Archive for September, 2015

WILLPOWER —The Secret To Getting What You Want In Life

Sunday, September 27th, 2015

A few years back I entered a 6 mile race called the Jingle Bell Run with some of my fellow FBI agents. Fueled by willpower, I tried desperately to keep up with them, but within the first few yards they pulled away and left me behind. 

WILLPOWER

And then, as we entered the last mile, a woman pushing a stroller sailed past me. The child sitting in the stroller weighed about 40 pounds—to add insult to injury.

I wish I could tell you this was a joke, but it wasn’t. I felt both defeated and humiliated. I watched as the woman’s back quickly disappeared into the crowd as well. By now, I was limping along with runners from the Shady Rest Retirement Community.

I thought about dropping out of the race altogether, but I willed myself to keep moving ahead even though I was gasping for breath and barely able to move.

The capacity to say “no” to the call of temptation and desire to quit is called willpower.

It is the ability to find the energy, motivation, and enthusiasm to keep going even when you’re tired, anxious, and looking for a way out.

Here are 7 ways you can use willpower to get everything you want in life:

1. Keep Your Eye On The Big Picture

Make sure your goals and priorities are clear in your mind. You must be able to make the choice that matters when you run into difficulties and feel like giving up.

Willpower takes energy because you must use mental toughness to control your thoughts, emotions, and behavior.

2. Connect Your Activity To Your WHY

You must be able to remind yourself WHY it’s important for you to do something.  When you have a purpose and are engaged in activities that are freighted with both value and meaning, you have the beginning of what it takes to commit to your goal.

Dump the trivia because meaningless tasks do not activate willpower.

3. Pare Down Decisions

School uniforms are popular for a reason: they reduce the number of choices students have to make every morning. President Obama only wears blue or gray suits. He told Vanity Fair that he doesn’t want to make decisions about what he wears because he has so many other decisions to make.

Fewer decisions allow you to find the energy, motivation, and stamina to keep going even when you’re tired or anxious.

4. Train Your Brain

You can make the willpower centers of your brain more dense and better connected by meditating every day. Neuroscientists have found that meditation leads to better focus and self-control after just 3 hours of practice. MRI scans show increased neural connection in brain regions responsible for impulse control.

Don’t worry if you think you are “bad at meditation.” The act of constantly pushing away intrusive thoughts is precisely what trains the brain and strengthens willpower.

5. Defer Gratification

Success usually comes down to choosing the pain of discipline over the ease of compliance. So, if you want to succeed at something, at some point you will need to ignore doing easier things in favor of doing something harder.

Willpower is the ability to delay gratification, resisting short-term temptations in order to meet long-term goals.

6. Be Optimistic

When we increase our optimism, we increase our willpower to accomplish a task. When we mix optimism with willpower, it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. Studies have shown that if we raise our expectations of success, we find ways to overcome the temptations or obstacles that might pop up along the way.

Our ability to overcome an obstacle depends upon how likely we think we’ll be able to overcome it.

7. Change Your Mindset

People who think that willpower is limited are always on the lookout for signs of fatigue. But people who believe that willpower is not limited only dig deeper and find more resources.

Recent findings by Greg Walton and Carol Dweck fly in the face of what has been preached about willpower for years—that willpower is limited and that we need constant glucose boosts throughout the day.

If we have a growth mindset, we will work harder and dig deeper to find the willpower we need to overcome our obstacle or reach our goals. According to Walton and Dweck, willpower can indeed be quite limited—but only if you believe it is. When people believe that willpower is fixed and limited, their willpower is easily depleted.

But when people believe that willpower is self-renewing—that when you work hard, you’re energized to work more; that when you’ve resisted one temptation, you can better resist the next one—then people successfully exert more willpower. It turns out that willpower is in your head.

I’m glad I finished the Jingle Bell Run because every obstacle I work through makes the achievement that much more valuable. Giving up is often the easiest option in today’s world, but it’s important to think about how that choice may affect your life ten years from now.

Don’t live a life of regrets.

How do you increase your willpower?

© 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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6 Reasons People Don’t Listen To You

Sunday, September 20th, 2015

Recently, I was talking to an individual whom I truly like, but we were in a crowded room filled with lots of people I knew. I wanted to listen to her but my eye wandered over her shoulder as I mentally prioritized those I needed to contact as soon as our conversation ended.

