Posts Tagged ‘Martin Seligman’

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.

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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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Why Self-Compassion Is An Essential Skill For Great Leadership

Sunday, May 24th, 2015

One of the most difficult things I had to do when working a fraud investigation was look a retired couple sitting across from me in the eye and tell them that the FBI would not be investigating the criminals who had scammed these people out of their life savings.

Emotions - hard on yourself

It was truly one of the worst days of my life. The old folks had been duped into investing their entire retirement fund into a scam, and while it was all they had to live on, it still did not meet the threshold for an FBI investigation.

How could I tell them that their life’s work was not enough to capture the FBI’s attention?

A negative voice in my head kept saying that somehow I should have been able to tie their case to another scam—anything to make it work! But the truth of the matter was that I had no evidence to take it to the next step.

I criticized my ineptness and lack of creativity; I mercilessly judged myself for shortcomings when that voice in my head would not shut up. Ironically, while I felt compassion toward the retired couple, I could not extend that same kindness toward myself.

Leadership training courses and workshops on emotional intelligence spit out quotes and inspirational messages on how to be empathic, collaborative, and self-aware. But they rarely delve into the stickier issue of self-compassion. Why not?

Because self-compassion is seen by many as being too self-centric. As leaders, we are exhorted to be servant leaders, lead by example, put others before ourselves, and nurture the well-being of the team.

Meanwhile, leaders like Elon Musk and Donald Trump thrive as bullies in the work environment because they surround themselves with suck-ups who feed their ego.

Where is the healthy balance? No one wants the personal life of either Musk or Trump—losers when it comes to a relationship with self. And based on divorce rates, with others as well.

Try these 4 tips to dampen the voice of your inner critic and express more self-compassion:

1. Remember You Are Not Perfect

Stop lying to yourself that you are awesome and perfect. Because you are not. You are human. When you remember this, it is easier to forgive yourself, and when you do, you also feel less anxiety about your performance.

2. Differentiate Between Self-Esteem And Self-Compassion

There is a big difference between self-esteem and self-compassion. There’s been an explosion of literature and workshops on how to build self-esteem but the unintended result has been an epidemic of narcissism.

In Jean Twenge’s book, Generation Me, she shares the results of a study that examined the narcissism levels of over 15,000 U.S. college students between 1987 and 2006. During that 20-year period, narcissism scores soared, with 65 percent of modern-day students scoring higher in narcissism than previous generations.

Ironically, as we try to see ourselves as better than others, our sense of worthiness takes a dive. This emotional rollercoaster can lead to depression and anxiety—a reminder that we are not perfect.

In fact, a striking finding of Twenge’s study was that people with high self-esteem were much more narcissistic than those with low self-esteem. In contrast, self-compassion was completely unassociated with narcissism.

3. Reframe Negative Thoughts

Negative thoughts are horrible things that are really tough to beat into submission. When we succumb to them, we automatically think the cause is permanent, pervasive, and personal.

It’s going to last forever, it’s going to undermine everything, and it’s my fault.

Martin Seligman is the author of Learned Optimism and he is quoted as saying, “I am a dyed-in-the-wool pessimist. The techniques that I write about are ones that I use every day.”

So what are those techniques to ward off negative thoughts? He has a three-step process:

  • Recognize that the thought is there.
  • Treat that thought as if it were said by some third person whose job in life was to make your life miserable.
  • Learn to dispute it, to marshal evidence against it. With practice, you will get better and better at neutralizing it.

4. Talk To Yourself In A Nice Way

Experts in The Brain documentary made the claim that we say between 300 to 1000 words to ourselves a minute. The Navy SEALS and Special Forces use the power of positive self-talk as a way of getting through tough times.

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

Positive self-talk is self-compassion. You can also visualize a compassionate person saying positive things to you such as someone who loves you saying kind words, or a supportive supervisor affirming a job well done.

As a leader, you need to cultivate self-compassion. When you have self-compassion, you have feelings of self-worth, will be less embarrassed when you screw up, and less likely to take things personally.

And that is the type of leadership we all need.

How are you self-compassionate when things are not going according to plan?

 

© 2015 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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