Posts Tagged ‘empowerment’

Use Mental Strength To Raise Your Emotional Intelligence

Sunday, September 7th, 2014

As an FBI agent, I was trained to use emotional intelligence to size up a person with just a glance. But here is a secret—you can too, because humans have an amazing capacity to process complex information.

Emotional Intelligence - lots of happy faces

Our brain has an amazing ability to bring order out of chaos and place people, words, and behavior into patterns that make sense to sense to us. Below is a paragraph that raced across the Internet a few years back:

Aoccdrnig to a rscheearch at Cmabrigde Uinervtisy, it deosn’t mttaer in waht oredr the ltteers in a wrod are, the olny iprmoetnt tihng is taht the frist and lsat ltteer be at the rghit pclae. The rset can be a toatl mses and you can sitll raed it wouthit porbelm. Tihs is bcuseae the huamn mnid deos not raed ervey lteter by istlef, but the wrod as a wlohe.

Brains have an attention filter that helps us find patterns in information so we know what to pay attention to and what we can safely ignore. In the caveman days, it helped us be alert to predators; in the information age, however, the amount of data that assaults our brain on a daily basis is staggering.

Studies suggest that we now receive five times as much information as we did in 1986. Every day the average person produces six newspapers worth of information compared with just two and a half pages 24 years ago—a 200% increase.

All of this information is competing for resources in your brain, whether it’s important data like medical information and financial updates, trivia updates on sports and hobbies, or emotions like anger and love.

As a leader, do not forget that your emotions originate in your brain alongside your intellect and thoughts. Since the processing ability of your conscious mind is limited, your brain’s attention filter plays a crucial role in seeking out emotional patterns that are important to you. This explains why it’s important for you to sharpen your emotional intelligence skills.

Here are 4 ways you can raise your emotional intelligence:

1. BEWARE OF ALWAYS LOOKING FOR THE BIG PICTURE IN LIFE

Our brain has the ability to focus on the “big picture” stuff in life which is great most of the time, but it can leave you missing important details. Emotional intelligence is being self-aware enough to excavate the significance of the small, but vitally important details of your own life.

When you’re asked about who you are, you probably provide details such date of birth, place of birth, address, employment, and social security number. Truth is, that is nothing more than a legal description. 

To answer from a place of self-awareness indicates you’ve done a lot more work—digging down and excavating the significance of your own stories and experiences to uncover the hidden jewels of your personality, and not being satisfied with statistics put down on a piece of paper.

2. MOVE ON FROM THOSE TIRESOME KNEE-JERK RESPONSES

Emotional intelligence provides us with the self-awareness to choose which responses we want to be stronger and more dominant.

As you become aware of your decisions, choices, and habits, you can identify the ones that produce the best results. Each time you act out of anger, you strengthen your mind’s anger response; the only way to stop this negative pattern of behavior is to recognize it as an emotion that does not produce the best results for you.

Similarly, if you act out of kindness you will strengthen your mind’s kindness response.

As you become more aware of which of your responses are triggering the better choices for you, you empower yourself. If you are not aware, negative responses will tend to perpetuate themselves and you’ll most likely find yourself repeating them—even though they are not productive.

3. LET GO OF THE CRAP THAT IS HOLDING YOU BACK

Let go of addictions, negative emotions, and fear-based behaviors. 

As you get to know yourself, you will learn how to replace them with actions that are based on principles, values, and strengths. This is the essence of an empowered leader with mental strength.

4. LET EMOTIONAL INTELLIGENCE EMPOWER YOU

Emotional intelligence will help you: 

  1. Live for a higher purpose – empowerment is wise and discerning.
  2. Nurture yourself and others – empowerment is compassion.
  3. Develop your skills and set an example for others – empowerment places value on people.
  4. Let go of the past and are renewed by your experiences – empowerment is forgiving and uses everything in life for growth and renewal.
  5. Observe yourself and others without judgment or expectations – empowerment is engaged with reality and the richness of the world
  6. Believe in yourself and trust in the goodness of life – empowerment is courage to deal with life under all circumstances.
  7. Celebrate your existence and share your happiness – empowerment is happy to add the richness of experience with everyone.

