The Positive Side Of Negative Thinking

March 6th, 2016 by LaRae Quy

I grew up in a family that survived by preparing for the worst: blizzards, drought, broken fences, and the threat of wildfire. There was a positive side to this negative thinking—as ranchers who made a living by raising cattle, we kept them fed, watered, and safe from Wyoming’s fierce winters and suffocatingly hot summers.

Negativity pablo

I remember Dad always anticipating the worst possible outcome as the severe seasons rolled by so he could prepare, and land on his feet when confronted with the unknown.

As an FBI agent, we planned arrests by giving priority to what could go wrong. We were not optimists who hoped everything would go according to plan.

Both my Dad and my fellow FBI agents were intelligent thinkers who were mentally tough. That is, they weighed the possibility of a negative outcome with equal heft as the possibility of a positive outcome.

Intelligent thinking is another term for positive thinking. Let me be clear—positivity is not optimism that always expects things to change for the better, nor is it pessimism that always assumes the worst will happen.

It is often as difficult for optimists to be positive thinkers as it is for pessimists. Positive thinking is not denying the contribution of negative thinking. In fact, it’s wise to prepare for the worst that could happen in business and life.

The term “positive thinking,” however, has been polluted by the relentless cheer of motivational speakers who pressure their audience by goading them to stamp out all traces of negativity.

While this approach seems to be popular with some audiences, it’s not a particularly sophisticated—or realistic—approach to life.

Mental toughness is not being afraid of negativity; instead, it is learning how to harness its power so it works for you.

Here are 5 ways negative thinking can make you a positive thinker:

1. Be A Positive Thinker By Accepting Your Negative Emotions

Observe all of your emotions and sensations as they come to the surface—not just the feel-good ones. Do not try to suppress a negative emotion simply because it’s negative. Be honest about what you are feeling.

TIP: Acknowledge all of your emotions and try not to judge them as being positive or negative. Then let them pass. The key is to not dwell on those emotions which are counterproductive or undesirable.

2. Be A Positive Thinker By Embracing the Possibility of Failure

The all-positive approach of motivational speakers is relentless in its pursuit of perfection. The more realistic approach of positivity, on the other hand, does not reject failure. In fact, positive thinkers embrace failure as a challenge—a call to action to keep moving forward.

TIP: Do not give up and walk away, searching for something easier at which you will finally succeed. If achieving this goal is important to you, continue to approach the problem, but from different angles while at the same time honing your talents and skills.

3. Be A Positive Thinker By Looking for Positive Options

Positive thinking is embracing the reality of a negative outcome in a situation, but continually looking for and finding the positive options that every situation offers.

Thoughts are stubborn; once you let them take hold and grow roots, it is very difficult to erase them from your mind. Whatever grabs your attention rules your life. So, you need to control your thinking.

Researchers confirm that the very thing your mind focuses on is the same thing that you will start to notice in your daily life.

Your survival instinct has warned you of the possible negative outcome; now, you need to counter that warning with a positive response that will prepare you as you move toward the obstacle.

TIP: Recognize the negative aspects of your situation, but don’t dwell on them. Turn your attention to the positive options available to you.

4. Be A Positive Thinker By Believing You Can Prevail

Positivity is believing we can prevail in our situation, regardless of the circumstances. Prisoners of war and Navy SEALS have found that their belief in their own ability to prevail in extreme and adverse conditions is what kept them alive.

Survival, in one form or another, is at the heart of mental toughness. It is prevailing over our circumstances and moving forward.

TIP: When things look tough, you will need to have the grit to be persistent and understand that failure is not the end—it simply represents another way to approach our situation.

5. Be A Positive Thinker By Differentiating Between Visioning and Fantasy

Visioning is based on solid science. By visioning our performance repeatedly, our brain stores that information as a success. And with each success, our brain releases a neurotransmitter called dopamine. This is the chemical that becomes active when we encounter situations that are linked to rewards from the past.

Use your dopamine not only to see rewards, but to move toward them.

Dreams can easily turn into fantasies if we let our thoughts get out of control, and fantasies can actually lessen our chance for success. Those who are adamant optimists about a positive future will experience a greater shock when things go wrong. If people fantasize only positive beliefs about their future, they are less prepared and more stressed when things don’t workout they way they had hoped.

TIP: For you to be a leader, you must see things as they really are. Then see them the way you can make them better.

Mental toughness is not just surviving through tough times, it is thriving, and not letting the environment control your thinking. Don’t pretend the negative aspects of your situation don’t exist, but don’t dwell on them. Instead, believe you will prevail by looking for, and finding, positive options.

What suggestions do you have for learning how to harness the power of negativity?

© 2016 LaRaeQuy. All rights reserved.

You can follow me on Twitter

Get my FREE 45-Question Mental Toughness Assessment

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

52 Tips cover smallSSM book-cover

Why Successful People Never Blame Others

February 28th, 2016 by LaRae Quy

As a young adult looking for the perfect job, I wanted to blame others for why my life wasn’t spectacularly successful.

