Posts Tagged ‘mental toughness’

5 Steps To Personal Empowerment

Monday, January 22nd, 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here are 5 step to personal empowerment:

1. SHOW UP FOR LIFE

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

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

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

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

2. SET GOALS SO YOU KNOW WHERE YOU’RE HEADED

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

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

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

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

3. STOP MONKEYING AROUND

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

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

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

TIP: Answer these questions:

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

4. ASSESS YOUR IMPACT

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

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

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

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

5. EMPOWER FROM WITHIN

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

We can be so much better than that.

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

© 2018 LaRae Quy. All rights reserved.

You can follow me on Twitter, Facebook, AND LinkedIn

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.” 

Want Happiness? 3 Effective Ways To Take Charge Of Your Career

Monday, January 1st, 2018

As a new agent at the FBI Academy, happiness was not a priority. Our instructors took great delight when they uncovered our weaknesses. Once discovered, their dry little hearts made it their mission to push us as far into our discomfort zones as possible.

I had trouble with push-ups. My coach made sure he was the one to count them for our interim FIT test. He counted each push-up when we started out. When we hit the ninth push-up, he repeated, “Nine, nine, nine.” I did the ninth push-up nine times before he counted it!

All the while I’m thinking, “I don’t have any reserves left. I’ve wasted them all on the ninth push-up.” You guessed it: I finished the test and missed the critical points I needed to graduate from the Academy.

This was one of the most important failures of my life because the consequences were tremendous: I would not become an FBI Agent.

Time and time again, I go back to this failure to explain my success in life. The failure was traumatic. I hit rock bottom and was filled with desperation. It was at that moment, however, that I heard my calling. I wanted a career that would provide my life with value and meaning. For me, it was the FBI.

Every leader, entrepreneur, and business owner will have a different answer. But, to take charge of your career, you will need to dig down and uncover what provides your life with value and meaning. If you want happiness, it will need to be about more than money. If you make money your top priority, your soul will be sucked dry.

We all have a choice to make. We can whine about the raw deal life has handed us. Or, we can take charge of our life and focus on the things that truly matter. Because, guess what? Once we find the things that truly matter, we will find something much richer than happiness. We will find contentment and joy.

Here are 3 effective ways to take charge of your career (and yes, maybe find a little happiness as well):

1. Find A Path with Heart

If there is heart in your path, failure is nothing but another opportunity to try again. Mental toughness enables you to attack the same problem again and again, but each time you’re a little smarter about it. Your tactics may need to change, and you may be required to re-route, but the destination will be the same.

If there is no heart in your path, failure will seem overwhelming. Failure will be enough to persuade you to try something new, and you will drift until you finally succeed at something. Average people stop there—at success. And pretend, or hope, that their heart can be found there.

Failure can be a wonderful clarifying process. It can fortify your determination to succeed, or it can lead your mind to wander so it can consider another direction in life.

Once I realized my career as an FBI Agent was in jeopardy, my calling became crystal clear. I built up the strength to pass the push up test.

How To Make It Work For You:

To take charge of your career you will need to distinguish between passion and heart. Passion is an overused and overworked term. When someone starts talking about their passion, I break into a nervous sweat. It usually means their obsession of the moment. It’s easy to be passionate when things work out, and this is what makes passion so seductive. But when passion ebbs, it can evolve into frustration and annoyance.

Heart, on the other hand, is deeply embedded into the DNA of your being. It is who you are, stripped of all pretenses and baggage. If your failure is attached to a project that has heart, you will not be deterred by a few bumps on the road.

2. Align Goals with Your Heart

Many people focus on yearly goals, but that is a big mistake. Instead, identify what brings you a sense of joy. Then create goals to get you there. Let’s be honest: the real reason you want to be a millionaire is so you have the freedom to pursue the things that create excitement for you!

Get clear about what you want. What is the result you’re looking for? Do you want better relationships, financial independence, or is there something else?

Dr. Gail Matthews, a psychology professor at Dominican University in California, did a study on goal-setting with 267 participants. She found that we are 42% more likely to achieve our goals when we write them down.

  • Over 80% of Americans do not have goals
  • 16% say they do have goals but don’t write them down
  • Less than 4% actually write them down

Without goals to anchor us, we find ourselves adrift in life. We rely on goals to give us direction, but they only get in the way if they aren’t attached to something that creates joy and excitement for us. This is better known as the life-deferment plan—“someday I’ll get around to it.”

I passed the final physical fitness test and became an FBI Agent. Even in the midst of all the worry and anxiety there was a peace, because at the center of it all I had aligned my goals with where I truly wanted to go in life.