Emotional intelligence empowers leaders because it allows them to dig deep within themselves and lead from a place of mental strength and strong heart.

© 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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5 Spy Tricks to Create Trust with Others

Sunday, March 17th, 2013

As a counterintelligence FBI agent, people ask me how I could create trust when I lied to the targets of my undercover investigation about my identity.

In my book, Secrets of A Strong Mind, I talk about why building trust with oneself is as important as building trust with others. I only ran into trouble in undercover cases when I tried to be someone other than who I really am, beneath the surface. I never lied to the targets of my undercover investigations about the important things in life.

This is the secret: I was always authentic. A person can slap on a different name or title, but who they are as a person does not change.

To create trust was difficult when developing human intelligence sources (HUMINT)— people from the community who knew and worked with the spy I was trying to recruit. These are people I met in my true name and identity. I still could not always be as transparent as they (or I) would have liked in discussing my future plans because that information was classified.

I found these interactions to be a straddle between interrogation and conversation, never daring to cross over too far in either direction. I needed their cooperation so I tried to keep the interaction all very conversational, and yet they were meeting and doing business with a member of a hostile intelligence service. So there were times when I felt the need to dig my teeth in and—yes, interrogate.

Trust ran both ways. I trusted them not to run back to the spy and divulge every detail of my conversation with them. The spy business is not the only area where we need to create trust.

How can entrepreneurs, business owners, and leaders create trust needed for authentic conversations in an era of deceit and cynicism? It is tempting to be judgmental about what is, or is not, considered to be a lie.

The question is not whether people lie, it’s what are they lying about? Are they stretching their optimism and hoping business will turn around? Or are they creating a fabrication like Bernie Madoff? Is the CEO telling a half-truth or are they merely omitting an important piece of information?

Here are five things to keep in mind when you want to create trust with others:

1. Remember That People Deceive Themselves As Much As They Deceive Others

People are capable of deceiving themselves into believing any number of things—sometimes they exaggerate their own importance or abilities to impress others. Sometimes they’re too critical of their own efforts and don’t give themselves enough credit for their accomplishments.

We know what it feels like to fall into the snare of self-deception or self-limiting beliefs—with luck, only briefly. The incredible thing about self-deception is that not only are we telling a lie, but it’s ourselves we are lying to! We all have blind spots about our own performance and the better we’re able to understand them, the more empowered we will be.

2. Not All Deceit Is Equal

All of us have taken steps to improve ourselves in the sight of others. This is cosmetic deceit and it refers to our efforts to make ourselves look better than we are. It can be a dab of make-up to hide a blemish or the use of words to hide an imperfection in our work performance that we’d rather not broadcast to the world. I’ve used cosmetic deceit when dealing with others, such as compliments on hair, performance, or a sermon with the intention of making the other person feel better and soften the edges of an embarrassment.

I used deceit on a superficial level when working undercover counterintelligence cases. Even so, it’s impossible to create trust in an authentic manner—this is why undercover agents are “cutout” and replaced by an FBI agent utilizing their true identity. Authentic trust is impossible to build if it is based on deception or ulterior motives. You can only move to a certain point in a relationship if you did not create trust around it, so the undercover agents were moved out to bring in agents who could move the relationship to the next step.

3. Authentic Trust Is Built When There’s A Commitment To The Relationship

In the same way, authentic conversations are built when there’s a commitment to growing and deepening the relationship, not just to maintain the status quo. If the relationship is the central consideration, mutual commitments are essential to avoid concerns about manipulation or control in the conversation. A strong leader is one who can create trust in authentic relationships regardless of title or position.

4. People Assess Information Differently When They Believe It’s True

A few years ago, Joel and Ethan Coen produced a movie called Fargo. It tells the story of a kidnapping case that goes deadly wrong. The opening credits announced that the movie is based on a true story. Journalists could not find any reference to the crime depicted in the movie, and eventually the producers admitted that it was all fiction. The Coen brothers explained that they believed that if the movie were represented as a true story, it would have more credibility with the audience.

We enter into relationships with the same desire for honesty because experience has shown that honesty is the foundation upon which trust is built.

