Archive for July, 2015

Why Vulnerability Is Crucial For Success

Sunday, July 26th, 2015

When people meet me, they expect me to have the kind of bravado that is portrayed by FBI agents on TV and in movies—confident with no signs of weakness or vulnerability. Nothing could be further from the truth!

The happiest and most successful FBI agents with whom I worked alongside had the self-awareness to know that it takes a great deal of courage to be vulnerable. To be authentic and seen for who you truly are is not for wimps.

For many people, vulnerability is linked to weaknesses, personal mistakes, or professional danger. But a new wave of thinking shows vulnerability has become crucial for workplace success.

Less courageous leaders pretend they are strong and will never break. They never acknowledge their weaknesses or vulnerabilities.

The possibility of greatness opens up when we prepare to move through our fears—in other words, allow ourselves to be vulnerable. Too often, it is much easier to settle for highly functioning mediocrity in our life rather than to risk exposure to criticism and the possibility of failure.

Humiliation is what you feel in front of others; shame is what you feel alone.

According to Brene Brown, the root of shame is fear. “The questions we are living by—what are we supposed to fear, and who is to blame?—are exhausting for us spiritually, emotionally. Fear consumes an enormous amount of energy in our lives…we are spending so much time and energy being afraid that we are not fully walking into our power and our gifts.”

Our culture tells us that in order to be successful, we cannot live an ordinary life. Unless you are grabbing lots of attention and have lots of followers, you are not successful. Just look at the wildly popular “Keeping Up With The Kardashians.”

But in truth, success has become another word for narcissism. No wonder vulnerability is so scary—it has become synonymous with failure and things to be avoided.

SWAT, Navy SEALS, Special Forces, and FBI agents are trained to understand that fear is a healthy gift because courage is the product of our vulnerability, not of our strengths.

Here are 4 reasons vulnerability is the road to courage—and success:

1. Forces Self-Awareness

Who looks outside, dreams; who looks inside, awakes―Carl Jung

For those who think that self awareness is a touchy-feely approach to leadership and that emotional intelligence is a waste of time, think again. The tough guy blasting his way through obstacles is very popular in movies and books, but it’s fantasy.

In a 2010 study by Green Peak Partners and Cornell’s School of Industrial and Labor Relations, a high self-awareness score was the strongest predictor of overall success.

Emotional awareness is a requirement for mental toughness. It doesn’t take rocket science to understand that successful leaders who are aware of their weaknesses are in a better position to hire people who will compliment them and make up for those areas in which they are weak.

Assuming that is, the leader is willing to admit they have weaknesses—in other words, acknowledge their vulnerabilities.

What we do not accept about ourselves can often be the very thing that derails us, so bringing awareness to this is important for your future success.

2. Builds Resilience

Vulnerability is the combination of uncertainty, risk, and challenges. Welcome to life! To pretend you are not vulnerable would leave you in a perpetual state of denial and stress.

Resilience is our ability to withstand challenges to our established way of life—to bend without breaking. As such, vulnerability may be considered the soft underbelly of resilience. Our ability to be vulnerable stimulates the brain to find ways to adapt to our constantly changing environment.

Allowing a vulnerability to surface creates a disturbance in our environment, and our autonomic brain responses are mobilized in order to provide stability.

When the brain detects a threat to our status quo, it triggers increases in chemicals like cortisol and metabolic hormones. This is a healthy, albeit primitive, stress response that ensures our survival. The ability to adapt to stressors in our environment allows us to bounce back when we hit the unexpected.

3. Grow—Or Wither Up And Die

We are so afraid of suffering or feeling pain in any form that we would prefer to live unfulfilled lives rather than experience discomfort.

It takes courage to invite pain, suffering, and discomfort into our life. We cling to the old way of doing things because we lack certainty and fear the unknown. Instead of taking a closer look at why we feel so vulnerable, we gun our engines and stay on course.

That means you stop learning, stretching, and growing. In essence, you die, although your body may not be buried until decades later.

