Posts Tagged ‘mental toughness’

How To Develop Grit In Times Of Crisis

Monday, August 14th, 2017

The Chinese word for crisis is made by combining two characters meaning crisis and opportunity. The wise and ancient Chinese understood that the true nature of a crisis is an opportunity in disguise.

A crisis implies change that has not been invited and an outcome that is not predictable. Rarely do changes come into our life that do not require an significant amount of restructuring and readjustment.

Similar to remodeling a house, you will be required to tear down what needs to be renovated and replace it with stronger materials. This can feel like a crisis when your abilities are tested and you reach that point where you dig deep for the grit to endure the reconstruction.

Grit is what separates successful people from their competition. Grit is not knowing what to do, but doing it anyway. It is endurance, conviction, and pluckiness. It will take you where you want to go when change starts to feel like a crisis.

Here is how to develop grit in times of crisis:

1. Know When To Stop Struggling

There is a difference between knowing when to quit and knowing when to stop the struggle against something that we cannot stop. When we quit, we throw in the towel, admit defeat, and feel like a victim of our circumstances.

If we stop the struggle, we face up to our fear. “What is the worst that could happen?” This is the first step toward detecting new possibilities that may reveal themselves in our circumstances.

How To Make It Work For You: Do not quit when you feel you can no longer deal with a crisis. Instead, find ways to adapt to your new circumstances. Have the grit to stay in the game but be flexible in your attempt to correct a situation according to your idea of “right.”

2. Manage Emotions

When facing a crisis, emotional incontinence is a temptation and we share our sorrows with anyone who will listen. To those who have created our crisis, it’s an admission that they have the power to hurt us. If the people who are listening are outsiders, they are helpless to offer us sound advice on how to move forward.

This doesn’t mean you should ignore and tamp down what you are feeling! Emotional competence is one of the cornerstones of mental toughness. If we are emotionally intelligent and aware of our innermost emotions, we have a much better chance of responding to a crisis in a way that is positive.

How To Make It Work For You: If you manage your emotions, thoughts, and behavior during a crisis, you will have a better chance of recognizing new opportunities as they unfold.

3. Keep Ego In Check

Our ego takes a beating when shit hits the fan and we find ourselves up to our knees in it. No one likes to suffer or face unpleasant situations. They are, however, a fact of life and if we can keep our ego in check, we can come through them stronger.

Everyone knows how to survive in good times. That doesn’t take any talent. It’s the trying times that separate those who have what it takes to succeed from those who just project the image.

How To Make It Work For You: Developing grit is a quality that is essential for our personal growth. We take responsibility for our actions. When we stop whining, pointing fingers, and blaming others—especially during a crisis—we are able to choose our destiny.

4. Maintain Clarity Of Vision

Vision is where you see your life heading. Goals are the stepping stones to get there. Goals should be reviewed and revised on a yearly basis. If you don’t, goals can end up obstructing your original vision for yourself.

Vision and passion are the linchpin of grit. It is doing something and following a dream that gives you both value and meaning.

How To Make It Work For You: When you feel your grit begin to waver, remember the reason you want to accomplish your goal. If you surrender and give up, ask yourself if it’s because there is no fire in your belly and you are not really following your vision.

5. Develop An Entrepreneurial Mindset

Most interviews or studies of entrepreneurs only look at people who have been successful. They rarely focus on asking questions about what made them successful in the first place. It’s very difficult for people to describe themselves at the beginning of their career. Most of us could not remember what was going through our mind, especially if we’re scrambling to keep our company afloat.

In a recent study, researchers interviewed over 800 entrepreneurs who had not been in business for more than 3 months. They found two commonalities in the thinking of the most successful entrepreneurs: 1) they could not come up with reasons they might fail, and 2) they couldn’t care less what people think about them.

How To Make It Work For You: Find something that makes you happy and go for it. At the end of the day, the way you feel about yourself and your potential will give you confidence that you can develop the grit you will need in times of crisis.

© 2017 LaRae Quy. 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.” 

How To Overcome Adversity And Come Out A Winner

Monday, August 7th, 2017

A shetland pony named Socks helped teach me how to overcome adversity. We lived on a cattle ranch in Wyoming and my parents bought him for me when I was 4 years old.

Socks had a hard and dry little heart; all he wanted to do was terrorize his little rider. Dad would get on him and he was a well-mannered horse. When I got on him, however, I couldn’t get him to do anything. Worse yet, when Dad wasn’t looking, Socks would kick up his heels to see how much it would take to buck me off.

As time marched on, I got very worried because Dad said I wouldn’t get a “real” horse until I learned to ride Socks. I worked at it and finally rode Socks down the meadow about half a mile. We had to cross a ditch to go further. Socks turned his neck to get a good look at me before he let loose and bucked high and fast as he crossed the ditch. I went flying through the air.

Dad watched and saw the whole thing. I was humiliated; I cried and walked away but my Dad caught Socks and made me get right back on. Right then and there, not later when I’d plucked up enough courage to get back on and ride Socks again.

Although I didn’t know it at the time, neuroscience tells us that new memories remain unstable for a short period of time after an event. It’s during this unstable period that memories are being coded and consolidated into your subconscious.

We can erase our fear of an event if we can alter our memory of it, and the best time to do that is during the unstable period. That unstable period lasts for the first few hours.

We can learn how to overcome adversity and come out stronger than before if we do these things:

1. Get Back In The Saddle

We have all had experiences with colleagues, employees, or prospective clients that have left us unsettled, afraid, or unsure of how to move forward. We learn how to overcome adversity if we find ways to tackle the problem again so we can update our memory before that negative feeling becomes codified in our brain.

It might be with a different colleague, employee, or client but don’t let the experience of fear or anxiety get embedded into your thinking. It is important, however, that you make sure your environment is safe before trying to extinguish your fear-conditioned memory.

TIP: Replace a bad memory with a better one. The sooner, the better.