Success - finger pointing

It was always someone else’s fault—not recognizing my potential, not giving me a chance, not giving me a second (or third) chance.

I became an FBI agent at the age of 25 but I still balked at taking full responsibility for my actions, whined when things didn’t go my way, and pointed fingers at someone else when things went south.

This attitude was challenged the first day of my training at the FBI Academy. I was there to learn lessons. And once I learned a lesson I moved on the next one. The pieces shifted into place when I realized that if I failed to learn a lesson, I needed to keep finding opportunities to learn it again and again until it stuck.

For entrepreneurs and business owners, it means having the mental toughness you need to get through the failures and hard times, without giving up or blaming others for your situation.

Here are 5 reasons why successful people never blame others:

REASON #1: When You Don’t Blame Others You Become Resilient

The FBI Academy and my first couple of years as a field agent quickly knocked these negative traits out of my system because to be successful, agents need to be resilient.

To be resilient is to recognize that if you are dissatisfied with certain aspects of your life, then it is your responsibility to take the initiative and do something about it.

TIP: Take responsibility for your actions—stop whining, blaming others, and pointing fingers if you don’t get what you want.

REASON #2: When You Don’t Blame Others You Become More Confident

Lack of confidence in ourselves and our abilities is a major reason we blame others when something goes wrong.

Instead of being open or curious about learning more, a part of us shuts down. Sometimes we blame ourselves as much as blaming others. Focusing on why we failed at something does nothing more than chip away at our confidence; instead, dig down and uncover what we can learn from the experience.

TIP: Consciously and deliberately move into an exploratory frame of mind that is more curious about learning than shameful of making mistakes.

REASON #3: When You Don’t Blame Others You Stop Making Excuses For Yourself

Blaming others for our own actions is nothing more than making excuses for ourselves. In the process, we will have learned nothing from what has transpired and so the lesson inevitably will have to be learned again…and on it goes.

Stop blaming others for what you have or don’t have, or for what you feel or don’t feel.  When you blame others for what you’re going through, you deny responsibility and perpetuate the problem. Blaming is just another sorry excuse, and making excuses is the first step towards failure; you and only you are responsible for your life choices and decisions.

When we blame others, we give away our power.

Often, our thinking is caught up in blame and dealing with the pain of our thoughts and what it all means rather than simply and quickly doing what we need to do.

TIP: Start to question your thoughts and probe deeper into why you default to “blaming others.” Ask yourself, “Is this really true?” Often you will find the basis of those thought are just plain silly! The key is to question your thinking because once you do, you often discover that what you think you believe really isn’t true at all.

REASON #4: When You Don’t Blame Others You Allow Space For Personal Growth

Too many of us spend so much of our time on going through the motions of living—getting married, buying homes, climbing the corporate ladder—that we don’t focus on personal growth. We do not allocate enough time just for ourselves.

Instead of concentrating on what others did wrong, focus on what you want to go right in your life. And then do it.

Grit up. Be. Fiercely. Awesome!

If you don’t, you will wake up some day and realize that you are no closer to being the person you want to be than you were years ago. You will find that you’ve aged, but never grown into your potential.

TIP: Realize that the next step in living a life full of value and meaning for you will not reveal itself in the future—it is to be taken now

REASON #5: When You Blame Others You Become The Victor, Not the Victim

When you feel the victim, you gain power over the situation by blaming other people for your situation.

Loss of control over one’s life is always associated with feelings of helplessness. There is a very clear link between mental toughness and the way we approach our helplessness.

If we believe a situation is permanent, we’ll remain helpless—we think about our lack of talent, ability, etc—and believe nothing we can do will change it.

But if we believe the cause is temporary, we can act to change it. We feel more in control if we believe we have a possible solution at hand.

TIP: With each problem you face, you can learn a new skill or new fact.

Why do you think you blame others?

© 2016 LaRaeQuy. All rights reserved.

You can follow me on Twitter

Get my FREE 45-Question Mental Toughness Assessment

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

52 Tips cover smallSSM book-cover

Bulls**t Excuses Holding Women Leaders Back

February 20th, 2016 by LaRae Quy

One of the most formative moments in my childhood came when my dad told me to saddle up my horse Sugar and ride with him to help Uncle Bob move several hundred of cattle to Bear Creek.

Women leaders

We lived on a cattle ranch in Wyoming and I felt certain that, since I was a girl, my brother would be the one chosen to trail cattle and I’d be left behind peeling potatoes with mom. Smug with joy, I rode out of the corral, tossed the potato peeler at my brother as I passed by, and sat tall in the saddle.

It was a day that changed my life because I had stolen a glimpse into a future where I didn’t have to listen to bulls#*t excuses that could hold me, and other women leaders, back.

