Living With Purpose Is The Secret To A Long and Healthy Life

June 8th, 2014 by LaRae Quy

I met Oleg a few years back while I was working as an FBI undercover agent. Oleg was a Russian spy sent to the U.S. to steal proprietary economic intelligence. My job was to find the answer to two questions: 1) what specific technology was he trying to steal, and 2) would he be amenable to working with the FBI as a double agent?


Purpose - got purpose?I wasn’t sure how to go about pursuing these questions at first, but Oleg provided one of the answers soon after I met him.

I made arrangements to attend a seminar that I knew he would be attending. The seat next to Oleg was empty, so I wasted no time in gently shoving a gentleman out of the way so I could get there before anyone else.

As Oleg and I chatted, one thing became obvious: he was bored with his job. It wasn’t that Oleg couldn’t talk about certain aspects of his overt job (not the spy part),  it was that he didn’t want to talk about them. He couldn’t drum up enough enthusiasm about it to even keep up a good conversation. His lack of engagement in what he was doing was a clue that he was not doing something he felt passionate about.

Oleg was a great recruitment for the FBI, and a great win for me professionally as an FBI agent, but Oleg isn’t the only one who was dissatisfied with his career.

A recent Harvard Business School survey indicates that we have a 23-year low in job satisfaction and 84% of Americans say they want a new job.

Most of us are passive spectators in our life. We plan careers, retirement nest eggs, and vacations, but we do not plan our life. 

Mentally tough people live their life with purpose and meaning. They are an active participant in where their life is going.

Here is the real clincher—having a sense of purpose may add years to your life. Recent research has concluded that purposefulness is a strong predictor of longevity. In the past, behavioral scientists have understood that having a positive outlook and strong relationships contributed to living a longer and healthier life. 

New studies, however, suggest that purpose itself is what drives longevity.

Finding a direction for life and setting overarching goals for what you want to achieve can help you live longer. Without goals to anchor us, we find ourselves adrift in life. We may think we know what our goals are, but if we aren’t living our life around them, then we’re not living our life on purpose.

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. 

Research has shown that people who regularly write down their goals not only life longer and healthier lives, they also earn as much as nine times more than their counterparts who do not write down goals.

Start living a longer and healthier life by thinking about your own experiences and the things that are important to you.

Here are some simple ways to dig down and find your purpose:



  • Start a log.
  • Jot down activities, people, circumstances, and experiences from your day.
  • Notice when and how your attitude changes.
  • Look for patterns.



  • Make a list of what you’d do if money weren’t an issue.
  • Remember what brought you joy as a child.
  • Enjoy those memories for a few moments.
  • Reflect on what brings a smile to your face today.



  • Pinpoint your attitudes and habits of behavior.
  • Acknowledge your fears.
  • Accept your strengths.
  • Identify your desires.

As the psalmist says, “Search your own heart with all diligence for out of it flow the issues of life.”

What is standing in your way of finding your purpose? How can being authentic help you be a better leader? 

© 2014 LaRaeQuy. All rights reserved.


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6 Persuasion Tips From FBI Charm School

June 1st, 2014 by LaRae Quy

FBI counterintelligence agents, such as myself, recruit foreign spies to work for the U.S. government. It’s not that we are selling anything; instead, we are using persuasion to make our point. Very often, we are successful.


Charming - smaller file

You may never find yourself in a situation where you’ll be confronted with a Russian spy trying to steal classified information, and chances are even slimmer that you’ll be asked to recruit him to work for our side, but there will be times that you will absolutely need to make your point.  

Persuasion is not just for spies, salespeople, and teenagers.

You may need to persuade your boss to take a closer look at your proposal or persuade employees to perform better.

Here are 6 tips from FBI charm school on how to persuade people effectively with grace—and even a little dignity:



This is difficult because it means you need to take the focus away from yourself and concentrate on the person in front of you—and this is true whether you’re knee-to-knee with a person or in front of a computer screen answering emails. 

It means being present with both sides of the conversation—not just your side. Do not lapse into planning tomorrow or checking items off your to-do list.



An essential element of mental toughness is the ability to accurately read the emotions of others and then adapt your behavior accordingly.

Match your personality to your boss, employee, or client. Assess whether they are introverts or extraverts, 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.



Only by taking the time to develop relationships, can you fully understand people’s needs, desires, and fears. Until this happens, it’s very difficult to engage them in any meaningful way. 



In a culture that at times seems to be losing its ability to have respect for the opposing point of view, it’s important to give others the respect that is due to them without trying to belittle them in the process.

When making our point with others, we have two options: we can either manipulate people into adopting our view, or we can use different measures of persuasion. 

Manipulation is a favorite of bullies like Adolph Hitler—and the tactics used by slick advertising.

