Archive for July, 2016

5 Ways To Control Emotions

Monday, July 25th, 2016

As federal law enforcement, FBI agents are required to control emotions as they conduct investigations in a fair and efficient manner. But it is difficult to look the victim of a crime in the face and not feel anger toward the person who caused the pain. 

Argument

When we let our emotions take control, we become a victim of our circumstances—LaRae Quy

Mental toughness is managing our emotions, thoughts, and behavior in ways that set us up for success. Emotions and thinking are linked, but if we can control emotions we do not have to be slaves to them.

Here are 5 ways to control emotions—and have a great day, all backed by research:

1. LOOK INTO YOUR FUTURE

After a long week all I wanted to do was sit, relax, and read. When a friend called and suggested we go for a rigorous hike. I hesitated. Which situation would benefit me the most?

When we have the luxury of choosing one situation over another, we have power over the emotional outcome of our day. So how do we make the right choice on how to spend it?

Psychologists have found that people who are emotionally competent (possessing the ability to recognize and control emotions) tend to choose those situations which are most beneficial to them, regardless of whether or not it provided the most pleasure.

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Don’t let the pursuit of happiness lead you to make decisions that are based purely on fleeting emotional experiences. Instead, look into your future and make decisions that are grounded in a clear vision of long-term goals.

For example, I chose to go for the rigorous hike because physical exercise keeps both the mind and body active, even though spending time on the couch with a book felt the most appealing.

2. MODIFY YOUR SITUATION

Competitive

I was early for a supervisor’s conference and took a seat; then Earl showed up and sat down beside me. I found Earl irksome since he was the kind of guy always making snide remarks while other people talked. I decided to modify my situation—I got up, excused myself, and left the room. After chatting with people in the hallway for five minutes, I came back in. Sure enough, someone else had taken my seat next to Earl and I found another one across the room.

Sometimes getting out of a negative situation is harder than simply moving seats. Some events like losing your job, the death of a partner, or an unexpected illness are not controllable. However, no matter the stressful situation, look for ways you can be proactive and take interventional measures.

Recent research suggests that people who do not take steps to modify their situation only compound their problems. If they learn how to reframe their circumstances, they are better able to control their emotions.

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If the situation is uncontrollable, take proactive measures such as exploring new opportunities and options that might not have been available to you before. If the situation is controllable, find ways to modify it—so you can control emotions before they spill out and make matters worse.

Either way, take action.

3. CONCENTRATE—OR DIVERT—YOUR ATTENTION

A female agent, whom I will Lucy because she was always a little loose with the facts, was giving her presentation during a squad briefing. I felt a growing resentment with each word she said because the supervisor couldn’t see through her line of bullsh*t.

She was exaggerating the facts to make herself look good so I chose to concentrate my attention squarely on Lucy, primarily because I wanted to be very clear on where she was slipping up and giving false information.

Research by Gal Sheppes suggests that when we’re in an uncontrollable situation the best way to control emotions and deal with negative ones is to either concentrate on what is in front of us, or divert our attention.

In his studies, he found that most people preferred to divert their attention and think of something completely different when faced with a negative emotion. Since sad and distressing situations can be very exhausting, avoidance and self-distraction can be very helpful.

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Forget traditional thinking where we’re told that finding meaning in bad experiences is a healthy strategy while distraction and disengagement are not healthy and maladaptive. Instead, scientists are now saying that choosing the right coping strategy for the right circumstances is the key to mental health. Sometimes it’s logical to disengage emotionally, but in other contexts it may be harmful. The key is knowing which is which.

4. TACKLE NEGATIVE THOUGHTS

Intuition

Knowing that the person I was arresting was responsible for the agony and heartache of others made it difficult to treat the suspect with the respect and dignity required by law.

Instead of turning away from disturbing or unfavorable situations, mentally tough people tackle thoughts that lead to their negative emotional response. Studies have found that people can cope with unwanted emotions by “distancing” themselves or imagining the situation as an impartial observer.

When you imagine an event as though you’re a bystander, you will notice that you harbor fewer aggressive and negative emotions than if you relive the incident.

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Instead of asking, “Why do I feel that way?” I recommend you put the question in the third person: “Why does LaRae feel this way?” In this way, you can visualize yourself as a mere witness to events.

5. LET IT LOOSE

One of my interviews was a pedophile who had abused his daughter. Since I needed his cooperation, I smiled, kept my face a mask, and acted unfazed by his confession.

I was repulsed by the man and had to work hard to keep my feelings from showing. Afterwards, I went for a run and took a long shower—even the smell of him made me nauseous.

