Posts Tagged ‘empowerment’

5 Steps To Personal Empowerment

Monday, January 22nd, 2018

As a kid, personal empowerment was a foreign concept. I had no influence over any sphere of my life.

My summer job was to pull fifty-pound bales of hay on our meadow into piles so Dad could scoop them up with his loader tractor. Mom and my brother arranged bales on the haystack as dad dumped them. When I looked around, there was nothing but miles of bales lined up on the meadow for as far as I could see.

Life on a cattle ranch in Wyoming meant I worked alongside my parents to keep our cows fed and watered twelve months a year. I escaped my dreary world by day-dreaming of how I would call all the shots as an adult. All of a sudden, I found myself buried in a cloud of dust as my Grandmother put on the truck brakes and stopped beside me. She had noticed that my mind was elsewhere and I wasn’t paying much attention to my job.

My Grandmother spent the day in the hayfield as well. Her job was to set the irrigation after the hay bales had been picked up. She was a very practical person; she knew how to rebuild engines and her salad bowls all said Cool Whip on the side.

Grandmother was also the epitome of personal empowerment.  She focused on what she could control, which was her attitude, her work ethic, her willingness to hustle, and her commitment to the ranch. In doing so, she also empowered all those around her.

“Don’t monkey around,” she said to me. “You can complain all you want, but those bales of hay aren’t going to pull themselves into piles.” She left me choking in the dust when she spun the back tires getting back onto the road. I never argued with my Grandmother. Her favorite back scratcher was a toilet brush and she never hesitated using it to spank me either.

Her words reminded me that I needed to get the job done. Right now. Not later, after dreams had been explored, questions asked, and distractions dismantled into small pieces. I needed to take responsibility for the next step.

Personal empowerment is often represented as something we feel about ourselves at any given moment, as if it exists only within ourselves. That’s self-esteem. Personal empowerment, however, is something much bigger. It includes self-esteem and self-respect, but also includes our ability to have an impact on relationships and our social surroundings.

This is why my Grandmother had personal empowerment. She knew how to have conversations that led to real changes and improvements. Recent psychological research suggests that personal empowerment is an interactive process that takes action, gets feedback, makes adjustments, takes further action, and attains real results.

Unless leaders, business owners, and entrepreneurs can have discussions that lead to real improvement, they’re not very empowered at all. To have personal empowerment, they need to find ways to increase influence within their social sphere, both in business and life.

Here are 5 step to personal empowerment:


Either you control your destiny, or it will control you. Life doesn’t stop for uncertainty or fear. It marches right on. Life won’t stop for your birthday even though you might wish it did. Age and wisdom don’t always travel together; sometimes age shows up all by itself. 

While there are many things that lead to personal empowerment, one of the most effective is to have this mindset: I am willing. I am willing to live the life I want. That means I am willing to stop doing the things that don’t produce life the life I want.

I was unwilling to pile the bales of hay; it wasn’t as if I couldn’t do it. I just didn’t want to. My Grandmother’s kick in the butt jolted me back to reality. When I moved back into action, I didn’t see myself as lazy and unmotivated.

TIP: Dreaming of the future is a waste of time and is always an impediment to personal empowerment. Not because we shouldn’t have dreams, but because we need to take responsibility for what is right in front of us. There will be opportunities to think of the future, but always pay attention to what is happening in life right now.


A goal is a something that you want and are willing to achieve. This is different from a value, because a value is something we find important. Good goals are related to our values. It’s up to us to set the course of action. For example, healthy living can be a value. Our goals related to healthy living can be a change in our diet or regular exercise.

Bad values are those determined by someone or something else. No amount of goal setting will guarantee you’ll hit your mark. For example, maybe one of your values is to get rich. That goal is not within your control because you are not in control of the stock market, the competition, etc.

Instead, identify a goal that will provide you with personal empowerment. This means your goal will increase your level of influence at many levels of social interaction. For example, if you run a business and face stiff competition, your goal is to win the battle. That is, you need to find ways to maintain satisfied and loyal customers.

