Posts Tagged ‘curiosity’

Why Curiosity Makes People More Successful

Monday, October 24th, 2016

Curiosity is an indicator of success, both in business and life. As an FBI agent, I found that curiosity about people was my best tool to become a successful investigator. The more I knew about the people I was investigating, the more reliable the information I acquired.

As a business owner, entrepreneur, or leader, you know that curiosity about your competition, the market, and the people surrounding you is what pulls you to the front of the pack.

Curiosity is a thirst for knowledge and the need to hunt for answers to these questions: “What is this?” and “How does it work?” It’s an exercise in mental toughness because it requires a mindset that keeps people moving forward and doing new things that starts them on the path to new discoveries.

Curiosity does not have to be a natural strength in order for you to be successful. Even if you do not see yourself as a perpetual learner, you can learn tricks from the trade by following these three tips:

1. ASK POWERFUL QUESTIONS OF OTHERS

You will always achieve better results if you have the curiosity to probe deeper into the needs of the market, clients, or team members. Make each question an open-ended one that start with “Why, How, When, or Where?” These questions invite reflection and start a discussion.

Always avoid questions that can be answered with either a “Yes” or “No.” They do not invite additional discussion and rarely yield any insight.

Tip For You:

Effective Questions To Use are:

  • Specific. Focus on the area of concern by asking specific questions, not vague ones. Notice words that are freighted with feeling or energy because they have more meaning to the person who is talking. Once you hear one of those words, follow up with an open-ended question.
  • Paced. When we’re accustomed to having all the answers, we can get uncomfortable with periods of silence. Rapid-fire questions are exhausting—for everyone. Don’t try to comment on every remark after you’ve asked a question. It is amazing what you can learn by letting people move at their own pace. The more you listen, the more informed your comments will become. Often, the real issue is not touched upon until you’ve gone several questions deep.
  • Polite. Good manners matter. Showing respect for the other person is the single most important thing you can do for them.
  • Focused. Good questions are goal-oriented. Be clear about your goals before you begin because it will be easier to frame your question. Understand why you’re asking a question before you ask it.
  • Honest. Manipulation is akin to extortion—it may get you what you want, once, but it doesn’t build long-term relationships.

Ineffective Questions To Avoid are:

  • Vague. Asking vague and useless questions make you seem unskilled and/or unprepared. And why waste the time? They tip off your audience that you have no genuine curiosity about them at all:
  • Judgmental. If you want honest answers, make certain you don’t come across as confrontational or judgmental. Let the other person feel that they’ve been heard.

2. DIVE IN

Struggles - tiger in water

In his 1994 paper, The Psychology of Curiosity, George Loewenstein found that curiosity requires some amount of initial knowledge. His research determined that we are not curious about those things we know absolutely nothing about.

This changes, however, when we start to learn even a little bit about a topic or subject; our curiosity is piqued and we want to learn more.

It turns out that the more we know, the more we want to know.

Tip For You:

Research shows that when you are curious, the limbic reward system of the brain is active. This is why it is important that teachers spark curiosity in the classroom and use curiosity as a teaching method.

3. DEMONSTRATE YOUR CURIOSITY TO OTHERS

As a team leader, you will constantly need to send the message to others that you are leading an organization more interested in asking questions than knowing all the answers. Too often, this becomes flip-flopped and the emphasis is on knowing all the answers—a sure path to stagnation.

According to a recent Harvard Business Review article, 65% of workplace employees surveyed felt unable to ask questions at work. Even more ironic, while 84% indicated that their employers encouraged curiosity, 60% said they also encountered barriers to it at work.

Tip For You:

It’s important to model curious behavior for those around you by showing a willingness to ask questions and admitting you don’t know the answer.

Collect wisdom where you find it. In your circle, have:

  • One person older than you who is where you want to be in the future
  • One peer who possesses strengths and accomplishments that you don’t
  • One person younger than you who is further along than you were at that age

Curiosity is important to every business owner, entrepreneur, and leader. If it wasn’t then new ventures would have no appeal. Asking questions and maintaining a strong sense of curiosity is also necessary to see a company or market trend for what it truly is. Remember, curiosity can wane over time so use the above tips to stay curious and maintain your competitive edge.

© 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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7 Mental Hacks To Be More Confident In Yourself

Monday, October 17th, 2016

On my first day at the FBI Academy, I didn’t feel like a superhero. In fact it wasn’t until after four grueling months of being placed in dangerous and awkward situations that I built the self-confidence necessary for my career. Boosting confidence is the primary goal of the Academy—before they send agents out with a gun and badge.

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There were days when my heart raced and my palms sweat just thinking about the new challenges that faced me. But I learned that success would not make me confident—confidence in myself and my abilities would make me successful.