How To Make It Work For You:

To take charge of your career, here are some ways you can align goals with your heart:

  • Name the things that you look forward to in your day or week.
  • Recognize that your dream can also be a calling and that you may have more than one.
  • Stop being a slave to the life or job that is not fulfilling.
  • Minimize time spent on meaningless work.
  • Create time to pursue projects that do create excitement and life. Many of us have financial obligations that necessitate the need for those projects to remain a hobby. Don’t give up on them, though.
  • Write your most important goal on a blank sheet of paper and brainstorm ways to make it happen.

3. Examine The Labels You Give Yourself

The labels that others give you don’t matter as much as the ones you give yourself. Those that are self-imposed are boundaries that can limit where you move. Subconsciously, you may not let yourself cross them.

“Not an athlete“ was a label quickly given to me in the first few days of the Academy. I trained but made little progress. I gradually came to understand that not only had my classmates given me this label, but that I had accepted it, too. As long as I kept it, I wouldn’t be able to move beyond the self-imposed boundaries.

Happiness is not how I would describe how I felt about my situation at that moment. However, I knew that if I wanted to be fulfilled in the future, I would need to find a way to take charge of my career. Sooner, not later. Once I peeled back the label, I found an inner strength that translated to physical strength as well.

How To Make It Work For You:

To take charge of your career, here are some ways you can examine the labels you’ve given yourself, or accepted from others:

  • Recognize barriers that you’ve placed around yourself.
  • Pinpoint where those barriers came from. Most self-limiting beliefs are imposed on us by family, teachers, or associates from an early age.
  • Disregard limits that have been imposed by others.
  • Respect the boundaries imposed by your own personality. This means you need to be honest about your strengths and weaknesses.
  • Most of the barriers that prevent us from living a full life are based in fear. There are many fears that show up in all personalities, such as fear of failure, success, intimacy, and change.

In our relentless pursuit of happiness, we’ve missed the value of pursuing the things that truly excite us in a deeper and more meaningful way. Take charge of your career, and life, and focus on what is important to you.

© 2018 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 Ways To Get Through Hard Times

Monday, December 11th, 2017

We love stories about underdogs who beat the odds and figure out how to get through hard times. They provide encouragement that, we too, can be victorious and achieve success.

We’d prefer to watch others get through hard times from the safety of our armchair.

A favorite inspirational story of mine is about a ruthless con-artist, liar, thief, and manipulator who was full of fear and anxieties. Divested of all earthly possessions, he runs from his father-in-law and into the waiting arms of a brother who hates him.

Homeless on a riverbank, he is attacked and the violence is so intense that he is left crippled for life. He faces darkness, loneliness, exhaustion, and relentless pain.

The ancient book of the Bible tells us the man’s name was Jacob and his riverbank opponent was an angel. The question that immediately surfaces is: “Why would God create such pain and adversity?”

The question is answered by Jacob himself, who was transformed through this experience. Jacob finally understood that in real life, naive optimism and the desire for glamour is a recipe for despair and discontent.

Jacob’s transformation earned him a new name— Israel, because he prevailed over his struggles and carved out a tranquil existence in the midst of life’s turbulence.

Struggles force us to find our deepest name.

Setbacks are rarely easy. Whether it’s dealing with unemployment, a difficult job, or personal tragedies, we need mental toughness to get through hard times. Like Jacob, we can be transformed but only if we confront our failures, hurts, and pain.

Tough times and adversity have transformational powers. Life’s struggles are essential to developing resilience and generating a sense of accomplishment.

Here are 4 ways to make get through hard times: 

1. Face Adversity Head On

It’s easy to take your good luck for granted. If you are not prepared for adversity when it comes, you have no tools with which to fight back. Not getting what you always want forces you to identify your core character strengths and personal values—information you might have otherwise over looked.

Via Deep Survival: Who Lives, Who Dies, And Why, the first thing to do when we are faced with an obstacle is to recognize and accept it as soon as possible. People who get through hard times move through the stages of denial to acceptance at a faster pace. When we live in denial, things only get worse.

How To Make It Work For You: Stay alert for what can go wrong so you can prepare ahead of time. Obstacles can come from any area of your life so don’t take anything for granted. Practice gratitude every day so you’re aware of those special areas that provide joy and peace.

2. Expect the Deepest Pain To Empower You To Your Fullest Potential 

It’s not a pleasant thought, but very often it is the stressful choices that end up being the most worthwhile. Without pain, there would be no change.

When we force ourselves to only look for good things, we deny life’s problems and struggles. When we deny our struggles, we also deny ourselves the opportunity to solve them and generate real satisfaction and joy. Struggles add a layer of meaning and value to our life.

