Posts Tagged ‘courage’

4 Surefire Ways To Move Through Uncertainty

Saturday, January 23rd, 2016

The FBI requires all agents to qualify with their firearm at least four times a year. Part of this training is taking turns arresting fellow agents and putting them in handcuffs. As I tried to handcuff one of the senior agents on my squad, I found he didn’t have the flexibility to place the back of his hands together behind his back. Over time, he had lost a great deal of the suppleness in his shoulder muscles.

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While he took great deal of ribbing by fellow agents, I remember thinking: “If only he’d made the effort to keep limber, he would have more flexibility.”

If stretching and yoga can promote healthier bodies, we need to find similar ways to keep our mind flexible and agile for top performance. Rigid thinking cannot help us adapt when we are faced with the uncertainty of today’s workplace.

As entrepreneurs, leaders, and business owners, you are required to adapt and move through transitions at faster and faster paces. Whether it is a new assignment, a new supervisor, or a new career—success depends on finding new ways to keep our minds supple.

Mental toughness is the ability to be flexible and agile in the way we respond when faced with the uncertainties of both life and work.

Here are 4 surefire ways you can develop the mindset to move through uncertainty:

1. Overcome Uncertainty By Growing A Little Each Day

When facing uncertainty, you have two choices:

You can dread it because you are afraid of failing—you believe that failure sends a negative message about your abilities, or…

You can anticipate it because you interpret failure as an opportunity for learning and improvement.

The first choice describes a fixed mindset that does best when there is a heavy hand running the show. That way of leading may have been efficient years ago, but today’s leaders are learning that the brain power of their workforce is a terrible thing to waste.

The second choice describes a growth mindset that looks at success as hard work, learning, training, and having the grit to keep moving ahead even when faced with obstacles and roadblocks.

2. Overcome Uncertainty By Discovering What Makes You Feel Strong

As an FBI agent, one of the first things I did was surveil the target of my investigation. I analyzed and assessed their strengths, weaknesses, needs, and wants. This gave me tremendous power, because I usually came to know more about them than they knew about themselves.

Harness that same power by making yourself the target of your own investigation:

a. Discover your own patterns: What makes you smile? What are you always wanting to do or think about? What can you not help do, think, or feel? Even if someone asks you not to?

b. Keep track of how you spend the next week: What are you doing, feeling or thinking about daily? Write down everything that energizes you and makes you feel strong. It could be a particular physical activity, or a book you read, or people you meet. Alongside, write down everything that makes you feel less confident or anxious. How many of these do you encounter at work?

c. Compare the lists: How can you start doing more of the things that make you feel strong? And eliminate those that make you feel threatened?

When you find a few things you repeatedly do and love, dig deeper and see what part of that particular activity makes you feel good—and empowers you.

As you transition out of your current situation or move into a time of uncertainty, lean into those things that make you feel strong and keep a wary eye out for those things that do not empower you.

3. Overcome Uncertainty By Mixing It Up

FBI training is relentless and continuous, but this kept our minds flexible and agile so we could adapt to the unknown when confronting an arrest situation.

When a roadblock or obstacle confronts us, we often have no Plan B. Instead of moving around a roadblock in a deliberate and flexible manner, we continue to assault it using the same tactics that have already proven ineffective. Our default explanation is blaming others.

The only thing worse than getting into a rut is staying in one. Often, our patterns of thinking become rigid because we’re fixated on thinking about achieving our life’s goals in one way.

Mix up the way you think. It’s important to combine focused thought with periods of play and scattered attention because changes in your environment, attitude, and behavior influences how you think.

When you’re feeling happy or optimistic, you are more inclusive and more creative. When you are fearful, your focus narrows down to specific details.

Mental toughness is having the flexibility to make a mental shift without remaining stuck in a particular mindset.

4. Overcome Uncertainty By Summoning The Courage To Try New Things

Finding our courage is no small thing, but once we find it, it takes over everything in its path. A flood of courage is exactly what we need when faced with uncertainty.

The goal is to move fluidly between specific and abstract thought patterns so you can flex and bend with the changing circumstances of your life. Start with making small changes in your routine. Taking the stairs instead of the elevator or listening to different music can boost your mental agility.

Variety is also good. Try different foods and different methods of exercise. Call a friend and go to a place you’ve never visited. Watch your thoughts become more expansive as you break out of old patterns and develop your brain.

A flexible and agile mindset is essential if you plan to get past the roadblocks and obstacles ahead of you. Remember this: everyone can get smarter about how to overcome obstacles if they work at it.