Innovation and creativity demand vulnerability. Every entrepreneurial undertaking is courageous and risky. Experimentation is at the heart of innovation, so instead of feeling powerless by this vulnerability, replace it with the wisdom earned from each of your experiences.

Until you realize that innovation and vulnerability are played by the same hand, you will always balk at moving past your comfort zone.

4. Reins In Your Ego

The small mind is binary—everything is either good or bad, yes or no. It looks for comparisons and judgments.

The great mind synthesizes new information and alternative points of view. To be great, you must allow yourself to be vulnerable.

The ego hates this! The ego always wants to be right. New ways of thinking, about ourselves and our situations, threatens it—and that is exactly why change is so hard for so many people.

The most successful people I know have realistic assessments of their own abilities—strengths, weaknesses, and their affect on others. They do not let their ego interfere with identifying what gaps need to be filled or admit that someone else on their team may have an idea that is even better than their own.

Vulnerability can be scary. But if you are mentally tough, you will develop the courage to be vulnerable about who you really are—because that is the only way to be truly successful.

When has your vulnerability allowed you to be more courageous and successful?

© 2015 LaRaeQuy. All rights reserved.

You can follow me on Twitter, Facebook, AND LinkedIn

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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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4 Key Behaviors Of Resilient People

Sunday, July 19th, 2015

At ten years of age, I rode my bike on a cow trail near our ranch house in Wyoming. I sped along at a good clip, too fast to notice a coiled rattlesnake on the other side of rock. Until the snake struck out at full length. My bike flipped, and as I landed, I felt dozens of pricks all over my arms and hands. My mind raced with fear because I thought the rattlesnake had bitten me.

4 Key Behaviors

We lived on a remote ranch in the mountains and it was a two-hour drive on dirt roads to a hospital.

At ten, I prepared myself to die of snake poisoning.

Right about the time I was mourning the loss of what could have been a spectacular life, I noticed that I had landed in a pile of cactus. The wreck of my bike told me the rest of the story. The snake had struck the spokes of the front wheel and was now struggling to get out of the broken and bent spoke wires.

My first instinct was to run home to safety, but my parents had taught me that nothing can be accomplished by running. I found a good sized rock and made sure that particular rattlesnake would never terrorize my cow lane again.

Then I loaded the bike on my shoulders and carried the sorry mess home.

Our reaction to adversity plays a big role in determining how fast we get back on track with life. New research shows that resilience to adversity in our life may be linked to how often we face it. The number of blows a person has taken may affect their mental toughness more than any other factor.

The School Of Hard Knocks has been around for awhile. The early Christians learned this lesson when they were being thrown into dungeons by the Romans. The apostle Paul wrote the following in a letter: “We also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character, and character, hope.” (Romans 5:3-4).

Resilient people know how to bend and bounce back from adversity. They also know how to bounce though it as well. When I was an FBI agent, I realized that it is a person’s level of resilience that determines who succeeds and who fails.

Resilient people can predict the way they will respond to events in life so they can choose the better alternative. They look back at how they’ve responded to similar situations in the past. And then they learn from those experiences so they can apply that knowledge to future ones.

Living through adversity gives you the confidence that you can come out at the other end of almost anything. Here are 4 key behaviors of resilient people:

Behavior #1: Decide Who Is In Control

My first reaction to the rattlesnake was a healthy dose of fear. At some point, however, I had a choice of letting that fear control me—or not. If it did, it meant I ran home and waited for my parents to take care of both the snake and my bike. If I didn’t let fear control me, it meant I got myself out of the situation using my own resources.

Develop an understanding of your fear. Chances are good that your fear sprouts from feelings of insecurity or doubts you may have about yourself.

It takes courage to look inwardly into the darkest part of your personality. We all contain bits of light and dark; we all contain bits of gold and lead.

Behavior #2: Face Down Reality

If you want to be resilient, you must be able to look the reality of your situation square in the face.