Persuasion, on the other hand, is the ability to charm and influence others using subtle methods without denigrating the other person.



A person with tact knows 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.

Perhaps the biggest tip for developing tact is this: think before you say something.

Try role-playing with a friend and ask for their input. Are you coming across the way you want?



My years in the FBI were a grueling course in learning good manners because people were not going to talk to me, let alone follow me, unless I could engage them in a way that was meaningful and productive.

Demonstrate warmth first when connecting with others, develop a bond and then be competent in the work you do together.

It’s impossible to change people’s minds unless you take the time to develop more than shallow, fleeting relationships with them. It comes down to this: in a world of mass media you must learn how to charm people if you want to persuade them to take your point of view seriously.

© 2014 LaRaeQuy. All rights reserved.


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What Emotional Intelligence Reveals About Your Personality

May 25th, 2014 by LaRae Quy

As an FBI counterintelligence agent, the key to recruiting a foreign spy to work for the U.S. government was forming an accurate assessment of their personality. Once I understood their personality traits, I could move forward with confidence that I had everything I needed to craft a successful approach.

Think Big copy

Forming a personality assessment allowed me to understand the foreign spy better than he understood himself. The reason is because many people do not possess the emotional intelligence to accurately interpret their own personality—let alone the personalities of others. 

Emotional intelligence had a powerful impact on my career as an FBI agent. 

The nugget of a personality assessment is uncovering the basic fear and desire of each personality type. This helps in interpreting behavior—both good and bad—as well as understanding the motivation behind it.

You cannot be mentally tough if you are not emotionally aware of your environment. 

As leaders, it’s important to build your emotional intelligence skills because tuning into the emotions that control different personalities will help you gain a more accurate view of your surroundings. This awareness impacts both relationships and the bottom line. 

Here are tips on how to use emotional intelligence to interpret and understand how nine personalities types express their emotions:



These folks want to improve the world by using whatever influence they have. They tend to be idealists who use phrases like “Because I say so,” and “You should.” This personality type believes there is a right way to do things, and they are more than willing to teach you. Thus, they can be very judgmental.

Think: Hillary Clinton or Martha Stewart.

Basic fear: being bad, defective, or corrupt in some way; they tend to overcompensate to make up for it. 

Basic desire: to have integrity because they believe that they are OK if they are doing what is right.



Leaders of this type genuinely want to help other people. Going out of their way to help people brings meaning to their life. They see themselves as supporting and empowering others and they often believe that others couldn’t succeed without their help.

Think: Mother Theresa or Eleanor Roosevelt

Basic fear: being unloved and unwanted for themselves alone.

Basic desire: to feel loved because they believe they are OK if they are loved by others.



They know how good it feels to develop themselves and contribute their talents to the world. They enjoy motivating others to greater personal achievement than other thought they were capable of. They often feel that the world is a contest they can win if they work hard and appear successful.

Think: Donald Trump or Tony Robbins.

Basic fear: being without value apart from their achievements.

Basic desire: to feel worthwhile and accepted because they believe they are OK if they are successful and others think well of them.



Leaders of this type see themselves as both uniquely talented and uniquely flawed. They seek the truth of their experiences and can process pain that might overwhelm others. They seek to be graceful and stylish, and yet feel something is missing.

Think: Vincent Van Gogh or Judy Garland

Basic Fear: having no personal significance or identity.

Basic Desire: to create an identity out of their personal experience because they are OK if they are true to themselves.



People with this personality type want to know why things work the way they do. They are always collecting information, searching, asking questions because they feel a strong need to test assumptions for themselves. They strive to become master of their own world built around special knowledge.

Think: Warren Buffett or Bill Gates

Basic Fear: being helpless and useless.

Basic Desire: to be capable and competent because they are OK if they have mastered something.



These leaders are incredibly loyal to friends and belief systems. They will defend their communities and others more tenaciously than they will fight for themselves. They tend to see the world as a dangerous place and that they need teams they feel are trustworthy allies. 

Think: J. Edgar Hoover or Richard Nixon

Basic Fear: having no support and being unable to survive on their own.

Basic Desire: to find security and support.



Leaders of this type are enthusiastic about almost everything that catches their attention. They approach life with a sense of adventure, optimism, and curiosity. They flit from one idea to the other to stimulate their minds. They see the world as full of exciting possibilities.

Think: Richard Branson or John F. Kennedy

Basic Fear: of being deprived or trapped.

Basic Desire: to be happy and satisfied because they are OK if they get what they need.



This personality type has tremendous willpower and vitality, and they feel most alive when they are exercising these skills in their environment. They cultivate the qualities of persistence, will, and strength and these are the qualities they look for in others. They see themselves as strong and in control of their environment.

