5 Bullet Proof Confidence Strategies, From A Former FBI Agent

August 29th, 2016 by LaRae Quy

As an FBI agent making an arrest, success wasn’t an option—it was an absolute necessity if I wanted to stay alive. I couldn’t wait for success to show up before I became confident in my abilities. The confidence was there first; the successful arrest came afterwards.

Confident woman

Confidence is a critical building block for a successful career because it is the one mindset that will take you where you want to go. The good news is that confidence is a set of learned skills and beliefs.

No one is immune to bouts of insecurity at work, but they don’t have to hold you back. For entrepreneurs, leaders, and business owners, it means having the grit you need to get through those times of doubt and the presence of mind to learn the lessons they can teach you about yourself and others.

Here are 5 bulletproof confidence strategies to get you where you want to be:

1. TAKE RISKS

Risk - mouse in mug

Most of us don’t know what we’re capable of until we’re truly challenged. And most of do not want to be truly challenged because we don’t want to fail.

But failure can be very beneficial for building confidence because it allows you a perfect opportunity to 1) learn why things went wrong, and 2) see how you can make adjustments next time.

When learning how to make an arrest or interview a terrorist I needed to take risks, fail, and learn from my mistakes as much as possible before I found myself in the actual situation.

If you think you never make mistakes, you are a narcissist—either that or stupid. But if you are humble and self-aware, you recognize that taking risks, making mistakes, and failing will help you understand that there is always something you can do to be better.

What It Means For You

Stressing yourself is the only way to grow, both mentally and physically. This means you will fail, but this is OK as long as you are willing to learn from the mistakes you made.

2. ASK FOR FEEDBACK

Communication - 2 people

Research by Leadership IQ shows that people who are good at managing negative feedback tend to be more successful than those who are not. The study further indicates that of those who fail, 26% do so because they are unwilling to accept feedback as they are afraid it might be negative.

In another study, it was found that people who ask for feedback are the most effective leaders. According to Joseph Folkman, leaders who are in the top 10% are those who are willing to ask for feedback—both positive and negative.

This study suggests that the worse you are as a leader, the less likely you are to be willing to ask for feedback because you’re afraid you will hear the truth!

After every major FBI operation, everyone involved gathers for a “hotwash” which is a critical analysis of the event. What went right, and why, is discussed as vigorously as what went wrong, and why. Everyone left the hotwash with a clear understanding of their performance in the operation.

What It Means For You

Pick people whose feedback will be honest and constructive. Feedback can be viewed as one more piece of data to analyze, digest, reject, or accept as information to make a better decision.

3. PRACTICE, PRACTICE, PRACTICE

Persistence - runner tying shoe

The best way to build confidence in a given area is to invest energy in it and work hard at it. Throw out preconceived ideas of what you can, and cannot do. If you put your shoulder to it, you will find that grit trumps talent every time!

Life-long training is a fact of life for FBI agents. It starts the day we arrive at the FBI Academy and ends the day we sign our retirement papers.

This constant training creates the sort of mentality that prepares for the worst and practices ahead of time to overcome it. We’ve either gathered the evidence, slapped on the handcuffs, or run the drills so we know what to do in case the sh*t hits the fan.

What It Means For You

Start by trying out your new skills in a safe setting. Practice a dry run before actually launching a product, negotiating with a tough customer, or making a presentation. Not only will it boost your confidence, but it can help you improve the quality of your performance.

4. LINK UP

Teamwork - ants

It’s important to surround yourself with people who believe in you. Having a solid network of people who understand you and your situation can help pave the way to confidence and success.

When your talent or skill set is reinforced by someone you respect, it resonates at a deeper level. When you believe you can do it, you work harder. When others believe in you, they push you harder.

The FBI encourages camaraderie amongst the agents because there is an intrinsic belief that together, we can all do better. And this keeps producing confidence in our own abilities.

What It Means For You

Find ways to link up with others in your area of expertise. There is something very powerful about seeing someone like yourself show you how to do the impossible.

5. GRIT UP

Grit Up!

Grit is the passion and perseverance for long-term goals.

Great athletes are not always young and fresh; instead, they are the ones who have prepared for the game and have the desire, grit, and will to succeed.

Researcher & psychologist Angela Duckworth has found that grit is the best predictor of success

Grit is unrelated to talent. When working with West Point cadets, she found that the high score on grit surpassed other tests such as SAT scores, IQ, class rank, leadership, and physical aptitude when it came to predicting success.

The most successful FBI agents were those with intrinsic goals like “I want to serve my country” or “I want to test my abilities” as opposed to those with extrinsic goals like “It’s a prestigious position” or “I will be in a powerful job.”

What It Means For You

If you are pursuing work that has meaning for you, it is easier to put your shoulder into it.

These tried-and-true strategies will help you build the confidence you will need to be ultimately successful in business and life.

What strategies have you used to gain more confidence?

This article was first published on Smartblog.

© 2016 LaRaeQuy. All rights reserved.

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

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How Emotional Intelligence Helps Leaders Make Tough Decisions

August 22nd, 2016 by LaRae Quy

Most of the FBI agents I worked alongside would never sputter the phrase emotional intelligence—much less attribute their success to it. While they considered themselves mentally tough, they preferred words like awareness and alertness to describe the skills they carefully honed over the years.

Tough Decisions

So what is mental toughness? It is being alert and aware of our emotions, thoughts, and behavior so we can manage them in ways that set us up for success.

Learning how to push through difficult situations while maintaining peak performance requires the ability to predict our responses so we can land on our feet—an impossible task unless we possess both self-awareness and self-management, two core components of emotional intelligence.

Recent research points to emotional intelligence as being a critical factor that sets star performers apart from the rest of the pack. Smart leaders, entrepreneurs, and other professionals can be mentally tough by utilizing emotional intelligence to make better decisions and achieve positive results.