Optimists believe that everything will work out OK in the end. Positive thinkers who do not let optimism distort their sense of reality. Positive thinkers hunt the good stuff and look for positives in the middle of adversity. But, they do not expect their situation to change. Instead, instead, they find ways to prevail in the middle of hardship.

Resilient people have a very sober understanding of what it takes to survive. This requires the ability to anticipate the worst of outcomes while staying cool at the same time.

My FBI training prepared me to be resilient by showing me how to truly stare down reality. It prepared me to act in ways that allowed me to endure when I was thrown into unpredictable and unstable situations. I trained how to survive before the fact—that was the essence of the FBI’s training program at the Academy.

Behavior #3: Find Meaning In Their Life

If you look at yourself as a victim, living through a hardship carries no lesson for you. But, if you are resilient, you will squeeze meaning from your adversity and build a bridge to a better, and more fulfilled, future.

No one exemplified this better than Victor Frankl, an Austrian psychiatrist and Auschwitz survivor. In his book, Man’s Search For Meaning, Frankl describes the pivotal moment in the concentration camp when he became disgusted by how trivial and meaningless his life had become. He realized that to survive, he had to find a purpose. Frankl imagined himself giving a lecture after the war on the psychology of the concentration camp.

When he gave himself a concrete goal, he rose above his sufferings of the moment. He said, “We must never forget that we may also find meaning in life even when confronted with a hopeless situation.”

Possessing strong values creates an environment of meaning because they offer ways to interpret events. The most successful people, and businesses, have a purpose beyond just making money.

Behavior #4: Resilient People Make Do And Get On With It!

Life rarely deals a perfect hand.

We learn, grow, and stretch by not just surviving adversity, but by thriving in the midst of it. When hardship does hit, resilience is the ability to make do with whatever we have available. Resilient people improvise and experiment until they find a solution to the problem. The key is to make improvising a way of life.

Karl E. Weick, a professor of organizational behavior at the University of Michigan believes there is good evidence that when people are put under pressure, they regress to their most habituated ways of responding.

Again, the way we train ourselves to think, feel, and behave during our regular daily life is exactly the way we will respond when hit with hard times.

What other key behaviors have you noticed in resilient people?

© 2011 LaRaeQuy. All rights reserved.

You can follow me on Twitter, Facebook, AND LinkedIn

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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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5 Surefire Ways To Break Bad Habits

Sunday, July 12th, 2015

When I attended an undercover in-service at the FBI Academy, several of my training sessions included a mock trial with cross examination by a hostile public defender. The normal human response to a verbal attack is to become angry—maybe even strike back. But that is exactly what I could not do when testifying against the target of an undercover operation.

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My training helped me to develop the self-control I would need to do my job professionally, even when provoked, by staying calm and not reacting with anger in hostile situations.

Self-control separates us from the rest of the animal kingdom. Rather than responding to immediate impulses, self-control is the ability to act the way we want to act when we find ourselves in challenging situations.

When we’re stressed, we tend to rely on ingrained habits—whether they are helpful or harmful. To manage ourselves well, it’s important to know our habits well enough that we’re not surprised by our reactions when we hit tough times.

This is surprisingly difficult because our habits are, for the most part, invisible and hidden in our unconscious mind. For example: you get into your car and drive to work without thinking about it—you operate on autopilot. Autopilot habits allow us to live on low brain-strain.

We don’t need to pay conscious attention to the countless habits that keep us going from day to day. The brain conserves energy this way and makes us more efficient. The problem is accessing this part of the brain when we become aware that our habits are no longer working in our best interests.

Mental toughness is managing our emotions, thoughts, and behavior in ways that will set us up for success. This requires self-control as well as emotional awareness if we are to know which habits need to be strengthened, changed, or jettisoned.

Here are 5 surefire ways to break bad habits:

1. Change The Way You Think About Habits

If you want to develop good habits, it takes willpower.

In his book, “Willpower: Rediscovering the Greatest Human Strength,” social psychologist Roy Baumeister concludes that willpower is limited and depends on a continuous supply of glucose to power the brain.

