Archive for June, 2014

Why Grit Can Predict Success Better Than IQ (PODCAST)

Sunday, June 29th, 2014

My grandmother had grit. She was born on the kitchen table, had a special baseball cap reserved just for wearing into town, once confused Dom Perignon with a mafia leader, and told me to “suck it up” when I complained about my teachers.

PODCAST:

Mental toughness - blue eyed tiger

I resented the fact that she didn’t take my part when I came home crying that Mrs. Archie was telling—not asking—me to finish my math homework. It wasn’t that grandma couldn’t be sweet when she wanted, it was more than she did not suffer fools; learning can be tough at times and she didn’t have time to waste on a cry-baby who couldn’t take a few knocks.

Not everyone may agree with my grandmother’s attitude toward life, but science is actually proving that grit is a far more reliable predictor of success than intelligence. 

Grit is an important component of mental toughness.

Lets take a close look at what grit really means:

1. FAILURE IS AN OPTION

Getting the job done on our Wyoming cattle ranch had less to do with failing than learning the best way to do it. It wasn’t until I was hit in the face with college entrance exams and job performance appraisals that failure took on such an ominous meaning.

When I was younger, I was told that failure and trying again was simply part of the learning process. Failure presented a “problem” to be worked out and it was often a game of trying something new that might work. 

I grew up believing in the power of Plan B. My grandmother was very good at brushing off failure and taking the steps necessary to try again. Stupidity, in her eyes, was going back out and repeating the same mistakes. Her second, third, or fourth attempts were transitions from failure to success.

Grit looks at Plan B as a powerful next step.

2. GRIT TRUMPS TALENT

University of Pennsylvania psychology professor Angela Duckworth has found that grit—defined as passion and perseverance for long-term goals—is the best predictor of success. In fact, grit is unrelated, or even negatively correlated, with talent. When working with West Point cadets, she found that those who scored higher in grit had the mental toughness to keep going when times got tough.

The high score on grit surpassed other tests such as SAT scores, IQ, class rank, leadership, and physical aptitude when it came to predicting retention rates.

Leaders who score highest in grit and mental toughness are those who are positive thinkers. My grandmother was a positive thinker who looked for solutions and wasn’t afraid of working hard to find them.

3. PRAISE CAN MAKE YOU WEAK

Stanford University psychologist Carol Dweck has done amazing research on how children who are praised for getting good grades because they are “smart” are less confident as adults than children who are praised for getting good grades because they are “hard workers.”

The praise that insinuates a child gets good grades because they were born smart also sends the message that “you are what you are” and that hard work will not change their situation.

Praise that implies that you did well because you worked hard at it produces a growth mindset that understands you have the ability to change your situation—if you put your shoulder to it.

4. STRESS CAN MAKE YOU STRONG

My grandmother warned me against avoiding the negative things in life, whether it was Mrs. Archie’s math assignments or sitting on a spool of barbed wire in the back of the pickup truck when there was no room to sit on the front seat. “Suck it up” was her favorite phrase.

Now I realize that facing the negative aspects of life prepared me to be more resilient. It also equipped me to deal with everyday stressors. Pain, along with drudgery, will most likely be experienced on the way to success.

Eric Kandel, who shared the Nobel Prize for Physiology in 2000, discovered the phenomenon of synaptic plasticity. As we try something new, we have to work at it. The nerve cells involved in that learning process fire a neurotransmitter to get the process started. The more effort we exert, the larger the synapses enlarge and the connections strengthen.

The more we stress our brain, those neural pathways get stronger. That is why practice—the repeated firing of neurons—leads to improved performance. 

We rarely embrace hard work that stresses our brain, but our brain actually get stronger from it. James Loehr, an expert on peak performance, says, “Stress (in moderation) is not the enemy in our life; paradoxically, it’s the key to growth.”

I have not always appreciated my grandmother’s approach to life, but she had the mental toughness to understand that routine stresses make us stronger. She knew that the development of grit was just as important as the development of my math score.

© 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 Ways To Tackle Big Goals

Sunday, June 22nd, 2014

I learned to tackle big goals growing up on a remote cattle ranch in Wyoming. Our ranch house was located at the bottom of a canyon, cut deep into the earth over the years by the North Laramie River. 

Adversity - climbing mountains

Several times a year my Dad would climb the steep south mountain of the canyon to visit an elderly neighbor woman named Sophie. The cliffs of the canyon rose 1,000 feet on either side of the ranch house, covered with boulders and littered with the debris from an occasional landslide. When I turned 8, Dad finally relented and allowed both my brother and me to climb with him on one of his visits to Sophie. He had not heard from her for a while and she had no telephone. Anxiously, I wondered how we would “stick” to the rocks and not fall off.

He told me not to worry about how we would tackle that big goal as I looked up from the bottom toward our goal—the mountain top. Instead, he told me to keep my eyes on the few feet of mountain around me so I could find places to put my hands and feet. The places to pull ourselves up with our hands and steps that led upward would reveal themselves as we got closer. 