5. We Are Empowered When We Have The Courage To Create Trust

The Bible reminds us in the letter to the Ephesians that when we do good unto others, we are most fully ourselves:

  • When you look for the good in others, they will show it to you.
  • When you appreciate the worth in others, it’s easy for them to be their best.
  • When you accept others, they show you their strengths.
  • When you notice others, they feel like they belong and are special.
  • When you need others, they feel the good in themselves.
  • When you look for the beauty in others, you will discover your own best self.
  • When you bring out the best in others, you make powerful friends.
  • When you find the gift of others, you find reasons to believe in yourself.

How do you create trust with others? 

© 2013 LaRaeQuy. All rights reserved.

You can follow me on Twitter, Facebook, AND LinkedIn

Get my FREE 45-Question Mental Toughness Assessment

Author of “Mental Toughness for Women Leaders: 52 Tips To Recognize and Utilize Your Greatest Strengths” and “Secrets of a Strong Mind.” 

 

 

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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5 Ways You Can Become Authentic

Sunday, November 11th, 2012

Leaders become authentic when they know who they are and what they believe. They remain true to themselves, regardless of the situation. 

 

Authenticity is more than self-awareness; it is the ability to share the deepest and truest part of ourselves with others.

Ironically, I found authenticity to be most important component while working as an undercover FBI agent. As you may guess, undercover work was about misrepresenting who I was to the targets of my investigation. I lied about my name, job, and address. I told them I was an expert in something I wasn’t and had a bogus set of credentials to back me up.

Even if the targets were suspicious of my weak background experience and limited professional expertise, I found the most convincing way to persuade them was to be honest about who I was as a person and share the deepest and truest part of myself.

To be a successful undercover agent, I needed to become authentic because it attracted people to me. The only time I really ran into trouble was when I didn’t take the time to be authentic.

Being honest with others is not dependent upon the situation because an authentic person knows who they are in any given moment. They don’t flit from one belief system to another because of a fad, pressure from others, or circumstances.

 

The journey toward authenticity is twofold: 1) discovering our personal values and beliefs, and 2) exhibiting behavior that is consistent with those same values and beliefs. We can become authentic if we are committed to be being true to ourselves—regardless of the situation we are in or the people around us—so we can be real and genuine.

Let’s take a look at five ways you can become authentic:

1. Become Authentic By Discovering Your Strengths

Look inside of yourself and identify your strongest threads. Reinforce them with practice and learning. Carve out a role that draws upon your strengths everyday. Recognize that your greatest room for growth is in the areas of your greatest strengths.

2. Become Authentic By Managing Your Weaknesses

Spend time in identifying your weaknesses. Do not ignore them. Acknowledge that you cannot be talented in all areas. Find ways to manage your weaknesses so you can free up your time to hone your strengths.

3. Become Authentic By Identifying Your Values

Rank the following values in order of importance: integrity, patience, honesty, gratitude, humility, forgiveness, compassion, perseverance, spirituality, joy, and discipline. Expand the list by adding other personal values that are important to you. Explain the importance of each value to your life.

4. Become Authentic By Living Your Values

Commit yourself to living your values. Stay the course regardless of obstacles. Find ways to go over, under, or through the obstacles. Do not go around them—instead, overcome them. Remember that your behavior reflects your values.

5. Become Authentic By Building Relationships

Create genuine relationships by being authentic. Authenticity builds trust and makes us more compelling and attractive leaders. Be prepared for the adversaries that will be created because you’ve remained true to your values and beliefs. Remember that leadership is not about being popular.

In essence, you become authentic when you know what you believe and why you believe it. If you do, your world won’t fall apart when the unexpected shows up.

© 2012 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.” 

 

 

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.

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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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The One Question That Will Lead To Self-Awareness

Monday, October 29th, 2012

A friend of mine is going through a time of uncertainty right now. She has sent her teenage son to a semester at a wilderness training camp in Montana in an attempt to teach him self-awareness, values and discipline.

She came to the conclusion that this was the best, perhaps only, course of action after a series of truancy incidents at school, slipping grades, and warning by the local police department that her son was observed in the company of drug dealers with long arrest records.