One day, in retrospect, the years of struggle will strike you as the most beautiful—Sigmund Freud

How To Make It Work For You: Psychologists remind us that “we are not our problems or crisis.” You are not the divorce, illness, trauma, or bank account. Our true self is that deeper entity that is whole and well no matter how hard it is to get through hard times. Just remember to learn from your pain and then release it.

3. Rewrite Your Story

Some of life’s struggles will change our life. When this happens, we can reframe the situation and focus on the opportunity the setback presents us. Once we identify ourselves as a victim, it stays with us.

They way in which we reframe the situation allows us to choose our personal narrative. It’s our point of view that shapes our world and the place we hold in it. If we reframe our struggle as a growth opportunity, we’re less likely to see ourselves as a victim.

A Harvard study found that people who viewed stress as a way to fuel performance managed their stress better than those who ignored their stress.

How To Make It Work For You: Recognize the story you use to explain your life. Can your situation be looked at in a different way that you haven’t considered before? Your current interpretation of your situation will change as you grow and mature. Knowing that, you can have faith and hope that things will be better tomorrow.

4. Seek Out Discomfort Zones 

Don’t be reluctant to accept a new responsibility or challenge because you don’t think you’re ready. It’s OK to acknowledge that you need additional information, skill, or experience but remember that no one is 100% ready when an opportunity present itself. Most opportunities in life force us out of our comfort zone, and so it’s natural for many of them to feel like struggles at first.

That is the best reason to move into your discomfort zone! You won’t be surprised by your response when you need to get through hard times because you’ve already spent time in discomfort zones.

Your stress hormone systems become less responsive to stress the more they are used. So, if you live your life in a way that embraces challenges on a regular basis, you’ll develop the skills that enable you to handle the extra stress.

How To Make It Work For You: Intentionally place yourself in challenging situations. The advantage of this approach is that you get to choose the level of stress involved in each challenge. To develop the skills to get through hard times, you will need to embrace moments of uncertainty even though you don’t feel 100% ready for 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.”

3 Tips On How To Live A Good Life

Monday, November 20th, 2017

Leading a good life is often like looking at grass—it’s always greener on the other side. We see the life other people lead and think to ourselves, “That should be me.”

If we suffer from a serious ailment or experience a traumatic loss, it’s only human to wish the situation was different. Good mental health dictates that we strive to be as happy and healthy as possible.

But, there is so much emphasis on being happy in our culture that we forget happiness is not one thing. Indeed, happiness is many things and there is a small chance that you’ll knock the ball out of the court on every one of them.

We can blame the 1960’s for the trend that encouraged people to reach out and find their true potential. And in the process, throw in a little of how to discover the meaning of life. Deep stuff, except that many people put a bandaid on what it means to live a good life—they slapped on a Get Happy label and hoped for the best.

In a 42-year study conducted by the University of Chicago, it appears that happiness in the United States peaked in 1973. Otherwise, happiness has stayed stagnant for over the past 42 years. The bandaid is clearly not working, so what would a deep healing look like?

The first place to start is to look at what contributes to how we lead a good life:

Tip #1 Maybe You Weren’t Meant To Have It All

Below is a list of different areas that impact your ability to lead a good life:

  • Family
  • Career
  • Health
  • Financial
  • Education
  • Travel
  • Romance
  • Relationships
  • Spiritual

Each of these areas presents different types of happiness and contentment. You may be able to live a good life in a few of them, but not all. Areas like career and marriage take time and commitment. Both require work so that may mean you have less time to develop relationships or travel.

Time restrictions necessarily place limitations on what you can do. Often, living a good life means you’ve made a decision to put more time into one area over another.

What It Means For You: Living a good life isn’t about just one thing. It is the combination of many. Furthermore, it means you must prioritize what is most important to you. Once you have clarity on what is most important to you, it is possible to put your energy into activities that support those areas.

TIP #2 Work On Being Agile, Not Strong

 

You can survive, thrive, and be an incredible leader if you remain flexible when times are tough and outcomes are not clear. Mental toughness does not mean blasting through your obstacles and roadblocks. 

The key is to develop a flexible and agile way of thinking about how to live the good life. Awareness of these mental shifts allows you to recognize where you’ve been touched by emotions like happiness and not give up when it slips away.

Researchers have uncovered what they call the Hedonistic Treadmill. We work very hard to achieve a goal that will help us lead a good life. We are filled with anticipation until we experience the brief fix that produces happiness, but the euphoria doesn’t last long. When it dissipates, we revert back to our baseline and start chasing the next dream.

This is not a bad thing, however. Dissatisfaction with the present is what keeps us motivated to move forward. Perpetual bliss would lead to complacency; and complacency is the real killer.

Lao Tzu once said, “Water is fluid, soft, and yielding. But water will wear away rock, which is rigid and cannot yield. As a rule, whatever is fluid, soft, and yielding will overcome whatever is rigid and hard. This is another paradox: what is soft is strong.” 