How have you pushed through periods of uncertainty?

© 2016 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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Vulnerability —The Road To Courage And Success

Sunday, July 26th, 2015

When people meet me, they expect me to have the kind of bravado that is portrayed by FBI agents on TV and in movies—confident with no signs of weakness or vulnerability. Nothing could be further from the truth!

Vulnerability

The happiest and most successful FBI agents with whom I worked alongside had the self-awareness to know that it takes a great deal of courage to be vulnerable. To be authentic and seen for who you truly are is not for wimps.

Less courageous leaders pretend they are strong and will never break. They never acknowledge their weaknesses or vulnerabilities.

The possibility of greatness opens up when we are are truly prepared to move through our fears—in other words, allow ourselves to be vulnerable. Too often, it is much easier to settle for highly functioning mediocrity in our life rather than to risk exposure to criticism and the possibility of failure.

Humiliation is what you feel in front of others; shame is what you feel alone—LaRae Quy

According to Brene Brown, the root of shame is fear. “The questions we are living by—what are we supposed to fear, and who is to blame?—are exhausting for us spiritually, emotionally. Fear consumes an enormous amount of energy in our lives…we are spending so much time and energy being afraid that we are not fully walking into our power and our gifts.”

Our culture tells us that in order to be successful, we cannot live an ordinary life. Unless you are grabbing lots of attention and have lots of followers, you are not successful. Just look at the wildly popular “Keeping Up With The Kardashians.”

But in truth, success has become another word for narcissism. No wonder vulnerability is so scary—it has become synonymous with failure and things to be avoided.

SWAT, Navy SEALS, Special Forces, and FBI agents are trained to understand that fear is a healthy gift because courage is the product of our vulnerability, not of our strengths.

Here are 4 reasons vulnerability is the road to courage—and success:

1. Forces Self-Awareness

Who looks outside, dreams; who looks inside, awakes―Carl Jung

For those who think that self awareness is a touchy-feely approach to leadership and that emotional intelligence is a waste of time, think again. The tough guy blasting his way through obstacles is very popular in movies and books, but it’s fantasy.

In a 2010 study by Green Peak Partners and Cornell’s School of Industrial and Labor Relations, a high self-awareness score was the strongest predictor of overall success.

Emotional awareness is a requirement for mental toughness. It doesn’t take rocket science to understand that successful leaders who are aware of their weaknesses are in a better position to hire people who will compliment them and make up for those areas in which they are weak.

Assuming that is, the leader is willing to admit they have weaknesses—in other words, acknowledge their vulnerabilities.

What we do not accept about ourselves can often be the very thing that derails us, so bringing awareness to this is important for your future success.

2. Builds Resilience

Vulnerability is the combination of uncertainty, risk, and challenges. Welcome to life! To pretend you are not vulnerable would leave you in a perpetual state of denial and stress.

Resilience is our ability to withstand challenges to our established way of life—to bend without breaking. As such, vulnerability may be considered the soft underbelly of resilience. Our ability to be vulnerable stimulates the brain to find ways to adapt to our constantly changing environment.

Allowing a vulnerability to surface creates a disturbance in our environment, and our autonomic brain responses are mobilized in order to provide stability.

When the brain detects a threat to our status quo, it triggers increases in chemicals like cortisol and metabolic hormones. This is a healthy, albeit primitive, stress response that ensures our survival. The ability to adapt to stressors in our environment allows us to bounce back when we hit the unexpected.

3. Grow—Or Wither Up And Die

We are so afraid of suffering or feeling pain in any form that we would prefer to live unfulfilled lives rather than experience discomfort.

It takes courage to invite pain, suffering, and discomfort into our life. We cling to the old way of doing things because we lack certainty and fear the unknown. Instead of taking a closer look at why we feel so vulnerable, we gun our engines and stay on course.

That means you stop learning, stretching, and growing. In essence, you die, although your body may not be buried until decades later.

Innovation and creativity demand vulnerability. Every entrepreneurial undertaking is courageous and risky. Experimentation is at the heart of innovation, so instead of feeling powerless by this vulnerability, replace it with the wisdom earned from each of your experiences.

Until you realize that innovation and vulnerability are played by the same hand, you will always balk at moving past your comfort zone.

4. Reins In Your Ego

The small mind is binary—everything is either good or bad, yes or no. It looks for comparisons and judgments.

The great mind synthesizes new information and alternative points of view. To be great, you must allow yourself to be vulnerable.