Worse, his attitude towards family and friends had changed. No longer the friendly outgoing kid, he had morphed into a somber and isolated young man who never shared his thoughts or articulated plans for his future.

She asked herself, “Why is this happening to me?” As a single parent, she had tried to be responsible, loving, and caring.

Desperate for perspective, she turned to the ancient book of the Bible. In Exodus 15, the Bible tells the story of the wilderness experience of the Jewish people. They were led by a man called Moses to escape slavery in Egypt, and began their journey to freedom through the wilderness. It started out as a short journey, but it dragged on for forty years.

In the Bible story, the Jewish people exhibited behavior that was akin to the behavior exhibited by my friend’s son. They were ungrateful, critical, hurtful, and full of spite toward Moses and God, even though they had been delivered from years of slavery in Egypt.

Readers of the biblical incident often find themselves critical of the people in the wilderness—they resembled spoiled children! The writer of this account wants his audience to criticize them because it’s like walking into a room and noticing a huge, ugly painting on the wall. Up close, however, the ugly painting turns out to be a mirror. The writer uses the wilderness experience as a way of illustrating that it takes time for us to focus on how to make things go right instead of complaining about why they went wrong.

My friend realized she had been asking the wrong question all along. Instead of asking, “Why is this happening to me?” she was able to ask the one question that could change her life:

“How can this make me a better person?”

Where she was going was not as important as the self-awareness of who she was becoming. Her focus changed, and instead of dwelling on the negative, she looked for the positive in her situation.

Most people criticized my friend for her decision to send her son to wilderness training. “What about therapy?” they asked. “Try changing schools.” “You are treating him like a criminal.” At first, the vitriol behind the comments was hard to accept, but she recalled the image of the ugly painting that turned into a mirror. This insight gave her the mental toughness to march ahead despite the criticism. She used the right question to evaluate and enlarge her understanding of her environment.

Like my friend, the answers we get are often determined by the questions we ask. If we ask bad questions, we will get bad answers. If we ask empowering questions, we will get better answers because they will help us develop the self-awareness to understand how to react in positive ways to different situations that we will face in business and life.

If you are going through a difficult, uncertain time, here are better questions you can ask yourself to create more self-awareness:

1. CHANGE OF FOCUS QUESTIONS LEAD TO SELF-AWARENESS:

  1. What is something new that I observed today?
  2. What is something new that that I experienced this week?
  3. What would I like to accomplish in the next 12 months?
  4. What do I need to do today to make that happen?

2. CHANGE OF ATTITUDE QUESTIONS LEAD TO SELF-AWARENESS:

  1. Who is the happiest person I know?
  2. Who are the people I like and respect the most? Why?
  3. What are three new things I am thankful for each day?
  4. Can I describe one positive experience I’ve had each day?

3. CHANGE OF DIRECTION QUESTIONS LEAD TO SELF-AWARENESS:

  1. What do I truly love?
  2. What am I good at?
  3. What brings me satisfaction?
  4. What was the road I did not take in life?
  5. Is that road still beckoning me?
  6. What would that road look like today if I did take it?

Where you are going is not as important as who you are becoming.

Asking yourself the right questions to develop self-awareness can empower you to change the direction of your life.

© 2012 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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10 Lessons I learned About Failure

Sunday, September 30th, 2012

 

About halfway through the FBI Academy I learned that climbing a twenty-foot rope was a physical requirement for new agents. The problem was everyone else in my class could do it—except me.

People who are physically strong are born knowing how to bend their bodies to perform unnatural acts while others, like me, find anything more than hunching over a book an unnatural contortion.

Day after day, time and time again, I’d get about one third of the way up and just couldn’t pull myself up any further. I was fatigued, and at some point, avoiding rope burn became as much of a goal as climbing because I needed to get down safely.

It was humiliating to know that I needed to prepare for failure on each climb as well as prepare for eventual success. But this was the thing: over time I realized that the same skills I needed to prepare for failure would also be needed if I succeeded because I still had to get back down the rope.