Here are four:

1. Caving In To Stereotypes

Somewhere on that ride to Uncle Bob’s ranch, I understood that I didn’t have to be held prisoner to a stereotype—no staying behind with the women and swapping double-crust pies recipes for me. I was a cowboy—I mean, a cowgirl. A few years later, I became an FBI agent. If I thought the world of cowboys was full of stereotypes, I came across a few more in the masculine-dominated world of law enforcement.

My philosophy was this: someone stupid enough to rely on stereotypes is stupid enough to make really stupid mistakes.

Wait long enough and they’ll step in something fresh and sticky—coming from a cattle ranch, I could smell it a mile away.

Stereotypes are one of those ugly phrases that are freighted with negative connotations. But unconsciously, we make excuses for ourselves that are based on nothing more than stereotypes we’ve cultivated about ourselves.

For example, whenever we adopt a self-limiting belief, we’ve placed ourselves into a “category” and often refuse to move beyond it.

2. Get The Real Scoop On Women’s Intuition

As a female, I’ve always wondered whether such a thing as “women’s intuition” really exists. More than once I’ve been told that I have this particular feminine gift but I never knew how to respond—because although it was meant as a compliment, it always rang a little false.

A few years back, Professor of Psychology at the University of Texas, William Ickes, began a series of mind reading studies. He expected to find that women leaders would be more intuitive in understanding other people’s thoughts and feelings. Ickes and his team were surprised, however, to find no difference between the men and women they tested.

Just as they were thinking of throwing “women’s intuition” into the myth pile, they did three studies in a row where women leaders scored significantly higher than the men. This left Ickes scratching his head so they went back and took a closer look at what had changed.

As it turns out, in the last three studies the research team had started the study by stating that women, according to the women’s intuition stereotype, would excel.

Once the women leaders understood they would be rated on their intuition, they tried harder to live up to that stereotype, and this is the thing—they did perform higher than the men.

Studies like those conducted by Ickes and his team suggest that it’s not that men are poor mind readers, they’re just unmotivated ones. Women, on the other hand, are motivated by the positive stereotype of women’s intuition. It becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy!

3. Let Go Of What Happened In The Past

The only time you need to look back is to see how far you’ve come.

Recognize that your recollection of the past is not always accurate; our memories are fallible. 

Our memory does not store information exactly as it’s presented to us. Instead, we extract the gist of the experience and store it in ways that makes the most sense to us. That’s why different people witnessing the same event often have different versions.

Learn from past mistakes—turn your ghosts into ancestors that make you who you are today!

4. There Is No Such Thing As “Too Late”

It is never too late to become the person you were meant to be, and live the life you were meant to live.

If you’re not on the right course, change course—the sooner, the better. There is no age limit on starting anew, and settling for a life that is mediocre is a tragic end to the only story your life will ever tell.

Successful women leaders reinvent themselves regularly as new opportunities pop up and they set new goals for themselves. They have the initiative to try new things, even scary ones, rather than remain in a rut that looks more and more like a coffin everyday.

Live a life you are proud of by finding the courage to make the changes you need to make.

I have always believed that people—both women and men—can achieve what they desire if they are motivated. There is a new generation of women leaders in the workplace who are more confident than the women who came before them. They’ve been told they can accomplish anything they put their mind to.

That’s a stereotype I can live with.

Men and women leaders—what stereotypes have you busted through to get where you are?

© 2016 LaRaeQuy. All rights reserved.

You can follow me on Twitter

Get my FREE 45-Question Mental Toughness Assessment

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

52 Tips cover smallSSM book-cover

What Successful People Know About Failure

February 14th, 2016 by LaRae Quy

When I was ten years old, I was riding my black quarter horse  and helping my grandmother cut a horned bull from the cattle  herd. The bull  suddenly turned, horns first, and charged my  horse. I grabbed the saddle  horn; my horse pivoted on his  back hooves and we got away unharmed.  My first attempt was a failure, but I still needed to  find a way to get the bull corralled….

Success - biker

There is one thing you never say to a grandmother who  has ammo on her  Christmas list: “I can’t.”

My grandmother was a mentally tough woman who never used the word quit or accepted defeat. No matter how difficult the situation, she kept trying.

Nothing grabs our attention like failure. For me, as a ten year old kid, failure meant I was not successful in getting the bull into the corral. Like most people, I defined failure as lack of success.

This attitude is not only antiquated, it is dangerous—because failure is an important learning tool for the brain.

Successful leaders, entrepreneurs, and small business owners all know that understanding how to deal with failure is part of the job. They know they don’t make bad decisions; they just have bad results.

Here are 5 things you need to know about failure and actions you can take:

1. Feed The Brain, It’s Starving

A child learns to walk by falling down; scientists experiment to identify what doesn’t work so it can be eliminated from future experiments. Learning is error-driven.

The limbic brain system has kept us safe for centuries because it pays more attention to negative information that could be perceived as a threat. It taught cavemen to GET lunch, and not BE lunch. This “negativity bias” is what drives learning since negative information gets the brain’s attention faster than positive information.