The ego hates this! The ego always wants to be right. New ways of thinking, about ourselves and our situations, threatens it—and that is exactly why change is so hard for so many people.

The most successful people I know have realistic assessments of their own abilities—strengths, weaknesses, and their affect on others. They do not let their ego interfere with identifying what gaps need to be filled or admit that someone else on their team may have an idea that is even better than their own.

Vulnerability can be scary. But if you are mentally tough, you will develop the courage to be vulnerable about who you really are—because that is the only way to be truly successful.

When has your vulnerability allowed you to be more courageous and successful?

© 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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7 Reasons You Will Never Become A Mentally Strong Leader

Sunday, July 27th, 2014

A reporter once asked me whether the FBI provides textbooks for agents to study so they can become mentally strong. The answer is no; FBI agents become mentally strong by facing their situation head-on—no sugarcoating allowed.

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Mental Toughness - lightning in hand

As an FBI agent, I learned that mental strength is not something you are born with. It is something you can learn. If I learned it, so can you, but only if you’re willing to put in the discipline and effort it takes.

You will not become a mentally strong leader if you:

1. HAVEN’T A CLUE ABOUT WHAT BRINGS YOU VALUE AND MEANING IN LIFE

A mentally strong leader lives their life with purpose and meaning. They are an active participant in where their life is going. They have found a direction in life and set overarching goals for what they want to achieve.

Without goals to anchor us, we find ourselves adrift in life. We may think we know what our goals are, but if we aren’t living our life around them, then we’re not living our life on purpose.

2. REMAIN IGNORANT ABOUT YOUR BLIND SPOTS

A mentally strong leader understands that they need to frequently, and critically, analyze their performance, especially their failures. When they do, they identity those patterns of behavior that are not productive and nip them in the bud. Unfortunately, “teachable moments” are usually accompanied by feelings of frustration, disappointment, and embarrassment. 

Psychologists find that we tend to repeat the same mistake, and repeat it in endless variety. That is the definition of a blind spot

3. BELIEVE YOU WILL ALWAYS LIVE A CHARMED LIFE

A mentally strong leader accepts the fact that life evolves, and are smart enough to not be surprised when it does. It is natural to react with anger and skepticism because these emotions are trying to ensure your survival. But new situations can provide you with opportunities to learn important lessons about yourself such as your reactions, values, vulnerabilities, triggers, and how to take better care of yourself.

4. PRETEND TO KNOW EVERYTHING

A mentally strong leader has a beginner’s mind that does not need to prove or disprove anything. It has the humility to hold “what I do know” with “what I don’t know.” Holding this kind of tension leads to wisdom and not just easy answers.

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

5. AVOID CHALLENGES THAT WILL ULTIMATELY MAKE YOU GROW

A mentally strong leader has a growth mindset that looks at success as hard work, learning, training, and having the grit to keep moving ahead even when faced with obstacles and roadblocks.

A growth mindset anticipates transitions that come from uncertainty because it interprets failure as nothing more than an opportunity for learning and improvement.

6. REFUSE TO KEEP EGO IN CHECK

A mentally strong leader knows how to keep a tight rein on ego. The ego is always asking “How will this make me look? How will I benefit?” It looks for ways to prove it is right and others are wrong.

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.

7. HAVE A COWARD’S HEART

A mentally strong leader has the courage to move out of their comfort zone and into their zone of discomfort where they may feel awkward, clumsy, and alone. 

When we get into a comfort zone, we often strive to stay right there—where we 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.

“Mental toughness is believing you will prevail in your circumstances, rather than believing that your circumstances will change”—LaRae Quy

Are you ready to become a mentally strong leader?

© 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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6 Ways To Get Through Adversity

Sunday, March 10th, 2013

To get through adversity, many homesteaders sold whiskey illegally during Prohibition in the 1930’s. My Dad had pointed out a still used to brew whiskey to my brother and I when all three of us were on horseback and gathering cattle on our Wyoming ranch. All that was left of the still was a few barrel rings and a wall of rocks. It was tucked into a steep draw surrounded by aspen trees and a little cow trail leading toward the bottom of the canyon near our house.

My brother and I collected antique glassware as a hobby and planned to go back to the whiskey still and look around for old bottles. We figured we could find it again easily enough, so after school we told our parents we were going out to play and would be back in time for supper. We started walking up the canyon, and when we saw a draw that looked familiar, we started up.

