Archive for March, 2017

4 Things Successful Women Need To Know About Mental Toughness

Monday, March 27th, 2017

Successful women take a different approach than their counterparts. The obstacles they face are tremendous, but what is commonplace among them is this: they are mentally tough.

This is not surprising to me because I understand that mental toughness is essential to overcome obstacles. As a new FBI agent, I thought learning how to shoot a gun and arrest terrorists would make me successful. I did not expect to learn that my biggest, and perhaps most important skill set, would be to develop the mental toughness needed to prevail in my circumstances.

Successful women also need to prevail in their circumstances because they need to work around unsurmountable obstacles, whether climbing the corporate ladder or achieving growth in their own businesses.

Many people believe mental toughness is a type of rigid thinking that plows through obstacles and roadblocks; while that approach might work in football, it doesn’t work in business and life.

Successful women have the mental toughness to manage their emotions, thoughts, and behavior in ways that will set them up for success.

Here are 4 things successful women need to know about mental toughness:

1. START WITH EMOTIONAL COMPETENCE

As a female FBI agent, I relied heavily upon emotional intelligence to help me recruit foreign spies to work for the U.S. government. Emotional intelligence is your ability to 1) identify and manage your own emotions; 2) pick up on the emotions of others and manage them; and 3) in so doing, build trust and grow influence.

We all feel the pressure to succeed and in today’s competitive market, it takes more than intelligence to keep ahead of the pack—it also takes competence. We all know people who are intelligent but not necessarily successful.

Successful women know what makes them tick. Self-knowledge is a powerful tool because when times are tough the last thing you need is to waste precious energy in trying to interpret your lack of decisiveness.

Time spent on understanding yourself is incredibly worthwhile, followed by your ability to relate to others and empathize with what they are feeling and experiencing.

Tip:

Girls are given permission to get in touch with their inner emotions more than boys, so take advantage of it. It is a soft skill that will allow you to make the hard decisions later in your career.

2. EMBRACE RESILIENCE

One of the first things I learned in the FBI Academy was that in order to be successful I would need to learn how to adapt if I wanted to overcome an unexpected blow from left-field. When you are chasing terrorists, you need to know how to land on your feet when confronted with the unknown.

Successful women do the same because resilience not only allows them to bounce back from setbacks, it also propels them to bounce around obstacles and roadblocks.

Confidence is an important element of resilience. If you have confidence in yourself, failure is taken in stride because you see it as a learning opportunity. If you refuse to learn from your failure, it doesn’t make you a loser—it makes you stupid. This means straightening your back and taking responsibility without whining, pointing fingers, or blaming others.

Confidence in yourself allows you to absorb the unexpected blow and remain non-defensive. If something doesn’t turn out as expected, you will remain flexible and look for new ways to solve the problem.

Tip:

Trace the origins of self-limiting beliefs about what you can, or cannot, accomplish in life. Pinpoint when and how they took root in your thinking. Develop the courage to push yourself into discomfort zones that will allow you blast through each self-limiting belief that is holding you back from success.

3. DRAW ON WILLPOWER

Willpower is that thing that pushes you to the next level despite obstacles and setbacks. It’s what keeps FBI agents on a case when there is no easy answer in sight. Sometimes, in order to find a kidnapping victim or arrest a terrorist, agents need to rely not only on their skills and training, but also on their sheer will and determination to cross the finish line.

Many people could improve their lives if only they had more of that mysterious thing called willpower, but most of us do not believe we have enough of it. In the American Psychological Association’s annual survey on stress, people cited lack of willpower as the No. 1 barrier to following through with changes that would improve their lives.

Tip:

Willpower requires grit, endurance, determination, and persistence. Keep this in mind: “Nothing in the world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent.”—Calvin Coolidge

4. DEVELOP A CHAMPION MINDSET

When I walked into my new FBI office, I was viewed as a curiosity more than anything else. In the 1980’s there weren’t that many female FBI agents; everyone was polite but distant. I pretended not to notice when the guys grabbed their jackets and headed out the door for lunch without inviting me. I also pretended not to notice that I wasn’t included in the informal squad debriefings about the most important cases.