TIP: If you run afoul of a relative or friend, your goal is to win that battle as well. Have the awkward conversation that will help you both understand what is going on. Remember, to create personal empowerment, your goal is to have a positive impact on relationships that are meaningful and significant.


My Grandmother knew I was monkeying around in the meadow instead of doing my job. Personal empowerment happens when we take responsibility for our own life. This is what generates self-esteem. Personal empowerment can be developed, and when it is, self-respect is the result. This requires that we get serious about the pursuit of our goals.

We take action and when we do, it enables us to prove our influence over others. I don’t mean exert our influence because that is akin to manipulation. Remember that personal empowerment is an interactive process where we take action, get feedback, make adjustments, take further action, and attain real results.

Failures are OK. Just remember to fail forward. Each failure should bring you closer to understanding how the setback happened and how you can overcome it next time. Failures often impede personal empowerment at first but they should be welcomed because they contain vital information that will help us fine tune our efforts.

TIP: Answer these questions:

  • How you can measure progress toward your goal?
  • Can you identify specific things you are already doing, or have already achieved, to help you reach your goal?
  • What are the next steps needed to achieve your goal? If the steps are large, you may want to break them into small sub-steps.
  • What do you need to develop, learn, or prepare to take these steps?
  • What can you do today to move forward?


Personal empowerment is the ability to make an impact on the lives of other people. Don’t confuse it with being bossy. To have personal empowerment, you must interact with others, not boss them around. Their feedback is essential, so don’t let your ego get in the way of making tweaks and changes to your action plan.

In other words, you’ve got to care about something other than yourself. My Grandmother cared about the ranch and her family.

It’s unrealistic to believe that you will achieve personal empowerment in a few short months. What is realistic is to believe that personal empowerment is a process that might take much longer so you will need the mental toughness to persevere. Once you find yourself able to influence one sphere of your life, expect something to happen that upsets the balance and you find yourself back at square one. Only this time, you’re smarter about how to to proceed; the learning curve is shorter.

TIP: The most accurate way to assess your impact is to ask for feedback from the people with whom you work or associate. They will tell you everything you need to know about how to refine your approach and improve future efforts.


Personal empowerment will lead to self-esteem and self-respect, not vice versa. This is what Joan Didion wrote about self-respect: “To live without self-respect is lie awake some night…counting up the sins of commission and omission, the trusts betrayed, the promises more subtle, the gifts irrevocably wasted through sloth or cowardice or carelessness.”

We can be so much better than that.

TIP: Personal empowerment pushes you to be the best person you can be. Ask yourself, “What if…?” It’s a phrase full of promise and anticipation. Or ask yourself, “What’s next…?” When you are empowered from within, you ignite the hunger that knows how to roll with the punches.

© 2018 LaRae Quy. All rights reserved.

You can follow me on Twitter, Facebook, AND LinkedIn

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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.” 

Use Mental Strength To Raise Your Emotional Intelligence

Sunday, September 7th, 2014

As an FBI agent, I trained to use emotional intelligence to size up a person with just a glance. But here is a secret—you can too. You don’t need to be trained; all that is needed is for you to be observant. 
Emotional Intelligence - lots of happy facesHumans have an amazing capacity to process complex information. Our brain can 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. This helps us 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. It could be important data like medical information and financial updates. Or, trivia updates on sports and hobbies, or emotions like anger and love.

As entrepreneurs and leaders, do not forget that your emotions originate in your brain alongside your intellect and thoughts. The processing ability of your conscious mind is limited. So 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:


Our brain focuses on the “big picture” stuff in life which is great most of the time. However, 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 someone asks 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. You’ve dug down and excavated the significance of your own stories and experiences. In the process, you uncover the hidden jewels of your personality. You’re no longer a statistic put down on a piece of paper.


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 response triggers the better choices for you, you empower yourself. If you are not aware, negative responses will tend to perpetuate themselves. You”ll most likely repeat them—even though they are not productive.


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

As you get to know yourself, replace them with actions that are based on principles, values, and strengths. This is the essence of how you can empower the leader in 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.

