Archive for the ‘personal achievement’ Category

5 Ways Strong Minds Tap Into Authenticity

Sunday, February 1st, 2015

No one on my squad liked George. He was an officious know-it-all who grated on everyone who had to work with him. The solution was obvious—find a reason to never work with him! We got very creative in finding ways to give George the crap assignments no one else wanted.

Authentic - strong woman

Once the FBI has enough probable cause, warrants signed by a judge to search a suspect’s trash is not uncommon. Guess who was given the unpleasant job of searching through the slime ball’s garbage? George!

I giggled with the other agents as he put on his rubber gloves and headed out the door.

But then—George and his wife asked me over for dinner at their house. I risked losing my “cool status” among my squad mates if I went, but it seemed too cruel to make an excuse, so I said yes.

The George I met at the front door of his home was a completely different man from the one that showed up at the FBI office every day. He was still a little weird, but I couldn’t get over the shock of him being one way at work, while reverting back to his true personality at home.

As I thought about it on my way home, I wondered if I “acted” differently when at work? At a church event? With family members?

George is not the only one who struggles to live all aspects of his life with authenticity. Many of us put on an act when in certain situations. While we can make excuses for our behavior, the fact remains that when we are not authentic, we are pretending to act like someone else and afraid to voice our own truths.

It takes mental toughness to have the courage to be seen for who you really are. Authenticity is NOT being pressured into emotions, thoughts, and behavior by outside influences. It is about trusting your heart and following your gut instinct.

Here are 5 ways strong minds tap into authenticity:

1. Use Your Gut Instinct To Make Decisions

Strong minds tap into their authenticity when they are able to make decisions that come from their gut. 

If you stay true to yourself, and stick with work that has both meaning and value for you, nothing will be able to distract you from achieving your goals. 

Stop wasting time and energy on projects that do not resonate with you. When you listen to your gut, you become a lot clearer on what is, or isn’t, on your priority list.

2. Keep Your Eye On The Bigger Picture

Strong minds tap into their authenticity when they are able to focus on a future that is full of promise.

Once you hitch yourself to a project or career that resonates with you, obstacles and roadblocks are temporary. You will find the energy and creativity to keep moving forward. 

Use your energy to control your emotions, thoughts, and behavior so your outlook always remain focused and positive.

If you focus only on your barriers, you’ll never see the road.“—LaRae Quy

3. Resist The Temptation To Take It Personally

Strong minds tap into their authenticity when they are able to accept rejection without crumbling like a sugar cookie.

No one likes to be rejected, and often we don’t let people see us for who we really are because we fear their disapproval. When we’re criticized by others, it can cause us to crumble a little inside each time. Many times, we do silly things just to make sure we’re loved and accepted.

Strong minds have a deep sense of self-worth because they’ve taken an honest inventory of their qualities. They are not afraid to take ownership for who they are—and most importantly, for the awesome person they are becoming. 

4. Learn From Bad Times

Strong minds tap into their authenticity when they are able to be their very best in the darkest moments.

It’s easy to give up and blame others for your misfortune. If you have mental toughness, however, you use times of hardship to discover your inner strengths and capabilities. Despite your darkest moments, you were able to stay connected to your core—you remained true to your values and beliefs.

5. Stay Strong By Being Soft

Strong minds tap into their authenticity when they are able to thrive by developing a flexible and agile way of thinking.

Lao Tzu once said, “Water is fluid, soft, and yielding. But water will wear away rock, which is rigid and cannot yield. As a rule, whatever is fluid, soft, and yielding will overcome whatever is rigid and hard. This is another paradox: what is soft is strong.” 

You can survive, thrive, and be an incredible leader if you remain flexible when times are tough and outcomes are not clear. Mental toughness does not mean blasting through your obstacles and roadblocks. 

Often, being mentally tough requires the resilience to cope with the harsh realities of life without ever losing sight of the road.

How have you relied on authenticity to be a better leader?

© 2015 LaRaeQuy. All rights reserved.

