Posts Tagged ‘comfort zone’

7 Things Successful Entrepreneurs Never Do

Monday, October 3rd, 2016

Working undercover to recruit foreign spies to work with the U.S. Government was always a gamble: the failure rate was high, the emotional toll was hard, and it took a lot of hard work.

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I learned that my success was inexorably linked to the choices I made regarding attitude and subsequent actions. More often than not, it was the choice I made to kick myself into high gear rather than relying on someone else to do the kicking.

Sounds a lot like starting a new business! Entrepreneurs know that the failure rate is high, the emotional toll on them will be hard, and that it will take a lot of hard work.

So what makes one entrepreneur succeed when so many small businesses fail? Whether working undercover or starting a new business, there are choices we make that lead to a higher likelihood of success.

Here are 7 things successful entrepreneurs never do:

1. SUCCESSFUL ENTREPRENEURS NEVER GIVE UP

As an undercover agent, it was often difficult to get introduced to the subject of an undercover investigation—most foreign spies do not want to meet an FBI agent in person!

Grit, however, kept me moving forward—especially when things didn’t go according to plan. I never made the mistake of believing that just because a way out, or through, a situation was not obvious that there weren’t ways around those roadblocks. What I needed was mental toughness to push through the barriers I encountered.

According to Harvard researchers, persistence and grit is essential for entrepreneurs—they need to be able to deal with obstacles and roadblocks.

Prospective clients might present a lot of excuses for not getting back in touch with you; yet, if you are persistent in trying to make things happen, your chances for success vastly improve.

2. SUCCESSFUL ENTREPRENEURS NEVER STOP FLIRTING WITH FAILURE

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If I whined and cried every time one of my undercover operations failed, I would have ended up on Team B running leads for other agents instead of calling my own shots on Team A. I did a postmortem on each failed operation and explored why the operation failed so I could learn from the experience.

Making a mistake is not the problem. What is not acceptable is making the same mistakes over and over—if you do, you’re either stupid or incompetent.

Look at your mistakes as opportunities to grow and improve. Be willing to keep trying until you get it right. Learn from past mistakes so you can make better decisions in the future.

“Life is hard. It’s even harder when you’re stupid”—John Wayne

3. SUCCESSFUL ENTREPRENEURS NEVER BACK AWAY FROM CHALLENGES

FBI agents know that emotions like fear and anger are OK; it’s complacency that will kill them. Awareness of their fear doesn’t mean they back away from the unknown; instead, they move through it with a sound strategy and a resilient mindset.

It takes resilience to deal with constant challenges, some of those you anticipated and some that come at you from left field.

You’ll face complex financial problems, long hours, sudden changes, and market predictions that are never reliable. Success is not so much a matter of how many obstacles in your path but how you respond to them.

Successful entrepreneurs are resilient and are able to face constant challenges without ever weakening their determination to keep moving forward.

4. SUCCESSFUL ENTREPRENEURS NEVER SPIN THEIR WHEELS IN A RUT

Struggles - tiger in water

I learned early that our comfort zone is a dangerous place—it can be a dark and deep abyss where it’s possible to lose yourself entirely in mediocrity. Staying in your comfort zone is giving up on life.

Get out of your rut and experience breakthroughs by pushing through the discomfort and uncertainty you are feeling. Strong minds continually expand their boundaries and enlarge their territory, both personally and professionally.

Entrepreneurs with mental toughness always do something that they’re not ready to do because they know that’s how they grow.

5. SUCCESSFUL ENTREPRENEURS NEVER LEAVE THEIR “WHY” BEHIND

It was my passion for the job that what got me through the FBI Academy. It was hard for me and I was almost washed out. But I had found a career that gave me both value and meaning, and I wasn’t going to let the opportunity slip away.

It is impossible to be a successful entrepreneur if you aren’t passionate about your work. You must understand why you are excited to come to work everyday. And if you can’t find that sort of excitement, you owe it to yourself to pack up and find something that does.

You don’t have to like every task you have to perform or every person you have to work with, but at the end of the day, you must be in touch with your passion and find a career that provides you with both value and meaning.

6. SUCCESSFUL ENTREPRENEURS NEVER BLAME OTHERS FOR THEIR SITUATION IN LIFE

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No one is owed anything in life. We were born, and at some point, we must take responsibility for where we end up. If we want something, it’s up to us to make it happen.

This may come as a big shock to lots of people, but there are no handouts in life. So stop whining, pointing fingers, or blaming others when things don’t work out.

Successful entrepreneurs with mental toughness rely on backbones rather than wishbones to make their success happen.

