Posts Tagged ‘entrepreneur’

5 Effective FBI Tips To Boost Your Willpower

Monday, January 9th, 2017

Willpower is that thing that pushes you to the next level despite obstacles and setbacks. It’s the grit that keeps FBI agents on a case when there is no easy answer in sight. Sometimes, in order to find a kidnapping victim or arrest a terrorist, agents need to rely not on their skills and training, but on their sheer will and determination to cross the finish line.

Willpower is the force of will that drives entrepreneurs and business owners to overcome seemingly impossible circumstances. It drives change and creates opportunity.

Many people could improve their lives if only they had more of that mysterious thing called willpower but most of us do not believe we have enough of it. In the American Psychological Association’s annual survey on stress, people cited lack of willpower as the #1 barrier to following through with changes that would improve their lives.

Willpower is something that can be learned and can be strengthened with practice. It’s also a vital component of mental toughness.

Let’s take a look at 5 effective FBI tips on how to boost your willpower:

1) TACKLE TOUGH TASKS EARLY IN THE MORNING

FBI arrests occur bright and early in the morning—when agents’ their willpower is strongest and they are able to land on their feet when confronted with the unexpected.

If you start your day reading emails and scheduling meetings, you are making a big mistake. Research shows that between 2 and 4 hours after waking your brain is at its sharpest. Don’t waste that precious energy first thing in the morning on a conference call or staff meeting.

There is a reason things usually go bad in the evening, when you’re tired and easily distracted.

TIP: It’s hard to do real work at work. Most workplaces are an endless stream of interruptions. If possible, get to work before the crowd or work from home during those first productive hours in the morning.

2) KEEP THE JUICES FLOWING

The agents with whom I worked alongside for 24 years were motivated because they had jobs that provided them with value and meaning. They were committed to upholding the federal laws of the United States and bringing criminals to justice.

To activate your willpower, you must be able to remind yourself why it’s important for you to do something. Meaningless tasks will not activate your willpower. When you keep the juices flowing you are reminded that you have a purpose and are committed to your goal.

Successful entrepreneurs and business owners are passionate enough to take on the world and are able to do so because they know willpower drives innovation and success.

TIP: Monitor your behavior toward your goal by using your willpower to prepare for the roadblocks and bumps that are undoubtedly ahead of you. If your job provides you with value and meaning, you will be motivated to do whatever it takes to reach your goal and make a positive difference over the long haul.

3) FOCUS THE RIGHT WAY

FBI agents do not focus on what they are up against; they focus on their goal of solving a case and ignore the rest. That doesn’t mean they don’t pay attention to valuable information that comes their way, but they do not lose focus on what is truly important.

Entrepreneurs and business owners need to do the same thing. Otherwise, you’ll find yourself on a merry-go-round of constant worry. You will never get anywhere if your mind is always focused on the difficulties ahead.

TIP: It’s easier to regain the feeling of control if you break down your big projects into little chunks and put all of your mental energy into completing them. Always keep the big picture and ultimate goal in mind, but dedicate yourself to the little victories that will take you further down the line.

4) SIMPLIFY WHEN YOU CAN

Every night I laid out what I was going to wear to the office the next day. I always wore a suit with flats. It was easy, predictable, and I didn’t have to worry about how I would chase a suspect down the street in a pair of ridiculous heels.

President Obama wears only gray or blue suits to pare down his number of decisions. In an interview with Vanity Fair he said, “I don’t want to make decisions about what I’m eating or wearing because I have too many other decisions to make.”

We have a finite amount of mental energy and the more choices we make during the day, the harder each one is on our brain. We start to look for shortcuts, we get impulsive, and then we get reckless.

Successful people tap into their willpower reserves by limiting the number of decisions they have to make during the day.

TIP: Focus your decision-making energy by creating routines around those activities that are performed every day. Don’t go through your day being distracted by trivia.

5) BUILD A BIGGER BRAIN

FBI agents are not the only ones who resort to running and other forms of exercise to clear their mind so it can focus on important matters. Training our mind to focus clearly strengthens our willpower.

According to Kelly McGonigal, your brain actually has a willpower center, a clump of cerebral cells called the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex. Neuroscientists have discovered that you can make your willpower center denser and better connected by meditating. After 11 hours of meditation, MRI scans show that meditators have increased neural connections and gray matter in brain regions responsible for impulse control.

