Archive for the ‘personal leadership’ Category

6 Ways To Get Through Adversity

Monday, April 16th, 2018

Anything worthwhile will require us to learn how to get through adversity. All of us will experience roadblocks in our careers, relationships, finances, and health at some point in our life.

If we want to get through adversity, we need to develop a mindset of mental toughness so we can keep on the move. Successful people understand that mindset beats strategy every time.

I learned at an early age that the way I thought about the problems before me would be way I would overcome them. When my brother and I were kids, Dad pointed out a still used to brew whiskey on our Wyoming ranch. We were on horseback and rode past a few barrel rings and a wall of rocks. Tucked into a steep draw, it was surrounded by aspen trees and a little cow trail that led to the bottom of the canyon near our house.

At that time, my brother and I collected antique glassware as a hobby. We planned to go back to the whiskey still and look around for old bottles at a later time. It should be easy enough to find, we thought. So after school we told our parents we were going out to play and would be back in time for supper. We walked up the canyon, and when we saw a draw that looked familiar, we started up.

Our ranch was located in the scatterings of the Snowy Mountain Range at an altitude of 7,000 feet. Summers are short in that country. The green aspen trees that looked lush and cozy when we rode past them a few months before, were now barren and cold.

Night fell much earlier in the winter months and dusk had begun to set in. We could not find the whiskey still but continued on until we reached the top of the draw. When we saw Laramie Peak in a distance, we knew we had climbed over 2,000 feet out of the canyon bottom.

We had climbed up the wrong draw, night was coming, and we had no flashlights. The rattlesnakes had hibernated for the winter, but conditions were still adverse. It was dark, the terrain was steep and rocky. The temperature had begun to drop at an alarming rate.

At the ages of ten and eleven, my younger brother and I learned young to how to get through adversity.

Here are 6 ways that will help you get through adversity as well:

1. Keep Your Eye On The Target

This was not the first time my brother and I had to embrace the suck. Winters are harsh on a Wyoming cattle ranch. We leaned into misery and pushed through our discomfort zones on a daily basis. Water in the cattle tanks froze over and we swung axes to break through three-inches of ice. Bales of hay needed to be loaded onto trucks and fed to cattle. The worse the weather, the more our livestock depended upon us for food and water.

Summers were even worse because we fixed fences, greased bailers, trailed cattle, and put up hay instead of playing with the neighborhood kids. Ooops, did I mention there were no neighborhood kids because our ranch was so isolated?

The lessons I learned to get down the mountain stayed with me the rest of my life. I spent four months at the FBI Academy in new agent’s training. We trained hard, day in and day out, no matter the weather conditions—in snow, wind, rain, or heat. Whenever I thought I couldn’t push myself any further, I remembered that cold night climbing back down a mountain when I was eleven years old. I knew I had what it took to get through adversity because I’d done it before.

How To Make It Work For You:  As entrepreneurs and business leaders, you also need ways to keep your team focused and fired up. High-performance companies provide a vision for a brighter future. This vision keeps employees focused and excited about the future. It prepares them to get through adversity because they can see beyond the current roadblock.

2. Grit Up

My brother and I were not sure how to get back home before we found ourselves in complete darkness and freezing temperatures. We decided that if we stayed with the cow trail it would ultimately lead us to our destination. But we’d lost the trail! We hopped over rocks and fallen trees in an attempt to find it.

We developed a strategy: as long we were headed downhill, we were headed in the right direction. The draw had many smaller ones that meandered over the sides of the canyon and we were tempted at times, but time was important and we knew the quickest way down was the way we came up. We persisted and found the cow path again.

As an FBI agent, there were many times when I needed to grit up and remain persistent if I hoped to solve a case. FBI investigations do not come with a set of instructions on how to solve them. It can take many attempts, many failures, many iterations, before the answer is found.

How To Make It Work For You: To get through adversity, attack the problem from a different angle if your first, or tenth, approach doesn’t work. Learn to pivot when needed. Where there is a will, there is a way.

3. Keep A Lid On Emotions

While neither my brother or I panicked, we were scared—but we never let negativity set in. We acknowledged our fears but remained confident in our ability to get home safely.

I have drawn my weapon while making an arrest. I was scared and afraid of what I would need to do if the person resisted.

It’s always important to acknowledge emotions, but to get through adversity you need to remind yourself that you have the mental toughness to manage the negative ones. You may not be able to change the conditions but you can change the way you deal with them. It’s possible to have self-control in an out-of-control environment.

How To Make It Work For You: You can control your team’s emotions when you get their buy-in. As a leader, help everyone connect with the vision you have. This becomes even more important when things look tough.

4. Accept Responsibility

My brother and I had no one to blame but ourselves. This was no game we were playing and we had to have the strength to look at our adversity realistically and take responsibility for getting ourselves back home. Our parents had no idea we had headed out to find the whiskey still because we hadn’t told them.

As an FBI agent, I found that self-examination would be one of the most important ways I could become a more effective leader and achieve my goals. When I confronted obstacles and adversity, I was not afraid to question my thinking. Often, this self-examination uncovered biases or assumptions I had made that either contributed to the obstacle or stood in my way of overcoming it.

How To Make It Work For You: Self-awareness leads to emotional intelligence—a better understanding of yourself and how you interact with others. A self-examination includes a regular review of values, desires, and fears. This honest assessment can lead to a reinvention of goals and beliefs.

5. Pace Yourself

My brother and I both knew that if we stopped, we’d freeze to death before morning. On the other hand, if we depleted our resources, we’d be unable to continue.

I learned it was important to pace myself while running obstacle courses at the FBI Academy. I was not a strong runner, and while I enthusiastically charged out the gate, I knew I’d need to pace myself to last the entire obstacle course.

The same logic applied to my investigations: if I depleted my resources, ran myself to exhaustion, and then needed to respond to a fast-moving break in the case, I was in serious trouble. This can happen in any area of our life; we move so fast that we fail to recognize what goes on around us. Whether we call it alertness or paranoia, it’s always prudent to look to the horizon for both threats and opportunities.

How To Make It Work For You: We can work hard, but we don’t always work smart. To be high-performers, we need to pace ourselves because it allows us the time to prioritize our values and what is important to us. To learn more, read the chapter called The 20 mile March in “Great by Choice” by Jim Collins.

6. Create Community

My brother and I were a team and we worked together to get back down the hill. We provided moral support for one another. We jumped across waterfalls and mucked through inches of mud to follow the meandering cow path.

The personal leadership skill of camaraderie is one of the first lessons taught at the FBI Academy. For the first three weeks, new agents are not allowed to leave the Marine Corp base. Instead, we were expected to develop a supportive community that would be needed during our four months of training.

The concept of total team accountability as part of the culture is a core tenant of SEAL training and life in the “Teams.” From week one they are taught to hold themselves and their classmates to the highest standard. Peer reviews play a pivotal role in a student’s success. And they carry that concept over into the Teams as part of their peer-to-peer learning culture. Failure to execute is not an option.

The ability to relate to others was one of the most effective skills I developed in my career as a counterintelligence agent. Everyone has the need to be heard, and the need for information that can be put into action. The listener is a essential role because even very successful leaders need people who are allied to their cause.

My brother and I made is safely home that night to parents who were very worried.

How To Make It Work For You: If you learn how to get through adversity, it will help you turn underachievement into superior achievement. As long as you can stay alive, you are still in the game.

© 2018 LaRae Quy. 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.”

7 FBI Traits That Will Make You A Better Leader

Monday, April 9th, 2018

I loved being an FBI agent because there was a sense of meaning and purpose every time I walked into the office. The FBI’s mission is to protect the American people and uphold the Constitution of the United States.

I worked hard to solve complex problems. You might be imagining movies, gun battles, and running down bad guys. In truth, a lot of what I did as an agent wasn’t all that different from many of the challenges you face as entrepreneurs, leaders, and business owners.

I was good with a gun, I admit, but most of my time was spent working with people who had different opinions and a conflict of interest. This created problems I couldn’t just shoot. Instead, they required people skills; I suspect many of you can relate.