7. SUCCESSFUL ENTREPRENEURS NEVER CONSIDER THEMSELVES A VICTIM

One of the most important lessons I learned while working undercover is the importance of always maintaining a positive attitude. I found that mental toughness becomes most apparent in the midst of adversity.

Be smart—learn how to identify your negative thoughts when they arise and replace them with  positive ones.

Often, life is not what is happening to you; rather, it is your attitude about your situation. Studies show that positive thinkers are more likely to listen to negative information about their business or competition than pessimists, because they think they can do something about it.

Successful entrepreneurs with mental toughness always find the positive and run with it.

© 2016 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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Are You Mentally Tough Enough to Be An Entrepreneur?

Monday, August 15th, 2016

The FBI Academy engages their new agents by teaching them psychological readiness. At the root of all the mental training was the answer to this question: are you mentally tough enough to beat the opponent?

Complexity and turbulence in the business creates opponents and tough competition. Entrepreneurs need to be psychologically prepared to do battle with their competitors. They need to deal with stress, recover from mistakes quickly, and adjust strategies with each new innovation. On top of that, they need to stay positive about their chances of success.

Yes, you do need to compete if you want to run a successful business. You also need to be mentally tough enough to make it happen.

Here’s how:

1. CREATE THE RIGHT ATTITUDE

Mentally tough entrepreneurs do not rely on knowledge, skills, ability or past success to break through roadblocks. Instead, they draw on an attitude of toughness that allows them to push through hard situations and face adversity with confidence.

FBI agents are trained how to conduct complex and sophisticated investigations, but they are also trained in mental toughness. This does not mean they bulldoze their way through people or problems. Instead, they are trained to be aware of their own emotions and reactions when they are being pushed into their discomfort zones.

You can only be game-ready when you can predict your response when confronted with the unknown.

TIP:

  • Be curious about the things you do not know.
  • Let your grasp exceed your reach.
  • Place yourself in situations where you are a beginner

2. STRETCH TO BE MORE FLEXIBLE

Struggles - tiger in water

When mentally tough entrepreneurs move past their comfort zone, they learn how to absorb the unexpected. This makes them more self aware and in the process they become mentally stronger. They learn how to anticipate their responses and correct them if needed.

Stretch past your comfort zone and learn how to be flexible in your approach when something doesn’t turn out as expected. You can quickly decide to change course or look for new ways to solve the problem.

FBI arrests require flexibility because they rarely go according to plan. This is especially important in tense and dangerous situations. Constant training helps them uncover their go-to reflexes and evaluate whether they are helpful or harmful, before they find themselves in an unexpected situation.

TIP:

  • Constantly re-educate yourself, even in the basics
  • Resist the temptation to fall back on ideas simply because they are comfortable
  • Always look for new ways to do business

3. MANAGE RELATIONSHIPS

Successful financial plans

Mentally tough entrepreneurs are emotionally competent enough to manage the relationships that affect them and their ability to be effective.

If they experience a setback, they know how to keep their emotions in check so they can set the tone for the rest of the organization. Mentally tough leaders do the right thing for the organization and suppress the temptation to cut corners. They know how to make the right decisions for their team.

Teamwork is essential for all law enforcement, and communication must be clear and concise. In addition, FBI agents use interviews more than any other investigative tool in their arsenal which requires them to respond appropriately and effectively to the emotional reactions of their audience.

TIP:

  • Work on communicating in ways that cultivate healthy, enduring, and valuable relationships
  • Cut loose relationships that weigh you down or are negative
  • Recognize that collaboration is actually a back-and-forth flow of ideas, words, and actions

4. DEVELOP A CHAMPION MINDSET

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Mentally tough entrepreneurs have a champion mindset that remains engaged when they are under pressure. They are constantly identifying the opportunities, challenges, and threats to their environment.

A champion mindset looks for new ways to think about adversity, and most importantly, looks for fresh ways to look at problems and roadblocks. Champions look at life with a sense of urgency and respond to the challenges of the changing face of business with innovation and curiosity.

FBI Cases are not given to agents with directions on how to solve them. Each one is a mystery to be explored, which means setbacks and false assumptions are encountered along the way. The champion mindset continues to chip away at a mystery, or problem, until a solution can be found.

TIP:

  • Pay attention to what is going on in the world around you
  • Jettison old assumptions about how business operates
  • Assume holding onto yesterday’s trend, or solution,  is dangerous

In what other ways do entrepreneurs need to be mentally tough?

© 2016 LaRaeQuy. All rights reserved.

You can follow me on Twitter

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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4 Essential Elements of Grit

Tuesday, May 24th, 2016

New FBI agents are assigned either assigned cases so old that witnesses have died or cases with such quick turnaround leads that the new agent is left spinning.

