Posts Tagged ‘adversity’

Why You Need Grit When Life Throws You A Curveball

Monday, November 14th, 2016

When I interviewed with the FBI, they liked my grit and scrappiness—a hillbilly from a cattle ranch in Wyoming had clawed her way through college, and was now sitting in front of a panel of polished FBI agents interviewing for a job as a special agent.

Grit Up!

I wore my working class background like a badge of honor. I was proud of the fact that my family took showers at the end of a hard day instead of stepping out of a shower smelling like a petunia each morning.

I grew up an unsophisticated ranch girl, and believe me, it takes a while to put a shine on a sneaker. I spent years being ridiculed because the educated elitists I met at universities and in business didn’t feel I was as enlightened as them.

Each curveball thrown my way was met with determination and persistence. I grew up with the grit it takes to make sacrifices in order to keep my eye on the larger goal.

The FBI liked that; when I was hired it was not because I was a female, it was because I was the best person for the job who happened to be female.

Voters feel they’ve been handed a curveball; entrepreneurs wake up every day to new challenges in their business; and startups are faced with new competition and unstable markets.

Here is why you need grit when life throws you a curveball:

1. GRIT UP & MANAGE YOUR EMOTIONS

body language

Growing up on a remote cattle ranch presented different types of adversity—rattlesnakes in the summer and deadly snowstorms in the winter. Both presented life and death situations.

At an elevation of 7,000 feet, we were frequently snowed in for months at a time during the winter. My brother and I had a private tutor who lived on the ranch with us because we were hours from the nearest town. When I was in first grade, our first tutor’s vehicle got stuck in a snowdrift and she froze to death while trying to walk back to our house.

We worked hard and lived in poverty. While the educated elitists and slick professionals in the cities were discussing whether schools should teach bi-lingual classes, we were more interested in keeping our livestock alive.

I had no friends and I started stacking hay bales when I was 8. I thought it terribly unfair that life had dealt me this crappy hand.

I also had no idea that years later researchers would notice a connection between grit, success, and early adversity in life. Why would adversity when I was young give me an advantage?

The answer in this study suggests that adversity at a young age teaches us early in life how to deal with our emotions. The ability to regulate our emotions gives us an advantage in both business and life.

Emotional competence is one of the cornerstones of mental toughness. If we are emotionally intelligent and aware of our innermost emotions, we have a much better chance of dealing with them when a curveball comes our way as an adult.

What This Means For You:

No one gets through childhood without a few scrapes. We don’t all get the red ball in the playground. Mine the significance of your own stories and experiences to uncover the way in which you dealt with blows in the past. They are an accurate predictor of how you’re dealing with them now.

If you don’t like what you see, start working on changing your response.

Teach your children how to get in touch with all of their emotions now, even the negative ones. Pretending they don’t exist or protecting them from adversity will not prepare them for the inevitable ones that will show up. There are no safe zones in life.

Throwing tantrums and blaming others is not a strategy for success in either business or life.

2. GRIT UP & LEAN INTO THE STRUGGLE

persistence

In working counterintelligence cases, I learned that grit meant leaning into the struggle when hit with a curveball or roadblock. I had one case that lasted 7 years before I was able to successfully close it. While I had other cases assigned to me during that time, this one case just kept rearing its ugly head.

There is a difference between being persistent and being stubborn. The case demanded that I change my behavior, tactics, and mindset if I planned on solving it.

Sometimes productive behavior means leaning into a struggle in ways that you don’t feel like doing but mental toughness is knowing when to change your behavior or when to change your environment. There will be times when you do need to change the environment so you can be your best self, but grit can help you respond to hardship in a more efficient manner.

Positive thinking is another cornerstone of mental toughness; FBI agents survive because they are always prepared for the worst-case scenario. We don’t go into arrest situations assuming everything will work out OK.

What It Means For You:

Don’t run from adversity or struggles if they are lying in the path of what you want to do in life. That means you will need to adapt and be flexible with micro quotas as you move toward your macro goal. Anticipate what could go wrong so you are better able to predict your response and land on your feet when confronted with the unknown.