For years we’ve been told that willpower is needed for sprints—but that it will not last for the entire run.

Now, this claim is being challenged by Stanford psychologists Greg Walton and Carol Dweck.

They believe that willpower can indeed be quite limited—but only if you believe it is. On the other hand, if you believe that willpower is self-renewing—then you will successfully exert more willpower.

TIP: If you believe you have the willpower to keep going, it is not a limited resource.

2. Identify The Triggers

When we are stressed, bad habits can be triggered.

If you don’t know what your triggers are, you will never succeed in changing bad habits. In moments of frustration and vulnerability, we often reach for alcohol, drugs, or food. Likewise, boredom, anxiety, and anger can trigger a bad habit that we’ve developed over the years as a way of coping with those negative emotions.

TIP: It is essential to identify the state of mind that triggers your undesirable habit.

3. Eliminate Choices

Don’t put yourself in temptation’s way.

If you love chocolate, stop buying it so it’s not in your kitchen. Make a plan ahead of time for how you will not succumb to the temptation.

If you want to control impulse spending, stop carrying a credit card with you. This will force you to rethink the purchase. If the item is over a specific amount, talk it over with someone else. Chances are good that you’ll think twice about making the purchase.

Willpower is all you need to make sure you stick with it! If you are motivated, you can make a list of the good habits you want to incorporate into your lifestyle and prioritize them.

Roy Baumeister states that “People with low willpower use it to get themselves out of a crisis. People with high willpower use it to not get themselves into a crisis in the first place.”

TIP: Once you eliminate the undesirable choices, it’s much easier to pick the desirable ones.

4. Notice The Way The Habit Operates

Simply put—pay attention!

Notice not only the factors that trigger the bad habit, but also become aware of the behavior that leads up to your habit.

For example, let’s say that you’ve had a bad day at work. You know that you act out your frustration in aggressive driving behavior on the way home. So, instead of letting a white BWM into your lane, you stomp on the gas pedal and almost cause a collision.

You experience a sense of satisfaction at having made someone else’s day miserable. It feels good at first, then it feels bad. But the next time you have a bad day at work, the habit starts all over again.

TIP: Pay attention to how you lash out when you’re frustrated or angry. Then have an honest conversation with yourself: “Is this really the kind of person you want to be?”

5. Reward Yourself

Many of us develop bad habits because they make us feel good!

Once you have the urge to indulge in a bad habit, experiment by doing something different instead. What you choose isn’t important. The point is to drill down to determine what is creating the need for the habit.

Charles Duhigg, author of The Power of Habit,” suggests that once we identify a trigger, the key  to changing a habit is to link a new behavior to the old one, and the best way of reinforcing a new behavior is to reward it.

TIP: Often success is not about learning a new skill or talent; instead, it’s stopping or altering our current bad habits.

What suggestions do you have for breaking a bad habit?

© 2015 LaRaeQuy. All rights reserved.

You can follow me on Twitter, Facebook, AND LinkedIn

Get my FREE 45-Question Mental Toughness Assessment

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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10 Questions Every Successful Person Needs To Ask About Fear

Sunday, July 5th, 2015

The first time I pulled the trigger on a shotgun at the FBI Academy, but the recoil was so powerful that, I not only thought one of my tooth fillings had been jarred loose, my right shoulder felt like it had been hit with a sledgehammer! I didn’t fall backwards, but I needed to regain my balance before I lowered the nuzzle and prepared for the next shot.

10 Fear Questions

Instinctively, I became afraid of a weapon that could literally kick my butt. As I hesitated, my firearms instructor started shouting, “Lean into it! Treat it like a lover. Hold it close and hold it tight—NOW!”

I wasn’t at all sure I wanted to jump back into it so soon, and surely holding it tighter would only produce a stronger recoil? But the instructor was inches from my face and he looked pissed so I did what I was told.

That day I learned something important about fear—to increase safety, move toward the threat.

While this may sound counterintuitive, research has shown that new memories which produce fear remain unstable and malleable for a short period of time—so the sooner I moved toward my fear of the weapon, the more successful I would be able to overcome it.