 

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How To Think On Your Feet When Under Pressure

Sunday, January 18th, 2015

During a large meeting of agents at FBI Headquarters in Washington D.C., the Counterintelligence Section Chief turned to me and asked what I felt was the priority target for foreign spies in the San Francisco Bay Area. 

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My answer was based on solid information gathered by my fellow agents. I kept my answer concise and clear. The Section Chief nodded and then asked, “What operations have you initiated to stop it?”

As every head in the room turned toward me, I felt my mouth get dry and I cleared my throat so I could respond with a calm and clear voice. But the truth was awkward—I hadn’t initiated any operation against the target. Yikes!

Have any of you ever felt yourself under pressure to come up with the perfect answer when put on the spot by your CEO or supervisor? And in front of your colleagues? What if you can’t think of anything to say?

I felt a collective sigh of relief from the others that I had been the one singled out and forced to admit the FBI was struggling to find effective ways to penetrate the activities of a foreign intelligence service. It didn’t help that I’m the kind of person who comes up with perfect retorts—about twenty minutes after the question is asked.

Thinking on your feet is an important skill. Once you master it, your responses will create immediate confidence in what you’re saying.

Confidence is critical when learning to think on your feet. Confidence allows us to respond in ways that portrays competency, trustworthiness, intelligence, and a strong mind.

Here are 5 ways you can learn how to think on your feet when under pressure:

1. PREPARE, PREPARE, PREPARE

The secret to thinking on your feet is to be prepared.

There is no such thing as being over-prepared when you enter a meeting or situation where there is even the slightest possibility of finding yourself faced with unexpected questions.

This means taking the extra step—always. It also means working very hard as you brief yourself on the issues, the alternatives, and the consequences of each alternative. With a bit of reflection, it’s often possible to predict the types of questions you might be asked, so you can prepare and rehearse some answers to questions that might come your way.

Yes, you may be over-prepared 99% of the time, but when you do eventually hear your name called out, you will know the answer. 

That confidence will help you to remain calm when you’re in the hot seat.

2. GIVE YOUR THINKING BRAIN TIME TO CATCH UP WITH YOUR EMOTIONAL BRAIN

The secret to thinking on your feet is learning how to stall for time.

You’ve probably heard it said a hundred times that taking a deep breath is important.

But here is what you really need to know—stalling for time gives your thinking cerebral brain time to process the facts and override the emotional limbic system that is freaking out.

3. BE SAVVY IN THE WAY YOU STALL FOR TIME

The secret to thinking on your feet is asking for the question to be repeated, or better yet—repeat the question yourself, but this time change the wording slightly.

By changing the wording slightly, the onus is now on the person asking the question to reorganize their thoughts. Their mind is no longer solely focused on their original question as they absorb the new thought or twist you introduced when you repeated their question.

But, be clever about this, because it can also be very obvious to the individual asking the question that you are stalling for time or trying to avoid answering it. The key is slightly rewording the question and subtlety introducing a new element.

For example, when answering the Section Chief I could have reworded his question so it sounded more like, “What initiatives has San Francisco taken? Several—for example…” The attention was moved from “me” to “San Francisco.” 

And by answering with in-depth knowledge and confidence, I could have listed several operations initiated by my fellow agents. The momentum created by the direction I took the conversation would have shifted from what I personally had not done, to giving credit to my colleagues for testing out some creative approaches.

4. STICK TO ONE POINT AND SUPPORT IT WITH FACTS

The secret to thinking on your feet is making one fabulous point instead of trying to cover everything. 

When you’re under pressure to produce an answer, there’s a tendency to try and cover up what you don’t know by giving too much information. That does nothing but leave you looking as though you haven’t organized your thoughts and you risk more probing follow-up questions from the individual asking the question.

Long answers are always risky because they not only bore the listeners, they can make you look as though you are trying too hard to impress. 

Instead, focus on sticking to the point and support it with facts.

5. HAVE THE BALLS TO ADMIT YOU DON’T KNOW THE ANSWER

The secret to thinking on your feet is looking intelligent and competent, even when you don’t have the answer.

If you don’t know the answer, say so. Don’t risk your reputation by trying to make something up. You risk looking foolish and that will lower your confidence, both in your own eyes and in the eyes of the others in the room.