Today’s business world is volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous. If you want to move your career or company forward, you have to learn how to be a better leader:

The FBI does not hire new agents based on their skills. Instead, they hire by the traits and values exhibited by applicants and then train new agents with the skill sets they will need. If an agent has the right values, traits, and abilities, they can learn anything.

This is where most businesses have it backward. Instead of hiring people because of their traits and values, they hire skill sets and then try to backload the company’s culture and values.

If the goal of leadership is to empower people to make their own decisions, then here are 7 FBI traits that will make you a better leader:

1. Confidence

Boosting confidence is the primary goal of the FBI Academy—before they send agents out with a gun and badge.

As a new agent, there were days when my heart raced and my palms sweat just thinking about the new challenges that faced me. But I learned that success would not make me confident—rather, confidence in myself and my abilities would make me successful.

If you don’t believe in yourself, how can others believe in you? It took a bit of acting on my part in the beginning, but the more I acted confident, the more confident I became. Feedback from others was positive, which in turn, gave me more confidence!

TIP: You become a better leader when you cultivate ways to signal your confidence to others, especially using body language.

When our brain receives a clear image of confidence and competence, it takes that good impression and makes a snap judgment. This allows the brain to move on to other issues.

2. Humility

A few years back my squad was set to arrest a fugitive known to be armed and dangerous. Since I was the case agent, everyone assumed I would be the one to make the arrest. The fugitive was a big guy with broad shoulders and sure to resist arrest, and defensive tactics had never been my strong point.

It is humbling to admit to yourself, or others, that you are not the best person for the job. It’s OK to admit it and turn to another person more experienced or better prepared, and ask for their help.

You may not need help in arresting a fugitive, but you may need to surround yourself with people who are more experienced or better prepared, and ask for their help. The best leaders are confident enough to surround themselves with people who are smarter and more talented.

They are also humble enough to learn from these people because they understand they will get a better outcome as a result of their involvement. 

TIP: You become a better leader when you are willing to listen to, but not be dominated by, the talent around you. If you are the smartest person in the room, you’re in the wrong room.

3. Good Values

For insiders, FBI stands for Fidelity, Bravery, and Integrity. These are the values that drive the organization.

Leadership is not a skill set; it is rooted in who we are and what matters to us. Our values are defined by what we are willing to struggle for when the chips are down. It’s doing the right thing and doing the best we can because that is who we are.

Ultimately, our values define our struggles. When we choose better values, we get better problems to solve. We need to be motivated by something more important and greater than our own happiness. If we are not driven to take our life to the next level by something more than our own selfish desires, we are the definition of a narcissist.

TIP: When you prioritize good values, you become a better leader because they produces true confidence and genuine humility. Decisions are easier because the answer is always “do the right thing.”

4. Kindness

Not all FBI negotiations involve the barrel of a gun. The most successful agents find ways to get along with people, pure and simple.

It is rare that an agent can dictate how a relationship is going to unfold. In the movies we hear lines like, “OK, this is what you’re going to do for me.” In reality, we need to look for what’s mutually beneficial if we’re looking to cut a deal or negotiate.

The best way to accomplish this is to find common ground, and this is accomplished by being sensitive to the needs of the other person. Exhibiting kindness helps us become a better leader because bullying, extortion, or browbeating rarely gets constructive results.

TIP: Mentally tough leaders who are kind know how to inspire their people in a way that, in turn, creates a commitment for their mission.

5. Tough

It may seem that kindness and toughness are contradictions, but they are actually very compatible. There are times when a leader needs to hold people accountable and draw a clear line that differentiates between acceptable and unacceptable behavior.

Great leaders don’t worry about being unpopular or making everyone happy. They’re always reminding themselves that their job is to improve the organization.

While rules and standards provide structure for people, tough leaders are not afraid to buck the system to get what they want. They know how to interpret the cultural norms of the office or company and are respectful, yet persistent, in presenting new ideas for projects.

It is the mixture of toughness and kindness that opens doors without alienating the standard bearers that have calcified in their corner office desk chair.

TIP: You become a better leader when you stumble and make mistakes but are tough enough to take control of your reputation and manage the way you are perceived.

6. Listening Skills

I didn’t know what to expect when the FBI sent me to a training course on hostage negotiation.  As an unassuming man stood in front of the class and welcomed everyone in dulcet tones, I was looking around for the hard ass who had talked down a terrorist in New York the week before. The man spoke politely but I didn’t listen because I wanted to hear from the hostage negotiator!

Guess what? He was the hard ass hostage negotiator. That week I learned the key to agreements, whether you are negotiating with a kidnapper or a client, is that they happen only when both sides are willing to listen.

This is a skill that will help us become a better leader because when we listen, we get insight into how other people think, feel, and behave. It is counterproductive to be aggressive, pushy, and demanding. Instead, good listeners are likable and create an environment that feels both safe and comfortable. They are secure enough that they are not threatened by listening to someone who may have more talent or experience.

TIP: It’s a good idea to repeat what you think you heard the other person say. It lets them know you really are listening, and gives you an opportunity to let their words soak in.

7. Emotional Intelligence

The FBI is not a touchy-feely organization; agents prefer terms like competence and persistence to explain their success. The words emotional intelligence rarely escape their lips. Yet face-to-face interviews remain the FBI’s top investigative technique.

Emotional intelligence is an ability to walk into a room and understand what others might be feeling, and through that insight, communicate to them in effective ways. Awareness and curiosity about their own emotions, as well as those of others, place leaders in a stronger position to not only recognize the negative ones but to anticipate how they could spin out of control.

TIP: Emotional intelligence helps you become a better leader because it enables you to build on relationships with others and then use those relationships to accomplish your goals.

I actually have come to learn that the way to evaluate leaders is not from skills through abilities to values but to actually start the other way. If a leader has the right values and the right abilities, they can learn anything. If you hire and promote backwards and start with, ‘so what are their skills? What jobs have they had?’—you may miss the fact that they don’t have the abilities you need and the values you need”—James Comey, Former FBI Director

© 2018 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 Become A Charismatic Leader

Monday, April 2nd, 2018

The most charismatic leader I have ever met was an FBI supervisor who had a powerful personality, a powerful sense of humor, and a powerful ability to motivate the agents who worked for him.

Many of our most effective leaders are labeled charismatic and yet it was not something they were born with. They acquired it through knowledge and practice.

We can learn effective leadership skills. In the same way, charisma is a process of learning how to motivate others to help achieve group goals. We are not born with a natural ability to win the hearts and minds of others.

Many people confuse charisma with likability and while likable people can be persuasive, charismatic leaders have thoughtfully fine-tuned their public image into one where they are seen to be someone who advances the interests of the group they represent.

Charisma is not something possessed by a leader; it is foisted upon the leader by followers. It is a gift bestowed by the group because the leader has conveyed to the group that they all share the same sense of worth, vision, and goals.

German sociologist Max Weber did not believe charisma was a rare quality possessed by certain lucky individuals. Instead, he said that what is important is how the individual is regarded by his/her followers. In other words, followers distinguish the leader from others and confer charisma on him or her.

A charismatic leader is someone who is emotionally competent—a core component of mental toughness.

Here are 6 ways to become a charismatic leader:

1. Win The Hearts Of Followers

Charisma centers on the capacity for a leader to be seen by followers as someone who advances the interests of the group. We trust the leader to take us in the right direction and believe he/she is one of us.

It’s important, however, that the group feels on equal footing with the leader, so find ways to confirm in their minds that you are all in it together and that your self-worth is tied to their best interests.

The inaugural addresses of Franklin D. Roosevelt and John F. Kennedy represent charismatic leadership. FDR spins a tale of how he overcame adversity while JFK reminded people of youth and opportunity. In neither case was the charisma that flowed from their speeches self-evident. Rather, both were constructed to win over their followers.