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It didn’t take me long to figure out what I needed to do to move as quickly as possible out of the rut of Team B and into the ranks of Team A—comprised of agents who not only worked hard, but had the grit to keep moving ahead when faced with failure or adversity.

But new agents were not the only ones stuck on Team B.

Older agents who did not have the grit to consistently do what they needed to do to succeed often found themselves run over by other agents who possessed resolve, willpower, and the perseverance to stick to their long-term goals.

Grit is your ability to persevere over the long-run and thrive despite all kinds of unplanned events.

As leaders, entrepreneurs and business owners, grit is an essential skill because it is the one thing you will need to succeed. If you give up when the going gets tough, you’re done.

Here are 4 essential elements of grit that you should know:

1. Feel The Fire In Your Belly

I knew I wanted to be the type of FBI Agent who could make a difference. In other words, I was passionate about my work.

Passion is the linchpin of grit. It is doing something and following a dream that gives you both value and meaning.

Passion gives people a single-mindedness that we do not see in others. It is a combination of ambition, willpower, and grit that keeps long-term goals in focus at all times.

TIP:

  • When you feel your determination begin to waver, remember the reason you want to accomplish your goal.
  • If you surrender and give up, ask yourself if it’s because there is no fire in your belly and you are not really following your dream.

All dream, but not equally. Those who dream by night in the dusty recesses of their minds wake in the day to find that it was vanity; but the dreamers of the day are dangerous, for they may act their dream with open eyes to make it possible—T.E. Lawrence

2. Maintain Clarity of Goals

When I first started working counterintelligence and espionage, my goal was to be assigned a foreign intelligence officer.

Later, though, my goal had shifted. Now it wasn’t enough to be working cases—I felt drawn to tell others about how a huge organization like the FBI could be nimble and flexible enough to react to the demands of terrorism in the aftermath of 9/11.

My vision had not changed—I still wanted to be an FBI agent, but my goal had. I became the spokesperson for the FBI in Northern California for four years. I’m glad I made the move because my long-term goals had shifted.

TIP:

  • Revisit your goals annually to make certain that something hasn’t changed over the past year. Your mind is constantly adapting to new information coming your way.
  • Even a slight shift calls for a re-alignment in your priorities. Like myself, it may not require you to throw up your hands and quit, but it may suggest that you re-think where you fit in the larger picture.

3. Follow Up With Self-Discipline

There were many times when it was tempting to give up on an investigation when the leads got cold and there was no easy path forward.

Mental toughness was required to persevere and be agile enough in my thinking that I could approach a roadblock or obstacle from many different angles—always looking for the soft underbelly and refusing to give up.

Self-discipline is important because while grit is the ability to keep doing something, self-discipline often implies the ability to refrain from doing something.

TIP:

  • Face your problems head on. It isn’t your problems that define you—it’s how you react and recover from them. Your problems are not going away unless you do something about them.
  • Be honest with yourself about what you want to achieve, who you want to become, and the obstacles that are preventing you from achieving your goals.
  • Define your goal as behavior. Identify the specific steps you need to take to achieve your goal. Define your goal in terms of behavior.
  • Organize your day. Once you’ve set your goal, it must become a priority.
  • Watch for excuses. Self-discipline means doing something you don’t necessary want to do.
  • Remember the reasons you want to reach your goal. When you feel your determination begin to waver, remember the reason you want to accomplish your goal.

4. Learn From Your Misses

Training in the FBI starts on your first day at the FBI Academy in Quantico and ends on your last day as an agent. If FBI instructors are not pushing you beyond your comfort zone, they aren’t doing their job.

Moving out of our comfort zone is hard because it usually means a trial and error approach as we find new footing. It’s important to take mistakes in stride and use the opportunity to learn from them. Only idiots don’t learn from their mistakes.

People with grit shrug off failure, focus on immediate recovery, and move on. The attitude determines the outcome, so it’s important to focus on lessons learned and how to keep moving forward.

TIP:

  • Seek feedback about how you can make your best performance even better. Research indicates that leaders who are in the top 10% are those who are willing to ask for feedback—both positive and negative.
  • Celebrate the small wins. Learn to appreciate the smaller steps that lead to success.
  • Learn from your challenges and become better because of them.

Grit is the mental toughness to continue to move ahead even when life hasn’t thrown you a perfect hand. It is the deliberate action of doing something again and again until you get it right. And then maybe doing it again after that, too.

Talent does not trump determination. Nothing is more common than unsuccessful people with talent. Grit, persistence, and determination will keep you moving ahead when your circumstances and environment has changed.

How have you developed grit?