You can follow me on Twitter

Get my FREE 45-Question Mental Toughness Assessment

You can follow me on Twitter, Facebook, AND LinkedIn

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 FBI Tricks to Create Trust with Others

Sunday, March 17th, 2013

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

In my book, Secrets of A Strong Mind, I talk about why we need to build trust with ourselves as well as others. The only time I ran into trouble in undercover cases was when I tried to be someone I wasn’t. Beneath the surface. I never lied to the targets of my undercover investigations about the important things in life.

I was authentic. A person can slap on a different name or title, but who they are as a person does not change.

How can entrepreneurs, business owners, and leaders create the 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? Do they stretch their optimism and hope business will turn around? Will they create a fabrication like Bernie Madoff? Does the CEO tell a half-truth or are do they omit 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 can deceive themselves and believe any number of things—sometimes they exaggerate their own importance or abilities to impress others. Sometimes they’re too critical of their own efforts. At other times, they 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. We empower ourselves when we’re better able to understand them.

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. The intention is to make 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. That is why undercover agents move out and overt FBI agents are brought in to take the relationship to the next step.

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

Authentic conversations are built when people are committed to grow and deepen 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:

  • Look for the good in others and they will show it to you.
  • Appreciate the worth in others so it’s easy for them to be their best.
  • Accept others and they show you their strengths.
  • Notice others and they feel like they belong and are special.
  • Need others and they will feel the good in themselves.
  • Look for the beauty in others and you will discover your own best self.
  • Bring out the best in others, you make powerful friends.
  • Find the gift of others and 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

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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.” 


6 Ways To Get Through Adversity

Sunday, March 10th, 2013

Many homesteaders sold whiskey illegally during Prohibition in the 1930’s to get through adversity and financial hardship. 

When my brother and I were kids, Dad pointed out a still used to brew whiskey on our Wyoming ranch. We were on horseback and rode past a few barrel rings and a wall of rocks. Tucked into a steep draw, it was surrounded by aspen trees and a little cow trail that led to the bottom of the canyon near our house.

At that time, my brother and I collected antique glassware as a hobby. We planned to go back to the whiskey still and look around for old bottles. It should be easy enough to find, we thought. So after school we told our parents we were going out to play and would be back in time for supper. We walked 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. 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 had begun to set in. We could not find the whiskey still but 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. The rattlesnakes had hibernated for the winter, but conditions were still adverse. It was dark, the terrain was steep and rocky. The temperature had begun to drop 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. Muster Confidence 

We were too young to rely on pep talks or motivational speeches to provide the determination we needed to get through adversity. We had climbed over 2,000 feet out of the canyon in daylight. Now we had to be confident enough in our ourselves that we could repeat our performance downhill in the darkness.

The lessons I learned to get 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. Those experiences drilled confidence in ourselves.

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. I was confident I had what it took to get through adversity facing me now.

TIP: If we perform well when faced with adversity in the past, we have the self-assurance that we can beat the odds in the future.

2. Remain Persistent

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. The trail was lost but we hopped over rocks and fallen trees to find it. We knew that as long we were headed downhill we were headed in the right direction. But 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. We can work hard, but not always smart.

TIP: To get through adversity, attack the problem from a different angle if it doesn’t work. Learn to pivot when needed. Where there is a will, there is a way.

3. Keep A Lid On Emotions

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.

TIP: It’s always important to acknowledge emotions, but to get through adversity you need to remind yourself that you have the mental toughness to manage the negative ones. 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 Responsibility

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 and achieve 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.

TIP: A self-examination includes a regular review of traits, desires, and fears. This honest assessment can lead to a reinvention of goals and beliefs.

5. Pace Yourself

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 it was important to pace myself while running obstacle courses at the FBI Academy. I was not a strong runner, and while I enthusiastically charged 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.

TIP: Read the chapter on the 20 mile march in Great by Choice by Jim Collins.

6. Create Community

My brother and I were a team and we worked together to get back down the hill. We provided moral support for one another. 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 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.

TIP: If you learn how to get through adversity, it 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.

You can follow me on Twitter, Facebook, AND LinkedIn

Get my FREE 45-Question Mental Toughness Assessment

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

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

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