Think: John Wayne or George W. Bush

Basic Fear: being harmed or controlled by others.

Basic Desire: to protect themselves and determine their own course in life because they are OK if they are strong and in control of their situation.



These folks are devoted to the quest for internal and external peace in themselves and others. They work to maintain peace of mind just as they work to establish peace and harmony in their environment. They believe that everything will work out if they remain calm, affable, and connected.

Think: Jerry Seinfeld or Ronald Reagan

Basic Fear: to be separated from others.

Basic Desire: to maintain inner stability and peace of mind because they are OK as long as those around them are OK.

Emotional intelligence is a skill that can be learned by anyone, regardless of personality type. The more accurately you can understand yourself and those around you, the more effectively you can motivate them to perform at top levels of performance.

What is your personality type? How can you move forward with more self-awareness?

© 2014 LaRaeQuy. All rights reserved.


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4 Ways Successful People Move Toward Peak Performance

May 18th, 2014 by LaRae Quy

The ranch I grew up on in the middle of Wyoming was isolated so it was impossible for my brother and I to attend public schools. Instead, we had a private tutor. The only person I had to compete against in my class was myself, so it was a continual game of personal best. 


Determination - climb a rock

I worked hard to beat my own record, and my teacher would respond by saying, “Look at you—you’ve worked hard to get a better score.”

As I’ve gotten older, I realize that my teacher’s response was incredibly unusual. Instead, most teachers, parents, and others in the educational system respond with, “Look at you—you are so smart.”

Without realizing it, my teacher had a growth mindset which believes that people get better by challenging themselves.

The opposite represents a fixed mindset and is represented by how our educational system distributes grades and how most corporations conduct performance appraisals: talent is something that happens to you, not something you make happen.

Whether you have a fixed mindset or a growth mindset influences how you approach peak performance.

Peak performance is successfully using mental toughness to develop the power of the mind and to practice mental skills training in every aspect of life.

Successful people believe that they can challenge themselves to continually grow and improve performance

Let’s take a look at how they do this:


We intentionally focus our attention on what is important in our life and those areas we want to grow.

Our consciousness can handle only so much information, so we have selective attention. One key part of the brain which focuses our attention is the Reticular Activating System (RAS). It filters out important information that needs more attention from the unimportant that can be ignored. Without the RAS filter, we would be over-stimulated and distracted by noises from our environment around us.

Focusing on the goal + focusing our attention on the activity to achieve the goal at the same time overstimulates the brain.

Attaining a goal is something that happens in the future, and it pulls our attention away from where it needs to be in order to focus in the present moment. This explains why so many golfers miss a putt at the end of the final round or why football players drop the ball inches from the finish line.

They choke because their attention switched from the present and moved into the future. As a result, they lose their focus.

Whatever we choose to focus our attention on will make it past the mind’s filtering system. 



Successful people establish their goals. They visualize themselves achieving those goals. And then they break those goals down into tiny, clear chunks. 

Successful people understand that clarity gives us certainty.

You and I can also break down our goals into tiny, bite-size tasks and move from there. Small, clear goals keep our attention focused and yet are not enough to stress us out.



In order for feedback to be most effective, it needs to be immediate. The smaller the gap between output and feedback, the more we will know how to perform better. The reason is that our attention does not need to wander because the information is at hand.

If real-time feedback is not possible, find a way to measure your progress. It’s important that your feedback loop is timely. 

For yourself, and others, tighten the feedback loop as much as possible—try to make it a daily habit.



You need to stretch yourself to perform to your greatest potential. Exactly how much you need to stretch each time is debatable, but experts generally agree that the challenge should be 4% greater than either your skill or your last effort.

Increased stress will lead to increased performance—up to a certain degree. When you move beyond the healthy levels of stress, both performance and health will decline. 

In high doses, stress can kill us. Ironically, it is also fundamental to psychological and physical growth. 4% growth is seen by researchers as the magical tension between challenge and skill. Most of move past 4% increase in performance without noticing, and it’s beneficial because this tension keeps us locked in the present and gives us enough confidence that we can do it again. 

Our success begins and ends with our mental toughness. We can move toward peak performance once we find ways to use our mind to do it.

How have you pushed toward peak performance? What tips can you add?

© 2014 LaRaeQuy. All rights reserved.


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5 Things To Do When Life Is Going Wrong

May 11th, 2014 by LaRae Quy

My first job out of college was in a fancy department store where I was quickly promoted to Buyer—but then my career stalled. For years I languished in the same dead-end job and soon my confidence ebbed away until I could no longer see a way out of my rut.

