Archive for September, 2017

8 Ways To Become More Resilient

Monday, September 18th, 2017

FBI agents need to be resilient so they can solve cases that have no easy or obvious solution. They go to where they are needed, not to where they feel comfortable.

As an FBI agent, I was assigned investigations where I had no idea how to solve them. But this was my thinking: Drop me in the middle of any squad or any situation; anywhere, anytime. I will not be scared, nor will I give up. If I’m knocked down, I’ll drag myself back up and keep at it until I solve the case.

This is the mindset of a survivor—a person who is resilient enough to bounce back from the trauma of everyday life.

As business leaders and entrepreneurs, you will be required to be resilient when confronted with obstacles and roadblocks. You have a willingness to swim upstream and not give up simply because the tide is against you.

Resilient people are successful because they possess certain qualities. Here are 8 ways you can become more resilient:

1. Take Responsibility For Your Actions

I quickly learned that the FBI would not tolerate whining and complaining when my circumstances were less than ideal. Instead, they drilled into me the need to take personal control and responsibility for the direction life was taking me.

Resilient leaders do not seek out happiness by relying on others, nor do they blame others for their situation.

How To Make It Work For You: Don’t whine, blame others, or point fingers if you don’t get what you want.

2. Focus On Possibilities

Resilient people are always asking this question: what can I do to change my situation? When they focus on the possibilities that lie before them, they make their own luck. They do what they can with the hand they’ve been dealt, and in doing so, they take control of their 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.

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

How To Make It Work For You: Believe 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. And agile in the way in which you overcome obstacles.

3. Become A Positive Thinker

There is a big difference between being an optimist and being a positive thinker. Positive thinkers are not necessarily happy or optimistic.

Instead, positive thinkers are blunt realists who look misery right in the eye and confront the most brutal facts of their day without expecting things to change. They adapt to their circumstances without ever losing hope.

As FBI agents, we planned arrests by giving priority to what could go wrong. We were not optimists who hoped everything would go according to plan. We weighed the possibility of a negative outcome with equal heft as the possibility of a positive outcome.

How To Make It Work For You: Hunt the good stuff and find 5 positive thoughts to counter each negative thought. When confronted with something that feels overwhelming, you will need to find 5 positive thoughts to counter each one negative thought that comes to mind.

4. Prioritize What Is Important

Squad briefings were a great way to help agents get over a hurdle in one of their investigations. When an agent briefed the squad on a case, white boards were created with priorities listed—from most important to least.

Prioritizing information is a useful resilience tool because forces your brain to interact with information rather than simply react to it. Lists are an excellent way of forcing different parts of the brain to interact with each other. This also prevents different parts of our brain from fighting against each another for attention and energy.

How To Make It Work For You: Writing down your priority list helps you to visualize, so keep paper and pen handy. Typing your list out on a computer does not satisfy the brain’s need for visualization.

5. Manage Emotions

You are a wimp if you run away from a negative emotion or deny unpleasant thoughts and feelings. You don’t think you’re mentally tough enough to handle the hard stuff.

Too often, people pretend negative emotions and feelings don’t exist. Ignoring negative feelings is not healthy; nor is wallowing in them. Resilient people hurt when life hands them a rough time, but they never forget that they still have control over their attitude.

How To Make It Work For You: Identify your emotions, and then call them, or label them, for what they really are. If the emotion is pride, envy, or anger—own up to it. Although most people expect labeling emotions to increase them, when you label your fear or anxiety you actually lessen your discomfort. It’s very important, however, to keep the label to one or two words because if you open up dialogue about it, you will only increase the emotion.

6. Reframe Negative Events

Setbacks are a natural part of life. Resilience requires mental toughness because it is the ability to recover quickly from adversity, no matter your situation.

Nip negative emotions and reactions in the bud when they first appear. This is when they are the weakest.

Cold cases are those in which the leads have grown cold, but nothing motivates an FBI case agent as much as looking into the face of an innocent victim who trusts and expects them to find the answer. Quit is not a word used in FBI investigations.