© 2016 LaRaeQuy. All rights reserved.

You can follow me on Twitter

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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9 Powerful Ways To Build Confidence

Sunday, August 23rd, 2015

During a mock trial, I was selected to be a witness and cross-examined by a criminal lawyer. The purpose of the mock trial was to give FBI agents an idea of how defense attorneys would try to distort our words and use them against us, especially in front of a jury.

9 Powerful Ways To Build Confidence

We were in a real federal courtroom with real lawyers and judges. I had never testified in a court of law before—I felt inadequate, uncertain, and afraid that I would blow the case by saying the wrong thing.

Sure enough, I answered the defense attorney’s question and she immediately twisted the meaning of my words. I wanted to say, “That’s not what I meant,” but she had already moved on to another topic. I was flustered and my lack of confidence plummeted ever further.

When she asked another question, I kept my answer very short. I knew that I risked sounding defensive but I simply did not have enough confidence in myself to engage with her at any length. Realizing that my lack of conviction about her client’s activities would not present a real threat, I was quickly dismissed as a witness.

All I remember about that entire exchange is how crappy it felt to be both humiliated and impotent as a government witness in a mock trial.

Lack of confidence can rear its ugly head at any time. No one is immune because we are most vulnerable any time we’re out of our comfort zone or experience change in our life.

Confidence is closely linked to mental toughness because it takes a strong mind to conquer fear, anxiety, and worry.

Our brain is naturally wired to pay more attention to negative thinking because bad news has alerted us to danger for centuries. Our cave dweller ancestors went out each day to “get lunch” not “be lunch.”

But not everything that is new or different is a threat to our survival these days. The good news is that we can train ourselves to be more confident. Here are 9 ways:

1. Isolate Your Fear

In my case, I was afraid of making a fool of myself in front of my colleagues during the mock trial. I was afraid of what they might say and think if I screwed up.

Other common fears are: fear of how others perceive us, fear of being physically hurt, fear of commitment, or fear of failure.

It is important to dump the ego and get right down to the origin of your fear.

2. Take Action

If you hesitate and wring your hands, your fear will only grow.

I should have prepared better, worked harder to anticipate the way the defense attorney would parse my words, and trusted my own judgment.

3. Deposit Positive Memories in Your Memory Bank

We are bombarded with so much information that our brain stores information in a way that makes sense to it.

So, if you lack confidence, all your brain will remember about a specific event are those things that confirm you messed up.

If you hold a memory freighted with lack of confidence, go back and revisit it to make sure you are remembering correctly. Often, you will find out that others did not perceive or remember an event the same way.

At the end of each day, examine it. Remember all the positive and good things that you said, did, or accomplished that day. Reflect on all the positive victories and go to sleep with those memories on your mind.

4. Withdraw Only Positive Memories

It is easy for any negative thought, with enough encouragement and recall, to turn into a mental monster. The best way to defeat it is to ruthlessly nip it in the bud.

Find at least 3 things every day for which to be grateful. Write them down. Smile when you think of them.

Successful leaders move forward with confidence because they learn from their fears and failures, and then let them go.

5. Respect Yourself

If you don’t respect yourself, why should anyone else? I can’t think of any situation where a doormat is someone who is respected.

If you are not in a situation where you do not feel respect from others, change your situation; do not walk—run. The devil you don’t know is NOT worse than the devil you know.

Perhaps this means changing friends, jobs, or relationships—whatever it takes, place yourself in a position where you respect yourself and others reciprocate these positive feelings.

6. Sit In The Front Row

I always sat in the front row of every class I ever took. It takes confidence to sit in the front row and be noticed, but the more you do it, the easier it gets.

Start today and sit in the front row of every meeting, conference, or class you attend. Start getting comfortable with being noticed.

7. Make Eye Contact

Body language is important in building confidence. I immediately categorize people who do not look me in the eye as losers, whether they are or not. This means they have to work extra hard to convince me they are not.

Failure to make eye contact indicates either 1) they feel inferior to you and lack confidence, or 2) they are guilty of something.

This may be a great clue when interviewing suspects, but it’s not the message you want to be sending to your team members.

8. Walk Faster

I’ve had people come up to me out of a crowd and say they knew I was an FBI agent because of the way I walked—fast!

You know what, my time is important, and where I’m going is important—or I wouldn’t be going. Don’t be an average walker, or an average thinker. Moving with intention says, “I’m going to be successful.”

9. Speak Up

A sign of a true milquetoast is someone who doesn’t speak up. Instead, they feel their opinions don’t matter and that no wants to hear them.

Each time you clam up you are injecting more confidence-poison into your system. Your feeling of inferiority and inadequacy will just keep growing.