Our ranch was located in the scatterings of the Snowy Mountain Range at an altitude of 7,000 feet. Summers are short in that country, and the green aspen trees that looked lush and cozy when we rode past them a few months before, were now barren and cold.

Night fell much earlier in the winter months and dusk was starting to set in. We could not find the whiskey still but we continued on until we reached the top of the draw. When we saw Laramie Peak in a distance, we knew we had climbed over 2,000 feet out of the canyon bottom.

We had climbed up the wrong draw, night was coming, and we had no flashlights. It was cold enough that rattlesnakes were hibernating, but conditions were still adverse: it was dark, the terrain was steep and rocky, and the temperature was dropping at an alarming rate.

At the ages of ten and eleven, my younger brother and I learned young to how to get through adversity.

Here are 6 ways that will help you get through adversity as well:

1. Develop Confidence To Get Through Adversity

We were too young to rely on pep talks or motivational speeches to give us the stamina to keep moving forward. If we had climbed over 2,000 feet out of the canyon in daylight, we had to be confident enough in our ourselves that we could repeat our performance downhill in the darkness.

The lessons I learned getting down the mountain stayed with me the rest of my life. In my book Secrets of A Strong Mind, I talk about the four months I spent at the FBI Academy in new agent’s training. We trained hard day in and day out, no matter the weather conditions—in snow, wind, rain, or heat. We felt confident of our abilities because of our experiences.

Performing well when facing adversity gave us the self-assurance we could beat the odds. Whenever I thought I couldn’t push myself any further, I remembered that cold night climbing back down a mountain when I was eleven years old, and I was confident I had what it took to keep moving on.

2. Use Persistence To Get Through Adversity

My brother and I were not sure how to get back home before we found ourselves in complete darkness and freezing temperatures. We decided that if we stayed with the cow trail it would ultimately lead us to our destination. We lost the trail once and hopped over rocks and fallen trees to find it. While we knew that as long we were going downhill we were headed in the right direction, the draw had many smaller ones that meandered over the sides of the canyon. Time was important and we knew the quickest way down was the way we came up. We persisted and found the cow path again.

As an FBI agent, there were many times when I needed to remember that dedication and blind persistence are two different things. There are ways to work hard and not smart. If something doesn’t work, pivot and attack the problem from a different angle. Where there is a will, there is a way.

3. Manage Emotions To Get Through Adversity

While neither my brother or I panicked, we were scared—but we never let negativity set in. We acknowledged our fears but remained confident in our ability to get home safely.

I have drawn my weapon while making an arrest. I was scared and afraid of what I would need to do if the person resisted. When I leaned into my training, I regained my confidence and managed my emotions.

It’s always important to acknowledge emotions, but the key to getting through adversity is by reminding yourself that you can manage the negative reactions. You may not be able to change the conditions but you can change the way you deal with them. It’s possible to have self-control in an out-of-control environment.

4. Accept Blame To Get Through Adversity

We had no one to blame but ourselves. This was no game we were playing and we had to have the strength to look at our adversity realistically and take responsibility for getting ourselves back home. Our parents had no idea we had headed out to find the whiskey still because we hadn’t told them.

As an FBI agent, I found that self-examination would be one of the most important ways I could become a more effective leader who achieved my goals. When I confronted obstacles and adversity, I was not afraid to question my thinking. Often, this self-examination uncovered biases or assumptions I had made that either contributed to the obstacle or stood in my way of overcoming it. A merciless review of traits, desires, and fears can lead to a reinvention of goals and beliefs.

5. Pace Yourself To Get Through Adversity

My brother and I both knew that if we stopped, we’d freeze to death before morning. On the other hand, if we depleted our resources, we’d be unable to continue.

I learned the importance of pacing myself while running obstacle courses at the FBI Academy. I was not a strong runner, and while I was enthusiastic about charging out the gate, I knew I’d need to pace myself to last the entire obstacle course.

The same logic applied to my investigations: if I depleted my resources, ran myself to exhaustion, and then needed to respond to a fast-moving break in the case, I was in serious trouble. Read the chapter on the 20 mile march in Great by Choice by Jim Collins.

6. Create Community To Get Through Adversity

My brother and I were a team and we worked together to get back down the hill. We not only provided moral support for one another, but physical as well as we jumped across waterfalls and mucked through inches of mud to follow the meandering cow path.

The personal leadership skill of camaraderie is one of the first lessons taught at the FBI Academy. For the first three weeks, new agents are not allowed to leave the Marine Corp base. Instead, we were expected to develop a supportive community that would be needed during our four months of training.

