4 Ways To Increase Your Odds of Success

September 28th, 2014 by LaRae Quy

My first job out of college was a dead-end position as a Buyer at a fancy retail store in Arizona. I thought this would be the perfect position for me because—surprise, I loved to shop! Although I dreaded going to work everyday, I found myself wooed by the glamour of the position and the great discount on very expensive clothes.

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At first, I was enamored with the idea of being a fashion buyer—and I was successful by most people’s standards. But I came to be miserable, because I was in a job that, ultimately, did not leave me feeling my life had either meaning or value.

There was a voice inside that reminded me of the regret I would feel from living a life of mediocrity and it challenged me to uncover my full potential.

In listening to that voice, I became an FBI agent and was continually placed in situations that stretched my abilities, but I also knew these challenges were moving me closer to a purpose that held both success and fulfillment for me. 

Peak performance and success are two sides of the same coin. Peak performance is linked to a concept known as “flow.” Flow is a state of mind during which we become so involved in what we’re doing that the world seems to fade away and nothing else matters. When we’re in a state of flow, times flies by, our focus becomes sharp, and we experience a loss of self-consciousness.

We experience the flow of peak performance when we achieve a personal goal we’ve set for ourselves. It’s a “runner’s high” that we feel when we are following our heart’s calling and truly engaged in activities that give us meaning and purpose.

Peak performance is having the mental toughness to be our best so we can be successful. 

The ultimate definition of success is to realize our fullest potential so we can accomplish what we desire to accomplish. 

Let’s take a look at how you can increase your odds of success:

 

1. NO SUGAR-COATING—IT ALL STARTS WITH HONEST SELF-EVALUATION

Successful people are emotionally intelligent. They can not only accurately perceive the emotions of others, they are also adept at identifying and understanding their own emotions as well. They have a high level of self-awareness and are able to accurately assess information about their abilities, even when it is unflattering. 

Once you know yourself and your limits, you know exactly what you’re afraid of and exactly how hard to push against it.

If you are not willing to take a honest look at your abilities and identify where you need to improve, you will never move past your current circumstances. Those with self-knowledge do not worry when their radar comes up with something about themselves that is unflattering. The reason is because they are also acutely aware of their strengths.

To become successful, it is essential to have accurate information about your abilities so you can learn more efficiently and effectively.

 

2. DON’T BE CONTENT WITH MEDIOCRITY—STRETCH TOWARD PEAK PERFORMANCE

Unless you know your limits, you will not be able to prepare either your mind or your body to move past them. To move toward peak performance, you need to stretch your current skill level—but not so hard that you want to give up.

Experts agree that this magic stretch is 4% greater than our skill. For most of us, it’s not much at all. However, it’s important to keep that continual tension between stretch and skill if we want to move toward our peak performance.

 

3. EVERYTHING STARTS AS A STRUGGLE

This is the same whatever the learning cycle: we begin by overloading our brain with information. If you’re an athlete, you will engage in serious physical training. If you’re in marketing, you may begin with fact gathering. If you’re a CEO, you may begin with a concentrated problem analysis.

An important chemical change takes place in our brain during struggle. Tensions rise, and frustrations, too. Adrenaline, cortisol, and norepinephrine are pumped into our system.

How we handle negative feelings during this stage is critical. We’re struggling to identify patterns and then repeating those patterns so our brain eventually no longer sees them as a series of steps to be taken but as a chunk of activity. Chunks simplify activities for the brain so it takes a very small bit of information and then predicts the outcome. 

Until this happens, however, we are awkward and uncomfortable. This is where many people give up and settle for mediocrity.

 

4. RELAX AND REMEMBER THERE IS A LIGHT AT THE END OF THE TUNNEL

Researchers have found that to move out of the struggle phase, it’s important to move into a state of mind where you take your thoughts off the problem. Once you can find a way to relax in the midst of your struggle, the stress hormones in your brain start to decrease and the feel-good chemicals like dopamine start to kick in.

This is why humor is so important in high-stress jobs. It can defuse an intense situation by letting the brain relax.

Success is not a measure of how much money you make or the size of your house. It is knowing that, at the end of it, you have been brave enough to become the person you were truly meant to be.

What we are is God’s gift to us. what we become is our gift to God—Eleanor Powell

© 2014 LaRaeQuy. All rights reserved.

 

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9 Questions To Help You Move Forward When You Feel Helpless

September 21st, 2014 by LaRae Quy

I was living in the Marina District in 1989 when the Loma Prieta earthquake hit San Francisco and killed 63 people. The magnitude 6.9 shock jammed my front door so I could not open it and get out.

Questions - inquisitive animal

9 Questions To Help You Move Forward When You Feel Helpless

Every piece of glass and stoneware that I owned crashed onto the floor in pieces. All I can remember of those few seconds was the roar as the earth beneath me rocked and rolled. Buildings started to collapse, and I could see an apartment complex go up in flames down the street.