Adversity - trees in desert


I had originally thought being a fashion buyer would be glamorous, but it didn’t take long to realize the position was nothing but a dog’s breakfast of whatever junk Headquarters didn’t want on their plate. I was a glorified clerk with a paycheck that ranked alongside those in poverty.

I hated my circumstances so much that I contemplated suicide. Even that seemed a loser’s way out—the walls of my life had crumbled and I was left with the ruins.

When life gets really tough, my go-to book is the Old Testament text of the Bible.

These folks understood hardship! There I found a compelling story of a Jewish man named Nehemiah who was cup-bearer to the King of Persia almost five hundred years before the birth of Christ. 

After learning that the walls of Jerusalem had broken down, Nehemiah asked for permission to return and rebuild them. So the King sent Nehemiah back as governor to complete this mission.

As I read these verses, I realized and Nehemiah was an expert on rebuilding. He was also an expert in mental toughness.

Here are 5 things I learned from Nehemiah about what to do when things go wrong: 



The first thing Nehemiah did when the desolation of Jerusalem came to his attention was to grieve. He “weeps and prays for days” showing his intense concern.

Do you have a problem worthy of your attention and energy? Pay close attention to where your heart is broken so you can start doing something positive and constructive to change it.

You will never rebuild the walls of your life until you give yourself permission to properly grieve for what you have lost.  

Remember that there are two kinds of pain: pain that hurts and pain that changes you. 

When you roll with life, instead of resisting it, both kinds help you grow.



Nehemiah took a long, hard look at the rubble that surrounded him. You will never build the walls of your life until you have first truly noticed the ruins. Have you ever taken a good look at what has gone wrong in your own situation? 

If you are mentally tough, you can look at the ruins and see where to pick up the pieces and move on. Once you do, you will see not only the devastation but the possibilities as well. 

This could mean spending time in solitude, but solitude makes great things possible because it gives you the space you need to focus on your potential. 

If things are good right now, enjoy it; it won’t last forever.  If things are bad, don’t worry; it won’t last forever either. 



When Nehemiah comes back to Jerusalem he doesn’t rush out and get everyone excited about the new project. Instead, he rose at night when no one else was around and surveyed the ruins. 

He made an accurate assessment of the situation and then began to make plans for a comeback. He spent time preparing both his head and heart. You need to do the same:

  • Be cautious and start slow
  • Take an honest survey of the situation
  • Take note on what needs to be done.
  • Develop a strategy before you start.



As a child, I loved to show my scars to whomever was interested in learning about my exploits. I was proud of them because the adventure that produced the wound had usually been fun and always fulfilling.

Scars are not injuries; they are wounds that have healed.

Even as a kid I knew that scabs need to be left uncovered so they could get better. Keeping them hidden underneath a bandaid was only a temporary fix.

At some point, we become ashamed of scars and wounds because they represent hurts and failures that overshadow the thrill of pushing our boundaries and taking a risk. Nehemiah was confronted with hostility and assaults as he began rebuilding, but he wore his scars like the tattoo of a warrior who has been inside the ring and lived to tell the tale.

Be proud of your scars because you emerged even stronger than you were before. They indicate you have experienced pain, conquered it, learned a lesson, and moved on when things went wrong.



Nehemiah had a clear plan; it only took fifty-two days to rebuild the walls surrounding Jerusalem!

When things go wrong it is merely an opportunity to test your determination on how much you want something. It doesn’t take a lot of mental toughness to pursue the easy stuff that falls your way, but if you really want something, despite failure and rejection, chances are good your heart is in it as well.

This is a fact of life: struggles are not found along life’s path; they are life’s path. The sooner you come to peace with this, the better. Once you find that path, however, there is no better feeling in the world than following the journey of your heart.

Do not be afraid to get back up when things go wrong—keep trying, and eventually you will find a path that leads toward your goals. It may not be the path you originally envisioned, but it will take you where you need to go.

What does it mean to rebuild the walls of your life? What’s something positive you try to keep in mind when everything seems to be going wrong? 

© 2014 LaRaeQuy. All rights reserved.

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Ways To Grow Stronger From Turmoil in Your Life

May 4th, 2014 by LaRae Quy

Lisa is a neighbor who recently lost her job, Mark is a good friend who found out that he has inoperable brain cancer, and Monika has learned that, against all odds, she is pregnant with her first child at the vintage age of 48.

Overcoming obstacles - kitten


All of these people were thrown into shock and turmoil, in part because they all seemed to live charmed lives in which they were in total control—until they got news that changed their circumstances forever.

As I listened to each of their stories, I was reminded of an old parable where a little boy is so discouraged that he was planning to quit school. His grandfather boiled three pots of water: into the first pot he placed a carrot, into the second pot an egg, and into the third pot coffee beans.