3. GRIT UP & STOP WHINING

 

whining-kid

The quickest way to be ostracized from an FBI squad is to whine, point fingers, or blame others.

Whining about your problems always makes you feel worse, not better, because your words have power, both over yourself and others.

If something is wrong, save your mental energy for finding ways to make the situation better.

There are so many things over which we have no control—our parents, the country of our birth, the time in history. Most of us do not have a choice of when or where we die, nor can we control the time and manner of our death.

But we can choose how to live—either with purpose and joy or adrift and hopeless. We can choose what makes us significant, we can choose to be creative, and we can choose whether or not we live according to our most deeply felt values.

When you stop whining, pointing fingers, and blaming others you are able to choose your destiny.

What It Means For You:

If you don’t know your core values, take time to find out what they are because they are what drive your behavior, move you, and inspire you.

Identify what is wrong, but don’t waste time talking about it. Instead, talk only about how you’ll make it better.

Everyone goes through the school of hard knocks in different ways and at different times in their life. The questions for you:

  • If you’ve already experienced those hard knocks, how did you pull yourself through?
  • If you are currently experiencing them, how are you doing?
  • If they lie in the future for you, what will you do?

© 2016 LaRaeQuy. All rights reserved.

You can follow me on Twitter, Facebook, AND LinkedIn

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.”

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How To Overcome Adversity —The Big Bounce Back

Saturday, October 17th, 2015

Kidnapping cases present FBI agents with some of their most challenging investigations and opportunities to overcome adversity. More often than not, the choices that the agent makes has life and death consequences. The goal is always to recover the victim safely and put the kidnapper behind bars.

How To Overcome Adversity

Grit is the word that best describes the attitude that takes hold of an agent when they will not allow themselves to consider the possibility of failure. When someone’s life is at stake, you keep going—no matter how dark the path ahead.

The way in which we look at ourselves, and our circumstances, dictates our attitude when determining how to overcome adversity. As entrepreneurs and business owners, you will have several moments where lots of negative thoughts will be occupying your mind.

To jettison those negative thoughts, you may find it necessary to express your situation differently. When you rethink, or reframe, your adversity, it helps to move it into a context that is more favorable.

This is not to make light of tragedy. It’s perfectly normal to be sad when we are immersed in a negative situation and we need to overcome adversity. That said, we do not need to let the crap moments produced by adversity sabotage our efforts to keep moving toward success.

1. Reframe Your Situation To Overcome Adversity

Reframing is a fancy word for changing the way you place limits around your goals and behaviors. If something sucks, the most logical thing in the world is to call it out for what it is. But, when you grit up to overcome adversity, it means you seek out new interpretations and perspectives that will help you keep moving forward.

Bad news will never keep a dedicated FBI agent from looking for a kidnapping victim. Instead, the agent will reframe the situation so they maintain a more positive and resourceful state of mind.

Reframing is not about pretending everything is perfect and positive! Instead, it’s about providing you with different ways of interpreting your less than perfect situation so you can expand the possibilities to overcome adversity.

2. Reframe The Content

If you reframe the content of your situation, it means you choose what you focus on. Nothing has changed, but instead of wallowing in what did not work, you intentionally choose to focus on what did work.

For example, instead of spending time complaining to everyone that you’ve lost a contract, take the time to analyze why you lost it—learn from the incident. And then move on. No one wants to keep hearing about it…

Ask yourself:

  • Why did we lose the contract?
  • Could we have done something earlier to head it off? What?
  • What can losing this contract teach me about myself? My company?
  • Are there any negative behaviors that need to be addressed for the future?

Another example might include a mistake that you made. Ask yourself:

  • What is positive about this situation?
  • What did I do well?
  • What can I learn about myself from this experience?
  • How can make this information useful for future behavior?

3. Reframe Context

In almost every situation where the interrogation of a kidnapper does not lead to a confession, the interviewing agent always kicks themselves by asking, “What should I have done differently? What could I have said that would have made them buckle and confess?”

