Archive for March, 2015

6 Habits Smart Leaders Never Forget

Sunday, March 29th, 2015

Over a 24 year career, FBI Firearms instructors made us repeat the same series of actions on the firing range. After awhile, it got so repetitive that I wondered how I would fare in a shootout if I didn’t have my firearms instructor barking out orders on what to do next!

PODCAST:

Habits - learn

In fact, our repeated behavior patterns became involuntary. In short, they became a habit.

I no longer needed to think about what to do when pulling my gun and aiming it at a target. My actions were involuntary so my mind could be used for something more productive—like assessing the crisis unfolding in front of me.

Good habits are the product of mental toughness—managing your emotions, thoughts, and behavior in ways that set you up for success in business and life. Smart leaders use good habits to direct their time and energy into activities that are important to them as they move toward reaching their goals.

Here are 6 habits that smart leaders never forget:

1. Look for Happiness, Not Success

Smart leaders pursue the things in life that brings them happiness. 

They are not seduced into thinking that success and happiness are the same things. When they hit tough times, they use mental toughness to keep moving forward because their heart and passion are hitched to a cause—failure or adversity is not enough to compel them to quit and move on and settle for something that provides less value and meaning in their life.

TIP: Ask yourself these two questions: “What will make me happy?” and “What will make me successful?” Do not mistakenly assume these two questions are one in the same.

2. Examine Every Mistake For Lessons Learned

Smart leaders know that mistakes teach you some of the most important lessons in life. 

They understand that the only real mistake they can make in life is not learning from their misstep, or choosing to do nothing because they were too afraid of making another one. 

TIP: Become a smart leader by taking chances—opportunities are where luck hides. It’s not about something falling into your lap; it’s about taking chances and finding your luck.

3. Explore All Opportunities, Whether You Feel Prepared Or Not

Smart leaders do not need to feel 100% ready when an opportunity arises.

They understand that all great opportunities will stretch them beyond their comfort zone. They will be stretched emotionally, intellectually, and philosophically. 

TIP: Since luck hides in opportunities, move forward with mental toughness so you can manage your emotions, thoughts, and behavior in ways that will set you up for growth. These opportunities will continue to show up throughout your life, so make the most of them—even if you don’t feel 100% ready!

4. Focus On Priorities And Say “NO” To The Rest

Smart leaders know how to say no, both to themselves and others.

They have learned that self-control helps them avoid impulsive decisions, stress, and burnout. Saying “no” is very different from saying, “I don’t think I can.” Saying NO to things, people, and opportunities that are not a priority for them is a powerful way to exert self-control.

TIP: Saying NO is a way you can honor your goals and priorities so you can find the time to successfully achieve them.

5. Pursue Peak Performance, Not Perfection

Smart leaders focus on developing peak performance by continually moving into their discomfort zone.

They know that they will never reach their full potential if they become complacent and comfortable, so their grasp is always a bit beyond their reach.

TIP: Researchers agree that the gap between your skill level and your peak performance should hover around 4%. Anything more will discourage you from trying harder; anything less will not push you hard enough to move forward.

6. Cultivate A Culture of Flexibility

Smart leaders have an agile mind so they adapt to changes in their environment.

They know that fear of change is paralyzing and a major roadblock to their happiness. They learn how to embrace changes by continually placing themselves in situations where they are uncomfortable and change can be expected. And then, when they are confronted with the unknown in business and life, they are better able to predict their response. 

TIP: Intentionally place yourself in situations where the outcome is not known. These situations will create new ways of thinking about obstacles and roadblocks that show up unexpectedly in your life. You will have the confidence to keep moving forward instead of reacting with fear and paralysis.

While success and happiness can be defined in many different ways, learn how to make these 6 habits your own. 

What habits have helped make you successful?

 

© 2015 LaRaeQuy. All rights reserved.

You can follow me on Twitter

Get my FREE 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

5 Powerful Ways A Strong Mind Breaks Through Barriers

Sunday, March 22nd, 2015

As an FBI agent working counterintelligence cases, I learned that ignoring problems in investigations will not make them go away. They must be worked through and not allowed to become a barrier in finding the answer.

Overcoming Obstacles - sword

Working through problems is not limited to FBI investigations. Breaking through the barriers that show up in life and business takes mental toughness to face them so you can manage your emotions, behavior, and thoughts in a way that will set you up for success.