What tips do you have for thinking on your feet when under pressure?

© 2015 LaRaeQuy. All rights reserved.

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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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Develop Courage to Keep Going and Not Give Up

Sunday, November 18th, 2012

One of my favorite cartoons growing up was Popeye because he was an ordinary guy who had the courage to do extraordinary things. He drew upon an inner strength when the chips were down and courage was needed to save the day.

Courage - above the clouds

Popeye the Sailor Man did not wake up each day and announce to the world that he was going to be a hero. Instead, he met life as each one of us does everyday—with little fanfare and few fantasies about achieving super human deeds.

It was only when he found himself up against obstacles that threatened to derail his path and journey in life did Popeye reach down, pull out a can of spinach, and summon the courage to break through the barrier in front of him. Popeye was never imprisoned in his own mind by his circumstances or appearance.

No one wants to be a coward. Courage is a valued trait, no matter our background or nationality. Many of us will go to great lengths so others will think we’re courageous. In the Popeye cartoon, reaching down into a pocket for a can of spinach is a clever metaphor—we can all reach deep into ourselves to find the courage needed to overcome the fear we feel when confronted with risk, uncertainty, and the unknown.

We develop courage from mining the our own experiences. Movies tell us that courage is extraordinary and extreme action; in truth, many acts of courage happen deep below the surface in places that only the heart knows about.

“I wanted you to see what real courage is, instead of getting the idea that courage is a man with a gun in his hand. It’s when you know you’re licked before you begin, but you begin anyway and see it through no matter what.” —Atticus Finch, To Kill A Mockingbird

Here are some ways to develop courage to help you keep going:

1. Develop Courage By Taking Responsibility

We have become a society that shirks responsibility for our actions. We point fingers, file lawsuits, and refuse to enter into meaningful discussions: I am right and you are wrong—end of discussion! It is everyone’s fault but ours.

When you avoid taking responsibility for your own actions, you are not showing courage. Courage means taking a chance. If you’re not a little bit scared everyday, you’re not learning. And when you’re not learning, you’re done.

2. Develop Courage By Making A Change

Staying where you are may not be ideal, you tell yourself, but it’s comfortable. You work an 80-hour week, have a rocky marriage, and a dead end job—wow, and you are worried that a change will wreck your life? It takes courage to ask, “Is this all there is? Is there more out there for me?”

You may be staying where you are because it’s predictable and safe. Fear can be a great catalyst for courage in your life. Do not give up, stop pretending that average is OK, admit things are not perfect, and find the courage to make a change.

3. Develop Courage By Staying The Course

For some, the courage to keep going means making a change. For others, it may take more courage not to run away from our circumstances or situation. If the road is rocky but you are on the right path, you may need to stay put. Keep your eye on the goal. It might be easier to jump ship and move in a different direction, but sometimes the greatest act of courage is to stay the course. Don’t blame everything on everyone else. Researcher Brene Brown sums up blame like this: it is a way to discharge pain and discomfort. You can run but you can’t hide. Sometimes it takes more courage to do the interior work rather than shine up the exterior.

4. Develop Courage By Not Giving Up

Life is not supposed to be easy. We are wired for struggle. It’s the reason we need to develop courage if we’re to move forward in life. Just because you’re not where you want to be today, it doesn’t mean you won’t be there someday. Courageous people do not give up. They keep moving and trying. They make mistakes but they don’t quit. Life’s barriers are not there to keep you out; they’re there to give you a chance to show how badly you want something. Have faith in yourself and develop a strong mind to break through your brick wall.

Never give up! It takes courage to keep plowing ahead when confronted with risk, uncertainty, and the unknown. Reach down and pull out of big dose of courage to break through the brick walls that life sometimes throws up when least expected.

“Bran thought about it. ‘Can a man still be brave if he’s afraid?’

‘That is the only time a man can be brave,’ his father told him.” —George R.R. Martin, A Game of Thrones

© 2012 LaRaeQuy. All rights reserved.

 

You can follow me on Twitter

Sign up for my FREE Mental Toughness Mini-Course

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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