How To Make It Work For You: Use stories and anecdotes when you speak to others. They help people feel engaged, and as a result, they will feel connected with you.  When you show your team how you’ve worked together with others in the past, it assures them that you’ll do it again. Stories and anecdotes also provide a way for others to visualize how they could have been a valuable team member if they had been there.

2. Make People Feel Special

No matter who you are, take the time to make the person across from you feel important and fascinating. Make them feel as though you are completely with them as you follow their conversation. 

A study conducted by Harvard professor Daniel Gilbert estimated that 46.9% of the time our mind “wanders.” To make a person feel special, focus on what they say and reflect back on what you heard. We are active listeners when we have a moment-to-moment awareness of what’s happening. In the middle of a conversation, if your mind is somewhere else, your eyes will glaze over and your companions will notice. Make an effort to be in the moment.

Most of us wait for someone to finish speaking before we offer our response. Instead, ask them questions. It’s another way to let others know that they are special and you are truly interested in what they have to say.

How To Make It Work For You: 1) Nod occasionally, not frequently; 2) Ask questions, even if it means interrupting them because it shows that you are genuinely interested; 3) Don’t let your eyes wander— stay fixed on their face; and 4) Pause for a couple of seconds before responding. This lets others know that your response will be thoughtful.

3. Use The Right Words

Solidarity in vision and direction of the company inspires people and increases group optimism for the future. When group identity is strong, there is more likelihood of referring to the group as “us.” Use words like us and we rather than me and I. When you’re dealing with diverse groups, divide and conquer. Find ways to use the words us and we when talking to each group separately. Each group needs to be left with the impression that you are on their side.

But here is where charisma becomes more of an art than a science—never let others feel that you are not genuine in the way you reach out. Show diverse groups that you understand the unique struggles they face, and that by advocating for one it does not imply you are abandoning the other.

When President Reagan was asked what voters saw in him, he responded, “I think they see themselves and that I am one of them.”

A charismatic leader is someone who clarifies what we believe rather than telling people what they believe. They are able to lead their audience to draw the conclusions one desires rather than spelling out those ideas for them. A charismatic leader allows their story to unfold rather than issue an order or proclamation. This allows followers to make up their own mind. In doing so, you’ve implied that you rely on your followers to use their own intelligence and experience to draw the right conclusions.

How To Make It Work For You: Use words that people can relate to. Charismatic leaders use words that are concrete rather than abstract. “I feel your pain” creates an emotional tie whereas a phrase like “I understand” does not. The most charismatic leader is the one talks to people’s gut rather than their brain.

4. Be Sincere

A charismatic leader watches their body language because they know it’s vital that they give the impression they are open and sincere to the people they meet. Paul Ekman’s research tells us that it takes as little as 17 milliseconds for people to read another person’s face. We may present a primary expression to others when we meet them, but if the micro-expression that we leak is incongruent with the primary expression, people will know in their gut that you’re not sincere.

Studies have shown that our brains do not know the difference between imagination and reality. Visualization is another important mental toughness tool because we can trick our mind into believing we will succeed at a task.

How To Make It Work For You: Think of something pleasant when meeting others. It will show in your face. When you smile, make it sincere. That means your cheeks must push up and create wrinkles around your eyes. Yes, wrinkles can be a good thing.

5. Learn How To Read Body Language

The brain controls all behaviors, both conscious and subconscious. This premise is the cornerstone if you want to understand verbal and non-verbal communication.

The limbic system is that part of the brain that reacts to events around us—in real time and without thought.

These reactions are genuine and are considered to be the “honest” part of our brain. The limbic brain enlists the body to send messages about what it is really feeling. The body will signal stress and discomfort in a variety of ways, and we interpret these behaviors as body language.

How To Make It Work For You: Turn off the volume of your favorite television show and watch without any sound. Figure out what is going on in the scenes. Then watch the scene again, only this time with the volume turned on. This practice will help you become more attuned to verbal and non-verbal cues.

6. Create A Strong Persona

Charismatic leaders communicate with confidence and clarity. People sit up and pay attention. They are clear and articulate with their words and ensure that each statement has a purpose.No matter what the situation, they articulate their goals and vision.

Warren Bennis wrote, “Good leaders make people feel that they’re at the very heart of things, not at the periphery. Everyone feels that he or she makes a difference to the success of the organization. When that happens, people feel centered, and that gives their work meaning.”

A strong persona means that you are confident in your abilities but not puffed up because of them. It also means that you have no self-doubt about your talents and skill sets.

How To Make It Work For YouA strong persona does not require great physical strength or ego; however, it does require two things: 1) full display of your core competencies (intelligence, kindness, empathy, etc) mixed with 2) warmth of personality.

© 2018 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 Tips From The Stoics On How To Develop Mental Toughness

Monday, March 19th, 2018

As an FBI agent, I became an observer into the lives of people under investigation. Upon my retirement from the FBI, I completed graduate studies at San Francisco Theological Seminary. In the process, I became a more thoughtful observer of my own life.

I started to embrace the Stoic claim that many of the things we desire are not worth the pursuit. Instead, Stoic philosophy focused on how to develop the mental toughness to manage negative emotions such as anger, grief, anxiety, and fear.

Stoicism was the forerunner of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, one of the most effective psychological tools used by therapists today. CBT proposes that when we change the way we think about a problem, it leads to a change in behavior. Mental toughness can be defined as managing our emotions, thoughts, and behavior in ways that set us up for success.

The ancient Stoic philosophers had great tools to help fight the helplessness that sets in when it feels like the world is against you. Stoics knew how to develop mental toughness. Stoicism sounds serious but it started with a bunch of guys in togas who sat on porches almost two thousand years ago and taught philosophy. Stoa means porch so stoicism is actually porch wisdom.

Here are 5 tips from the Stoics on how to develop mental toughness:

1. Train In Winter

We must undergo a hard winter training and not rush into things for which we haven’t prepared.”—Epictetus

Roman armies disbanded during the winter unless engaged in a series of raids. Epictetus believed that there was no such thing as Spring training for soldiers—or anyone for that matter. To land on our feet, we must keep our mind active all the time.

It’s too late to train or prepare when the shit hits the fan or when the stakes are high. As entrepreneurs, business owners, and leaders, you already know you can’t read a book on basketball and then go to the NBA. You know you must always prepare for what life might throw at you, so when it does, you’re ready.

When we train and prepare, we continually learn new skills. Neuroplasticity is the ability of the brain to continuously create new neural pathways. When we repeat skills we are trying to learn, we strengthen those neural networks.

How To Make It Work For You: You learn how to develop mental toughness when you train your mind to think and prepare for the challenges ahead. Keep your brain alert and active all the time. If you can’t actually perform a particular task, simply visualize yourself doing it. Your brain cannot tell the difference.

2. Embrace The Test

I judge you unfortunate because you have never lived through misfortune. You have passed through life without an opponent—no one can ever know what you are capable of, not even you.”—Seneca

When I look back over my 24 year career as an FBI agent, you know what I remember the most? The difficult times. The hardest training at the FBI Academy and the most frustrating investigations were also the moments that were the most formative for me.

Challenges in life are unavoidable. Researchers believe that if we can learn to accept them as children, it will help our chance of success as adults. Children who learn to handle their own problems are also the ones with exceptional achievement as adults.

There is a Chinese saying “Chi Ku Shi Fu” (eating bitterness is good fortune) that highlights the idea that there is the opportunity for wisdom and growth in the midst of misfortune. While we don’t have control over the situations that life will bring to us, we do have a choice as to how we will react to them.

How To Make It Work For You: You learn how to develop mental toughness when you face your opponents, challenges, and misfortunes with an open mind. Look for ways to learn from your challenges. You may need to dig deep, but claim the wisdom from those times you are tested. It will you move to a higher level of well-being and perspective.

3. Prepare On Sunny Days

It is when times are good that you should gird yourself for tougher times ahead…so it is that soldiers practice maneuvers in peacetime, erecting bunkers with no enemies in sight and exhausting themselves under no attack so that when it comes, they won’t grow tired.”—Seneca

Seneca writes that we should prepare in advance so that nothing ever takes us by surprise. In today’s language, he wants us to develop resilience in the face of adversity. We should toughen up before the crisis hits us so we know how to respond.