As I looked out my window at blocks of upheaved pavements and broken water lines, I felt powerless. Trapped in my house, the helplessness of my situation devolved into threads of negative thinking started to spin out of control—until I was certain that I would die on the spot!

Feeling powerless and helpless spirals downward into deeper and deeper levels of negativity. While this train of thinking often erupts when there are threats to our physical safety, they can also rear their ugly head when we’re confronted with poor leadership, situations that spin out of our control, or lack of confidence as we move into the unknown.

Neuroscience tells us that the best way to move out of the feelings of helplessness that are aroused by negative thinking is to counter them with positive thoughts.

Below is an excerpt from my new book, Mental Toughness For Women Leaders: 52 Tips to Recognize and Utilize Your Greatest Strengths (P.S. This book is for men, too!)

The brain rarely responds to positive words and thoughts because they’re not a threat to our survival. Our brain doesn’t need to respond as rapidly as it does with negative thoughts and words. It’s naturally wired to pay more attention to negative rather than positive information because negative alerts us to emergencies and threats.

To overcome this natural bias toward negativity, we have to repeatedly and consciously generate as many positive thoughts as we can.

Psychologist Barbara Fredrickson recently updated her original research that asserted only 3 positive thoughts were needed to counter each one negative thought. Because our bias toward negativity is so strong, Fredrickson and others indicate that we need to increase the positivity ratio to 5:1.

Research has confirmed that when it comes to considering positive emotions, more is better. Sometimes you have to look really hard. Our ability to seek out and experience positive emotions depends on the thoughts that we focus on and how we interpret the events in our life. This is mental toughness.

Our negative thoughts spiral into feelings of helplessness. The most effective way to move forward is to ask yourself questions that will force you to identify positive elements in your situation. 

Here are 9 question to move you forward when you feel helpless:

1. How have I overcome negative thoughts like this in the past? If you’ve done it before, you can do it again.

2. Has negative thinking about this situation become a pattern in my life? If you experience the same negative thoughts repeating themselves, you need to get to the root of why they keep cropping up.

3. Why am I thinking this way? Challenge your thoughts by specifically identifying what triggered the negative thought.

4. Am I being objective and realistic? Remember, just because you think something doesn’t mean it’s true.

5. Where is the evidence for the way I’m thinking? Make sure you are not focusing only on the negatives and ignoring other, more useful information.

6. Is this as bad as I’m making it out to be? You could be exaggerating the worse that could happen.

7. Am I jumping to conclusions without looking at all the facts? Take a moment to look at the situation from the viewpoint of another person. If it helps, ask a friend their opinion.

8. How likely is it that the worst will happen? Put thoughts into perspective.

9. What can I say to myself that will help me summon positive thoughts? Identify positive aspects of your situation. Our biggest temptation is to feel sorry for ourselves and stop believing there is anything positive to be found.

Generating positive thoughts helps us overcome setbacks. It doesn’t even matter if your positive thoughts are irrational; they’ll still enhance your sense of happiness, wellbeing, and life satisfaction. They expand our awareness and attention to what is going on around us. 

This is a critical skill for leaders who are looking for opportunities and ways to solve problems. When we are able to take in more information, we can connect to other events going on in our peripheral vision, thereby expanding our understanding of our situation.

To keep my mood buoyant while trapped in my Marina District house, I identified the positive aspects of my situation: I could crawl out a window if I needed to escape, I had food and bottled water to last several days, a battery-operated radio, and finally, family and friends who would come looking for me.

I survived—and all it took was a little positive thinking.

How do you move yourself out of feeling helpless and powerless when dealing with adversity?

© 2014 LaRaeQuy. All rights reserved.

 

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

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How Women Stay Strong At Work: Create New Rules

September 14th, 2014 by LaRae Quy

When I was assigned the crappy counterintelligence cases no one else on my squad wanted, I decided to be mentally tough and take matters into my own hands by submitting an undercover proposal to FBI Headquarters.

Businessman puppeteer

I knew if I sat there and played by the established rules, I’d never get past the roadblocks in front of me—I was both a female and a rookie.

FBI Headquarters loved the proposal because it was fresh, and different from the tired formula that had been used so many times before by the other male agents on my squad. 

People approach obstacles in both business and life in one of two different ways—insight or analysis. I had used insight to find a way around the barrier in front of me.

1. INSIGHT

 

  • Insight is fluid because it is primarily based upon observation.
  • Often referred to as intuition, it is the ability to be comfortable with few facts, few rules, and few constraints.
  • It encourages an open mind that looks for both cause and effect.
  • Allows you to see the problem in a new way, connect the problem to other relevant data, release past experiences that are blocking the solution, and view the problem in a larger, coherent context.

 

The insightful or instinctive method is more effective when people approach unique barriers or roadblocks and new learning is required.

