Archive for September, 2014

4 Ways To Increase Your Odds of Success

Sunday, September 28th, 2014

My first job out of college was a dead-end position as a Buyer at a fancy retail store in Arizona. I thought this would be the perfect position for me because—surprise, I loved to shop! Although I dreaded going to work everyday, I found myself wooed by the glamour of the position and the great discount on very expensive clothes.

PODCAST: 

Success - mouse on a flower

At first, I was enamored with the idea of being a fashion buyer—and I was successful by most people’s standards. But I came to be miserable, because I was in a job that, ultimately, did not leave me feeling my life had either meaning or value.

There was a voice inside that reminded me of the regret I would feel from living a life of mediocrity and it challenged me to uncover my full potential.

In listening to that voice, I became an FBI agent and was continually placed in situations that stretched my abilities, but I also knew these challenges were moving me closer to a purpose that held both success and fulfillment for me. 

Peak performance and success are two sides of the same coin. Peak performance is linked to a concept known as “flow.” Flow is a state of mind during which we become so involved in what we’re doing that the world seems to fade away and nothing else matters. When we’re in a state of flow, times flies by, our focus becomes sharp, and we experience a loss of self-consciousness.

We experience the flow of peak performance when we achieve a personal goal we’ve set for ourselves. It’s a “runner’s high” that we feel when we are following our heart’s calling and truly engaged in activities that give us meaning and purpose.

Peak performance is having the mental toughness to be our best so we can be successful. 

The ultimate definition of success is to realize our fullest potential so we can accomplish what we desire to accomplish. 

Let’s take a look at how you can increase your odds of success:

 

1. NO SUGAR-COATING—IT ALL STARTS WITH HONEST SELF-EVALUATION

Successful people are emotionally intelligent. They can not only accurately perceive the emotions of others, they are also adept at identifying and understanding their own emotions as well. They have a high level of self-awareness and are able to accurately assess information about their abilities, even when it is unflattering. 

Once you know yourself and your limits, you know exactly what you’re afraid of and exactly how hard to push against it.

If you are not willing to take a honest look at your abilities and identify where you need to improve, you will never move past your current circumstances. Those with self-knowledge do not worry when their radar comes up with something about themselves that is unflattering. The reason is because they are also acutely aware of their strengths.

To become successful, it is essential to have accurate information about your abilities so you can learn more efficiently and effectively.

 

2. DON’T BE CONTENT WITH MEDIOCRITY—STRETCH TOWARD PEAK PERFORMANCE

Unless you know your limits, you will not be able to prepare either your mind or your body to move past them. To move toward peak performance, you need to stretch your current skill level—but not so hard that you want to give up.

Experts agree that this magic stretch is 4% greater than our skill. For most of us, it’s not much at all. However, it’s important to keep that continual tension between stretch and skill if we want to move toward our peak performance.

 

3. EVERYTHING STARTS AS A STRUGGLE

This is the same whatever the learning cycle: we begin by overloading our brain with information. If you’re an athlete, you will engage in serious physical training. If you’re in marketing, you may begin with fact gathering. If you’re a CEO, you may begin with a concentrated problem analysis.

An important chemical change takes place in our brain during struggle. Tensions rise, and frustrations, too. Adrenaline, cortisol, and norepinephrine are pumped into our system.

How we handle negative feelings during this stage is critical. We’re struggling to identify patterns and then repeating those patterns so our brain eventually no longer sees them as a series of steps to be taken but as a chunk of activity. Chunks simplify activities for the brain so it takes a very small bit of information and then predicts the outcome. 

Until this happens, however, we are awkward and uncomfortable. This is where many people give up and settle for mediocrity.

 

4. RELAX AND REMEMBER THERE IS A LIGHT AT THE END OF THE TUNNEL

Researchers have found that to move out of the struggle phase, it’s important to move into a state of mind where you take your thoughts off the problem. Once you can find a way to relax in the midst of your struggle, the stress hormones in your brain start to decrease and the feel-good chemicals like dopamine start to kick in.

This is why humor is so important in high-stress jobs. It can defuse an intense situation by letting the brain relax.

Success is not a measure of how much money you make or the size of your house. It is knowing that, at the end of it, you have been brave enough to become the person you were truly meant to be.

What we are is God’s gift to us. what we become is our gift to God—Eleanor Powell

© 2014 LaRaeQuy. All rights reserved.

