Archive for January, 2016

Rewire Your Brain For Success

Sunday, January 31st, 2016

I was a fashion buyer before I became an FBI agent. I quickly learned that I would need to rewire my brain if I wanted to be a success in my new job.

Brain - messages

It began with my first day at the FBI Academy. Everyone stood up and gave their background: military officers who had led dangerous military missions in North Africa, police officers who survived shootouts, and successful prosecutors against dangerous mob families in New York.

So, when I stood up and told everyone I was a fashion buyer for a fancy retail store, everyone turned their head to look at the fluff ball who had accidentally gotten into the FBI.

Born and raised on a remote cattle ranch in Wyoming, I lacked the polish and sophistication of many of my fellow agents. But my years as a fashion buyer had left me unhappy and unfulfilled.

Like many of you, what I needed was a healthy dose of mental toughness to achieve my goals and dreams.

To be resilient in today’s business environment, success comes from thinking positively about your situation and not succumbing to the self-limiting belief that nothing can be done to change it.

If I wanted to graduate from Quantico, I would need to rewire my brain for success as much as would need to sculpt my muscles for physical fitness. You may need to do this as well.

Rewire your brain for success in three steps: 

STEP ONE: Remember Who Is In Control

Mental toughness is the ability to control our mind rather than letting our mind control us.

Controlling our thought process isn’t as easy as it sounds because we don’t notice how little control we have over the way our mind thinks. One thought follows another, and out of habit, we let our subconscious take us through most of the day.

But here is a big secret: The greatest weapon we have is our ability to choose one thought over another.

There is a reason so many people recommend meditation—it is an excellent way to be an observer of your own thoughts, even uncomfortable ones. By observing how your thoughts wander, and keep returning to a specific topic, you can gently bring them back to where you want them to be.

It may take time, but each time you succeed, you are taking control of your thoughts by choosing which ones are important.

How You Can Make It Work For You:

Control your thoughts by becoming more connected to them. Too often, our subconscious takes over the way we think about our daily experiences; so, take control by intentionally choosing to observe, question, challenge, or dismiss new pieces of information that come your way. Start with one hour and see if you can work up to an entire day.

STEP TWO: Just As Important, Don’t Be A Control Freak

Being “always on” can block the creative brain processes that occur when we let our minds wander.

If we are facing a challenge that needs new ideas, new research shows that we’re more likely to come up with an innovative and creative solution when we let our minds wander for a brief period of time.

According to the research, our brains continue to puzzle through the challenge in the background.

How You Can Make It Work For You:

  • Take a walk around the block, watch passing cars, or observe strangers moving around you on a sidewalk. Anything that gives your brain a rest from the tough challenge before you.
  • Close your eyes and notice the sounds and smells around you.
  • Get up and make yourself tea or coffee—anything that gives your brain time to wander.

STEP THREE: Say Yes To The New

Until recently, the brain was regarded as an immutable organ that did not change after early childhood.

In 2000, Eric Kandel was given the Nobel prize for medicine demonstrating that, as learning in the brain occurs, the connections among nerve cells increase. Hundreds of studies went on to demonstrate that the brain has the ability to reorganize itself by forming new neural connections. This is called neuroplasticity, and it continues throughout life.

Researchers like Mike Merzenich and Norman Doidge have concluded that while our genes help determine how we can respond to our environment, they do not make us who we are. We we all have untapped potential.

How To Make It Work For You

Do not believe everything you think.

Since the limbic brain is hardwired to pay more attention to negative thoughts than positive ones, make sure you stop and listen to what your mind is telling you. You will be shocked to realize how much of it is negative.

Your beliefs become your thoughts,

Thoughts become your words,

Words become your actions,

Actions become your habits,

Habits become your values,

Values become your destiny― Mahatma Gandhi

In order to stimulate neuroplasticity, try something new. Go somewhere you haven’t been before. Take up a new hobby. Read a book or try eating something or doing something that isn’t a regular activity for you.

How have you rewired your brain to achieve success?

© 2016 LaRaeQuy. All rights reserved.

You can follow me on Twitter

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.” 