Like me, most people try to suppress negative physical reactions when they are angry, frustrated, or disgusted by the situation. Studies by psychologist Roy Baumeister explain why inhibiting expressions of stress actually leads to exhaustion and is linked to health problems. My run after the interview was one of the healthiest things I could have done.

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When confronted with an intense moment, visualize the outcomes you want and identify the actions you need to take to make it happen. Regulating negative emotions does not mean avoiding them. Negative emotions can prompt us to dig into our beliefs and misconceptions and help us discover new insight into ourselves.

How do you control your emotions?

© 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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13 FBI Principles Of How To Be Mentally Strong

Monday, July 18th, 2016

Rare is the person who writes about how to be mentally strong from personal experience. I get quite a few chuckles from people who write about mental toughness when all they have to cite are statistics that come from other people’s experiences. 

Attitude - serious

When I interviewed to become an FBI agent, one of the things that the interviewing panel liked about me was that I was born and raised on a cattle ranch in the middle of Wyoming. I did not grow up pampered and did not see myself as entitled to anything. Instead, I was young, scrappy, and hungry to prove myself worthy of a chance to work hard and climb the ladder of success on my own.

I did not have parents hovering over me to give me all the advantages that are making today’s kids soft, entitled, and ungrateful.

Search the phrase mental toughness and you’re likely to come up with a muck-up of assorted opinions on what it means.

I have worked hard to identify my core beliefs about how to be mentally strong. Here I share 13 key principles I learned from my time with the FBI:

Principle #1: Self Awareness

Unless you know what makes you tick, you’ll be forever ignorant about the most important person in your life—yourself.

FBI agents must know themselves well enough that they can predict their response when confronted with the unknown.

Principle #2: Awareness of Others

Many believe that being mentally strong is a leader’s ability to plow through emotions and feelings without being touched by them so they can continue to march stalwartly onward. It’s not that simple.

FBI agents are successful investigators because they are able to recognize the negative emotions of others and anticipate how they could spin out of control.

Principle #3: Communication

You can have the greatest ideas in the world, but if you can’t explain them to others, you will never be anything more than educated derelict.

FBI agents use interviews as their most reliable and successful investigative tool. Despite what you see in movies and TV, communicating with people and getting them to cooperate is far more effective than extortion or threats.

Principle #4: Resilience

Resilient people are mentally strong because they take responsibility for their actions and do not resort to whining or blaming others for their situation.

FBI agents are not able to choose their assignments so they learn to be resilient and bounce back from the sticky situations in which they often find themselves.

Principle #5: Authenticity

The only time I got into trouble in undercover work as as an FBI agent was when I tried to be someone I am not. I could slap on a different name or title, but if I wanted to be successful I needed to be authentic about who I was.

I learned this from years as an FBI investigator: It takes courage to tell the story of who you are with your whole heart. It’s hard to let go of who you think you ought to be in order to be who you really are. What makes your story unique also makes you powerful.

Principle #6: Confidence

The first thing I learned in the FBI Academy is that success would not make me confident; instead, confidence in myself and my abilities would make me successful. My four months at the academy were spent developing that confidence—before I was sent out with a gun and badge.

Drop me in the middle of any squad or any situation, anywhere, anytime—I would not be scared because I was confident I would succeed wherever I was.

Principle #7: No self-limiting beliefs

Self-limiting beliefs are lies we tell ourselves because of something that has happened in our past.

FBI agents learn early not to let the crap from their past bog them down; they know it’s not their past that defines who they are or where they are going in life. What truly defines them is their expectation of the future.

The only difference between a rut and a coffin are the dimensions.

Principle #8: Willpower

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

FBI agents need willpower to find the energy, motivation, and enthusiasm to keep going even when they are tired, anxious, and confronted with an investigation with no easy answers or solutions.

Principle #9: Grit

Grit is your ability to persevere over the long-run and thrive despite all kinds of unplanned events.

As an FBI agent, I knew that the way in which I dealt with challenges would determine how I would achieve success. Grit and perseverance, not talent or education, was the key to unlocking my greatest potential.

Grit Up—Be.Fiercely.Awesome!

Principle #10: Positive Thinking

Our greatest mental toughness tool is our ability to choose one thought over another.

FBI agents are positive thinkers who believe they will prevail in their circumstances rather than believing their circumstances will change.

Principle #11: Growth Mindset

A growth mindset believes that intelligence and personality can be developed; they are not immutably engrained traits.

The most successful FBI agents possessed a growth mindset that thrived on challenge and saw failure as a springboard for growth and stretching their existing abilities.