2. Grit Up

When I interviewed with the FBI, they liked that I wasn’t coddled, pampered, or entitled. Growing up on a cattle ranch in Wyoming left me scrappy, hungry, and full of grit. Getting bucked off Socks gave me the understanding that getting knocked down is part of life. But it’s those knocks that produce the grit we need to be successful.

Grit is doing what is needed even when you don’t know exactly how to do it. Grit is determination, persistence, and endurance.

Sports psychologist Tim Woodman has done several studies on what makes superior athletes. He spent a lot of time interviewing many top performers, and the one thing that he came away with was this: nearly every top performer in his study had experienced a critical negative event in their life—parents divorcing, a death, disease, or some other perceived loss—and they experienced it early in life.

Winners learn early that life is hard. Pain is inevitable. Growth is optional—LaRae Quy

Hard times create the need for a coping system. Because there is one of two ways to react to the crap that happens in life: you can whine, complain, and blame others. Or, you can take responsibility for your own actions, grit up, and look for solutions.

TIP: Learn to overcome adversity by developing a grit-up attitude. It’s your choice—you can have the mindset that your adversity creates trauma. Or, you can decide to look at your adversity as an opportunity to learn and grow.

3. Express Gratitude

Hunt the good stuff in your situation and express gratitude for what you find because you cannot be anxious and grateful at the same time.

The area of the brain that produces anxiety and fear overlaps with the area of the brain responsible for positive emotions. This is one of the reasons it’s hard to be stressed out and grateful at the same time.

TIP: Use mental toughness to override your fear by focusing on positive emotions so they can tamp down negative ones. When you are mentally strong, you decide how to overcome adversity by choosing which positive emotions to focus on.

4. Acquire Lots Of Information

FBI agents making arrests face the unknown because they can’t predict how an individual will react when arrested. To alleviate the fear they may experience, they collect information in several different ways:

First, they collect information about themselves. They practice arrest scenarios with red handled guns that do not have firing pins. This provides feedback on how they respond to different situations. It allows them to constantly fine-tune their response so they can anticipate a good outcome when confronted by the unknown.

Second, they collect as much information about the person to be arrested as possible. The agents can prepare if they have reason to believe the suspect might be armed and dangerous.

Third, agents qualify in firearms 4 times a year to fine-tune their skills. By the time they actually make an arrest, they have enough muscle memory that they don’t even have to think about what to do because they’ve done it before so many times.

TIP: You’ll have a better chance of coming out a winner if you practice or rehearse your performance ahead of time. It might not be possible to replicate the exact experience, but pay attention to your response in similar situations so you can decide whether or not you need to fine tune it.

5. Visualize Your Success

Visualize how you will overcome adversity. When you visualize your success, your brain releases a neurotransmitter called dopamine. That is the chemical that becomes active when you are rewarded or have positive feelings. Dopamine enables you to not only see rewards, but to move toward those rewards as well.

By visualizing your performance, your brain actually stores that information as a success.

There is one important caveat here, though; your brain is not easily fooled. It knows the difference between visualizing your success and fantasizing about something you can never do, like being a rock star on stage. Your brain will only store it as a success if it represents real life and real situations you will encounter.

TIP: Educate yourself about your fear, find out as much as you can, and then practice how you can overcome it.

© 2017 LaRae Quy. 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.”

3 Beliefs Of People Who Refuse To Quit

Monday, July 31st, 2017

I have always admired people who refuse to quit, but when my cover was blown on my first undercover assignment, I had no choice but to throw in the towel.

I worked on building the backbone to find other ways to get back in the game. I was resilient and kept at it until another opportunity presented itself.

Resilience is not just about having backbone. It’s building up everything that supports our backbone, starting with the way we think about the negative events that happen in our life. Let’s face it, we need resilience when the shit hits the fan and things go bad. If everything was a bed or roses, we would never need to dig down to find greater strength and deeper meaning.

Mental toughness is developing a tough mindset that refuses to quit when life throws a curveball. People who refuse to quit are game-ready when opportunities show up as obstacles.

Martin Seligman is a psychologist who has spent decades studying how people deal with setbacks. In his book, Learned Optimism, he states that we all have a way of explaining the bad events that happen to us. This habit of thought starts in childhood and stems from our view of our place in the world.

The crux of mental toughness is being willing to take responsibility for our actions.  As Seligman states, people cannot learn how to be resilient unless they assume responsibility for the way they think about themselves. Maintaining positive beliefs about our abilities and our situation can enable us to become people who refuse to quit or give up on ourselves.

Here are 3 beliefs of people who refuse to quit:

1. Nothing Is Permanent

When I learned the undercover project would be shut down, I felt like I’d been punched in the stomach. Failure hurts and it’s stupid to pretend it doesn’t. Failure makes everyone helpless, at least for that moment.

The difference between remaining helpless and bouncing back is by accepting that negative events are simply a part of the human condition. Aging, dying, and pain are inevitable. Joy, laughter, and happiness are also inevitable. And all will dissipate despite our best efforts to make them last forever.

Seligman states that people who refuse to quit do not feel that negative events will always happen to them. They also do not feel as though an opportunity will never come their way again.

The two key words to remember are always and never. Banish those words from your vocabulary and replace them with sometimes and lately. The negative event or situation becomes transient rather than permanent.

Affective forecasting is predicting how you will feel in the future. As it turns out, we’re terrible at it. We’re not good judges of what will make us happy. For example, in predicting how events like winning the lottery might affect their happiness, people are likely to overestimate how wonderful their life will become.

The same is true of interpreting how negative events will affect their life. People overestimate how their life will be ruined or negatively impacted by the event.

How To Make It Work For You: When you are down in the dumps and beating up on yourself, think about how much worse things could be for you. This forces you to identify the stuff in your life for which you are grateful.

