Archive for the ‘personal leadership’ Category

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

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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.” 

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.

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 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.” 

 

5 Steps To Personal Empowerment

Monday, January 22nd, 2018

As a kid, personal empowerment was a foreign concept. I had no influence over any sphere of my life.

My summer job was to pull fifty-pound bales of hay on our meadow into piles so Dad could scoop them up with his loader tractor. Mom and my brother arranged bales on the haystack as dad dumped them. When I looked around, there was nothing but miles of bales lined up on the meadow for as far as I could see.

Life on a cattle ranch in Wyoming meant I worked alongside my parents to keep our cows fed and watered twelve months a year. I escaped my dreary world by day-dreaming of how I would call all the shots as an adult. All of a sudden, I found myself buried in a cloud of dust as my Grandmother put on the truck brakes and stopped beside me. She had noticed that my mind was elsewhere and I wasn’t paying much attention to my job.

My Grandmother spent the day in the hayfield as well. Her job was to set the irrigation after the hay bales had been picked up. She was a very practical person; she knew how to rebuild engines and her salad bowls all said Cool Whip on the side.

Grandmother was also the epitome of personal empowerment.  She focused on what she could control, which was her attitude, her work ethic, her willingness to hustle, and her commitment to the ranch. In doing so, she also empowered all those around her.

“Don’t monkey around,” she said to me. “You can complain all you want, but those bales of hay aren’t going to pull themselves into piles.” She left me choking in the dust when she spun the back tires getting back onto the road. I never argued with my Grandmother. Her favorite back scratcher was a toilet brush and she never hesitated using it to spank me either.

Her words reminded me that I needed to get the job done. Right now. Not later, after dreams had been explored, questions asked, and distractions dismantled into small pieces. I needed to take responsibility for the next step.

Personal empowerment is often represented as something we feel about ourselves at any given moment, as if it exists only within ourselves. That’s self-esteem. Personal empowerment, however, is something much bigger. It includes self-esteem and self-respect, but also includes our ability to have an impact on relationships and our social surroundings.

This is why my Grandmother had personal empowerment. She knew how to have conversations that led to real changes and improvements. Recent psychological research suggests that personal empowerment is an interactive process that takes action, gets feedback, makes adjustments, takes further action, and attains real results.

Unless leaders, business owners, and entrepreneurs can have discussions that lead to real improvement, they’re not very empowered at all. To have personal empowerment, they need to find ways to increase influence within their social sphere, both in business and life.

Here are 5 step to personal empowerment:

1. SHOW UP FOR LIFE

Either you control your destiny, or it will control you. Life doesn’t stop for uncertainty or fear. It marches right on. Life won’t stop for your birthday even though you might wish it did. Age and wisdom don’t always travel together; sometimes age shows up all by itself. 

While there are many things that lead to personal empowerment, one of the most effective is to have this mindset: I am willing. I am willing to live the life I want. That means I am willing to stop doing the things that don’t produce life the life I want.

I was unwilling to pile the bales of hay; it wasn’t as if I couldn’t do it. I just didn’t want to. My Grandmother’s kick in the butt jolted me back to reality. When I moved back into action, I didn’t see myself as lazy and unmotivated.

TIP: Dreaming of the future is a waste of time and is always an impediment to personal empowerment. Not because we shouldn’t have dreams, but because we need to take responsibility for what is right in front of us. There will be opportunities to think of the future, but always pay attention to what is happening in life right now.

2. SET GOALS SO YOU KNOW WHERE YOU’RE HEADED

A goal is a something that you want and are willing to achieve. This is different from a value, because a value is something we find important. Good goals are related to our values. It’s up to us to set the course of action. For example, healthy living can be a value. Our goals related to healthy living can be a change in our diet or regular exercise.

Bad values are those determined by someone or something else. No amount of goal setting will guarantee you’ll hit your mark. For example, maybe one of your values is to get rich. That goal is not within your control because you are not in control of the stock market, the competition, etc.

Instead, identify a goal that will provide you with personal empowerment. This means your goal will increase your level of influence at many levels of social interaction. For example, if you run a business and face stiff competition, your goal is to win the battle. That is, you need to find ways to maintain satisfied and loyal customers.

TIP: If you run afoul of a relative or friend, your goal is to win that battle as well. Have the awkward conversation that will help you both understand what is going on. Remember, to create personal empowerment, your goal is to have a positive impact on relationships that are meaningful and significant.

3. STOP MONKEYING AROUND

My Grandmother knew I was monkeying around in the meadow instead of doing my job. Personal empowerment happens when we take responsibility for our own life. This is what generates self-esteem. Personal empowerment can be developed, and when it is, self-respect is the result. This requires that we get serious about the pursuit of our goals.

We take action and when we do, it enables us to prove our influence over others. I don’t mean exert our influence because that is akin to manipulation. Remember that personal empowerment is an interactive process where we take action, get feedback, make adjustments, take further action, and attain real results.

Failures are OK. Just remember to fail forward. Each failure should bring you closer to understanding how the setback happened and how you can overcome it next time. Failures often impede personal empowerment at first but they should be welcomed because they contain vital information that will help us fine tune our efforts.