Bite the bullet and speak up! Practice what you are going to say ahead of time so it sounds good. Keep it short and pithy.

You will be amazed at how good it feels!

How do you build your confidence?

© 2015 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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10 Questions Every Successful Person Needs To Ask About Fear

Sunday, July 5th, 2015

The first time I pulled the trigger on a shotgun at the FBI Academy, but the recoil was so powerful that, I not only thought one of my tooth fillings had been jarred loose, my right shoulder felt like it had been hit with a sledgehammer! I didn’t fall backwards, but I needed to regain my balance before I lowered the nuzzle and prepared for the next shot.

10 Fear Questions

Instinctively, I became afraid of a weapon that could literally kick my butt. As I hesitated, my firearms instructor started shouting, “Lean into it! Treat it like a lover. Hold it close and hold it tight—NOW!”

I wasn’t at all sure I wanted to jump back into it so soon, and surely holding it tighter would only produce a stronger recoil? But the instructor was inches from my face and he looked pissed so I did what I was told.

That day I learned something important about fear—to increase safety, move toward the threat.

While this may sound counterintuitive, research has shown that new memories which produce fear remain unstable and malleable for a short period of time—so the sooner I moved toward my fear of the weapon, the more successful I would be able to overcome it.

If we don’t intervene during this window of time when the new fearful memory is still unstable and not fully formed, it becomes embedded in our mind.

My fear on the firing range with the shotgun is nothing compared to the chronic fear faced by soldiers in combat and women in abusive relationships. Special Forces instructors suggest we can all learn how to face our fears if we use mental toughness to focus on both our thinking and our behavior.

Everything you want is on the other side of fear– Jack Canfield

Whatever situation you are in, here are 10 questions that every successful person needs to ask themselves to overcome their fear:

1. How Can My Fear Be A Guide?

Before we can master our fear, we must first acknowledge it. Rather than avoiding it, become aware of it and use it as a guide to sharpen focus and decision-making. Do not let fear get out of control and become panic.

2. How Can My Fear Be Turned Into An Opportunity?

A little fear keeps you on your toes. It keeps you from becoming complacent. It can be an excellent opportunity to develop courage, confidence, and discipline. Ask yourself, “What can I learn from this?”

3. How Can I Focus On My Goal Rather Than On My Fear?

Do not let your precious energy be wasted on fretting. One of the characteristics of willpower is the ability to focus, and once you focus all your energy on your goals, you are less likely to see failure as an acceptable alternative.

4. How Has Fear Prevented Me From Doing What Is Important To Me?

If you are letting fear keep you from doing what you really want to do, it is paralyzing you. Break it down into small steps. Focus on progressing toward your goal a little more each day. Memorialize each step as a victory to help you keep moving ahead.

5. How Can I Acquire Information About What I Fear?

Most of our fear is generated when we are faced with the unknown. One of the best ways of beating back this fear is to continually try new things so you become comfortable with moving into the unknown. Then we won’t be as surprised or overwhelmed when something new or different presents itself.

Most successful people want to push themselves beyond past accomplishments. In order to do this, they push themselves outside their comfort zone. This means facing the fear of failure continually so they can predict their own responses when stressed and stretched.

This self-awareness provides valuable information about what they fear, the circumstances under which their fear rears it’s ugly head, and how they can best move forward when faced with it.

6. How Can I Learn The Skills Necessary To Master My Fear?

Whether you are in Special Forces, on a high school football team, or an FBI agent investigating a case, the answer is the same—train! Practice the skills you will need repeatedly until they become second nature.

When you’ve trained how to respond to a crisis, you respond automatically to a checklist of skills that you’ve already mastered. You do not become fearful; you become intense and focused.

7. How Can I Go It Alone?

You can’t! Facing fear is easier when you’re accompanied by other people whom you know and trust. Strong ties with other people are important. When we have supportive friends or colleagues by our side, we are more confident and better able to cope with problems.

8. How Can I Stop Feeling Fearful?

Remember that your limbic brain system is programmed to pay more attention to negative information that produces fearful responses. It’s our survival instinct at work. And we tend to remember negative or traumatic information better than neutral or even positive experiences.

To counter this, you will need to hunt for the good stuff in every situation. Find at least 5 positive responses to every 1 negative response.

9. How Can I Retrain My Brain To Look At My Fear Differently?

Every time your fearful memory is retrieved, it becomes unstable again for a brief period of time. Just as my memory of the shotgun recoil was unstable, it opened a window during which the memory could be updated and changed.

It is possible to modify fearful memories when they are retrieved if you “get back in the saddle” and confront the very thing you are afraid of.