2. Get Specific About Pervasiveness

It was tempting for me to throw up my hands and declare that I would never be an effective undercover agent. This would be a universal, or blanket explanation, that implied I lacked the ability to ever be good at it.

Instead, I got specific about why my cover had been blown. I was helpless, and a failure—in that particular situation. However, I also knew I could learn from that experience and move on.

People who refuse to quit are not drama queens who make every negative event a catastrophe. Yes, crap happens but people who refuse to quit narrow down the reasons why something was a failure. They are specific about what went wrong and why. Again, they are willing to accept responsibility for their actions and for the way they think about themselves.

“Catastrophizing” implies that you are a loser in all areas of your life, not just in the troubled area. This thinking is pervasive and can lead to people giving up on everything.

How To Make It Work For You: Hope is the cure for catastrophizing. Finding specific causes for misfortune is the art of hope. When you are confronted with a misfortune, check that your self-talk is not hopeless. Instead, inject a large dose of hope into your language.

3. Be Wary Of Personalization

I blamed myself for my failure as an undercover agent. I needed to take responsibility, and I did. As a result, my self-esteem plummeted. I began to see myself as worthless and not making a significant contribution to my squad.

I personalized the incident, and as a result, it affected the way I felt about myself.

They way we think about permanence and pervasiveness affects the things we do. The way we personalize a negative event controls how we feel about ourselves. People who never give up like themselves because they believe they are, and have been, the catalyst for good things. They do not believe good things come from other people or circumstances.

They accept that failure and misfortune will happen along the way, but they have hope that they will be resilient and bounce back because they’ve done it before.

Remember that personalization can be internal, where you blame yourself for what has happened. It can also be external, where you blame everyone else for your misfortune.

How To Make It Work For You: Optimism is not about ignoring life’s challenges. It’s the mental toughness to discipline our minds to create more powerful explanations about what is going on in our life.

© 2017 LaRae Quy. 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.” 

The One Characteristic That Makes Great Leaders

Monday, July 24th, 2017

The FBI will spend a great deal of time, effort, and money in training agents to be great leaders because agents need to be able to land on their feet when confronted with the unknown.

They also need to know how to get people to trust them with their lives, persevere when challenged with adversity, and always come out on the right end of a terrorism case. Great leaders understand how to move when roadblocks threaten their success.

The one characteristic that makes FBI agents great leaders is honesty. Lack of candor will get an agent fired quicker than any other mistake or transgression.

It’s drilled into agents that they always represent the FBI and their actions are a reflection of the organization. By making honesty a key value, the public understands they can trust agents to do their job.

New and unique ideas are essential for entrepreneurs and business owners. But the ability to successfully execute these ideas is what separates dreamers from great leaders. When money is tight, stress levels shoot through the roof and instant success takes time, so it can be hard to always take the higher moral ground.

It takes more than honesty to admit a mistake. It also takes humility, conscientiousness, and an admirable ability to feel guilty when you are less than honest in your dealings with others.

Here is a closer look at the 3 components of honesty to better understand why honesty is the one characteristic that makes great leaders:

1. HUMILITY

Please remember that being humble does not mean being a chump.

Studies confirm that business leaders from both large and small companies who possessed humility as a core trait were rated as far more ethical and trustworthy than their counterparts. They are also able to elicit better employee engagement and job performance.

If you aspire to rank among the great leaders, you need to be humble because your business will only be successful if your team can come together and problem-solve. By being humble and stepping back, you are creating space for others to contribute. Unless you are intellectually humble, you are unable to learn.

How To Make This Work For You

  1. Share your mistakes as teachable moments—by being honest and admitting your own mistakes, you make it OK for others to make a mistake as well.
  2. Engage in dialogue, not debates—don’t get caught up in trying to prove your point of view. Instead, use this as an opportunity to learn about the way other people think.
  3. Forget being wishy-washy—humility indicates that you are confident enough to make a bold statement and then step back to see if you were right.

2. CONCIENTIOUSNESS

A staggering amount of research links conscientiousness with success and great leaders. A National Institute of Mental Health study found that conscientious people earn higher salaries. The National Institute on Aging also found that conscientiousness is linked to income and job satisfaction.

While other traits like extroversion predicts outcomes in some situations, studies have found that conscientiousness has as much impact on a leader’s success as extraversion. Conscientious people tend to be more dependable and achievement-focused, traits that help them rise to the top.

Conscientious people become great leaders because they do things better than others. They set goals, work toward them, and persist when things go wrong. 

Remember the conscientious kids in your classroom? They were the ones who sat in their chairs, didn’t complain, and didn’t blame their teachers when they didn’t receive a top grade. They had the mental toughness to manage their emotions, thoughts, and behavior in ways that would set them up for success.

How To Make It Work For You:

  1. Balance relationships and work—conscientious people are often more task-oriented than people-oriented, so make sure to balance the two equally.
  2. Delegate with care—conscientious people can and do deliver. If one reports to you, resist the temptation to burn them out by overburdening them with work.
  3. Provide structure—conscientious people tend to work best when there are clear rules, high ethical standards, and a clearly articulated vision.

3. GUILT-ACCEPTANCE

The personality trait of guilt-acceptance taps into a person’s healthy levels of guilt. Unhealthy guilt looks more like shame—shame is feeling bad about oneself while guilt is feeling bad about one’s behavior.

A leader’s ability to feel guilty about their wrong doing has been found to be a direct predictor of success. Researchers found that MBA students who scored higher on guilt-acceptance were rated as more effective leaders by their former supervisors, peers, and clients.

Great leaders seek out those who are prone to admitting their guilt when hiring and promoting their staff. People who are honest and anticipate that they would feel bad about their behavior after doing something wrong are better able to get along and get results. They take responsibility for their actions.

How To Make It Work For You:

As a leader, you are often placed in situations where you are either hiring or promoting an employee. Ask these questions: “Please describe a time when you made a mistake at work. How did you feel when this occurred? What did you do? What, if anything, did you learn from the experience?”