Failure forces us to integrate new information, and researchers have found the bigger the failure, the more we learn. The brain, you might say, feeds on failure.

2. Whip Back the Monster Called Ego

To the unconscious mind, being successful means being worthy. At the deepest level, success means we are worthy of being loved. And being loved is what matters to us most.

Failure reinforces a belief that we don’t have what it takes to make it in the world. While we don’t welcome them, failures remind us that we are not the center of the universe. If we really think about our experiences, we can see that there are factors beyond our control—indeed, factors that have nothing at all to do with us.

Failure humbles us, and this can be a good thing:

  • Humility is not thinking less of yourself, but rather thinking about yourself less.
  • Humility reminds us that we’re no more important than anyone else.
  • Humility reminds us that no amount of success we’ve had in the past guarantees success in the future.
  • Humility reminds us that it’s not about us.
  • Humility reminds us that each individual on this planet matters.
  • Humility makes us more authentic, which breeds trust.
  • Humility makes us better professionals, better leaders, and better human beings.

3. Keep Grasping for What is Out of Reach

Since we are imperfect creatures, there will always be a gap between what we are and what we can be. Our fear of failure can help us succeed because it sparks our desire to grasp what is just beyond our reach.

This is great motivation for leaders and businesses because failure can create the spark, the inspiration for great achievements.

Our struggle with our own failings can, ironically, bring out the best in us.

4. Explore the Unknown and Make New Discoveries

Psychologist B.F. Skinner once said that when you try something new and produce a result that was not what you expected (i.e. failure), drop everything and study it further because failure can be the portal for a new discovery.

Roy Plunkett, a chemist at DuPont, set out to invent a new refrigerant. Instead, he created a glob of white waxy material that conducted heat and did not stick to surfaces. Fascinated by this “unexpected” material, he abandoned his original line of research and experimented with this interesting material, which eventually became known by its household name—Teflon.

5. Shed Light on Blind Spots

Psychologists find that we tend to repeat the same mistake, and repeat it in endless variety. That is the definition of a blind spot.

Failures are incredibly valuable because they allow us to analyze our performance, and when we do, we identity those patterns of behavior that do not keep moving us forward. Unfortunately, “teachable moments” are usually accompanied by feelings of frustration, disappointment, and embarrassment.

The leaders at Google know something very important about failure; they not only celebrate failure, they budget for it and it’s potential insight. Employees can spend 20 percent of each workday on their own projects even though 80 percent of Google ventures fail.

If people want big success, failure comes with the territory.

BTW, I knew my horse spooked the bull so, like my grandmother, I refused to accept defeat and tried something different: I got off and stood in front of him. The bull swung his head so hard, snot flung from side to side. He eventually turned around and wandered in the direction of the corral. I followed, leading my horse. I did get the bull corralled in the end.

How has failure made you a better leader, entrepreneur, or small business owner?

© 2016 LaRaeQuy. All rights reserved.

You can follow me on Twitter

Get my FREE 45-Question Mental Toughness Assessment

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

52 Tips cover smallSSM book-cover

7 FBI Tips To Become More Likable

February 7th, 2016 by LaRae Quy

Not very many people are excited to get a phone call from an FBI Agent. They tend to be even less enthusiastic when the Agent tells them they need to speak with them about a pending investigation. As a result, I had to work—hard at times—to be likable if I wanted to get my job done.

Likable - blog

But it’s not only FBI Agents who need to be likable—as business owners, sales representatives, or leaders you need to impress new clients and competitors with your competence and capabilities. You can miss out on great opportunities to develop new relationships if you’re not able to establish a connection with other people.

The more likable you are, the better your chances of being successful.

Here are 7 FBI tips to become more likable:

1. Smile

This is the best way to become more likable instantly—and it doesn’t cost a thing. If you don’t believe me, just smile when you’re in a crowd of strangers and see what reaction you get.

I’m not a toothy person so I smile a lot with my mouth closed. The interesting thing is that a smile on my face changes the attitude in my heart, too.

TIP: Remember, a genuine smile requires your eyes so crinkle around the corners so lay off the botox if you’re serious about connecting with others.

2. Remember Names

Our name is an essential part of our identity, and people feel great when they hear it spoken by others. If their name is unusual, ask the origin. Become more likable by repeating their name in conversation—it will help you to remember it as well. And of course, get their business card!

TIP: Research shows that people feel validated when the person they’re speaking with refers to them by name during a conversation. But don’t overdo it—once or twice is enough. Otherwise you risk sounding too familiar or touchy-feely.

3. Leave a Strong First Impression

Research by Princeton psychologists reveal that all it takes is a tenth of a second for most people decide whether or not you are likable. Longer exposure doesn’t significantly alter impressions made within 10 seconds of meeting you.

People will then spend the rest of the conversation justifying their initial reaction.