Trust me when I say that retreating day after day was harder than moving ahead. I needed to think long term as well as short term. On one occasion I thought I might make it to the top if I really pushed, but how would I get down—with dignity and without injury?

The difference between successful people and those who are not is not a matter of how often they fail. Instead, it is a matter of how many times they try. Successful people fail just as often, perhaps more so because they keep picking themselves up again and again. They keep trying new things until at last they find something that works. They push past the negative attitudes and depression that comes with failure.

Samuel Becket asked a brilliant question: “How can we fail better?”

Why are some people more resilient? Why is it that the same set of circumstances that drives one person deeper into the mud makes another stronger? Failure is one of life’s most common traumas, yet people’s responses to it vary widely. Some bounce back after a brief period of malaise; other continue to descent into depression and a fear of the future.

Thomas Edison threw himself into his work. While he was trying to invent the light bulb, he failed over 10,000 times. He worked long hours but his persistence and resilience led to the creation of the incandescent light bulb. Edison did not look at these 10,000 attempts as failures; rather, he saw them as 10,000 lesson about how not to make a light bulb.

Overcoming failure is as much about being motivated as it is about having the right talent. It is important to focus on the right things. I eventually did climb the rope and get back down without burn marks on my hands by getting out every day and believing that I would attain my goal.

Here are 10 lessons I learned about failure:

1. Start

Success meant climbing the rope. So I kept at it. Athletes get psyched up before games and competition because this is where the real battle lines are drawn—in the mind. I knew if I began to doubt whether or not I’d ever be able to climb the rope, I wouldn’t. I needed to keep my mind strong by optimism and positive thinking. Stop thinking about how hard the task is going to be or how long it will take you. Just start. Not starting is failure.

2. Stay Positive

This means finding and using a positive attitude about the task or goal. Positive thinking can be powerful. You have the choice to replace negative attitudes with positive ones. Your thinking will help you consider your goal not just a possibility, but a probability. Remember that everyone who has achieved greatness has had to overcome obstacles. Think back to some of the barriers that you have overcome in your life. Use positive language with yourself and speak in phrases like “I want,” “I will,” and “I like.” See what effect it has and persist in positive thinking until you feel better about what you need to accomplish to move forward.

3. Celebrate Each Success

Your current successes need to be celebrated; your past ones need to be remembered. They can be a powerful motivator when faced with failure in the future.

4. Choose The Right Friends

When we hit roadblocks and obstacles, it’s important that we have a tribe of people around us who will support and encourage us. Ask yourself whether spending time with this person will lift you up or drag you down? Will spending time with this person help you to become your best self? Will you be happier after spending time with this person? Will this person help you achieve your most important goals? If not, find friends who will.

5. Find A Friendly Competitor

Find a co-worker or friend with similar goals. Make sure the person is someone who will bring out the competitive spirit in you. If possible, find someone in whom you can also confide your goals. Hold each other accountable.

6. Visualize

Imagine how events will unfold. See yourself winning or achieving your goal. Hear yourself being positive about the challenge before you. Form a clear mental picture and do it several times a day. It’s an effective way to get you into a positive frame of mind. You might also find images that represent your goal and use them as screen savers, wallpaper, or post them somewhere you’ll see them regularly.

7. Learn From Past Experiences

Look at your past performances and mistakes as part of the growth process. Just because an endeavor has not ended as well as you had hoped it would, it doesn’t mean you can’t learn from them. Defeat is only a temporary condition; giving up is what makes it permanent. Keep moving forward. “I’ve missed more than 9000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. 26 times I’ve been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.” Michael Jordan.

8. Breakdown Goals

Set goals that inspire you, even if they seem slightly out of reach. If you set goals that are too easy to attain, you’ll never reach your full potential. It will be more productive if you break down your goals into realistic tasks that you can track. Use the strategy of small steps and take small bites at a time. Break down the larger task into mini goals. It’s easier to achieve the next step.

9. Talk It Up

Tell people what you’re doing to keep the conversation around you animated and supportive. Tell them you’re going to achieve your goal by a deadline. It will help hold you accountable to your timeframe. Keep talking about it and give friends and family frequent updates. No one wants to be embarrassed because they don’t have the willpower to achieve goals they’ve announced to the world.

