Posts Tagged ‘Carol Dweck’

5 Surefire Ways To Break Bad Habits

Sunday, July 12th, 2015

When I attended an undercover in-service at the FBI Academy, several of my training sessions included a mock trial with cross examination by a hostile public defender. The normal human response to a verbal attack is to become angry—maybe even strike back. But that is exactly what I could not do when testifying against the target of an undercover operation.

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My training helped me to develop the self-control I would need to do my job professionally, even when provoked, by staying calm and not reacting with anger in hostile situations.

Self-control separates us from the rest of the animal kingdom. Rather than responding to immediate impulses, self-control is the ability to act the way we want to act when we find ourselves in challenging situations.

When we’re stressed, we tend to rely on ingrained habits—whether they are helpful or harmful. To manage ourselves well, it’s important to know our habits well enough that we’re not surprised by our reactions when we hit tough times.

This is surprisingly difficult because our habits are, for the most part, invisible and hidden in our unconscious mind. For example: you get into your car and drive to work without thinking about it—you operate on autopilot. Autopilot habits allow us to live on low brain-strain.

We don’t need to pay conscious attention to the countless habits that keep us going from day to day. The brain conserves energy this way and makes us more efficient. The problem is accessing this part of the brain when we become aware that our habits are no longer working in our best interests.

Mental toughness is managing our emotions, thoughts, and behavior in ways that will set us up for success. This requires self-control as well as emotional awareness if we are to know which habits need to be strengthened, changed, or jettisoned.

Here are 5 surefire ways to break bad habits:

1. Change The Way You Think About Habits

If you want to develop good habits, it takes willpower.

In his book, “Willpower: Rediscovering the Greatest Human Strength,” social psychologist Roy Baumeister concludes that willpower is limited and depends on a continuous supply of glucose to power the brain.

For years we’ve been told that willpower is needed for sprints—but that it will not last for the entire run.

Now, this claim is being challenged by Stanford psychologists Greg Walton and Carol Dweck.

They believe that willpower can indeed be quite limited—but only if you believe it is. On the other hand, if you believe that willpower is self-renewing—then you will successfully exert more willpower.

TIP: If you believe you have the willpower to keep going, it is not a limited resource.

2. Identify The Triggers

When we are stressed, bad habits can be triggered.

If you don’t know what your triggers are, you will never succeed in changing bad habits. In moments of frustration and vulnerability, we often reach for alcohol, drugs, or food. Likewise, boredom, anxiety, and anger can trigger a bad habit that we’ve developed over the years as a way of coping with those negative emotions.

TIP: It is essential to identify the state of mind that triggers your undesirable habit.

3. Eliminate Choices

Don’t put yourself in temptation’s way.

If you love chocolate, stop buying it so it’s not in your kitchen. Make a plan ahead of time for how you will not succumb to the temptation.

If you want to control impulse spending, stop carrying a credit card with you. This will force you to rethink the purchase. If the item is over a specific amount, talk it over with someone else. Chances are good that you’ll think twice about making the purchase.

Willpower is all you need to make sure you stick with it! If you are motivated, you can make a list of the good habits you want to incorporate into your lifestyle and prioritize them.

Roy Baumeister states that “People with low willpower use it to get themselves out of a crisis. People with high willpower use it to not get themselves into a crisis in the first place.”

TIP: Once you eliminate the undesirable choices, it’s much easier to pick the desirable ones.

4. Notice The Way The Habit Operates

Simply put—pay attention!

Notice not only the factors that trigger the bad habit, but also become aware of the behavior that leads up to your habit.

For example, let’s say that you’ve had a bad day at work. You know that you act out your frustration in aggressive driving behavior on the way home. So, instead of letting a white BWM into your lane, you stomp on the gas pedal and almost cause a collision.

You experience a sense of satisfaction at having made someone else’s day miserable. It feels good at first, then it feels bad. But the next time you have a bad day at work, the habit starts all over again.

TIP: Pay attention to how you lash out when you’re frustrated or angry. Then have an honest conversation with yourself: “Is this really the kind of person you want to be?”

5. Reward Yourself

Many of us develop bad habits because they make us feel good!

Once you have the urge to indulge in a bad habit, experiment by doing something different instead. What you choose isn’t important. The point is to drill down to determine what is creating the need for the habit.

Charles Duhigg, author of The Power of Habit,” suggests that once we identify a trigger, the key  to changing a habit is to link a new behavior to the old one, and the best way of reinforcing a new behavior is to reward it.

TIP: Often success is not about learning a new skill or talent; instead, it’s stopping or altering our current bad habits.

What suggestions do you have for breaking a bad habit?

© 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 Women Can Find The Perfect Mentor To Guide Them To Success

Friday, March 6th, 2015

As a female FBI agent, there were very few other women in my office—or in the building, for that matter. The closest thing to a mentor I had was my male training agent, who viewed me as more of a burden than an opportunity.