As an FBI agent, I knew I might not have more than a few seconds to persuade someone I was likable and to cooperate with me, so I made it count.

TIP: First impressions are the result of positive body language. Walk with purpose and confidence, maintain a strong posture, offer a firm handshake, smile, face the person to whom you are talking, and make eye contact. If their eyes start to wander, it’s a clue that they may be losing interest in you.

4. Listen

This is a difficult task for most people. When we’re listening to someone else talk, our mind is frequently 1) busy forming a question to ask, 2) trying to process the information that’s being spoken, or 3) splitting attention between the speaker and something else that’s going on.

TIP: To be likable, give the other person your 100% attention. It will make them feel important and your undivided attention tells them that you genuinely value them.

5. Show Politeness

Show appreciation and gratitude whenever and wherever you can. It’s a habit that can be learned. People really do pay attention to how well you treat strangers, so make it habit to treat everyone well.

TIP: Make it a habit to be polite to everyone. Start with shop clerks and work your way up to the airline ticket agents. Once there, you can take on state government employees!

6. Be Authentic

As an FBI undercover agent, I assumed the identify of a fictitious person. One of the first things I learned that  to be a likable and successful undercover agent, it took more than a fake name. I needed to be authentic and honest with people about who I really was as a person. I could slap on whatever name—or title—I wanted, but the only time I got into trouble was when I tried to be someone I wasn’t. That is when I came across like an empty government suit, and that held no interest for anyone.

TIP: People cannot genuinely find you likable unless they know who you are. Give up trying to impress new people you meet. Instead, share with them who you are—really, and not whom you think they want to meet.

7. Exude Confidence

If you come across as insecure, you also risk coming across as needy and/or incompetent. Start from a positive place and others will notice. If you’re not there yet, fake your confidence until you feel more secure and at ease.

Focus on what motivates you and makes you happy as an individual. Once you do, you will not only become a more interesting person, you will also exude the confidence of a likable person who knows who they are.

TIP: Go into every conversation thinking “I like this person and want to get to know them better.’

To become more likable, try this exercise sometime this week:

  • Notice how much time you spend just listening when you’re in a conversation with someone.
  • Notice how often your mind races ahead to a question you want to ask them.
  • Notice how often the next task of the day pops into your mind as you listen.
  • Notice how often you get lost in your own thoughts.

Now, do this:

  • Slow down your mind and focus on what the other person is saying.
  • Pay attention to their facial features as they speak.
  • Pay attention to what animates them when they speak.
  • Pay attention to how their voice changes when they speak about a specific topic.
  • Pay attention to how their words and body language change.

Then do this:

  • Share with them the most positive things you noticed about them.

How have you become more likable to people?

© 2016 LaRaeQuy. All rights reserved.

You can follow me on Twitter

Get my FREE 45-Question Mental Toughness Assessment

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

52 Tips cover smallSSM book-cover

Rewire Your Brain For Success

January 31st, 2016 by LaRae Quy

I was a fashion buyer before I became an FBI agent. I quickly learned that I would need to rewire my brain if I wanted to be a success in my new job.

Brain - messages

It began with my first day at the FBI Academy. Everyone stood up and gave their background: military officers who had led dangerous military missions in North Africa, police officers who survived shootouts, and successful prosecutors against dangerous mob families in New York.

So, when I stood up and told everyone I was a fashion buyer for a fancy retail store, everyone turned their head to look at the fluff ball who had accidentally gotten into the FBI.

Born and raised on a remote cattle ranch in Wyoming, I lacked the polish and sophistication of many of my fellow agents. But my years as a fashion buyer had left me unhappy and unfulfilled.

Like many of you, what I needed was a healthy dose of mental toughness to achieve my goals and dreams.

To be resilient in today’s business environment, success comes from thinking positively about your situation and not succumbing to the self-limiting belief that nothing can be done to change it.

If I wanted to graduate from Quantico, I would need to rewire my brain for success as much as would need to sculpt my muscles for physical fitness. You may need to do this as well.

Rewire your brain for success in three steps: 

STEP ONE: Remember Who Is In Control

Mental toughness is the ability to control our mind rather than letting our mind control us.

Controlling our thought process isn’t as easy as it sounds because we don’t notice how little control we have over the way our mind thinks. One thought follows another, and out of habit, we let our subconscious take us through most of the day.

But here is a big secret: The greatest weapon we have is our ability to choose one thought over another.

There is a reason so many people recommend meditation—it is an excellent way to be an observer of your own thoughts, even uncomfortable ones. By observing how your thoughts wander, and keep returning to a specific topic, you can gently bring them back to where you want them to be.

It may take time, but each time you succeed, you are taking control of your thoughts by choosing which ones are important.

How You Can Make It Work For You:

Control your thoughts by becoming more connected to them. Too often, our subconscious takes over the way we think about our daily experiences; so, take control by intentionally choosing to observe, question, challenge, or dismiss new pieces of information that come your way. Start with one hour and see if you can work up to an entire day.