On the first day, I was filled with doubt. I had never shot a gun, made an arrest or investigated a foreign spy—these challenges pushed me outside my comfort zone. It felt as though I was at the mercy of the unknown, not knowing how I would land on my feet. But I held onto my dream of becoming an agent and plodded forward.

I’d venture to guess entrepreneurs, leaders and business owners might share some of the same fears I faced at the FBI Academy: How can I pull this off? But in my 24 years in the FBI, the only four-letter word I didn’t hear was “can’t.”

To be confident in our abilities is the cornerstone of leadership. If you don’t believe in yourself, how can others believe in you? Here are seven ways FBI agents learn to boost their confidence—mental hacks you can use to be more confident in yourself, too:

1. BUILD CONFIDENCE BY PUSHING THROUGH SELF-LIMITING BELIEFS

As children we think we can conquer the world, but somewhere between childhood and adulthood, our enthusiasm and natural inclinations to dream big are squashed. Parents and teachers start imposing their own beliefs—about what we can and can’t do in life—upon us.

If the instructors at the FBI Academy were not pushing us past our self-limiting beliefs, they weren’t doing their job.

How to make it work for you:

Find your limits by exposing yourself to different situations and pushing through the uncomfortable. Once you have confidence in yourself, you’ll be amazed what you can accomplish.

2. BUILD CONFIDENCE BY NEVER CONFUSING MEMORY WITH FACTS

Adversity - give up!

Our memory does not store information exactly as it’s presented to us. Instead we extract the gist of the experience and store it in ways that makes the most sense to us. That’s why different people witnessing the same event often have different versions.

Your brain has a built-in confirmation bias. That means it stores information that is consistent with your own beliefs, values and self-image. This selective memory system helps keep the brain from getting overloaded with too much information.

So recognize that your memory does not always provide you with accurate information. For example if you have low self-esteem, your brain tends to store information that confirms your lack of confidence. That will be all you remember about a specific event.

How to make it work for you:

Revisit the facts of a memory loaded with self-limiting beliefs and try to gain a more accurate perspective on the event. Talk with others that might have a different perspective.

3. BUILD CONFIDENCE BY TALKING TO YOURSELF

This might seem crazy, but it works. Talking to yourself can make you smarter, improve your memory, help you focus and even increase athletic performance. The documentary The Human Brain claims we say between 300 to 1,000 words to ourselves per minute. The Navy SEALS and Special Forces use the power of positive self-talk as a way of getting through tough times.

For example by instructing recruits to be mentally tough and speak positively to themselves, they can learn how to override fears resulting from the limbic brain system, a primal part of the brain that helps us deal with anxiety.

How to make it work for you:

Be positive, because the way you talk to yourself influences your neurobiological response to it. When you say, I know what to do here or see things as a challenge rather than a problem, you’ve turned your response into a positive one.

4. BUILD CONFIDENCE BY THINKING POSITIVELY TO OVERCOME YOUR NEGATIVITY BIAS

Willpower - rough road ahead

Since the early days, humans learned to get lunch or be lunch. Our natural negativity bias has kept us safe from danger for thousands of years. But not every new or different thing is a threat to our survival. This negativity bias can chisel away at our confidence because we’re hardwired to pay attention to all that we’ve done wrong.

FBI agents are taught to hunt the good stuff. It can be hard at times because positive information is like Teflon and easily falls away. But negative information, like Velcro, sticks.

How to make it work for you:

  1. Come up with five positive thoughts to counter every one negative thought.
  2. Let every positive thought sit for 20 seconds before moving to the next positive thought.
  3. Acknowledge both good and bad emotions.
  4. Do not try to suppress negative ones.
  5. Label the emotions for what they truly are and move on. Do not enter into inner dialogue about the negative emotion because then it becomes more powerful.

5. BUILD CONFIDENCE BY RAISING YOUR CURIOSITY LEVELS

Curiosity is an important trait for FBI agents working investigations and anyone who wants to be confident and successful.

Curiosity is the foundation of life-long growth. If we remain curious, we remain teachable and our minds and hearts grow larger every day. We can retain our beginner’s mind by always looking forward and discovering new experiences and uncovering new information.

How to make it work for you:

Ask questions and be curious because:

  1. Your mind will be active instead of passive.
  2. It encourages you to be more observant of new ideas.
  3. New worlds and possibilities open up.
  4. Adventurous responses are created that lead you in a new direction.

6. BUILD CONFIDENCE BY OVERCOMING SELF-DOUBT

 

If you lack self-confidence, you will always feel like you’re at the mercy of other people. When you assume a victim mentality, you are no longer resilient to life’s inevitable obstacles and roadblocks.