Never forget that when you make honesty a key value, you generate the trust that is needed to truly make you a great leader.

© 2017 LaRae Quy. 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.” 

4 Reasons Diversity Creates Teams That Are Mentally Tough

Monday, July 17th, 2017

Diversity was essential when putting together an FBI undercover operation because working with people with different ideas and opinions sharpened my thinking.

My squad mates offered great advice on the basics of an investigation. Undercover work, however, requires creativity and strategic planning. I needed to work with people who would challenge my brain to overcome its stale and predictable ways of looking at an issue or project.

A study by McKinsey in 2015 in the public sector came to the same conclusion. Diverse teams were found to be 35% more likely to be successful. Another 2015 study of more than 20,000 firms in 91 countries found that companies with female executives were more profitable.

Many focus on diversity solely as a medley of genders, races, and ethnicity. However, it’s critical to also include differences in experience, age, intelligence, personality, background, and culture. True diversity brings together a team of people who think, feel, and behave differently from one another.

Mental toughness is managing our thoughts, emotions, and behavior in ways that set us up for success. Diverse teams overcome stagnant patterns of thinking and sharpen performance.

Here are 4 reasons diversity creates teams that are mentally tough:

1. FOCUS ON FACTS

Diverse teams are often a combustible combination of thoughts, emotions, and behavior. Differing opinions can derail a team’s success if they’re not managed properly. This means diversity creates a need to focus on facts.

When teams focus on facts instead of personal differences, members are no longer outsiders. Instead, they become unified in interpreting the facts in ways that will move the project toward success.

TIP: Counter mounting tensions by refocusing the team’s conversations around discussing available evidence or facts.

2. BRINGS FRESH INSIGHT

On a homogenous team, people understand each other and collaboration can flow smoothly—to a point. If everyone is thinking the same way and saying the same thing, is progress really being made?

On a diverse team, friction may be felt which can feel counterproductive at first. Neuroscientist David Rock states that working on diverse teams produces better outcomes precisely because it is harder.

Homogenous teams may feel more effective at first. The real truth is that people with different backgrounds bring new information and insight. Interacting with people who are different forces each team member to prepare better and anticipate alternative viewpoints.

TIP: Diverse teams are forced to process information more carefully because they are not homogenous. Teams become mentally tough when they not only search for, but seriously consider, new insight from each team member. This leads to a more vigorous discussion before decisions are made. As a result, more options for problem solving are considered.

3. CHANGE THINKING

I brought in a variety of people to help me organize undercover operations because I needed informational diversity. I brought people together to solve the problem on how to structure an undercover operation against a foreign spy in the United States. Each one brought in different ideas, opinions, and perspectives.

People who are different in experience, culture, gender, age, race, and other areas bring unique information. Often this can change a stale way of thinking. Exposure to diversity can change the way your team thinks.

TIP: Research has shown that it is a good idea to highlight differences because this tends to make those differences be taken seriously by all members of the team. These were the teams that came up with better ideas than homogenous teams. But, only when they were told to listen to, and respect, the perspectives of their teammates.

4. BOOST PRODUCTIVITY

A study in 2014 from MIT suggests that having a more diverse set of employees means you also have a more diverse set of skills. This means your team will function more productively. This same study confirms that more diversity meant a better bottom line.

Greater diversity implies a greater spread of experience which can add value and knowledge to a team’s productivity. However, I found that productivity also requires something else—a common goal.

A solid undercover operation requires everyone to have the same goal in mind—recruit a foreign spy. It was this common purpose that unified the diverse members of my team so we could create a proposal that would be successful.

TIP: Expect diverse teams to be more productive and creative but only if a common goal or purpose unifies them.

© 2017 LaRae Quy. 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.” 

5 Reasons Why All This Happiness Bullshit Is A Lie

Monday, July 10th, 2017

I feel happiness when I eat my favorite ice cream, joy when my 25lb Labradoodle sleeps on my lap or gazes into my eyes, and contentment when I can share the truest part of myself with trusted friends.

While most of us wish for happiness, very few of us ever define what happiness means to us or what happiness feels like.

If you can’t define what that happiness looks like to you, your life will suck. Self-help books on happiness are everywhere, but often do nothing more than remind you of exactly what you don’t have.

Here are 8 reasons why all this happiness shit is a lie—and how you can change your mindset:

1. Happiness Is Transitory

If you think about it, the transitory things in life are happiness-based. Once the ice cream is gone, I’ll look for something else. Happiness claims our full attention for a few moments, and then disappears as soon as it passes through our life. It doesn’t have the same heft as an emotion like sadness, joy, or contentment. It’s a bit of fluff; nice, but of no real consequence.

We can be happy with a big house, a big career, and big diamonds. We can lose houses, careers, and material things. That does not mean we will live in misery.

How To Make It Work For You

Replace the stuff, people, and the problems they bring with a stillness that resides deep within you. It is exactly in that stillness that you will find the joy and contentment that resides within, dependent upon nothing external in order to exist.

2. Happiness Looks To The Future

Happiness relies on outside situations, people, or events to align with our expectations so that the end result is our happiness. It is linked to the hope that “some day when I meet the right person” or “when I have a second home,” or “when I get the right job.”

If we rely on external circumstances to make us happy, we are never in control.

How To Make It Work For You

Since happiness is reliant upon external circumstances, we tend to put our happiness off to some point in the future. Joyful people prepare for the future, but they also know they cannot control it.

Learn to adjust to the surprises that the future holds for you rather than lament on how unlucky you are.

3. Happiness Suppresses Negative Emotions

I’m a big believer in positive thinking, but I also believe that negative emotions can teach us incredible lessons. The key is to be honest about what we are feeling; if it is negativity, get to the bottom of it. Pretending we don’t have negative emotions or tamping them down so they can’t surface is extremely unproductive and unhealthy.