TIP: Answer these questions:

  • How you can measure progress toward your goal?
  • Can you identify specific things you are already doing, or have already achieved, to help you reach your goal?
  • What are the next steps needed to achieve your goal? If the steps are large, you may want to break them into small sub-steps.
  • What do you need to develop, learn, or prepare to take these steps?
  • What can you do today to move forward?

4. ASSESS YOUR IMPACT

Personal empowerment is the ability to make an impact on the lives of other people. Don’t confuse it with being bossy. To have personal empowerment, you must interact with others, not boss them around. Their feedback is essential, so don’t let your ego get in the way of making tweaks and changes to your action plan.

In other words, you’ve got to care about something other than yourself. My Grandmother cared about the ranch and her family.

It’s unrealistic to believe that you will achieve personal empowerment in a few short months. What is realistic is to believe that personal empowerment is a process that might take much longer so you will need the mental toughness to persevere. Once you find yourself able to influence one sphere of your life, expect something to happen that upsets the balance and you find yourself back at square one. Only this time, you’re smarter about how to to proceed; the learning curve is shorter.

TIP: The most accurate way to assess your impact is to ask for feedback from the people with whom you work or associate. They will tell you everything you need to know about how to refine your approach and improve future efforts.

5. EMPOWER FROM WITHIN

Personal empowerment will lead to self-esteem and self-respect, not vice versa. This is what Joan Didion wrote about self-respect: “To live without self-respect is lie awake some night…counting up the sins of commission and omission, the trusts betrayed, the promises more subtle, the gifts irrevocably wasted through sloth or cowardice or carelessness.”

We can be so much better than that.

TIP: Personal empowerment pushes you to be the best person you can be. Ask yourself, “What if…?” It’s a phrase full of promise and anticipation. Or ask yourself, “What’s next…?” When you are empowered from within, you ignite the hunger that knows how to roll with the punches.

© 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 FBI Tips On How To Handle Awkward Conversations

Monday, January 15th, 2018

I sat down in a room with thirty other new FBI agents for a training course on how to handle hostage negotiations and other awkward conversations. Since my job was to recruit foreign spies to work with the FBI, I sensed the potential for lots of awkward conversations in my future.

The lead instructor had a face that looked as though it was chiseled out of a block of wood. He told us, “Successful interrogators need need to be savvy about what the other person is feeling. Build a connection with them. Focus on trust.”

This is not the advice I had expected from a tough interrogation expert. But a little more background on the FBI’s hostage negotiation program created at Quantico enlightened me. I was told that approximately 70 percent of law enforcement negotiators are trained using FBI techniques. Statistics confirm that if negotiations escalate, shootouts tend to end badly for police  officers and the casualties are high.

Awkward conversations happen in our personal life as well. When discussions go to hell in a hand basket, they quickly turn into a fight. Psychologists say that our brain is wired for war; our point of view has been attacked if we disagree with someone. We feel threatened so we yell and scream. Go no further than family reunions over the holidays to see proof of concept.

We’ve all tried to shock and awe our relatives with the use of facts and logic. That does no more than set your opponent up to look stupid. When Uncle Henry admits he learned something new, he also admits he lost.

Furthermore, MRI scans indicate that the area of the brain associated with logic shuts down when the individual is presented with evidence that is in conflict with their belief system. The regions associated with aggression light up. So, as far as Uncle Henry’s brain is concerned, it’s not a rational discussion. It’s war.

The FBI’s instructor used words like emotions, feelings, and trust, and it went straight to the heart of this training program. His tips would work with barricaded criminals wielding assault rifles—they could also apply to almost any kind of situation where you need to change people’s minds, or influence their decisions.

Life is a series of awkward conversations: work through a divorce, negotiate a raise, haggle a business deal, or work out a partnership. The ability to handle an awkward conversation gives us all a competitive edge in any discussion.

As the week unfolded, we talked about empathy, rapport, active listening, and other aspects of emotional intelligence. I used the techniques I learned in that interrogation training program for the rest of my career as an FBI counterintelligence agent.

Here are 4 FBI tips on how to handle awkward conversations:

1. Stay Calm

Emotions are controlled by our limbic brain system. It is the seat of the value judgments that we make, which is why it exerts such a strong influence on our behaviour. The limbic brain is responsible for the “fight” or “flight” reaction we experience when we’re exposed to danger or negative situations. This warning has kept us safe for centuries, and when we’re in awkward conversations or a heated argument, the limbic brain starts to scream. It only understands “fight” or “flight” so you know nothing good is going to happen.

Behavior is contagious and it’s easy to respond in a manner that mimics the other person. With that in mind, stay calm. Slow it down. Often, the other person’s anger will subside if you don’t provoke it. When you rush a situation, it tends to intensify emotions. Resist the urge to open your mouth. Instead, listen and acknowledge.

The number one reason people leave their jobs? They didn’t feel their boss listened to them.

Tip: Dismiss the hysterics and try to pinpoint the underlying issue. It can help to say, “Please speak slower. I’d like to help. I need to understand.”

