A great deal of what I learned during my 4 months at the FBI Academy as a new agent had to do with facing adversity and overcoming obstacles. Each of us were pushed to the limit of endurance and performance to where we wanted to say “I can’t.” If we weren’t pushed into our discomfort zone, the instructors weren’t doing their job.
In my book, Secrets of A Strong Mind, I talk about my training at the Academy. I expected rigorous defensive tactics training, but I was not prepared for the intense mental discipline that accompanied it. As it turned out, the FBI’s use of brain power tactics significantly impacted the way I have lived the rest of my life. These tactics taught agents like myself how to create new ways of thinking about overcoming obstacles and breaking through barriers. They showed agents how to develop a Can-Do attitude early in our career.
As a trained investigator, I’ve been taught to look for evidence. And there’s actually scientific theory to back up the FBI’s brain power tactics approach.
Neuroscientists have learned that whenever you learn something new, you change your neural connections. When we reinforce a way of thinking, either new connections are formed or old ones are strengthened (click to tweet). So, when you maintain a Can-Do attitude and think in positive, constructive ways, these connections become more durable and easier to activate. This is a tremendous concept, because it shows us how we can change our behavior.
We can train our brain to make positive patterns more automatic (click to tweet). When we look for and become more aware of positive aspects of life, we fight off our brain’s natural tendency to scan and spot the negatives. This allows us to look at obstacles and barriers in new ways.
This brain power tactic came in very useful, because one of my most successful FBI investigations was also one of my longest—four years. I worked counterintelligence and espionage cases and my job was to identify foreign spies working inside the U.S. and attempt to recruit them to work for the FBI.
I was the case agent for a Russian assigned to the San Francisco Russian Consulate. The U.S. Government had no information that the official wasn’t a legitimate diplomat so he was given a diplomatic visa.
The first thing I did was send information about this official to friendly foreign intelligence services in other countries, and I queried KGB defectors about what they might know about him. One of the defectors came back with a positive ID that the official as a Russian spy who received his training by the KGB before they changed their name to SVR.
Since he had been afforded a diplomatic visa, the U.S. Government could not revoke it without political embarrassment. For the next four years, I put undercover agents next to him, followed him with surveillance cars, surrounded him with people who reported back to me on his every activity, and wiretapped his phone to find out who he was meeting.
By this time, I had collected enough information that I felt certain how to approach the official as an FBI agent and persuade him to work for the U.S. Government. Eventually, we did meet, and it was a successful meeting.
Persistence, hard work, and applying the “can-do” attitude I learned at the Academy is what made the difference between failure and success.
Here are some brain power tactics to help you create more positive patterns in your thinking:
1. No Pain, No Gain
Where most folks go wrong is in assuming that if they feel discomfort, they’re not ready for a challenge. Don’t pretend that discomfort does not exist; instead, the goal is to find strategies to cope with the discomfort. New neural connections are created with each new experience.
2. Visualize Your Peak Performance
This is not fantasy or wishful thinking. Studies have shown that fantasies of success can actually be counterproductive. Rather, it is anticipating how things could go wrong and counteracting, by visualizing your positive responses. Visualize how you will react and respond when criticized by a colleague, predict your performance in the morning meeting, and be prepared for the hard questions that will come from your boss.
This will make it easier for you to visualize your inner sense of strength. It’s faking it until you make it . . .
3. Broadcast Your Intentions
We all learn in different ways. Some of are hardwired to process by speaking, others by writing, and others by listening. Talk to friends, write in journals, or speak into a recorder and listen to yourself talk. All are ways we can access different aspects of our brain so we can continue to create positive neural connections.
4. Give Yourself A Deadline
One of the best brain power tactics is to put yourself under a deadline so you can achieve your goal even in the midst of interruptions and distractions. The more you can practice “under the gun,” the more confidence in yourself you will achieve. This positive reinforcement is an important component in creating new ways of thinking about your performance, especially when facing obstacles and breaking through barriers.
Success is in our mind. I believe we can change “I can’t” into “I can” by simply changing the way we think (click to tweet). Put brain power tactics to use for you.
What are some ways you are creating positive patterns in your thinking?
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Read my book ““Secrets of a Strong Mind,” available now on Amazon.
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