When we spend time thinking about the downside, Cognitive Behavior Therapy says that we decatastrophize it. Remember CBT? The Stoics invented it. Don’t be the person who freaks out at work when something goes wrong. Be prepared and handle it with finesse and aplomb.

How To Make It Work For You: You learn how to develop mental toughness when you ask “What is the worst that could happen?” This is not pessimism; it’s being realistic. Take the time on a sunny day to prepare yourself to respond in an effective manner when the storm hits.

4. Find Your Hidden Power

Consider who you are. Above all, a human being, carrying no greater power than your own reasoned choice, which oversees all other thing, and is free from any other master.”—Epictetus

Epictetus walked with a limp as the result of being chained up as a slave. For Stoics like him, the only thing you ever really have control over are your deliberate thoughts. You can’t control other people, you can’t control your situation, and you can’t always control your own body. So the only thing over which you do have control is your emotions, thoughts, and behavior—the essence of mental toughness.

We need to accept that there are many things over which we have no control. We can, and should, try to influence them if we can. But once you begin to feel you need to control other people or situations, it’s likely that emotions will get out of control if things don’t go your way.

How To Make It Work For You: You learn how to develop mental toughness when you acknowledge that it does no good to worry about things you can’t control. Instead, spend your time on things over which you have complete control, like your goals and values. If you do this, you’ll avoid the anxiety that comes with the need to control.

5. Color Your Thoughts

Your mind will take the shape of what you frequently hold in thought, for the human spirit is colored by such impressions.”—Marcus Aurelius

The Stoics had some great tools to help fight negative feelings because when you know how to deal with the negative, it gives you more time for the positive.

If we maintain a negative outlook, soon everything we encounter will seem negative. When we color our thoughts with negativity, it bleeds into other parts of our life as well.

Stoics believed that we are moved to action by positive emotions, such as a sense of indignation at having witnessed an injustice, or a desire to make the world a better place for everyone. Negative emotions color our thoughts, emotions, and behavior in unproductive ways.

How To Make It Work For You: You learn how to develop mental toughness when you seek the positive in your situation. Believe you will prevail in your circumstances rather than believing your circumstances will change.

© 2018 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 Things Confident Women Never Do

Monday, March 5th, 2018

As a female FBI agent, I needed to come across as confident when interviewing suspects. Confidence sent the message that I was both competent and in a position of authority.

I focused on conveying the right body language with shoulders back, head up, and making direct eye contact. I spent time preparing for the interview by looking at the facts of the case and thoroughly going over the analytics, assessments, and witness accounts.

This process was important because it removed all doubt of my competence in my own head. It imbued me with the confidence that I could find the truth and make reliable conclusions.

Confidence should never be confused with arrogance. Arrogance is thinking you are better than somebody else; confidence is knowing you are competent and expecting to be treated with respect.

I learned from my fellow FBI agents that men can suffer from lack of confidence as acutely as women, but females struggle with a more complex array of confidence issues than men because media and slick advertising promote the image of professional women as thin, dressed in designer clothes, and wearing stiletto heels.

But it doesn’t stop with this—there are few areas in a woman’s life that are not targeted for improvement, and with that comes the implication that she is far from perfect. Some areas of low confidence include: not worthy of a promotion, too fat, wrong skin color, not educated enough, not worthy of love, not athletic enough…the list goes on.

No wonder women lack confidence! In truth, confidence has nothing to do with beauty, height, weight, skin, clothes, relationships, or intelligence. Confidence is a gift that only you can can give to yourself. If you have it, no one can take it from you. On the other hand, don’t look to others to give it to you, either.

Here are 6 things confident women never do:

1. TAKE THEIR DAY FOR GRANTED

Confident women never forget to start their day with gratitude. Gratitude puts your life into perspective. Start and end each day with at least 5 positive affirmations about what you are thankful for about yourself.

Gratitude is a powerful emotion for mental toughness because it reminds you to be confident in yourself and your abilities. How can you be thankful for what you’re going to receive if you aren’t grateful for what you already have?

Bottom Line: Confidence is about progress, not perfection. Positive things happen to positive people.

2. AVOID MAKING EYE CONTACT WITH EVERYONE THEY MEET

Confident women never miss an opportunity to flex their confidence muscle during their day in the world. They make eye contact with everyone they meet because they have the confidence to initiate conversations and spread their influence. They know their thoughts have the ability to make a valuable and impactful contribution to other people.

Bottom Line: Women with confidence can look a man in the eye and control the situation, and not trivialize the encounter by allowing it to turn into flirting.

3. STAY INSIDE THEIR COMFORT ZONE

Confident women never shrink inside their comfort zone. Instead, they are curious abut the world around them and look for ways to explore it.

Women with confidence believe in their ability to gain knowledge and solve problems. Self-esteem is believing in your competence—learn from your failures and mistakes so you do not repeat them going forward.

Bottom Line: Past failure does not predict future failure— develop the mental toughness to stick with it because when you do succeed, that experience will give you more confidence.

4. SPEAK IN QUIET TONES

Confident women never fade into the background by speaking in low tones. They know how to crank up the volume so their opinions and views are heard. This does not mean they are shrill or boisterous.

I do not have a loud voice, but I do have a strong one. When I have something to say, I say it loud enough and enunciate clearly so people both hear and understand.

Bottom Line: If you don’t have anything of value to say, keep your mouth shut. Don’t lose credibility by blabbing just so you can stay in the conversation.

5. OFFER LIMP HANDSHAKES

Confident women never offer a limp wrist or dead fish handshake. They clamp down and shake hands with authority. Women, in particular, can be bad about this and it sets a weak and feeble message from the very beginning. Practice your handshake if need be, but get it right.

In an FBI interview, if there is a conflict between what the suspect is saying and their body language, agents will always give more credibility to the non-verbal message.

Bottom Line: Body language sends a powerful message so make sure you are not sabotaging your career by using powerful words that are weighed down with wimpy body language that is full of self-doubt and lack of confidence.

6. FORGET THEY ARE DEFINED BY THE COMPANY THEY KEEP

Confident women never forget that by surrounding themselves with people who are upbeat and positive, they are making a choice on how their life will be defined.

Plato once said, “People are like dirt. They can either nourish you and help you grow as a person or they can stunt your growth and make you wilt and die.”

If we are not nourished, our souls will choke and wither away. Don’t put down roots in poor soil because we grow where we’re planted. Rich soil empowers us to surround ourselves with friends and mentors who show us how to move forward with confidence as leaders.

Bottom Line: Pick your friends with care—they create the environment in which you will either thrive or wilt. Give everyone the opportunity to be a friend, but share your dreams and goals only with those who value them as much as you do.

Confidence is believing that we are a person of value. We are ultimately responsible for everything that goes on in our lives. People who are confident keep building on their self-worth, and when they do, they convey the competence and authority they need to be successful in business and life.

© 2018 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 Things Positive People Never Do

Monday, February 26th, 2018

I make an effort to surround myself with positive people. Positive thinking is a cornerstone of mental toughness because positivity creates a mindset that can adapt to obstacles and roadblocks that show up in both business and life.

Unfortunately, positive thinking has become ensconced in a culture of woolly and fluffy assumptions that imply all we need to do is visualize what success looks like—and it will happen! It has been reduced to weak platitudes and shallow quotes meant to inspire us to soar to greater heights.

Gag.

If that wasn’t bad enough, positive people are also confused with optimists. Let me clarify for you: positive people believe they will prevail in their circumstances rather than believe their circumstances will change. Optimists, however, believe that things will change, and for the better. Positive people rely on their grit and determination to make the most of a bad situation because sometimes, shit happens. They’re stuck in an undesirable situation and no amount of hope will change it.

An optimist can never relax; they can’t afford to let sadness creep in. They can try to follow the famous self-help advice and eliminate the word “failure” from their vocabulary; but then how will they explain failure when it strikes? And it will. Positive people are not afraid of failure because their minds can adapt to their new circumstances and plan for a better iteration next time.