10. How Can I Modify A Fearful Memory?

Researchers agree that we must expose ourselves to our fear—but in a safe environment! The exposure also needs to last long enough for the brain to form a new memory. Your brain will recognize that the fear is no longer dangerous in your current environment.

Look fear in the face. You will be amazed at how unscary it really is.

OK, now it’s your turn! What questions or actions do you find help you move past your fears?

© 2015 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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5 Effective Ways You Can Take It To The Next Level

Sunday, January 25th, 2015

After 20 years working counterintelligence cases, I was asked to become the spokesperson for the FBI in Northern California. My first reaction was “No”—I was very comfortable in my position as a case agent. By this time, I knew every step in the manual and had my network of informants in place so I could launch an investigation against a foreign intelligence officer with very little effort on my part.

Successful-people-succeed

I felt the quiet pleasure of a smug satisfaction with my existing situation. But in the back of my mind, I knew I wasn’t continuing to hone my skills; I wasn’t striving to do my best. In truth, I had become complacent; I had reached a plateau.

When I said “NO,” I was refusing to take my career to the next level. I was successful as a case agent, but my complacency was not nurturing my ambition. 

The tragedy of life is often not in our failure, but rather in our complacency; not in our doing too much, but rather in our doing too little; not in our living above our ability, but rather in our living below our capacities.”—Benjamin E. Mays

Stanford researcher Carol Dweck observed, “There is no relation between students’ abilities or intelligence and the development of mastery-oriented qualities. Some of the very brightest students avoid challenges, dislike effort, and wilt in the face of difficulty. And some of the less bright students are real go-getters, thriving on challenge, persisting intensely when things get difficult, and accomplishing more than you expected.”

I had always been a go-getter, but somewhere in those 20 years I had settled into a comfort zone that produced mediocrity.

Complacent strength is our greatest weakness.“—LaRae Quy

I eventually did say “Yes” and represented the FBI for 4 years in Northern California. I’m going to share 5 effective ways that I took it to the next level, and so can you:

1. ADMIT YOU HAVE HIT A PLATEAU

You can’t take it to the next level until you admit you’re looking at a long stretch in the way of where you want to go. 

As hard as you look, it appears to go on forever. If you ever do find the end, you may be greeted with a sharp precipice plunging downward—or a steep incline reaching upward.

2. INSPECT YOUR FOUNDATION

You can’t take it to the next level until you take a closer look at why you’re doing what you’re doing.

Often, we get into something only because a teacher or parent told us we should. Finding ourselves stuck on an endless plateau may be a pinprick to our heart that we’ve taken the wrong road.

A plateau can be the way your body and mind gets your attention if you are pursuing a career or goal that does not hold value and meaning for you. Flat terrain may provide you an opportunity to reassess the direction your life is going to decide whether this is where you really want to be.

3. DISTINGUISH BETWEEN PLATEAU AND BURNOUT

You can’t take it to the next level until you know whether you’re experiencing a plateau—or a burnout.

In a plateau, you can find ways to become empowered and recharged. Burnout is trying to do the same old things, or do things in the same old ways, without recognizing your need for reassessment.

  • The cure for a plateau is enthusiasm. Enthusiasm will propel you to learn new skills and information to keep moving forward.
  • The cure for burnout is excavating the resentment you feel for what you’ve had to sacrifice in order to get where you are.

4. RECOGNIZE SURVIVAL MODE FOR WHAT IT IS—MEDIOCRITY

You can’t take it to the next level until you can sift out the junk that’s taking up so much of your time and energy.

When you’re so tired and frustrated that you feel you’re just in survival mode, change is one more item on your list to deal with! So why not stay in the plateau? Better the devil you know than the one you don’t—right?

Mediocrity is settling for less than you know you can be, whether in business or life. It’s giving up on finding a path that will bring greater happiness and joy.

5. DEVELOP A GROWTH MINDSET

You can’t take it to the next level until you make learning new skills and qualities a priority in your life.

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

If we have a “fixed mindset,” we believe our qualities, including 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.

Pay attention to the conversations you have with yourself; self-talk is a powerful tool when it comes to developing mental toughness. If you assume you are capable of change and growth in all ways possible, it’s the starting point for moving beyond your plateau.

In other words, it’s not always the people who start out the smartest who end up being the smartest.

What tips would you add for taking your career to the next level when you’ve hit a plateau?

 

© 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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5 Harsh Reasons You Don’t Seize Opportunities

Sunday, December 21st, 2014

As a child, I loved taking risks. Growing up around rattlesnakes, barbed wire fences, and frisky horses that liked to kick the saddle out of my hands, there was very little I thought I couldn’t do.