STEP TWO: Just As Important, Don’t Be A Control Freak

Being “always on” can block the creative brain processes that occur when we let our minds wander.

If we are facing a challenge that needs new ideas, new research shows that we’re more likely to come up with an innovative and creative solution when we let our minds wander for a brief period of time.

According to the research, our brains continue to puzzle through the challenge in the background.

How You Can Make It Work For You:

  • Take a walk around the block, watch passing cars, or observe strangers moving around you on a sidewalk. Anything that gives your brain a rest from the tough challenge before you.
  • Close your eyes and notice the sounds and smells around you.
  • Get up and make yourself tea or coffee—anything that gives your brain time to wander.

STEP THREE: Say Yes To The New

Until recently, the brain was regarded as an immutable organ that did not change after early childhood.

In 2000, Eric Kandel was given the Nobel prize for medicine demonstrating that, as learning in the brain occurs, the connections among nerve cells increase. Hundreds of studies went on to demonstrate that the brain has the ability to reorganize itself by forming new neural connections. This is called neuroplasticity, and it continues throughout life.

Researchers like Mike Merzenich and Norman Doidge have concluded that while our genes help determine how we can respond to our environment, they do not make us who we are. We we all have untapped potential.

How To Make It Work For You

Do not believe everything you think.

Since the limbic brain is hardwired to pay more attention to negative thoughts than positive ones, make sure you stop and listen to what your mind is telling you. You will be shocked to realize how much of it is negative.

Your beliefs become your thoughts,

Your thoughts become your words,

Your words become your actions,

Your actions become your habits,

Your habits become your values,

Your values become your destiny― Mahatma Gandhi

In order to stimulate neuroplasticity, try something new. Go somewhere you haven’t been before. Take up a new hobby. Read a book or try eating something or doing something that isn’t a regular activity for you.

How have you rewired your brain to achieve success?

© 2016 LaRaeQuy. All rights reserved.

You can follow me on Twitter

Get my FREE 45-Question Mental Toughness Assessment

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

4 Surefire Ways To Move Through Uncertainty

January 23rd, 2016 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. As 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.

Uncertainty - waves

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 uncertainty of today’s workplace.

As entrepreneurs, leaders, and business owners, you 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—success depends on finding new ways to keep our minds supple.

Mental toughness is the ability to be flexible and agile in the way we respond when faced with the uncertainties of both life and work.

Here are 4 surefire ways you can develop the mindset to move through uncertainty:

1. Overcome Uncertainty By Growing A Little Each Day

When facing uncertainty, you have two choices:

You can dread it because you are afraid of failing—you believe that failure sends a negative message about your abilities, or…

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.

2. Overcome Uncertainty By Discovering What Makes You Feel Strong

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:

a. Discover your own patterns: What makes you smile? What are you always wanting to do or think about? What can you not help do, think, or feel? Even if someone asks you not to?

b. 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. Alongside, write down everything that makes you feel less confident or anxious. How many of these do you encounter at work?

c. Compare the lists: How can you start doing more of the things that make you feel strong? And eliminate those that make you feel threatened?

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—and empowers you.

As you transition out of your current situation or move into a time of uncertainty, lean into those things that make you feel strong and keep a wary eye out for those things that do not empower you.

3. Overcome Uncertainty By Mixing It Up

FBI training is relentless and continuous, but this 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. It’s important to combine focused thought with periods of play and scattered attention because 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.

4. Overcome Uncertainty By Summoning The Courage To Try New Things

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 uncertainty.

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.

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?

© 2016 LaRaeQuy. All rights reserved.

You can follow me on Twitter

Get my FREE 45-Question Mental Toughness Assessment

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

52 Tips cover smallSSM book-cover

5 Ways Resilience Can Make You A Survivor

January 17th, 2016 by LaRae Quy

FBI Agents working terrorism see firsthand how individuals and families are torn apart every day from stabbings, shootings, and bombings. They also see how people use resilience to bounce back from hard knocks by being a survivor in the midst of trauma and chaos.

Grit - Man jumping blog

Being a survivor should not be confused with being a superman—or woman—by performing heroic feats that saves the lives of millions. There are plenty of us who need to learn how we can bounce back from trauma of everyday life with the resilience to not only survive, but thrive.

For example, Lisa is a neighbor who recently lost her job, Mark is an entrepreneur starting a new company at the age of 48, and Veronika has learned that she has inoperable brain cancer. 

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, do you respond with resilience? 

  • 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 resilience can make you a survivor:

1. Understand The Obstacles You Face

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.

2. Overcome The Urge To Run Away

Resilience can be summed up like this:

Resilience is recognizing that if you are dissatisfied with certain aspects of your life, then it is your responsibility to take the initiative and make the changes you need to become a survivor.

Running away or expecting others to handle your problems is childish.