When times get tough, here are 5 things positive people never do:

1. Fall For Sappy Slogans

I’ve read so many articles on how to fill my life with happiness that I’m ready to puke. Happiness is the by-product of vacuous and superficial sappy slogans that prey on our emotions. You want real happiness? Grab hold of something with more substance, like joy and contentment.

Positive people avoid cheery, sappy slogans that are intended to lift the user’s mood when they repeat them. Post-it notes litter mirrors and computers across the country and while they boost our mood for a while, the results are temporary.

Researchers have discovered that there is a distinct difference between happiness and meaning. When we achieve our goal, we experience happiness for a short period of time. When we achieve a goal freighted with value, we experience joy and contentment that provides meaning for our life.

How To Make It Work For You: When you try too hard to convince yourself, and others, that you’re happy and lovable, all you’ve done is remind yourself, and others, of what you don’t have! Instead, focus on goals that are meaningful to you. Happiness is the by-product.

2. Forget To Plan For The Worst Case Scenario

When you remind yourself of what could go wrong, you’re not being a pessimist. You’re being smart. You will encounter rude bosses, conniving colleagues, and pain-in-the-ass customers. Why not prepare for them?

There is a place for those who plan for the worst-case scenario so they can plan on how to turn the situation around and make it successful. They imagine every conceivable setback and obstacle and find ways to cope and overcome the adversity before it becomes a reality. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy suggests spending time thinking about the potential downside of a conversation or event in advance can help you avoid an “oh shit” moment.

How To Make It Work For You: Imagine how you would handle a bad situation. Assume for a moment that a rival buys your company. Jot down a few ways you might come out on top if it happens. For example, arrange to meet key executives of the rival company so they know you’ll handle the situation in a professional and respectful manner.

3. Set Unrealistic Goals

Positive people are always realistic about their goals. Gabriele Oettingen, professor of psychology at New York University and the author of Rethinking Positive Thinking believes that part of the problem is that people tend to visualize their goals as already accomplished without thinking about the obstacles that stand in the way.

If a person is optimistic about the future, they’ll enjoy it in the moment but they won’t get the energy and motivation they need to attain the goal. Oettingen touches upon the need to differentiate fantasy from visualization. Visualization is a science-based way for people to achieve their goals. The problem happens when fantasy raises its ugly head. The brain is smart and it can tell the difference between a desire to stretch our performance to meet a goal and our fantasy about it.

A goal might be to play the guitar. Your fantasy might be for you to perform in a sold-out rock concert. When we daydream about the future, we convince ourselves we’re already there and are less inclined to put in the effort required to reach our goals.

Oettingen feels that a bit of negativity can help us determine whether or not it’s worth it to pursue our goals. Positive people are not afraid to look at the negative side of an equation. They know it might have something important to tell us. When they contrast the future with the current reality, and assess the obstacles, they might let go of the dream and focus on more realistic goals.

How To Make It Work For You: We need to be on the lookout for what might go wrong without allowing negativity to overwhelm us. Positive people can hold the tension of a pessimistic evaluation alongside a positive one.

4. Let Anxiety Take Over

In her book, The Positive Power of Negative Thinking, Julie Norem wrote “At first, I asked how these people were able to do so well despite their pessimism. Before long, I began to realize that they were doing so well because of their pessimism.”

Norem found that pessimists turned their anxieties into action. Because they expected the worst, they were prepared for it and put more effort into finding a solution.

Oliver Burkeman makes an interesting observation in his book, The Antidote: Happiness For People Who Can’t Stand Positive Thinking. He argues that because people are led to believe they should always feel happy and motivated, they often put off tasks that don’t make them happy. If life were perfect and there were no such things as unpleasant tasks, that mindset might lead to success. But, in the real world, this mindset leads into a downward spiral of unaddressed tasks and actions.

How To Make It Work For You: Learn to live with the unpleasant tasks and get on with the job at hand. Co-exist with what isn’t perfect and do something anyway.

5. Ignore The Sweet Spot

Pessimists help us anticipate the worst and prepare for it. People who never worry have lower job performance than those who worry about it on a regular basis. Studies have shown that when CEO’s are optimistic, they take on more risky projects and often put their companies in jeopardy.

Positive people know how to weigh the wisdom of both pessimists and optimists. Pessimists are catastrophes waiting to happen while optimists are impractical. Positive people look for the sweet spot that combines the benefits of both approaches.

How To Make It Work For You: Your success is not determined on whether you are an optimist or pessimist, but rather how you choose your strategies to process information from both sides.

© 2018 LaRae Quy. All rights reserved.

You can follow me on Twitter, Facebook, AND LinkedIn

Get my FREE 45-Question Mental Toughness Assessment

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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.” 

7 Things Mentally Tough People Refuse To Think

Sunday, February 18th, 2018

I learned how to become mentally tough after I failed the interim physical fitness test at the FBI Academy. With this failure came the understanding that I was not so great after all and that I stood a good chance of being washed out.

I became obsessed with improving my fitness scores. My focus narrowed down to the next day’s training. I dug deep to uncover why I wanted to become an FBI agent. Drilling down on these sets of values propelled me over the next couple of months and I did eventually pass the fitness test.

As business owners and entrepreneurs, you also face hard challenges. It might be the marketplace, nervous investors, or aggressive competition, but you will need to be mentally tough if you plan to focus your thinking and move through those challenges successfully.

It’s hard to feel mentally tough when you’re stuck. You need the grit to welcome challenges as obstacles to overcome.

Here are 7 things mentally tough people refuse to think:

1. Struggle Has No Meaning

To my horror, many of my FBI colleagues relished the new challenges presented each day at the Academy. I thought they were crazy—they actually volunteered to experience pain and discomfort! What normal person does that?

I learned that mentally tough people often voluntarily choose the hard path, the road less traveled. They will go out of their way to experience failure so they can turn their focus into looking for ways to turn obstacles into opportunities.

It takes confidence to look failure in the face and keep moving forward, because if we are confident in ourselves and our ability, we look at our struggle as part of the fine-tuning process.

TIP: People become mentally tough when they give their struggle the finger, and instead, focus on improvement and growth.

2. Winning Is Everything

When people ask me to talk about my biggest failure, I talk about the pain of failing the interim physical fitness test. It was a failure that cut to the core, but it also inspired a remarkable amount of personal growth. I learned more from that single failure than from any of my successes.

Most of us fear failure so much that we shuffle along in life until we accidentally stumble onto something at which we are good. Success can be very misleading because often it is not what really fuels us. It is a success that is based in complacency because we are too scared of failure to pursue the type of work that would provide value and meaning.

TIP: Mentally tough people recognize that the way in which they deal with failure determines how they will achieve success.

3. Pain Is To Be Avoided

Sports psychologist Tim Woodman has done a lot of studies on what makes superior athletes. He spent time interviewing many top performers and the one thing that he came away with was this: nearly every top performer in his study had experienced a critical negative event in their life—parents divorcing, a death, disease, or some other perceived loss—and they experienced it early in life.

Mentally tough people learn early that life is hard, pain is inevitable, and growth is optional. They find ways to turn shit into sugar.

Pain is nature’s way of getting our attention. Mentally tough people do not coddle themselves or avoid situations where there are problems to solve and the pain that comes with them. Some of our best insights are at the tail end of our worst moments. Pain often forces us to look at our values and beliefs and question why they might be failing us.

Weak people try to cover up the pain and delude themselves rather than intelligently looking for way to produce real change.

Don’t hope for a life with no pain; hope for a life with good pain. We all know that not everything that feels good is actually good. In the same way, not everything that feels painful is necessarily bad.

TIP: Once you forget about the pain, you become unstoppable.

4. Focus Only On The Positive

Positive thinking is a cornerstone of mental toughness. Research has proven the real benefits of staying positive, especially in adverse situations. Unfortunately, many people today only focus on the positive and refuse to acknowledge the negative in their life. Used in this manner, positive thinking becomes little more than a bandaid trying to cover a cancerous lesion.