When the little boy asked what this was meant to teach him, the grandfather replied, “Each of these objects faced the same adversity—boiling water—but each reacted differently.”

When adversity strikes, how do you respond? Are you the carrot that looks strong but becomes soft and loses strength? Are you the egg that does not appear to change on the outside but grows hardened inside? Or are you the coffee beans that learn how to adapt? As a result, they change the hot water, the very thing that brings pain, into something that is desirable.

It is not the experiences that are important; it’s how we interpret them. It is our choice whether or not we grow stronger from them.

Here are 5 ways to grow stronger from the turmoil in your life:



The way in which you deal with turmoil in life is determined at an early age. Overprotective parents try to shield their children from adversity, but in doing so they also keep them from the hardships that help them mature.

Getting in shape to meet life’s difficulties takes considerable effort and practice; start now so you are not traumatized when faced with giant-sized turmoil.

How you do one thing is how you do everything.



Ignoring negative feelings is not healthy, nor is wallowing in them. If life has handed you a tough hand, remember that the only thing you may still have control over is your attitude. If you feel powerless because of your circumstances, it’s because that is what you are telling yourself.

Your circumstances may not be what you planned, or expected, but you still own your thoughts. Make them powerful.



When the chips are down, honesty is your best salvation. As a faith-based leader, I have found turmoil and adversity are the tools God often uses to break the hardened veneer created by our ego.

Self-awareness, or mindfulness, is the practice of thinking about the way you think. It’s hard to change negative habits and ways of thinking if we aren’t aware of them.

As you become more aware, take negative reactions and feelings as clues that you need to probe deeper into where the resistance is coming from and what is causing it. Train yourself to notice what is going on.

Like a muscle, self-awareness gets stronger every time you use it.



A recent study of incoming cadets at West Point pinpointed the characteristics needed to complete the rigorous training. It was not athletic prowess, intelligence, or experience that predicted success; rather, Mental toughness was a better predictor of success than any other characteristic.

Mental toughness requires people to pursue goals with a passion, not back down from challenges, not allow failure to define who they are, and not quit.



No matter who you are or what you do, you need three types of friends in your life.

The first type is the one you can call when things are going well and you need someone with whom to share the good news, someone who will be genuinely happy for you.

The second type is the one you can call when things are going miserably and you need a listening ear.

The third type of friend is the one who holds you accountable. Life is hard, and you need people who will stop you from feeling sorry for yourself so you can reach down and pull yourself back up by the bootstraps.

None of us have a magic ball to predict our future. However, we can be prepared for what we can’t predict.

How do you live an enjoyable life resistant to unexpected turmoil?

© 2014 LaRaeQuy. All rights reserved.


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How to Move Forward When You Feel Overwhelmed

April 27th, 2014 by LaRae Quy

As the spokesperson for the FBI in Northern California, I was in a constant race to meet reporters’ deadlines. Each day started with a new crisis, whether it was a bombing, kidnapping, or arrest—the flow of information into my office was overwhelming. 

Adversity - boat in storm


I discovered that 60 seconds is long enough to give a radio interview chocked full of information, and that five minutes is sufficient to prepare for a live TV interview. But, by the time I had replied to 40 emails, another 120 had appeared in my inbox!

I was under constant pressure from national and local reporters to comment on pending cases, yet if I inadvertently provided details of a case sealed by the U.S. Attorney’s office to the media it would be grounds for dismissal and possible prosecution.

Lunch was optional, as were bathroom breaks. One of my assistants came into my office one day and said, “I can actually feel the stress in this room.” I like adrenaline rushes, but the job was wearing on both my mind and body. 

Many people feel the pressure of responsibilities, getting tasks done, and the constant overwhelming volume of work that is placed on their desk.

Feeling overwhelmed can leave us feeling so paralyzed that we become less and less productive, not only risking our job but also our health as well. We need mental toughness to put mental disciplines into place so we can move forward when we’re feeling too much pressure.

Here are 6 suggestions: 



Your brain uses energy like every other part of your body: a typical person’s brain uses approximately 10.8 calories every hour. 

Since your brain is drained of power as you use it, this explains why it’s easy to get distracted when you’re tired or hungry.

Your best thinking lasts for a limited time. It’s good for a sprint but it cannot take you through the day at the same pace.

Knowing this, start your day differently: since prioritizing your priorities takes energy, make this your first task. Otherwise, you will end feeling overwhelmed when you cannot see a way to get through your day’s work.



Visuals are a great way to activate the mind. That’s why storytelling, pictures, and metaphors work so well—they generate an image. 

Visuals are laden with information. They provide color, shape, size, context, etc. Since they take less energy than words, they are efficient ways for the brain to process information.

Use visuals to represent each priority so you can see how it will look as you approach your goal and again as you tick it off your list.



