A Simple Psychological Shift To Make You Successful

February 20th, 2017 by LaRae Quy

Before becoming an FBI agent, I thought I could become successful by simply working hard. It got me through school with good grades and into my first job as a fashion buyer.

My thinking shifted, however, when I met my first FBI firearms instructor. He barked out constant reminders that if I wanted to become more successful as a shooter, it would take more than hard work; it would take front-sight focus.

Front-sight focus is the ability to look at the front sight of a weapon after it lined up with the target. A good shooter remains aware of their surroundings but their attention narrows. They focus on that single piece of steel a few inches in front of them.

FBI firearms training prepared me for more than high scores on targets. I used front-sight focus in my investigations to distinguish between what was important and what was a distraction.

Front-sight focus is concentration and single-mindedness in reaching your goal. It works as you aim a weapon down the firing range. It also works to land a new client or take your business to the next level.

Use front sight-focus to work through distractions so you can become successful when things go wrong in business and life.

Here are 3 tips to help you focus so you can be successful:


Distractions often occur when our inner nag starts to fret about all the things that need to get done. As a result, intrusive thoughts constantly interrupt our productivity, and we second-guess our choices.

The Zeigarnik Effect proves that the unconscious mind needs the conscious mind to plan how to finish tasks or accomplish goals. This research explains why the inner nag will fret about all that needs to be done.

How To Make It Work For You:

  1. Sit down in a quiet place with a pen and paper and let your thoughts ramble.
  2. Whether it’s small or large, important or not, write down every single thing that either needs a decision or has your attention.
  3. Do not take the time to prioritize the items on your To-Do list. First, listen to the voice of that inner nag and write down whatever pops up.


FBI firearms training showed me to how to narrow my focus to the one thing that needs attention immediately (front-sight). At the same time, we can register awareness of the bigger picture of other things around me (the target).

In the same way, your conscious mind may can focus on a new goal. The unconscious mind, however, still sees everything else that needs to get done. It needs closure and it will continue to create intrusive thoughts that won’t go away. The only solution is to turn your attention back to those other tasks that also need to be addressed.

In his book, Getting Things Done, David Allen talks about the importance of identifying Action Steps rather than leaving it as a To-Do List.

A To-Do List does not narrow your focus enough when you have lots of priorities clamoring for your attention. You continue to create anxiety for the unconscious mind because it needs more than a goal—it needs a plan! It needs an action step.

How To Make It Work For You:

Prioritize your To-Do list. After you address all the tasks that your unconscious brain is anxious about, prioritize each item according to importance.

Beside each item on the prioritized To-Do list, identify the specific next action step to be taken regarding that item. For example, if you need to buy a birthday present, write down “Drive to Nordstrom.”


The unconscious mind needs specifics like time, place, and opportunity. Once the plan is formed, the unconscious stops nagging with constant reminders.

To avoid anxiety, break down a task into several small steps. Often, our action step is too vague and broad. As a result, our brain feels overwhelmed as it tries to tease out all the elements that will be needed to finish the task. We need to clarify each action step in small doses.

How To Make It Work For You:

The unconscious mind needs specifics like time, place, and opportunity. Once the plan is formed, the unconscious stops nagging with constant reminders.

You have a presentation to make at 8:00am. Your unconscious mind wants to know exactly what needs to be done. You may have 100 other items that also need attention, so how can you relax? Here is how to stop the inner nag from bothering you: Make a plan to review your notes at 7:00am that morning. Your unconscious mind acknowledges you have a plan and it will let you rest.

It is human nature to finish what we start, and front-sight focus is how we pay full attention to one goal at a time so we can be successful.

© 2017 LaRae Quy. 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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8 Responses to “A Simple Psychological Shift To Make You Successful”

  1. Harry Bowen says:

    Fascinating LaRae. I remember our Firearms Training Days @ the FBI Academy very well. I also recall how you and I, along with Elaine and others, signed up for the extra training and spent many evenings on the range, going through our training drills together. Best Wishes Classmate, 83-2 🙂

    • LaRae Quy says:

      Hi Harry…it’s great to hear from you! And yes, I remember Elaine, you, and I out there on the range for hours on end, qualifying in the bitter cold! Take care fellow 83-2 classmate!

  2. I love the connection to the firearms training! This weekend my niece had a shooting competition – Something she has started to do very recently. On the ranch, in her comfort zone, she is a natural with a bow and a rifle. But in front of a crowd she gets nervous. So we spent time talking about how important it was for her to focus AND have fun.

    I love your front-sight tips and will share them with her. And at the same time found new ways to quiet my busy mind at a higher level too! Thank you!

    • LaRae Quy says:

      Tell your niece that firearms is a very Zen sort of experience because you MUST empty your mind and focus on that front sight. Whenever my mind was racing and thinking of other stuff, my scores went down….P.S. welcome back to the U.S. 🙂

  3. Tackling those big hairy goals can be so overwhelming and I love how you share manageable and specific steps we can take to make things happen. I never heard of “front-line focus” but I find it so empowering and helpful. You have such a great way to take your FBI lessons and make them so practical and usable for each of us.

    Thanks LaRae for sharing these great insights on how we can approach our important daily to-do’s!

  4. Alli Polin says:

    I know that everyone has heard this one before but the first time I heard it, not that many years ago, it was an eye-opener… “How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.” I find that I’m the most easily distracted when I’m not sure how to get from here to there, or the task feels monumental. This is a simple approach that can powerfully transform your results. Thanks for reminding me to put it into action. Grateful!


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