Archive for March, 2016

3 Tips To Get Through Challenges

Sunday, March 20th, 2016

A few years back, I faced a health scare that forced me to take a different look at how to get through challenges and setbacks. 

I was on a treadmill for my annual physical and the attending physician suddenly shouted for me to stop—immediately. He said the test was showing I had ischemia, a condition wherein the heart does not get enough oxygen and stops beating, resulting in instant death.

The FBI sent me to a heart specialist and prohibited me from participating in firearms or any activity that involved physical exertion. The ischemia scare was a life-changing event for me; it’s the primary reason healthy athletes drop dead.

I suffered a long period of high-magnitude stress. In the months that followed, it was determined that my heart gulps for oxygen, corrects itself, and recovers quickly. While my physical condition was eventually diagnosed as excellent, I had suffered my first health crisis.

A challenge is amplified when we don’t see it coming, when we don’t have any control over it, and when it’s something we’ve never had to deal with before.

I had to change the way I looked at how to get through challenges, so I turned to research conducted by the U.S. Army on Post Trauma Stress Disorder (PTSD). We all deal with stress, trauma, and crises in different ways.

When faced with a traumatic event, most people react with symptoms of depression and anxiety, but within a month or so are physically and psychologically back to where they were before the trauma. They accept responsibility for their actions, forget about blaming others, and move. That is resilience.

The study found that some have a tougher time and may need counseling and medication to get through. There are a few individuals, however, who actually have post-traumatic growth. They, too, first experience depression and anxiety, but within a year they are actually better off than they were before the trauma, crisis, or challenge.

These were the people I needed to learn from, and so do you if you’re in leadership, a business owner, or an entrepreneur because you’ve also faced your share of challenges. If you have mental toughness, you will learn from your experiences so you are stronger than when you started. 

Mental toughness is managing our emotions, thoughts, and behavior in ways that set us up for success.

Here are 3 tips on how you can use mental toughness to help get through challenges:

1. THINK ABOUT YOUR CHALLENGE DIFFERENTLY

Soldiers who experienced a crisis or trauma were able to reframe the trauma in such a way that they could extract meaning from it.

Although they are able to reinterpret their situation, it is not blind optimism or disingenuous positive thinking that creates the change. The suffering is real; the difference is that they use positivity as a mental framework for turning their suffering into achievement and self-improvement.

ACTION: Post-traumatic growth does not mean you will be free of the memories or grief. If you try to put your life back together and pretend that nothing has happened, you’ll remain fractured and vulnerable. But if you accept the breakage, you can cultivate growth within yourself, become more resilient, and open to new ways of living.

2. USE DIFFERENT LANGUAGE WHEN TALKING ABOUT YOUR CHALLENGE

Mental toughness in the face of crisis and trauma is not simply about coping; it is intentionally choosing to change the way your see yourself and the challenge you are experiencing. It is not choosing to be a victim.

It is estimated that we say between 300 to 1000 words to ourselves per minute. If we speak positively to ourselves, we can over ride fear, worry, and anxiety when faced with adversity or trauma. Emotions are processed by the limbic brain system.

Brain imaging has shown that negative emotions interfere with the brain’s ability to solve problems and other cognitive functions.

ACTION: Since the brain responds so powerfully to negative emotions, you must intentionally choose positive thoughts to interrupt the brain’s tendency toward negativity.

3. DEVELOPING DEEPER RELATIONSHIPS HELPS TO GET THROUGH CHALLENGES

People who experience post traumatic growth are able to do so only when they deepen their relationships with others. Their depth and appreciation for those relationships is extraordinary.

Soldier Fitness programs have identified these key areas as essential for resilience and post traumatic growth:

  1. Re-connecting with families, relatives, friends, co-workers, and neighbors. Positive growth from trauma is nurtured by supportive relationships.
  2. Volunteering, in whatever capacity, to ease the pain and suffering of the general population. The benefit we receive when helping others is as great as the feelings of wellbeing from those we help.
  3. Asking help from other people when everything seems insurmountable. This is the time to let go of individualistic attitude in favor of collective efforts.
  4. Turning to one’s faith as a source of solace and comfort. Numerous studies have discovered that religious and spiritual activities can moderate depression and stress.

ACTION: You are stronger than you think you are. Remember to focus on how to change your emotions, thoughts, and behavior to get through challenges and setbacks. 

Consider the words of Warren Buffett in a recent Wall Street Journal article: “The truth is, everything that has happened in my life… that I thought was a crushing event at the time, has turned out for the better.

How do get through challenges in your life?