Reminding yourself of what could go wrong is not pessimism. It’s being smart. You will encounter rude bosses, conniving colleagues, and unruly customers. Why not prepare for them?

FBI agents do not prepare for arrests by assuming everything will turn out OK. They prepare for arrests by anticipating all that could go wrong.

Mentally tough people are less likely to get frustrated and blow a deal or lose control during a tense negotiation. The reason is because they do not focus only on the positive. They imagine every conceivable setback and obstacle that could materialize; they find ways to cope and overcome the adversity before it becomes a reality.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy suggests spending time thinking about the potential downside of a conversation or event in advance can help you avoid an “oh shit” moment.

How To Make It Work For You: Take the time to think through the worst that could happen and allow yourself to feel the negative stuff. When you do, you’ll be able to manage the unproductive drama that these emotions can produce.

5. Suppress Emotions

In our current feel-good self-improvement culture, we’re encouraged to only acknowledge positive emotions and feelings. Shove down the negative stuff and pretend it doesn’t exist. All that is fine until you have a negative emotion that won’t be silenced, and I’m betting all of you have been there before.

It’s stupid to pretend everything is fine and that you don’t experience negative, even humiliating, emotions. What is smart is to use neuroscience to figure out what to do with them so they don’t sabotage your best efforts to move forward.

How To Make It Work For You:

  1. Nip negative thoughts and emotions in the bud when they first appear and are at their weakness.
  2. Label each emotion for what it truly is, not just what sounds good to you.
  3. Call out the emotion by name: shame, envy, anger, jealousy, lust, etc.
  4. Describe the emotion in 1 or 2 words; be succinct and to the point.
  5. Do not enter a dialogue about the emotion; anything more than 1 or 2 words will only give it legs with which to run wild.
  6. Resist attempts to justify the emotion. Notice it and move on.

6. Stick To What Feels Comfortable

If our coaches at the FBI Academy weren’t pushing us into our discomfort zone, they weren’t doing their job. After I realized I hadn’t joined an organized group of sadists, I understood that the coaches moved us into our discomfort zones so we’d be better able to cope with the trials that lie ahead of us as FBI Agents.

If success and comfort is all you’ve ever known, you will not be prepared for the shitstorm that will come at some point in your life. Whether it’s your career, your health, old age, or something unseen, if you are mentally tough you know you will be able to endure the discomfort.

Mentally tough people embrace discomfort zones because they have learned that unpleasant experiences are not something to fear. In the process, they’ve learned the survival skills that will take them to the next level.

How To Make It Work For You: Don’t throw yourself into unproductive things, but do seek out experiences that will move you into the unknown so you know how you will respond when confronted with adversity.

7. Others Are To Blame

One of the most important lessons learned in childhood is that you don’t always get to play with the red ball in the playground. This early lesson illustrates how you deal with failure, struggle, and loss. You can whine, point fingers, and blame others but ultimately you must choose how you deal with not always getting what you want.

Victimhood has become very popular. It’s now possible to be offended and insulted for just about anything. It feels self-righteous to cast ourselves as a victim, but as cartooonist Tim Kreider points out, outrage is one of those things that will eventually devour us from the inside out.

TIP: Grit-up and be mature enough to take responsibility for your actions. There are enough real victims in the world. If you want to be authentically outraged, help one of them.

© 2018 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 Reasons Why Curiosity Is Critical To Your Success

Monday, February 12th, 2018

At the end of each school day, I’d head out to play on a rockslide near our house in Wyoming. I created an imaginary town with stores, houses, and businesses. I built a miniature Fort Laramie, complete with a jail for the bad guys I locked up. My brother ended up there once.

Nearby irrigation ditches provided great shelter from the onslaught of marauding Indians. In the winter I’d help my parents feed hay to the cattle, but I’d always find time to explore my surroundings. In the summer months I learned that dry cow pies make excellent frisbees.

When we role-play, we imagine ourselves in different situations. One week, I would be a veterinarian and patch up all sorts of ills that befall animals on a ranch. Or a John Wayne character who packed a gun and brought justice to the wild west. I always imagined myself to be someone whom I aspired to become like when I grew up. At that age, my hero was someone very real to me. My imagination gave me permission to walk in the shoes of my hero, if only for a few moments.

Research tells us that children who have a good imagination grow up to be more creative as adults. Curiosity and imagination are two sides of the same coin. Imaginative and curious people also tend to be more innovative in business and life as well.

Innovation, curiosity, and imagination are the secret brew that can take your career to the next level. These traits can also accelerate a company’s profits and growth beyond its competitors. In a recent study, innovation was ranked a long-term challenge for driving business growth. It is a key talent needed at all levels of leadership, starting with the CEO.

Curiosity is a thirst for knowledge and the need to hunt for answers to these questions: “What is this?” and “How does it work?” It’s an important mental exercise because it requires a mindset that helps people move forward and do new things that starts them on the path to new discoveries.

Curiosity is critical to your success because it’s the strong desire to learn without constraint. It’s the driving force behind new discoveries in all fields, not just technology and science.

Here are 4 reasons why curiosity is critical to your success:

1. There Is Link Between Intelligence, Emotion, and Curiosity

In a recent Harvard Business Review article, Dr. Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic, a professor of business psychology at University College London, identifies three qualities that are essential if we are to successfully manage the complexity of modern life. The first two are 1) intellectual acuity and 2) emotional intelligence.

Complex environments are dense with information, which requires more brainpower or deliberate thinking. Our IQ is a measure of that brainpower, just like megabytes are a measure of a computer’s capacity. High IQ levels enable people to identify and solve more problems. Intelligence is a strong predictor of performance on complex tasks. Studies now show, however, that using our smarts is not enough to ensure success.

Soft, interpersonal skills are also essential if we want buy-in from others. Emotional intelligence is an important component of mental toughness because we need to manage our emotions, thoughts, and behavior in ways that will set us up for success.

People who are socially savvy are better equipped to navigate organizational politics and advance their careers. Most employers look to people with good emotional intelligence and soft skills when it comes to management and leadership positions.

Curiosity is the third quality that Dr. Chamorrro-Premuzic believes is as important as intellect and emotional savvy. It’s critical to your success because it signals a hungry mind. If you’re inquisitive, you’re open to new experiences. You can generate more original ideas and produce simple solutions to complex problems. Chamorro-Premuzic’s initial studies suggest that curious people are more tolerant of ambiguity.

TIP: These same studies also indicate that curious people have raw intellectual horsepower. It’s possible to increase your intelligence by cultivating the other two qualities: curiosity and social savviness. Successful people know the three travel together.

2. Curiosity Makes You A More Interesting Person

 

Curiosity is critical to your success because when you are curious, something interesting happens—you come across as more interesting and more intelligent. Others will interpret your curiosity as intelligence.

Curious people have active minds. The mind is like a muscle that becomes stronger through continual exercise, so curiosity is a mental exercise that makes our minds stronger. Studies show that people are better at learning information when they are curious about the topic. In his 1994 paper, The Psychology of Curiosity, George Loewenstein found that curiosity requires some amount of initial knowledge. His research determined that we are not curious about those things we know absolutely nothing about.

This changes, however, when we start to learn even a little bit about a topic or subject; our curiosity is piqued and we want to learn more. It turns out that the more we know, the more we want to know.

TIP: Curiosity is a choice you make to look deeper into the events and people around you. Research shows that when you are curious, the limbic reward system of the brain is active. This is why it is important that teachers spark curiosity in the classroom and use curiosity as a teaching method.

3. Curiosity Sends The Right Message

As a leader, entrepreneur, or small business owner, the need to send the right message is constant. It’s important to convey the message that you prefer to ask the right questions rather than pretend to know all the answers. Too often, this becomes flip-flopped when the emphasis is to know all the answers—a sure path to stagnation.