Constant positivity is an avoidance system because it forces us to deny the existence of life’s problems. True happiness, joy, and contentment is found in our ability to work through our struggles, not deny they exist.

How To Make It Work For You

Negative emotions are a call to action. If they spiral downward into depression, take them to a professional therapist. But just because something feels good, it doesn’t mean it is good. And just because something feels bad, it doesn’t mean it is bad. Fear produces negative emotions, but we need to differentiate between a negative nagging emotion that is prompting us to move into action and those that are warning of a threat to our life.

4. Happiness Relies Too Much On Shitty Values

Most people have no idea of their personal values. They imitate what they see in others, in movies, or in books. If you don’t have a clue of what is important to you, you’ll never find happiness let alone the deeper emotions of joy and contentment.

Have the mental toughness to define what truly gives you happiness, and ultimately, joy and contentment. When you prioritize your values, you will see which values are ones worth suffering for and which ones are crap and should be be thrown out.

Prioritize your values and you will notice that none of them will feel like your old idea of happiness.

Contentment and joy are deeply embedded into our set of values. They can’t be bought and they don’t rest on someone else’s behavior. We can get fired, dumped, or pulled through the coals and still feel joy deep in our heart.

How To Make It Work For You

Fill in the answer to this sentence:

I value ______ because I need _______ and _______.

My answer: I value honesty because I need truth and authenticity.

Honesty, truthfulness, and authenticity are the values by which I measure my success and failure. These are the standards by which I judge myself and those around me. I seek out people, community, and situations that will allow me to live by my truest values. This produces happiness, yes, but something even more important: joy and contentment.

What about you?

5. Happiness Denies The Value of Struggle And Pain

Some of life’s greatest moments are full of pain, suffering, and struggle. Ask any parent, small business owner, or marathon runner.

Our values are defined by what we are willing to struggle to achieve. If something holds value for us, we will endure the pain and struggle of making it happen. The person we are (or will become) is defined by the way we overcome our struggles, suffering, and pain. Our greatest moments in life will be defined by these things, not by our pathetic attempts at happiness.

Joy is a lasting attitude while happiness is an ephemeral emotion. Demand more from life than a few fleeting moments of an emotion that draws its power from others. Instead, dare yourself to dig down deep and find joy.

It is in our choices that we become mentally tough. We learn to prioritize our emotions, thoughts, and behavior so we can pick what is important to us based on our values and beliefs.

How To Make It Work For You

Good values are achieved internally; bad values rely upon external circumstances. Once you’ve defined your values, prioritize them. What are the values you place above all else? These are the ones that influence the decisions you make in work and life.

© 2017 LaRae Quy. 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.” 

3 Reasons Why Stoics Make Great Leaders

Monday, May 29th, 2017

When I was 8, my grandfather bought me a quarter horse from the Denver stockyards. A cutting horse, he could pivot on his back legs so fast that I scrambled to stay in the saddle. 

Because the horse was trained to cut cattle from a herd, my dad would regularly send me out to bring in a single cow he wanted to either sell or put in a different pasture. On our Wyoming ranch one pasture was often several thousand acres of rough country.

I found the cow I was to bring in but she did not cooperate. When she tried to turn back to the herd, my horse blocked her. She took off running and we followed. Suddenly, the cow turned right. My horse turned right. I, however, kept moving forward and landed in a barbed wire fence.

Several things went through my mind—Dad would be pissed the cow got away; I’d have to walk several miles back to the ranch house; and how would I find my horse in that big pasture?

Not knowing what would happen, exactly, I held tight to the reins. The barbed wire fence tugged at my clothes in one direction, and my horse dragged me in another. I was in great danger of being trampled under horse hooves so I reached out and grabbed a bush and clung tight. My horse was pulled up abruptly because while I didn’t have the strength to stop him, the bush was big enough to do the job. I got back on my horse, found the cow again, and took her to the corral.

I experienced further obstacles when in the FBI Academy as I trained to become an FBI agent, but among the many lessons I learned along the way is this: it’s important that we understand the obstacles that we face and not run from them.

I could have let go of the reins and suffered the consequences, but I choose to work through the obstacles facing me the best way I could. Some obstacles cannot be avoided, not if we want to come out on top.

Stoicism teaches that, before we try to control events, we have to control ourselves first. Leaders like Marcus Aurelius have found a stoic attitude prepares them for failure and guards them against the arrogance of success.

As a leader, entrepreneur, or business owner it is important to find ways to become stronger in the face of adversity, turn obstacles around, and spin problems into opportunities.

Here are 3 reasons why stoics make great leaders:

1. Accept What Is Out Of Your Control

Leaders who are stoics recognize that only their thoughts and attitudes are within their realm of control; everything is ultimately uncontrollable.

Face it—there is a lot of stuff over which you have no control. You cannot control nature, other people, or even your own body at times. You can whine, complain, and pout but in the end you need to make peace with your situation. Only at this point can you start looking for ways to influence the people and things around you and try to change the outcome.

If you cannot identify and accept what is out of your control, you will collapse into a pit of negative emotions like frustration, sadness, and anger. Tantrums may have worked as a kid but they won’t take you very far up the corporate ladder.

The only thing you can totally control is your own thoughts. No one can take them away from you so make the most of them. If someone holds a gun to your head and demands that you run 6 miles, you feel stressed. If you run 6 miles to graduate from the FBI Academy and have colleagues cheering you on, you feel happy. You cannot blame events or situations for your emotions. The same 6 miles were run; what is different is your attitude about them.

“Today I escaped anxiety. Or no, I discarded it, because it was within me, in my own perceptions, not outside.”—Marcus Aurelius

Resilient people are stoics who are mentally tough. They are not disturbed by events because they know how to control their emotions, thoughts, and behavior in ways that will set them up for success.

TIP: Look for ways to understand the importance of your own efforts, regardless of the outcome. Just as importantly, don’t be afraid to pinpoint where you could have done better in controlling your emotions, thoughts, and behavior.