In our country, barriers are synonymous with failure and shame. Barriers are things to be avoided so we can keep moving toward our goal. Contrary to how we think about problems and barriers, they are not the problem—it is the way in which we respond to them that holds us back. 

The way in which we look at barriers is as important to living a full life as is how we pursue meaningful activities and build healthy relationships. No matter our age, our mental toughness is created by our ability to cope with the challenges of life.

Here are 5 powerful ways strong minds use mental toughness to break through your barriers:

1. Create The Will To Move Forward

Strong minds use mental toughness to light a fire in their belly—and fight back!

How you handle your fears will ultimately determine where you go and what you do with your life. It is your choice to live fully—or be incapacitated by the fear of the challenges and barriers that are inevitable if you plan to move forward. 

A desire to fight back keeps you in control. The key is to acknowledge your fear by confronting it face to face. This tactic robs fear of its power. 

2. Stop Pretending It Doesn’t Matter

Strong minds acknowledge that moving through a barrier to reach a goal is important to them!

Admitting defeat to a barrier means we are acknowledging limitations, but more often than not, barriers are those things in life we come across that are simply self-limiting beliefs about what we can or cannot do. 

Our first reaction is to pretend crashing through the barrier isn’t important—we make up excuses for our failure. We maintain the illusion that the walls surrounding us are not really keeping us imprisoned or in a rut. 

Remember, the only difference between a coffin and a rut are the dimensions.

3. Learn To Kick Butt

Strong minds create the confidence they need to kick butt!

Many people never break through barriers to live a fuller life because they lack the confidence to do so. Lack of confidence holds many people back simply because they don’t think they’re ready. The truth is that nobody ever feels 100% ready when an opportunity arises. 

Opportunities and barriers are two sides of the same coin: they force us to stretch ourselves and our comfort zones, which means we may not always feel confident at first. 

Confidence is the difference between feeling unstoppable or being too scared to move forward. The more confidence you have in yourself, the more likely you are to succeed.

4. Embrace The Life That God Has Given You

Strong minds find the positive aspects of their situation!

  • Sometimes things must change so you can change. 
  • Sometimes you must break a little so you can peek inside to see the power of your own life and story.
  • Sometimes mistakes must be made so wisdom can be earned.
  • Sometimes rejecting barriers and obstacles is to reject life itself.

5. Push Through

Strong minds push through the problems, obstacles, and barriers in their life.

Every aspect of growth arrives outside of your comfort zone. Have the courage to move forward if the risks feel right. Stretch yourself even if it means feeling uncomfortable. 

Barriers are things to push against to grow stronger. 

If you’re not a little bit uncomfortable on a daily basis it means you’re not growing. If you’re not a little bit scared everyday, you’re not learning. And when you’re not learning, you’re done.

If you expect life to be easy, challenges will seem difficult. If you accept that challenges may occur, life will be easier.

How have you broken through your barriers?

© 2015 LaRaeQuy. All rights reserved.

You can follow me on Twitter

Get my FREE 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

11 Signs You Have What It Takes To Be A Success

Sunday, March 15th, 2015

FBI counterintelligence agents use personality assessments and behavioral analysis to determine whether the foreign spies they are investigating can be recruited to work for the U.S. Government.

Successful financial plans

But these approaches are not limited to spy agencies; corporations and investors have also relied upon innate psychological factors to pinpoint traits—such as a need for achievement and a propensity for risk-taking—to guide their choices in whom they promote or fund.

The reason? The stereotypical image of what it takes to succeed clings in our minds—these ingrained patterns of thinking allow our brain to think fast by placing people into categories that, most of the time, are accurate. 

The problem arises when we don’t update our stereotypes and rules of thumb when new, more accurate information comes our way. 

Many of us continue to make strong connections between psychological traits and performance. In reality, however, research by psychologists such as Carol Dweck has proved that what it really takes to succeed is the mental toughness to learn the qualities needed for top level achievement.

Innate traits that have been viewed as essential for high performance are not always the same characteristics needed for achievement.

Mental toughness is a much better indicator of whether you have the traits to take it to be a success. Here are 11 signs you have what it takes to be a success:

1. CRAFTY

One of the best TV shows about mental toughness was MacGiver. He was the definition of an agile mind that always figured out how to make everything work. It’s never about having enough resources; it’s about combing positive thinking, creativity, and grit to being resourceful with what you have.

