3 Career Boosting Thoughts

February 2nd, 2014 by LaRae Quy

“So, Jeremiah, if you’re worn out in this footrace with men, what makes you think you can race against horses? If you can’t keep your wits during times of calm, what’s going to happen when trouble breaks loose?”—Jeremiah 12:5, The Message

Persistence - runner tying shoe

Developing the mental toughness for top performance is not a modern day issue. These verses from the ancient book of the Bible get to the heart of it: if you want to run in the big race of real winners, it’s going to take more than the mediocre performance that passes for success on an average day.

America has become a nation of bored insomniacs who settle for mediocrity in many areas of their life, but as the Bible verse above reminds us, it’s a malaise that’s been around for centuries.

Mediocrity will not sustain us when the going gets tough (click to tweet). Average people move from one failure to another until they finally find success at something, and then they stop. They have no idea of whether they’ve reached top performance because they are in a footrace with others who think like they do.

Success is enough for the mediocre performer.

To run against horses, however, means not letting obstacles or barriers that are bigger than you trample your goals when times get tough. Running at top performance will give you the edge you will need to keep moving forward.

Here are 3 career boosting thoughts that will move you toward top performance:

Be Curious About What Life is Offering You 

Curiosity is the foundation of life-long growth. If we remain curious, we remain teachable so that our minds and hearts grow larger with each passing day. We can retain our beginner’s mind by always looking forward and discovering new experiences and uncovering new information.

Success seduces us into becoming set in our ways. “It’s working,” we say to ourselves, so we settle into comfort zones that begin to look more and more like ruts as we age. 

Curiosity is important for peak performance because it:

  • Makes your mind active instead of passive
  • Encourages you to be more observant of new ideas
  • Opens up new worlds and possibilities
  • Creates an adventurous response that leads you in a new direction


Fire Up the Courage to Look Obstacles in the Eye

It takes courage to make a change, step into the unknown, or confront an obstacle that looks to be bigger and stronger than you. But this is the question: Do you want to shuffle with the crowd, or run with the horses?

You work an 80-hour week, are in a rocky marriage, and have a dead end job—Wow, and you are worried that a change will wreck your life! Really?

Do not give up, stop pretending that average is OK, admit things are not perfect, and find the courage to make a change.

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

—Atticus Finch, To Kill A Mockingbird

Embracing Failure Is the Best Way to Learn. Really.

If peak performance requires you to look at success differently, it will also require you to look at failure differently.

You cannot avoid risk without avoiding life (click to tweet).

Hundreds of interviews have been conducted to determine the commonality between our greatest leaders. The conclusion of this research is that every successful person has endured failure. They had to overcome at least one major obstacle before they could experience success. 

No one wants to talk about failure because as we fail, we puncture big wounds in our ego. It is precisely for this reason that we see important things about ourselves we couldn’t see before.

The key to top performance is separating failure from defeat (click to tweet). They are two different things. We can fail time and time again but this does not mean we are defeated. We recover from a failure and grow into a truer understanding of the calling of our heart. This shift in mindset does not see failure as the end, but only an opportunity to try it again—this time differently.

“When it’s time to die, let us not discover that we have never lived.”

—Henry David Thoreau

Retreating from the rigors excellence is understandable. It is unlikely that Jeremiah was quick to respond. He weighed the options and counted the cost. The way he lived his life became the answer—he ran with the horses.

© 2013 LaRaeQuy. All rights reserved.


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9 Ways You Can Conquer the World

January 26th, 2014 by LaRae Quy

My first FBI supervisor was a tall, affable guy named Bill who tended to assign the sticky cases to the newest agent on the squad—me. Bill handed me a dog-eared file that had obviously been kicked around for a few years. The case was so old that one of the witnesses had died! 

Mental Toughness - win the race

I started to complain but Bill held up his hand and said, “What I expect from you is an adventurous response.”

I had joined the FBI because I was seeking something unique and exciting, and the more I thought about Bill’s admonition, I realized that adventure can not only be found in  our experiences, it can also be found in the way we think.

An adventurous response is looking for the possibility in every situation, even when it doesn’t look all that great at first glance. Bill’s suggestion brought me to a closer understanding of the role of positive thinking in developing mental toughness. I was a new agent, but Bill understood that by focusing my attention on the positive aspects of my case, I would mature into the kind of person who looked at both life and work as an adventure.