Even though the mountain side looked sheer from the bottom, there were lots of crevices and places to climb once we got started. They were invisible from below, lost in the grandeur of the larger view.

By breaking down my goal of climbing the mountain into small steps to be taken one at a time, I was successful and able to reach the top.

Leaders with strong minds are successful because they tackle big goals by breaking them down into tiny, clear chunks.

If you spend too much time contemplating the huge distance between where you are now and the goal you want to achieve, there is a risk you’ll never get started.

Here are 7 ways to tackle big goals:

1. LEARN TO CHUNK

Too much information can be as intimidating as it is inspiring. Chunking is breaking down larger goals into achievable steps. This will help you understand all the tasks involved as you tackle big goals so you can create a timeline to get them done. Chunking tasks that are related is an efficient way to think because the brain loves to make connections. 

Chunking often works best when you work backwards from your goal. As you tackle big goals, think about the obstacles you need to overcome, barriers you need to break, customers you need to contact, or product you need to produce if you want to be successful.

By breaking down a huge project into smaller chunks, you can also experience the sense of achievement and progress.

2. CREATE MINI-GOALS

Often the best way to tackle big goals is by breaking the project down into several mini-goals.

Take a closer look at each goal and see what steps are needed to achieve that specific goal.

3. DEVELOP VISUAL MAPS

Many of us are visual people. If you are, develop visual maps so you can get a picture of

a) where you are,

b) where you want to end up,

c) what needs to be done to accomplish it.

4. PRIORITIZE

To tackle big goals, it helps to prioritize what tasks need to be done. Once you do, this will help you place them in chronological order so you can see what needs to be done

a) first,

b) alongside others,

c) alone.

5. IDENTIFY DIFFICULT TASKS

If you tackle big goals, chances are good that one or more of the tasks will require more effort or additional training.  If possible, choose the time you can tackle them rather than waiting until they are foisted upon you when you are least prepared to deal with them.

6. BUILD A TIMELINE

Decide when you need to reach your goal if you have the luxury of setting your own deadline. If you do not have that luxury, write the deadline down and then identify how much time you will need to accomplish each step and mini-goal. If you’re pressed for time, how much of the work can you assign to others? Think about getting professional assistance if you need.

 

Successful people understand that clarity gives us certainty. Small, clear goals keep our attention focused as we tackle big goals.

After I made it up the mountain, I felt as though I was sitting on top of the world! Sophie was there and made us lunch, and then we headed back down. What I learned that day was that it’s easy to feel overwhelmed when confronted by a big task. However, by keeping these steps in mind, you create a way to reach the top.

How do you tackle big goals?

© 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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FBI Tips On How To Survive Setbacks

Sunday, June 15th, 2014

I had been assigned to my first Field Office for less than one year when I was unexpectedly transferred across the country. The FBI likes to see how their agents survive setbacks, land on their feet, and come out ready for more.

Whether it’s starting over in a different environment, losing a job, or a failed relationship, we have all experienced the discomfort of grappling for a lifeline as we attempt to survive setbacks. We feel the tug of war between our thinking brain and our emotional brain. It feels as though each brain has it’s own agenda, and at some point a certain amount of paralysis can set in.  

Different parts of the brain fight for control. Technically, this is what happens in post-traumatic stress disorder—the prefrontal cortex of the cerebral thinking brain loses its ability to regulate the emotional limbic system.

When we’re knocked down in life and put in a position of needing to survive setbacks, our emotions often become overly sensitized to fear and danger. While we may not experience the full impact of PTSD, we are feeling enough discomfort that our ability to make the best decisions for ourselves is affected.

Many of us go to therapy or take medicine to remove our symptoms when we’re feeling distress, but that is doing nothing more than either lecturing the thinking cerebral brain or suppressing the emotional limbic system.

Instead, we can develop a stronger mind when we find ways to get both brains to cooperate equally. Mental toughness is the ability to experience discomfort yet still feel comfortable.

Understanding how to control our different brains when we’ve been knocked down is an essential component of mental toughness. 

Here are 4 tips on how to survive setbacks so you can bounce back when life strikes a heavy blow:

TIP #1: Start With A Minor Source of Uneasiness

You can learn to survive setbacks by identifying a minor source of uneasiness that clearly places you in a discomfort zone but not in a panic mode. Since you are training your emotional and thinking brains to communicate with one another, starting small will not be enough to put your emotional limbic system into survival mode but will be enough to generate a physical reaction.

For example, if you fear public speaking, the thought of your performance can cause palms to sweat and heart rate to increase. These physiological responses are triggered by your fear response—which is housed in your limbic system.

TIP #2: Call Attention To Where The Fear Is Coming From

The limbic system is so powerful because we often have a visceral reaction to a situation before we have a conscious awareness of it. This is called gut reaction.