10. Focus

Spend a little time every day working on your goal. It will make it easier if the goal is a desire of your heart and not just another task. Take time to focus on something you really want to do. Break up your routine tasks with something that is meaningful to you.

The real battle between success and failure is played in the mind. Whether you are defeated by your failures or overcome obstacles in your way depends upon a strong mind. Thomas Edison believed the human mind was capable of anything. Maintaining this positive attitude is essential if you are to succeed in life.

Read my book, Secrets of A Strong Mind, for more ways to overcome obstacles and defeat failures.

 

© 2012 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.” 

How to Live A Life of Adventure

Saturday, September 8th, 2012

We lived on a cattle ranch in the rugged mountains of Wyoming when I was a child. Every day after school my brother and I would gather up our stick guns and grandmother’s rusty old traps and set off on an adventure and explore the world around us.

In my mind, I was Daniel Boone on a daring adventure because the ranch house was surrounded by thousands of acres of rocks, rattle snakes, mountains, rivers, and wildlife—for a kid with an imagination, it was Candyland on steroids.

My brother and I went to a small school with only two students—it was just he and I. We played all year long as we let the sun heat up our backs and the cold winters nip at our heels. When I recall my childhood stories, I tell people about riding over a rattle snake on my bicycle, getting bucked off my horse and landing in a barbed wire fence, getting lost in the mountains trying to find a great-uncle’s moonshine still, and watching a mountain lion attack an old horse on the east meadow.

Perhaps these things were not safe by today’s standards, but for me they held the pulse of life—my childhood was not boring and this was one of the greatest gifts God could have given me—an appreciation for adventure. I still hear the call to adventure through an inner voice, beckoning me to something that moves me beyond the ordinary—and yes, beyond what is safe, sometimes.

You, too, have the ability to hear your inner voice calling you to explore new frontiers of your life if you will listen for it. The sound will be different for everyone but that is what makes us wonderful and unique.

“Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?” Mary Oliver

The call to explore your own life is the day in which you decide to take leadership of it. A strong mind needs no apologies or excuses. You empower yourself, so there is no one to lean on, rely on, or blame. Life is an amazing journey—and you alone are responsible for the quality of it. It is not an obligation; it is an adventure.

What will you do with your newly developed sense of adventure? It means you can lead a more fulfilled and meaningful life, one that is closer to your true nature so you will be leading with a strong mind and your natural strengths. It means you will have the mental toughness to live with more intention than ever before, because instead of reacting to events around you, you will be creating the events around you.

A life of adventure is devoted to something bigger, better, and bolder than yourself. It is steeped in a curiosity about self and others that inspires, energizes, and pulls you forward. As an explorer, you utilize to your unique talents and look back on a life of significance rather than regret.

Never ask, “Can I do this?” Instead ask, “How can I do this?”

Once you have awoken the potential inside, you will have no alternative but to follow your heart and take the path that reveals itself to you. It will continue to be a journey because you will always be living on the frontier—no tame suburban existence for you!

Here are 14 ways to live life as an adventure:

  1. Start a project in which you have no skill.
  2. Set a goal where there is a chance you will fail—and learn to fail gracefully.
  3. Join a new philanthropic group in your community.
  4. Read a book on a topic you know nothing about.
  5. Travel to one new place this year.
  6. Start a conversation with a total stranger.
  7. Invite someone who has never been to your house over for dinner.
  8. Make a request of someone who has rejected you.
  9. Make 5 new friends this year.
  10. Learn martial arts.
  11. Prepare a gourmet meal.
  12. Read an inspirational poem.
  13. Do something spiritual.
  14. Do something spontaneous this week.

“Life is either a daring adventure or nothing at all.” Helen Keller

To live a life of adventure takes courage because you will be moving from the safety and predictability of the known into the volatile and changeable landscape of the unknown. It is the responsibility of the explorer to find a way. As you empower the leader within, you will find that nothing is impossible.

How have you made your life an adventure? 

© 2012 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.” 