2. Search For The Worst That Can Happen

“Begin each day by telling yourself: Today I shall be meeting with interference, ingratitude, insolence, disloyalty, ill-will, and selfishness.”—Marcus Aurelius

Marcus was a stoic who did not want to be surprised and caught off guard at what might happen during his day. He knew how it feels to fall flat on his feet when confronted with the unknown or unexpected.

Positive thinking is a cornerstone of mental toughness. However, reminding yourself of what could go wrong is not pessimism. It’s being smart. You will encounter rude bosses, conniving colleagues, and pain-in-the-ass customers. Why not prepare for them?

FBI agents do not prepare for arrests by assuming everything will turn out OK. They prepare for arrests by anticipating all that could go wrong.

Leaders who are stoics are less likely to get frustrated and blow a deal or lose control during a tense negotiation. They imagine every conceivable setback and obstacle and find ways to cope and overcome the adversity before it becomes a reality.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy suggests spending time thinking about the potential downside of a conversation or event in advance can help you avoid an “oh shit” moment.

TIP: Take the time to think through the worst that could happen and allow yourself to feel the negative stuff. When you do, you’ll be able to manage the unproductive drama that these emotions can produce.

3. Stumbles Are Welcome

Stoics do not gaze at their navel to become better leaders. They don’t waste time trying to find themselves to become more authentic leaders. Instead, they turn their focus and energy to look for ways they can turn obstacles into opportunities. Often this means they voluntarily choose the hard path, the road less traveled.

What normal person volunteers to experience pain or discomfort? It’s not a self-inflicted penitence; instead, it’s another way the stoics develop character—they go out of their way to experience failure.

The mindset of a stoic leader is not perverse. There is a method to their madness! After all, we will all fail at something sooner or later, so why not practice failing well? There are several reasons to keep a petri dish on hand full of experiences that can lead to discomfort or failure.

First, failure will help you build up the strength to cope with whatever the future holds for you. If success and comfort is all you’ve ever known, you will not be prepared for the shitstorm that will come at some point in your life. Whether it’s your career, your health, old age, or something unseen, know that you will be able to endure the discomfort.

Second, when you experience stumbles and failures along the way, they will help you mitigate the fear that always comes along with the unexpected. Expose yourself to discomfort and failure so you know how you will respond when a setback rears its ugly head.

Third, regularly embrace the discomfort of the road less traveled because it will create an appreciation for what you do have.

TIP: Do not make failure a stranger. Embrace the stumbles along the way and become smarter because of them. Recovering from failure is a mindset.

“Life is hard. Pain Is Inevitable. Growth is optional.”—LaRae Quy

© 2017 LaRae Quy. 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.”

Boost Your Self Esteem – 5 Effective Ways

Monday, May 22nd, 2017

Self esteem is an essential component of FBI Firearms training. FBI agents train to use good judgment when confronted with stressful situations. They are confident in their ability to handle all types of weapons because they spend hours developing their skills.

When we have high levels of self esteem, we are less vulnerable to anxiety and stress. 

Self esteem is your belief in yourself. It is a fuel source and it powers your approach to both business and life. Almost everyone has experienced a time in their career when they’ve lost faith in themselves. It could be the loss of a job, a failed business, the startup that hasn’t quite started, or the realization that they are in the wrong career.

I learned quickly in the FBI that success would not make me confident. Instead, confidence would make me successful. Loss of self esteem is a loss of dignity and self-respect, and that is a downward spiral that becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Here are 5 effective ways you can boost your self-esteem:

1. UNDERSTAND YOUR ENVIRONMENT

understanding your environment will help to improve your self esteem

When I was transferred to a new city or squad, the first thing I did was identify the top performers. I learned the secrets to their success, from their interactions with colleagues in the office to the way they conducted their investigations in the field.

Troubled relationships with supervisors and colleagues can easily destroy even the most talented person’s confidence. If you have relationships that are troubled, try to identify when/where/why it happened. Then, look for ways you can do to get things back on track.

How To Make It Work For You: Take the time to study your environment, especially the people with whom you work. Educate yourself on how to recognize different personality types so you more easily identify what makes the people around you tick.

2. FIND A MENTOR

find a mentor to boost your self esteem

After I identified the top performers on my squad, I made them mentors. The toughest nut to crack was a group of 4 male agents who hung around together and had all the best cases assigned to them. They were an exclusive club so I labeled them “The Gang Of Four.”

Trying to become one of them was laughable, but I knew I needed to mirror their approach to working counterintelligence cases. They would die of shock if they knew I considered them to be my mentors, but they gave me the perspective I needed if I wanted to be confident—and successful.

By latching onto their attitudes and habits, I better understood the culture of my environment. They helped me identify the unwritten rules of the FBI that boosted my self esteem.

How To Make It Work For You: There is a big difference between a coach and a mentor. A coach is someone who sees the potential in who you can be, while a mentor is someone you’re trying to imitate or mirror. Both are essential but if you are experiencing lack of belief in yourself, surround yourself with people who are experienced and confident so they can show you how to move forward.

3. BE HONEST WITH YOURSELF

be honest with yourself to improve your self esteem

In the FBI Academy, we trained how to run down and tackle an individual resisting arrest. I was a lousy runner and showed up at the rear end of every race our class ran. The idea that I could run down or even catch up with a suspect produced snarky comments and rolled eyes from my classmates.

Yep, my self esteem suffered mightily but I also knew that true confidence must be grounded in reality. I had to make an honest assessment of my skills and strengths (I excelled in firearms), and then plan for ways to grow my strengths so I could manage my weaknesses.

Ego can take a hit but it’s essential that you are honest about your abilities. Pretending that you don’t have drawbacks or weaknesses is just being stupid. Instead, be smart and get ahead of them so they don’t sabotage you when you’re confronted with a stressful situation.