When leaders have an adventurous response to life’s vicissitudes, they can conquer the world.

Here are 9 ways:

1. Start Early and Win the Morning

If it takes caffeine to get you started in the morning, go for a full cup. If you procrastinate in starting your day, what does that foretell about the way you’ll approach the rest of it? Eat a good breakfast, pray, read the Bible, workout—feed your mind, body, and soul first thing every morning. 

2. Surround Yourself with Successful People

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

If you surround yourself with positive people who build you up and believe in you, you can conquer the world. No matter how many you have in your network, if you want to be truly successful you will need three types of people:

  • Those who are older and more successful to learn from
  • Those who are your contemporaries for encouragement
  • Those who are below you in experience to keep you energized

3. Believe and Act As If Everything Is a Gift

Instead of appearing like Pollyanna, think about it like this: Assuming everything is a gift is a great way of looking at the problems that will undoubtedly pop up in life and business. Choose an adventurous response by remaining positive so you are not intimidated by obstacles.

4. Write in a Journal

Goals, dreams, and ideas that are not written down are not real.

Journals can:

  • Force you to clarify what you want
  • Motivate you to take action
  • Filter the best opportunities
  • Help overcome resistance
  • Enable you to celebrate your progress

5. Engage in Mindfulness, Prayer, Meditation, or Yoga On a Daily Basis

Research has shown that the benefits of mindfulness are not just for individual health, but also for corporate bottom lines. Stress-reduction doesn’t just make us happier and healthier, it’s a proven competitive advantage for any business that wants one.

6. Ask Questions, Lots of Them, Always

Raising new questions, exploring possibilities, and regarding old problems from a new angle activates our imagination and stimulates our thinking. Continually ask yourself these questions:

  • What is my purpose on earth?
  • Where is my heart telling me to go?
  • What should I stop doing?
  • What should I start doing?
  • What is my petri dish?

7. Try, Try, and Then Try Again

If you want to try something new, you will fail at first; if you don’t fail, then it wasn’t really anything new at all. Failure is a wonderfully clarifying process because if you fail and give up, then you’re heart wasn’t in it. Move on so you can get somewhere better.

If, however, you fail and do not accept defeat, keep at it until you find the secret to unlocking the potential, in both yourself and your obstacle.

8. Start At the End, and Then Don’t Stop There

Decide what you want to do, who you want to be, and where you want to end up. You cannot conquer the world setting average goals for yourself. Aim at nothing and you will hit it every time (click to tweet). 

Never start small where goals are concerned. Most people don’t set goals too high and miss; they set goals too low and hit (click to tweet). Your decisions will be better when your ultimate goal is ultimate success. 

9. Don’t Stop Thinking About Tomorrow

Setting and achieving a goal isn’t the finish line for people who are successful. Achieving one goal is simply a launching pad for the next huge goal. 

When you become successful in one field, you will find that you have the skill set to be remarkably successful in other fields. Do not settle for running one race. Expect and plan to win a number of them.

Mental toughness is choosing how you respond to life’s circumstances rather than leaving things to chance. Once you do, you can conquer the world.

Any tips to offer on how people can conquer their world?

© 2013 LaRaeQuy. All rights reserved.


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Why Leaders Need A Beginner’s Mind

January 19th, 2014 by LaRae Quy

After twenty years as an investigative agent, I was asked to be the spokesperson for the FBI in Northern California. It sounded like fun—even a little glamorous since I would be interviewed by local and national news media. So why did I hesitate when offered the job? 

Teamwork - puppies

I realized that I would be moving from being the senior agent on my squad, and knowing everything about my job, to a new situation where I knew absolutely nothing. None of my former skills as an investigator had prepared me to handle probing questions from reporters, represent the FBI in news conferences, or prepare for live television interviews where I needed to come across as witty, credible and polished.

I am the type of person who comes up with the best retorts about twenty minutes after the question is asked—I needed to learn how to think quicker on my feet.

I was a beginner, starting over with a manual and basic training. My pride balked at being referred to as a trainee—my secretary, assistants, and clerks knew more about handling the media than I did!

I had to learn the ropes from the bottom up. It was tempting to feel humiliated by my lack of experience; instead, I felt humbled by all I had yet to learn. 