2. ACTION, NOT ANALYSIS

It’s easier to sit on your butt and write about concepts than it is to roll up your shirtsleeves and make something happen. Get over your fear of failure or making the wrong decision by experiencing real-life situations and learning to think on your feet.

3. ROCK THE BOAT

Only pansies and wimps are afraid of getting into a little hot water every now and then.

If you have what it takes to succeed, you’ll never be satisfied with the status quo. New and better ideas will almost always be resisted by fat bosses who don’t appreciate anyone rocking their boat.

So rock on!

4. CHEMICAL SURGE

When you are excited, motivated, and eager to make your business stand out, you know what it feels like to be doing something that brings you satisfaction and fulfillment. Your brain knows too, and it’s pumping dopamine, a brain chemical that surges when you’re following your heart.

You can’t fake dopamine—if it’s there, it is creating energy and excitement about what you’re doing.

5. THE BUCK STOPS HERE

If you aren’t willing to learn how to take your business and life to the next level, you will wilt in the face of challenges, blame others when things don’t work out, and try to pass the buck. If you have what it takes to succeed, challenges will only motivate you to try harder.

If you have the mental toughness to take your career to the next level, nothing will look insurmountable. 

The best lessons in life usually show up as roadblocks—LaRae Quy

6. UNIQUE

If you aspire to be a cookie cutter version of someone else, remember that cookies crumble into crummy little pieces when pressure is applied. 

If you have what it takes to be a success, you will find and celebrate your uniqueness because odds are excellent that is the very quality that will set you apart from the competition. Don’t copy others and don’t worry about following the crowd. 

7. PLAY BIG

Go ahead and push a controversial idea. You may get slammed, but take a close look at why—you can learn from the rejection if you don’t let your ego get bruised by it. The idea may need tweaking, its time may not have come, or you may need to brush up on your presentation style.

You don’t need to wait for praise or validation before moving forward. If you have self-doubt, recognize it for what it is and learn to not let it dictate your actions and behavior.

8. PLAY SMART

Dump the ego and surround yourself with people smarter than you. As has been said many times, “If you’re the smartest person in the room, you’re in the wrong room”—anon. 

Regardless, it pretty much sums up where you need to be headed if you plan to be a success—look for a room filled with smarter and more creative creative people than yourself. Be a collector of information so you can make the best decisions.

9. RESPECT OTHERS

When you respect others, you are building a bridge of trust. Some have said that being trusted is an even greater compliment that being loved—and I would agree. Trust increases understanding and buoys collaboration, and that can make all the difference in the world.

10. STAY POSITIVE

It’s important for you to maintain a strong positive mental attitude about yourself and your situation, especially when times get tough. As you create the life you want, it’s essential that you keep your mind positive. If you begin to doubt what you’re doing and want to quit, your brain will actually respond by putting barriers around achieving that same goal!

11. SELF-IMPROVE

Learn how to evaluate your own performance. This means asking for feedback from those around you, and being willing to listen with an open mind. Seek opportunities to improve. Self-improvement usually means breaking bad habits and creating new habits that will help you build your confidence.

These 11 traits are essential signs that you have what it takes to be a success and move through uncertainty, rapid change, and increased competition with both vision and purpose.

 

© 2015 LaRaeQuy. All rights reserved.

You can follow me on Twitter

Get my FREE 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.”

How Women Can Find The Perfect Mentor To Guide Them To Success

Friday, March 6th, 2015

As a female FBI agent, there were very few other women in my office—or in the building, for that matter. The closest thing to a mentor I had was my male training agent, who viewed me as more of a burden than an opportunity.

Woman leader

But it had been to my advantage to be raised on a cattle ranch in the middle of Wyoming. It was a tough environment—fast food was hitting a deer at 60 miles an hour. My grandmother had ammo on her Christmas list. And there is one thing you never say to a grandmother who is a crack shot with a rifle—“It’s not my fault.”

This was exactly the type of mental toughness I needed when I found myself as a new agent in an FBI squad with few allies and no obvious mentors waiting to take me under their wing. Instead of blaming others, I knew that I would need to find my own way to move forward if I wanted to be successful.

On my first squad, my desk was next to a hardened older agent named Leo who looked at me with suspicion—could a woman be relied upon to have his back if we found ourselves in a shootout? He thought not, or at least had his doubts. I could tell by the way he treated me—with quiet disdain.