Perhaps the evidence was overwhelming, and yet the kidnapper did not feel compelled to admit to the kidnapping. It’s even worse when the victim has still not been found.

Almost all behavior is appropriate in some context—maybe not the one in which you are currently in—but in another situation, your behavior or decision might be quite acceptable and helpful.

Just because your performance was not appreciated in this context, it does not mean it might not be appreciated in another time or place. This is important to remember so that you don’t come down too hard on yourself when you face adversity and things don’t work out the way you anticipated.

Let’s take the same example as above: you’ve lost a contract so you might ask yourself:

  • What different conversations would have been appropriate?
  • In what context would my choice of words have been the right one?
  • What behavior or words could have saved me in this situation?
  • Can I recognize that situation in the future?
  • When has my behavior helped me in the past?

Often there is no right or wrong way to overcome adversity. What might work in one situation or context may not work in another. Keep reframing things so you can look at all possibilities.

Grit is learning how to bounce back, no matter what your situation.

How have you bounced back from adversity?

© 2015 LaRaeQuy. All rights reserved.

You can follow me on Twitter

Get my FREE 45-Question Mental Toughness Assessment

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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 Ways Strong Minds Tap Into Authenticity

Sunday, February 1st, 2015

No one on my squad liked George. He was an officious know-it-all who grated on everyone who had to work with him. The solution was obvious—find a reason to never work with him! We got very creative in finding ways to give George the crap assignments no one else wanted.

Authentic - strong woman

Once the FBI has enough probable cause, warrants signed by a judge to search a suspect’s trash is not uncommon. Guess who was given the unpleasant job of searching through the slime ball’s garbage? George!

I giggled with the other agents as he put on his rubber gloves and headed out the door.

But then—George and his wife asked me over for dinner at their house. I risked losing my “cool status” among my squad mates if I went, but it seemed too cruel to make an excuse, so I said yes.

The George I met at the front door of his home was a completely different man from the one that showed up at the FBI office every day. He was still a little weird, but I couldn’t get over the shock of him being one way at work, while reverting back to his true personality at home.

As I thought about it on my way home, I wondered if I “acted” differently when at work? At a church event? With family members?

George is not the only one who struggles to live all aspects of his life with authenticity. Many of us put on an act when in certain situations. While we can make excuses for our behavior, the fact remains that when we are not authentic, we are pretending to act like someone else and afraid to voice our own truths.

It takes mental toughness to have the courage to be seen for who you really are. Authenticity is NOT being pressured into emotions, thoughts, and behavior by outside influences. It is about trusting your heart and following your gut instinct.

Here are 5 ways strong minds tap into authenticity:

1. Use Your Gut Instinct To Make Decisions

Strong minds tap into their authenticity when they are able to make decisions that come from their gut. 

If you stay true to yourself, and stick with work that has both meaning and value for you, nothing will be able to distract you from achieving your goals. 

Stop wasting time and energy on projects that do not resonate with you. When you listen to your gut, you become a lot clearer on what is, or isn’t, on your priority list.

2. Keep Your Eye On The Bigger Picture

Strong minds tap into their authenticity when they are able to focus on a future that is full of promise.

Once you hitch yourself to a project or career that resonates with you, obstacles and roadblocks are temporary. You will find the energy and creativity to keep moving forward. 

Use your energy to control your emotions, thoughts, and behavior so your outlook always remain focused and positive.

If you focus only on your barriers, you’ll never see the road.“—LaRae Quy

3. Resist The Temptation To Take It Personally

Strong minds tap into their authenticity when they are able to accept rejection without crumbling like a sugar cookie.

No one likes to be rejected, and often we don’t let people see us for who we really are because we fear their disapproval. When we’re criticized by others, it can cause us to crumble a little inside each time. Many times, we do silly things just to make sure we’re loved and accepted.

Strong minds have a deep sense of self-worth because they’ve taken an honest inventory of their qualities. They are not afraid to take ownership for who they are—and most importantly, for the awesome person they are becoming. 

4. Learn From Bad Times

Strong minds tap into their authenticity when they are able to be their very best in the darkest moments.