 

The key was putting my mind to it.

With age comes wisdom—or so I thought. As an adult, I was less amenable to taking risk. I was very strategic about relationships, careers, and spiritual formation. And I realize that there is a place for strategy, as long as it does not make your thinking soft.

Soft thinking is the opposite of mental toughness. If you suffer from soft thinking, you are afraid of seizing opportunities because you are afraid that your emotions, thoughts, or behavior might spin out of control. Or, you’re afraid to leave your comfort zone.

As it turns out, the key to managing risk is still in our mind.

There is no way to sugar-coat it—you’re afraid of risk and don’t seize the opportunities in your life because you don’t:

1. EMBRACE A LITTLE TERROR IN YOUR LIFE

Strong minds seize opportunities because they allow themselves to be terrified—quite often. As a result, terror is a feeling that they are familiar with.

If you continually place yourself in situations where there is a little risk involved and the outcome is not known, your comfort zone is stretched.

Our brain likes to feel comfortable and seeks pleasure over pain. That’s why we’re tempted to abandon ship at the first sign of distress.

Our desire to avoid losses is almost twice as powerful as our desire to take a risk. This explains why we often walk away or fail to recognize new opportunities.

If you start your day without feeling a little terror from the challenges before you, you’re not pushing yourself hard enough.

2. THINK FAST ENOUGH TO MOVE AHEAD OF THE HERD

Strong minds seize opportunities because their minds are agile and flexible.

Thinking fast is automatic, frequent, emotional, stereotypic, and subconscious. It means we can throw out long debates in favor of snap judgments and hard-wired rules of thumb that have served us well in the past.

Thinking fast is driven by your past experiences and memories. If you move into your discomfort zone on a regular basis, you frequently experience doses of terror and uncertainty. As a result, your mind does not get mired down with fear when new opportunities present themselves.

Fast thinking is efficient and effective, and essential if we want to seize opportunities in the fast-moving world of life and business.

3. THINK FORWARD WITH CREATIVITY AND INNOVATION

Strong minds seize opportunities because they do not allow themselves to get stuck in a rut.

In business and life, the comfort zone has never been a good place to be. It may feel comfortable but then we face another kind of risk: one of being irrelevant, obsolete—and extinct.

If you plan to think forward, you will need to continually question conventional wisdom, reinvent your work, and welcome disruptive innovation.

In short, you will need to live in a petri dish in which you are continually experimenting with new ideas and maneuvering in a perpetual zone of distress and uncertainty—and sometimes, even embarrassment.

4. MOVE ON FROM THE PAST

Strong minds seize opportunities because they learn from their past mistakes so they don’t repeat them.

Our ability to think fast and think forward is determined by our brain, and our past behavior.

As children, our brains were flexible, creative, and unpredictable. As adults, however, our brain becomes more rigid—anything with unvaried repetition like careers, cultural activities, and skills all lead to rigidity.

Once we make the same decision a second or third time, a habit is formed, and one that becomes quite inflexible.

Rigid patterns of thinking tend to become self-sustaining over time. Habits of behavior produced from past failure is not the same thing as learning from a mistake.

Habits are often a default reaction that leads to rigid thinking; learning, on the other hand, requires a flexible mindset that is always collecting and processing new information.

Often, we are not aware of these rigid patterns of thinking until we pinpoint their genesis in our memory. At that point, we recognize them for what they are and are able to move on from them.

5. FEED YOUR CURIOSITY

Strong minds seize opportunities because they are always looking for new things to do, and once they are engaged, they turn their full attention to it.

Researchers have found that curiosity is the single necessary condition for creating a flexible and agile mind.

When we are curious, we are engaged. Giving a subject our full attention and concentration is important if we want our brain to be more flexible and agile. It’s also important that, once we thoroughly understand a subject, we move on to something else.

To keep the brain fit, we must learn something new, rather than simply replaying already-mastered skills.

The important thing is not to stop questioning. Never lose a holy curiosity—Albert Einstein

How have you taken a risk and seized an opportunity?

© 2014 LaRaeQuy. All rights reserved.

You can follow me on Twitter, Facebook, AND LinkedIn

Get my FREE 45-Question Mental Toughness Assessment

Sign Up for my How To Build Confidence on-line training course

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

Sunday, August 24th, 2014

When you grow up poor, negative thoughts come very easily. My parents worked hard as 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 is not needed to work on a ranch.

Indeed, no one else in my family attended college. Aspirations ran as 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.