6 Reasons People Don't Listen To You

My friend tried to catch my eye and drag me back into our conversation. I nodded mechanically while my eye kept sneaking over her shoulder to take in the social patterns developing in the room.

Eventually, she said, “I’ve lost you. Let’s talk later.”

I felt terrible, but I knew she was right. I was pretending to listen as I recited a mental tally of whom I needed to talk to before the evening ended.

Situations like this can range from annoying to destructive. According to Pamela CooperVice President of the International Listening Association, “It takes hard work to really listen and it takes a great deal of concentration.”

If you want people to listen to you, you must have the mental toughness to be brutally honest with yourself.

Think about the way you listen to others,  or better yet, thicken your skin and ask a good friend or your spouse for their honest evaluation. To listen well, and be a good listener, it takes more than just hearing what the person is saying—it requires a conscious desire, conscientiousness, and practice.

People don’t listen to you because you don’t:

1. Stay Engaged

To be a good listener, you have to be present—which means not being preoccupied either physically or mentally. Dump the clutter from your mind and pay attention to what is being communicated to you now.

When you are distracted by other people or technology, it makes the other person feel unimportant.

TIPS:

  • If you’re in a busy room, focus on the person with whom you are talking rather than what is going on around you
  • If you’re talking on the phone, turn your back on the computer and give the person your full attention
  • Stop thinking about arguments, reports to be finished, or where you are going to dinner

2. Open Up Your Body Language

Body language communicates what you are thinking and feeling more accurately than the words you use.

No matter how interested you appear to be, if your feet are turned toward the nearest exit you are signaling that you are anxious to make an escape. Crossing arms or hands in pockets also exhibits nervous behavior. These small physical gestures can discourage others from approaching you.

TIPS:

  • Lean forward and nod occasionally
  • Face the person who is speaking
  • Open up your posture by uncrossing the arms
  • Make eye contact

3. Leave Your Assumptions Behind

If your brain thinks that it knows the answer, it will only accept information that confirms your beliefs.

Making assumptions and generalizations are hard-wired into our thinking. But, if you can generate genuine interest in the topic, or person, you can over-ride this tendency and create an open mind.

When listening to another person, it may help to assume you know nothing about what they are telling you.

TIPS:

  • Check your assumption out loud with the person with whom you are talking
  • Ask a question such as, “So you mean…” and let the person confirm or correct

4. Ask Questions

The two most powerful words in a conversation are: “Tell me.”

Questions are incredibly important in any conversation. People like to be heard, and when you ask a question, it signals that you are not only listening to them but that you are also hearing what they have to say.

If you take an genuine interest in the activities of others, they will return the favor.

Questions allow you to dig deeper and discover more about specific areas on which you are unclear so you can gain a better understanding of a person’s priorities, values, and interests. Because of this, it is easier to connect with others and develop meaningful relationships.

TIPS:

  • Open-ended questions provide great opportunities for people to elaborate on specific topics
  • Questions keep conversations flowing
  • Asking for clarification helps you understand someone’s point of view
  • Asking questions of yourself will keep you from becoming defensive

5. Create Empathy

Sometimes we don’t really want to hear what other people have to say! We love our own opinions and thoughts and would prefer to shut out those of others.

Once we close down, however, we risk becoming judgmental and opinionated. More importantly, we miss out on what others have to share with us.

If you can develop the ability to hunt out shared experiences, it is easier to take in the big picture and create empathy.

TIPS:

  • Suspend judgment—even if you have firm beliefs on the subject
  • Take in the entire message with no interruptions
  • Seek out bits of information with which you agree so you can find some shared ground
  • Place yourself in the other person’s shoes

6. Shut Up And Listen

There is a time to speak and a time to shut up and listen. Effective communication requires reciprocity. If you aren’t a good listener, do not be surprised when others don’t make listening to you a top priority.

TIPS:

  • Shut up if you don’t have something significant to contribute to the conversation
  • Shut up if you can’t find something positive to say
  • Shut up if you don’t intend to hold your part of the bargain
  • Shut up if your only contribution is to whine and complain

How have you become a more effective listener?