Here is why:

1. You Will Know What Fuels You

Grit - Man jumping blog

I am not talking about fluffy ideals or stuff that gives you the warm fuzzies.

Training at the FBI Academy at Quantico is constructed to filter out those who do not feel deeply attached to upholding our federal judicial system.

To be mentally tough, you must know what you feel down deep in your bones. If you are not pursuing something that really holds value and meaning for you, you will not have what it takes to keep going when the going gets tough.

If you are self-aware, you know how you go after the things in life that are hard-wired to give you a purpose.

2. You Will Have A Plan B. And Plan C

Success - wall climbing

Most arrests do not go according to plan! In fact, every arrest op takes into account all that could go wrong so there is not only plan A, but C and sometimes D or more.

If mental toughness is being able to manage your emotions, thoughts, and behavior, then you must be prepared for what is next. Being a reactionary is never a good strategy, so start planning different outcomes and different scenarios.

You will not be caught off guard if plan A is not successful. This will also help you learn how to think on the fly and respond when confronted with a crisis rather than simply reacting in ways that may not be in your best interest.

3. You Will Have Self-Control

Trust - cat & parrot

In stressful situations we often say or do things we regret later.

Whether an FBI agent, leader, or entrepreneur, losing self-control can significant negative consequences. The best place to begin is by recognizing the emotions that surface in ordinary situations during your day, Now name those emotions with one word.

Now that you’ve practiced identifying emotions, try this when in a stressful situation:

  • Identify the first emotion to surface
  • Stop for a moment
  • See your best self
  • Create a strategy to effectively deal with the situation and the negative emotion
  • Move on to the second emotion that arises, and so on.

Emotional intelligence is essential for your success because once you have self-control, you find ways to prevent derailment when confronted with obstacles and roadblocks. Self-control is the ability to step back, evaluate, and regroup so you can choose your response.

4. You Will Not Let Fear Take Over

Positive Thinking - sleeping on a beam

Fear is often our first response because our limbic brain system is programmed to protect us when we confront the unknown. Since the caveman days, our brain has helped us to “get lunch” not “be lunch.”

The only ones who look forward to change are babies, and that’s because they know what to expect. Most of us are not comfortable with change and it’s natural to run from things that frighten us, but not everything that is new or different is a threat to our safety.

Fear of change is paralyzing; if you are emotionally intelligent you know that change is inevitable and you form a plan of action for each change that comes your way.

Now your turn. What has emotional intelligence taught you?

This article first appeared in Smartbrief.

© 2016 LaRaeQuy. All rights reserved.

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

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Are You Mentally Tough Enough to Be An Entrepreneur?

August 15th, 2016 by LaRae Quy

The FBI Academy engages their new agents by teaching them psychological readiness. At the root of all the mental training was the answer to this question: are you mentally tough enough to beat the opponent?

Complexity and turbulence in the business creates opponents and tough competition. Not only do entrepreneurs need to be psychologically prepared to do battle with their competitors, they need to deal with stress, recover from mistakes quickly, adjust strategies with each new innovation, and stay positive about their chances of success.

Yes, you do need to compete if you want to run a successful business; you also need to be mentally tough enough to make it happen.

Here’s how:

1. CREATE THE RIGHT ATTITUDE

Mentally tough entrepreneurs do not rely on knowledge, skills, ability or past success to break through roadblocks. Instead, they draw on an attitude of toughness that allows them to push through hard situations and face adversity with confidence.

FBI agents are trained how to conduct complex and sophisticated investigations, but they are also trained in mental toughness. This does not mean they bulldoze their way through people or problems; instead, they are trained to be aware of their own emotions and reactions when they are being pushed into their discomfort zones.

You can only be game-ready when you can predict your response when confronted with the unknown.

TIP:

  • Be curious about the things you do not know.
  • Let your grasp exceed your reach.
  • Place yourself in situations where you are a beginner

2. STRETCH TO BE MORE FLEXIBLE

Struggles - tiger in water

When mentally tough entrepreneurs move past their comfort zone, they learn how to absorb the unexpected. This makes them more self aware and in the process they become mentally stronger, because they learn how to anticipate their responses and correct them if needed.

Stretching past our comfort zone helps us learn how to be flexible in our approach when something doesn’t turn out as expected. We can quickly decide to change course or look for new ways to solve the problem.

FBI arrests rarely go according to plan so agents are required to be flexible, even in very tense and dangerous situations. Constant training helps them uncover their go-to reflexes and evaluate whether they are helpful or harmful, before actually finding themselves in an unexpected situation.

TIP:

  • Constantly re-educate yourself, even in the basics
  • Resist falling back on ideas simply because they are comfortable
  • Always look for new ways to do business

3. MANAGE RELATIONSHIPS

Successful financial plans

Mentally tough entrepreneurs are emotionally competent enough to manage the relationships that affect them and their ability to be effective.

If they experience a setback, they know how to keep their emotions in check so they can set the tone for the rest of the organization. Mentally tough leaders do the right thing for the organization and suppress the temptation to cut corners. They know how to make the right decisions for their team.

Teamwork is essential for all law enforcement, and communication must be clear and concise. In addition, FBI agents use interviews more than any other investigative tool in their arsenal which requires them to respond appropriately and effectively to the emotional reactions of their audience.

TIP:

  • Work on communicating in ways that cultivate healthy, enduring, and valuable relationships
  • Cut loose relationships that weigh you down or are negative
  • Recognize that collaboration is actually a back-and-forth flow of ideas, words, and actions

4. DEVELOP A CHAMPION MINDSET

Success - biker

Mentally tough entrepreneurs have a champion mindset that remains engaged when they are under pressure. They are constantly identifying the opportunities, challenges, and threats to their environment.