The ability to relate to others was one of the most effective skills I developed in my career as a counterintelligence agent. Everyone has the need to be heard, and the need to listen for information that can be put into action. The listener is a essential role because even very successful leaders need people who are allied to their cause.

My brother and I made is safely home that night to parents who were very worried.

Learning how you can get through adversity will help you turn underachievement into superior achievement. As long as you can stay alive, you are still in the game.

© 2013 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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Develop Courage to Keep Going and Not Give Up

Sunday, November 18th, 2012

One of my favorite cartoons growing up was Popeye because he was an ordinary guy who had the courage to do extraordinary things. He drew upon an inner strength when the chips were down and courage was needed to save the day.

Courage - above the clouds

Popeye the Sailor Man did not wake up each day and announce to the world that he was going to be a hero. Instead, he met life as each one of us does everyday—with little fanfare and few fantasies about achieving super human deeds.

It was only when he found himself up against obstacles that threatened to derail his path and journey in life did Popeye reach down, pull out a can of spinach, and summon the courage to break through the barrier in front of him. Popeye was never imprisoned in his own mind by his circumstances or appearance.

No one wants to be a coward. Courage is a valued trait, no matter our background or nationality. Many of us will go to great lengths so others will think we’re courageous. In the Popeye cartoon, reaching down into a pocket for a can of spinach is a clever metaphor—we can all reach deep into ourselves to find the courage needed to overcome the fear we feel when confronted with risk, uncertainty, and the unknown.

We develop courage from mining the our own experiences. Movies tell us that courage is extraordinary and extreme action; in truth, many acts of courage happen deep below the surface in places that only the heart knows about.

“I wanted you to see what real courage is, instead of getting the idea that courage is a man with a gun in his hand. It’s when you know you’re licked before you begin, but you begin anyway and see it through no matter what.” —Atticus Finch, To Kill A Mockingbird

Here are some ways to develop courage to help you keep going:

1. Develop Courage By Taking Responsibility

We have become a society that shirks responsibility for our actions. We point fingers, file lawsuits, and refuse to enter into meaningful discussions: I am right and you are wrong—end of discussion! It is everyone’s fault but ours.

When you avoid taking responsibility for your own actions, you are not showing courage. Courage means taking a chance. If you’re not a little bit scared everyday, you’re not learning. And when you’re not learning, you’re done.

2. Develop Courage By Making A Change

Staying where you are may not be ideal, you tell yourself, but it’s comfortable. You work an 80-hour week, have a rocky marriage, and a dead end job—wow, and you are worried that a change will wreck your life? It takes courage to ask, “Is this all there is? Is there more out there for me?”

You may be staying where you are because it’s predictable and safe. Fear can be a great catalyst for courage in your life. Do not give up, stop pretending that average is OK, admit things are not perfect, and find the courage to make a change.

3. Develop Courage By Staying The Course

For some, the courage to keep going means making a change. For others, it may take more courage not to run away from our circumstances or situation. If the road is rocky but you are on the right path, you may need to stay put. Keep your eye on the goal. It might be easier to jump ship and move in a different direction, but sometimes the greatest act of courage is to stay the course. Don’t blame everything on everyone else. Researcher Brene Brown sums up blame like this: it is a way to discharge pain and discomfort. You can run but you can’t hide. Sometimes it takes more courage to do the interior work rather than shine up the exterior.

4. Develop Courage By Not Giving Up

Life is not supposed to be easy. We are wired for struggle. It’s the reason we need to develop courage if we’re to move forward in life. Just because you’re not where you want to be today, it doesn’t mean you won’t be there someday. Courageous people do not give up. They keep moving and trying. They make mistakes but they don’t quit. Life’s barriers are not there to keep you out; they’re there to give you a chance to show how badly you want something. Have faith in yourself and develop a strong mind to break through your brick wall.

Never give up! It takes courage to keep plowing ahead when confronted with risk, uncertainty, and the unknown. Reach down and pull out of big dose of courage to break through the brick walls that life sometimes throws up when least expected.

“Bran thought about it. ‘Can a man still be brave if he’s afraid?’

‘That is the only time a man can be brave,’ his father told him.” —George R.R. Martin, A Game of Thrones

© 2012 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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3 Things You Should Be Able To Say About Your Purpose

Monday, November 5th, 2012

 

During my four months of training at the FBI Academy in Quantico, VA, I was ensconced in a culture that valued physical strength. Surrounded by athletes and former police officers, I found myself in a hostile environment that openly questioned my qualifications to become an FBI agent, even though I had scored exceptionally high on cognitive and personality tests. I was perceived as being both female and powerless.