2. ANALYSIS

 

  • Analysis involves finding solutions through deliberation and methodical trial and error.
  • It relies upon our ability to “think” or use our cognitive functions to push through adversity, problems, and stumbling blocks that are in front of us.
  • It requires focused attention that follow rules.
  • People who approach obstacles from an analytical point of view tend to seek out more visual information.

 

The analytical method of solving problems works well when there are tried and true formulas and where new methodology is not needed.

When women leaders face roadblocks and obstacles at work that can not be overcome by traditional approaches, often they need mental toughness to challenge the status quo by creating new rules that are innovative and effective. 

Do not be afraid to break the rules or established ways of viewing the world. Here are 4 tips:

 

TIP #1 Create An Open Mindset

This means allowing your attention to wander and noticing new possibilities. You will gather a broad base of information by being curious about all aspects of your situation, not just your own interpretation of them.

Science has shown that when you blur your attention focus, your prefrontal cortex calms down. This makes it easier to ask questions like “how”, “why”, and “if.”

TIP #2 Consider Alternatives

Rigid ways of thinking about a problem, roadblock, or obstacle will not help you move out of your rut. If it was that easy, someone else would have already found a way to do it.

 

TIP #3 Slow Down Your Cognitive Thinking

Instead of thinking about ways to solve the problem or overcome the obstacle, spend time observing—yourself, the situation, and the people around you.

When trying to break through a barrier, carefully study your environment to see which approaches work, and which ones do not.

Since you are not re-inventing the wheel, you  have the option of slowing down your thinking and take in the results of how others have overcome adversity in your environment so you can learn from them.

 

TIP #4 Abandon Strict Rules

Forget what you think might or might not work. Be flexible. Place fewer restrictions on your thoughts and behavior. Think outside the box!

How have you created new rules when confronted with obstacles or barriers?

© 2014 LaRaeQuy. All rights reserved.

 

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

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Use Mental Strength To Raise Your Emotional Intelligence

September 7th, 2014 by LaRae Quy

As an FBI agent, I was trained to size up a person with just a glance. But here is a secret—you can too, because humans have an amazing capacity to process complex information.

Emotional Intelligence - lots of happy faces

Our brain has an amazing ability to bring order out of chaos and place people, words, and behavior into patterns that make sense to sense to us. Below is a paragraph that raced across the Internet a few years back:

Aoccdrnig to a rscheearch at Cmabrigde Uinervtisy, it deosn’t mttaer in waht oredr the ltteers in a wrod are, the olny iprmoetnt tihng is taht the frist and lsat ltteer be at the rghit pclae. The rset can be a toatl mses and you can sitll raed it wouthit porbelm. Tihs is bcuseae the huamn mnid deos not raed ervey lteter by istlef, but the wrod as a wlohe.

Brains have an attention filter that helps us find patterns in information so we know what to pay attention to and what we can safely ignore. In the caveman days, it helped us be alert to predators; in the information age, however, the amount of data that assaults our brain on a daily basis is staggering.

Studies suggest that we now receive five times as much information as we did in 1986. Every day the average person produces six newspapers worth of information compared with just two and a half pages 24 years ago—a 200% increase.

All of this information is competing for resources in your brain, whether it’s important data like medical information and financial updates, trivia updates on sports and hobbies, or emotions like anger and love.

As a leader, do not forget that your emotions originate in your brain alongside your intellect and thoughts. Since the processing ability of your conscious mind is limited, your brain’s attention filter plays a crucial role in seeking out emotional patterns that are important to you. 

Here are 4 ways you can raise your emotional intelligence:

 

1. BEWARE OF ALWAYS LOOKING FOR THE BIG PICTURE IN LIFE

You can use mental strength to be emotionally intelligent if you remember that your brain’s ability to focus on the “big picture” stuff in life can leave you missing important details.

Self-awareness is getting to know the small, but important details about your own life.

When you’re asked about who you are, you probably provide details such date of birth, place of birth, address, employment, and social security number. Truth is, that is nothing more than a legal description. 

To answer from a place of self-awareness indicates you’ve done a lot more work—digging down and excavating the significance of your own stories and experiences to uncover the hidden jewels of your personality, and not being satisfied with statistics put down on a piece of paper.

 

2. MOVE ON FROM THOSE TIRESOME KNEE-JERK RESPONSES

You can use mental strength to be emotionally intelligent if you choose which responses that you want to be stronger and more dominant.

As you become aware of your decisions, choices, and habits, you can identify the ones that produce the best results. Each time you act out of anger, you strengthen your mind’s anger response; the only way to stop this negative pattern of behavior is to recognize it as an emotion that does not produce the best results for you.

Similarly, if you act out of kindness you will strengthen your mind’s kindness response.

As you become more aware of which of your responses are triggering the better choices for you, you empower yourself. If you are not aware, negative responses will tend to perpetuate themselves and you’ll most likely find yourself repeating them—even though they are not productive.