2. Proceed With Confidence

Back in the 1980s, Harvard researcher Stanley Rachman discovered something interesting about bomb-disposal operatives. Rachman wanted to know what quality made these people successful in this high-risk profession. Bomb-disposal operatives are good or they wouldn’t be alive to tell the story. But Rachman wanted to know what set them apart from their colleagues. To find out, he took a bunch of experienced bomb-disposal operatives with ten years or more in the business. He split them into two groups: those who’d been decorated for their work, and those who hadn’t. Then he compared their heart rates while they were in the field and on jobs that required high levels of focus and concentration.

What he discovered was unexpected. At the beginning, the heart rates of all the operatives remained stable, which was expected given their line of work. But, something incredible happened with the ones who’d been decorated—their heart rates went down. As soon as they entered the danger zone, they assumed a state of meditative focus: it was as if they became one with the device they worked on.

Rachman’s follow-up analysis probed deeper, and revealed the reason for their lowered heart rate—confidence. The operatives who’d been decorated were given subsequent tests and they all scored higher on confidence and self-belief than their non-decorated colleagues who took the same tests.

If your opponent perceives your point of view to mean war, you’ll need to think like a survivor. Survivors are confident positive thinkers who believe they will prevail in their circumstances. They have the ability to see how even a negative experience might lead to growth.

Tip: Confident people, who might even overestimate their powers, do particularly well in stressful situations. It’s intuitive reasoning: What creates a sense of fearlessness? “I’m confident I’ve got this covered. I’ve done it before.”

3. Reframe Your Situation

It’s very important how you talk to yourself in awkward conversations or stressful situations. The way in which we look at ourselves, and our circumstances, dictates our attitude when determining how to overcome adversity.

To jettison those negative thoughts, you may find it necessary to express your situation differently. When you rethink, or reframe, your adversity, it helps to move it into a context that is more favorable.

This is not to make light of tragedy. It’s perfectly normal to be sad when we are immersed in a negative situation and we need to overcome adversity. That said, we do not need to let the crap moments produced by adversity sabotage our efforts to move toward success.

When you reframe your response to adversity or stress, you say to yourself, “I know what to do here.” You can move ahead with confidence and a new perspective.

If you reframe the content of your situation, it means you choose what you focus on. Nothing has changed, but instead of wallowing in what did not work, you intentionally choose to focus on what did, or might, work.

Tip: Rather than complain to everyone about a failure, reframe your situation so you can learn from the experience. Ask yourself what it taught you. Take the time to analyze why you failed—and then move on. No one wants to keep hearing about it…

4. Anticipate What Could Go Wrong

One of the best questions you can ask yourself in any situation is this: “What could go wrong?” This question is not an exercise in pessimism. It’s a great reality check because guess what? Shit happens. And the more prepared you are, the quicker you can adapt and move forward.

Don’t find yourself surprised when something goes wrong. Be prepared. When you anticipate what could go wrong, you take the knee-jerk anxiety out of the equation.

Ceaseless optimism about the future only makes for a greater shock when things go wrong. When we fight to maintain only positive beliefs about the future, we end up less prepared, and more distressed, when negative things happen.

When you anticipate all that can go wrong in difficult and awkward conversations, you remove the surprise and most of the fear. Ready yourself for the worst. As Seneca said, “The man who has anticipated the coming of troubles takes away their power when they arrive.”

So, what can do you do to prepare yourself? What options do you have when the worst case happens? How can you prevent it from happening? What can you do today to reduce the chances of the worst happening? As best-selling author Tim Ferris explains, if it does happen, how can you bounce back? Write it all down on paper and think it through.

Tip: Try this the next time you anticipate awkward conversations: 1) What is the worst that can happen? Write it down. Feel it. 2) Ask how you can prevent it and write down the solutions. 3) Rehearse all the ways the conversation could go wrong. Practice your responses.   

© 2018 LaRae Quy. All rights reserved.

You can follow me on Twitter, Facebook, AND LinkedIn

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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.”

How Empathy Makes You A More Effective Leader

Monday, January 8th, 2018

Empathy is one of the most popular topics brought up for discussion by my executive coaching clients. It’s not surprising because empathy is the most important instrument in a leader’s toolbox.

Effective leaders make it a priority to take care of their people. In return, their people give everything to protect and advance the mission of the organization. They know how to inspire and motivate by tapping into what their team truly value and want. And, as the Millennials enter the workplace, this will only become more important.

A recent study by Weber Shandwick found that Millennials, more than any other generation, expect the organization’s core values to be reflected by senior leadership. Their early schooling in social media is changing the way we do business. Companies can no longer get away with simply providing goods or services. They are also expected to deliver their message with honesty and compassion—in other words, empathy.

But here’s the rub: while we crave being heard and valued, we have become so caught up in technology that we are dumbing down our social skills. Psychologist Sara Konrath at Michigan University found that young people are becoming less empathic than ever; American College students showed a 48% decrease in empathic concern and a 34% drop in their ability to see other people’s perspectives.

87% of the same Millennials who expect to be understood and appreciated at work also admit to missing out on a conversation because they were distracted by a phone.

In a world that becomes increasingly automated and computerised, we are losing the very skills that are essential for effective leadership. How can we stop this shipwreck? Let’s take a look:

1. Understand The Meaning Of Empathy

I have always found empathy to be intriguing because it allows you to read minds, something that came in handy as an FBI agent. By listening to another person’s words and reading their body language, you can figure out what they are feeling and thinking.