It’s easy to give up and blame others for your misfortune. If you have mental toughness, however, you use times of hardship to discover your inner strengths and capabilities. Despite your darkest moments, you were able to stay connected to your core—you remained true to your values and beliefs.

5. Stay Strong By Being Soft

Strong minds tap into their authenticity when they are able to thrive by developing a flexible and agile way of thinking.

Lao Tzu once said, “Water is fluid, soft, and yielding. But water will wear away rock, which is rigid and cannot yield. As a rule, whatever is fluid, soft, and yielding will overcome whatever is rigid and hard. This is another paradox: what is soft is strong.” 

You can survive, thrive, and be an incredible leader if you remain flexible when times are tough and outcomes are not clear. Mental toughness does not mean blasting through your obstacles and roadblocks. 

Often, being mentally tough requires the resilience to cope with the harsh realities of life without ever losing sight of the road.

How have you relied on authenticity to be a better leader?

© 2015 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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6 Ways To Tackle Big Goals

Sunday, June 22nd, 2014

I learned to tackle big goals growing up on a remote cattle ranch in Wyoming. Our ranch house was located at the bottom of a canyon, cut deep into the earth over the years by the North Laramie River. 

Adversity - climbing mountains

Several times a year my Dad would climb the steep south mountain of the canyon to visit an elderly neighbor woman named Sophie. The cliffs of the canyon rose 1,000 feet on either side of the ranch house, covered with boulders and littered with the debris from an occasional landslide. When I turned 8, Dad finally relented and allowed both my brother and me to climb with him on one of his visits to Sophie. He had not heard from her for a while and she had no telephone. Anxiously, I wondered how we would “stick” to the rocks and not fall off.

He told me not to worry about how we would tackle that big goal as I looked up from the bottom toward our goal—the mountain top. Instead, he told me to keep my eyes on the few feet of mountain around me so I could find places to put my hands and feet. The places to pull ourselves up with our hands and steps that led upward would reveal themselves as we got closer. 

Even though the mountain side looked sheer from the bottom, there were lots of crevices and places to climb once we got started. They were invisible from below, lost in the grandeur of the larger view.

By breaking down my goal of climbing the mountain into small steps to be taken one at a time, I was successful and able to reach the top.

Leaders with strong minds are successful because they tackle big goals by breaking them down into tiny, clear chunks.

If you spend too much time contemplating the huge distance between where you are now and the goal you want to achieve, there is a risk you’ll never get started.

Here are 7 ways to tackle big goals:

1. LEARN TO CHUNK

Too much information can be as intimidating as it is inspiring. Chunking is breaking down larger goals into achievable steps. This will help you understand all the tasks involved as you tackle big goals so you can create a timeline to get them done. Chunking tasks that are related is an efficient way to think because the brain loves to make connections. 

Chunking often works best when you work backwards from your goal. As you tackle big goals, think about the obstacles you need to overcome, barriers you need to break, customers you need to contact, or product you need to produce if you want to be successful.

By breaking down a huge project into smaller chunks, you can also experience the sense of achievement and progress.

2. CREATE MINI-GOALS

Often the best way to tackle big goals is by breaking the project down into several mini-goals.

Take a closer look at each goal and see what steps are needed to achieve that specific goal.

3. DEVELOP VISUAL MAPS

Many of us are visual people. If you are, develop visual maps so you can get a picture of

a) where you are,

b) where you want to end up,

c) what needs to be done to accomplish it.

4. PRIORITIZE

To tackle big goals, it helps to prioritize what tasks need to be done. Once you do, this will help you place them in chronological order so you can see what needs to be done

a) first,

b) alongside others,

c) alone.

5. IDENTIFY DIFFICULT TASKS

If you tackle big goals, chances are good that one or more of the tasks will require more effort or additional training.  If possible, choose the time you can tackle them rather than waiting until they are foisted upon you when you are least prepared to deal with them.