A champion mindset looks for new ways to think about adversity, and most importantly, looks for fresh ways to look at problems and roadblocks. Champions look at life with a sense of urgency and respond to the challenges of the changing face of business with innovation and curiosity.

FBI Cases are not given to agents with directions on how to solve them. Each one is a mystery to be explored, which means setbacks and false assumptions are encountered along the way. The champion mindset continues to chip away at a mystery, or problem, until a solution can be found.

TIP:

  • Pay attention to what is going on in the world around you
  • Jettison old assumptions about how business operates
  • Assume holding onto yesterday’s trend, or solution,  is dangerous

In what other ways do entrepreneurs need to be mentally tough?

© 2016 LaRaeQuy. All rights reserved.

You can follow me on Twitter

Get my FREE 45-Question Mental Toughness Assessment

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

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7 Ways Coaches Train Athletes To Manage Emotions

August 8th, 2016 by LaRae Quy

Athletic success is not dictated by body shape and movement alone. Elite performers learn how to manage emotions so they can keep moving forward when faced with tough competition.

Coaching sports

Entrepreneurs, business owners, and leaders know what facing tough competition feels like. Emotional competency is one of the core principles of mental toughness. Successful people learn how to manage emotions if they want to be confident, resilient, and persistent.

Coaches know how to build people up and this can have a permanent impact on the mind-set of their athletes that reaches far beyond the playing field. Here are 7 ways coaches train athletes to manage emotions—that can apply to everyone:

1. LOOK WHERE YOU ARE HEADED

Coaches will tell you to never look down at the ground; instead, keep your sights on where you want to go. Keeping a vision of where you want to end up is critical when you come up against a roadblock or obstacle.

I was a slow long distance runner, but in the FBI Academy I needed to up my game and run 2 miles in 10 minutes to qualify—and ultimately, graduate. My coach told me to keep my eye on the back of a runner who was faster than me and focus on keeping up.

TIP: Whether you are on the playing field or in the boardroom, you need the persistence to live the vision you have for yourself everyday. Develop even more determination by planning how you can accelerate the timeframe for reaching your goal.

2. DON’T COMPARE YOURSELF TO OTHERS

Self aware - dog

Coaches encourage personal best, not competitiveness. Whether you are on the playing field or in a boardroom, learn to focus on your performance and development.

While at the FBI Academy it was hard not to compare myself with agents who were buff and premium athletes. I did need to perform but I also knew that focusing on my own strengths and weaknesses would help me improve at increments that would eventually lead to my success.

TIP: Comparing yourself to others will only create frustration and resentment. Instead of looking at how the rest of the team is doing, focus on your performance and how you can make your contribution even stronger.

3. STRESS YOURSELF REGULARLY

Michael Phelps’s coach writes that he once cracked the swimmer’s goggles before a routine race to see how he would cope. Fast forward to the 2008 Olympics when water began to seep into Phelps’s goggles at the start of the 200-meter butterfly. By midpoint in the race Phelps could hardly see, but unflustered, he broke his own world record.

FBI agents train throughout their entire career so we were regularly exposed to performance pressure. Our firearms and defensive tactics coaches placed us in situations where we were intentionally stressed so we would know how the pressure felt when we actually encountered it.

TIP: You should never be surprised by your emotional reaction to a stressful situation because if you are, you will not be able to land on your feet when confronted with the unknown.

4. SKIP THE OVERTRAINING TRAP

Missing the deadlines. Thoughtful young woman in suit looking at the stack of paperwork and holding head on chin while sitting at her working place

It’s not surprising that many athletes burnout once they’ve finished competing. Progress is the byproduct of grit, not glamour—LaRae Quy.

However, a coach who has your best interests at heart will keep tabs on you to determine when you’re overtraining, because pushing yourself too hard can mean falling into a physiological and mental abyss.

TIP: Give yourself an emotional and physical break by pursuing a hobby, spending more time with friends and family, or taking a vacation. Create a bucket list of things you want to do in the next year, next 5 years, and the next 10 years.

5. BUILD RELATIONSHIPS

There is no one set of attributes that makes a great leader. Instead, what seems to matter most is the kind of relationship both leaders and coaches develop with others.

Despite the time-honored tradition of coaching like a drill sergeant, the disciplinarian approach is gradually shifting toward a more psychologically balanced approach.

TIP: The coaches that motivated me the most were the ones that uncovered what motivated me to become an FBI agent. They referred to those motives when giving me a pep talk or used related external cues when I felt emotionally exhausted or defeated.

6. BELIEVE IN YOURSELF

Heart eye

Whether you are in the locker room, board room, or class room, the key to building relationships with others is by focusing on the positives.

Many coaches use the sandwich approach in which constructive criticism is bookended with praise. This increases motivation, the development of specific skills, and lessens anxiety.

TIP: Start by saying something positive to your team. People need to feel as though you are on their side if they are to accept what you are trying to tell them.

7. TEACH AUTONOMY

Studies have confirmed that coaches who deliver information in an interactive and relationship-based manner have the most success.

Pete Carroll of the Seattle Seahawks was voted in 2014 as the most popular coach in the National Football League. Carroll is known for being supportive of other players’ opinions, encourages loud music in the locker room, and focuses on wins and not losses when reviewing past games with his players.

TIP: When your team feels that you listen to them and their input, you are giving them confidence in themselves. It is this confidence that will lead them to greater autonomy as they move forward in business and life.

How do you manage emotions?

© 2016 LaRaeQuy. All rights reserved.

You can follow me on Twitter

Get my FREE 45-Question Mental Toughness Assessment

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

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9 Habits Of Incredibly Charming People

August 1st, 2016 by LaRae Quy

We are more likely to build personal and professional relationships with people we like. In doing so, we are drawn to people who are charming, polite, and modest.