How To Make It Work For You: Reframing is a fancy word for changing the way you look at adversity or a negative situation. Reframing can provide you with different ways of interpreting your less than perfect situation so you can expand the possibilities and overcome the adversity.

7. Find Your Tribe

Friendship are important; they can lift you up, provide security, and prevent slip-ups in both business and life.

As Sebastian Junger wrote in his book, Tribe, “We have a strong instinct to belong to small groups defined by clear purpose and understanding–“tribes.” This tribal connection has been largely lost in modern society, but regaining it may be the key to our psychological survival.”

A strong psychological thread developed during our training as special agents is the concept of the “FBI family.” FBI employees will close ranks around one of their own if the individual is targeted or harmed in some way.

How To Make It Work For You: Find your tribe. Whether it’s your biological family or your adoptive one from work, school, or church—find people who give you the sense of security and connectivity.

© 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.” 

5 Strategies To Deal With Difficult Colleagues

Monday, September 11th, 2017

It is hard to put difficult colleagues into a one-size-fits-all box. After all, they come in so many shapes and sizes. No workplace is without them.

What about the passive-aggressive who feeds on bullying others? How about the know-it-all corporate climber who walks all over people in her 5 inch stilettos? Or the two-faced backstabber who delights in betraying confidences?

Difficult colleagues create stressful environments and unpleasant working conditions. A survey by the American Psychological Association (APA) found that 65% of Americans cited work as a top source of stress. Only 37% of Americans surveyed said they were doing an excellent or very good job managing stress. In fact, work-related problems significantly outpaced other leading causes of stress such as health concerns or family responsibilities.

Not all stress at work can be blamed on difficult colleagues, but our workplace is a perfect breeding ground for people who push our buttons. A gossip who might not ordinarily get on our nerves becomes toxic when we are forced to work with them on a daily basis.

Unfortunately for entrepreneurs, business owners, and leaders, difficult employees are not always bad employees. They may be highly skilled or very talented. They may add to the bottom line of your company, but they can also create stress for your other team members which reduces overall productivity.

The way your team deals with difficult colleagues will have a major impact on their careers and their well-being. Here are 5 strategies to deal with difficult colleagues:

1. Keep Friends Close, Enemies Even Closer

A difficult colleague may not be your enemy, but the more you know about them, the better you can understand them.

I will admit that, as an FBI agent, there are people out there who considered me to be the difficult colleague. I (sometimes) regret that I left casualties in the squadroom, but I also know I had reasons for taking my stance. I’m not justifying my behavior; I make this point to underscore the importance of trying to understand the difficult colleague.

A Buddhist practice suggests that if someone is causing you to suffer, it’s because they’re suffering as well.

If someone had taken the time to ask me about my behavior, I would have pointed out that I am an overachiever. As such, I put so much pressure on myself to excel that, at times, I had no time for the pettiness of common courtesy! The stress I put on myself to run undercover operations and develop human intelligence (humint) sources caught up with me; I ended up incredibly sick for several months.

TIP: Take the time to understand that your workplace antagonist is an imperfect person, just like you. You don’t have to like them but if you can understand why they act like a jerk, you might be able to prevent yourself from adding fuel to the fire.

2. Know What Pushes Your Buttons

 

 

 

No one escapes childhood without a few bruises and scrapes. We all have flash points that stem from our upbringing, family life, and relationships. Anger or frustration can be triggered when we least expect it. We react to a situation or individual rather than choose our response.

Our buttons are our responsibility to uncover. It’s so much easier to blame the difficult colleague or stupid supervisor rather than admit we have our own flaws.

Instead, take a look at why you react to certain people or situations in a negative way. Mental toughness is managing your emotions, thoughts, and behavior in ways that will set you up for success. You need to be brave enough to look at yourself with honesty and compassion. This might mean going back to childhood hurts to discover the patterns of thinking that are sabotaging you now.

TIP: Don’t be a wimp. Get a handle on what those buttons are and who, or what, pushes them. Rather than seeing difficult colleagues as a burden, they could actually be your ticket to dramatic professional growth.