There was no resentment, only a slow understanding that we are all students of life. Like all leaders, I needed to understand why having a beginner’s mind was important to my future success.

Here are four reasons leaders become great when they keep learning:

Keeps Ego in Check

The ego is always asking “How will this make me look? How will I benefit?” Ego looks for ways to prove it is right and others are wrong.

The beginner’s mind does not need to prove or disprove anything. It has the humility to hold “what I do know” with “what I don’t know.” Holding this kind of tension leads to wisdom and not just easy answers.

When we keep ego in check, there is room for the wisdom of others to get in (click to tweet).

We are able to listen more deeply, learn with an open mind, and adapt new skill sets. 

When we allow ourselves the luxury of trial and error, like a child learning to walk, we experience a feel-good neurological response that can be stronger than the ego. When tackling new and difficult challenges, we experience a rush of adrenaline, a hormone that makes us feel confident and motivated.

Summons Courage

It takes courage to move out of your comfort zone and into your zone of discomfort, where you feel awkward, clumsy, and alone. This can be especially difficult for leaders who feel they need to continue to hone their core competencies, but our comfort zone is a tremendous enemy of peak performance. 

When leaders get into a comfort zone, they strive to stay right there—where they have found success. But it is the average leader who stops at success, because success and peak performance are often two different things. Whole lives are spent reinforcing mediocre performance.

It takes courage and mental toughness to continually move in the direction of your biggest goals and ambitions and not stop at success.

Avoids Stagnation

The more accomplished we are at something, the harder it is to learn (click to tweet).

Once we become experts in our field, the need to learn is no longer either urgent or necessary. This, in turn, increases the likelihood that we will fuse our skill with our identity. 

Walking into a discomfort zone and risking failure threatens to unravel our identity. Our reaction to learning something new is often fierce and visceral because it can strike at the core of who believe ourselves to be. 

Once we choose not to learn, however, we risk stagnation. Unfortunately, the only difference between a rut and coffin are the dimensions.

Enlarges Core Competency

Moving out of our core competency leaves us feeling vulnerable and weak as leaders. We’ve become inured to having the right answers and confidence in our choices. 

A beginner’s mind, on the other hand, is flexible and agile as it leaves behind old assumptions and gropes for new ways to move forward. 

This is exactly the mindset we need when confronted with obstacles and adversity! We may not be able to rely upon our developed skills when facing a new barrier or challenge, but if we’ve continually and deliberately placed ourselves in situations that are beyond our core competency, we are more prepared to deal with them.

With experience and practice, we can predict our response to the unknown with greater accuracy. This is another important component of mental toughness—the ability to choose our response when confronted with the unknown rather than simply react to our circumstances.

A beginner’s mind is opening up to the possibilities of what might be. It is a non-grasping, patient, and confident understanding of what it means to live our fullest potential. It is having the mental toughness to always be humble, and always strive to reach peak performance.

How you do anything is how you do everything (click to tweet).

How do you motivate yourself to move out of your comfort zone and into a zone of discomfort where you can learn new skills?

© 2013 LaRaeQuy. All rights reserved.


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What Grabs Your Attention Rules Your Life

January 12th, 2014 by LaRae Quy

I grew up on a remote cattle ranch in Wyoming. My parents taught me to be alert for rattlesnakes that would hide underneath sagebrush and cactus. My most prized Christmas present every year was a new pair of thick leather high top boots—tough enough to withstand a rattler’s sharp teeth if I should get bitten.

Trust - cat & parrot

After many years of being alert of my surroundings, awareness of my immediate physical situation became a habit, even after I had grown up and left the ranch. My ability to remain observant while in chaotic and quick moving circumstances was one of the primary reasons I became an FBI agent.

Habits don’t happen overnight; they are a repeated behavior that leaves us comfortable and safe; thus, we continue to choose more of the same experiences. When our attention is focused like this, our nervous system leaves us wanting more of the same.

Whatever act or attitude you give your attention, the more frequently that act or attitude will begin to manifest in your life. 

If you focus on anger, anger will show up. If you focus on looking for the positive in your situation, positivity will show up. If you focus on finding a way to pursue your goal, determination will show up.

Pinpoint the focus, and put your attention on whatever you want to grow in life.