Empathy is not sympathy, nor is it feeling sorry for others. Instead, it is understanding what others are feeling or thinking. People tend to focus on the touchy-feely aspect of empathy, and indeed it is important to understand where another person is coming from. However, an empathetic leader is also capable of sensing what another person is thinking. This can be extremely helpful in everything from negotiating a salary to planning a social event for the office.

The solution: It’s important to examine your own attitude when dealing with others. Are you more concerned with getting your way, winning, or being right? Put aside your viewpoint, and try to see things from the other person’s point of view. Maybe you aren’t the center of the world after all.

2. Realize That Empathy Is Driven By Our Brain

Neuroscience explains that our brain produces serotonin, a neurotransmitter that is a major contributor to feelings of well-being and happiness.  Other neurotransmitters, like oxytocin, contribute to emotions like pride, trust, and connection with others.

Both serotonin and oxytocin have long term effects that become stronger over time. Research on neuroplasticity shows that our brains can be rewired and that neurotransmitters can actually change the brain. On a deep level, we need to feel that we and our work is valued and appreciated by others.

All of these brain chemicals work together to help us bond with others. It’s why we feel safer when we’re part of a group. Back in the caveman days, our safety literally depended upon a group with whom we felt safe and comfortable.

The Solution: Validate the other person’s perspective. People have different opinions from your own and they may have good reasons for them. If you’re stuck on what to say, try this: “Is everything OK?”

3. Develop Emotionally Literate Geeks

There are more Millennials in the workplace today than Boomers. They are the generation raised on social media, automation, and digitalization. Things that take time or slow are seen as a weakness. A large percentage feel that texting is as effective as one-on-one conversations.

We need to find ways to turn empathetic slobs into empowered leaders who can integrate technical expertise with emotional intelligence.

The Solution: Take the time to embed the skills associated with empathy into every level of your organization. These are the skills that will differentiate automated machines from their human counterparts. Teach your people mental toughness so they will know how to manage their emotions, thoughts, and behavior in ways that will set them up for success. 

4. Pay Attention

Neuroscientists have discovered that humans are wired to experience empathy through mirror neurons in our brain. These mirror neurons reflect back what we observe in others and cause us to mimic those observations in our own brains.

As it happens, mirror neurons are strongest when we observe a person’s emotions. We see facial expressions, eye movements, body movements, and gestures. Consciously and unconsciously, we mimic many of those same expressions, body movements, and gestures as we talk to others.

The Solution: Do not multi-task when observing another person. Turn off the cellphone and laptop and pay attention to what they are saying and doing.

5. Communicate Empathetically

When interviewing an FBI suspect, I always paid more attention to their body language than to the words they used. When there is a conflict between verbal and non-verbal cues, always trust the non-verbal. They are usually more accurate.

I also noticed the voice tone of politicians, newscasters, and friends to understand how they used their voices to express empathy.

The Solution: Practice on yourself by noticing what you are doing nonverbally when interacting with others. Notice with whom you have difficulty being empathetic. Examine why.

6. Fake It If Nothing Else

I was once put in a situation where I needed to develop rapport with a convicted child molester. The victim was his own daughter. However, it was necessary for me to act empathically to achieve the desired outcome. What is interesting is that after several minutes I actually started to feel some empathy toward the man as a result of “acting” empathic.

The need for you to develop rapport and show empathy with a child molester is remote, but you may need to win over a creep who is also an important client.

The Solution: You can disagree, or even dislike, an individual and still be capable of understanding what they are feeling and thinking. Listening without judgment can also convey empathy. Communicate to them that you understand what they are experiencing. Practice empathy even when you don’t feel like it and it will help you become a more effective leader.

© 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.” 

Want Happiness? 3 Effective Ways To Take Charge Of Your Career

Monday, January 1st, 2018

As a new agent at the FBI Academy, happiness was not a priority. Our instructors took great delight when they uncovered our weaknesses. Once discovered, their dry little hearts made it their mission to push us as far into our discomfort zones as possible.

I had trouble with push-ups. My coach made sure he was the one to count them for our interim FIT test. He counted each push-up when we started out. When we hit the ninth push-up, he repeated, “Nine, nine, nine.” I did the ninth push-up nine times before he counted it!

All the while I’m thinking, “I don’t have any reserves left. I’ve wasted them all on the ninth push-up.” You guessed it: I finished the test and missed the critical points I needed to graduate from the Academy.

This was one of the most important failures of my life because the consequences were tremendous: I would not become an FBI Agent.

Time and time again, I go back to this failure to explain my success in life. The failure was traumatic. I hit rock bottom and was filled with desperation. It was at that moment, however, that I heard my calling. I wanted a career that would provide my life with value and meaning. For me, it was the FBI.

Every leader, entrepreneur, and business owner will have a different answer. But, to take charge of your career, you will need to dig down and uncover what provides your life with value and meaning. If you want happiness, it will need to be about more than money. If you make money your top priority, your soul will be sucked dry.

We all have a choice to make. We can whine about the raw deal life has handed us. Or, we can take charge of our life and focus on the things that truly matter. Because, guess what? Once we find the things that truly matter, we will find something much richer than happiness. We will find contentment and joy.