TIP: Spend five minutes a day meditating. Focus on your breath and when your mind wanders, bring it back to the breath. Being “bad” at meditation—constantly needing to push away intrusive thoughts—is exactly what trains the brain and strengthens willpower.

© 2017 LaRae Quy. 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.” 

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.

You can follow me on Twitter, Facebook, AND LinkedIn

Get my FREE 45-Question Mental Toughness Assessment

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

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7 Things Successful Entrepreneurs Never Do

Monday, October 3rd, 2016

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

entrepreneur-getty

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

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

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

Here are 7 things successful entrepreneurs never do:

1. SUCCESSFUL ENTREPRENEURS NEVER GIVE UP

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

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

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

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

2. SUCCESSFUL ENTREPRENEURS NEVER STOP FLIRTING WITH FAILURE

grit-training

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

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

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

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

3. SUCCESSFUL ENTREPRENEURS NEVER BACK AWAY FROM CHALLENGES

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

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

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

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

4. SUCCESSFUL ENTREPRENEURS NEVER SPIN THEIR WHEELS IN A RUT

Struggles - tiger in water

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

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

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

5. SUCCESSFUL ENTREPRENEURS NEVER LEAVE THEIR “WHY” BEHIND

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

7. SUCCESSFUL ENTREPRENEURS NEVER CONSIDER THEMSELVES A VICTIM

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

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

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

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

© 2016 LaRaeQuy. All rights reserved.

You can follow me on Twitter

Get my FREE 45-Question Mental Toughness Assessment

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

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5 Evidence-Based Tips To Develop Stronger Minds

Monday, September 5th, 2016

Growing up on a cattle ranch in Wyoming, I learned to survive by being scrappy enough to make-do and hungry enough to keep moving. Department stores were big buildings in places 100 miles away, and if a rattle snake came between me and where I wanted to go, guess who came out on top?

Willpower - Getty image

As a kid I learned a lot about mental toughness. When I joined the FBI, I learned even more. My defensive tactics and firearms training drilled one thing into me: never choke when faced with an obstacle that looks bigger, meaner, or uglier than you.

In other words, always be game-ready so you can have the mental toughness to rebound from disappointments and missed opportunities. Our coaches trained us to have a hardiness for enduring the downside of a situation.

Entrepreneurs, leaders, and business owners have tough situations to face in today’s competitive environment. They need to be game-ready meet those challenges with their best mental game.

Here are 5 evidence-based tips on how to develop strong minds:

DEVELOP STRONGER MINDS #1 Set A Super Clear Goal

Research confirms that the more specific your goal, the better you will perform. General goals are too vague so take the time at the very beginning to think it through so it will become more clear to you.

The goal must be real and important for you to achieve. Do not speculate—that will do nothing but waste your time and valuable energy.

TIPS:

  • Define your need and really mean it.
  • Describe in detail exactly what you want.
  • List what you want—it will help you visualize your success.
  • Define what will interfere in achieving your goal.
  • Determine the starting point.
  • Establish a time frame for achieving your goal.
  • Break down the tasks necessary for completion.
  • Tell others what you plan to do.

DEVELOP STRONGER MINDS #2 Learn To Be OK With Pain

soldiers

We all know we are most motivated just before a deadline—our pulse quickens and our focus narrows. We can use the same principles of neurobiology to help us be mentally tough when it comes to meeting our goals.

Handling tough negotiations, dealing with competitors, and climbing the corporate ladder are not easy achievements, but if you are pursuing something that holds both value and meaning for you, you will embrace the discomfort that comes from pushing yourself past self-limiting barriers.

Whether it’s physical, psychological, or emotional discomfort, pushing past the pain of exertion will require you to suck it up. Leaders who have mental toughness are able to function when they hit their pain threshold because their minds are trained to ease their way through it.

My defensive tactics coach used to shout out, “No pain, no gain!” It captures the idea that we need to move past the point of comfort to achieve professional excellence.

TIPS:

  • When you feel you are starting to hit the wall, stay in the moment and concentrate on the task in front of you. When you focus and concentrate on the task, it is easier to see where small steps can be taken to keep you moving through the wall you are facing. If you lose your concentration, all you will see is the wall! Your mind takes over and tells you that the task is impossible, so you crumble and wilt.
  • Craft your goals as a target you are moving toward. Athletes are rarely thinking how far they are from the starting line but rather how much closer they are to the finish line.