3. Save The Fight For What Matters

Analyze the person and situation so you can rule out “false triggers” that create unnecessary stress in your environment. If you can’t, you will be at the mercy of the office bullies because they will know how to manipulate you. By pushing one of your buttons, you can be made to look oversensitive, weak, or gullible.

TIP: Be responsive, not reactive when someone pushes your buttons. A knee-jerk reaction is never a good choice.

4. Keep A Lid On Anger

Anger flares up when we feel that we, or another co-worker, have been unjustly treated by the difficult colleague. There are several reasons anger is not a good reaction:

  • An unpleasant emotion
  • Bad for your health
  • Clouds your judgment
  • Makes you look unprofessional

Avoid anger in the workplace. If you are embroiled in a constant conflict at work, you risk being seen as unable to handle the situation like a seasoned professional. Worse yet, you may get labeled as being a difficult colleague as well.

TIP: Don’t flare up in the immediate heat of a confrontation. Instead, allow yourself to observe what is happening without getting caught up in it (meditation can help you with this). If you feel you can’t control your anger, try stalling for time. Here are some suggestions:

“Can I have a little more time to think this through? I’ll get back to you with an answer.”

“This isn’t on today’s agenda. Can we talk about it later?”

“I have a deadline. Can I get back to you on that?”

Bottom line: get out of the situation as quick as you can so you can decide if this is the hill you want to die on. If not, wait until your emotions are under control and then choose your response rather than reacting with negativity.

5. Face Conflict

Conflict avoidance is not always a great idea, either. Staying away from disagreements and conflict creates stress as well.

If you’re faced with a difficult colleague, take some time out to reflect on the situation. Think about what the ideal outcome would be for you. What would you hope to accomplish from a conversation with your colleague?

Talk the situation out with other co-workers to gage their assessment of it. They might be able to offer constructive advice and observations.

Don’t criticize, blame, or judge. Point out what you both agree upon at the beginning of the conversation.

TIP: Things might not change between you and the difficult colleague at first, but it’s worth a try. In a corporate environment that is known for tactics and playing games, develop a reputation of someone who is direct, personal and genuine. You’ll stand out!

© 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 To Gain More Clarity Of Goals

Monday, September 4th, 2017

As a kid, my parents gave me no choice—I was going to go to college after I graduated from high school. I had no clarity of goals for my life, so I followed the blueprint laid out by my parents.

I followed the path chosen for me all through school, and when I graduated, some fool told me to follow my passion. Clothes were fun and interesting to me, so I looked for a job in retail. I was miserable, bored, and restless. To get out of the rut I had dug for myself, I went back to school to pursue a Masters degree—but in what?

I had no clue what I wanted to do with my life. Most of my friends had gotten married and started families. Was I supposed to do the same thing? I’d had enough of the “follow your passion” crap advice so I set out to pinpoint when and where I found joy in my life. Not vacuous happiness experiences, but deep and meaningful joy.

Two things came to mind: I loved history and books. Did that mean I was to be a writer of historical fiction? Or were history and books to be my favorite hobbies?

Leadership is understanding how to help people plot out clarity of goals. It can be a difficult and messy process and it takes mental toughness to work through the uncertainty. 

Do you follow the blueprint of someone else’s life or create one of your own? Parker Palmer wrote in his book, Let Your Life Speak, that he grew up admiring people like Martin Luther King and Ghandi. He set out to change the educational system from within. His goal was to become the president of UC Berkeley, and he was almost able to achieve his goal.

The problem was that he hated his job. Palmer finally realized that he could be inspired by people like King and Ghandi, but he didn’t have to walk their path. He resigned and started another career that was more authentic to him.

There are powerful and wonderful voices in the world that provide ideas of what we can do and where we should go. Ultimately, however, you must choose to create your own unique blueprint and not try and imitate the lives of others.