Grab a pen and paper and write down your prioritized projects for the day. This saves your brain from the need to recall and review each one. Save your energy for getting those task done!



The idea is to schedule the tasks that take the most energy for when your brain is fresh and alert. Not everyone is a morning person, so perhaps you’re most alert after you’ve exercised or taken a nap. 

Understand the rhythm of your own body so you are aware of your own mental energy needs and schedule your priorities around them.

Most people respond to issues as they arise; instead, divide your day into blocks so you can schedule projects that require an agile mind during those times when your mind is freshest. Block out other times for routine tasks.



Most non-urgent tasks can wait until you have time to do them. These tasks might be good ones to delegate to others. Learn to say “no” to projects that are not among your priorities.



Most successful leaders have learned how to simplify complicated ideas into a few core elements. It’s the best way to make complex decisions. The elevator pitch was created to encourage entrepreneurs to succinctly summarize their business idea to investors into no more than 3 simple sentences. 

This is incredibly difficult to do, but when you reduce complex ideas into a few simple concepts, it’s far easier to access those ideas in your mind.

Salient, succinct, and specific points take less energy for the brain to process and provide effective visuals for the mind.

By following these steps, you can use mental toughness to learn how to  discipline your mind and prevent it from feeling overwhelmed. 

What tips do you have to keep from becoming overwhelmed?

© 2014 LaRaeQuy. All rights reserved.


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Use Emotional Intelligence To Become A Self-Aware Leader

April 20th, 2014 by LaRae Quy

FBI agents who work undercover are given a series of psychological tests to determine their level of self-awareness. Without self-awareness, agents would not be able to predict their responses when confronted with the unknown that accompanies undercover work.

Self-awareness - squirrel



Psychological tests are constructed and administered by the FBI’s Behavioral Science Unit. I spent a week being assessed by FBI instructors and attending classes intended to drill into me the importance of emotional intelligence if I was to become a successful undercover agent.

Emotional intelligence is recognizing and understanding emotions, both your own and those around you. Since self-awareness is the ability to accurately perceive your own emotions, your competence as a leader rests on your ability to stay alert to them so you can manage your behavior in different situations.

A high degree of self-awareness requires a willingness to tolerate the discomfort of focusing on feelings that may be negative. It can take mental toughness to move through that discomfort, but it’s essential because the more you know about yourself, the better you can predict your reactions.

He who knows others is wise. He who knows himself is enlightened—Lao Tzu

It’s important to understand, however, that self-awareness is not about discovering deep, dark secrets about your inner world. 

Instead, it is about developing a straightforward and honest understanding of what makes you tick.

Successful leaders understand why they do well, what motivates them, and which people and/or situation push their buttons. If you are self-aware, you are far more likely to pursue the right opportunities, use your strengths, and keep your emotions from holding you back.

Here are 5 tips to help you use emotional intelligence to become a self-aware leader:


1. Stop Treating Feelings As Either Enemies or Friends

It’s far too simplistic, and childish, to divide your emotions into two piles: good and bad. So stop labeling them; instead, become aware of each and every emotion without judging it. Observe it, let it run its course, and remind yourself that the feeling was there to help you understand something about yourself.


2. Be Bold and Lean Into Your Discomfort Zone

The biggest obstacle to observing the entire range of your emotions is the tendency to avoid the ones that produce the most discomfort. If you try to avoid certain emotions because they are uncomfortable, you are caught off guard when they do rear their ugly head. Avoidance is a short-term fix. You’ll never be able to manage yourself effectively if you ignore how to deal with the unpleasant stuff. 

Don’t minimize an emotion because it’s not comfortable. You are being arrogant if you think you can control it by using this tactic. Instead, be bold and learn about the emotion so it no longer controls your behavior.


3. Learn What Pushes Your Buttons 

We all have buttons that produce predictable reactions. When the right ones are pushed, we can scream, throw tantrums, or burn with anger. Knowing who, or what, pushes your buttons and how it happens is critical to developing the ability to take control of the situation.

Knowing where your buttons are opens the door to managing your reaction to their triggers.


4. Keep A Beady Eye Focused on Yourself At All Times

Personal surveillance can produce a mother-lode of important information about how you tick. Observe how you react to situations in conversations, meetings, or one-on-one. 

Notice your emotions, thoughts, and behaviors as each of the situations unfold. Slow yourself down so the fast-thinking emotional part of your brain doesn’t overtake the slower-thinking logical part of your brain.

You are in the best position to surveil yourself in all situations, so take the opportunity to notice what your hot button looks and sounds like. Again, this self-awareness will enable you to calibrate your reactions.