6. BUILD A TIMELINE

Decide when you need to reach your goal if you have the luxury of setting your own deadline. If you do not have that luxury, write the deadline down and then identify how much time you will need to accomplish each step and mini-goal. If you’re pressed for time, how much of the work can you assign to others? Think about getting professional assistance if you need.

 

Successful people understand that clarity gives us certainty. Small, clear goals keep our attention focused as we tackle big goals.

After I made it up the mountain, I felt as though I was sitting on top of the world! Sophie was there and made us lunch, and then we headed back down. What I learned that day was that it’s easy to feel overwhelmed when confronted by a big task. However, by keeping these steps in mind, you create a way to reach the top.

How do you tackle big goals?

© 2014 LaRaeQuy. All rights reserved.

Get my FREE 45-Question Mental Toughness Assessment

You can follow me on Twitter, Facebook, AND LinkedIn

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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FBI Tips On How To Survive Setbacks

Sunday, June 15th, 2014

I had been assigned to my first Field Office for less than one year when I was unexpectedly transferred across the country. The FBI likes to see how their agents survive setbacks, land on their feet, and come out ready for more.

Whether it’s starting over in a different environment, losing a job, or a failed relationship, we have all experienced the discomfort of grappling for a lifeline as we attempt to survive setbacks. We feel the tug of war between our thinking brain and our emotional brain. It feels as though each brain has it’s own agenda, and at some point a certain amount of paralysis can set in.  

Different parts of the brain fight for control. Technically, this is what happens in post-traumatic stress disorder—the prefrontal cortex of the cerebral thinking brain loses its ability to regulate the emotional limbic system.

When we’re knocked down in life and put in a position of needing to survive setbacks, our emotions often become overly sensitized to fear and danger. While we may not experience the full impact of PTSD, we are feeling enough discomfort that our ability to make the best decisions for ourselves is affected.

Many of us go to therapy or take medicine to remove our symptoms when we’re feeling distress, but that is doing nothing more than either lecturing the thinking cerebral brain or suppressing the emotional limbic system.

Instead, we can develop a stronger mind when we find ways to get both brains to cooperate equally. Mental toughness is the ability to experience discomfort yet still feel comfortable.

Understanding how to control our different brains when we’ve been knocked down is an essential component of mental toughness. 

Here are 4 tips on how to survive setbacks so you can bounce back when life strikes a heavy blow:

TIP #1: Start With A Minor Source of Uneasiness

You can learn to survive setbacks by identifying a minor source of uneasiness that clearly places you in a discomfort zone but not in a panic mode. Since you are training your emotional and thinking brains to communicate with one another, starting small will not be enough to put your emotional limbic system into survival mode but will be enough to generate a physical reaction.

For example, if you fear public speaking, the thought of your performance can cause palms to sweat and heart rate to increase. These physiological responses are triggered by your fear response—which is housed in your limbic system.

TIP #2: Call Attention To Where The Fear Is Coming From

The limbic system is so powerful because we often have a visceral reaction to a situation before we have a conscious awareness of it. This is called gut reaction.

Studies have shown that we can use our thinking brain to control our limbic system if we do two things:

  1. recognize what is happening
  2. intentionally tell ourselves that there is no reason to react with fear

By forcing ourselves to use our cognitive function, we are activating the prefrontal lobe of the cerebral cortex which is responsible for generating positive thoughts. Interestingly enough, when we call attention to our fears we are able to see them in a different, and often more objective, light.

The longer our fear lurks in the darkness, the greater its chances of growing and sabotaging our efforts to move forward.

TIP #3: Get Comfortable With Discomfort

The secret to learning how to survive setbacks is learning how to get comfortable with discomfort. 

If you can walk on hot beach sand as you make your way to the cool water of the ocean, you’ve got the gist of a strong mind. The discomfort is there, you are aware of it, and it does not feel great but it is co-existing with the pleasure of a day on the beach.

As the discomfort increases, and you experience anxiety, stress or pain, you begin to see your experience as more absolute—you are either comfortable or miserable. While there will be miserable moments in your life, not all of them need to trigger fear.