According to a recent Harvard Business Review article, 65% of workplace employees surveyed felt unable to ask questions at work. Even more ironic, while 84% indicated that their employers encouraged curiosity, 60% said they also encountered barriers to it at work.

Curiosity is important to every business owner, entrepreneur, and leader. If it wasn’t, new ventures would have no appeal. When we ask questions and maintain a strong sense of curiosity, we see a person for what they truly are, and a company or market trend for what it truly is.

TIP: You model curiosity for those around you when you show a willingness to ask questions and admit you don’t always know the answer.

Collect wisdom where you find it. In your circle, have:

  • One person older than you who is where you want to be in the future
  • A peer who possesses strengths and accomplishments that you don’t
  • Someone younger than you who is further along than you were at that age

Remember, curiosity can wane over time so use the above tips to stay curious and maintain your competitive edge.

4. Curious People Have Better Social Relationships

Motivational speaker Anthony Robbins once said that “the quality of your life is in direct proportion to the quality of your relationships.” We all value curiosity in our friendships. If people are curious about your life, they show empathy, offer advice, and truly care about your happiness.

A study at the University of Buffalo concluded that the degree to which people are curious influences their personal growth and the level of intimacy that develops when they meet someone new. The study also stated that the degree to which people are curious determines how deep a connection is developed when they encounter someone new.

TIP: When you are curious about your life, you’ll find a greater sense of meaning for yourself as well as life satisfaction. Why? The life of a curious person is far from boring. There are always new ideas and new worlds to explore, which open up possibilities that are not normally visible.

© 2018 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 To Handle Life’s Challenges

Monday, February 5th, 2018

As a kid, I helped trail hundreds of cows and calves from the shelter of the foothills to summer pasture in the high country near Laramie Peak. Early on, my life’s challenges were to saddle a horse on my own and push cows along the trail.

My Dad taught me to saddle and ride horses, rope steers, and herd cattle when I was in grade school. I never quite got the gist of how to dally a rope, however, so I never shined like a star as a roper.

As I got older, life’s challenges on the trail changed as well. I’d need a horse fast enough to catch up with a calf that cut back from the herd. Since I couldn’t lasso, the horse needed to get me close enough where I could, in a literal sense, drop the loop over the calf’s head. Calves may be young and small but they can run like hell. My other strategy was to keep my eyes glued to those who looked back. I made sure I stayed close behind them.

Challenges may morph, but they are unavoidable. If we can learn to accept them as children, the better our chance of success as adults. According to a Wall Street Journal article by Meg Jay, children who learn to handle their own problems are also the ones with exceptional achievement as adults.

The article cites a book called “Cradles of Eminence” which chronicles the childhood of over 400 famous men and women. Of the 400, 75% (almost 300) had grown up in a family with troubles. These included poverty, abuse, absent parents, alcoholism, serious illness, or loss of a parent. The study concludes that the normal person is not a likely candidate for the Hall of Fame.

To be truthful, many kids today are over-protected. They are not required to handle life’s challenges because parents or nannies take care of problems for them. Their only job is to play and have fun. But here is the truth: not everyone gets to play with the red ball in the playground. No matter how hard parents try to protect their child, trauma in the form of disappointments and rejection is part of growing up.

No one wants to see a child endure abuse, but there’s still a way to toughen up children so they can handle life’s challenges. According to Paul Tough, author of “How Children Succeed: Grit, Curiosity, and the Hidden Power of Character,” there is a way. Kids who take their failures seriously, but analyze why they failed and how they can do it differently next time, tend to become successful as adults.

There’s something about learning how to leverage our strengths to handle life’s challenges at an early age that prepares us to overcome life’s challenges as adults. Once we focus on our shortcomings, we begin to think about what skills we do possess as well as what we’re missing, and how to overcome the gap.

Here are some suggestions on ways to handle life’s challenges in both business and life:

1. Move Toward The Challenge

If your strategy is to avoid life’s challenges, remember that the continual need for delusion will be huge. It will also suck up a great deal of your energy. It may seem easier at first to turn away, or pretend the problem is smaller than it really is. But, reality will rear its ugly head at some point in the future and you’ll be forced to deal with the problem.

The closer we get to our challenge, the more we can educate ourselves about it. If we can get close enough to analyze it, we can assess which of our strengths will be needed to overcome it. The steps to follow and actions to take may not reveal themselves to us until we have moved closer to the situation. Mountain climbers understand that it’s impossible to know where to place fingers and feet by looking at a mountain from the bottom. They find safety only when they get close enough to explore the cracks and crevices.

As a kid, I learned to analyze life’s challenges and obstacles so I could find a way around, over, or through them. My biggest challenge at eight years old was how to saddle my tall quarter horse. I couldn’t rely on Dad or Grandma to have the time to throw a forty-pound saddle onto my horse’s back. They made it clear—I needed to fix my own problem. I pulled my saddle into the back of our pickup and then tied my horse to the pickup as well. I remember my horse backed away once and my saddle ended up astride his neck. Still, it hadn’t fallen to the ground so I hopped down and drug it down his neck and onto his back. Voila!

TIP: Boldness comes from your head. It’s a cerebral activity that recognizes opportunities, creates plans, and assesses the danger. If you refuse to face your fear, it’s almost impossible to grow because, in its simplest form, all behavior is the product of either fear or desire. Fear is not something to be avoided. A strong mind recognizes fear for what it is—a sign that you need to face the issue or obstacle in front of you.

Fortune falls heavily on those for whom she’s unexpected. The one always on the lookout easily endures—Seneca

2. Prepare To Take Action

Life deals you a bad hand. What are you going to do? Move toward the challenge, cry like a baby, run away, or do nothing?

Our reaction is a test of character and it says a lot about us. Always remember that it doesn’t matter what you’ve been given, what matters is what you do with it. Since we have layers of fear, often our first response is to exaggerate the situation and interpret life’s challenges as a crisis. We become cautious, retreat, and hope for things to get better—all on their own. Parents who over-protect their kids from adversity reinforce that way of thinking. They swoop in and come to the rescue. As a result, their kids never have to analyze how to work it out for themselves. They do not have the opportunity to develop their strengths to compensate for their weaknesses.

People turn shit into sugar all the time. There are certain types of people who experience childhood struggles, like poverty and strife, and go on to incredible achievement. They learn to be resilient because what is in front of them is all they know, so they work with it.

If saddling a tall horse for an eight-year-old was hard, imagine how difficult it was to bridle him. Again, my Dad and Grandmother did not have the time and expected me to deal with the situation. My horse would stretch up his long neck and and I wasn’t tall enough to slip the bridle over the top of his head. So, I stood in the feed trough so I could reach him.

The damned horse then clenched his teeth so I couldn’t insert the bit. An old hired hand showed me a trick: run my thumb along the horse’s lower jaw and insert my thumb behind his back teeth. The horse couldn’t bite me and it irritated him enough to where he’d open his mouth. Voila!

When you make yourself aware of certain difficulties that are inevitable, you can prepare yourself mentally for confronting them head-on. Soldiers and athletes appreciate the preparation it takes to mentally and physically meet the challenges ahead of them. They know it can be ugly, daunting, and grueling, but they are equipped.

TIP: The middle of a crisis is not the time to learn how to handle life’s challenges and remove obstacles. Train ahead of time so that before they present themselves, you have cultivated courage, confidence, and discipline.

3. Move Past Self-Limiting Beliefs

Most barriers are internal, not external. We make certain assumptions about ourselves and how life’s challenges should be approached and solved. These thoughts produce self-limiting because they can trap us into an outmoded way of thinking about ourselves and our abilities.

The U.S. Army is using research that has shown most people, when confronted with adversity and the need to remove obstacles, will experience initial feelings of fear, frustration, and paralysis. Given sufficient amounts of time, however, they recover and continue to perform at the same level they were performing before the adversity.

At one end of the continuum there are a small percentage of people who do not bounce back and remain unable to cope with their circumstances without assistance. They often need counseling and can experience breakdowns.