Feeling defeated, criticized, and beaten down, I refused to let the way that others defined me at the FBI Academy change the way I defined myself. Instead of being intimidated, their criticism only fueled my determination. I developed the mental toughness to break through the barriers that stood between me and my goal of becoming an FBI agent. I knew I needed to find a way to signal to myself, and to others around me who were skeptical of my abilities, that I was leadership material.

My dream of becoming an FBI agent was threatened by my lack of ability to churn out 35 push-ups. The stage between finding a purpose that has meaning and finding a way to break through the barriers keeping me from pursuing that purpose was a tough place to be, because that is when I began to doubt myself and my future.

What makes the difference between those who persist and those who give up? I believe it’s a strong mind. If you are pursuing something that holds value and meaning for you, you will find the willpower you need to succeed.

“It takes more courage to reveal insecurities than to hide them, more strength to relate to people than to dominate them, more manhood (or womanhood) to abide by thought-out principles rather than blind reflex. Toughness is in the soul and spirit, not in muscles and an immature mind.”—Alex Karras

Most successful people have taken risks, failed more than once, and persisted in pursuing their purpose. So what strengthens a strong mind when things look their darkest? The answer is willpower.

To activate your willpower, you must be able to remind yourself WHY your goal is important to you. Meaningless tasks or a path without heart will not activate it. When you have a purpose, you will find the willpower to achieve your goals in life.

Here are three things you should be able to say about yourself as you pursue the goals that lead to your purpose in life:

1. I chose the things that truly matter

Don’t get distracted by cars, houses, and stuff. Put first things first. Where you are in life is temporary; where you will end up in life is permanent. How you get there is entirely up to you, so when things don’t go the way you expected them to go, don’t give up. The hardest and smartest way to live is by choosing what truly matters, and pursuing it with passion.

2. I believe in myself and my purpose

The most difficult phase of life is not when no one understands you; it’s when you don’t understand yourself. Start focusing on what you need to do to succeed in your current situation and then be the best at it. Do not let yourself think or feel like a victim. Do not abandon your dream and goals because your plans did not initially work out the way you wanted them to. You may have to be flexible and revise your goals a few times to better fit your circumstances.

3. I have faith I will achieve my purpose in life

Have faith that if you put out your best effort and commit yourself to this work with all your energy, you will find a way to your goal. There will always be obstacles to block your path. They are not there to stop you; they are there to challenge you. The obstacles are what make the achievement worthwhile.

When you are confronted with a barrier that prevents you from reaching your goal, you have two choices: let it stop you, or persist and find a way to use the challenge as a stepping stone on the path toward achievement and success.

Tough-minded does not mean hard-hearted. Tough-minded people know how to keep calm and remain focused on their goal. Develop a strong mind and choose to persist in the face of obstacles.

How have you developed your willpower when pursuing your purpose in life?

© 2015 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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6 Easy Ways To Face Fear

Sunday, July 29th, 2012

When I was six years old, my Grandfather bought my brother and me a black and white Shetland pony that we named Socks. I was thrilled because I now had a horse of my very own and one small enough I could reach the stirrups to get on without having to find a big rock to use as a stepladder.

 

I quickly learned that Shetland ponies in general, and Socks in particular, are strong-willed creatures who are not above using their superior strength to make life miserable for their six-year-old riders. Unfortunately for me at this time in my young life, Dad was an excellent horseman and I wanted to be just like him. He would say, “If you can’t learn to ride that pony, you’ll never get a bigger horse.”

A love/hate relationship grew between Socks and me. I’d saddle him up and get on but when I tried to ride him around the yard, he’d stubbornly refuse to move beyond the barn. My humiliation was complete because Dad saw that I couldn’t control the pony. Worse yet, I was scared of Socks because I was afraid he’d buck me off if I became more aggressive.

This must have been about the time I came to idolize John Wayne—not just because of his Western movies but because he was quoted as saying, “Courage is being scared to death, but saddling up anyway.” I knew just what he meant because it took all the courage I had to face fear and saddle Socks and wait to be humiliated—yet again.

I’ve always liked John Wayne’s definition of courage because it implies that courage is the ability to pick yourself up and move into action in spite of fear.

Courageous people are still afraid, but they face fear and don’t let it paralyze them.

Once you give in to fear, a pattern begins to develop. Each time you avoid a fear and feel relieved that you have, you reinforce the behavior so that in the future you continue to avoid the fear by giving in to it. It becomes a vicious cycle.