5. Stop and Ask Yourself WHY You Do the Things You Do

Your emotions often show up uninvited and unexpected, so stop acting surprised when they do. Emotions serve an important purpose—they are clues you need to pay attention to in order to fully understand yourself.

Even when the emotions are painful, you need to trace them back to their origin to understand their purpose. Pay attention to them, spend time looking for why this emotion surfaced at this time, who triggered it, and in what context?

Self-awareness provides you with the ability to understand why you do the things you do so you can choose your responses instead of reacting to situations around you.

We can all become more self-aware leaders if we learn how to read our own emotions.

“Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.” Matthew 7:7

How has self-awareness helped you become a more effective leader?

© 2014 LaRaeQuy. All rights reserved.


You can follow me on Twitter

Sign up for my FREE Mental Toughness Mini-Course

Secrets Cover - thumbnailRead my book ““Secrets of a Strong Mind,” available now on Amazon.

Ways to Move Through Uncertainty & Start Living The Life You Want

April 13th, 2014 by LaRae Quy

The FBI requires all agents to qualify with their firearm at least four times a year. Part of this training is taking turns arresting fellow agents and putting them in handcuffs.


Adversity - bridge over waterAs I tried to handcuff one of the senior agents on my squad, I found he didn’t have the flexibility to place the back of his hands together behind his back. Over time, he had lost a great deal of the suppleness in his shoulder muscles. 

While he took great deal of ribbing by fellow agents, I remember thinking: “If only he’d made the effort to keep limber, he would have more flexibility.”

If stretching and yoga can promote healthier bodies, we need to find similar ways to keep our mind flexible and agile for top performance. Rigid thinking cannot help us adapt when we are faced with the complexity of today’s workplace. 

We are required to adapt and move through transitions at faster and faster paces. Whether it is a new assignment, a new supervisor, or a new career, to succeed we need to find ways to keep both our minds and hearts supple.

Mental toughness is about maintaining flexibility in the way we respond when faced with the uncertainties of both life and work.

Here are ways to make your transitions and periods of uncertainty a little easier so you can start living the life you want:



When facing uncertainty, you have two choices:

  1. You can dread it because you are afraid of failing—you believe that failure sends a negative message about your abilities, or…
  2. You can anticipate it because you interpret failure as an opportunity for learning and improvement.

The first choice describes a fixed mindset that does best when there is a heavy hand running the show. That way of leading may have been efficient years ago, but today’s leaders are learning that the brain power of their workforce is a terrible thing to waste.

The second choice describes a growth mindset that looks at success as hard work, learning, training, and having the grit to keep moving ahead even when faced with obstacles and roadblocks. 

Research has shown that a growth mindset will allow a person to live a less stressful and more successful life.



As an FBI agent, one of the first things I did was surveil the target of my investigation. I analyzed and assessed their strengths, weaknesses, needs, and wants. This gave me tremendous power, because I usually came to know more about them than they knew about themselves.

Harness that same power by making yourself the target of your own investigation.

Discover your own patterns: what are you always doing or thinking about? What can you not help do, think, or feel? Even if someone asks you not to?

Keep track of how you spend the next week. What are you doing, feeling or thinking about daily? Write down everything that energizes you and makes you feel strong. It could be a particular physical activity, or a book you read, or people you meet.

When you find a few things you repeatedly do and love, dig deeper and see what part of that particular activity makes you feel good. 

As you transition out of your current situation or move into a time of uncertainty, lean into those things that make you feel strong. Not only will they give you confidence to be more flexible in your approach to your situation, they are the heart’s listening posts that will provide you meaning and purpose.



FBI training is relentless and continuous. The reason is that it kept our minds flexible and agile so we could adapt to the unknown when confronting an arrest situation.

When a roadblock or obstacle confronts us, we often have no Plan B. Instead of moving around a roadblock in a deliberate and flexible manner, we continue to assault it using the same tactics that have already proven ineffective. Our default explanation is blaming others.

The only thing worse than getting into a rut is staying in one. Often, our patterns of thinking become rigid because we’re fixated on thinking about achieving our life’s goals in one way.

Mix up the way you think. Combine focused thought with periods of play and scattered attention. Changes in your environment, attitude, and behavior influences how you think. 

When you’re feeling happy or optimistic, you are more inclusive and more creative. When you are fearful, your focus narrows down to specific details.

Mental toughness is having the flexibility to make a mental shift without remaining stuck in a particular mindset. 



Finding our courage is no small thing, but once we find it, it takes over everything in its path. A flood of courage is exactly what we need when faced with transitions.

The goal is to move fluidly between specific and abstract thought patterns so you can flex and bend with the changing circumstances of your life.

Start with making small changes in your routine. Taking the stairs instead of the elevator or listening to different music can boost your mental agility.