 

3. LET GO OF THE CRAP THAT IS HOLDING YOU BACK

You can use mental strength to be emotionally intelligent if you let go of addictions, negative emotions, and fear-based behaviors. 

As you get to know yourself, you will learn how to replace them with actions that are based on principles, values, and strengths. This is the essence of an empowered leader with mental strength.

 

4. LET EMOTIONAL INTELLIGENCE EMPOWER YOU

You can use mental strength to be emotionally intelligent if

 

  1. You live for a higher purpose – empowerment is wise and discerning.
  2. You nurture yourself and others – empowerment is compassion.
  3. You develop your skills and set an example for others – empowerment places value on people.
  4. You let go of the past and are renewed by your experiences – empowerment is forgiving and uses everything in life for growth and renewal.
  5. You observe yourself and others without judgment or expectations – empowerment is engaged with reality and the richness of the world
  6. You believe in yourself and trust in the goodness of life – empowerment is courage to deal with life under all circumstances.
  7. You celebrate your existence and share your happiness – empowerment is happy to add the richness of experience with everyone.

Emotional intelligence empowers leaders because it allows them to dig deep within themselves and lead from a place of mental strength and strong heart.

© 2014 LaRaeQuy. All rights reserved.

 

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

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How Ego Can Help You Become More Successful

August 31st, 2014 by LaRae Quy

While we all wrestle with ego, I am someone who feeds on being acknowledged for my achievement and performance. As such, image has always been very important to me.

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Working FBI undercover assignments was a natural transition for me because my ego thrived on changing my image so I could pick and choose my special mask of success.

As with many things, moderation is important to ego. Too much ego can be detrimental to your success. Left unchecked ego can spiral out of control and become self-centered. 

Successful leaders use mental strength to rein in their ego and keep it from alienating those around them. They pick and choose when to let their ego benefit their performance and use it—just enough, at the right moments, to make a difference.

Here are four reasons successful leaders need a healthy ego:

 

1. IT DRIVES THEM TO SUCCEED

Ego is essential to success because it will drive you to always be your best.

Psychiatrist Michael Maccoby provided an insightful analysis of people who are driven by ego and image in his book, The Gamesman. Here is an excerpt:

They are cooperative but competitive; detached and playful but compulsively driven to succeed. Their main goal is to be known as a winner and their deepest fear is to be labeled a loser.”

Does this describe you or someone you know?

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

 

2. THEIR INSPIRATION IS CONTAGIOUS

Ego is essential to success because it leads to truly believe that everything you do is important.

When ego is influencing your emotions, behavior, and thinking, you will be incredibly enthusiastic about ideas that are important to you. Team members will walk away from a conversation with you saying, “Wow, this is exciting—what an opportunity!”

If one mark of leadership is the ability to generate enthusiasm about goals or ideas, then your ego can be incredibly helpful to you.

 

3. PERFORMANCE ALWAYS ROCKS

Ego is essential for success because it motivates you to perform.

This means not only working hard yourself, but finding ways to genuinely motivate others around you.

The techniques that are commonly used are flattery, forming strategic alliances (my personal favorite), trading favors, and—manipulation. You may not feel comfortable owning up to using manipulation as a form of motivation, but let’s face it—influencing people to perform by pushing their buttons is effective leadership.

As we know, manipulation can be used in negative ways, but if we are pushing people toward a goal that will benefit them as well as you, your performance will rock.

 

4. IT’S NOT WHAT YOU DO, IT’S HOW YOU LOOK DOING IT

Ego is essential to success because it understands how image influences the way others perceive you.

People have an image of what a successful FBI Agent should look like. Well-pressed suit, white shirt, athletic—and male. Nothing succeeds like the appearance of success. 

As a female FBI agent, I quickly learned that a successful image was just as important for me as it was for my male counterparts. My ego became caught up in how my image would impact my success.

Fair or not, perception is reality—this is why slick advertisements work so well. The ego learns early that one of the most effective ways to impress others is by looking good while performing to get attention and acknowledgement. 

At a young age, I instinctively knew that ego, image, and success were about more than clothes. I learned to dress up my personality as well because I wanted to do whatever it took to succeed.

Ego is essential to our success only if we use mental toughness to control, use, and apply it so that it benefits our performance as leaders.

When has your ego been essential in your success?

© 2014 LaRaeQuy. All rights reserved.

 

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

 

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4 Ways Negative Thoughts Are Holding You Back

August 24th, 2014 by LaRae Quy

I grew up very poor. My parents were hard working cattle ranchers in a remote area of Wyoming. There was no money to pay a hired hand, so my brother and I started helping out with chores at the age of 6.

Adversity - give up!

By the age of 8, I could stack bales of hay, grease the baler, and move a hundred head of cows into another pasture.

As a girl, I was expected to marry and start a family, not pursue a career. The standing joke was that college was for young women looking for an MRS degree. After all, higher education was not needed to work on a ranch.