4 Surefire Ways To Move Through Uncertainty

Saturday, January 23rd, 2016

The FBI requires all agents to qualify with their firearm at least four times a year. Part of this training is taking turns arresting fellow agents and putting them in handcuffs. As I tried to handcuff one of the senior agents on my squad, I found he didn’t have the flexibility to place the back of his hands together behind his back. Over time, he had lost a great deal of the suppleness in his shoulder muscles.

Uncertainty - waves

While he took great deal of ribbing by fellow agents, I remember thinking: “If only he’d made the effort to keep limber, he would have more flexibility.”

If stretching and yoga can promote healthier bodies, we need to find similar ways to keep our mind flexible and agile for top performance. Rigid thinking cannot help us adapt when we are faced with the uncertainty of today’s workplace.

As entrepreneurs, leaders, and business owners, you are required to adapt and move through transitions at faster and faster paces. Whether it is a new assignment, a new supervisor, or a new career—success depends on finding new ways to keep our minds supple.

Mental toughness is the ability to be flexible and agile in the way we respond when faced with the uncertainties of both life and work.

Here are 4 surefire ways you can develop the mindset to move through uncertainty:

1. Overcome Uncertainty By Growing A Little Each Day

When facing uncertainty, you have two choices:

You can dread it because you are afraid of failing—you believe that failure sends a negative message about your abilities, or…

You can anticipate it because you interpret failure as an opportunity for learning and improvement.

The first choice describes a fixed mindset that does best when there is a heavy hand running the show. That way of leading may have been efficient years ago, but today’s leaders are learning that the brain power of their workforce is a terrible thing to waste.

The second choice describes a growth mindset that looks at success as hard work, learning, training, and having the grit to keep moving ahead even when faced with obstacles and roadblocks.

2. Overcome Uncertainty By Discovering What Makes You Feel Strong

As an FBI agent, one of the first things I did was surveil the target of my investigation. I analyzed and assessed their strengths, weaknesses, needs, and wants. This gave me tremendous power, because I usually came to know more about them than they knew about themselves.

Harness that same power by making yourself the target of your own investigation:

a. Discover your own patterns: What makes you smile? What are you always wanting to do or think about? What can you not help do, think, or feel? Even if someone asks you not to?

b. Keep track of how you spend the next week: What are you doing, feeling or thinking about daily? Write down everything that energizes you and makes you feel strong. It could be a particular physical activity, or a book you read, or people you meet. Alongside, write down everything that makes you feel less confident or anxious. How many of these do you encounter at work?

c. Compare the lists: How can you start doing more of the things that make you feel strong? And eliminate those that make you feel threatened?

When you find a few things you repeatedly do and love, dig deeper and see what part of that particular activity makes you feel good—and empowers you.

As you transition out of your current situation or move into a time of uncertainty, lean into those things that make you feel strong and keep a wary eye out for those things that do not empower you.

3. Overcome Uncertainty By Mixing It Up

FBI training is relentless and continuous, but this kept our minds flexible and agile so we could adapt to the unknown when confronting an arrest situation.

When a roadblock or obstacle confronts us, we often have no Plan B. Instead of moving around a roadblock in a deliberate and flexible manner, we continue to assault it using the same tactics that have already proven ineffective. Our default explanation is blaming others.

The only thing worse than getting into a rut is staying in one. Often, our patterns of thinking become rigid because we’re fixated on thinking about achieving our life’s goals in one way.

Mix up the way you think. It’s important to combine focused thought with periods of play and scattered attention because changes in your environment, attitude, and behavior influences how you think.

When you’re feeling happy or optimistic, you are more inclusive and more creative. When you are fearful, your focus narrows down to specific details.

Mental toughness is having the flexibility to make a mental shift without remaining stuck in a particular mindset.

4. Overcome Uncertainty By Summoning The Courage To Try New Things

Finding our courage is no small thing, but once we find it, it takes over everything in its path. A flood of courage is exactly what we need when faced with uncertainty.

The goal is to move fluidly between specific and abstract thought patterns so you can flex and bend with the changing circumstances of your life. Start with making small changes in your routine. Taking the stairs instead of the elevator or listening to different music can boost your mental agility.

Variety is also good. Try different foods and different methods of exercise. Call a friend and go to a place you’ve never visited. Watch your thoughts become more expansive as you break out of old patterns and develop your brain.