If you listen carefully, however, there is a tiny voice inside that is saying: you will die full of regrets for a life that might have been if you do not face fear and move beyond it.

At our deepest level, we were created to move forward with our hearts. The word courage is derived from the Latin word cor, which means heart. At the core of courage is our heart. And our heart expresses the person we are truly meant to be. Only through courage can we be empowered to move into the unknown without fear.

A strong mind is an attribute of the heart. The opposite is fear that produces confusion and lack of clarity. If your path has a heart, you know deep down that it is the right one for you. If you have taken a path without a heart and one that does not have a deep connection to your heart, it is prepared to destroy you.

I’ve seen this happen with people who pursue a career that will lead to money, fame, or power, assuming these things will bring them happiness. It doesn’t. Others settle for unfulfilling careers and relationships thinking that their life is good enough. It isn’t.  Still others chase life hoping they can catch passion. They can’t.

“Remembering that I’ll be dead soon is the most important tool I’ve ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life. Because almost everything – all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure – these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important. Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart.” Steve Jobs

If your path has no heart, you are on the wrong path. It takes a strong mind to connect your inside heart with your outside circumstances.

Courageous leaders face fear by admitting that they are on the wrong path and that changes need to be made.

Here are 5 easy steps to build up courage to face fear and follow your heart:

  1. Take out a piece of paper and write down 5 of your biggest fears.
  2. Listen to what your inner voice is telling you about how each one of these fears is affecting different areas of your life.
  3. Get in touch with your gut—what is your first reaction when you think of how your fear is impacting: career, relationships, spiritual growth, travel, family, finances, health, and education.
  4. Write down 5 activities that would help you overcome each fear.
  5. Rank the activities from high to low in terms of producing anxiety.
  6. Start with the activity that produces the lowest anxiety and work your way down the list.

If you ever feel that the next step is too big, then break it down into two smaller steps.

I did face fear, and little by little I learned how to ride Socks. My Grandfather rewarded me a few years later with a quarter horse big enough that I had to find rocks to use as a stepladder for several years to come.

How do you face your fears? How do you know when you’re following your heart? 

14 Ways To Live A Life Of Truth

Sunday, July 8th, 2012

It takes courage to look truth in the eye. One of history’s most reviled characters is Pontius Pilate, the judge at the trial of Jesus over two thousand years ago. Pilate asked a fascinating question, “What is truth?”

 

The scene on that Passover night would have been one of chaos as Pilate looked at the prisoner in front of him and felt the deep unease about what he was getting into. He was desperately seeking an answer out of the space between himself and the condemned man whose life depended upon Pilate’s decision.

The clarity of Pilate’s heart spoke over the clamor in his brain. “What is truth?”

We all live out those similar tensions in our heart as we pick up the same question and try to make sense of it. We live in the gap between reality and the illusion of ourselves that is formed by our ego. As Eckhart Tolle said, “The good news is: If you can recognize illusion as illusion, it dissolves.”

The gap between our true nature and our ego is where we struggle to live with the cold hard facts of reality. Once that tension is properly analyzed and understood, we have the groundwork for a strong mind that is empowered to move forward.

Living in the gap between fantasy and reality means coming to terms with the following:

  • Not where you should have been if you had made all the right choices in life.
  • Not where you could have been if you had taken every opportunity offered to you.
  • Not where you wish you were if you didn’t have to be in the place where you find yourself.
  • Not where you think you are because your mind is out of sync with your heart.
  • Not where other people think you are or think you ought to be when they are busy with their own agendas.

Living a life of truth is taking responsibility for your own choices in life and realizing exactly where you are. Once you do, you are empowered to move forward because there is no longer confusion or lack of clarity. When you live life with a deep sense of inner strength, you feel as if you are in touch with a source of energy far beyond your own.

When your heart is aligned with reality, the power liberates.

  • When you do something out of duty, you need to muster all of your energies to get the task done.
  • When you do something out of love, you hardly notice the demand on your energy—in fact, it seems to generate new energy.
  • The difference leads you back to your dreams and desires of your heart. When your heart is engaged, you have more energy and more power.

Leaders like you and I ask the same question as Pontius Pilate. We ask, What does truth look like for me? Where is my heart leading me to go? The only thing stopping you from pursuing what is true for you is fear; the only thing that will get you past this fear is courage. What you do with your life isn’t up to your parents, your boss, or your spouse. It’s up to you and you alone. You are the only one who can push past the illusion and embrace your own truth.