We’ve all been in situations where it’s hard to keep a positive attitude. When this happens, we have intentionally to choose to be positive because we all have an innate bias toward negativity. We process bad news faster than good news because our brain is survival driven. Survival is a tough, uncompromising business. For centuries our brain programmed us to “Get lunch—not BE lunch.”

Tip:

We can chose to be influenced by our negativity bias, or conversely, pursue positive thinking. The choice is ours. We can choose to learn from our experiences and be better, or feel sorry for ourselves and be bitter.

© 2017 LaRae Quy. All rights reserved.

You can follow me on Twitter, Facebook, AND LinkedIn

Get my FREE 45-Question Mental Toughness Assessment

Sign Up for my How To Build Confidence on-line training course

Author of “Mental Toughness for Women Leaders: 52 Tips To Recognize and Utilize Your Greatest Strengths” and “Secrets of a Strong Mind.”

6 Ways To Face Your Fears

Monday, March 20th, 2017

The FBI Academy taught me how to face my fears. By the time I graduated, this was my thinking: Drop me into the middle of any squad or any situation, anywhere, anytime.  Heck, throw me into the middle of a swimming pool with a gun (one of our physical fitness tests!) I will not be scared because I am confident I will succeed wherever I am.

I became mentally stronger by facing my fears. If my coaches weren’t pushing me into a discomfort zone, they weren’t doing their job.

Your success depends upon your ability to face your fears when confronted with stiff competition, adversity, economic downturns, and other sources of stress. Setbacks are a part of any business endeavor. If you react to them productively, you’re game-ready for whatever comes your way.

Here are 6 ways to face your fears:

1. GET BACK IN THE SADDLE

My shetland pony bucked me off when I was 6 years old. I started to cry and walk away but my dad made me get right back on. And it had to be right then and there, not later when I’d plucked up enough resolve to have another go at riding the pony.

Research shows that new memories remain unstable for a short period of time after the event. During the unstable period, memories are being coded and consolidated into your consciousness.

We can erase our fear if we can alter our memory of it, and the best time to do that is during the unstable period. If we can interrupt the coding and consolidating, we can change our memory about an unpleasant event.

How To Make It Work For You: If you experience a terrifying event or situation, the best thing you can do is replace that memory with a better one—right away. Take the opportunity to update and transform your memory. It is important, however, that you make sure your environment is safe before trying to extinguish your fear-conditioned memory.

2. ACCEPT YOUR FEAR

Fear can be a great way to alert you to a dangerous situation. Moderate amounts of fear can sharpen your focus and decision-making skills.

It can also keep you on your toes because when we become complacent, mistakes can start to happen.

How To Make It Work For You: When you face your fears, you can keep them manageable. Accept that some fear can work for you and learn to distinguish the healthy fear from that which paralyzes you or produces unhealthy doses of stress. Don’t let it get so big that it turns into panic.

3. STAND UP TO STRESS

Whether you hang tough or give up often depends upon your ability to adapt to stress. A resilient person is not someone who avoids stress; it is someone who learns how to nip it in the bud.

Researchers have discovered that the neural circuits that govern fear interact with the ones that govern reward. As a result of these connections, how you face your fears is related to your ability to remain upbeat under stress.

How To Make It Work For You: The area of the brain that is producing anxiety and fear overlaps with the area of the brain responsible for positive emotions. This is one of the reasons it’s hard to be stressed out and happy or content at the same time. Strengthen the positive emotions so they can tampen down your fear.

4. FOCUS ON THE GOAL

When we focus our attention on our fear, or on the negative, precious energy is being wasted fretting about our situation. One of the best ways to face your fears is to starve them of attention.

Instead, think of the bigger goal at stake. As Simon Sinek suggests, focus on your why. It’s important that your mission and goals be important to you. When the goal has value and meaning for you, you have only one choice: either back down and fail, or forge ahead.