Here are 3 effective ways to take charge of your career (and yes, maybe find a little happiness as well):

1. Find A Path with Heart

If there is heart in your path, failure is nothing but another opportunity to try again. Mental toughness enables you to attack the same problem again and again, but each time you’re a little smarter about it. Your tactics may need to change, and you may be required to re-route, but the destination will be the same.

If there is no heart in your path, failure will seem overwhelming. Failure will be enough to persuade you to try something new, and you will drift until you finally succeed at something. Average people stop there—at success. And pretend, or hope, that their heart can be found there.

Failure can be a wonderful clarifying process. It can fortify your determination to succeed, or it can lead your mind to wander so it can consider another direction in life.

Once I realized my career as an FBI Agent was in jeopardy, my calling became crystal clear. I built up the strength to pass the push up test.

How To Make It Work For You:

To take charge of your career you will need to distinguish between passion and heart. Passion is an overused and overworked term. When someone starts talking about their passion, I break into a nervous sweat. It usually means their obsession of the moment. It’s easy to be passionate when things work out, and this is what makes passion so seductive. But when passion ebbs, it can evolve into frustration and annoyance.

Heart, on the other hand, is deeply embedded into the DNA of your being. It is who you are, stripped of all pretenses and baggage. If your failure is attached to a project that has heart, you will not be deterred by a few bumps on the road.

2. Align Goals with Your Heart

Many people focus on yearly goals, but that is a big mistake. Instead, identify what brings you a sense of joy. Then create goals to get you there. Let’s be honest: the real reason you want to be a millionaire is so you have the freedom to pursue the things that create excitement for you!

Get clear about what you want. What is the result you’re looking for? Do you want better relationships, financial independence, or is there something else?

Dr. Gail Matthews, a psychology professor at Dominican University in California, did a study on goal-setting with 267 participants. She found that we are 42% more likely to achieve our goals when we write them down.

  • Over 80% of Americans do not have goals
  • 16% say they do have goals but don’t write them down
  • Less than 4% actually write them down

Without goals to anchor us, we find ourselves adrift in life. We rely on goals to give us direction, but they only get in the way if they aren’t attached to something that creates joy and excitement for us. This is better known as the life-deferment plan—“someday I’ll get around to it.”

I passed the final physical fitness test and became an FBI Agent. Even in the midst of all the worry and anxiety there was a peace, because at the center of it all I had aligned my goals with where I truly wanted to go in life.

How To Make It Work For You:

To take charge of your career, here are some ways you can align goals with your heart:

  • Name the things that you look forward to in your day or week.
  • Recognize that your dream can also be a calling and that you may have more than one.
  • Stop being a slave to the life or job that is not fulfilling.
  • Minimize time spent on meaningless work.
  • Create time to pursue projects that do create excitement and life. Many of us have financial obligations that necessitate the need for those projects to remain a hobby. Don’t give up on them, though.
  • Write your most important goal on a blank sheet of paper and brainstorm ways to make it happen.

3. Examine The Labels You Give Yourself

The labels that others give you don’t matter as much as the ones you give yourself. Those that are self-imposed are boundaries that can limit where you move. Subconsciously, you may not let yourself cross them.

“Not an athlete“ was a label quickly given to me in the first few days of the Academy. I trained but made little progress. I gradually came to understand that not only had my classmates given me this label, but that I had accepted it, too. As long as I kept it, I wouldn’t be able to move beyond the self-imposed boundaries.

Happiness is not how I would describe how I felt about my situation at that moment. However, I knew that if I wanted to be fulfilled in the future, I would need to find a way to take charge of my career. Sooner, not later. Once I peeled back the label, I found an inner strength that translated to physical strength as well.

How To Make It Work For You:

To take charge of your career, here are some ways you can examine the labels you’ve given yourself, or accepted from others:

  • Recognize barriers that you’ve placed around yourself.
  • Pinpoint where those barriers came from. Most self-limiting beliefs are imposed on us by family, teachers, or associates from an early age.
  • Disregard limits that have been imposed by others.
  • Respect the boundaries imposed by your own personality. This means you need to be honest about your strengths and weaknesses.
  • Most of the barriers that prevent us from living a full life are based in fear. There are many fears that show up in all personalities, such as fear of failure, success, intimacy, and change.

In our relentless pursuit of happiness, we’ve missed the value of pursuing the things that truly excite us in a deeper and more meaningful way. Take charge of your career, and life, and focus on what is important to you.

© 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.”

Why Most CEO’s Lack Emotional Intelligence

Monday, December 18th, 2017

As I looked into Igor’s face, it was imperative that I accurately interpret his reaction to my words. Emotional intelligence is not taught at the FBI Academy, but it was essential for me to understand the difference between anxiety and sadness when interviewing people like Igor. I needed to know whether I could trust him to help me in my investigation.

You may never need to interview an individual whom you suspect of being a foreign spy. It is possible, however, that you will need to impress a new client or calm down an frustrated customer.

Emotional intelligence allows you to recognize and accurately interpret what is going on with colleagues, employees and clients. As a leader, you need to excel at handling conflict, and the need for this skill grows more important as you climb the ladder of success.