Start with Intention

Intention is a choice to act in a certain way. Without it, we spin and turn in all sorts of directions. Intention is an essential component of mental toughness. It is an ability that can be learned and strengthened over time to commit to a specific outcome, and regardless of distraction, keep moving forward. 

Intention is the key to transformation. Get serious about what is important in life and come up with a game plan to make it happen. Work on your intentions until they become perfectly clear.

Be intentional about:

  • Thoughts: Make corrections when you uncover thoughts that are not in alignment with your intention “As a man thinks in his heart, so he is“~Proverbs 23:7a NKJV)
  • Words: Keep your conversations positive about the direction you’re moving “Kind words are like honey—sweet to the soul and healthy for the body”~Proverbs 16:24 NLT
  • Deeds: Ensure that everything you do moves you closer to your intention “Even children know by the way they act, whether their conduct is pure, and whether it is right”~Proverbs 20:11 NLT

Follow Up With Attention

Attention is noticing the importance of an act or person. 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 on 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.

Whatever we choose to focus our attention on will make it past the mind’s filtering system. The RAS alerts the cerebral, thinking brain of changes in the environment such as:

  • Physical needs: when we’re hungry, we pay attention to food
  • Choices: if we decide to buy a Volvo (a MUST see video!), we see them everywhere
  • Names: we notice the names of those whom we love
  • Emotions: if something evokes an emotion in us, it has our attention
  • Contrast: we pay more attention to things that are in contrast to other things
  • Novelty: the brain notices things in our environment that are new experiences for us

Mental toughness is keeping attention focused on those attitudes and behaviors that you have intentionally identified as important to you in life.

These positive influences will help to keep you moving forward, and not get distracted, when faced with an obstacle or adversity.

End On A Happy Note

If you start with positive intentions, they will lead you to noticing the importance of events, people, and situations that will move you toward your goals and dreams. The result produces fulfillment and happiness.


This outcome shouldn’t surprise you.

Research shows that people who maintain a positive mindset are the happiest. They also perform better in the face of challenge. Shawn Achor call this the “happiness advantage”—every business outcome shows improvement when the brain is positive.

Happiness is not about being oblivious to negative situations in our environment; it’s about developing the mental toughness to find ways to do something about them. Leverage positivity in leadership to move forward and find both meaning and happiness regardless of your circumstances. 

Positive thinkers seek out information that is actionable, interesting, and relevant. Leaders who create positive responses to their situations use words like opportunity and challenge together. 

Our thoughts, words, and deeds turn into habits of behavior. They can enrich our lives once we understand how to intentionally focus our attention on experiences we want to repeat. What grabs our attention rules our life.

What grabs your attention?

© 2013 LaRaeQuy. All rights reserved.


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3 Ways To Make Gratitude A Stronger Emotion

January 5th, 2014 by LaRae Quy

As an FBI agent, I was surrounded by law enforcement officers who had a strong sense of right and wrong. They were motivated by their moral emotions to move into adverse and dangerous situations because they believed in protecting the well-being of others. 

Gratitude - squirrel

Research has shown that emotions are strongly connected to our morality—the ability to tell right from wrong. Gratitude and indignation are both moral emotions; gratitude is a positive emotion that encourages reciprocal altruism, well-being, and appreciation. Indignation, on the other hand, is a negative emotion that is closely related to anger and revenge—it motivates individuals to punish cheaters.

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

Understanding our emotions is the key to controlling them.

Mental toughness is learning how to connect with those emotions that attract more of the things that represent our moral standards. In turn, we see ourselves as living and doing what is right.

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

Here are 3 ways we can make gratitude a stronger emotion:

Be Intentional

Intentional behavior is moving ahead with a thoughtful and deliberate goal in mind. To be intentional in our desire to make gratitude a stronger emotion, we will need to seek out and identify specific acts for which we can, and should, be grateful.

We perceive an act as more worthy of gratitude when: 

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

Keep Focused

Most FBI agents and law enforcement officers enter their career with the hope of arresting criminals who exploit the needs and weaknesses of others. Over time, however, their idealism is threatened because life is rarely lived in absolutes.

The black and white of justice frequently morphs into shades of gray; good is often found in the midst of the bad, and bad sometimes results from good intentions.

Mental toughness is learning to live with the paradox of contradiction and not run from the mystery of life.