As I grew up, I heard these self-limiting messages that looked at life in negative terms. They focused on 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. Among the most important 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 that hold you back often find their origins in childhood. 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

My parents supported my decision to go to college. Others in my community, however, 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 thinking. These limiting and inaccurate narratives about what it possible create boundaries around what we think we can do.

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

Negative thoughts that hold you back try to keep you in a box. They label 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 tells 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.

You can follow me on Twitter, Facebook, AND LinkedIn

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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Why Leaders Need To Move Outside Their Comfort Zone

Sunday, January 19th, 2014

After twenty years as an investigative agent, I found myself in a comfort zone. Safely ensconced in familiar territory, I balked when asked to be the spokesperson for the FBI in Northern California. It sounded like fun—even a little glamorous since I would be interviewed by local and national news media. So why did I hesitate when offered the job? 

I would move from being the senior agent on my squad, where I knew everything about my job, to a new situation where I knew absolutely nothing. None of my former skills as an investigator had prepared me to handle probing questions from reporters. I would move out of my comfort zone as I represented the FBI in news conferences. And then I would need to prepare for live television interviews! The FBI needed someone who could come across as witty, credible and polished.

I am the type of person who comes up with the best retorts about twenty minutes after the question is asked—I needed to learn how to think quicker on my feet.

I was a beginner, starting over with a manual and basic training. My pride balked at being referred to as a trainee—my secretary, assistants, and clerks knew more about handling the media than I did!

I had to learn the ropes from the bottom up. It was tempting to feel humiliated by my lack of experience; instead, I felt humbled by all I had yet to learn. There was no resentment, only a slow understanding that we are all students of life.

Entrepreneurs, leaders, and small business owners need to place importance on putting themselves in new situations. They will be required to learn new techniques and skill sets. And they will be confronted by competition that forces them to be creative. And agile mindset will be needed so they can find new ways to solve new—and old—problems.

Here are four reasons why people in leadership become great when they keep learning:

1. Keeps Ego in Check

The ego is always asking “How will this make me look? How will I benefit?” Ego looks for ways to prove it is right and others are wrong.

People with healthy leadership habits do not need to prove or disprove anything. They have the humility to hold “what they do know” with “what they don’t know.” Holding this kind of tension leads to wisdom and not just easy answers.

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. 

When we allow ourselves the luxury of trial and error, like a child learning to walk, we experience a feel-good neurological response that can be stronger than the ego. When tackling new and difficult challenges, we experience a rush of adrenaline, a hormone that makes us feel confident and motivated.

2. Summons Courage

It takes courage to move out of your comfort zone and into your zone of discomfort, where you feel awkward, clumsy, and alone. This can be especially difficult for those in leadership positions who feel they need to continue to hone their core competencies, but our comfort zone is a tremendous enemy of peak performance. 

When people in leadership get into a comfort zone, they strive to stay right there—where they 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.

It takes courage and mental toughness to continually move in the direction of your biggest goals and ambitions and not stop at success.

3. Avoids Stagnation

The more accomplished we are at something, the harder it is to learn.

Once we become experts in our field, the need to learn is no longer either urgent or necessary. This, in turn, increases the likelihood that we will fuse our skill with our identity. 

Walking into a discomfort zone and risking failure threatens to unravel our identity. Our reaction to learning something new is often fierce and visceral because it can strike at the core of who believe ourselves to be. 

Once we choose not to learn, however, we risk stagnation. Unfortunately, the only difference between a rut and coffin are the dimensions.

4. Enlarges Core Competency

Moving out of our core competency leaves us feeling vulnerable and weak as leaders. We’ve become inured to having the right answers and confidence in our choices. 

A beginner’s mind, on the other hand, is flexible and agile as it leaves behind old assumptions and gropes for new ways to move forward. 

This is exactly the mindset we need when confronted with obstacles and adversity! We may not be able to rely upon our developed skills when facing a new barrier or challenge, but if we’ve continually and deliberately placed ourselves in situations that are beyond our core competency, we are more prepared to deal with them.

With experience and practice, we can predict our response to the unknown with greater accuracy. This is another important component of mental toughness—the ability to choose our response when confronted with the unknown rather than simply react to our circumstances.

A beginner’s mind is opening up to the possibilities of what might be. It is a non-grasping, patient, and confident understanding of what it means to live our fullest potential. It is having the mental toughness to always be humble, and always strive to reach peak performance.

How you do anything is how you do everything.

How do you motivate yourself to move out of your comfort zone and into a zone of discomfort where you can learn new skills?

© 2014 LaRaeQuy. All rights reserved.

You can follow me on Twitter, Facebook, AND LinkedIn

Get my FREE 45-Question Mental Toughness Assessment

Sign Up for my How To Build Confidence on-line training course

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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