Charm

Charm is the power of pleasing or attracting others through our personality. There are arguments that social media is damaging our people skills, but I disagree. The charm of manners and personality is as important in social media and news outlets as it is in face-to-face conversations.

A lot of people know how to be rude, blunt, and offensive but a lot of people also know how to be charming. In the world of sales, business, and startups, it’s impossible to change people’s minds unless you change their hearts, too.

Here are 9 habits of incredibly charming people:

1. CHARMING PEOPLE USE THE RIGHT BODY LANGUAGE

They step forward, with a genuine smile, eyebrows arched, head tilted, and a slight bow—a clear sign of deference in every culture—and offer a firm handshake.

This body language signals that we have put aside all pretense of power and self-importance to indicate we are honored by the introduction. Our body language is often the first thing others notice about us, so we need to be certain we are sending the right message.

Not everyone is excited about meeting an FBI agent, so the initial messages I sent with my body language went a long way to opening the other person up to a genuine conversation.

2. CHARMING PEOPLE KEEP THEIR EGO IN CHECK

They look for points of agreement; sometimes the search is hard but they find ways to understand the other person’s point of view. 

This doesn’t mean they are afraid to voice their own opinion—when asked and when appropriate! Our ego often insists that we demand our right to express our own opinion; charming people know how to keep the ego in check so someone else can have the main floor.

My job in the FBI was to recruit foreign spies to work for the U.S. government. Often, I wanted to spout off about why America was a better place to live than their country. I learned, however, that what is right for me might not be right for them, even if that meant swallowing my pride and admitting defeat.

3. CHARMING PEOPLE NEVER NAME DROP

Very little is more annoying that meeting someone who constantly name drops about all the important people they know. Or, brags about their points of contacts.

Charming people may know lots of fascinating people, but they don’t talk about it.

When interviewing people, I always made it a habit to treat the person in front of me as the most important person in the world to me at that moment. And they were important, either to me or my investigation—they key was letting them know it.

4. CHARMING PEOPLE REMEMBER FACES AND/OR NAMES

They work hard to remember names, faces, or even small details of the other person’s life. The fact that they remember those specifics always makes the other person feel better about themselves.

If they remember something about us, we will remember something about them.

I am very bad with names and repeating the name 3 times does not help me to remember at all. I am much better with faces, though, so I try to link something about the person’s past history to the face. That way, even if forget their name I can create rapport by mentioning the factoid that I do remember.

5. CHARMING PEOPLE LISTEN TO WHAT OTHERS HAVE TO SAY

They focus on the person in front of them—whether they are knee-to-knee and nose-to-nose with a person or in front of a computer screen answering emails. They don’t lapse into planning tomorrow or checking items off their to-do list.

Deep listening means being present with both sides of the conversation—not just your side.

Many times the individuals I was trying to recruit for the FBI spoke such poor English that I really did have truly concentrate to understand what they were trying to say. The more I focused on listening to them, the more they opened up.

6. CHARMING PEOPLE ADAPT THEIR PERSONALITY TO THE OTHER PERSON

They know how to match their personality to their employees, prospects, and clients. This means they must quickly assess whether the other person was an introvert or extrovert, analytical or a visionary, purpose-driven or security-driven, goal-oriented or people-oriented.

If you’ve been a good listener, you will be able to make these distinctions.

When listening to one particular foreign spy talk, I quickly determined that he was not a risk taker so I immediately re-framed the conversation. Instead of making a single suggestion, I offered a series of smaller, bite-sized ones he could take time to consider, and get comfortable with, before we moved onto the larger goal (that is, working for the U.S. government).

7. CHARMING PEOPLE ARE SINCERE

They take the time to develop relationships so they can accurately understand people’s needs, desires, and fears. Until this happens, it’s very difficult to engage people in any meaningful way.

Sometimes it’s not all about the money. The days of hard pitches to close sales are over. Customers are getting too sophisticated for this approach; they use mass media to educate themselves about a product and make their decisions right then and there.

If we’re on the losing end of this decision, our job is to change their mind by changing their heart.

The foreign spies I tried to recruit were suspicious of me and professed loyalty to their government. Understanding that, I could couch my conversations with them in ways that would not impugn their loyalty or trustworthiness.

8. CHARMING PEOPLE ARE RESPECTFUL OF OTHERS

They know how to give others the respect that is due to them without trying to belittle them in the process.

In a culture that at times seems to be losing its ability to have respect for the opposing point of view, this is an extremely important habit to cultivate.

When a suspect in one of my investigations understood that the FBI had no intention of bullying them or resorting to extortion (despite how the FBI is portrayed in TV and movies), I always sensed their gratitude for the respect that was shown to them.

9. CHARMING PEOPLE HAVE TACT WHEN IN DISAGREEMENT

They know what to say or do to avoid giving offense. Tact is essential when dealing with difficult or delicate situations.

Do not ask embarrassing questions that put people on the defensive. If you’re uncertain how to move forward with a difficult conversation, try role-playing with a friend and ask for their input. Are you coming across the way you want?

One foreign spy expected to be blackmailed (for what, I don’t know—it made me think I hadn’t watched him closely enough!) It was important that he walk away from our conversation with his dignity because I wanted to leave the door open for future conversations with him. Over time, he felt comfortable enough with me to provide valuable assessment on his fellow intelligence officers.

The charm had worked!

How have you charmed people?

© 2016 LaRaeQuy. All rights reserved.

You can follow me on Twitter

Get my FREE 45-Question Mental Toughness Assessment

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

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Have A Great Day: 5 Ways To Control Your Emotions

July 25th, 2016 by LaRae Quy

It is difficult to look the victim of a crime in the face and not feel anger toward the person who caused the pain. But as federal law enforcement, FBI agents are required to control their emotions as they conduct investigations in a fair and efficient manner.