Indeed, no one else in my family had attended college and aspirations ran no further than finding a steady job that could support a family in rural Wyoming. Many of my relatives failed to even graduate from high school.

I grew up hearing these self-limiting messages that looked at life in negative terms of what I couldn’t do rather than in positive terms of what I could accomplish.

There were times when the negativity of others threatened to sabotage my own efforts to move beyond my circumstances.

I had the support of my parents to pursue a college degree, and I learned many lessons from them, not the least of which is that there are no guarantees in life, so you might as well take a chance on doing what you love.

Here are 4 ways negative thoughts can hold you back from living the life you want:

 

1. YOU WERE TOLD BY PEOPLE WITH AUTHORITY THAT YOU CAN ONLY GO SO FAR

Negative thoughts holding you back often find their origins in childhood when adults and other authority figures tell you that you will never become what you aspire to be—a teacher, doctor, or engineer. The implication is clear: you do not have the mental strength to move out of your circumstances.

For me, those circumstances had deep roots in poverty, tradition, and a culture that distrusted anything different or unfamiliar

Even though my parents supported my decision to go to college, other people in my community wondered if I thought I was “too good” to stick it out where I’d been born and raised. 

It’s tempting to give up and not try for anything beyond the predictions and admonitions of others. While many of these people are well-intentioned, they feed negative, limiting, and inaccurate narratives about what it possible once you put your mind to it.

 

2. YOU DO NOT WANT TO MOVE OUTSIDE YOUR COMFORT ZONE

Negative thoughts holding you back are trying to keep you in a box, labeling you with an identity that is not necessarily the one you want.

I had a voice playing inside my head that warned me of hidden dangers if I moved beyond what was comfortable and safe. Have you ever heard the same voice?

It’s telling you that it’s OK to never ask for that promotion because you’ll just end up humiliated and disappointed—so why bother?

Listening to this voice may feel comfortable at first, but if we capitulate to it’s dire warnings and avoid going after what is really important to us, we face another voice—the one that tells us we’re a loser, no one loves us, and that we have no worth.

 

3. YOU STILL ACT AND THINK AS YOU DID AS A CHILD

Negative thoughts holding you back find strength in rules established in your past.

All of the self-limiting beliefs I had about myself were formed when I was a child. As I moved toward adulthood, they became stumbling blocks. “When I was a child, I spoke and thought and reasoned as a child. But when I grew up, I put away childish things.” (I Cor. 13:11 NLT)

But putting away beliefs that form the way in which we see ourselves is not easy. 

The defenses we formed as a way to protect ourselves as children often remain in place long after circumstances have changed. Those defenses turn into rules for behavior that we make for ourselves. Often, they are negative thoughts about what we shouldn’t, can’t, or won’t do in life.

Being quiet in our household may have kept us from getting yelled at as a kid, but acting timid as an adult can prevent us from getting to know people at a deeper level.

 

4. YOU ARE PARALYZED BY FEAR

Negative thoughts holding you back are always based in fear. 

Fear held me back from exploring a better life for myself—fear of the unknown, failure, or rejection. I have learned that I’m much more resilient than I ever gave myself credit for being.

When I left the comfortable world of my childhood, I identified the obstacles I would likely face as I struck out on my own, made plans on how to overcome them, drew up Plan B in case I needed a back-up strategy, and reminded myself of how I had faced bigger obstacles at home like striking rattle snakes and charging bulls.

Negative thoughts still rear their ugly head, but I have learned how to not let them hold me back in life.

How have you gotten rid of negative thoughts that threatened to hold you back?

© 2014 LaRaeQuy. All rights reserved.

 

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5 Great Pieces Of Advice About Success

August 17th, 2014 by LaRae Quy

FBI agents are expected to be successful investigators. When a child is kidnapped, success in finding the kidnapper is not a desired outcome; it is a requirement.

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Tiger -  tiger catching fish

When facing distraught parents, you know deep down that you will do whatever it takes to bring that child home. Success is possible, but it takes mental toughness to sort through the hard facts about what it takes to succeed.

Here are five great pieces of advice to keep in mind about success:

 

 1. SUCCESS REQUIRES AN ABUNDANCE OF WILLPOWER

For years we’ve been told that willpower is limited—it’s best saved for a sprint, not the race.

Psychologist Carol Dweck, author of Mindset, strongly disagrees. She believes that willpower is limited only if we believe it is. We put boundaries around ourselves when we believe willpower is limited.

But if we are mentally strong leaders who believe that if we work hard, we will be energized to work more, then we are creating willpower. 

As FBI agents working on child kidnappings and other crimes, we worked long hours in strenuous conditions and forged ahead to embrace even more challenging activities.

It turns out that willpower is in our head! 

 

2. SUCCESS COMES EASIER IF YOU MAINTAIN A POSITIVE ATTITUDE

We are significantly more productive when we’re feeling positive about our situation, even during tough times. 