DEVELOP STRONGER MINDS #3 Get Competitive

Runner

As badly as I hate to admit this, I was passed in a 6K run by a woman pushing a baby carriage. My pride took a real nosedive at that sorry moment, but it prompted a real competitive spirit within me.

I made sure the woman never got more than a few paces ahead of me for the rest of the race. I focused my eyes on her back and kept her pace until we crossed the finish line.

Inch by inch, life’s a cinch; yard by yard, life is hard.

TIPS:

  • Identify your competitors.
  • Gage where you stand against them.
  • Pick out one competitor who is slightly ahead of you in terms of talent and skill set.
  • Find the scrappiness to stay up with them, and eventually, move past.
  • Throw your lasso around the next competitor ahead of you and do the same thing.

DEVELOP STRONGER MINDS #4 Talk To Yourself

suspicious

The way in which we talk to ourselves can influence our behavior in both positive and negative ways.

Self-talk used by FBI agents and Navy Seals is not just a motivational message like “You can do it!” In studies published by Perspectives on Psychological Science, it was determined that the most useful mental message is the “instructional self-talk.”

This is the kind of running commentary we engage in when we’re carrying out a difficult task, especially one that’s unfamiliar to us, to keep us focused on what we are learning and what we need to do next.

Learning forces us to focus our attention on the task before us so we can screen out distractions. It also helps us regulate our effort so we can make better decisions about what to do, how to do it, and when.

TIPS:

  • Recent studies have found that self-talk is most effective when incorporated into a series of thoughts and actions.
  • First, comes a thought where you set a goal for yourself and make a plan on how to get there.
  • Second, your performance follows where you enact the plan to the best of your ability.
  • Third, spend time in self-reflection when you carefully evaluate what you’ve done and adjust your plan to be even better next time.

DEVELOP STRONGER MINDS #5 Picture It

Beautiful mountain at nz

Visualizing your success is based on solid science. When you imagine yourself doing something before you do it, you are programming your mind to think you can. By visualizing your performance repeatedly, your brain will store that information as a success.

With each success, our brain releases a neurotransmitter called dopamine. This is the chemical that becomes active when we encounter situations that are linked to rewards from the past. Dopamine enables us to not only see rewards, but to move toward those rewards.

TIPS:

Mental toughness is the ability to manage our emotions, thoughts, and behaviors in ways that will set us up for success. It’s truly about mind over matter.

What additional tips would you add?

© 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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Are You Mentally Tough Enough to Be An Entrepreneur?

Monday, August 15th, 2016

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

Complexity and turbulence in the business creates opponents and tough competition. Not only do entrepreneurs need to be psychologically prepared to do battle with their competitors, they need to deal with stress, recover from mistakes quickly, adjust strategies with each new innovation, and stay positive about their chances of success.

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

Here’s how:

1. CREATE THE RIGHT ATTITUDE

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

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

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

TIP:

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

2. STRETCH TO BE MORE FLEXIBLE

Struggles - tiger in water

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

Stretching past our comfort zone helps us learn how to be flexible in our approach when something doesn’t turn out as expected. We can quickly decide to change course or look for new ways to solve the problem.

FBI arrests rarely go according to plan so agents are required to be flexible, even in very tense and dangerous situations. Constant training helps them uncover their go-to reflexes and evaluate whether they are helpful or harmful, before actually finding themselves in an unexpected situation.

TIP:

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

3. MANAGE RELATIONSHIPS

Successful financial plans

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

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

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

TIP:

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

4. DEVELOP A CHAMPION MINDSET

Success - biker

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

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

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

TIP:

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

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

© 2016 LaRaeQuy. All rights reserved.

You can follow me on Twitter

Get my FREE 45-Question Mental Toughness Assessment

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

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4 Effective Ways To Develop Your Emotional Intelligence

Tuesday, May 31st, 2016

Popular movies and TV shows depict FBI agents swaggering into a room, taking control of the situation by intimidation or force, and knocking the sh*t out of anyone who doesn’t want to play by their rules. Only Hallmark channel movies feature moms who understand that emotional intelligence can be more effective than brawn and fists.

pablo

The first thing I learned as an FBI agent was that “reading other people” would be essential if I hoped to live long enough to retire from my job. The second thing I learned was that “understanding myself” would be critical if I wanted to predict my response when confronted with the unknown.