FBI agents go where they are needed, not to where they feel most comfortable. I was assigned investigations I had no idea how to solve. But my thinking was this: Drop me into the middle of any squad or any situation, anywhere, anytime. I will not be scared because I am confident and I will succeed wherever I am.

How to make it work for you:

No one but you is stopping you from achieving what you want to accomplish. It’s time to identify the areas in which you doubt yourself and remove those barriers.

7. BUILD CONFIDENCE BY FACING YOUR FEARS

When we feel in control, we’re not afraid. If we have a level of comfort with something, it’s not scary. Those times we don’t feel in control, we don’t think clearly because our emotional brain is in the driver’s seat and takes over. This is why fear often seems random and irrational—our emotions are in control.

To increase safety, FBI agents are taught to move closer to the threat. It does no good to avoid, deny or ignore the fear.

How to make it work for you:

Harvard Medical School professor Ronald Siegel recommends this in his book, The Mindfulness Solution:

  1. Think about your worst fear.
  2. Spend time with it.
  3. Now make your fear worse by getting closer to it.
  4. Imagine the worst that could happen.
  5. Now focus on your breathing.
  6. Feel your body relax.
  7. See, you didn’t die, did you? You’re on your way to conquering your fear.

If you don’t believe in yourself, how do you expect anybody else to? Start today.

This article first appeared on Success.com

© 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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4 Ways To Overcome Failure

Sunday, April 3rd, 2016

I was a new agent and had just been given my first surveillance assignment. I sat outside the subject’s house and waited. And waited. For something—anything—to happen. Hours later, I found myself asleep. Actually, it was a supervisor who found me and blew his horn. I jolted awake but I had been caught; I was embarrassed and needed to find a way to overcome failure.

The pain of my failure was so acute that I never wanted to experience it again.

As leaders, entrepreneurs and business owners, you will need to overcome failure and setbacks; and by now, you also probably know that you can learn a lot from them.

Unfortunately, the truly useful failures that change our thoughts and behavior (as opposed to merely stupid decisions) are somewhat rare. But it is possible to treat all failure and setbacks as strategic input on how to improve performance next time.

It didn’t take long for the supervisor who found me asleep on the surveillance assignment to spread the word to my colleagues. I swallowed my pride, kept a positive attitude, found ways to get interested in my assignment, and rewrote the ending by changing the focus from what I did wrong to what I was doing right.

Here are 4 ways you can overcome failure and setbacks: 

1. PUNCTURE THE EGO AND ADMIT YOUR FAILURE

The higher up the chain of command, the harder it is to admit a mistake.

But, the best thing a leader can do is share a few personal stories with other team members of how they have overcome failure.  This is where a big dose of humility and a small ego will serve them well. Mentally tough leaders do not always have to be right.

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When you communicate this to other team members, it does several things:

  1. Assures them you won’t point the finger of blame at someone if something goes wrong
  2. Encourages others to be more open, and honest, about their performance
  3. Creates an environment of innovation and experimentation
  4. Indicates that you truly understand the consequences of creative problem solving
  5. Gives others permission to bring potential problems to leadership’s attention earlier rather than later

Too often, leadership talks about a strategy of “trial and error” but their reaction to failure undermines their message.

2. MAINTAIN THE RIGHT ATTITUDE ABOUT FAILURE

People with strong mind make their emotions obey their logic.

Mental toughness is managing your emotions, thoughts, and behavior in ways that will set you up for success. Your rational and thinking brain may understand the value of risk and failure, but your emotional, limbic brain system does not!

The only way to take control of your emotions is to focus on what you are actually learning from the experience.

As your brain learns, it adapts. What created fear, initially, is tempered by the thinking brain’s ability to see positive outcomes in the midst of a disappointment, failure, or setback. When you overcome failure, you become less afraid of it. And that is a good thing because it means you’re in control of your emotions.

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If you focus on what you’ve learned, it suppresses the negative emotional reaction.

Remember—the key to success is avoiding the same mistake next time—so fail, but learn the lesson.

3. START ASKING THE RIGHT QUESTIONS ABOUT FAILURE

Rather than having all the answers, ask more questions.

The best questions always start with, “How, when, why, and what?” These are open-ended questions that invite conversation and discussion.

Curiosity is the foundation of life-long growth. If we remain curious, we remain teachable so that our minds and hearts grow larger with each passing day. We can retain our beginner’s mind by always looking forward and discovering new experiences and uncovering new information.

Success seduces us into becoming set in our ways. “It’s working,” we say to ourselves, so we settle into comfort zones that begin to look more and more like ruts as we age.

TIP:

Curiosity is important for peak performance because it:

  1. Makes your mind active instead of passive
  2. Encourages you to be more observant of new ideas
  3. Opens up new worlds and possibilities
  4. Creates an adventurous response that leads you in a new direction

4. WRAP FAILURE UP THE RIGHT WAY

Behavioral scientists have indicated that the way in which we predict our future behavior is determined by our past memories.