One of the most important characteristics of mental toughness is the ability to find positive aspects in the middle of negative situations. Positive thinking does not give up or shut down when we’re hit with an unexpected roadblock. Just the opposite—positivity nudges our brain to seek out more possibilities. We’re smarter and more creative as a result.

Creative thinking was often the difference between success and failure in many of my FBI investigations.

Even pessimists can learn to be positive thinkers. 

For each negative thought you have, write down 5 positive ones to counter it. If you cannot find 5 positive thoughts, write down 5 things for which you are grateful. Do this for several weeks and you will see begin to see changes in your behavior: not only will you connect better with others, you will also manage your stress.

 

3. SUCCESS IS ABOUT FAILING AS MUCH AS WINNING

If we want to be successful, we must learn how to fail.

Another way to build mental toughness is saying “yes” to situations where you know there is a likelihood you will fail. FBI training continually put new agents in situations where failure was imminent. 

This may seem counterintuitive to anyone who strives to be successful—after all, why would you intentionally place yourself in a situation where you might make a mistake or fail? 

There are three reasons: 

  1. Success comes from stretching yourself toward peak performance. If you do not keep moving into your discomfort zone, you will stop growing. And when that happens, you surround yourself with mediocrity.
  2. Success requires that you analyze and critique your failures because you learn something about yourself that you did not know before. Strong minded leaders allow this knowledge to show them how to be successful next time around.
  3. Success hinges on choosing to put yourself in situations where you will fail or come up short so you’ll be aware of your reaction. This is incredibly important in today’s volatile work environment since your ability to predict your response to a disruption will allow you to land on your feet, rather than be caught off guard and simply react, and perhaps not in ways that help your leadership move forward.

 

4. SUCCESS IS THE PRODUCT OF HAPPINESS, NOT VICE VERSA

Most us believe just the opposite—that success will bring us happiness, but the reverse is actually true.

Shawn Achor, author of The Happiness Advantage, says that if we work harder to achieve our goal, we think we’ll be happier. But research is clear that every time we experience success, our brain changes the definition of what success means. In essence, success will always be an elusive goal, so if we’re expecting happiness to be the result of our hard work, we’re most likely never going to get there!

Instead, increase levels of happiness in the midst of a challenge, and you will find that your success rate will increase as well. It’s important to remember that joy is a deeper emotion that is connected with well being, living a life of meaning, and living according to values.

A joyful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones—Proverbs 17:22 (ESV)

 

5. SUCCESS REQUIRES A GOOD KICK IN THE BUTT EVERY SO OFTEN

It’s tempting for us to whine and complain when life doesn’t turn out the way we expected or planned. We feel life isn’t fair when we compare ourselves to others.

Here is the bitter pill for you to swallow: what you’re feeling has nothing to do with fairness; it’s all about entitlement.

You have total control over your attitude, so if something is wrong put that mental energy into making the situation better—unless you plan to whine about it forever.

Your words have power, especially over you. Don’t talk about what’s wrong. Talk about how you’ll make things better, even if that conversation is only with yourself. Positive self-talk is a cornerstone in training for Special Forces, FBI agents, and anyone who wants to be successful.

When I stand before God at the end of my life, I would hope that I would not have a single bit of talent left, and could say, “I used everything you gave me”—Erma Bombeck

© 2014 LaRaeQuy. All rights reserved.

 

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

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5 Toxic Beliefs About Perfection That Ruin Careers

August 10th, 2014 by LaRae Quy

I am a recovering perfectionist. I set high goals and beat myself up when I fail to meet the mark. The verbal attacks I’ve unleashed upon myself would be categorized as emotional abuse if they were inflicted by a parent!

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I’m not the only one who struggles with the toxic and negative messages that our mind produces in the relentless pursuit of perfection.

Great leaders strive to achieve excellence for many reasons. For some, the need for perfection is deeply embedded in a personality type that feels compelled to keep moving toward goals with a high level of integrity. Some are are trained to believe perfection will take them to a high level of success. Still others try to quiet a strong inner critic.

Perfection is seductive because it hints at the promised land; however, it’s more about the ideal than the real when leaders let it sabotage their business and life.

Here are 5 toxic beliefs about perfection that will ruin your career:

 

1. PERFECTION COUNTS MORE THAN COMPETENCY 

Leaders ruin careers when they confuse perfection with competency.

No one expects you to be perfect; they do expect you to be competent. When you lead from a place of competence, you lead from a place of strength. 

Competence alone can’t make you a leader, but being an incompetent leader provides unlimited opportunities for you to be ineffective. Knowing what to do—professional competence—is vital. Being competent doesn’t mean that a leader knows how to do everything, but rather that they know what to do and how to get it done.

Your competence will instill confidence not only in yourself, but in those following you as well.

 

2. PURSUIT OF PERFECTION IS A GOOD USE OF TIME

Leaders ruin careers when they fail to realize that their time is worth money.