Variety is also good. Try different foods and different methods of exercise. Call a friend and go to a place you’ve never visited. Watch your thoughts become more expansive as you break out of old patterns and develop your brain.

These ways can make times of uncertainty and transitions in your life easier. A flexible and agile mindset is essential if you plan to get past the roadblocks and obstacles ahead of you.

Remember this: everyone can get smarter about how to overcome obstacles if they work at it.

How have you pushed through periods of uncertainty to live the life you’ve always wanted?

© 2014 LaRaeQuy. All rights reserved.


You can follow me on Twitter

Sign up for my FREE Mental Toughness Mini-Course

Secrets Cover - thumbnailRead my book “Secrets of a Strong Mind,” available now on Amazon.

How Women Leaders Can Kick Butt

April 6th, 2014 by LaRae Quy

I knew at an early age that I wanted to do something unique with my life. Perhaps that was because I spent my childhood being very ordinary; I lived for the day when I could break loose and prove to the world I had a champion’s heart. 

Obstacles - tiger


I found the story of Jael in the ancient book of the Bible to be one of the most inspirational stories I read as a young girl in Wyoming. It encouraged me to believe that I was capable of accomplishing great deeds, even in the face of tremendous adversity.

The story is found in the Book of Judges

Back then, a soldier named Sisera led the Canaanite army and commanded over nine hundred iron chariots. He had oppressed the Israelites for twenty years. 

Sisera was brutal, and his own mother speculated that he was late getting home from a battle because he and his fellow warriors were dividing the plunder by raping women and hauling off valuables.

The prophetess Deborah was able to persuade a soldier named Barak to gather an Israelite force of ten thousand to fight the Canaanites—and Sisera was soundly defeated. Exhausted, he fled on foot to a nearby settlement that was known to be an ally of the Canaanites where he thought he could find safety.

A woman in that settlement named Jael saw Sisera approaching and went outside to meet him. She offered him hospitality by covering him with a rug and giving him both water and milk to drink. 

JaelConvinced she was harmless and willing to do his bidding, he told her to guard the tent entrance and let no one enter. He then fell into a weary sleep. Jael saw this as her opportunity and as soon as he was asleep, she picked up a hammer and tent peg and softly moved to Sisera’s side.

She raised the hammer in one hand and drove the tent peg through Sisera’s temple with such force that it stuck in the ground!

When the Israelite soldiers came looking for Barak, Jael showed them Sisera’s body. The Bible says there was peace for the next forty years.

The story of Jael illustrates the quiet strength of a woman who was as much of a champion as any hero from the ancient world, who are so often depicted as men. Here is why she kicked butt:


Hear Me Roar, I Am Woman 

Jael used her feminine qualities to seduce Sisera into thinking all was well. She brings him milk to drink, she covers him with a rug, and yet this warm figure reaches for a tent stake and executes her enemy. 

Women can prevail not despite, but through, their sex.

Time and time again I found that, as an FBI agent, people “let their guard down” when around me as I interviewed them. Holding the tension between gentleness and hard conviction takes mental toughness, and this tension is a unique tool that women can use to their advantage.


Bend but Never Break, You Are Strong

Jael is only one example of many women throughout history who were “the best man for the job.” There are more women than ever acting and living in non-traditional ways, so this might be the right time to rethink some of our assumptions: what is traditional, and why is traditional necessarily a better way of life?

Just because it’s the way it’s always been done doesn’t mean it’s the way it should always be done.

Few of us wake up each day and announce to the world that we are going to be a hero. Instead, most of us meet life each day with little fanfare and few fantasies about doing anything other than what is expected of us.

It is only when we’re confronted with obstacles that threaten to derail our life’s journey that we summon the determination to break through the barrier in front of us. 

Strong women never allow themselves to be imprisoned in their own mind by their circumstances or appearance.


Come Back Even Stronger, You Are Invincible

Jael assumes the traditionally male role of assassin; however, the prophetess Deborah still called her the “most blessed of women.” She did not lose her femininity because of her actions. Indeed, her actions were so effective because she used her feminine wiles. 

Living a life of purpose and meaning requires the courage to take a chance. I’m not talking about the physical courage of a soldier or superhero—I mean the extraordinary, heroic courage demanded of each of us every day. It’s the resolve to meet life’s scary circumstances head on with confidence and determination.

Jael is only one in a long line of women over the centuries who have kicked butt. Thanks to women like her, there are more opportunities for many more extraordinary stories to be told.

What is your extraordinary story?

© 2014 LaRaeQuy. All rights reserved.


You can follow me on Twitter

Sign up for my FREE Mental Toughness Mini-Course

Read my book ““Secrets of a Strong Mind,” available now on Amazon.


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