Principle #12: Gratitude

Gratitude is one of the most important emotions we can cultivate because if we aren’t thankful for what we have, we will never be thankful for what we’re going to get.

FBI agents, Navy SEALS, and special forces cultivate the emotion of gratitude to help get them through tough times.

Principle #13: Mastery

The secret to success is simple: work hard. People who achieve success work hard to become top performers.

FBI agents master skill sets by developing a flexible and agile mindset that can quickly change course if circumstances change. They know better than anyone that no one ever drowned in a pool of sweat.

© 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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How Meditation Creates A Strong Mind

Monday, July 11th, 2016

My firearms instructor at the FBI Academy told me that the best shooters develop a strong mind by not allowing themselves to be distracted by other thoughts. All I needed to do was relax, breathe, and focus.

Meditation

He was right. Ironically, shooting at a target can be a Zen moment. If your mind is cluttered with thoughts and anxiety, you won’t hit your mark. Good shooters let all of that go and become very mindful.

Shooting a gun shares many of the same characteristics as meditation. Both require the person to control their noisy inner world with a strength of mind that produces mental toughness.

A strong mind uses meditation to control the tyranny of everyday thinking—compulsive, brain-driven, and unproductive behavior that is based on years of bad habits.

Blaise Pascal, the French philosopher and mystic, said centuries ago, “All human evil comes from this: our inability to sit still in a chair for half an hour.” 

If you think this is an exaggeration, a recent study at the University of Virginia said that 67% of men and 15% of women would sooner endure an unpleasant electric shock rather than be alone in silence for even 15 minutes!

Many of us tend to dwell on negative things when we’re alone. Left in silence, we become anxious as our mind begins an internal dialogue that leaves us sleepless and exhausted.

Mental toughness is harnessing the power of silence to control our emotions, thoughts, and behavior in ways that will set us up for success.

The silence produced by meditation is a form of intelligence, a type of knowing that goes beyond our emotions, thoughts, and behavior. Meditation is one of the most empowering tools we can use to impact all areas of our life.

Meditation allows us to directly participate in our lives instead of living life as an afterthought.

Here is how a strong mind uses meditation to improve its performance:

1. A Strong Mind Uses Meditation To Change Its Brain

 

 

Brain - messages

Scientists have learned that activities like meditation can change our brain in several ways. It:

  • Adds synaptic connections that thicken the brain tissues over time in the regions handling control of attention and sensory awareness.
  • Increases serotonin, the neurotransmitter that helps regulate mood and sleep.
  • Triggers the body to secrete hormones that decrease blood pressure and heart rate.
  • Activates the left side of your frontal lobes which produce more positive emotions.

2. A Strong Mind Uses Meditation To Calm It Down

Meditation enables us to move from higher frequency brain waves—which is hyperactivity in the brain—to lower frequency.

The slower the rhythms in the brain, the more time you have between thoughts. With more time, you also have more opportunity to skillfully choose which thoughts you should invest in.

Note: For those who have not tried meditation, check out this excellent app from Headspace.

3. A Strong Mind Uses Meditation To Lessen Anxiety

Mistakes -woman on phone

Researchers explain that there are many “centers” in the brain, but the one that impacts the way you see yourself, and others, is called the Self-Referencing Center.

Many people also call this the “Me Center” because it processes information related to us—our daydreams, thinking of the future, self-reflection, and our experiences.

When you become anxious, it triggers a strong reaction in your Me Center which leaves you feeling threatened and scared.

Meditation weakens this neural connection. Your ability to ignore anxiety is enhanced as these connections are broken. As a result, you are able to readily recognize sensations like anxiety or fear for what they are; in doing so, you can respond to them more rationally.

4. A Strong mind Uses Meditation To Be More Productive

Successful financial plans

While many may say that meditating for performance is not the point, researchers at the University of California, Santa Barbara, have discovered that meditation not only reduces stress, it also calms us down so we can be our best.

Meditation does the following:

  • Separates the noise from the static.
  • Helps you focus on what is important to you.
  • Increases memory so it’s easier to recall information.
  • Creates better conversations with others.
  • Strengthens resolve to make intentional decisions so you achieve what you want.
  • Trains your mind to not get swept up by distractions.

Meditation is the extra edge most of us need for peak performance in our competitive environments. It helps us to control our mind’s natural inclination to wander, which often gets in the way of our success. A strong mind is distracted less often and has an easier time remembering what is important to remember.

You should sit in meditation for twenty minutes a day, unless you are too busy. Then you should sit for an hour—Zen Proverb

How can you make meditation a part of your life?

© 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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