How To Make It Work For You: When you are afraid, turn your attention away from the thing that is creating the fear. Instead, focus on your goal.

5. ACQUIRE LOTS OF INFORMATION

Much of our fear is associated with embracing the unknown. We fear what we don’t know.

FBI agents making arrests face the unknown because they can’t predict how an individual will react when arrested. To alleviate the fear they may experience, they do several things.

First, they practice arrest scenarios with red handled guns that do not have firing pins. This provides them with experience in difference situations so they are exposed to as many potential arrest scenarios as possible. This helps them from being surprised by the unknown.

Second, they collect as much information about the person to be arrested as possible. The agents can prepare if they have reason to believe the suspect might be armed and dangerous.

Third, agents qualify in firearms 4 times a year so they are constantly fine-tuning their skills. By the time they actually make an arrest, they do not need to think about what to do because they’ve done it before so many times.

How To Make It Work For You: Find out as much as possible about what you fear. Practice how you can overcome this fear until it becomes second nature to you.

6. FIND YOUR TRIBE

When you are a member of a tribe, you have an acute sense of belonging—you feel accepted and safe when things go wrong.

During my first 3 weeks of the FBI Academy, new agents like myself were not allowed to leave the Marine Corp base. We spent 24 hours a day with each other—building the trust and familiarity that creates a tribe.

How To Make It Work For You: In times of stress and anxiety, it’s easy to feel neglected. It’s impossible to instantly create deep bonds of familiarity and trust. Don’t wait until things go wrong to start finding your tribe. Start now.

© 2017 LaRae Quy. All rights reserved.

You can follow me on Twitter, Facebook, AND LinkedIn

Get my FREE 45-Question Mental Toughness Assessment

Sign Up for my How To Build Confidence on-line training course

Author of “Mental Toughness for Women Leaders: 52 Tips To Recognize and Utilize Your Greatest Strengths” and “Secrets of a Strong Mind.” 

How Women Leaders Can Use This Secret Weapon

Monday, March 13th, 2017

Women leaders have a secret weapon at their disposal. It’s called emotional intelligence. 

Emotional intelligence is your ability to 1) identify and manage your own emotions; 2) pick up on the emotions of others and manage them; and 3) in so doing, build trust and grow influence.

FBI counterintelligence agents like myself rely heavily upon emotional intelligence. It helps us to be successful as we identify foreign spies so we can stop them from stealing proprietary information from the U.S. Emotional intelligence is not necessarily a skill that people associate with FBI agents. Loud, boisterous, and pushy behavior may get attention, but it certainly does not get respect.

Meanwhile, a softer skill like emotional intelligence often goes unnoticed. It is not related to book smarts or a formula that includes aggressive behavior that relies upon intimidation to be effective.

I have never had a loud voice, but I’ve always had a strong one.

There is lots of bewilderment when either people get these two voices confused. Many entrepreneurs and business owners are men who follow a formula of aggression and intimidation to get to the top. Now many women leaders use that same formula to see where it can take them.

And here is how well it’s working: women die of heart disease at the same rate as men. Yet they still struggle not only rise to top level positions, but to stay there as well.

In my law enforcement career, I had a choice. I could try to be someone I am not and swagger around the FBI hallways with a gun strapped to my hip. Or, I could be the best version of me and develop my natural skills and not worry whether or not I fit in with others who rely upon intimidation.

Here are 4 reasons emotional intelligence can be a secret weapon for women leaders:

1. MEN DON’T HAVE PERMISSION TO BE EMOTIONALLY INTELLIGENT

Women leaders in the workforce need to grab success however they can, but too many of them throw away their advantages because they try to be like men.

Society gives little girls permission to be empathetic. They use language that express emotions and place priorities on ways to develop deep and meaningful relationships. It starts with dolls.

Both girls and boys may develop mental toughness through sports activities. However, many boys tend to grow into men who rely on harder skills like aggression as their default reaction to stress. They don’t pay as much attention to softer skills like empathy and self-awareness.

Conversely, society encourages women to develop these softer skills.

The good news is that we can learn these essential skills as we climb up the career ladder. 