© 2016 LaRaeQuy. All rights reserved.

You can follow me on Twitter

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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 Ways To Train Your Mind To Think Like A Winner

Sunday, March 13th, 2016

One of the first things I learned as an FBI Agent was that to be successful, I would need to think like a winner.

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When pulling a gun to make an arrest, there is no room for error—not only did I need to be right, I needed to come out on the winning side.

My state of mind directly impacted my performance. I needed to be mindful, in the present moment, and in complete control of what was surging through my thoughts even if I was nervous, stressed and under pressure.

To think like a winner is not rocket science; it sounds easy, but many entrepreneurs and business owners fail to do this because they are not consciously aware of their thoughts.

Without awareness of what we are thinking, we cannot control where the mind goes—and as we all know, the mind can sometimes have a life of its own.

Here are 5 ways to train your mind to think like a winner:

1. Run The Show To Think Like A Winner

Run the show by controlling your thoughts, rather than letting your thoughts control you.

To do this, you will need to become more connected to them throughout your day. 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.

We have arrived at where we are today because our thoughts have brought us here, but where we end up tomorrow depends a great deal on where our thoughts take us.

Meditation is an excellent way move out of your subconscious and be an observer of your own thoughts, even the ones that frighten you.

WHAT THIS MEANS FOR YOU:

As an investigator, I learned to continually question my assumptions about almost everything! But by doing so, I trained my mind to be alert about everything going on around me.

Move out of your subconscious by intentionally choosing to observe, question, challenge, or dismiss new pieces of information that come your way.

2. Stimulate Your Mind To Think Like A Winner

Introducing humor and playing with ideas are both extremely stimulating. If we train our brain to seek out new information, we no longer need to rely upon our external circumstances to provide mental stimulation.

This can be extremely important when we’re in a situation where we feel trapped or immobilized.

WHAT THIS MEANS FOR YOU:

My fellow FBI agents frequently used humor to defray tense and stressful situations. Humor helps our mind change the way it views our stressors. Laughter is a physical response that relaxes us.

By training your mind to be playful, it will make it easier to take in new information from outside your current situation and then use this new information to help you think through problems.

3. Visualize Your Success To Think Like A Winner

The benefits of visioning our performance is based on solid science. The very act of giving our brain a detailed portrait of our end goal ensures the release of dopamine, a powerful mental toughness tool to steer us toward success.

Dopamine is the chemical that becomes active when we encounter situations that are linked to rewards from the past. It enables us to not only see rewards, but to move toward those rewards.

A Harvard study has demonstrated that our brain cannot tell the difference between a visualized image and reality.

WHAT THIS MEANS FOR YOU:

Defensive tactics was an exercise in visualization because we were taught how to anticipate the movements of a person avoiding arrest. By visualizing what could go wrong, we prepared ourselves to be successful.

You can do the same thing: if you have a speaking engagement or a meeting, visualize what you will say and how you will say it.

4. Tap Into Your Inner Self To Think Like A Winner

Vicktor Frankl, a Holocaust and concentration camp survivor, described the source of his strength under extreme adversity. Frankl concludes that the most important trait of survivors is a strong sense of doing their best in all circumstances, while not being primarily concerned with advancing their own interests.

The actions of the survivors are motivated by an inner voice that taps into their sense of purpose—not by their external conditions. They had the mental toughness to keep moving ahead, regardless of their circumstances.

WHAT THIS MEANS FOR YOU:

While the FBI is not a touchy-feely group of people, they are able to tap into their purpose and passion—it’s what motivates them to chase terrorists and other criminals.

If your only goal is to make money and buy more stuff, you are thinking liking a loser, not a winner. You are one of the narcissistic people who fall apart when external conditions turn threatening because you are only intrinsically motivated to help yourself. 

5. Get Specific Sooner To Think Like A Winner

Getting specific requires us to:

  1. Prioritize and make choices.
  2. Identify our unique message
  3. Become a master of a few things instead of a “know it all.”
  4. Be humble about the things in which we are not an expert
  5. Foster gratitude for the things in which we do excel

WHAT THIS MEANS FOR YOU:

The shotgun approach works only if you are not sure of your options, but a laser focused approach is what will yield the best results once a decision is made.

Smart people specify, prioritize, and focus on specific opportunities that they know will most likely lead to their success. These 5 steps outlined above are embedded in common sense and validated by top notch research and science. Discovering how to make them work for you is your own secret to success.

Training your mind to think like a winner is not always easy, and like anything else, it takes practice.

How have your trained yourself to think like a winner?