Not all mentoring relationships need to be formalized. Leo was an unwitting mentor who would be horrified to think that I considered him as one! But I watched how he worked his cases. He was a thorough investigator who pursued any and all leads. And when he didn’t have any, he still kept at it.

Mentors teach, coach, guide, and motivate. Leo did all of these things for me, without knowing it. I used the information I learned from him, about reading body language and listening for verbal cues, during the rest of my career. I never liked Leo, and we never so much as had a cup of coffee together, but he was one of the best mentors I ever had.

Why is it important for you to have a mentor to guide you toward success? Even more importantly, what characteristics make a good mentor for you?

The term mentor has become watered-down in the last few years. It can encompass anything from self-help books, to touchy-feely therapy sessions when times get tough, to a wise and trusted guide through business and life.

March is Women’s History Month, and as I reflect on #IWD2015 (International Women’s Day on March 8, 2015) I want to share with you some of the lessons I’ve learned about how women can find the perfect mentor to guide them toward success:

1. Be Wary—Very Wary, Of Praise

Like most overachievers, I look for praise in almost everything I do. 

As a first grade student, I was never satisfied with anything less than an A. My teacher, Mrs. Archie, was very stingy with praise, so you can imagine how much I disliked her. She let me know right away that I was not the smartest person in the room, so when I did get an A she responded with, “You’ve worked very hard to get this grade.” I didn’t realize it at the time, but she was creating a growth mindset in the way that I looked at my obstacles. 

Researcher Carol Dweck discovered that our mindset affects our ability to fulfill our potential—to grow and learn, take risks, bounce back from adversity, and to build healthy relationships.   

If we have a “fixed mindset,” we believe our qualities, including our intelligence, are something we were born with and cannot be changed.  If we have a “growth mindset,” we believe that we can cultivate and grow our basic qualities, including our intelligence.

Some of the brightest people avoid challenges, dislike working hard, and wilt in the face of difficulty. In other words, it’s not always the people who start out the smartest in the room who end up being the smartest.

A perfect mentor will challenge you to create a growth mindset.

2. Create A Strong Mind

My grandmother was a larger-than-life force in my life. When things didn’t work out the way I expected, she taught me how to be mentally tough. She had no time for people who would not take responsibility for their situation.

I didn’t sweat it when I found no females to mentor me as an FBI agent. I knew that if I wanted to be treated as an equal, I needed to act as an equal. Whining, complaining, blaming others, and making excuses wouldn’t get me anywhere. 

If women are going to use the excuse that they can’t make their way up the corporate ladder because they can’t find other women to mentor them, then they probably aren’t taking their careers very seriously. Take responsibility and find the best person to inspire you to be the best you can be.

Here are the questions I ask myself when looking for a mentor from among the people around me:

  • How can they help me be better at my job?
  • Are they respected by subordinates, peers, and superiors?
  • What skills do they have that I need to develop?
  • How much more do they know more about (this project) than I do?
  • In what ways are they willing to share that knowledge?
  • Will they give me the honest feedback I need?
  • Why do I admire them?
  • How will working with them make me a better person?

A perfect mentor will show you how to develop the mental toughness needed to get you through the roadblocks that are in the way of your success. 

3. Play Big

In the FBI, power meetings among male leaders were held during happy hour—the ones I was never invited to attend. In many larger corporations, power meetings are held in the men’s bathroom during bio-breaks. Either way, the opportunity for women to participate is limited.

When I was tempted to play the victim, I was thought about Leo. He was awkward, ugly and had a quirky personality. He wasn’t invited to happy hour, either. And yet, the truth is this: Leo was a big player in the world of FBI counterintelligence investigations. As my unofficial mentor, he reminded me that people will do things to let you down, and even screw you over—that is life!

So get over it.

Leo refused to think small. He’d never start a sentence with, “I’m not an expert but…“ and then apologize. He taught me that leaders, both men and women, need to play big by taking control of how they react to a situation, and when the going gets tough, to roll up their sleeves and get even tougher. 

He taught me how to recognize self-doubt and not let it dictate my actions.

A perfect mentor will help you to develop confidence in yourself and your abilities.

As women celebrate #IWD2015, find a mentor who can guide you toward success in both business and life.

© 2014 LaRaeQuy. All rights reserved.

 

You can follow me on Twitter

Get my FREE 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

 

 

10 Differences Between High Performers And Overachievers

Sunday, March 1st, 2015

As a new FBI agent, I couldn’t wait to work undercover. John le Carre novels and James Bond movies filled my head, so I jumped at chance when the opportunity came up for me to start an undercover operation against foreign spies in the Silicon Valley.