Ignorance of your competition makes you vulnerable; ignorance of yourself makes you stupid—LaRae Quy

Fine-tuning self-awareness skills is the essence of emotional intelligence—recognizing, understanding, and managing the emotions of ourselves and of others.

Decades of research now point to emotional intelligence as the critical factor that sets star performers apart from the rest of the pack. Entrepreneurs, leaders, and business owners who need a winning edge in negotiations, understanding competitive behavior, and managing people rely on their emotional intelligence skills to be successful.

Neuroscience is showing us that we can rewire our brain. With that good news, here are 4 ways you can enhance your emotional intelligence skills:

1. KICK YOURSELF INTO HIGH GEAR

The first place to start in enhancing your emotional intelligence skills is become enthusiastic about achieving your goal. When you are motivated, you activate the left prefrontal cortex.

A good way to become motivated is to reflect upon your dreams and what you want to be in the future. Once you define that goal, take a closer look at where you are now and what you need to do in order to get there.

If you are unsure about the areas in which you are emotionally competent, ask people whom you know and trust.

ACTION POINTS:

  • Which specific behaviors reflect your strengths?
  • What behaviors do you see in star performers?
  • Which of your competencies need to be strengthened?

2. TAKE IT ONE STEP AT A TIME

Refrain from taking on more than one behavior at a time. Otherwise, you’ll become overwhelmed and frustrated.

Emotionally competent people are very intentional in the way they communicate to others. This will require you to pay full attention to each specific behavior.

Developing emotional intelligence will also require you to spend time with yourself to better understand what makes you tick—you will need to pinpoint which words, situations, or people trigger favorable and unfavorable reactions.

Mental toughness is not being afraid to address your weaknesses with the same enthusiasm and vigor as your explore your strengths.

ACTION POINTS:

  • Identify one specific behavior to change or enhance.
  • Give this goal your full attention.
  • Construct a plan of action on how you intend to take your goal to the next level in specific steps.

3. DEVELOP NEW HABITS

The neural connectivity of old habits is strong; their circuitry has become so connected and thick that they have become the brain’s default response.

But, when you start to form new habits that will help you be more emotionally intelligent, these new behaviors create new circuitry that will eventually compete with your old habits.  Over time, the new habit will become your brain’s default response.

The length of time to replace an old habit depends on how strong it is, and the new one will need to develop the same strength of connectivity.

ACTION POINTS:

  • Habits begin to be hardwired the very first time you practice them.
  • Continual practice creates more connectivity.
  • 3-6 months of continually practicing the new habit is usually about average for it to replace the old one.

4. FLEX YOUR MENTAL MUSCLES

Mental toughness is controlling your mind instead of letting your mind control you! That is why meditation is a great tool in developing mental toughness. It requires you to continually observe where your mind has gone and bringing it back to where you want it.

Mental rehearsal activates the same neural circuitry as the real activity. Mental exercises will increase your ability to perform when the real moment comes.

ACTION POINTS:

  • Take charge of your emotional competencies by mentally rehearsing how you want a meeting to unfold, your response to anticipated questions, or a conversation with a competitor.

The important thing to remember is that you can develop and enhance your emotional intelligence skills by following these 4 effective suggestions.

How have you developed your emotional intelligence over time?

© 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.”

52 Tips cover smallSSM book-cover

4 Secrets of Mental Toughness

Sunday, December 6th, 2015

FBI agents working knotty and sophisticated cases—like terrorism, cybercrime, and counterintelligence—build mental toughness to handle themselves in dangerous situations.

4 Secrets Of Mental Toughness

As the world has become more complex, the focus of FBI investigations has evolved from hunting bank robbers like John Dillinger and criminals like Al Capone to better address the current threat to American lives.

It’s no secret that business and life are not as simple as they were, either—even a few years ago. It is no longer a matter of knowledge, ability, and skill.

As entrepreneurs and business owners you need to be psychologically prepared to deal with strong competition, recover from mistakes and failure quickly, tackle tough situations, devise strategies, and collaborate with others.

In other words, you need mental toughness to manage the emotions, thoughts, and behavior that will set you up for success in business and life.

Mental toughness allows us to push past hard situations and face adversity with confidence.