 52 Tips cover smallSSM book-cover

How To Pick Friends Wisely

Sunday, August 19th, 2012

I grew up on a large cattle ranch in a remote part of Wyoming so I didn’t know how to pick friends wisely. We were hours away from the nearest small town so I went to a little country school with one other pupil—my brother. 

During my grade school years, I didn’t have friends as I didn’t count my brother as one. Instead, we took turns taunting each other at recess.

It was a lonely existence. When I started to attend a public school at the age of fourteen, I quickly learned that friendship building is an art, and one that can be quite messy at times.

Back then, I wasn’t picky about friends.  I just thought the more, the better. Friends meant I was popular, and when you’re a kid who is different from everyone else, that matters a great deal.

At first I thought that once I grew older, friendships would be more sincere and less superficial. I also used to believe in Santa Claus, so call me gullible. As I’ve gotten older, however, I’ve realized that I deserved better than friends who either would not or could not help me become my best self.

Plato once said, “People are like dirt. They can either nourish you and help you grow as a person or they can stunt your growth and make you wilt and die.”

If we are not nourished, our souls will choke and wither away. Jesus warned against putting down roots in poor soil. We grow where we are planted, and rich soil is likened to a noble and good heart. We are empowered to move forward with confidence as leaders.

Learn how to pick friends wisely—they create the environment in which you will either thrive or wilt. Give everyone the opportunity to be a friend, but share your dreams and goals only with those who value them as much as you do.

Here are 5 ways:

1. How To Pick Friends Wisely—Change Whom You Hang Around With

You have different friends for different parts of your life. If you have moved into a phase of life where you’re determined to set your own course, find people who can help you visualize what that future can look like. Like it or not, you become similar to the friends you hang out with. Your associations have a lot to do with where you’re at in every area of your life. Your friends are going to influence your behavior, so why not pick ones who will be a positive influence?

2. How To Pick Friends Wisely—Establish A Benchmark

Ask yourself whether spending time with this person will lift you up or drag you down? Will spending time with this person help you to become your best self? Will you be happier after spending time with this person? Will this person help you achieve your most important goals? If not, find friends who will.

3. How To Pick Friends Wisely—Find People To Help You Achieve Your Dreams

Make a list of five people whom you trust to listen to you attentively and tell them about your dreams and goals. Sharing details of our life creates trust, and if you don’t feel you can trust a person with the most vulnerable part of yourself—your dream—find someone else for a friend.

4. How To Pick Friends Wisely—Create An Advisory Board

Identify a group of friends who can help nourish the best in you. Meet with them regularly. Advisory Boards are made up of people who will lift you up, challenge, inspire, and hold you accountable.

5. How To Pick Friends Wisely—Find A Mentor

Have you ever talked with someone who thought you could accomplish more than you thought you could? Who gave you permission to follow your dreams? Who saw more in you than you saw in yourself? This is exactly the kind of person who would make a great mentor and encourage you to move toward your goals.

One of the best moves you can make in life is to surround yourself with friends who see the potential in you that you may not even see in yourself.

What criteria do you have for finding good friends who help you be your best self?

© 2012 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.” 

 

6 Simple Reasons For Journaling

Sunday, August 5th, 2012

I have kept a journal since my college days. Journaling can be an extremely powerful activity—and I would recommend it as a daily pursuit.

 

Hand in suit holds pen, writing on lined paper in spiral bound notebook – could be business or student

Journaling Taps Into Your Subconscious And Your Inner Wisdom

This is where you will find your authentic voice—the one who knows who you really are, what you want, and how to get there. This is how you will develop a strong mind that can continue to lead in changing and volatile environments.

Journaling Peels Back Layers Of Your Personality

This can be a scary process for some because, in the process, it will expose your vulnerabilities. Self-awareness, however, is a powerful component of mental toughness. The better you know yourself, the better you can predict your response to the unknown.

Journaling Forces You To Slow Down

This will help you become more grounded

We get so busy with life that we can no longer hear that inner voice. We often have the answers to the questions we ask but we don’t slow down enough for that voice to be heard. This is why different forms of meditation are so popular; our breathing slows, shoulders relax, and our head begins to clear.