Studies have shown that we can use our thinking brain to control our limbic system if we do two things:

  1. recognize what is happening
  2. intentionally tell ourselves that there is no reason to react with fear

By forcing ourselves to use our cognitive function, we are activating the prefrontal lobe of the cerebral cortex which is responsible for generating positive thoughts. Interestingly enough, when we call attention to our fears we are able to see them in a different, and often more objective, light.

The longer our fear lurks in the darkness, the greater its chances of growing and sabotaging our efforts to move forward.

TIP #3: Get Comfortable With Discomfort

The secret to learning how to survive setbacks is learning how to get comfortable with discomfort. 

If you can walk on hot beach sand as you make your way to the cool water of the ocean, you’ve got the gist of a strong mind. The discomfort is there, you are aware of it, and it does not feel great but it is co-existing with the pleasure of a day on the beach.

As the discomfort increases, and you experience anxiety, stress or pain, you begin to see your experience as more absolute—you are either comfortable or miserable. While there will be miserable moments in your life, not all of them need to trigger fear.

Pain is inevitable; suffering is optional.” – Buddhist proverb

Once you are able to control your fear by using your thinking cerebral brain, the limbic system simmers down so you can deal with your situation and make decisions utilizing both brains.

TIP #4: Label Your Discomfort

Studies have found that when you call your emotion by name, it lessens the limbic system’s activity. When you accurately identify and describe your discomfort, you lessen the power of the fear associated with it.

Similar research has found that it is important to limit your description to one or two words, however. If you engage in a long soliloquy about your emotion, it will only increase your response to it and produce adverse effects. 

I have found that by following these four steps, I can increase my tolerance for discomfort which enhances my ability to survive setbacks. 

 

© 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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Living With Purpose Is The Secret To A Long and Healthy Life

Sunday, June 8th, 2014

I met Oleg a few years back while I was working as an FBI undercover agent. Oleg was a Russian spy sent to the U.S. to steal proprietary economic intelligence. My job was to find the answer to two questions: 1) what specific technology was he trying to steal, and 2) would he be amenable to working with the FBI as a double agent?

PODCAST:

 

Inspiration - river canoe

I wasn’t sure how to go about pursuing these questions at first, but Oleg provided one of the answers soon after I met him.

I made arrangements to attend a seminar that I knew he would be attending. The seat next to Oleg was empty, so I wasted no time in gently shoving a gentleman out of the way so I could get there before anyone else.

As Oleg and I chatted, one thing became obvious: he was bored with his job. It wasn’t that Oleg couldn’t talk about certain aspects of his overt job (not the spy part),  it was that he didn’t want to talk about them. He couldn’t drum up enough enthusiasm about it to even keep up a good conversation. His lack of engagement in what he was doing was a clue that he was not doing something he felt passionate about.

Turns out Oleg isn’t the only one who is dissatisfied with his career.

A recent Harvard Business School survey indicates that we have a 23-year low in job satisfaction and 84% of Americans say they want a new job.

Most of us are passive spectators in our life. We plan careers, retirement nest eggs, and vacations, but we do not plan our life. 

Mentally tough people live their life with purpose and meaning. They are an active participant in where their life is going.

Here is the real clincher—having a sense of purpose may add years to your life. Recent research has concluded that purposefulness is a strong predictor of longevity. In the past, behavioral scientists have understood that having a positive outlook and strong relationships contributed to living a longer and healthier life. 

New studies, however, suggest that purpose itself is what drives longevity.

Finding a direction for life and setting overarching goals for what you want to achieve can help you live longer. Without goals to anchor us, we find ourselves adrift in life. We may think we know what our goals are, but if we aren’t living our life around them, then we’re not living our life on purpose.

Over 80% of Americans do not have goals; 16% say they do have goals but don’t write them down. Less than 4% actually write them down. 

Research has shown that people who regularly write down their goals not only life longer and healthier lives, they also earn as much as nine times more than their counterparts who do not write down goals.

Start living a longer and healthier life by thinking about your own experiences and the things that are important to you.

Here are some simple ways to dig down and find your purpose:

1. WHAT ACTIVITIES AND SITUATIONS FROM YOUR PAST HAVE LED TO TRUE SATISFACTION?

  • Start a log.
  • Jot down activities, people, circumstances, and experiences from your day.
  • Notice when and how your attitude changes.
  • Look for patterns.

2. WHAT YOU ARE YOU ENTHUSIASTIC ABOUT?

  • Make a list of what you’d do if money weren’t an issue
  • Remember what brought you joy as a child
  • Enjoy those memories for a few moments
  • Reflect on what brings a smile to your face today

3. WHAT IS DRIVING YOUR RESTLESSNESS?

  • Pinpoint your attitudes and habits of behavior.
  • Acknowledge your fears.
  • Accept your strengths.
  • Identify your desires.

As the psalmist says, “Search your own heart with all diligence for out of it flow the issues of life.”

What is standing in your way of finding your purpose? How can being authentic help you be a better 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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