Argument

When we let our emotions take control, we become a victim of our circumstances—LaRae Quy

Mental toughness is managing our emotions, thoughts, and behavior in ways that set us up for success. Emotions and thinking are linked, but we are not slaves to our emotions if we can learn how to control them.

Here are 5 ways to control your emotions—and have a great day, all backed by research:

1. LOOK INTO YOUR FUTURE

After a long week all I wanted to do was sit, relax, and read. When a friend called and suggested we go for a rigorous hike. I hesitated. Which situation would benefit me the most?

When we have the luxury of choosing one situation over another, we have power over the emotional outcome of our day. So how do we make the right choice on how to spend it?

Psychologists have found that people who are emotionally competent (possessing the ability to recognize and control emotions) tend to choose those situations which are most beneficial to them, regardless of whether or not it provided the most pleasure.

TIP:

Don’t let the pursuit of happiness lead you to make decisions that are based purely on fleeting emotional experiences. Instead, look into your future and make decisions that are grounded in a clear vision of long-term goals.

For example, I chose to go for the rigorous hike because physical exercise keeps both the mind and body active, even though spending time on the couch with a book felt the most appealing.

2. MODIFY YOUR SITUATION

Competitive

I was early for a supervisor’s conference and took a seat; then Earl showed up and sat down beside me. I found Earl irksome since he was the kind of guy always making snide remarks while other people talked. I decided to modify my situation—I got up, excused myself, and left the room. After chatting with people in the hallway for five minutes, I came back in. Sure enough, someone else had taken my seat next to Earl and I found another one across the room.

Sometimes getting out of a negative situation is harder than simply moving seats. Some events like losing your job, the death of a partner, or an unexpected illness are not controllable. However, no matter the stressful situation, look for ways you can be proactive and take interventional measures.

Recent research suggests that people who do not take steps to modify their situation only compound their problems. If they learn how to reframe their circumstances, they are better able to control their emotions.

TIP:

If the situation is uncontrollable, take proactive measures such as exploring new opportunities and options that might not have been available to you before. If the situation is controllable, find ways to modify it—before your emotions spill out and make matters worse.

Either way, take action.

3. CONCENTRATE—OR DIVERT—YOUR ATTENTION

A female agent, whom I will Lucy because she was always a little loose with the facts, was giving her presentation during a squad briefing. I felt a growing resentment with each word she said because the supervisor couldn’t see through her line of bullsh*t.

She was exaggerating the facts to make herself look good so I chose to concentrate my attention squarely on Lucy, primarily because I wanted to be very clear on where she was slipping up and giving false information.

Research by Gal Sheppes suggests that when we’re in an uncontrollable situation the best way to deal with negative emotions is to either concentrate on what is in front of us, or divert our attention.

In his studies, he found that most people preferred to divert their attention and think of something completely different when faced with a negative emotion. Since sad and distressing situations can be very exhausting, avoidance and self-distraction can be very helpful.

TIP:

Forget traditional thinking where we’re told that finding meaning in bad experiences is a healthy strategy while distraction and disengagement are not healthy and maladaptive. Instead, scientists are now saying that choosing the right coping strategy for the right circumstances is the key to mental health. Sometimes it’s logical to disengage emotionally, but in other contexts it may be harmful. The key is knowing which is which.

4. TACKLE NEGATIVE THOUGHTS

Intuition

Knowing that the person I was arresting was responsible for the agony and heartache of others made it difficult to treat the suspect with the respect and dignity required by law.

Instead of turning away from disturbing or unfavorable situations, mentally tough people tackle thoughts that lead to their negative emotional response. Studies have found that people can cope with unwanted emotions by “distancing” themselves or imagining the situation as an impartial observer.

When you imagine an event as though you’re a bystander, you will notice that you harbor fewer aggressive and negative emotions than if you relive the incident.

TIP:

Instead of asking, “Why do I feel that way?” I recommend you put the question in the third person: “Why does LaRae feel this way?” In this way, you can visualize yourself as a mere witness to events.

5. LET IT LOOSE

One of my interviews was a pedophile who had abused his daughter. Since I needed his cooperation, I smiled, kept my face a mask, and acted unfazed by his confession.

I was repulsed by the man and had to work hard to keep my feelings from showing. Afterwards, I went for a run and took a long shower—even the smell of him made me nauseous.

Like me, most people try to suppress negative physical reactions when they are angry, frustrated, or disgusted by the situation. Studies by psychologist Roy Baumeister explain why inhibiting expressions of stress actually leads to exhaustion and is linked to health problems. My run after the interview was one of the healthiest things I could have done.

TIP:

When confronted with an intense moment, visualize the outcomes you want and identify the actions you need to take to make it happen. Regulating negative emotions does not mean avoiding them. Negative emotions can prompt us to dig into our beliefs and misconceptions and help us discover new insight into ourselves.

How do you control your emotions?

© 2016 LaRaeQuy. All rights reserved.

You can follow me on Twitter

Get my FREE 45-Question Mental Toughness Assessment

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

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13 FBI Principles of Mental Toughness

July 18th, 2016 by LaRae Quy

I get quite a few chuckles from people who write about mental toughness when all they have to cite are statistics that come from other people’s experiences. Rare is the person who writes about how to be mentally strong from personal experience.

Attitude - serious

When I interviewed to become an FBI agent, one of the things that the interviewing panel liked about me was that I was born and raised on a cattle ranch in the middle of Wyoming. I did not grow up pampered and did not see myself as entitled to anything. Instead, I was young, scrappy, and hungry to prove myself worthy of a chance to work hard and climb the ladder of success on my own.

I did not have parents hovering over me to give me all the advantages that are making today’s kids soft, entitled, and ungrateful.