Here are 4 secrets of mental toughness taken from the FBI playbook,:

SECRET #1 Mental Toughness Requires Self-Control

Being the loudest, or toughest, or meanest is not being mentally tough—it is being a bully.

People act aggressively out of defense. Only when we do not feel strong enough to resolve a situation do we rely upon aggression as a means of dealing with the conflict.

The strongest leaders you know do not need to act aggressively because they have power.

TIPS For You:

  1. Spend your energy on understanding your weaknesses so you can manage them rather than trying to cover them up.
  2. Focus on turning painful situations into a time for personal growth and meaningful development.
  3. Control your own emotions, thoughts, and behavior, rather than trying to control other people. Meditation is described as too touchy-feely by many, but it is a valuable tool for building mental toughness. The discipline of continually bringing thoughts and emotions back to where you want them (instead of letting them wander) is the way to start bringing them under your conscious and intentional control.

SECRET #2 Mental Toughness Requires Positive Thinking

Positive thinkers are not optimists and here is why:

  • Positive thinkers believe they will prevail in their circumstances rather than believing their circumstances will change.
  • Optimists believe their circumstances will eventually change for the better.

FBI Agents are not optimists who hope or expect an arrest to go without a hitch—instead, they prepare for the worst and practice ahead of time.

When they do come across adversity, they don’t wait and hope things will change for the better. They adapt quickly to the new situation and remain flexible by choosing to remain positive so that they will find a solution.

TIPS For You:

  1. Talk positively to yourself. Research has determined that you say between 300-1,000 words to yourself per minute. Keep those words positive!
  2. Remember the mind’s first response is a negative one when you’re stressed or have encountered an obstacle.
  3. Recognize the 3 P’s of negativity and pessimism:
  • Permanent (“It’ll never change or I won’t ever get it done.”)
  • Pervasive (“You can’t trust any of those people.”)
  • Personal (“It’s all my fault. I’m terrible at this.”)

SECRET #3 Mental Toughness Requires Grit

Jack Dempsey once said, “A champion is someone who gets up when he can’t.”

He was talking about perseverance and determination—grit.

Entrepreneurs, leaders, and business owners all know that while intelligence and creativity are important, you need grit to accomplish anything big.

Researchers like Angela Duckworth have found that grit is more predictive of success than IQ in military academies like West Point.

In fact, grit is unrelated, or even negatively correlated, with talent. When working with West Point cadets, she found that those who scored higher in grit had the mental toughness to keep going when times got tough.

The high score on grit surpassed other tests such as SAT scores, IQ, class rank, leadership, and physical aptitude when it came to predicting retention rates.

TIPS For You:

Gritup

  1. Face your fears
  2. Pursue work that has value and meaning for you
  3. Believe in something bigger, better, and bolder than yourself
  4. Establish strong relationships
  5. Challenge your brain
  6. Challenge your body
  7. Control your emotions and thoughts through meditation and mindfulness exercises

SECRET #4 Mental Toughness Requires Visualization

Visualizing your success is a powerful mental toughness tool because when we visualize our success, our brain produces dopamine—a “feel-good” hormone that associates our visualized success with actual success.

In fact, parts of our brain can’t tell the difference between a visualized version of a successful performance and an actual performance!

Be careful, however; your brain is smart enough to recognize a fantasy for what it is and will not produce the dopamine that you need to create the motivation to succeed.

TIPS For You:

  1. Imagine a presentation or meeting in the future where you need to perform at your best
  2. See yourself in front of the crowd—what you will be wearing and how you will be standing
  3. Practice exactly what you will say and how you will say it—many times
  4. Anticipate negative reactions or questions from the group
  5. Imagine how you will respond
  6. Rehearse your body movements

As our world becomes more and more complex, mental toughness will become an essential mindset.

Building mental toughness is a life long task, but here is the good news: Mental toughness is not something we were born with—it is something we can learn.

When have you been mentally tough?

© 2015 LaRaeQuy. All rights reserved.

You can follow me on Twitter

Get my FREE 45-Question Mental Toughness Assessment

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

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6 Reasons Mental Toughness is Positivity on Steroids

Sunday, March 16th, 2014

Admiral James Stockdale was held captive for eight years during the Vietnam War. He had the mental toughness to make it out alive after being tortured 22 times and losing many friends in prison.