 

You can follow me on Twitter

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.” 52 Tips cover smallS

 

9 Questions To Help You Move Forward When You Feel Helpless

Sunday, September 21st, 2014

I was living in the Marina District in 1989 when the Loma Prieta earthquake hit San Francisco and killed 63 people. The magnitude 6.9 shock jammed my front door so I could not open it and get out.

Questions - inquisitive animal

9 Questions To Help You Move Forward When You Feel Helpless

Every piece of glass and stoneware that I owned crashed onto the floor in pieces. All I can remember of those few seconds was the roar as the earth beneath me rocked and rolled. Buildings started to collapse, and I could see an apartment complex go up in flames down the street.

As I looked out my window at blocks of upheaved pavements and broken water lines, I felt powerless. Trapped in my house, the helplessness of my situation devolved into threads of negative thinking started to spin out of control—until I was certain that I would die on the spot!

Feeling powerless and helpless spirals downward into deeper and deeper levels of negativity. While this train of thinking often erupts when there are threats to our physical safety, they can also rear their ugly head when we’re confronted with poor leadership, situations that spin out of our control, or lack of confidence as we move into the unknown.

Neuroscience tells us that the best way to move out of the feelings of helplessness that are aroused by negative thinking is to counter them with positive thoughts.

Below is an excerpt from my new book, Mental Toughness For Women Leaders: 52 Tips to Recognize and Utilize Your Greatest Strengths (P.S. This book is for men, too!)

The brain rarely responds to positive words and thoughts because they’re not a threat to our survival. Our brain doesn’t need to respond as rapidly as it does with negative thoughts and words. It’s naturally wired to pay more attention to negative rather than positive information because negative alerts us to emergencies and threats.

To overcome this natural bias toward negativity, we have to repeatedly and consciously generate as many positive thoughts as we can.

Psychologist Barbara Fredrickson recently updated her original research that asserted only 3 positive thoughts were needed to counter each one negative thought. Because our bias toward negativity is so strong, Fredrickson and others indicate that we need to increase the positivity ratio to 5:1.

Research has confirmed that when it comes to considering positive emotions, more is better. Sometimes you have to look really hard. Our ability to seek out and experience positive emotions depends on the thoughts that we focus on and how we interpret the events in our life. This is mental toughness.

Our negative thoughts spiral into feelings of helplessness. The most effective way to move forward is to ask yourself questions that will force you to identify positive elements in your situation. 

Here are 9 question to move you forward when you feel helpless:

1. How have I overcome negative thoughts like this in the past? If you’ve done it before, you can do it again.

2. Has negative thinking about this situation become a pattern in my life? If you experience the same negative thoughts repeating themselves, you need to get to the root of why they keep cropping up.

3. Why am I thinking this way? Challenge your thoughts by specifically identifying what triggered the negative thought.

4. Am I being objective and realistic? Remember, just because you think something doesn’t mean it’s true.

5. Where is the evidence for the way I’m thinking? Make sure you are not focusing only on the negatives and ignoring other, more useful information.

6. Is this as bad as I’m making it out to be? You could be exaggerating the worse that could happen.

7. Am I jumping to conclusions without looking at all the facts? Take a moment to look at the situation from the viewpoint of another person. If it helps, ask a friend their opinion.

8. How likely is it that the worst will happen? Put thoughts into perspective.

9. What can I say to myself that will help me summon positive thoughts? Identify positive aspects of your situation. Our biggest temptation is to feel sorry for ourselves and stop believing there is anything positive to be found.

Generating positive thoughts helps us overcome setbacks. It doesn’t even matter if your positive thoughts are irrational; they’ll still enhance your sense of happiness, wellbeing, and life satisfaction. They expand our awareness and attention to what is going on around us. 

This is a critical skill for leaders who are looking for opportunities and ways to solve problems. When we are able to take in more information, we can connect to other events going on in our peripheral vision, thereby expanding our understanding of our situation.

To keep my mood buoyant while trapped in my Marina District house, I identified the positive aspects of my situation: I could crawl out a window if I needed to escape, I had food and bottled water to last several days, a battery-operated radio, and finally, family and friends who would come looking for me.

I survived—and all it took was a little positive thinking.

How do you move yourself out of feeling helpless and powerless when dealing with adversity?

© 2014 LaRaeQuy. All rights reserved.

 

You can follow me on Twitter

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.”

