FBI agents are required to qualify at firearms at least four times a year throughout their career. Years of training in mock arrest scenarios and target practice prepare agents to respond to threats automatically. When confronted with fast-moving situations, there is no time for decision making—they must rely on instinct to survive.
Training is an important component of mental toughness because it builds confidence, produces a sense of control, and provides insights into our behavior when we’re pushed to our limits. These traits help successful leaders make good decisions in life.
Let’s take a closer look at the secrets to a successful mindset:
1. Prepare to Win
It’s not the will to win that matters—everyone has that. It’s the will to prepare to win that matters—Bear Bryant
As an FBI agent I dreaded Firearms Training. I shot over 3,000 rounds from my Smith & Wesson .38 caliber revolver before graduating from the FBI Academy. The soft flesh between my thumb and forefinger was bruised from the recoil. During the next 24 years I transitioned from a Sig Sauer automatic to a Glock, each gun requiring the same level of expertise and familiarity.
If confronted with the stress of a gunfight or arrest situation, it would be too late to stop and think about when and how to use my weapon. My training prepared a mindset that could make good decisions quickly.
Training so many times over the years etched a pattern of thinking into my subconscious mind that led to incredibly solid instincts. The power of repetition allowed me not only to anticipate my reactions, but also to review my performance in a timely manner.
Training creates a mindset that understands each failure brings you closer to being successful.
Most successful leaders are instinctual decision makers because they have made decisions so many times before in their career. They become immune to the pressure associated with decision making because they have a mindset that can anticipate their patterns of behavior, find opportunities in stressful situations, and overcome obstacles.
You can prepare mindset for success if you:
- Visualize how you will succeed in various situations you might encounter in the future.
- Use the power of repetition by rehearsing situations that might logically come up in a meeting or conversation with your boss.
- Survive a stressful encounter by noticing how you responded in the past to similar encounters; evaluate your response by picking it apart to see where you could have reacted with greater strength or more compassion.
- Practice your responses ahead of time so you can spend your energy evaluating what else is going on around you.
2. Move Ahead with Fearlessness
Babe Ruth was not afraid to strike out. And it was this fearlessness that contributed to his remarkable career—Simon Sinek
Yale psychiatrist Andy Morgan has studied Special Forces soldiers for over a decade. Their training is meant to create the same fear that would be experienced in capture, interrogation, and torture. The fear produced by these exercises causes the stress hormone cortisol to spike about as much as in a patient undergoing heart surgery—about 20 times the normal rate.
Morgan’s research has shown that those who successfully finish the training were found to have elevated levels of another hormone, called neuropeptide Y, which is believed to be a natural relaxant.
Morgan states that the way in which we talk to ourselves about stress and threatening situations influences our neurobiological response to it. Once you begin to express fear to yourself—Oh my God, this is awful—you begin releasing more cortisol. When you say, I know what to do here, this turns into a positive response and produces more neuropeptide Y.
3. If You Can’t Stay Positive, You’re Dead In The Water
Positivity is a critical mindset if you want to develop the mental toughness to keep going when the going gets tough—LaRae Quy
Research estimates that we say 300-1,000 words to ourselves per minute. By teaching ourselves to react positively to our circumstances, we can override the amygdala, the emotional part of our brain regulating anxiety.
With the right self-talk, we can shift the way we see our stressors and become more flexible in the face of change and uncertainty. Fearlessness is a mindset that recognizes even in the roughest circumstances, we are never helpless.
Mental toughness is believing that while you may have only some control over your external circumstances, you have total control over your response to them. You understand the importance of preparing to win so you can be successful by knowing how to move ahead with a sense of fearlessness.
What others tips for a successful mindset would you add?
© 2014 LaRaeQuy. All rights reserved.
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