Mental toughness - boxing gloves

Stockdale was interviewed about his experiences as a prisoner of war several years later by Jim Collins, author of the famous book Good to Great. Stockdale gave insightful answers about how he managed to survive torture, starvation, and other horrible conditions. At one point, Collins asked him, “Who didn’t make it out alive?”

Stockdale’s answer was blunt: “Oh, that’s easy, the optimists. Oh, they were the ones who said, ‘We’re going to be out by Christmas.’ And Christmas would come, and Christmas would go. Then they’d say, ‘We’re going to be out by Easter.’ And Easter would come, and Easter would go. And then Thanksgiving, and then it would be Christmas again. And they died of a broken heart.”

Positivity is one of the most important components of mental toughness. When listening to Stockdale’s story, it becomes obvious that positivity is about more than optimism vs pessimism.

Mental Toughness is about people putting faith in themselves to prevail rather than trusting in circumstances to change.

Stockdale said, “I never lost faith in the end of the story, I never doubted not only that I would get out, but also that I would prevail in the end and turn the experience into the defining event of my life, which, in retrospect, I would not trade.”

The message is clear: 

Successful leaders must never confuse faith that they will prevail in the end with the discipline to confront the most brutal facts of their current reality, whatever these might be.

For some, the barrier is a self-limiting belief; for others, it’s an economic obstacle filled with risk, uncertainty, and deception. 

Leaders and entrepreneurs who are mentally tough are positive thinkers—they have to be if they intend to overcome obstacles and break through barriers. 

Here are 6 reasons mental toughness is positivity on steroids:

 

1. Showing Gratitude Enhances Well Being

Admiral Stockdale reminds us that no matter how difficult our circumstances, they could always be worse. Be thankful, no matter how much pain you feel in your life.

As an FBI Agent, there were many times when I woke up and dreaded the day’s assignment. Like all jobs, some days were tedious, boring, and repetitious. Nicknamed by some as The Federal Bureaucracy of Investigation, I didn’t let the paperwork and inane bureaucratic procedures dampen my attitude.

Gratitude is intentional; it’s a way of seeing the world by focusing your mind on what you choose to see

Of all the attitudes we can acquire, surely 

the attitude of gratitude is the most important,

and by far the most life-changing~Zig Ziglar

 

2. Laugh Till It Hurts, Even When It Does Hurt

Humor is relaxing and life-giving. It can break the tension when we start to feel overwhelmed with our circumstances.

The physical effects of laughter on the body involve increased breathing, oxygen use, and heart rate, which stimulate the circulatory system. It also moves the brain into other ways of thinking because it introduces the concept of play in adults, which boosts creativity and innovation. In addition, humor is increasingly recognized and valued as an important way to release stress and bring a better mood and perspective into difficult situations.

Hospitals, soldiers, and law enforcement organizations like the FBI frequently use laughter and humor as a means of helping people remain positive thinkers in the midst of dire circumstances. 

 

3. Get By With A Little Help From Friends

Negative thoughts can spread faster than positive ones. Surround yourself with people who have faith in you—and themselves.

One of my best moves has always been to surround myself with friends who ask “Why not?” instead of “Why?” Positive attitudes like this are always contagious. Avoid the whiners, naysayers . . . and other losers. If I’d listened to them, I would never never lived my dream of becoming an FBI agent.

If you want to get ahead in business and life, surround yourself with smart and positive people rather than negative and immature ones.

Most people don’t aim too high and miss; they aim too low and hit—anon

 

4. Ignore The Toxic Bystanders

Theodore Roosevelt once said, “It is not the critic who counts, not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena.” 

Stop talking about the difficult situation and start doing something about it. By talking only, you risk becoming a critic, and when you become a critic, you tend to search out the negative aspects of people or things, rather than the positive. If you doubt me, start reading Op-Ed columnist Maureen Dowd—she is a great writer but her relentless pursuit of finding fault in others does nothing more than remind us she is never the one in the arena.

 

5. Stop Being A Ninny…Risk Failure

Every great leader, whatever walk of life they are from or organization in which they reside, always go back to the same failure to explain their success. The failure, without exception, was traumatic and personally very difficult. It made them feel as though they’d hit rock bottom and filled them with desperation. 

As Warren Bennis said, “It’s as if at that moment the iron entered their soul; that moment created the resilience that leaders need.”