At the age of 25 I became an FBI agent. I had found a path that resonated with me. The values held closest by this venerable organization are Fidelity, Bravery, and Integrity. I loved the grit in integrity because I grew up a scrappy kid on a Wyoming cattle ranch. My new career wasn’t in history or books, but I didn’t leave them behind, either.

It was a trade-off, but the values of the FBI were also important to me. I cut myself a deal: I was living in alignment with my goals even though not everything was in perfect order. There were connections between what I was doing and what I believed to be true.

I retired from the FBI after almost 25 years and wrote 2 books about leadership development. And we’ll see where my love of history takes me in the future.

Here are 5 ways you can gain clarity of goals that are important to you:

1. Create The Right Morning Ritual

Research confirms that our brain is most active and creative immediately following sleep. Unfortunately, 80 percent of people between the ages of 18-44 check their smartphones within 15 minutes of waking up, thereby losing those precious creative moments.

In Morning Papers, Julia Cameron suggests we sit down every morning and write out 3 pages of whatever is on our mind. It might sound like a time-waster at first, but neuroscience backs up Cameron. Your brain is most creative upon waking up; use this time wisely to gain clarity on goals.

How To Make It Work For You: Go to a quiet place and grab a journal. Data dump whatever is on your mind but loosely direct your thoughts on how to gain clarity of goals. Write down whatever comes to mind about those things.

2. Focus Your Energy

Stoic philosopher Lucius Annaeus Seneca states that, “it’s not that we have a short time to live, but that we waste a lot of it.”

Today’s entertainment-on-demand world provides instant distractions. It’s easy to catch ourselves getting off track. As a result, our clarity of goals tend to rolled over by those distractions.

Steve Jobs suggested that we ask this question everyday: ”If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I’m about to do today?” It’s a powerful question because it forces us to focus on what we want to accomplish each day. Our approach to our day is purposeful because we identify which tasks are essential.

How To Make It Work For You: Say “no” to opportunities that do not align with your goals for the day. Forget the “busy work” that doesn’t move you toward your goals. Leave social media until the important work is done.

3. Align Immediate And Long-Term Goals

Psychologists Ken Sheldon and Tim Kasser have found that people who are mentally healthy and satisfied with life have a higher degree of vertical coherence among their goals. Long-term and immediate goals all fit together. The connection, even if loose, is important. The pursuit of short-term goals also advances the pursuit of long-term ones.

How To Make It Work For You: Always keep in mind that successful people achieve their goals not because of who they are, but because of what they do.

4. Create A Work Blueprint

Psychologist Martin Seligman found that people who can make a connection between their work and something socially meaningful are more likely to be satisfied. They are better able to adapt to the inevitable compromises that we all have to make in our job because they have clarity of goals.

How To Make It Work For You: Take a look at the questions below. The answers to them shouldn’t be a job description of what you do. What you do for a living is not important because the real question here is: why do you work. This will give you a general idea of your view of work:

  • What is work for?
  • Is it just about the money?
  • How does my work relate to what I feel is important?
  • Is my work worthwhile?
  • How does work provide you opportunities for growth and fulfillment?

5. Place Yourself Under Surveillance

Surveillance can produce a mother-lode of accurate information. FBI agents surveil terrorist suspects to get answers; you can surveil yourself at work to get answers about yourself. Create your own surveillance log.

How To Make It Work For You: Each evening, go back over the day’s activities:

  • Pinpoint where you were most engaged and energized.
  • Zoom in where you were least engaged and energized.

Rate each on a scale from 1 (lowest) to 10 (highest).

Reflect on “why” for each of the above. Did it have anything to do with environment, people, activities, or technology?

Now that you know where you are energized at your work, and where you are not, what can you do to change your situation? These are indicators of clarity of goals. Once you pinpoint the areas that breathe life into you, either look for ways to expand those areas in your current job, or start looking for a job where you can.

Remember that life is often a series of trade-offs between the values that are important and the opportunities in front of us. Many things in life are a compromise. Give yourself permission to cut a deal with yourself as long as there are connections between your short-term and long-term goals.

© 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.”