I’ve known a few touchy-feely men, and they were incredibly successful FBI agents. But they ran against the grain of the macho stereotype that people have of the FBI, which includes most new agents who show up at Quantico.

TIP: As a parent, encourage your child to develop a good vocabulary to describe their emotional state of mind at any given time. As an adult, explore words to describe how you feel in times of stress, joy, and relaxation. You may find this hard at first because we are simply not groomed to be fluent in the language of emotions.

2. USE EMOTIONAL INTELLIGENCE TO INCREASE INFLUENCE

It is too simplistic to describe men or women leaders as having innate advantages that better equips them to move into top level positions. In today’s competitive environment, leaders need to possess the collaborative traits that are the by-product of emotional intelligence.

The Hay Group produced an interesting study. They found that women leaders were most successful when they were required to lead by influence rather than by direct authority.

In this study, emotional intelligence skills were more prevalent in executive-level women than their male counterparts. It is believed that women often face the same barriers throughout their careers. Their work environment requires them to develop the emotional intelligence skills they need to advance in their organizations.

TIP: Scrappy women leaders will develop the skills necessary to move into the executive suite. Success in the future is going to depend a great deal upon a leader’s ability to leverage a variety of skills and approaches in order to grow their business.

3. WOMEN ARE NOT NATURALLY BETTER AT EMOTIONAL INTELLIGENCE THAN MEN

There’s not much research or science to back up the common belief that women are naturally better at emotional intelligence than men. What matters most is the level of motivation of both men and women.

For example, this same Hay Group study indicated that among women and men below the executive level, differences between men and women were less pronounced.

The stars—leaders in the top ten percent of business performance—gender differences in emotional intelligence abilities wash out. The men are as good as the women, the women as good as the men, across the board.

TIP: If you have the mental toughness and grit to stick with it, you can acquire the emotional intelligence skills you need to be a top performer—male or female.

4. BRAINS ARE DIFFERENT, THOUGH

Women are considered to be more empathetic, however. According to neuroscientists, empathy is found in a region called the insula, which senses signals from our whole body. When we empathize with someone, our brain mimics what that person feels. The insula reads that pattern and identifies the feeling.

This is where women are different from men. If the other person is upset, women’s brains tend to stay with those feelings. Men’s brains do something else; they sense the feelings for a moment. And then tune out of the emotions and switch to other brain areas. These are the areas of the brain that try to solve the problem that’s creating the disturbance.

So when a woman complains that a man has tuned out emotionally, it usually means their brains are processing the information differently. 

When men tune-out, it can insulate them from distress so they remain calm while others are in a state of high drama. They focus on finding a solution to the urgent problem.

A woman’s tendency to stay tuned-in helps them nurture and support others when emotions are running high.

TIP: It’s important to remember that neither is better and both have advantages.

Women leaders who seek top level executive positions need to improve their emotional competency. It enlarges their ability to: cope with pressure, build trust, negotiate, influence others, navigate workplace politics, and take smart risks.

© 2017 LaRae Quy. All rights reserved.

You can follow me on Twitter, Facebook, AND LinkedIn

Get my FREE 45-Question Mental Toughness Assessment

Sign Up for my How To Build Confidence on-line training course

Author of “Mental Toughness for Women Leaders: 52 Tips To Recognize and Utilize Your Greatest Strengths” and “Secrets of a Strong Mind.”

4 Ways Intuition Can Help You Make Better Decisions

Monday, March 6th, 2017

Most of the FBI agents I worked alongside for 24 years would dismiss intuition as emotional and irrational. Yet we all relied upon it to make good decisions when confronted with the unknown.

For me, intuition was often sensing the direction of a furtive movement during an arrest, knowing that someone was still alive under rubble, or feeling that there was something awry in a suspect’s answer.

It’s not only FBI agents who need to harness the power of intuition. Investors find the stock market a crapshoot, entrepreneurs are surprised by unexpected advances by the competition, and business leaders can never count on the bottom line.