Search the phrase mental toughness and you’re likely to come up with a muck-up of assorted opinions on what it means.

I have worked hard to identify my core beliefs about mental toughness. Here I share 13 key principles I learned from my time with the FBI:

Principle #1: Self Awareness

Unless you know what makes you tick, you’ll be forever ignorant about the most important person in your life—yourself.

FBI agents must know themselves well enough that they can predict their response when confronted with the unknown.

Principle #2: Awareness of Others

Many believe that mental toughness is a leader’s ability to plow through emotions and feelings without being touched by them so they can continue to march stalwartly onward. It’s not that simple.

FBI agents are successful investigators because they are able to recognize the negative emotions of others and anticipate how they could spin out of control.

Principle #3: Communication

You can have the greatest ideas in the world, but if you can’t explain them to others, you will never be anything more than educated derelict.

FBI agents use interviews as their most reliable and successful investigative tool. Despite what you see in movies and TV, communicating with people and getting them to cooperate is far more effective than extortion or threats.

Principle #4: Resilience

Resilient people are mentally tough because they take responsibility for their actions and do not resort to whining or blaming others for their situation.

FBI agents are not able to choose their assignments so they learn to be resilient and bounce back from the sticky situations in which they often find themselves.

Principle #5: Authenticity

The only time I got into trouble in undercover work as as an FBI agent was when I tried to be someone I am not. I could slap on a different name or title, but if I wanted to be successful I needed to be authentic about who I was.

I learned this from years as an FBI investigator: It takes courage to tell the story of who you are with your whole heart. It’s hard to let go of who you think you ought to be in order to be who you really are. What makes your story unique also makes you powerful.

Principle #6: Confidence

The first thing I learned in the FBI Academy is that success would not make me confident; instead, confidence in myself and my abilities would make me successful. My four months at the academy were spent developing that confidence—before I was sent out with a gun and badge.

Drop me in the middle of any squad or any situation, anywhere, anytime—I would not be scared because I was confident I would succeed wherever I was.

Principle #7: No self-limiting beliefs

Self-limiting beliefs are lies we tell ourselves because of something that has happened in our past.

FBI agents learn early not to let the crap from their past bog them down; they know it’s not their past that defines who they are or where they are going in life. What truly defines them is their expectation of the future.

The only difference between a rut and a coffin are the dimensions.

Principle #8: Willpower

The capacity to say “no” to the call of temptation and a desire to quit is called willpower.

FBI agents need willpower to find the energy, motivation, and enthusiasm to keep going even when they are tired, anxious, and confronted with an investigation with no easy answers or solutions.

Principle #9: Grit

Grit is your ability to persevere over the long-run and thrive despite all kinds of unplanned events.

As an FBI agent, I knew that the way in which I dealt with challenges would determine how I would achieve success. Grit and perseverance, not talent or education, was the key to unlocking my greatest potential.

Grit Up—Be.Fiercely.Awesome!

Principle #10: Positive Thinking

Our greatest mental toughness tool is our ability to choose one thought over another.

FBI agents are positive thinkers who believe they will prevail in their circumstances rather than believing their circumstances will change.

Principle #11: Growth Mindset

A growth mindset believes that intelligence and personality can be developed; they are not immutably engrained traits.

The most successful FBI agents possessed a growth mindset that thrived on challenge and saw failure as a springboard for growth and stretching their existing abilities.

Principle #12: Gratitude

Gratitude is one of the most important emotions we can cultivate because if we aren’t thankful for what we have, we will never be thankful for what we’re going to get.

FBI agents, Navy SEALS, and special forces cultivate the emotion of gratitude to help get them through tough times.

Principle #13: Mastery

The secret to success is simple: work hard. People who achieve success work hard to become top performers.

FBI agents master skill sets by developing a flexible and agile mindset that can quickly change course if circumstances change. They know better than anyone that no one ever drowned in a pool of sweat.

© 2016 LaRaeQuy. All rights reserved.

You can follow me on Twitter

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

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How Meditation Creates A Strong Mind

July 11th, 2016 by LaRae Quy

My firearms instructor at the FBI Academy told me that the best shooters develop a strong mind by not allowing themselves to be distracted by other thoughts. All I needed to do was relax, breathe, and focus.

Meditation

He was right. Ironically, shooting at a target can be a Zen moment. If your mind is cluttered with thoughts and anxiety, you won’t hit your mark. Good shooters let all of that go and become very mindful.

Shooting a gun shares many of the same characteristics as meditation. Both require the person to control their noisy inner world with a strength of mind that produces mental toughness.

A strong mind uses meditation to control the tyranny of everyday thinking—compulsive, brain-driven, and unproductive behavior that is based on years of bad habits.

Blaise Pascal, the French philosopher and mystic, said centuries ago, “All human evil comes from this: our inability to sit still in a chair for half an hour.” 

If you think this is an exaggeration, a recent study at the University of Virginia said that 67% of men and 15% of women would sooner endure an unpleasant electric shock rather than be alone in silence for even 15 minutes!

Many of us tend to dwell on negative things when we’re alone. Left in silence, we become anxious as our mind begins an internal dialogue that leaves us sleepless and exhausted.

Mental toughness is harnessing the power of silence to control our emotions, thoughts, and behavior in ways that will set us up for success.

The silence produced by meditation is a form of intelligence, a type of knowing that goes beyond our emotions, thoughts, and behavior. Meditation is one of the most empowering tools we can use to impact all areas of our life.

Meditation allows us to directly participate in our lives instead of living life as an afterthought.

Here is how a strong mind uses meditation to improve its performance:

1. A Strong Mind Uses Meditation To Change Its Brain

 

 

Brain - messages

Scientists have learned that activities like meditation can change our brain in several ways. It:

  • Adds synaptic connections that thicken the brain tissues over time in the regions handling control of attention and sensory awareness.
  • Increases serotonin, the neurotransmitter that helps regulate mood and sleep.
  • Triggers the body to secrete hormones that decrease blood pressure and heart rate.
  • Activates the left side of your frontal lobes which produce more positive emotions.