Gritup and change the way you look at your obstacles and roadblocks. Mental toughness is believing you can prevail in your circumstances rather than believing your circumstances will change.

3. Acknowledge All Emotions You Are Feeling

Because many of us are wimps, we run away or deny unpleasant thoughts and feelings. We don’t think we’re strong enough to handle the hard stuff so we listen to self-help gurus and pretend negative emotions and feelings don’t exist.

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 if you are a survivor, you never forget that you still own your thoughts—so make them powerful.

4. Challenge Yourself To Be Brutally Honest

When the chips are down, honesty is your best salvation.

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.

A survivor knows himself/herself well enough that they can discern the best way forward in every situation—even the tough ones.

5. Keep Three Types Of Friends In Your Life

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

  1. First: 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.
  2. Second: the one you can call when things are going miserably and you need a listening ear.
  3. Third: 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 become a survivor and be prepared for what we can’t predict

What other traits do you think make a survivor?

© 2016 LaRaeQuy. All rights reserved.

You can follow me on Twitter

Get my FREE 45-Question Mental Toughness Assessment

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

52 Tips cover smallSSM book-cover

3 Ways To Be More Resilient

January 10th, 2016 by LaRae Quy

As a child, I was shy and had a hard time taking credit for my achievements. When my Grandmother asked how I was able to accomplish something, I’d shrug my shoulders and mumble something like, “I don’t know.”

Resilience - tree

Her response was curt. “Either learn to stand up for for yourself or be content to stand around sucking your thumb the rest of your life.”

My lack of ability to stand up for myself disgusted my Grandmother. True, she could have been more sympathetic but she lived in a time and place where resilience was an essential component in surviving tough winters on a Wyoming cattle ranch.

She learned at an early age to value her skills and talents because she knew she’d need them again—most likely in the near future. Taking personal responsibility for her contributions was not boasting; it was learning how to survive and be resilient.

Resilience is a component of mental toughness. It is the ability to take personal control and responsibility for the direction our lives are taking. Resilient leaders do not seek out happiness by relying on others, nor do they blame others for their situation.

Resilient people are always asking this question: what can I do to change my situation?

For entrepreneurs and business owners, it means believing that you can control the important events in your life. Often this will mean you will need to be flexible in the way that you approach your goals and agile in the way in which you overcome obstacles.

Here are 3 ways you can learn to be more resilient:

1. Become More Resilient By Focusing Your Energy On What You Can Control

I watched as my Grandmother’s cranky horse stretched out his neck, bared his teeth, and bit down on her left breast so hard that she had to have a mastectomy. But she was resilient—she knew while she couldn’t control everything that came her way, she could absolutely control her response to it.

And that changes everything.

A major component of positive thinking is the belief that the future will be a more pleasant place because, to a large extent, we can control important events in our life.

In his book, The Status Syndrome: How Social Standing Affects Our Health and Longevity, Michael Marmot explains how clerks and secretaries are more likely to die of heart attacks than senior executives.

Even taking into consideration other variables such as smoking and poor nutrition, his research team concluded that those in lower category jobs had less control over their life, and the more likely they were suffer from heart disease.

2. Become More Resilient By Not Looking To Others To Provide Your Happiness

When I was about 6 years old, I was given a tall black quarter horse to ride. The only way I could get on him was to lead him to a rock high enough that I could step into the stirrup. Horses are not stupid—it didn’t take him long to catch on and he started shying away from the rock.

I would cry in frustration as everyone left me alone to deal with my problem. Although my Grandmother never graduated from high school, she asked me an incredibly wise question: Why did I keep doing the same thing over and over even when it didn’t work?

She was right. I had a self-limiting belief about what I could, and could not, do. From then on, I grabbed the leather ties hanging from the pommel of the stock saddle, pulled myself into the stirrup, and then into the saddle seat. 

To be resilient is to recognize that if you are continually dissatisfied with aspects of your life, then it is your responsibility to take the initiative and rewrite the self-limiting beliefs you have about yourself that keep you chained to repetitive thinking and behaving.

Try this:

  • List 3 things in your life you would like to change.
  • List steps taken in the past to make these changes.
  • Why do you think you were unsuccessful?
  • What is a self-limiting belief you have about yourself?
  • What steps will be required for you to change this self-limiting belief?
  • What obstacles might interfere with these steps?
  • What is your backup plan?

3. Become More Resilient By Finding Your Zones Of Competence

As a child, I needed to learn acceptance, not narcissism, was the path toward a resilient mindset that accepted ownership for my achievements.

Once I was able to claim ownership for my zones of competence, it didn’t hurt so bad to let go of those areas in which I was not as competent. My confidence was not shaken when I was asked to drop choir class because I sang so off-key it was disturbing the other kids!

If we believe that chance or luck is responsible for our achievements, then we march through life believing we have no control over our destiny. We develop a victim mentality.