A flexible and agile mindset is essential if you plan to get past the roadblocks and obstacles ahead of you. Remember this: everyone can get smarter about how to overcome obstacles if they work at it.

How have you pushed through periods of uncertainty?

© 2016 LaRaeQuy. All rights reserved.

You can follow me on Twitter

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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5 Ways Resilience Can Make You A Survivor

Sunday, January 17th, 2016

FBI Agents who work terrorism see firsthand how individuals and families are torn apart every day from stabbings, shootings, and bombings. They also see how people use resilience to bounce back from hard knocks by being a survivor in the midst of trauma and chaos.

Grit - Man jumping blog

Being a survivor should not be confused with being a superman—or woman. They do not perform heroic feats that saves the lives of millions. There are plenty of us who need to learn how we can bounce back from trauma of everyday life with the resilience to not only survive, but thrive.

For example, Lisa is a neighbor who recently lost her job. Mark is an entrepreneur who started a new company at the age of 48. Veronika has learned that she has inoperable brain cancer. 

All of these people were thrown into shock and turmoil, in part because they all seemed to live charmed lives in which they were in total control. Until they received news that changed their circumstances forever.

As I listened to each of their stories, I was reminded of an old parable where a little boy is so discouraged that he was planning to quit school. His grandfather boiled three pots of water: into the first pot he placed a carrot, into the second pot an egg, and into the third pot coffee beans.

When the little boy asked what this was meant to teach him, the grandfather replied, “Each of these objects faced the same adversity—boiling water—but each reacted differently.”

When adversity strikes, do you respond with resilience? 

  • Are you the carrot that looks strong but becomes soft and loses strength?
  • Are you the egg that does not appear to change on the outside but grows hardened inside?
  • Or are you the coffee beans that learn how to adapt? As a result, they change the hot water, the very thing that brings pain, into something that is desirable.

It is not the experiences that are important; it’s how we interpret them. It is our choice whether or not we grow stronger from them.

Here are 5 ways resilience can make you a survivor:

1. Understand The Obstacles You Face

The way in which you deal with turmoil in life is determined at an early age. Overprotective parents try to shield their children from adversity, but in doing so they also keep them from the hardships that help them mature.

Getting in shape to meet life’s difficulties takes considerable effort and practice; start now so you are not traumatized when faced with giant-sized turmoil.

How you do one thing is how you do everything.

2. Overcome The Urge To Run Away

Resilience can be summed up like this:

Resilience is recognizing that if you are dissatisfied with certain aspects of your life. It is then your responsibility to take the initiative and make the changes you need to become a survivor.

Run away or expected others to handle your problems? That is childish.

Grit-up and change the way you look at your obstacles and roadblocks. Mental toughness is believing you will prevail in your circumstances rather than believing your circumstances will change.

3. Acknowledge All Emotions You Are Feeling

Because many of us are wimps, we run away or deny unpleasant thoughts and feelings. We don’t think we’re strong enough to handle the hard stuff. So we listen to self-help gurus and pretend negative emotions and feelings don’t exist.

It is not healthy to ignore negative feelings. Nor is it healthy to wallow in them. If life has handed you a tough hand, remember that the only thing you may still have control over is your attitude. If you feel powerless because of your circumstances, it’s because that is what you are telling yourself.

Your circumstances may not be what you planned, or expected. But, if you are a survivor, you never forget that you still own your thoughts—so make them powerful.

4. Challenge Yourself To Be Brutally Honest

When the chips are down, honesty is your best salvation.

Self-awareness, or mindfulness, is the practice of thinking about the way you think. It’s hard to change negative habits and ways of thinking if we aren’t aware of them.

As you become more aware, take negative reactions and feelings as clues that you need to probe deeper. Discover where the resistance comes from and what causes it. Train yourself to notice what is going on.

A survivor knows himself/herself well enough that they can discern the best way forward in every situation—even the tough ones.

5. Keep Three Types Of Friends In Your Life

No matter who you are or what you do, you need three types of friends in your life.

  1. First: the one you can call when things are going well and you need someone with whom to share the good news. They will be genuinely happy for you.
  2. Second: the one you can call when things are going miserably and you need a listening ear.
  3. Third: the one who holds you accountable. Life is hard, and you need people who will stop you from feeling sorry for yourself so you can reach down and pull yourself back up by the bootstraps.