2. A Strong Mind Uses Meditation To Calm It Down

Meditation enables us to move from higher frequency brain waves—which is hyperactivity in the brain—to lower frequency.

The slower the rhythms in the brain, the more time you have between thoughts. With more time, you also have more opportunity to skillfully choose which thoughts you should invest in.

Note: For those who have not tried meditation, check out this excellent app from Headspace.

3. A Strong Mind Uses Meditation To Lessen Anxiety

Mistakes -woman on phone

Researchers explain that there are many “centers” in the brain, but the one that impacts the way you see yourself, and others, is called the Self-Referencing Center.

Many people also call this the “Me Center” because it processes information related to us—our daydreams, thinking of the future, self-reflection, and our experiences.

When you become anxious, it triggers a strong reaction in your Me Center which leaves you feeling threatened and scared.

Meditation weakens this neural connection. Your ability to ignore anxiety is enhanced as these connections are broken. As a result, you are able to readily recognize sensations like anxiety or fear for what they are; in doing so, you can respond to them more rationally.

4. A Strong mind Uses Meditation To Be More Productive

Successful financial plans

While many may say that meditating for performance is not the point, researchers at the University of California, Santa Barbara, have discovered that meditation not only reduces stress, it also calms us down so we can be our best.

Meditation does the following:

  • Separates the noise from the static.
  • Helps you focus on what is important to you.
  • Increases memory so it’s easier to recall information.
  • Creates better conversations with others.
  • Strengthens resolve to make intentional decisions so you achieve what you want.
  • Trains your mind to not get swept up by distractions.

Meditation is the extra edge most of us need for peak performance in our competitive environments. It helps us to control our mind’s natural inclination to wander, which often gets in the way of our success. A strong mind is distracted less often and has an easier time remembering what is important to remember.

You should sit in meditation for twenty minutes a day, unless you are too busy. Then you should sit for an hour—Zen Proverb

How can you make meditation a part of your life?

© 2016 LaRaeQuy. All rights reserved.

You can follow me on Twitter

Get my FREE 45-Question Mental Toughness Assessment

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

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How Mentally Tough People Handle Stress

June 13th, 2016 by LaRae Quy

As the spokesperson for the FBI in Northern California, I experienced more stress in those four years than at any other time in my life. The constant demand from the media for information that was timely, on-message, and accurate was relentless.

stress

Interestingly enough, it was also the period in my life when I felt the most energized and invigorated. After twenty years as an investigator, I needed the boost of adrenaline that a fast-paced environment gave me.

As entrepreneurs, sales executives, and leaders, you are stressed by deadlines, responsibilities, and your ever-increasing workload. You may be worried that stress is interfering with your job performance and even your health.

The conventional wisdom about stress warns that too much of it can cause high blood pressure, heart attacks, and other health hazards. Although non-stop stress can be harmful, recent research is providing new insight into how measured doses of stress can actually enhance our performance.

Our brains are hard-wired so that it is difficult for us to take action until we feel stress or anxiety. Mentally strong people are able to manage their emotions, thoughts, and behavior in optimal levels to achieve top performance.

Here are 4 mental toughness tools to help you keep stress levels in check:

1. DEVELOP THE RIGHT MINDSET

In the past, psychologists believed that it was the amount of stress that was bad for a person’s health. But in recent studies it’s become clear that the amount of stress is a surprisingly poor predictor of whether it will leave you better, or worse, off.

New research from Yale University and Shawn Achor, author of The Happiness Advantage, reveal that people can be divided into two groups:

  1. those who believe that stress-is-debilitating, and
  2. those who believe that stress-is-enhancing.

The Yale Study found that people who had stress-is-enhancing mindsets reported having better health, greater life satisfaction, and superior work performance.

Stress produces cortisol—too much or too little cortisol release in response to a stressor can have negative physiological consequences.

The Yale research, in combination with Achor’s findings, paint a very clear picture:

Stress is killing you if you believe it is. Studies confirm that people who die from stress do not die from stress itself, but from the belief that stress was bad for them. Those who do not believe it is harmful experience no negative side effects on their health.

If you can use mental toughness to manage your mindset, you will see challenges you face as opportunities to grow and learn. In addition, you will be both happier and more productive.

2. USE SELF-TALK TO MANAGE YOUR STRESS

We all know that anxiety can hurt performance and most of us have been in situations when we were anxious, couldn’t think straight, and experienced temporary lapses in memory.

Too much cortisol and our performance withers, but people who are calm experience too little cortisol and their performance also withers.

The key is learning how to manage your emotions with self-talk and using the right words when controlling your thoughts.

In a study published by the Journal of Experimental Psychology, people who told themselves that they were excited about the challenge ahead of them performed significantly better than those who told themselves that they were calm.

If you are excited about your job or task, you will be more persuasive, competent, confident, and persistent. You will grit-up with the mental toughness to change the way you label your feelings and emotions—from stressful to exciting. This helps create a shift toward a more positive mindset.

3. BE GRATEFUL

Taking the time to be grateful lessens anxiety because it reduces the stress hormone cortisol. Professor Robert Emmons conducted a study at the University of California, Davis, of over 1,000 people, from ages 8 to 80. They found that those who cultivate an attitude of gratitude experienced a host of benefits:

  • Stronger immune systems and lower blood pressure
  • Higher levels of positive emotions
  • More joy, optimism, and happiness
  • Acting with more generosity and compassion
  • Feeling less lonely and isolated

4. REIGNITE THE INNER FIRE

The higher levels of stress that I experienced as the FBI spokesperson brought me closer to understanding what fired up my heart. Because of the constant deadlines, I found myself doing two things:

1) Focusing on what I liked to do, and 2) delaying until later or delegating to others the things I didn’t like to do.