We have been conditioned to believe that conscious thought is more important than unconscious knowledge.

The rules and principles that guide instinct and intuition are unsophisticated but surprisingly accurate. Gerd Gigerenzer, a psychologist at the Max Plank Institute for Human Development in Berlin, makes an important point in his book “Gut Feelings: The Intelligence of Unconscious” when he argues that instinct and intuition are not impulsive—they have their own brain-based rationale.

Here are 4 ways you can use intuition to make better decisions:

1. NOTICE NAGGING FEELINGS

Start developing your intuition by paying attention to clues in noncritical situations. For example, image that you are talking to another person and they make a “throwaway” statement, something that seems to be an afterthought, maybe adding some additional details for no apparent reason. And yet, everything is for a reason.

Pay attention to what your gut instinct is telling you about your friend’s throwaway statement. It must have meant something or they wouldn’t have mentioned it. Follow up with your friend and ask for clarification; then see how accurate you were in reading your own intuition about the matter. 

Many times we are so intimately familiar with the subject that we fail to notice a new clue. Be diligent and notice the niggling, small things that stick in your mind. That is your unconscious memory trying to bring something to your conscious attention.

How To Make It Work For You: Recall a time when you couldn’t get rid of a nagging feeling about someone or something. In retrospect, what was your unconscious trying to tell you? What did you do about it? Keep track of nagging feelings and notice when, and how, they helped you chose the best response.

2. PURSUE INFORMATION RIGOROUSLY

In my investigations, I had hunches. I couldn’t always explain why I thought pursuing a particular line of questioning would lead to results, but I trusted those instincts and went ahead.

Testing my hunch required a deep dive into the subject and the need to study numerous possibilities. As I continued, my gut instinct told me what was, or wasn’t, important.

Intuition requires you to do the legwork. You can’t sit in an armchair and expect to be enlightened by some mystical wave of understanding. The more you educate yourself about the subject, knowing the right answer becomes more about understanding what information is important and what can be discarded.

How To Make It Work For You: Intuition often shows up as a turmoil or disturbances in our mind. Hold back from making a decision based on these feelings until you’ve vigorously collected all the information you can about each and every “hunch.”

3. TEST YOUR ASSUMPTIONS

While you are holding back from making a decision, use this time to test the assumptions that support your hunches and gut instinct. 

In my investigations, I asked myself how the assumptions I was making about each of my hunches might be wrong. This allowed me to logically look at all possible outcomes without bias. In other words, I didn’t weigh one course of action with more heft than another one.

We run into trouble with intuition when we become so attached to what we think is the right outcome that we dismiss other information that points to another conclusion.

How To Make It Work For You: Remain objective by testing the assumptions that support your intuition. If you’re correct, testing will only confirm you’re on the right path.

4. TRUST YOUR DOUBTS

Intuition that has been noticed (through nagging feelings), fed (by rigorous pursuit of information), and properly vetted (testing assumptions) will ultimately lead to something that is more concrete.

We’ve all experienced the feeling of doubt, apprehension, and even fear when it comes to following our gut.

Acknowledge these feelings because they are ways your subconscious is trying to tell you that something is there. You may not always be in a dangerous situation, but it’s important to notice when, and how, feelings come up so you recognize them when it does matter.

The key in developing intuition so you can make better decisions is to constantly explore and discover why you are experiencing feelings of doubt. You need to make better decisions so you can avoid unfavorable outcomes, but intuition must be followed by action. Otherwise, it remains nothing more than curiosity.

How To Make It Work For You: Intuition fails when it’s loaded with inaccurate information. Its not magical knowledge to be downloaded upon request. Roll up your shirtsleeves, do the work, and use your brain.

© 2017 LaRae Quy. All rights reserved.

You can follow me on Twitter, Facebook, AND LinkedIn

Get my FREE 45-Question Mental Toughness Assessment

Sign Up for my How To Build Confidence on-line training course

Author of “Mental Toughness for Women Leaders: 52 Tips To Recognize and Utilize Your Greatest Strengths” and “Secrets of a Strong Mind.”