Journaling Is A Form Of Meditation

It forces us to be present in the moment, getting in touch with that part of ourselves that is wise and authentic. We let go of everything else in our life and just BE.

I have found that target practice with my gun is also a form of meditation. It is a discipline of the mind because it requires the shooter to be present and to let go of errant thoughts and distractions. Both journaling and target practice require a single focus of thought.

Journaling Guides Us toward A More Positive Attitude 

Begin each session with this single sentence: “What am I grateful for today?” It’s amazing what happens when you direct your thoughts in a positive way. Asking specific questions as you write can also help you get clarity about what you want and help you set or keep your eye on your goals. Writing out thoughts can help give you direction during a major life transition when you need to sort out your feelings and thoughts.

Journaling Helps Us Connect With Our Heart

I tend to think my way through an issue rather than feel my way through. Over the years, I’ve come to trust my mind over my heart. I firmly believe that the only way to be a more authentic person is to pay attention to the inner voice that is strongly connected to heart, mind, and gut instinct. One should not be dominant over the other and neither should one be shoved into a place of less importance.

I have specific requirements for my journal. I buy flat bound notebooks that are thin so my hand rests well when writing. I don’t like ringed notebooks that impede handwriting across either page. I do not use computer journals because the act of writing helps me to disentangle my thoughts. I allow myself to wrestle through issues, process events, and interpret conversations. This helps me to understand the context in which these things are happening in my life. Life happens so quickly that, unless I journal, I don’t take the time to stop and reflect on where I’m heading.

My Journal Rules

I want to make sure the journaling process was as easy as possible, so I have no excuses. These are some of my rules that have worked very well for me:

  1. Set aside time. I keep my notebook where I have coffee in the morning. Since I’m a morning person, it’s logical that I write in my journal when my mind is rearing to go. There is no better way to start the morning than with a cup of strong black coffee and a fresh page in a journal. It becomes part of the morning routine, before email or the newspaper.
  2. Create a sacred space. It’s essential for me to create a space in which I can write, and think, in private—without distractions of dogs or people. If you have the space, it could be an entire room. For me, it’s a chair in my family room, and if my miniature Labradoodle, Gus, joins me, he knows to curl up on the other chair. I have friends who journal in their car while waiting to pick up their kids from school. A park bench would be perfect, or a coffee shop—anywhere you feel you can be alone with your thoughts.
  3. Eliminate distractions. Except for my Labradoodle puppy, I am alone when I journal. If I have the time, I spend a few minutes reading scripture before journaling. Even Gus is a blessing in this time of reflection if he jumps up on my lap. At first I’m angry he disturbs my quiet time. And then, he leans into me and looks up at me with adoring eyes. He doesn’t need to do anything except communicate to me that he loves me, and I realize that is how God wants us to show up. Gus doesn’t do anything to earn my love; he simply shows up, trustingly lays his head on my chest, and slips into a restful sleep. I am overwhelmed by how simple a good and fulfilled life can be.
  4. Start slowly. Journaling is not the place to solve the world’s problems, though it’s a great place to starting solving your own. Sentences do not have to be complete. In fact, bullet points are an excellent way to get started. You will be amazed at how much your life will improve by simply spending a few minutes a day the things that you are grateful for.
  5. Focus. One of the most important aspects of journaling is that is a tool that helps me recognize whether I’ve focused on the important stuff during the day, or whether I’ve wasted it on worrying about the stupid stuff that withers like dried grass and blows away.
  6. Get out of your own way. Don’t be the elephant in the room. Don’t be the one thing that is never discussed but cannot be avoided. Let your words flow onto the page without passing judgment on yourself or others. Don’t worry about censoring your thoughts and concerns. Remember that this journal is just for you—no one else will see it. Feel safe in putting the real you out there on paper. If you’re worried that your deep, dark secrets will be discovered, destroy your journal later on.

Life is a journey—perhaps the longest journey most of us will ever make. Journaling is a companion in that journey to help you toward personal growth, self-awareness, and empowerment. The best journeys are the one in which you find yourself.

How has journaling helped you on your life’s journey? What is the most important lesson you’ve learned from journaling? What suggestions can you offer to those who are interested in journaling?

© 2012 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.”