If team members end a project with a sense of failure and hopelessness, their only memory of the experience will be negative. They will not move on to another project with a sense of growth.

As the leader, entrepreneur, or business owner, you have the power to create an atmosphere of trust and appreciation—whether or not the project was a failure or a success.

In the book, The Other “F” Word, the authors suggest that the best workplaces are formed on a foundation of trust, and trust is not forged when things are going great. Instead, it is formed when things are not going great because this is when team members learn who has their back.

TIP:

There is a difference between failing, and learning from your failure. Learning from failure is an active process that requires you to put as much thought into it as you do how you plan to achieve success.

It’s easy to fall into the trap of complacency when confronted with a failure or setback because it takes more effort to extract the lesson to be learned than it does to shrug, give up, and move on.

The way in which you deal with failure determines how you will achieve success—LaRae Quy

© 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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Mental Toughness Requires Emotional Intelligence

Monday, December 2nd, 2013

Leaders with mental toughness need to identify and control emotions, not only of themselves but of others as well. Mental toughness is not ignoring feelings or refusing to express them; instead, it is the emotional intelligence to perceive, use, understand, and manage them.

Vision - glasses

During a recent interview on the Iron Jen radio show, I was asked how the “touchy-feely” aspect of emotional intelligence was viewed by the FBI agents with whom I worked alongside for 24 years. I would be the first to say that the FBI is not a touchy-feely sort of organization; on the other hand, emotional intelligence is an important tool for agents required to recruit human intelligence (humint) sources and interview suspects.

Many believe that mental toughness is a leader’s ability to plow through emotions and feelings without being touched by them so they can continue to march stalwartly onward. It’s not that simple.

Awareness and curiosity about their own emotions, as well as those of others, places leaders in a stronger position to not only recognize the negative ones but to anticipate how they could spin out of control.

So how do the mentally tough use emotional intelligence?

They label their own emotions and those of others, identify what creates stress and what motivates positive behavior, and finally, listen and talk in ways that resolve conflicts rather than escalate them.

Here are essential 3 mindsets used by FBI agents to develop emotional intelligence:

1. Clued In

Among the first steps in any investigation is putting the subject under surveillance. There are many reasons for this, but one of them is to identify their patterns of behavior.  In other words, agents need to be clued in to the activities, behavior, motivation, thinking, and emotions of the subject they are investigating.

Picking apart and analyzing what makes people tick becomes a mindset. Because of this, it is something that can be practiced by anyone at anytime.

Law enforcement officers often look at people around them in restaurants and airports and attempt to figure out their stories—such as what they do for a living, their mood, what they’re thinking—based solely on observation. This simple focused-awareness drill can train a person’s mind to be clued in on what is going on with the people around them.

Getting clued in means moving your awareness level up a notch or two. Learn more about yourself, as well, by asking, “What preoccupies my thinking?” “When am I most comfortable with myself?” “What do I notice first in others?”

2. Curious

Curiosity is an important trait for geniuses, FBI agents working investigations, and anyone who wants to be emotionally intelligent. Curious people have active minds that are always asking questions and searching for answers, instead of passive ones.

A curious mindset is continually expecting and anticipating new information about events and situations. Curious people seek new insight into the behavior of others, as well as themselves.

They do not accept the world as it is without trying to dig deeper beneath the surface around them. This is why interviews and questioning is another essential investigative step for FBI agents. Using open-ended questions by starting them with these words—who, what, when, where, and how—are great ways to unlock information.

3. Disciplined

The ability to become mentally tough can be attained by anyone with the will and the discipline to do so. It’s not possible to become an expert at anything unless you are disciplined to put in both the time and the effort.

Self-discipline is not an attitude of harshness or limitations. Instead, it is an element of inner strength where you choose what you will make a priority. To become an expert, you will need to stick with it, practice, fail many times, find new approaches to attack the problem, and continue to study in your field until you find a path to success. This takes a discipline that will leave you with such deep skills that when confronted with obstacles and barriers, you will have the mental strength to do things faster, smarter, and better.

Mental toughness is many things and rather difficult to explain. It is combined with a perfectly disciplined will that refuses to give in. It’s a state of mind—you could call it character in action—Vince Lombardi

Self-awareness is a critical skill for FBI agents who continually seek out ways to overcome obstacles and adversity. Self-awareness is being in touch with emotions. It is not being tough or strong to ignore them.

Acknowledging emotions does not make you weak; instead, it is an essential element of mental toughness (click to tweet).

How have you used emotional intelligence to be a better and stronger leader?

© 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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