52 Tips cover smallS

Use Mental Strength To Raise Your Emotional Intelligence

Sunday, September 7th, 2014

As an FBI agent, I was trained to use emotional intelligence to size up a person with just a glance. But here is a secret—you can too, because humans have an amazing capacity to process complex information.

Emotional Intelligence - lots of happy faces

Our brain has an amazing ability to bring order out of chaos and place people, words, and behavior into patterns that make sense to sense to us. Below is a paragraph that raced across the Internet a few years back:

Aoccdrnig to a rscheearch at Cmabrigde Uinervtisy, it deosn’t mttaer in waht oredr the ltteers in a wrod are, the olny iprmoetnt tihng is taht the frist and lsat ltteer be at the rghit pclae. The rset can be a toatl mses and you can sitll raed it wouthit porbelm. Tihs is bcuseae the huamn mnid deos not raed ervey lteter by istlef, but the wrod as a wlohe.

Brains have an attention filter that helps us find patterns in information so we know what to pay attention to and what we can safely ignore. In the caveman days, it helped us be alert to predators; in the information age, however, the amount of data that assaults our brain on a daily basis is staggering.

Studies suggest that we now receive five times as much information as we did in 1986. Every day the average person produces six newspapers worth of information compared with just two and a half pages 24 years ago—a 200% increase.

All of this information is competing for resources in your brain, whether it’s important data like medical information and financial updates, trivia updates on sports and hobbies, or emotions like anger and love.

As a leader, do not forget that your emotions originate in your brain alongside your intellect and thoughts. Since the processing ability of your conscious mind is limited, your brain’s attention filter plays a crucial role in seeking out emotional patterns that are important to you. This explains why it’s important for you to sharpen your emotional intelligence skills.

Here are 4 ways you can raise your emotional intelligence:

1. BEWARE OF ALWAYS LOOKING FOR THE BIG PICTURE IN LIFE

Our brain has the ability to focus on the “big picture” stuff in life which is great most of the time, but it can leave you missing important details. Emotional intelligence is being self-aware enough to excavate the significance of the small, but vitally important details of your own life.

When you’re asked about who you are, you probably provide details such date of birth, place of birth, address, employment, and social security number. Truth is, that is nothing more than a legal description. 

To answer from a place of self-awareness indicates you’ve done a lot more work—digging down and excavating the significance of your own stories and experiences to uncover the hidden jewels of your personality, and not being satisfied with statistics put down on a piece of paper.

2. MOVE ON FROM THOSE TIRESOME KNEE-JERK RESPONSES

Emotional intelligence provides us with the self-awareness to choose which responses we want to be stronger and more dominant.

As you become aware of your decisions, choices, and habits, you can identify the ones that produce the best results. Each time you act out of anger, you strengthen your mind’s anger response; the only way to stop this negative pattern of behavior is to recognize it as an emotion that does not produce the best results for you.

Similarly, if you act out of kindness you will strengthen your mind’s kindness response.

As you become more aware of which of your responses are triggering the better choices for you, you empower yourself. If you are not aware, negative responses will tend to perpetuate themselves and you’ll most likely find yourself repeating them—even though they are not productive.

3. LET GO OF THE CRAP THAT IS HOLDING YOU BACK

Let go of addictions, negative emotions, and fear-based behaviors. 

As you get to know yourself, you will learn how to replace them with actions that are based on principles, values, and strengths. This is the essence of an empowered leader with mental strength.

4. LET EMOTIONAL INTELLIGENCE EMPOWER YOU

Emotional intelligence will help you: 

  1. Live for a higher purpose – empowerment is wise and discerning.
  2. Nurture yourself and others – empowerment is compassion.
  3. Develop your skills and set an example for others – empowerment places value on people.
  4. Let go of the past and are renewed by your experiences – empowerment is forgiving and uses everything in life for growth and renewal.
  5. Observe yourself and others without judgment or expectations – empowerment is engaged with reality and the richness of the world
  6. Believe in yourself and trust in the goodness of life – empowerment is courage to deal with life under all circumstances.
  7. Celebrate your existence and share your happiness – empowerment is happy to add the richness of experience with everyone.

Emotional intelligence empowers leaders because it allows them to dig deep within themselves and lead from a place of mental strength and strong heart.

© 2014 LaRaeQuy. All rights reserved.

You can follow me on Twitter

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.”

52 Tips cover smallS