It’s especially important to keep focused on being grateful when life is taking a down turn:

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

Lose the Ego

Narcissists believe they are entitled to special rights and privileges. They tend to be demanding and selfish. People with large egos tend to be ungrateful; instead, they believe they deserve the favors and gifts given to them by others.

It’s impossible to give full attention to both ego and gratitude at the same time.

When you are appreciating something or someone else, your ego must move out of the way. 

Deepak Chopra makes these points about ego and gratitude:

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

Gratitude is an emotion that can be strengthened over time. It will take mental toughness to 1) intentionally seek out and find the people and circumstances for which we can be grateful; 2) remain focused on the priority of being grateful, especially in tough times; and 3) demand the ego to be put it in its proper place.

What tips do you have for making gratitude a stronger emotion?

© 2013 LaRaeQuy. All rights reserved.


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How Mental Toughness Can Help You Thrive

December 15th, 2013 by LaRae Quy

As an FBI agent, I raided brothels masking as massage parlors filled with women from foreign countries, many of them brought to the U.S. illegally and then forced into prostitution. These women were victims, lured to the U.S. under the pretense of a better life, and then trapped into an undesirable lifestyle by their circumstances.

Inspite - Strength-in-hard-times

The FBI established a Victim Assistance Program (VAP) to help these women, and others, receive the assistance they needed to survive by learning how to cope.

Like these women forced into prostitution, when we’re trapped by our circumstances, survival is all we think about. Survival is linked to victimhood…overcoming obstacles or adversity that has left us injured or suffering.

Mental toughness is not being content with survival. Like the purpose of the VAP, it is empowering victims to cope by taking control and growing, regardless of the hand that fate has handed out. People who thrive do not put bandages on wounds; instead, they allow deep healing so they do not suffer like victims. People who thrive will bloom where they are planted.

Mental toughness is the ability to prevail over out struggles and carve our a tranquil existence in the midst of life’s turbulence. Moving from just surviving to thriving requires a transformation. Here are 3 critical steps to trigger that transformation:

Reframe Adversity 

As an FBI agent, I approached my obstacles as unsolved mysteries to be investigated (click to tweet).

A mystery requires us to look at a situation from many different angles, or through a larger frame. A mystery calls for us to change sides, back and forth, so we can see it from every aspect. No one solves a mystery by deciding on one conclusion from the outset and then force-feeding the facts so they fit their image of a successful outcome.

If we reframe our adversity to look more like mysteries to be solved by careful analysis, then we can pick away at suppositions and judgments which may, or may not, be accurate. We remain open-minded about how to solve the problem and overcome the obstacle.

Lead with Game Plans, not Goals

When working an FBI counterintelligence investigation, the game plan was to recruit foreign spies to work for the U.S. government. If recruitment was my overall game plan, then my job was to set short and long-term goals that would move my investigation in the right direction.

Often, goals needed to be changed as new information became available. So while my approach would shift from time to time, the game plan never did.

Goals are essential if progress is to be made in life, but it’s tempting to let them take the place of the bigger picture. If they do, it’s harder to pivot and move in a new direction when events take an unexpected turn.

Goals are a measure of where we will be and when we will make it there. We try to predict how quickly we can make progress, even though we have no idea what circumstances or situations will arise along the way.

To thrive, use goals to plan your progress but rely on a game plan to actually make progress (click to tweet).

Search for Meaning

No one knows more about suffering, pain, and healing than Victor Frankl. An Austrian psychiatrist who survived the Holocaust, he thrived by writing the 1946 best selling psychological memoir, “Man’s Search for Meaning.”

Frankl wrote how Auschwitz taught him about the primary purpose of life: the quest for meaning, which sustained those who survived. His wife was eventually killed in the prison camp, and he himself struggled to find a reason for his suffering and slow dying.

According to Frankl, everything can be taken from a person except one thing: the most important human freedom—to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way of thinking about their life.

When we choose our attitude, we are free to focus on the things that are important and give us meaning in life: our dedication to a cause greater than ourself.

Whether you are the CEO of a Fortune 500 company or a woman rescued from an illegal prostitution ring, it’s impossible to thrive without the mental toughness needed to prevail over your struggles so you can take control and live a life of purpose.

© 2013 LaRaeQuy. All rights reserved.


