace for the next forty years.

The story of Jael illustrates the quiet strength of a woman who was as much of a champion as any hero from the ancient world, who are so often depicted as men. She showed us how women leaders can kick butt:

1. Women Are Stronger Than They Think 

Jael used her feminine qualities to seduce Sisera into thinking all was well. She brings him milk to drink, she covers him with a rug, and yet this warm figure reaches for a tent stake and executes her enemy. 

Women can prevail not despite, but through, their sex.

Time and time again I found that, as an FBI agent, people “let their guard down” when around me as I interviewed them. Holding the tension between gentleness and hard conviction takes mental toughness, and this tension is a unique tool that women can use to their advantage.

2. Bend but Never Break

Jael is only one example of many women throughout history who were “the best man for the job.” There are more women than ever acting and living in non-traditional ways, so this might be the right time to rethink some of our assumptions: what is traditional, and why is traditional necessarily a better way of life?

Just because it’s the way it’s always been done doesn’t mean it’s the way it should always be done.

Few of us wake up each day and announce to the world that we are going to be a hero or that women leaders can kick butt. Instead, most of us meet life each day with little fanfare and few fantasies about doing anything other than what is expected of us.

It is only when we’re confronted with obstacles that threaten to derail our life’s journey that we summon the determination to break through the barrier in front of us. 

Strong women never allow themselves to be imprisoned in their own mind by their circumstances or appearance.

2. Come Back Even Stronger

Jael assumes the traditionally male role of assassin; however, the prophetess Deborah still called her the “most blessed of women.” She did not lose her femininity because of her actions. Indeed, her actions were so effective because she used her feminine wiles. 

Living a life of purpose and meaning requires the courage to take a chance. I’m not talking about the physical courage of a soldier or superhero—I mean the extraordinary, heroic courage demanded of each of us every day. It’s the resolve to meet life’s scary circumstances head on with confidence and determination.

Jael is only one in a long line of women who showed us how women leaders can kick butt. Thanks to women like her, there are more opportunities for many more extraordinary stories to be told.

What is your extraordinary story?

© 2014 LaRaeQuy. All rights reserved.

Get my FREE 45-Question Mental Toughness Assessment

Get my FREE Mental Toughness Mini-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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