Here are 14 ways to have the courage to live the truth from your heart:

  1. Identify an opportunity that you know is worthwhile but that you’ve been afraid to pursue, and go for it anyway.
  2. Make a commitment to a specific course of action that makes facing one of your fears unavoidable.
  3. Do one thing today that scares you.
  4. Discover a path that has heart for you and find a way you can honor that path right now.
  5. List five things you’ve been procrastinating about and plan to take a little bit of action on all five this week.
  6. Identify five people who can help you achieve your dreams and goals and find ways to bring them into your life.
  7. Using details, describe something that you will make you very happy.
  8. Write down your definition of success.
  9. Make a list of causes you are passionate about and then get involved.
  10. Identify something you’ve always wanted to do but haven’t done.
  11. Keep your word.
  12. Forgive everyone, especially yourself.
  13. Move forward.
  14. Brainstorm a list of 20 new ideas on ways to improve your life.

Finding your own truth will lead to both your heart and your true nature, not the illusion that the ego represents. Fear keeps you from shattering that illusion but if you have the courage to live according to your heart, you will have answered the greatest question of all: What is your truth?

How have you shattered the illusion of ego in your life? How have you been able to distinguish between reality and ego?

© 2012 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.” 

 

4 Secrets For a Strong Mind

Tuesday, October 12th, 2010

Mental toughness is an important characteristic in our heroes. The reality is, you and I must also be strong-minded if we are to overcome the obstacles we meet every day.

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Jim Rockford was a hero who pushed the limits. He was mentally tough in order to do what he did, day after day. His exploits had a huge following in The Rockford Files, an American TV drama that followed the misadventures of an ex-con private investigator played by the late actor James Garner.

Heroes and tough guys on TV and in movies let us feel what it is like to have the mental toughness to break out of a seemingly boring existence, and enter into a much bigger world—one that is full of possibility.

Four Important Characteristics

What secret characteristics do heroes possess? They embody these elements:

  • Confidence
  • Persistence
  • Dedication
  • Control

Ok—so maybe the characteristics of a hero are not-so-secret after all. But how can you and I harness their power? How can we create the strong mind that is the trademark of those who live large in a world full of possibilities?

Confidence

When I took the physical fitness (FIT) test at the FBI Academy, I was the bottom 1% that made the top 99% feel better about themselves. I failed miserably, so my challenge became twofold: maintaining confidence in myself, while training to pass the rigid FIT test. I worked with a coach at the Academy, who taught me the secret to building confidence.

“When you improve a little each day, eventually bigger things will come. Not tomorrow, not the next day, but eventually a big gain is made. Don’t worry about short, quick improvements. Seek out the small improvements, one day at a time. And when it happens—it lasts.”

The result? I passed the FIT test and worked as an FBI agent for twenty-four years.

TIP:

Confidence is a belief in yourself and your ability to meet your goals.

Persistence

Every day at the FBI Academy involved some kind of physical activity. As a trainee, I put in extra training for the FIT test. On top of that, as a class, we boxed each other, engaged in arrest scenarios, and ran around the basketball court holding 5 lb medicine balls. I was tireddepressed, and under pressure. Yet I knew that if I gave up, I would regret it the rest of my life. So I straightened my back and dug deeper. A strong mind is not built on something slapped together on a shallow foundation. It needs solid rock.

Like a skyscraper, the higher you want to go, the deeper you must go.

TIP:

Persistence is the tendency is to see life’s obstacles as challenges to be met, rather than as threats.

Dedication

In the deepest part of me I knew that I would make the FBI my career. It was not a stepping-stone to something better that might come along. I was a disciple of my owndeep values and beliefs. I had the will to subjugate my feelings to those values. In his book, The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, Stephen Covey writes,

“If you are an effective manager of your self, your discipline comes from within.”

TIP:

Strong-minded people have a dedication that comes from a purpose in alignment with their deepest values.

Control

Push-ups were the most difficult aspect of the physical fitness test for me. After several of them failed to be counted, I began to “psyche myself out,” worrying whether I could do at all!

A strong mind shuts out feelings of fear and inadequacy, focused on reaching the goal.

TIP:

Control is having a certainty that you are able to shape your destiny and not passively accepting events as fate.

How do you approach difficult situations? What has been most helpful to you in developing a strong mind? I would love to hear your thoughts!

This article was first published on Linked2Leadership.

© 2010 LaRaeQuy. All rights reserved.

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