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How To Make Sense of Life’s Struggles

December 8th, 2013 by LaRae Quy

We love stories about underdogs who muster the mental toughness to beat the odds and emerge victorious. They provide encouragement that, we too, can pursue our passions and achieve success.

Adversity - mad clouds

Somehow it’s easier when someone else endures the never-ending struggle so we can live vicariously through their experiences, safely from our armchair.

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

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

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

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

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

Struggles force us to find our deepest name.

Struggles are rarely easy, but if we have mental toughness, we will not give up. Like Jacob, we will be transformed because we will do what we all must do when confronted with adversity—confront our failures, hurts, and pain.

Tough times and adversity have transformational powers. This is confirmed by new research that suggests struggles are essential to developing resilience, and that mental toughness, like a muscle, cannot develop without exercise but it will break down if overworked.

Here are 4 things to keep in mind when going through tough times:

1. Face Adversity, Don’t Avoid It 

The study cited above reflects how easy it is for you to take your good luck for granted. If you are not prepared for adversity when it comes, you have no tools with which to fight back. Not getting what you always want forces you to identify your core character strengths and personal values—information you might have otherwise over looked. Some things fall apart in life so that better things can fall together (click to tweet).

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

It’s not a pleasant thought, but very often it is the stressful choices that end up being the most worthwhile. Without pain, there would be no change. Just remember to learn from your pain and then release it.

3. Work Outside Your Comfort Zone 

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

Significant opportunities for personal growth and success will come and go through your lifetime. If you’re looking to build resilience and overcome adversity, you will need to embrace moments of uncertainty even though you don’t feel 100% ready for them.

4. Embrace the Lesson

Everything happens for a reason. Things go wrong so you can learn to appreciate things when they go right (click to tweet). Learn to embrace the lesson each opportunity has to teach you so you can recognize the circumstances surrounding those lessons the next time they show up.

We can choose to resist our struggles, or we can uncover the truest and deepest part of ourselves in the midst of them. Mental toughness is learning to confront not only the adversaries from our environment, but also the ones inside us. 

What tips can you offer someone who is going through struggles? How have your struggles shaped you to become a better person?

© 2013 LaRaeQuy. All rights reserved.

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Mental Toughness Requires Emotional Intelligence

December 2nd, 2013 by LaRae Quy

Leaders with mental toughness need to identify and control emotions, not only of themselves but of others as well. Mental toughness is not ignoring feelings or refusing to express them; instead, it is the emotional intelligence to perceive, use, understand, and manage them.

Vision - glasses

During a recent interview on the Iron Jen radio show, I was asked how the “touchy-feely” aspect of emotional intelligence was viewed by the FBI agents with whom I worked alongside for 24 years. I would be the first to say that the FBI is not a touchy-feely sort of organization; on the other hand, emotional intelligence is an important tool for agents required to recruit human intelligence (humint) sources and interview suspects.

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.

Awareness and curiosity about their own emotions, as well as those of others, places leaders in a stronger position to not only recognize the negative ones but to anticipate how they could spin out of control.

So how do the mentally tough use emotional intelligence?

They label their own emotions and those of others, identify what creates stress and what motivates positive behavior, and finally, listen and talk in ways that resolve conflicts rather than escalate them.

Here are essential 3 mindsets used by FBI agents to develop emotional intelligence:

1. Clued In

Among the first steps in any investigation is putting the subject under surveillance. There are many reasons for this, but one of them is to identify their patterns of behavior.  In other words, agents need to be clued in to the activities, behavior, motivation, thinking, and emotions of the subject they are investigating.

Picking apart and analyzing what makes people tick becomes a mindset. Because of this, it is something that can be practiced by anyone at anytime.

Law enforcement officers often look at people around them in restaurants and airports and attempt to figure out their stories—such as what they do for a living, their mood, what they’re thinking—based solely on observation. This simple focused-awareness drill can train a person’s mind to be clued in on what is going on with the people around them.

Getting clued in means moving your awareness level up a notch or two. Learn more about yourself, as well, by asking, “What preoccupies my thinking?” “When am I most comfortable with myself?” “What do I notice first in others?”

2. Curious

Curiosity is an important trait for geniuses, FBI agents working investigations, and anyone who wants to be emotionally intelligent. Curious people have active minds that are always asking questions and searching for answers, instead of passive ones.