How To Make It Work For You: Find ways to get constructive feedback and criticism on what others see as your strengths. It will make it easier to shake off unfair criticism that you may receive in a competitive work environment.

4. HEAL FROM THE PAST

healing from your past will improve your self esteem

Take the time to uncover any unresolved or stress-producing issues that could still be lingering from your past. If you struggle with something from your past that drags you down, now is the time to have the mental toughness you need to deal with it, once and for all.

How To Make It Work For You: Get a counselor or therapist if you need one, but it’s time to slay that demon once and for all. “Age and wisdom do not always travel in pairs. Sometimes age shows up by itself.”—LaRae Quy

5. EXPLORE NEW LIFE EXPERIENCES

explore new life experiences to gain self esteem

One of the best ways to boost your self esteem is to learn a different skill-set by starting a new pastime. Your ego is not as invested in an avocation as it is in your career, so it will feel less threatened if you fail. 

Each time you learn something new, you will build confidence in what you’ve accomplished. You will build self-awareness of how you deal with disappointment, rejection, or failure.

To get something you’ve never had, you must do something you’ve never done.

To boost your self esteem, you will need to wrestle with your fear of failing as if the quality of your life depends on it. Because it does.

How To Make It Work For You: Notice how you respond to both failure and success. What can you learn from your experience? The more you understand how you respond to situations where you experience failure or success, the better you can craft the reaction you want.

© 2017 LaRae Quy. 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.” 

10 Hard Skills To Learn That Will Last A Lifetime

Sunday, May 7th, 2017

To survive growing up on a remote cattle ranch in the middle of Wyoming, there were hard skills to learn if I wanted to survive. I needed to be scrappy, gritty, and tenacious. If I wasn’t keeping an eye out for rattle snakes, I was avoiding horned bulls from charging my horse as I tried to cut them from a herd of cows.

I learned many important life lessons on that ranch, not the least is that it takes hard work, sweat, and mental toughness to get to the top and stay there. I took many of those lessons with me into the FBI as an undercover and counterintelligence agent for 24 years.

Here are 10 hard skills to learn that will last you a lifetime:

1. Hunt The Good Stuff

Positive thinkers are not optimists. 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.

TIP: The greatest mental toughness tool we have is our ability to choose one thought over another.

2. Become Emotionally Competent

We all know lots of people who are intelligent, but they are not necessarily competent. If you can’t empathize with other people, you will never develop the emotional skills needed to get along with them.

As an FBI agent, I learned that empathy is not feeling sorry for others; it is relating to what others feel. Empathy helped create a team spirit within our squad and motivated agents to try harder.

As a leader or entrepreneur, you need to develop empathy to become a leader who can push people beyond their own apathy and to think about something bigger than themselves.

Emotional competency also requires you to develop the skills necessary to communicate accurately with people. This includes understanding the importance of both verbal and non-verbal cues.

TIP: You can have the greatest ideas in the world, but if you can’t explain them to others, you will never be anything more than an educated loser.

3. Know What Makes You Tick

Successful people spend their time thinking about what they want to do and how to make it happen. They know what is important to them; they have a vision and a set of goals to get them there.

In other words, it’s hitting your stride because you’ve found what makes you tick. The FBI only hires second career professionals because they want to know that the individual is making a deliberate and well thought-out move from their first successful career into their second with the FBI.

It doesn’t always take talent to meet goals. Instead, success needs flow. Flow is described as a state of deep absorption in the activity during which performance seems to happen effortlessly and automatically.

According to psychologist Mihály Csíkszentmihályi, flow happens when a person’s skills are fully involved in overcoming a challenge so it acts as a catalyst for learning new skills and increasing challenges.

TIP: Ignorance of your competition makes you vulnerable; ignorance of yourself makes you stupid.

4. Have The Confidence To Fail

Unfortunately, most of us fear failure so much that we shuffle along in life until we accidentally stumble onto something at which we are good. Success can be very misleading because often it is not what really fuels us. It is a success that is based in complacency because we are too scared of failure to pursue the type of work that would provide value and meaning.

It takes confidence to look failure in the face and keep moving forward because if we are confident in ourselves and our ability, we look at failure as part of the fine-tuning process.

Most of my FBI investigations met many failures as I continually looked for the soft underbelly of the puzzle in front of me. Each failure educated me more about how to keep moving forward to solve the investigation.

TIP: The way in which you deal with failure determines how you will achieve success.

5. Identify Self-Limiting Beliefs

A British psychologist proved that our memory is not always reliable.  Instead, we extract the gist of the experience and store it in ways that makes the most sense to us. That’s why different people witnessing the same event often have different versions.

We already know that we are biased toward anything that confirms our own beliefs, but it’s important for you to realize that your brain has its own built-in confirmation bias. This means it stores information that is consistent with your own beliefs, values, and self-image.

For example, if you have low self-esteem, your brain tends to store information which confirms your lack of confidence. That will be all you remember about a specific event.

TIP: When you have doubts about your abilities and have self-limiting beliefs about what you can do in life, never rely on memory to give you accurace feedback, especially if the feedback is negative.

6. Stretch Toward Peak Performance

Unless you know your limits, you will not be able to prepare either your mind or your body to move past them. To move toward peak performance, you need to stretch your current skill level—but not so hard that you want to give up.

At the FBI Academy, if coaches didn’t push every agent past their comfort zone every day they weren’t doing their job.

Experts agree that this magic stretch is 4% greater than our skill. Anything more will discourage you from trying harder; anything less will not push you hard enough to move forward. However, its important to keep that continual tension between stretch and skill if we want to move toward our peak performance.

TIP: Smart leaders focus on developing peak performance by continually moving into their discomfort zone.

7. Manage Time Wisely

Find a system that works for you and stick to it. Not everyone is a morning person, so perhaps you’re most alert after you’ve exercised or taken a nap. The idea is to schedule the tasks that take the most energy for when your brain is fresh and alert.