Pain is inevitable; suffering is optional.” – Buddhist proverb

Once you are able to control your fear by using your thinking cerebral brain, the limbic system simmers down so you can deal with your situation and make decisions utilizing both brains.

TIP #4: Label Your Discomfort

Studies have found that when you call your emotion by name, it lessens the limbic system’s activity. When you accurately identify and describe your discomfort, you lessen the power of the fear associated with it.

Similar research has found that it is important to limit your description to one or two words, however. If you engage in a long soliloquy about your emotion, it will only increase your response to it and produce adverse effects. 

I have found that by following these four steps, I can increase my tolerance for discomfort which enhances my ability to survive setbacks. 

 

© 2014 LaRaeQuy. All rights reserved.

Get my FREE 45-Question Mental Toughness Assessment

You can follow me on Twitter, Facebook, AND LinkedIn

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 Mental Toughness Can Help You Thrive

Sunday, December 15th, 2013

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

Inspite - Strength-in-hard-timesThe FBI established a Victim Assistance Program (VAP) to help these women, and others, receive the assistance they needed to survive by learning how to cope.

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

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

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

Reframe Adversity 

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

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

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

Lead with Game Plans, not Goals

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

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

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

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

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

Search for Meaning

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

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

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

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

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

© 2015 LaRaeQuy. All rights reserved.

You can follow me on Twitter

Get my FREE 45-Question Mental Toughness Assessment

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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 To Make Sense of Life’s Struggles

Sunday, December 8th, 2013

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

Adversity - mad clouds

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

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

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

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

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

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

Struggles force us to find our deepest name.

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

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

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

1. Face Adversity, Don’t Avoid It 

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

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

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

3. Work Outside Your Comfort Zone 

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

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

4. Embrace the Lesson

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

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

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

© 2015 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 To Create A Success Mindset

Sunday, July 7th, 2013

I learned to create a success mindset during my 4 months at the FBI Academy as a new agent. 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 a success mindset 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 mindset 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 approach to a success mindset.

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.

When you maintain a success mindset 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 attitudes and behavior.

We can train our brain to make positive patterns more automatic. 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.

A success mindset 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.

Persistence, hard work, and applying the success mindset that I learned at the Academy made the difference between failure and success.

Here are some brain power tactics to help you develop more positive patterns in your thinking and create a success mindset:

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 ways to develop a mindset of success 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 a mindset. I believe we can change “I can’t” into “I can” by simply changing the way we think.

What are some ways you are creating a success mindset?

© 2013 LaRaeQuy. All rights reserved.

You can follow me on Twitter

Get my FREE Mental Toughness Assessment

Author of “Mental Toughness For Women Leaders” and “Secrets of a Strong Mind.” 

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Effective Leaders are Authentic, Positive & Bold

Sunday, June 16th, 2013

Recently, I was honored to be a guest on The Iron Jen Show, a radio program dedicated to helping leaders overcome adversity.

We talked about several examples I provided in my book, Secrets of A Strong Mind. Among the topics we discussed during the interview were the roles of authenticity, faith, positive thinking, and boldness in effective leadership.

This is a transcript of that interview:

http://blogtalk.vo.llnwd.net/o23/show/4/961/show_4961913.mp3

 

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

Read my book Secrets of a Strong Mind, and Mental Toughness For Women Leaders, both available now on Amazon.

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How To Develop A Leadership Brain

Sunday, May 26th, 2013

Growing up on a remote cattle ranch in the middle of Wyoming, I learned at a young age to never say “I can’t.” Then again, I had a grandmother who was a crack shot with a shotgun. Come summer, she was the kind of person who would rather burn her front yard than mow it.

My grandmother never had more than an 8th grade education, but she knew something that researchers at world-class universities are just now understanding.

And that is, every time we say the words “I can’t” we are creating a feedback loop in our brain that impacts the way we’re going to behave in the future. We’re reminding ourself of our limitations, and we’re really saying, “I don’t have the confidence to do this.”

Have you ever said to yourself:

  • I can’t speak well in front of a bunch of people, so don’t blame me if it goes badly.
  • I can’t perform well under pressure, so don’t blame me if nothing happens.
  • I can’t take on a project like that, so don’t blame me if it’s not a success.