A curious mindset is continually expecting and anticipating new information about events and situations. Curious people seek new insight into the behavior of others, as well as themselves.

They do not accept the world as it is without trying to dig deeper beneath the surface around them. This is why interviews and questioning is another essential investigative step for FBI agents. Using open-ended questions by starting them with these words—who, what, when, where, and how—are great ways to unlock information.

3. Disciplined

The ability to become mentally tough can be attained by anyone with the will and the discipline to do so. It’s not possible to become an expert at anything unless you are disciplined to put in both the time and the effort.

Self-discipline is not an attitude of harshness or limitations. Instead, it is an element of inner strength where you choose what you will make a priority. To become an expert, you will need to stick with it, practice, fail many times, find new approaches to attack the problem, and continue to study in your field until you find a path to success. This takes a discipline that will leave you with such deep skills that when confronted with obstacles and barriers, you will have the mental strength to do things faster, smarter, and better.

Mental toughness is many things and rather difficult to explain. It is combined with a perfectly disciplined will that refuses to give in. It’s a state of mind—you could call it character in action—Vince Lombardi

Self-awareness is a critical skill for FBI agents who continually seek out ways to overcome obstacles and adversity. Self-awareness is being in touch with emotions. It is not being tough or strong to ignore them.

Acknowledging emotions does not make you weak; instead, it is an essential element of mental toughness (click to tweet).

How have you used emotional intelligence to be a better and stronger leader?

© 2013 LaRaeQuy. All rights reserved.


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How To Get Along With Losers

November 24th, 2013 by LaRae Quy

When working as an undercover FBI agent, one of the most difficult aspects of the job was learning how to get along with the losers I met during my assignment. Often, I was forced to spend time with people who felt trapped by their life and blamed others for their situation.

Success - tree

Let me define a loser: someone who hates hard work, refuses to accept responsibility for their failures, and has no desire to improve themselves.

I have always been picky about the friends I have chosen, and made a concerted effort to surround myself with amazing people who uplifted, energized, and encouraged those around them. I have always known that the people with whom I surround myself will either make or break my success.

My undercover experiences made me realize that many people go to work everyday and find themselves surrounded with colleagues and associates who are losers—people who are depressed, unhappy, frustrated, or angry about their situation in life.

I quickly discovered that it takes mental toughness to walk into the same situation day after day and face the negative attitudes of others, while at the same time, not let it rub off on me. In my undercover capacity, I had to find ways of getting along with the people I met without becoming depressed or frustrated myself.

This is what my experiences taught me:

Catch the Right Attitude

Negative attitudes catch on more easily than positive ones. The reason is that our survival-driven, limbic system in the brain has kept us safe for centuries by alerting us to negative information warning us of danger. Negative stimuli produce more neural activity than positive stimuli. Social psychologists explain that negative information is like velcro while positive information is like teflon. Negativity is stickier; we take it more seriously and pay more attention to it.

Tip: We do not need to run from negative information because it creates anxiety or fear in us. Do not let the negativity of others affect your well-being. Instead, divert resources that were previously dedicated to experiencing a negative emotion by doing the following:

  • write in a journal
  • focus on a positive thought for 20 seconds or more
  • talk it through with a trusted friend

These activities will move you from the emotional to the thinking part of the brain.

Groupthink is Strong

Once a negative synergy develops within a work environment, it’s tough to break the culture that’s been established. Groupthink is strongly associated with survival. Expressing contrary views or behavior supported, and sometimes encouraged, by leadership places us at risk of being ostracized.

Tip: Walk into work everyday understanding that your co-workers and colleagues are heavily influenced by the message sent from leadership. We tend to give more heft to messages delivered from people in authority, so if you’re trying to bring positivity into the conversation, you must be seen as a person of influence.

Positive Mental Chatter is Key

The way in which we speak to ourselves is one of the best indicators of our chances of success (click to tweet). Our mental chatter is up to 70% negative. This negativity bias is a psychological phenomenon that programs us to avoid negative experiences in the future.

We often assume that a person’s  overt attitude, bouyed by their positive language, is an accurate indication of their mental chatter. However, studies have shown that behavior is a far more reliable predictor of what a person is really thinking than the words they speak. People can appear positive on a superficial level by the language they use, but their loser behavior is a far more telling indicator of what is going on inside their head.