© 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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The Positive Side Of Negative Thinking

Sunday, March 6th, 2016

I grew up in a family that survived by preparing for the worst: blizzards, drought, broken fences, and the threat of wildfire. There was a positive side to this negative thinking—as ranchers who made a living by raising cattle, we kept them fed, watered, and safe from Wyoming’s fierce winters and suffocatingly hot summers.

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I remember Dad always anticipating the worst possible outcome as the severe seasons rolled by so he could prepare, and land on his feet when confronted with the unknown.

As an FBI agent, we planned arrests by giving priority to what could go wrong. We were not optimists who hoped everything would go according to plan.

Both my Dad and my fellow FBI agents were intelligent thinkers who were mentally tough. That is, they weighed the possibility of a negative outcome with equal heft as the possibility of a positive outcome.

Intelligent thinking is another term for positive thinking. Let me be clear—positivity is not optimism that always expects things to change for the better, nor is it pessimism that always assumes the worst will happen.

It is often as difficult for optimists to be positive thinkers as it is for pessimists. Positive thinking is not denying the contribution of negative thinking. In fact, it’s wise to prepare for the worst that could happen in business and life.

The term “positive thinking,” however, has been polluted by the relentless cheer of motivational speakers who pressure their audience by goading them to stamp out all traces of negativity.

While this approach seems to be popular with some audiences, it’s not a particularly sophisticated—or realistic—approach to life.

Mental toughness is not being afraid of negativity; instead, it is learning how to harness its power so it works for you.

Here are 5 ways negative thinking can make you a positive thinker:

1. Accept Your Negative Emotions

Observe all of your emotions and sensations as they come to the surface—not just the feel-good ones. Do not try to suppress a negative emotion simply because it’s negative. Be honest about what you are feeling.

TIP: Acknowledge all of your emotions and try not to judge them as being positive or negative. Then let them pass. The key is to not dwell on those emotions which are counterproductive or undesirable.

2. Embrace The Possibility of Failure

The all-positive approach of motivational speakers is relentless in its pursuit of perfection. The more realistic approach of positivity, on the other hand, does not reject failure. In fact, positive thinkers embrace failure as a challenge—a call to action to keep moving forward.

TIP: Do not give up and walk away, searching for something easier at which you will finally succeed. If achieving this goal is important to you, continue to approach the problem, but from different angles while at the same time honing your talents and skills.

3. Look For Positive Options

Negative thinking prepare you for the reality of a negative outcome in a situation, just as positive thinking is continually looking for and finding the positive options that every situation offers.

Thoughts are stubborn; once you let them take hold and grow roots, it is very difficult to erase them from your mind. Whatever grabs your attention rules your life. So, you need to control your thinking.

Researchers confirm that the very thing your mind focuses on is the same thing that you will start to notice in your daily life.

Your survival instinct has warned you of the possible negative outcome; now, you need to counter that warning with a positive response that will prepare you as you move toward the obstacle.

TIP: Recognize the negative aspects of your situation, but don’t dwell on them. Turn your attention to the positive options available to you.

4. Believe You Can Prevail

Positivity is believing we can prevail in our situation, regardless of the circumstances. Prisoners of war and Navy SEALS have found that their belief in their own ability to prevail in extreme and adverse conditions is what kept them alive.

Survival, in one form or another, is at the heart of mental toughness. It is prevailing over our circumstances and moving forward.

TIP: When things look tough, you will need to have the grit to be persistent and understand that failure is not the end—it simply represents another way to approach our situation.

5. Differentiate Between Visioning and Fantasy

Visioning is based on solid science. By visioning our performance repeatedly, our brain stores that information as a success. And with each success, our brain releases a neurotransmitter called dopamine. This is the chemical that becomes active when we encounter situations that are linked to rewards from the past.

Use your dopamine not only to see rewards, but to move toward them.

Dreams can easily turn into fantasies if we let our thoughts get out of control, and fantasies can actually lessen our chance for success. Those who are adamant optimists about a positive future will experience a greater shock when things go wrong. If people fantasize only positive beliefs about their future, they are less prepared and more stressed when things don’t workout they way they had hoped.

TIP: For you to be a leader, you must see things as they really are. Then see them the way you can make them better.

Mental toughness is not just surviving through tough times, it is thriving, and not letting the environment control your thinking. Don’t pretend the negative aspects of your situation don’t exist, but don’t dwell on them. Instead, believe you will prevail by looking for, and finding, positive options.

What suggestions do you have for learning how to harness the power of negativity?

© 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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