Can you tell if a team member is frustrated? Or, if they angry? It’s an important distinction because frustration happens when people feel blocked from achieving a goal. Whereas anger is a response to a perceived wrong done to them or to another. Yet too often leaders, managers, and supervisors cannot tell the difference.

Top level executives lead the pack when it comes to being direct and assertive, but research suggests that emotional intelligence diminishes as they move up the corporate ladder. Emotional intelligence scores from this study indicate a decline as people move above middle management—with CEOs having the lowest emotional intelligence scores in the workplace!

Emotional competency is a major component of mental toughness. Leaders who are mentally tough are able to manage their emotions so negative ones don’t control their behavior and thoughts. While mentally tough leaders experience bad moods and impulses like everyone else, they do not act upon them without thinking them through.

People feel before they think, so leaders who constantly react to their emotional states never develop the discipline to allow their thoughts to moderate their emotions.

Here’s a closer look at why CEOs lack emotional intelligence and what can be done to enhance it.

1. Workaholism Has Become A Desirable Lifestyle

A new prosperity gospel has sprung up that believes there is no higher calling than starting your own business. The catch is this: To succeed, you must be willing to give up everything. This charge is led by entrepreneurs like Gary Vaynerchuk, who tells his followers they shouldn’t avoid working 18-hour days.

I was brought up to believe in the virtue of hard work. It’s got me to where I am today, but to create a lifestyle based on values like money and success is shallow. It is devoid of meaningful relationships or family life. It’s a madness that permeates the C-suite—“I’ll become rich and successful or die trying.”

Because of our focus on tasks, entrepreneurs often don’t have the time to develop the emotional intelligence they need take their success to the next level.

How to make it work for you: Find a trusted friend or family member and have them ask you this question: Are you are willing to give up your youth, sleep, vacations, health, family, or morals for this job? Think long and hard about your answers because it is possible to succeed without working yourself to death.

2. Outsized Ego

As we climb the ladder of success, egos can grow. We are proud of the strides we’ve made, and we should be. While ego may be part of what drives us, we should never give it more than what it deserves.

Ego traps talented professionals. Executive leaders reach a point where the only opinion that matters is their own. They stop listening. They stop learning and this is where ego becomes a trap for suckers. Once you stop being curious about yourself and others, you stop seeing the world as it really is.

The first thing I learned as an FBI agent was that “reading other people” would be essential if I hoped to live long enough to retire from my job. The second thing I learned was that “understanding myself” would be critical if I wanted to predict my response when confronted with the unknown.

Emotionally competent leaders do not let their ego keep them from recognizing their weaknesses. In fact, they know it’s essential to find ways to manage these weaknesses so they can focus on building upon their strengths.

Ignorance of your competition makes you vulnerable; ignorance of yourself makes you stupid—LaRae Quy

How to make it work for you: If you’ve made it to the top, you should be too smart to fall into the ego trap so there is no one to blame but yourself. The good news is it’s easy to get out of this trap. All you need to do is suck up a little humility and start to be as concerned about the needs of others as you are with your own.

3. Pressure To Have All The Answers

Executive leaders are paid the big bucks to have all the answers. When the stakes are high, successful people maintain their poise and perform. But pressure situations can either empower or imprison; we all know what it’s like to have the perfect answer pop into our head 20 minutes after an important conversation.

There are people who can face all kinds of conflict and seem to know exactly what to say. Faced with an uncooperative employee, an angry customer or a tense negotiation with a competitor, they are confident in their response. They remain calm and don’t get upset.

Leaders with high emotional intelligence have the ability to wait until their emotions pass so they can chose their response rather than react with gut feelings.

How to make it work for you: Train yourself to perform while under pressure. Mental toughness is the ability to be resilient in uncomfortable conditions:

Experiment

Always have a petri dish in your life that is full of experiences and situations where you are experimenting with the answer.

Welcome failure

When you are constantly confronting situations where you don’t know the answer, the chances are greater that you will fail. Learn to fail well so you can approach the situation in smarter ways the next time.

Reframe

Interpret your pressure in a positive way by reframing the way you look at it. Instead of saying “I don’t know the answer,” replace it with “I may not know the answer right now, but I will find it.” Your brain will interpret pressure in a new way if you reframe the question and use positive words.

Move into your discomfort zone

Too often we fine tune our skills in non-pressure situations. We don’t know how we’ll respond when placed in a real pressure situation, so seek out opportunities—yes, it will be unpleasant—where you are out of your comfort zone.

Practice under less-than-perfect conditions

You know by now that the world is not perfect so stop pretending that it is. Practice in imperfect conditions where there are lots of interruptions, disturbances, and surprises. This will help you land on your feet when in real situations where you are confronted with the unknown and the unexpected.

4. Lack Of Feedback

It’s true that it’s lonely at the top. Executive leaders have fewer opportunities for honest and constructive feedback. Managers and staff further down the food chain are hesitant to give feedback to senior colleagues.

As a result, many executive leaders find themselves confused about their performance and how to develop the skills they need. They are often isolated from constructive criticism because subordinates do not want to risk offending the boss.