Once we realize that we are responsible for our success, we also experience more satisfaction when we do attain our goals.

Resilient people believe that problems can be solved, the solutions must be found within themselves, and success is not about self-glorification.

How have you learned to be more resilient?

© 2016 LaRaeQuy. All rights reserved.

You can follow me on Twitter

Get my FREE 45-Question Mental Toughness Assessment

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

52 Tips cover smallSSM book-cover

Use Emotional Intelligence To Discover Your Inner James Bond

January 2nd, 2016 by LaRae Quy

We admire the way James Bond keeps his cool in any situation. He is savvy, and by using emotional intelligence, he can anticipate where the threat will come from so he can keep his eye on the ultimate goal. It’s a formula that leads to success.

silhouette man kneeling aiming gun

As entrepreneurs and business owners, you also need to keep focused on your goal instead of being distracted by threats coming from both competitors and a shaky economy.

If only I could predict people’s behavior like a spymaster, you tell yourself, I could accomplish great things, too.

But let me share a secret: there’s a little James Bond in all of us. All you need is enough emotional intelligence to observe the people around you. Watch closely enough and they will give you all the clues you need to uncover loyalty, honesty, and deception.

As an FBI counterintelligence Agent, the first thing I did was put the targets of my investigations under surveillance.

It wasn’t just about being snoopy; instead, I wanted to identify their patterns of behavior.

Humans have always looked for patterns. From navigating by the stars, planting crops by season, or decoding genetics—we have a desire to understand, and therefore, predict the future.

Emotional intelligence is being able to identify and understand the behavioral patterns of people around you. Once you do, you know about what motivates them, and the more you know about what motivates them, the better you can predict their choices.

It doesn’t take training at the FBI Academy to learn how to use emotional intelligence to observe behavior and identify patterns. You can learn to do this on your own. Once you do, you will also be able to more accurately predict behavior—even your own.

Once you recognize your own patterns of behavior, it will help you recognize them in others.

Here are three tricks of the trade to develop emotional intelligence:

1. Use Emotional Intelligence To Notice Spontaneous Remarks

Gut reactions are always close to home. Top-of-the-head responses reveal the location of strong mental connections.

Unexpected, or even stressful, situations often reveal dominant traits. Use emotional intelligence to properly observe and understand these personality traits. They can explain a lot about the behavior of the other person.

Daily life provides hundreds of opportunities to observe how people respond to little doses of stress.

When it comes to learning the tricks of surveillance, start with yourself—It will make it easier to notice what to look for in others. Let’s use the following scenario:

You have a busy day—schedule is full, wrapping up projects before 3-day weekend. An employee with a project on deadline calls in sick, what is your first reaction?

How are they doing—you are empathic and concerned

How will the job get done—you are goal oriented

Who is going to fill-in—you are organized and structured

Are they looking to make this a 4-day weekend—you are naturally wary and suspicious

Not worried because it will all work out—you are an optimist who looks for the best in situations

Why didn’t I know about this sooner—you have a need for control

Once you have the emotional intelligence to notice these gut reactions in yourself, it will be easier to notice how someone on your team or a business partner reacts when confronted with a similar situation. If they don’t tell you, ASK!

2. Use Emotional Intelligence To Understand What You Noticed

Taking the time to think clearly after an event has triggered a response is critical. This provides an opportunity to notice feelings and use them as a reminder of how people respond in different situations.

Again, start with yourself:

Always pay attention—make a habit of paying attention to what surprises you, what makes you feel anxious, and what makes you feel good about yourself.

Never cease collecting information—where do you not want to listen, where do you insist on taking the opposite point of view, when is your reaction out of proportion?

There is always more to learn, about ourselves and others.

3. Use Emotional Intelligence To Stop Undesirable Patterns In Their Tracks

People are creatures of habit. We repeat our patterns of behavior without thinking about them. The most effective way to use emotional intelligence to become aware of these patterns is by looking back at undesirable responses from your business partner, associates, and others in a variety of stressful events and situations.

With a little experience, you will be able to identify particular instances when people displayed undesirable reactions such as exaggerated drama, panic, anxiety, or anger.

Deliberately step back from your on-going activities and take some time to think about them. In the process, ask yourself these questions:

Were you surprised by their reaction?

Do they always react the same way in certain situations?

How could you have made it a better experience for them?

What would you do differently next time?

As you continue to practice noticing their responses in various situations, you can begin to pull out the threads of their behavior pattern.

As entrepreneurs and business owners, we can use emotional intelligence to stop negative reactions in both ourselves and others while at the same time encouraging the positive and productive ones.

When you can read other people, it helps you navigate the unknown so you can land on your feet while never taking your eye off your ultimate goal

How have you used emotional intelligence to spot undesirable behavior in others?

© 2016 LaRaeQuy. All rights reserved.

You can follow me on Twitter

Get my FREE 45-Question Mental Toughness Assessment

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

52 Tips cover smallSSM book-cover