Visuals are a great way to activate the mind. That’s why storytelling, pictures, and metaphors work so well—they generate an image.

Visuals are laden with information. They provide color, shape, size, context, etc. Since they take less energy than words, they are efficient ways for the brain to process information.

TIP: Grab a pen and paper and write down your prioritized projects for the day. This saves your brain from the need to recall and review each one. Save your energy for getting those tasks done!

8. Use Positive Self-Talk

The internal conversations we have with ourselves, called self-talk, can go on for days, and sometimes through our nights as well. Many of us know how vicious that inner critic can be. Often, we are harder on ourselves than we are on others. It’s not because we want to be, it’s because we don’t know how to manage our negative self-talk.

Energy follows attention—wherever your attention is focused, your energy will follow. If your inner critic is beating you up about a failure, your failing will be the one thing you focus on.

TIP: The way you treat yourself sets the standard for others

9. Make Room For Your Emotions

Mental toughness is managing our emotions in ways that will set us up for success. Instead of denying uncomfortable emotions, acknowledge them.

Researcher David Rock believes that labeling our negative emotions is an effective way of short circuiting their hold over us. So give your inner critic a name or call it out for what it really is—jealousy, insecurity, fear, etc.

You can keep the name in your head, but Rock believes that when you speak it, it activates a more robust short circuit to help break the emotional hold.

TIP: Destroy negative thoughts when they first show up and are at their weakest.

10. Find Your Tribe

Sebastian Junger wrote in his book, “Tribe”—“We have a strong instinct to belong to small groups defined by clear purpose and understanding–tribes.”

The FBI Academy created a tribe when they refused to let new agents leave for the first several weeks. We grew to depend upon each other and it was habit that we took with us into the field as we looked out for fellow agents

When you are a member of a tribe, you have an acute sense of belonging—you feel accepted and safe when things go wrong. Many of us are lucky enough to feel that our biological families are our tribe, but usually tribes are founded around groups of people with shared values, ideas, and experiences.

In the competitive world of business, it is not always easy to feel safe and accepted. When things go wrong, you fear losing your company, your job, and maybe even your health.

TIP: In times of stress, it’s easy to feel neglected. It’s impossible to instantly create deep bonds of familiarity and trust. Don’t wait until things go wrong to start finding your tribe. Start now.

© 2017 LaRae Quy. 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.” 

4 Tips To Create Stronger Bonds

Monday, May 1st, 2017

Contrary to popular television shows, FBI agents are the most effective when they create stronger bonds with the people in their investigations. Beating people into submission makes for a good action movie scene, but it’s not an agent’s first response when they face an obstacle or roadblock.

Brute force and ignorance can only take you so far; interviews, not interrogations, still remain the FBI’s primary investigative tool. Face-to-face conversations create stronger bonds of trust and understanding.

To be truly successful in today’s competitive marketplace, you must also learn how to create stronger bonds with the people around you. Communication must be crystal clear if you want to construct your business on a strong foundation.

Here are tips on you can create stronger bonds:

1. SHUT UP AND LISTEN

I live in Marin County, California where liberal helicopters parents are enthusiastically minting the next generation of  Snowflakes (precious children who find their self-esteem damaged when criticized.) Trump supporters are labeled as deplorable blue collar workers, ignorant, uneducated, and racist.

But wait—when I engage in conversations with people in my community, I find that there are many smart people in Marin County who support Trump. I also find that they are not deplorables, blue collar workers, ignorant, uneducated, or racist. Some of my colleagues live in a bubble where they assume everyone thinks like they do. They continue to preach and rant when they really need to just shut up and listen.

I listen to my neighbors, and when I do, they talk. In the process, stronger bonds are created. Trust is built, slowly but surely.

TIP: Listen to what people have to say and give them an opportunity to express their opinions. Have the mental toughness to control your emotions, thoughts, and behavior. Do not preach at them or judge them. Instead, let them feel your sincerity.

2. ENGAGE IN CONVERSATIONS

Heineken recently blew away viewers with their ad that puts people from opposite sides of an issue in face-to-face conversations. Those conversations led to a powerful message—appreciation and strong bonds can exist between people who have polar opposite views on a political issue or current event.

The reason is simple: we long to be seen, heard, and understood. FBI agents find engaging in conversations a powerful tool because that basic need often is unmet in many of today’s relationships. Conversations create levels of intimacy because we are connecting with another human being.

TIP: Conversations are a key component of intimacy and connection. It means you need to respect the person across from you even if you do not agree with them.

3. ACTIVELY LISTEN

Actively listening to a suspect accused of supporting and aiding a terrorist organization does not mean that the conversation will be easy. It does mean that it will help an agent move through the conversation more effectively.

Active listening helps create stronger bonds because the other person is aware that you are fully present. It doesn’t mean that you will know the right thing to say or the best way to respond. Agents are good listeners because they can sit with the discomfort of an awkward moment or an emotional outburst without judgment or retaliation.

TIP: If you are having a difficult conversation with a person, well-honed listening skills will help you move through it more effectively because those skills are allowing you to really hear the person’s story. Acknowledge what the person said. Do not criticize but be honest in your response. This is how to create stronger bonds.

4. NOTICE FEELINGS

In my interview training courses, I was taught to pay special attention when a suspect expresses a feeling. This was reinforced by my spiritual direction studies at San Francisco Theological Seminary. People are the most vulnerable and honest when they talk about their feelings.

Customers and team members may find it difficult, or even unprofessional, to express emotions. Instead, they often skirt around what they are truly feeling about an issue or situation. This means you will need to pay attention to words freighted with emotion or the needs they are experiencing.

TIP: Practice noticing when and how people express their feelings, in what context,which words they use, and the non-verbal hints that indicate an emotion or feeling. You will be more prepared when you have a difficult conversation later down the line.

© 2017 LaRae Quy. 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.”