Overachiever

This was my first time out of the gate as an undercover agent and it was exhilarating. It was necessary that I move immediately from idea to action with very little time between thinking and doing. I loved performing and I was good at approaching the targets of my investigation. As a result, I gained attention, made good progress, and received a lot of praise.

Overachievers are high performers. We. Get. It. Done! Whatever the cost. As an overachiever, I know that I can outlast my competition, wear down opposition, and annihilate critics. 

And while we do accomplish our goals, if we don’t get a handle on what is driving us, it can eventually take it’s toll on our health and leave a trail of devastated relationships.

Here are 10 ways you can tamp down your need to be an overachiever and channel your considerable talent and ambition into the longer lasting results of a high performer.

1. Love Yourself As You Love Others

It turns out that there are a fair number of people like me—overachievers who thrive on being successful. In their book, The Wisdom of the Enneagram, Don Riso and Russ Hudson, have this to say about people who are driven to succeed:

“Overachievers fear they will have no value apart from their achievements; they are motivated to perform so they will be loved, accepted, and desirable.”

The idea is to work hard for recognition, to take on leadership roles, and to win. It’s also very important to avoid failure because only winners are worthy of love.

Bill Clinton, Madonna, and John F. Kennedy are famous examples of overachievers.

2. Quiet the Mind that Travels at High Speed

Take time out and allow space for your true emotions to surface. Your emotions are housed in the survival-driven limbic brain system so you “feel” before you “think.” This is why tapping into your gut instinct is so valuable for you as a leader.

Gut thinking is faster than logical thinking. But, until you have mastered gut instinct, give your slower logical, cerebral brain time to process your emotions. 

Taking deep breaths is a good idea, but the reason for breathing is that you’re actually stalling for your logical brain to catch up.

3. Notice When Actions Become Mechanical

Overachievers need to constantly be in motion, and as a result, they are not always leading from their heart. When they aren’t, they lose interest and move on to another project.

High performance leaders stop to reflect and observe before moving on.

 4. Identify When Your Accomplishments Make You Feel More Desirable And Lovable To Others

Stop believing that you’re OK only if others think well of you. Ask whether what you are doing is something that truly has value and meaning for you, or is it just a way to feel valuable and loved?

High performers do not operate from the need to feel valued and loved. They are more interested in building teams and achieving a sense of community in the process.

5. Veer Away From Problems By Introducing New Projects

Stop trying to reframe your failure into a success. Overachievers always look for the winning solution—but high performance leaders look for the optimal solution.

6. Stop Discrediting Sources Of Criticisms

No one is perfect—not even you. 

As Riso and Hudson point out:

Overachievers suffer self-doubt because they believe they need to meet the expectations of others to be accepted. 

As an overachiever, life for you is a competitive struggle; it’s always a question of winning or losing. High performers have the mental toughness to embrace failure because they know they will learn from it.

7. Recognize The Differences Between The Public Self And The Private Self

Differentiate between the image you project and the real person you are. As an overachiever, you are tempted by the trappings of success because they are proof that, “You won the game.” At least this one. 

High performers can listen to their own voice for validation instead of relying on recognition from the outside.

8. Note When You’re Putting On A Show

Stop being a fraud—you’ll love yourself in the morning.

As an overachiever, I could slip on almost any mask and act the part to perfection. The role both protected and motivated me.

High performance leaders are not afraid to be transparent, authentic, and honest.

9. Learn To Tell The Difference Between Doing And Feeling

Shift attention away from the activities surrounding the task to how you feel about the task.

Of all personality types, overachievers have the greatest difficulty perceiving their emotions and understanding their emotions. Instead, they focus on, “Am I successful?”

High performers are mentally tough leaders who are in touch with their emotions, thoughts, and behaviors. They know how to manage them in ways that set themselves up for success.

10. Start Meditation

American culture promotes youth, energy, and a competitive life. It can be difficult to create a quiet mind if we’re always running at high speed. 

Do not stress out about this—notice when meditation becomes yet another activity in which you want to excel!

“The toughest thing about success is that you’ve got to keep on being a success.” Irving Berlin

What advice do you have for an overachiever?

© 2015 LaRaeQuy. All rights reserved.

You can follow me on Twitter

Get my FREE 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