Emotionally intelligence leaders who are aware of and acknowledge their weaknesses will hire good people to surround them. When the stress is high, they can depend on the people around them to compliment their strengths and counter their weaknesses.

How to make it work for you: To cultivate the feedback you need, interview at least five of your direct reports and others around you. Ask this question: “What advice would you offer to help me improve my effectiveness?” Try to listen with open and ears and a closed mouth.

© 2017 LaRae Quy. All rights reserved.

You can follow me on Twitter, Facebook, AND LinkedIn

Get my FREE 45-Question Mental Toughness Assessment

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

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

4 Ways To Get Through Hard Times

Monday, December 11th, 2017

We love stories about underdogs who beat the odds and figure out how to get through hard times. They provide encouragement that, we too, can be victorious and achieve success.

We’d prefer to watch others get through hard times from the safety of our armchair.

A favorite inspirational story of mine is about a ruthless con-artist, liar, thief, and manipulator who was full of fear and anxieties. Divested of all earthly possessions, he runs from his father-in-law and into the waiting arms of a brother who hates him.

Homeless on a riverbank, he is attacked and the violence is so intense that he is left crippled for life. He faces darkness, loneliness, exhaustion, and relentless pain.

The ancient book of the Bible tells us the man’s name was Jacob and his riverbank opponent was an angel. The question that immediately surfaces is: “Why would God create such pain and adversity?”

The question is answered by Jacob himself, who was transformed through this experience. Jacob finally understood that in real life, naive optimism and the desire for glamour is a recipe for despair and discontent.

Jacob’s transformation earned him a new name— Israel, because he prevailed over his struggles and carved out a tranquil existence in the midst of life’s turbulence.

Struggles force us to find our deepest name.

Setbacks are rarely easy. Whether it’s dealing with unemployment, a difficult job, or personal tragedies, we need mental toughness to get through hard times. Like Jacob, we can be transformed but only if we confront our failures, hurts, and pain.

Tough times and adversity have transformational powers. Life’s struggles are essential to developing resilience and generating a sense of accomplishment.

Here are 4 ways to make get through hard times: 

1. Face Adversity Head On

It’s easy to take your good luck for granted. If you are not prepared for adversity when it comes, you have no tools with which to fight back. Not getting what you always want forces you to identify your core character strengths and personal values—information you might have otherwise over looked.

Via Deep Survival: Who Lives, Who Dies, And Why, the first thing to do when we are faced with an obstacle is to recognize and accept it as soon as possible. People who get through hard times move through the stages of denial to acceptance at a faster pace. When we live in denial, things only get worse.

How To Make It Work For You: Stay alert for what can go wrong so you can prepare ahead of time. Obstacles can come from any area of your life so don’t take anything for granted. Practice gratitude every day so you’re aware of those special areas that provide joy and peace.

2. Expect the Deepest Pain To Empower You To Your Fullest Potential 

It’s not a pleasant thought, but very often it is the stressful choices that end up being the most worthwhile. Without pain, there would be no change.

When we force ourselves to only look for good things, we deny life’s problems and struggles. When we deny our struggles, we also deny ourselves the opportunity to solve them and generate real satisfaction and joy. Struggles add a layer of meaning and value to our life.

One day, in retrospect, the years of struggle will strike you as the most beautiful—Sigmund Freud

How To Make It Work For You: Psychologists remind us that “we are not our problems or crisis.” You are not the divorce, illness, trauma, or bank account. Our true self is that deeper entity that is whole and well no matter how hard it is to get through hard times. Just remember to learn from your pain and then release it.

3. Rewrite Your Story

Some of life’s struggles will change our life. When this happens, we can reframe the situation and focus on the opportunity the setback presents us. Once we identify ourselves as a victim, it stays with us.

They way in which we reframe the situation allows us to choose our personal narrative. It’s our point of view that shapes our world and the place we hold in it. If we reframe our struggle as a growth opportunity, we’re less likely to see ourselves as a victim.

A Harvard study found that people who viewed stress as a way to fuel performance managed their stress better than those who ignored their stress.

How To Make It Work For You: Recognize the story you use to explain your life. Can your situation be looked at in a different way that you haven’t considered before? Your current interpretation of your situation will change as you grow and mature. Knowing that, you can have faith and hope that things will be better tomorrow.

4. Seek Out Discomfort Zones 

Don’t be reluctant to accept a new responsibility or challenge because you don’t think you’re ready. It’s OK to acknowledge that you need additional information, skill, or experience but remember that no one is 100% ready when an opportunity present itself. Most opportunities in life force us out of our comfort zone, and so it’s natural for many of them to feel like struggles at first.

That is the best reason to move into your discomfort zone! You won’t be surprised by your response when you need to get through hard times because you’ve already spent time in discomfort zones.

Your stress hormone systems become less responsive to stress the more they are used. So, if you live your life in a way that embraces challenges on a regular basis, you’ll develop the skills that enable you to handle the extra stress.

How To Make It Work For You: Intentionally place yourself in challenging situations. The advantage of this approach is that you get to choose the level of stress involved in each challenge. To develop the skills to get through hard times, you will need to embrace moments of uncertainty even though you don’t feel 100% ready for them.