If we don’t intervene during this window of time when the new fearful memory is still unstable and not fully formed, it becomes embedded in our mind.

My fear on the firing range with the shotgun is nothing compared to the chronic fear faced by soldiers in combat and women in abusive relationships. Special Forces instructors suggest we can all learn how to face our fears if we use mental toughness to focus on both our thinking and our behavior.

Everything you want is on the other side of fear– Jack Canfield

Whatever situation you are in, here are 10 questions that every successful person needs to ask themselves to overcome their fear:

1. How Can My Fear Be A Guide?

Before we can master our fear, we must first acknowledge it. Rather than avoiding it, become aware of it and use it as a guide to sharpen focus and decision-making. Do not let fear get out of control and become panic.

2. How Can My Fear Be Turned Into An Opportunity?

A little fear keeps you on your toes. It keeps you from becoming complacent. It can be an excellent opportunity to develop courage, confidence, and discipline. Ask yourself, “What can I learn from this?”

3. How Can I Focus On My Goal Rather Than On My Fear?

Do not let your precious energy be wasted on fretting. One of the characteristics of willpower is the ability to focus, and once you focus all your energy on your goals, you are less likely to see failure as an acceptable alternative.

4. How Has Fear Prevented Me From Doing What Is Important To Me?

If you are letting fear keep you from doing what you really want to do, it is paralyzing you. Break it down into small steps. Focus on progressing toward your goal a little more each day. Memorialize each step as a victory to help you keep moving ahead.

5. How Can I Acquire Information About What I Fear?

Most of our fear is generated when we are faced with the unknown. One of the best ways of beating back this fear is to continually try new things so you become comfortable with moving into the unknown. Then we won’t be as surprised or overwhelmed when something new or different presents itself.

Most successful people want to push themselves beyond past accomplishments. In order to do this, they push themselves outside their comfort zone. This means facing the fear of failure continually so they can predict their own responses when stressed and stretched.

This self-awareness provides valuable information about what they fear, the circumstances under which their fear rears it’s ugly head, and how they can best move forward when faced with it.

6. How Can I Learn The Skills Necessary To Master My Fear?

Whether you are in Special Forces, on a high school football team, or an FBI agent investigating a case, the answer is the same—train! Practice the skills you will need repeatedly until they become second nature.

When you’ve trained how to respond to a crisis, you respond automatically to a checklist of skills that you’ve already mastered. You do not become fearful; you become intense and focused.

7. How Can I Go It Alone?

You can’t! Facing fear is easier when you’re accompanied by other people whom you know and trust. Strong ties with other people are important. When we have supportive friends or colleagues by our side, we are more confident and better able to cope with problems.

8. How Can I Stop Feeling Fearful?

Remember that your limbic brain system is programmed to pay more attention to negative information that produces fearful responses. It’s our survival instinct at work. And we tend to remember negative or traumatic information better than neutral or even positive experiences.

To counter this, you will need to hunt for the good stuff in every situation. Find at least 5 positive responses to every 1 negative response.

9. How Can I Retrain My Brain To Look At My Fear Differently?

Every time your fearful memory is retrieved, it becomes unstable again for a brief period of time. Just as my memory of the shotgun recoil was unstable, it opened a window during which the memory could be updated and changed.

It is possible to modify fearful memories when they are retrieved if you “get back in the saddle” and confront the very thing you are afraid of.

10. How Can I Modify A Fearful Memory?

Researchers agree that we must expose ourselves to our fear—but in a safe environment! The exposure also needs to last long enough for the brain to form a new memory. Your brain will recognize that the fear is no longer dangerous in your current environment.

Look fear in the face. You will be amazed at how unscary it really is.

OK, now it’s your turn! What questions or actions do you find help you move past your fears?

© 2015 LaRaeQuy. All rights reserved.

You can follow me on Twitter, Facebook, AND LinkedIn

Get my FREE 45-Question Mental Toughness Assessment

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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