Successful people make decisions on how to make the best use of their time. They do not focus on perfection or being the best; instead, they work on doing what is needed to get the job done.

Henry Ford once was quoted as saying: “It has been my observation that most people get ahead during the time that others waste time.”

Do not waste your time trying to be perfect; instead, invest your time in addressing the issues that are creating roadblocks in your path toward success.

 

3. PERFECTION MEANS HAVING ALL THE ANSWERS

Leaders ruin careers by thinking that they need to have all the answers. 

Once you give up the need to have all the answers, you will be able to appreciate the feeling of freedom that comes with it.

As a leader, you don’t need to have all the answers or have superhuman traits. The difference between you being a successful or not so successful leader depends on how you deal with the questions you do not have an answer for. 

Resist the urge to be a perfect know-it-all and step back. Do not be afraid to respond by probing and asking even more questions—but focus on asking the right questions so the answers will lead you closer to finding success.

 

4. PERFECTION IS IMPRESSIVE

Leaders ruin careers by believing that others will be impressed if they turn in perfect performances. 

You do need to be impressive as a leader, but if you rely upon perfection to make those good impressions, you will be living beneath a mask. The reason? When you spend so much time manipulating everyone’s perception of you, you are forfeiting something far more important—your authenticity.

Don’t worry about what others want you to be, or their judgments of you. You know in your heart who you are, what provides meaning and value to you, and where your journey is taking you.

You do not need to be perfect to be impressive. Instead, let others be inspired by the way in which you deal with your imperfections.

 

5. PERFECTION INCREASES CHANCES FOR SUCCESS

Leaders ruin careers when they start believing perfection will lead them to success. 

Often, success is learning on the go so we can pivot to meet new challenges or demands of our environment. The desire for perfection will cripple our need to adapt to fast-moving situations where minds need to remain nimble and flexible. 

The rules of the game change every day, as new information is taken in and processed. Leaders who are mentally strong are constantly moving and adapting until they find something that works.

When the path ahead is not clear, the desire for perfection is a hindrance to eventual success because it impedes a nimble mindset.

I have always found that Mary, mother of Jesus, was a great example of a person with a nimble mind. When the virgin discovers that she is pregnant, all she asks the angel is one simple clarifying question, “How will this be,” Mary asked (Luke 1:34 NIV). 

Not if but how, and then she trusts the how even though it defies logic and pushes the boundaries of her understanding of what can and should happen.

Her example is a one of confidence, grace, and calm—and that is perfect freedom.

What other toxic beliefs about perfection can you add?

© 2014 LaRaeQuy. All rights reserved.

 

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

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Most Important Tip For Building Mental Strength—Keep Moving or Die

August 3rd, 2014 by LaRae Quy

While at the FBI Academy, I worked with a coach to help me train for the physical fitness test. After a few weeks, I reached the magic number of 25 pushups and then fizzled. Hard as I tired, I couldn’t move beyond those 25 pushups.

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I was stuck. I had hit a plateau.

Athletes understand that plateaus are normal, as do CEO’s, scientists, and other successful professionals. When we are stalled, we’re often left with the question: what to do next?

The answer to this question matters a lot. Leaders who keep moving often find that the way they  made their way through plateaus ended up teaching them very important lessons about themselves.

The only way to survive when you’re stuck or stalled is simple: keep moving or die.

Here are 5 steps to keep you moving:

 

STEP ONE: TAKE RISKS

Leaders with mental strength keep moving forward by taking on challenges that will help them grow. These challenges are guaranteed to be unpleasant and will push them into their discomfort zone. 

The biggest reason we stay stalled is because we don’t like to fail. We stick with activities and goals that we know we will be successful in achieving. We would rather protect our ego than do something wrong, make a mistake, or be seen as a failure.

To be successful, you must keeping moving or die of mediocrity. There is little or no chance you will move out of your current level of competence or success unless you take a risk and move out of your comfort zone.

 

STEP TWO: EMBRACE THE SUCK FACTOR

Leaders with mental strength know that failing sucks. But if they want to be anything more than mediocre, they also understand they need to give themselves permission to fail. Many times.

Successful leaders do not avoid the things that are hardest for them. Instead, they focus on those areas in which they need to improve. They do not avoid their mistakes or failures—they make the most of mistakes and failures by learning what they have to teach. 

Rather than looking at your failures as a negative thing, look at them as steps toward your success. 

It is your choice as to whether you learn from your mistakes and failures, or if you let them go to waste. 

Never let a good crisis go to waste—Winston Churchill

 

STEP THREE: USE A SCRIPT

Leaders with mental strength who are serious about moving through transitions or breaking through barriers are ready when new opportunities come up. One of the best ways to do this is by writing and practicing their script—they do not just start babbling when opportunity knocks. 

Their preparation gives them both poise and confidence.