On the other end of the continuum, however, are those with strong minds who not only survive adverse and traumatic situations, but also thrive and grow. The key is having the right attitude. People who have affirming thoughts about themselves and their abilities are more likely to survive the intense pressure of obstacles and adversity.

TIP: The most effective way of breaking through self-limiting barriers, either those in front of us or the artificial ones we’ve erected, is to make small shifts in thinking. If one thing does not work, try another. A truly daunting task can produce discouragement in the toughest person. The trick is to focus on the little piece that is right in front of you. If you are bogged down with a huge task, break it down into small enough pieces so that you can set goals or markers of achievement for yourself. Then focus your attention on that.

4. Change The Way You Interpret Your Circumstances

There is an old parable about a boy who was so discouraged by his experiences in school he told his grandfather he wanted to quit. His grandfather filled three pots with water and placed each on a high fire. Soon the pots came to a boil. In the first, he placed carrots, in the second he placed eggs and in the last he placed ground coffee beans. He let the water boil, without saying a word. In about twenty minutes he turned off the burners. He fished the carrots out and placed them in a bowl. He pulled the eggs out and placed them in a bowl. Then he ladled the coffee out into a cup. Turning to the boy, he asked, “Tell me, what do you see?” “Carrots, eggs, and coffee,” the boy replied.

Then he asked the boy to feel the carrots, which he did and noted that they were soft and mushy. His grandfather then asked him to take an egg and break it. After pulling off the shell, the boy observed the hard-boiled egg. Finally, he asked the boy to sip the coffee. He smiled as he tasted the coffee with its rich aroma. The boy asked, “I don’t understand. What does this mean, if anything?”

His grandfather laughed and explained that each of these objects had faced the same adversity–boiling water–but each had reacted differently. “Which are you?” the grandfather asked. “When adversity knocks on your door, how do you respond? Are you a carrot that seems strong, but with pain and adversity, becomes soft and loses strength? Are you the egg that appears not to change but whose heart is hardened? Or are you the coffee bean that changes the hot water, the very circumstance that brings the pain. When the water gets hot, it releases the fragrance and flavor. If you are like the coffee bean, when things are at their worst, your very attitude will change your environment for the better, making it sweet and palatable.”

TIP: The moral of this story is that it matters how you look at life’s challenges. We all encounter obstacles. The Grandfather’s lesson is that when you can’t change your circumstances, you change yourself.

© 2018 LaRae Quy. 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.”

5 Ways To Make Gratitude A Stronger Emotion

Monday, January 29th, 2018

As an FBI agent, I was surrounded by people who had a strong sense of right and wrong. Research shows that emotions are strongly connected to our morality—the ability to tell right from wrong. Since strong emotions were closely connected to my fellow agents’ morals, it allowed them to move into adverse and dangerous situations to protect the well-being of others.

Gratitude and indignation are both moral emotions. Gratitude is a positive emotion that encourages reciprocal altruism, well-being, and appreciation. Indignation, on the other hand, is a negative emotion that is closely related to anger and revenge—it motivates individuals to punish cheaters.

Mental toughness strengthens our ability to distinguish positive emotions from negative ones. We can use this awareness to strengthen positive emotions like gratitude and control negative ones like anger.

Understanding our emotions is the key if we want to control them. Mentally tough people learn how to connect with emotions that attract more of the things that represent our moral standards. In turn, we live and do what is right.

As leaders, it’s important to find ways to make gratitude a stronger emotion. We can use mental toughness to strengthen our gratitude emotion. When we do, we control the negative emotions that impact the way we treat not only ourselves, but those around us. 

Here are 5 ways we can make gratitude a stronger emotion:

1. Make It Intentional

Intentional behavior is the ability to move ahead with a thoughtful and deliberate goal in mind. To do so, we need to seek out and identify specific acts for which we can, and should, be grateful. Gratitude only works when you’re grateful for something real.

We perceive an act as more worthy of gratitude when:

  • it cost someone (either time or effort)
  • we perceive it to be of value
  • it is not obligatory or habitual in nature
  • the result produces relief or happiness

How To Make It Work For You: So, how do you manage the bad things that show up in life? Even bad, or negative events, can have positive consequences. Choose an experience from your life that was either unpleasant or unwanted. Focus on the positive aspects or consequences of this difficult experience. As the result, is there anything for which you now feel thankful or grateful? Has this experience made you a better person? Have you grown? Did the experience help you appreciate the truly important things in life? Can you be thankful for the beneficial consequences as a result?

2. Keep Focused

Most FBI agents and law enforcement officers enter their career to arrest criminals who exploit the needs and weaknesses of others. Over time, however, their idealism is threatened because life is rarely lived in absolutes. The black and white of justice frequently morphs into shades of gray. Good is often found in the midst of the bad, and bad sometimes results from good intentions.

We become mentally tough when we learn to live with the paradox of contradiction and not run from the mystery of life. It’s especially important to remain grateful when life takes a down turn.

  • Seek out events and people that represent the things that embody your moral standards
  • Express gratitude when you see them
  • Let go of your need for the “right” way to be “your” way
  • Clarify what you know to be the truth in your heart, get to know it better
  • Remember that truth is it’s own best argument

How To Make It Work For You: To keep focused, think about what the absence of a positive influence in your life would mean to you. What would life be like if you hadn’t met your spouse or partner? Or if you hadn’t taken that job transfer? Or if you hadn’t moved to your neighborhood? Take something positive away from your life and you’re forced to focus on what brings you happiness and gratitude. Something that, perhaps, you had started to take for granted.

3. Change The Way Your Brain Works

A recent study brings us closer to understanding how gratitude can affect the way our brain works. Participants were asked to write simple, short notes of gratitude to other people for three weeks. An MRI scan measured the brain of the participants and found they showed greater neural sensitivity in the prefrontal cortex, a brain area associated with learning, judgment, and decision making.

How To Make It Work For You: When you express gratitude, it has lasting effects on the brain. The study suggests that even months after a simple, short gratitude writing task, people’s brains were still wired to feel extra thankful. The implication is that gratitude has a self-perpetuating nature: The more you practice it, the more attuned you are to it.

4. Ditch The Ego

Narcissists believe their presence entitles them to special rights and privileges. They often make selfish demands of others. People with large egos tend to be ungrateful. Instead, they believe they deserve the favors and gifts that others give to them.

Deepak Chopra makes these points about ego and gratitude:

  • Ego can get stuck on being right or wrong
  • Real gratitude isn’t passing and temporary
  • Gratitude takes openness and the willingness to set your ego aside
  • No one is grateful for things they think they deserve.
  • Gratitude is unearned, like grace
  • When it is deeply felt, gratitude applies to everything, not simply to good things you hope come your way

It’s impossible to give full attention to both ego and gratitude at the same time. When you appreciate something or someone else, your ego must move out of the way.

How To Make It Work For You: We strengthen our gratitude emotion when we seek out and find people and circumstances for which we can be grateful. We also need to focus on the priority of being grateful, especially in tough times. And finally, we need to demand the ego to be put it in its proper place.

5. Use Gratitude To Build Resilience

Since 2001, the suicide rate among U.S. soldiers is at an all-time high. The number of soldiers suffering from post-traumatic stress is also very high. In 2008, Martin Seligman was invited to have lunch at the Pentagon with General George Casey. Casey advised that he wanted a fighting force that could bounce back and cope with the trauma of persistent warfare. Seligman and other researchers implemented the Army’s Comprehensive Soldier Fitness (CSF) program, a preventive program that seeks to enhance resilience among members of the Army community. The program aims at prevention rather than treatment of PTSD.

To build resilience among U.S. soldiers, the CSF brought in elements of positive psychology, and discovered that gratitude is an essential component of positive thinking.

Because here is the thing: it is impossible to grateful and negative at the same time.

Gratitude is the most powerful emotion in the world. Why? It allows you to love not only yourself, but others as well.

How To Make It Work For You: Here is what you can expect if you practice gratitude:

  • A renewed appreciation for life
  • New possibilities for yourself
  • More personal strength
  • Improve relationships
  • Spiritually more satisfied

© 2018 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.”