None of us have a magic ball to predict our future. However, we can become a survivor and be prepared for what we can’t predict

What other traits do you think make a survivor?

© 2016 LaRaeQuy. All rights reserved.

You can follow me on Twitter

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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3 Ways To Be More Resilient

Sunday, January 10th, 2016

My grandmother was a tough old bird. She lived in a time and place where she needed to be resilient if she expected to survive tough winters on a Wyoming cattle ranch. If I moped around while doing chores she would yell, “Get the lead out of your ass and start moving!” 

Resilience - tree

She learned at an early age to value her skills and talents because she knew she’d need them again. Most likely in the near future. Taking personal responsibility for her contributions was not boasting. Instead, it was learning how to survive and be resilient.

Resilience is a component of mental toughness. It is the ability to take personal control and responsibility for the direction our lives are taking. Resilient leaders do not seek out happiness by relying on others. Nor do they blame others for their situation.

Resilient people are always asking this question: what can I do to change my situation?

For entrepreneurs and business owners, it means believing that you can control the important events in your life. Often this will mean you will need to be flexible in the way that you approach your goals. It also means you will need to be agile in the way in which you overcome obstacles.

Here are 3 ways you can learn to be more resilient:

1. Become More Resilient By Focusing Your Energy On What You Can Control

I watched as my Grandmother’s cranky horse stretched out his neck and bared his teeth. It bit down on her left breast so hard that she had to have a mastectomy. But she was resilient—she knew while she couldn’t control everything that came her way, she could absolutely control her response to it.

And that changes everything.

A major component of positive thinking is the belief that the future will be a more pleasant place. Positive thinkers beleive we can control important events in our life.

In his book, The Status Syndrome: How Social Standing Affects Our Health and Longevity, Michael Marmot explains how clerks and secretaries are more likely to die of heart attacks than senior executives.

He even took into consideration other variables such as smoking and poor nutrition. But his research team concluded that those in lower category jobs had less control over their life. And that is why they were more likely to suffer from heart disease.

2. Become More Resilient By Not Looking To Others To Provide Your Happiness

When I was about 6 years old, I was given a tall black quarter horse to ride. The only way I could get on him was to lead him to a rock high enough that I could step into the stirrup. Horses are not stupid. It didn’t take him long to catch on and he started shying away from the rock.

I would cry in frustration as everyone left me alone to deal with my problem. Although my Grandmother never graduated from high school, she asked me an incredibly wise question: Why did I keep doing the same thing over and over even when it didn’t work?

She was right. I had a self-limiting belief about what I could, and could not, do. From then on, I grabbed the leather ties hanging from the pommel of the stock saddle, pulled myself into the stirrup, and then into the saddle seat. 

To be resilient is to pinpoint the dissatisfied with aspects of your life. Then take initiative to rewrite the self-limiting beliefs you have about yourself that keep you chained to repetitive thoughts and behavior.

Try this:

  • List 3 things in your life you would like to change.
  • List steps taken in the past to make these changes.
  • Why do you think you were unsuccessful?
  • Identify a self-limiting belief you have about yourself?
  • Are there steps you can take to change this self-limiting belief?
  • What obstacles might interfere with these steps?
  • Do you have a backup plan?

3. Become More Resilient By Finding Your Zones Of Competence

As a child, I needed to learn acceptance, not narcissism, was the path toward a resilient mindset that accepted ownership for my achievements.

Once I was able to claim ownership for my zones of competence, it didn’t hurt so bad to let go of those areas in which I was not as competent. My confidence was not shaken when I was asked to drop choir class because I sang so off-key it was disturbing the other kids!

If we believe that chance or luck is responsible for our achievements, then we march through life believing we have no control over our destiny. We develop a victim mentality.

Once we realize that we are responsible for our success, we also experience more satisfaction when we do attain our goals.

Resilient people believe that problems can be solved, the solutions must be found within themselves, and success is not about self-glorification.

How have you learned to be more resilient?

© 2016 LaRaeQuy. All rights reserved.