You never know when an opportunity to further your career or embark on a new challenge will present itself so be prepared.

Your script is a two-minute speech that summarizes your life, skill set, and aspirations. It is a personalized approach that plays up to your strengths and presented to the person in front of you.

 

STEP FOUR: VISUALIZE YOUR SUCCESS

Leaders with mental strength vision their success when faced with difficult or stressful situations. It helps take them beyond their self-limiting beliefs about themselves and move them beyond their current circumstances. 

Visioning helps open the doors of possibility and opportunity by encouraging you to prepare for meetings by asking yourself: “What questions are likely to come up?” “What objections can I expect?”

Visualize your answers and the way in which you will answer them. The very act of giving your brain a detailed portrait of your end goal ensures the release of dopamine, a powerful mental toughness tool to steer you toward success.

 

STEP FIVE: SURROUND YOURSELF WITH OTHERS WHO ARE GOING THROUGH THE SAME THING

Leaders with mental strength experience the same feelings of demoralization that come with failure and taking risks that everyone else does. That’s why they rebuild their morale by hanging out with others who are experiencing the same situation. They compare notes, trade tips, and remind each other that they are on the right path.

If you want to be a mentally strong leader, you must keep moving forward. If you wait for success to come to you, you will die of mediocrity.

Every morning in Africa, a Gazelle wakes up. It knows it must run faster than the fastest lion or it will be killed. Every morning a Lion wakes up. It knows it must outrun the slowest Gazelle or it will starve to death. It doesn’t matter whether you are a Lion or a Gazelle… when the sun comes up, you’d better be running—African Proverb.

I eventually did move past the 25 pushup plateau, and I did it by visualizing my success.

How do you keep moving toward success?

© 2014 LaRaeQuy. All rights reserved.

 

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

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7 Reasons You Will Never Become A Mentally Strong Leader

July 27th, 2014 by LaRae Quy

A reporter once asked me whether the FBI provides textbooks for agents to study so they can become mentally strong. The answer is no; FBI agents become mentally strong by facing their situation head-on—no sugarcoating allowed.

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As an FBI agent, I learned that mental strength is not something you are born with. It is something you can learn. If I learned it, so can you, but only if you’re willing to put in the discipline and effort it takes.

You will not become a mentally strong leader if you:

 

1. HAVEN’T A CLUE ABOUT WHAT BRINGS YOU VALUE AND MEANING IN LIFE

Mentally strong leaders live their life with purpose and meaning. They are an active participant in where their life is going. They have found a direction in life and set overarching goals for what they want to achieve.

Without goals to anchor us, we find ourselves adrift in life. We may think we know what our goals are, but if we aren’t living our life around them, then we’re not living our life on purpose.

 

2. REMAIN IGNORANT ABOUT YOUR BLIND SPOTS

Mentally strong leaders understand that they need to frequently, and critically, analyze their performance, especially their failures. When they do, they identity those patterns of behavior that are not productive and nip them in the bud. Unfortunately, “teachable moments” are usually accompanied by feelings of frustration, disappointment, and embarrassment. 

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

 

3. BELIEVE YOU WILL ALWAYS LIVE A CHARMED LIFE

Mentally strong leaders accept the fact that life evolves, and are smart enough to not be surprised when it does. It is natural to react with anger and skepticism because these emotions are trying to ensure your survival. But new situations can provide you with opportunities to learn important lessons about yourself such as your reactions, values, vulnerabilities, triggers, and how to take better care of yourself.

 

4. PRETEND TO KNOW EVERYTHING

Mentally strong leaders have a beginner’s mind that 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 allow ourselves the luxury of trial and error, like a child learning to walk, we experience a feel-good neurological response. Similarly, when tackling new and difficult challenges, we experience a rush of adrenaline, a hormone that makes us feel confident and motivated.

 

5. AVOID CHALLENGES THAT WILL ULTIMATELY MAKE YOU GROW

Mentally strong leaders have 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.

A growth mindset anticipates transitions that come from uncertainty because it interprets failure as nothing more than an opportunity for learning and improvement.

 

6. REFUSE TO KEEP EGO IN CHECK

Mentally strong leaders know how to keep a tight rein on ego. The ego is always asking “How will this make me look? How will I benefit?” It looks for ways to prove it is right and others are wrong.

When we keep ego in check, there is room for the wisdom of others to get in. We are able to listen more deeply, learn with an open mind, and adapt new skill sets.

 

7. HAVE A COWARD’S HEART

Mentally strong leaders have the courage to move out of their comfort zone and into their zone of discomfort where they may feel awkward, clumsy, and alone. 

When we get into a comfort zone, we often strive to stay right there—where we 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.

“Mental toughness is believing you will prevail in your circumstances, rather than believing that your circumstances will change”—LaRae Quy

Are you ready to become a mentally strong leader?

© 2014 LaRaeQuy. All rights reserved.

 

You can follow me on Twitter

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

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