Tip: When surrounded by losers who effuse negativity, either verbally or through their behavior, we need to recognize when their negativity affects our own mental chatter. Research has shown that we say between 300 to 1,000 words to ourselves every minute. By training yourself to speak and think positively, you can “override fears” that are stimulated by the continual negativity of others.

Maintain a Positive and Realistic Attitude

Researchers have drilled down into the science of positivity, and while Normal Vincent Peale quotes may seem trite to some, there is ample evidence to suggest that maintaining a positive attitude can make the difference between surviving in your circumstances or thriving in a world that you create.

Positivity is the ability to look reality in the face and not flinch. It is not sugar-coated phrases or optimism that insists circumstances will change.

Tip: Often, your circumstances will not change and you must decide how you will continue to move forward anyway. Positivity is believing your destiny is in your hands.

Be an example to the losers around you by helping them identify what they are good at and encourage them to focus on those positive qualities. Once they do, they may begin believing they are more than passive observers in their own life.

Our attitude toward life determines life’s attitude toward us.”~John N. Mitchell

How do you deal with the losers in your life?

© 2013 LaRaeQuy. All rights reserved.


You can follow me on Twitter at http://twitter.com/LaRaeQuy

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You’re Only As Good As the Company You Keep

November 18th, 2013 by LaRae Quy

A group of my friends chose a date for a retreat weekend. All of us kept that date sacrosanct, except one. She cancelled at the last minute, saying she was under too much stress to leave home.

Adversity - fighting tigers

My reaction extended beyond disappointment. We had planned this retreat for months and I, for one, had worked hard to reschedule projects and relocate my husband so we could have a girls’ weekend to ourselves at my house. Others had also re-arranged plans so they could attend.

I felt my heart harden, and I knew I needed time away from her to gain perspective. 

But we are disappointed and frustrated with friends, family, and team members all the time. Running away from the problem or holding in resentment is not a productive answer. 

Instead, if we are to nurture healthy relationships, we need to separate practices that are self-serving or the product of habit from those that lead to our growth and success. One approach is being hard-hearted; the other is using mental toughness.

Let’s look at 4 differences between the two:

1) Be Picky

Let’s face it: the less you associate with some people, the faster your life will improve.

You become like those with whom you associate—for the good and the bad. Plato once said, “People are like dirt. They can either nourish you and help you grow as a person or they can stunt your growth and make you wilt and die.”

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

  • Hard-hearted is choosing friends because of who they are;
  • Mental toughness is choosing friends because of who you want to become.

2) Expect Change

As you grow, your associates will change. Some of your friends will want to grow with you, and those will be the ones who will stretch your vision and encourage you to continue. Others will not, and they may choke your dream.

You have different friends for different parts of your life. If you have moved into a phase of life where you’re determined to set your own course, find people who can help you visualize what that future can look like.

  • Hard-hearted is leaving behind friends who have been loyal and supportive because you want to spend your time with movers and shakers;
  • Mental toughness is sticking with friends who have always been a positive influence in your life.

3) Establish Benchmarks

Create standards for choosing friends – Ask yourself whether spending time with this person will lift you up or drag you down? Will spending time with this person help you to become your best self? Will you be happier after spending time with this person? Will this person help you achieve your most important goals? If not, find friends who will.

  • Hard-hearted is basing friendships on who can open doors for you to accomplish your goals;
  • Mental toughness is basing friendships on who help you learn how to open doors for yourself.

4) Establish Trust

List five people who can help you achieve your dreams and goals. These should be people whom you trust to listen to you attentively. Tell them about your dreams and goals. Sharing details of our life creates trust, and if you don’t feel you can trust a person with the most vulnerable part of yourself—your dream—find someone else for a friend.

  • Hard-hearted is cutting a friend loose because you don’t want to make the time to listen or help;
  • Mental toughness is cutting the strings when their baggage weighs you down.

Mental toughness is choosing excellence in all that you do. This includes the company you keep. Never make someone a priority when you are only an option to them (click to tweet).

In Prosperity Our Friends Know Us. In Adversity We Know Our friends—John Churton Collins.

What criteria do you have for choosing the company you keep?

© 2013 LaRaeQuy. All rights reserved.


You can follow me on Twitter at http://twitter.com/LaRaeQuy

Sign up for my FREE Mental Toughness Mini-Course

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