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But it had been to my advantage to be raised on a cattle ranch in the middle of Wyoming. It was a tough environment—fast food was hitting a deer at 60 miles an hour. My grandmother wrote down ammo for her Christmas list. And there is one thing you never say to a grandmother who is a crack shot with a rifle—“It’s not my fault.”

This was exactly the type of mental toughness I needed when I found myself as a new agent in an FBI squad with few allies. No obvious mentor stood by to take me under their wing. I could have blamed my fellow agents, but I knew that I would need to find my own way to move forward if I wanted to be successful.

On my first squad, my desk was next to a hardened older agent named Leo who looked at me with suspicion—could a woman be relied upon to have his back if we found ourselves in a shootout? He thought not, or at least had his doubts. I could tell by the way he treated me—with quiet disdain.

Not all mentoring relationships need to be a formal arrangement. Leo was an unwitting mentor who would be horrified to think that I considered him as one! But I watched how he worked his cases. He was a thorough investigator who pursued any and all leads. And when he didn’t have any, he still kept at it.

Mentors teach, coach, guide, and motivate. Leo did all of these things for me, although he didn’t know it. I used the information I learned from him, about how to read body language and listen for verbal cues, for the rest of my career! I never liked Leo, and we never so much as sat together over a cup of coffee, but he was one of the best mentors I ever had.

Why is it important for you to have a mentor to guide you toward success? Even more importantly, what characteristics make a good mentor for you?

The term mentor has been watered-down in the last few years. It can encompass anything from self-help books, to touchy-feely therapy sessions when times get tough, to a wise and trusted guide through business and life.

I want to share with you some of the lessons I’ve learned about how women can find the perfect mentor to guide them toward success:

1. Be Wary—Very Wary, Of Praise

Like most overachievers, I look for praise in almost everything I do. 

As a first grade student, I was never satisfied with anything less than an A. My teacher, Mrs. Archie, was very stingy with praise, so you can imagine how much I disliked her. She let me know right away that I was not the smartest person in the room, so when I did get an A she responded with, “You’ve worked very hard to get this grade.” I didn’t realize it at the time, but she had created a growth mindset in the way that I looked at my obstacles. 

Researcher Carol Dweck discovered that our mindset affects our ability to fulfill our potential—to grow and learn, take risks, bounce back from adversity, and to build healthy relationships.   

If we have a “fixed mindset,” we believe our qualities, and that includes our intelligence, are something we were born with and cannot be changed.  If we have a “growth mindset,” we believe that we can cultivate and grow our basic qualities, including our intelligence.

Some of the brightest people avoid challenges, don’t work hard, and wilt in the face of difficulty. In other words, it’s not always the people who start out the smartest in the room who end up the smartest.

A perfect mentor will challenge you to create a growth mindset.

2. Create A Strong Mind

My grandmother was a larger-than-life force in my life. When things didn’t work out the way I expected, she taught me how to be mentally tough. She had no time for people who would not take responsibility for their situation.

I didn’t sweat it when I found no females to mentor me as an FBI agent. I knew that if I wanted to be treated as an equal, I needed to act as an equal. It wouldn’t help to whine, complain, and blame others. I needed to take responsibility. 

If women plan to use the excuse that they can’t make their way up the corporate ladder because there aren’t other women to mentor them, then they haven’t taken their careers very seriously. Take responsibility and find the best person to inspire you to be the best you can be.

Here are the questions I ask myself when I look for a mentor from among the people around me:

  • How can they help me be better at my job?
  • Are they respected by subordinates, peers, and superiors?
  • What skills do they have that I need to develop?
  • How much more do they know more about (this project) than I do?
  • In what ways are they willing to share that knowledge?
  • Will they give me the honest feedback I need?
  • Why do I admire them?
  • How will working with them make me a better person?

A perfect mentor will show you how to develop the mental toughness needed to get you through the roadblocks that are in the way of your success. 

3. Play Big

In the FBI, power meetings among male leaders were held during happy hour—the ones I was never invited to attend. In many larger corporations, power meetings are held in the men’s bathroom during bio-breaks. Either way, the opportunity for women to participate is limited.

When I was tempted to play the victim, I thought about Leo. He was awkward, ugly and had a quirky personality. He wasn’t invited to happy hour, either. And yet, the truth is this: Leo was a big player in the world of FBI counterintelligence investigations. As my unofficial mentor, he reminded me that people will do things to let you down, and even screw you over—that is life!

So get over it.

Leo refused to think small. He’d never start a sentence with, “I’m not an expert but…“ and then apologize. He taught me that leaders, both men and women, need to play big and take control of how they react to a situation. When the going gets tough, roll up your sleeves and get even tougher. 

He taught me how to recognize self-doubt and not let it dictate my actions. If you look for discrimination in business, you will find it. Leo’s advice to me? Just don’t. Don’t look for it or it will pull you down with it. Instead, assume the best of everyone around you. Remember—trust, but verify. Only a fool takes what she hears at face value. 

A perfect mentor helps you to develop confidence in yourself and your abilities.

 

© 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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