One of the things I loved to do was gather stories from other agents and then work with reporters on getting those stories out to the public. I delayed as long as possible doing the record checks and going through files for details of an investigation.

When I created stories around FBI best practices and shared them with others, I knew that the audience would benefit from the life lessons that twirled all around me.

The stress imposed upon me by my job forced me to prioritize, and in those priorities I found where my heart was leading: I wanted to write and share the lessons I learned from my time as an FBI agent with others.

For stress to be beneficial, it’s important to find meaning in your work . Research has shown that workers in high-stress jobs like air-traffic controllers and intensive-care nurses thrive under heavy stress if they are positive about the future and find their work meaningful.

You cannot be stressed out and empowered at the same time! Be mentally strong and keep your anxiety from taking over.

When has stress enabled you to perform at your best?

© 2016 LaRaeQuy. All rights reserved.

You can follow me on Twitter

Get my FREE 45-Question Mental Toughness Assessment

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

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7 Killer Ways To Make Stronger First Impressions

June 6th, 2016 by LaRae Quy

Fortunately, most people judged me as a competent FBI agent within the first few seconds of meeting me. My success often depended upon coming across as someone who made others feel respected, valued, and comfortable.

Successful woman copy

I knew from experience that first impressions are fast, firm, and very sticky. I had one shot of making a good one, and if I didn’t, I risked losing the opportunity to build the trust that I so badly needed in order to do business with a new contact.

In a recent study by Princeton University psychologist Alex Todorov, people looked at a microsecond of video of a political candidate. They could predict with 70% accuracy who would win the election just from that microsecond of tape. This tells us that people can make incredibly accurate snap judgments in a tenth of a second.

Just as you evaluate potential business partners, employees and personal acquaintances on your first impression of them, others will judge you and your business by the way you come across to them.

Strong first impressions help you be persuasive because it is a very effective way of getting people’s attention.

Here are 7 killer ways you can make a strong first impression:

1. DRESS TO IMPRESS

Success - men

Appearance is our first filter. This isn’t news to anyone so put a little effort into it—dress like it matters. A professional appearance will enhance your personal brand and the more polished you appear, the more likely you will leave a positive impression.

This doesn’t necessarily mean conservative or expensive, but it does mean you need to put thought into your appearance. For men, a watch can say a lot about them. For women, jewelry and makeup goes a long way in sending the right message, or the wrong one!

TIP:

  • Always dress for your client’s comfort, not yours.

2. APPEAR INTERESTED

 

According to social psychologist Amy Cuddy, one of the best ways to win people’s confidence is to simply to let them talk first.

It is a mistake to approach every business meeting as a negotiation or evaluation. Instead, start collecting information about the other person. Listen as they share things about themselves and the best way to do this is to engage in small talk.

TIP:

  • Be a good listener
  • Ask pertinent questions during your conversation
  • Make eye contact to show you’re fully engaged
  • Always allow others time to fully express themselves, don’t interrupt or finish their sentence

3. POLITENESS MATTERS

To judge by movies, television, and books, one would be left with the impression that successful FBI agents are rude, pushy, and arrogant. While kicking ass has its place in making arrests, generally the most effective FBI agent is the one who recruits people with knowledge of a suspect to work with them in gathering information. While informants come in many shapes, sizes, and smells, the agent must be someone the informant wants to work with.

Polite people are memorable because they stand out for positive reasons. They make us feel comfortable, respected, and valued. We want to be around them.

And we want to do business with them.

TIP:

  • Step forward to meet someone, smile, tilt your head slightly downward (a sign of respect in every culture)
  • Act as though you are the one honored by the introduction, not them.
  • Never gossip

4. OFFER A FIRM HANDSHAKE

Your handshake should be warm, friendly and sincere. If it is too firm or too weak, you may convey a negative impression. If you’re seated when you’re introduced to someone, stand before you shake hands—it shows respect for the person you are meeting.

TIP:

  • Keep it short and sweet,
  • Remember to smile
  • Make eye contact when you shake hands

5. ASK FOR ADVICE

Communication - 2 people

In a series of studies, researchers found that when people are asked for advice, they are flattered and it increases their self-confidence.

According to these same studies, when others ask for our advice, we tend to think they were smart to come to us for help! Being asked for advice increases our opinion of the advice seeker’s competence.

TIP:

  • Asking for advice can be an effective business strategy. For example, when facing conflict in negotiations, asking your counterpart for advice can increase the perception that you are likable and competent, thereby leading to a more rapid resolution of the conflict.

6. ARRIVE EARLY

Arrive a few minutes early. It’s always important to be punctual because when you arrive on time you send the clear message that you’re responsible, capable and respectful of others’ time.

Use the few extra minutes to go to the restroom so you can check your appearance and gain your composure before you walk into an important meeting.

TIP:

  • Always schedule extra time on your calendar to accommodate traffic delays, weather, and parking.

7. PREPARE AHEAD OF TIME

 

Proper preparation reduces anxiety and will help give the impression that you are competent. If you do your homework before an important business meeting, you will have a tremendous advantage over your competition.

If you are attending a networking event, familiarizing yourself with the names and industries of those attending will help you better understand the needs of your potential new clients.

When you take the time to prepare, you’ll appear interesting and knowledgeable—two qualities that help make a good impression.

TIP:

  • Learn as much as you can about those you will be meeting
  • Brush up on current events that pertain to their industries

How did someone make a strong first impression with you? Why?

© 2016 LaRaeQuy. All rights reserved.

You can follow me on Twitter

Get my FREE 45-Question Mental Toughness Assessment

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

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