Every time we repeat phrases like these, they produce a negative feedback loop in our brain.

There are two regions of the brain, and an MRI scan can show what parts of the brain are lighting up when we are thinking. If you fold your fingers into a fist, they would represent the cerebral cortex—the thinking part of the brain. This is the brain that finds new ways of thinking and generating solutions; it is more logical in it’s approach.

But the moment something creates fear or discomfort, we move into another part of the brain. The thumb underneath your fist would represent the limbic system—the reactive or emotional part of the brain.

The limbic system is instinctive and survival driven. When we’re confronted with threatening obstacles, we move from the cerebral to the reactive limbic system and it creates the “fight” or “flight” reactions that have kept humans alive for centuries. I describe the limbic system as our “bird brain” because it’s the home of our small but powerful gut instinct. It helps us deal with emergencies and threats to our life.

The bird brain is 100% self-protective and it’s not a good place to be when we’re trying to make decisions when facing adversity. But we don’t need to flee from every challenge just because it scares us. The bird brain can’t discern between anxiety about a threat to our safety and anxiety about speaking in front of a group of people.

All it knows is that if you’re in discomfort and feel anxious. Instinctively, it tells you to flee or withdraw, so you obey and say, “I can’t.” We have to switch gears to consciously move out of the reactive limbic system and into the thinking cerebral brain. When facing adversity and obstacles, it’s vital to get the two brains working together so the best decisions can be made.

Here are 4 steps to develop a leadership brain:

1. Prioritize Information To Develop A Leadership Brain

You will be creating a leadership brain because prioritizing forces the brain to interact with information rather than simply react to it. Creating visuals with whiteboards and listing projects is an excellent way to force the limbic system to interact with the cerebral brain to sort out the day’s activities. Otherwise, we risk the chance of our two brains fighting against one another for attention and energy.

2. Manage Stress to Develop A Leadership Brain

As an FBI agent, I experienced as much fear and anxiety as anyone when confronted with stressful situations. Research has shown that law enforcement personnel such as FBI agents and Special Forces have developed a leadership brain by learning how to quickly manage their fear and anxiety. It’s not that they don’t feel discomfort; it’s that they have been trained to manage that discomfort so they are hardier and more resilient.

Here are two ways to manage stress:

  • Learn to Be Grateful—gratitude emanates from the limbic system, and because of this, we can use gratitude to influence other emotions such as anxiety and fear. The ancient book of the Bible reminds us that “This is the day that the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it (Psalm 118:24 ESV)
  • Learn to Write Down Feelings—writing down and then thinking about certain areas of our life for which we feel grateful can boost our ability to counter the negative emotions we are experiencing. Keeping a journal moves us from the limbic system into the cerebral. It’s important to not only think about why we are grateful, but also to focus on the feelings attached to our gratitude.

3. Label Emotions To Develop A Leadership Brain

This means describing an emotion in one or two words. Step 2 encouraged you to identify and write down your emotions. In Step 3, you will label them.

Although most people expect labeling emotions to increase emotion, when you label your fear or anxiety you actually lessen your discomfort. It’s very important, however, to keep the label to one or two words because if you open up dialogue about it, you will only increase the emotional state of the limbic system.

Again, the leadership brain is one that learns how to control emotions, thoughts, and behavior in ways that set them up for success.

4. Remain Positive To Develop A Leadership Brain

Change your interpretation of the situation. Since we have an innate bias toward negativity, we process bad news faster than good news because our bird brain is survival driven. This explains why we’re driven to avoid losses far more than we’re driven to pursue gains. Our emotional responses flow from our appraisals of the world.

My grandmother knew that it was not lack of fear that creates a successful response; it’s how we deal with fear and anxiety. For FBI agents, leaders, or grandmothers everywhere, let your discomfort be a trigger to take positive and constructive action so you can move forward with a leadership brain.

© 2013 LaRaeQuy. All rights reserved.

You can follow me on Twitter, Facebook, AND LinkedIn

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.”