© 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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Impress People By Doing 3 Things

Sunday, September 13th, 2015

Donald was the sort of FBI agent everyone wanted to be. He knew how to impress people; even his supervisor walked a few paces behind him because Donald looked the part—he absolutely oozed sophistication, confidence, and success.

Success - mountains

He gave me this very important bit of advice on how to impress people early in my career: “It’s not what you do, it is how you look doing it. From the way you look, to how you think about this organization, to the way you speak and represent yourself to the public.”

Some people, like Donald, command respect, admiration, and loyalty. They exude the qualities of both confidence and competence—and one thing I’ve learned is that those two always travel in pairs.

If you are competent, you will be confident. If you are not competent, no matter how confident you try appear you know you’re an empty suit and full of bullsh*t. It will only be a matter of time before you’re found out.

And have you noticed—the person who is able to impress people is the one who controls the image they project to others. 

Mental toughness boils down to the way we think. If we think we can accomplish a thing, we can. It is harnessing the power of our mind to break through our barriers and accomplish our goals.

If you believe your are inferior, you are—regardless of your qualifications. The way we think affects our behavior, and this is the essence of mental toughness:

To impress people you need to manage your thoughts, emotions, and behavior in ways that set you up for success.

How you think determines how you act.

How you act determines how others react to you.

Let’s take a look at how you can impress people by the way you think, feel, and behave to impress anyone—even your boss:

1. Look Important

Call it shallow but Donald was right: it’s not what you do, it’s how you look doing it.

It doesn’t matter whether you are a man or a woman, don’t leave the house without your polish. Spend that extra amount of time to make sure you are sending the message you really want to send.

Having spent hours on surveillance, I’ll tell you one thing: FBI agents can usually spot a criminal just by looking at them. It may not be fair, but it’s a fact: the way you dress, comb your hair, and carry yourself speaks volumes about how you feel about yourself.

Before you step out the door, ask yourself how your colleagues, competitors, and neighbors see you. What do they think about you, based on your appearance?

And yes, I already know that intellect should be the criteria upon which we judge a person. In theory, this is true. But this is the real world of hard knocks where you can lose a promotion, a relationship, or a chance to take on new project simply on the basis of how you come across to others.

If you haven’t already figured it out, first impressions may be the only impression you’ll ever make. And they stick in the mind of the other person because it is the only criteria they have for evaluating you.

You are what you think you are. Do not ever think small, so start with the first thing first—your appearance.

2. Think Important

My career before the FBI was a department store manager at a large retail chain. It was a brutal and thankless job, and many of my colleagues moped around like the walking dead during the holiday season.

If asked what they did for a living, Irma would say, “I persuade women to buy polka dot blouses instead of striped ones this season.” Edith would reply with, “I work long hours and get paid minimum wage.”

When I was interviewed by the FBI, I answered that question by saying, “I am helping to build the country’s largest retail chain.”

Attitude is everything. If you think that you, and your work, is important, it will be. That sort of attitude is both inspiring and infectious.

The way we think tells others a lot about our potential for responsibility. There is an amazing correlation between a person’s job attitude and their job performance.

Do not think of your present job, even if it isn’t perfect, as a necessary evil. Instead, think on a broader scale. Make suggestions for ways to grow the business. Look at time in the C-suite as opportunities to learn and soak in the attitude and thinking of others who are more successful.

Your thoughts have incredible power. Be mentally tough and channel those thoughts into power horses.

The key to success is thinking positively about yourself and your contribution to the job. Enthusiasm is contagious, so be that germ that spreads first-class performance.

3. Speak Important

The words you use are important. They have a lot of power because they energize our thoughts. Words are thoughts spoken out loud. The words we say to ourselves can either inspire or destroy, depending on what our brain hears.

When you think you can’t accomplish a goal and want to quit, your brain puts barriers around achieving the goal; often these are no more than self-limiting barriers because you’ve told yourself you can’t do it.

Research estimates that we say 300-1,000 words to ourselves per minute. So teach yourself to react positively to your circumstances so you can override the anxiety that can come from negative thinking.

Positive self-talk can shift the way you see your stressors. It can help you become more flexible in the face of change and uncertainty. Mental toughness is recognizing that even in the roughest circumstances, we are never helpless.

© 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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