 

6. Offer A Helping Hand to Others; It’s Not All About You

People may think that, as an FBI agent, I learned to look only for the worst in others. Not so. I discovered that no matter the offense or background, people respond positively when they are treated with dignity. If I could offer that bit of humanity to someone who had hit bottom, I had found a way to give my gift to another.

It was a small change in thinking that made a huge difference for Admiral Stockdale. If you choose to be positive, have faith that you will eventually succeed by trying over and over again. Do not be frustrated by each individual setback—you will find the mental toughness to succeed. 

How have you found positivity helps you through difficult times?

© 2013 LaRaeQuy. All rights reserved.

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 Powerful Ways To Increase Your Mental Toughness

Sunday, March 9th, 2014

Sally is an ambitious entrepreneur who believes mental toughness is bulldozing her way through obstacles and adversity. If a barrier prevents her from moving forward, she thinks that by continuing a full frontal assault, she will eventually break it down. 

adversity - alligator

Sally’s approach may work in football, but not in life and business. Not every obstacle that comes up in life can be broken down by pounding fists at it.

Mental toughness is misunderstood by many entrepreneurs, executives, and leaders. Too often, it is associated with a hard-headed mindset that refuses to yield when circumstances change. 

Mental toughness is not something we’re born with—it’s something we can learn, and not only during tough times. We can choose to develop skills that will increase our ability to prepare for life’s unavoidable struggles.

Here are 5 powerful ways to increase your mental toughness:

1. Learn to Adapt to New Circumstances, So Lose the Ego

As entrepreneurs and leaders, it takes more than good intentions to keep your company running strong. Sally’s problem was that she did not take the time to ask herself, “What has changed?” Instead of being willing to adapt to her changing situation, she plowed on as though everything was business as usual.

Gather your team together at least twice a year and ask questions, such as “What’s new in the industry and are we on the cutting edge of that change?” “Do we need to update our strategy?”

2. Be Willing To Change Tact and Try Something New

Mental toughness is acknowledging that changes in the industry means changing strategies in order to keep moving forward. This can be very difficult for people who are goal-oriented, because for them abandoning a goal is akin to acknowledging failure. Unfortunately, they become married to the goal rather than the endgame.

In truth, changing tact can be just plain smart.

If life were predictable, you might be able to chart your life out with five-year goals. But life is full of unexpected surprises, and being unwilling to yield and reroute to reach your destination threatens to expose a hard head, not a tough mind.

Be smart enough to know the difference.

3. Experience Your Emotions — Yes, All of Them

Mental toughness is not about suppressing negative thoughts so you can be happy and optimistic all the time, even when adversity strikes. Conversely, it’s about being honest in acknowledging your entire range of emotions and giving each equal attention.

Once you fail to respect the negative emotions you’re feeling, you are being neither honest with yourself or behaving with authenticity.

The key is to chose, with intention, to give more heft to the positive aspects of your situation. This will take mental toughness, but like developing muscles, it is easier the more you do it.

It’s natural to automatically see the negative in a tough situation; our limbic brain system is warning us of danger. But not all adversity is life-threatening—so learn how to find positive options in your situation.

Sometimes the positive is simply the lesson learned, so we don’t make the same mistake next time!

4. Stop Feeling Sorry for Yourself and Blaming Others; We’re Sick of Listening to You

Blaming others is an emotionally retarded way of dealing with obstacles and adversity. Blaming others is a lame way to explain yourself when the chips are down and times are tough. Everyone is confronted with obstacles and adversity—some are simply more visible from the outside than others.

If you think that those who face less adversity in life are happier, think again. In fact, research has shown that people who face adversity, and overcome it, are among the most fulfilled.

No one is owed a free ride. If you want something, go out and get it.

5. Learn How to Be Grateful — It’s Not All About You. Really.

Expressing gratitude is not a naive form of positive thinking. Instead, it is a way of thinking about the way we receive benefits and giving credit to others. To do so, often means humbling ourselves and getting ego out of the way.

People are actually more successful at reaching their goals when they express gratitude throughout their day. One study found people who were more grateful were 20% more likely to make progress than those who were not.

Developing mental toughness is a work in progress. While there is always room for improvement, we can prepare ourselves to be mentally tough so we can deal with life’s adversities when the unexpected happens.

What tips would you add to increase mental toughness? How is the best way to develop mental toughness?

© 2014 LaRaeQuy. All rights reserved.

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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