© 2017 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 Things Mentally Strong People Never Do

Monday, December 4th, 2017

Mentally tough people have surrounded me my entire life. My Dad picked away at a challenge until he found a way around it.

As an FBI agent, I found even more mentally strong people who worked their way through sticky and complex investigations. They took bold new directions that required grit and spunk. They set themselves apart from the crowd. Where others saw barriers, they saw challenges to overcome.

I learned there is no one secret to success. There is no single habit that will guarantee you’ll make it to the top. There are, however, behaviors that mentally strong people have in common to help them achieve their goals:

1. They Never Spread Negativity

It is tiresome to spend time around negative people. They spread no joy and relish dropping little bits of acid on everyone they meet; just enough to make sure their misery finds ample company. Some of the most negative people come disguised as family and friends.

If you surround yourself with negative people who don’t have dreams of their own, then guess what? You will be just like them.

TIP: You reflect the 5 people with whom you spend the most time. Distance yourself from losers who dwell on negativity.

2. They Don’t Give In To Indifference

Indifferent people find themselves satisfied with the status quo and eventually end up in a comfortable rut. They make excuses, blame others, and usually whine a lot to whoever will listen to them. To sum up: they are lazy, passive, and boring as hell.

When you care about something, you become unstoppable. Mentally strong people learn how to focus and prioritize their thoughts. They pick what is important to them, what they care about. This can be difficult, however, because it takes discipline

TIP: Pinpoint which values are important enough that you will become unstoppable in achieving them. When you care about something, you will do what you feel is right. That is what will make you unstoppable.

3. They Don’t Let Resentment Rear Its Ugly Head

Fear often hides itself in resentment. We fear the future, are angry about the present, and resent something that has happened to us in the past. Resentment rears its ugly head when we can’t let go of a slight or injustice, whether real or perceived. It’s nothing more than feeling sorry for yourself because things didn’t go your way.

Shit happens. It can hurt us and those feelings of anger are real and legitimate. But, if we let emotions simmer beneath the surface, they grow and eat away at us. Mentally strong people don’t waste precious energy on crap emotions like resentment. It sucks up too much of our stamina, the strength we need to achieve our goals.

TIP: The best way to eliminate resentment is not to set yourself up for it. Remember a time when someone asked you to do things for them. Subconsciously, you form expectations of what they’d do for you in return. If there’s a chance of you thinking, “what’s in it for me,” you’re headed for future resentment.

4. They Don’t Avoid Pain

The pursuit of happiness has gotten to be a problem. We are told happiness is something they can work for, achieve, or buy. Pain is nature’s way of inspiring change in our life. Let’s face it—if everything was perfect, would it motivate us to be innovative and survival-driven?

The constant building, conquering, and striving is the product of pain and dissatisfaction. Pain spurs action and mentally strong people understand that pain can show us where and how to take our next step.

TIP: Don’t coddle yourself or your children. Life is difficult. Pain is inevitable. Growth is optional.

5. They Don’t Buy Into Victimhood

It’s become popular these days to be a victim. It’s possible to be offended about anything. We deserve to be outraged and we expect our pathetic little grievances to get attention.

There are legitimate victims out there, but they’re not the anemic gripes that pass themselves off as news these days. Mentally strong people understand infractions happen for many reasons, but to bitch about them to whoever will listen does nothing but take focus away from the real victims.

Rejection is a part of life, so grit-up, and grow up. Feeling offended gives us a sense of self-righteousness and moral superiority.

TIP: Tim Kreider said the following in a New York Times op-ed: “Outrage is like a lot of other things that feel good but over time devour us from the inside out. And it’s even more insidious than most vices because we don’t even consciously acknowledge that it’s a pleasure.”

6. They Don’t Shy Away From Failure

We are programmed at an early age to avoid failure. Both parents and teachers pound into our heads that failing produces losers. Slick ads show us how winners look and live and they reinforce our desire to avoid failure.

Mentally strong people are the ones who continue to improve and innovate their craft. Performance improvement is built around the idea that failure is the best way to move forward. We fail, we evaluate and analyze why we failed, and try another iteration. This is the attitude that helps us weather the “shit storm” when we face a roadblock in business or life.

TIP: You’re only stupid if you don’t stop and learn from each failure. Don’t allow yourself to keep doing the same thing, each time hoping for a different result. You already know that one approach doesn’t work, so be smart and learn the lesson failure teaches you.

7. They Don’t Become Rigid In Their Thinking

When people set out to achieve their dream, they make goals to help them get there. Goals become the focus rather than the dream. That’s fine until they hit a roadblock or obstacle. Then, the goal is the thing to achieve rather than the dream. Our vision, or dream, often takes a back seat because we’ve become so focused on achieving our goals.

Every New Year begins with: what are your goals this year? The real question should be: what goals need to be modified this year to keep you moving toward your dream?

Mentally strong people understand their thinking must remain nimble and flexible. They evaluate the challenges that present themselves and pivot so they can adjust to them.

TIP: Instead of writing a list of goals, revisit your dream or vision. Then write the steps needed to get you there. Those steps are your goals.

© 2017 LaRae Quy. All rights reserved.

You can follow me on Twitter, Facebook, AND LinkedIn

Get my FREE 45-Question Mental Toughness Assessment

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

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