You can follow me on Twitter

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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Use Emotional Intelligence To Discover Your Inner James Bond

Saturday, January 2nd, 2016

We admire the way James Bond keeps his cool in any situation. He is savvy, and by using emotional intelligence, he can anticipate where the threat will come from so he can keep his eye on the ultimate goal. It’s a formula that leads to success.

silhouette man kneeling aiming gun

As entrepreneurs and business owners, you also need to keep focused on your goal instead of being distracted by threats coming from both competitors and a shaky economy.

If only I could predict people’s behavior like a spymaster, you tell yourself, I could accomplish great things, too.

But let me share a secret: there’s a little James Bond in all of us. All you need is enough emotional intelligence to observe the people around you. Watch closely enough and they will give you all the clues you need to uncover loyalty, honesty, and deception.

As an FBI counterintelligence Agent, the first thing I did was put the targets of my investigations under surveillance.

It wasn’t just about being snoopy; instead, I wanted to identify their patterns of behavior.

Humans have always looked for patterns. From navigating by the stars, planting crops by season, or decoding genetics—we have a desire to understand, and therefore, predict the future.

Emotional intelligence is being able to identify and understand the behavioral patterns of people around you. Once you do, you know about what motivates them, and the more you know about what motivates them, the better you can predict their choices.

It doesn’t take training at the FBI Academy to learn how to use emotional intelligence to observe behavior and identify patterns. You can learn to do this on your own. Once you do, you will also be able to more accurately predict behavior—even your own.

Once you recognize your own patterns of behavior, it will help you recognize them in others.

Here are three tricks of the trade to develop emotional intelligence:

1. Use Emotional Intelligence To Notice Spontaneous Remarks

Gut reactions are always close to home. Top-of-the-head responses reveal the location of strong mental connections.

Unexpected, or even stressful, situations often reveal dominant traits. Use emotional intelligence to properly observe and understand these personality traits. They can explain a lot about the behavior of the other person.

Daily life provides hundreds of opportunities to observe how people respond to little doses of stress.

When it comes to learning the tricks of surveillance, start with yourself—It will make it easier to notice what to look for in others. Let’s use the following scenario:

You have a busy day—schedule is full, wrapping up projects before 3-day weekend. An employee with a project on deadline calls in sick, what is your first reaction?

How are they doing—you are empathic and concerned

How will the job get done—you are goal oriented

Who is going to fill-in—you are organized and structured

Are they looking to make this a 4-day weekend—you are naturally wary and suspicious

Not worried because it will all work out—you are an optimist who looks for the best in situations

Why didn’t I know about this sooner—you have a need for control

Once you have the emotional intelligence to notice these gut reactions in yourself, it will be easier to notice how someone on your team or a business partner reacts when confronted with a similar situation. If they don’t tell you, ASK!

2. Use Emotional Intelligence To Understand What You Noticed

Taking the time to think clearly after an event has triggered a response is critical. This provides an opportunity to notice feelings and use them as a reminder of how people respond in different situations.

Again, start with yourself:

Always pay attention—make a habit of paying attention to what surprises you, what makes you feel anxious, and what makes you feel good about yourself.

Never cease collecting information—where do you not want to listen, where do you insist on taking the opposite point of view, when is your reaction out of proportion?

There is always more to learn, about ourselves and others.

3. Use Emotional Intelligence To Stop Undesirable Patterns In Their Tracks

People are creatures of habit. We repeat our patterns of behavior without thinking about them. The most effective way to use emotional intelligence to become aware of these patterns is by looking back at undesirable responses from your business partner, associates, and others in a variety of stressful events and situations.

With a little experience, you will be able to identify particular instances when people displayed undesirable reactions such as exaggerated drama, panic, anxiety, or anger.

Deliberately step back from your on-going activities and take some time to think about them. In the process, ask yourself these questions:

Were you surprised by their reaction?

Do they always react the same way in certain situations?

How could you have made it a better experience for them?

What would you do differently next time?

As you continue to practice noticing their responses in various situations, you can begin to pull out the threads of their behavior pattern.

As entrepreneurs and business owners, we can use emotional intelligence to stop negative reactions in both ourselves and others while at the same time encouraging the positive and productive ones.

When you can read other people, it helps you navigate the unknown so you can land on your feet while never taking your eye off your ultimate goal

How have you used emotional intelligence to spot undesirable behavior in others?

© 2016 LaRaeQuy. All rights reserved.

You can follow me on Twitter

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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