How To Make It Work For You: Mental toughness requires the resilience to cope with the harsh realities of life without ever losing sight of the road. If you focus only on your barriers, you’ll never see the road that leads to the good life.

Tip #3 Rosy Images Of The Good Life Are Usually Misleading

Face it—rosy images of how life will be in the future are meant to enhance advertisement revenues, not enlighten your understanding of real life. It’s hard not to be seduced by images of attractive people surrounded by beautiful surroundings where everyone is happy and smiling.

Slick ads are very effective tools of persuasion. We can feel ourselves in those rosy images of how the good life will look—once we get there. As a result, we live in the future where we see ourselves in the midst of those surroundings.

We can blame our brains, though. Neuroscience tells us that we have an optimism bias, which is the tendency to believe our future will be better than our present. At the subconscious level, the mind has a tendency to focus on the optimistic; while at the conscious level, it has a tendency to focus on the negative.

Along with the optimistic bias, our brains also have what is called a Pollyanna Principle. It means that we tend filter out unpleasant information from our past and retain only pleasant memories.

What It Means For You: Since the conscious mind tends to focus on the negative, say to yourself, “Isn’t this great, right now?” Stop living in either the past or the future. Focus on what is going on in your life right now, and enjoy the areas you have made a priority.

© 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.” 

Do You Make These Mistakes In Difficult Conversations?

Monday, November 6th, 2017

I could not avoid difficult conversations in my line of work. My job as an FBI agent was to pull back the surface and probe for the truth. Often, my difficult conversations involved people who were too scared to admit anything. They wanted to keep the truth hidden, forever. Or, they held opinions that diverged from mine.

Some topics are so sensitive and emotionally charged that good conversations are never easy.

As leaders, you may need to tell a client that the project is delayed. Give an employee an unpleasant performance appraisal. Or, tell a successful, longtime employee that his position is being eliminated.

In today’s divisive world, it’s almost impossible to avoid difficult conversations. You may find yourself in a political debate with a colleague. More and more, people refuse to talk with others who share differing opinions about a variety of issues.

I learned early that there is no human being on the planet with whom you have nothing in common. Sometimes I had to work very hard to find that common ground. The secret is in whether you maintain the right attitude.

Do you make these common mistakes in difficult conversations?

Mistake #1: Interrupting The Other Person

Listen to what the other person is saying. Hear them out and don’t interrupt. Let them tell their story or make their point.

Make sure your actions back up your words. Don’t say, “I understand” as you check your text messages.

TIP: Focus your attention on what the other person is saying. Don’t wait for them to finish so you can jump in with a response. If you are thinking of a response while they are speaking, you aren’t really listening.

Mistake #2: Approach The Conversation With A Need To Be Right

The purpose of a conversation is to listen to what the other person is saying. We listen to understand. Not to decide whether the other person is right or wrong. When we feel the need to be right, it means the other person is wrong. This is a rigid win/lose mindset that creates even more conflict.

TIP: Approach a difficult conversation with an open mind and sincere intent to understand what is being said.

Mistake #3: Jump To Snap Judgments

This is a big one because we all make snap judgments. Often, our snap judgments are correct and that is why we rely on them. But, when we’re wrong, they prevent us from getting accurate information.

Psychologists call the tendency to lump people into stereotypes as the “halo and horns effect.” If we approve of some quality they possess, we judge them more positively in other areas as well. The opposite is also true.

TIP: Research proves that we all have biases. So, drop your assumptions about a person because you may not have all the facts. People change and grow, so update your assumptions from time to time.

Mistake #4: Failure To Show Respect

Take a cue from our headlines—lack of respect has become an epidemic in America. But like any illness, there is an antidote. Empathize with other people. Their experiences and backgrounds are different from yours so try to learn from them. This does not mean you must accept their opinions, but you do need to show respect and listen.

As the spokesperson for the FBI, I did a live TV interview on the topic of Crimes Against Children. The other guest was a convicted child molester who was now out of prison. The producer sat us next to one another with the reporter in front. It took all my restraint to politely listen to him speak about why he molested litle girls. Both the reporter and I showed this man respect. He expressed remorse. He also said interviews like this one were intended to persuade other molesters to get help.

If I can keep my mouth shut and politely hear someone out, so can you. You never know what the other person has experienced or feels. But, with a little respect, you might see the other side of the situation.

TIP: Practice empathy. Watch a video or interview of someone you don’t like. Focus on understanding how that person believes they are doing good.

Mistake #5: Let Emotions Run Wild

Difficult conversations often revolve around emotionally charged issues. Whether it’s politics, religion, or poor performance issues, reactions can be intense.

Emotional competence is the ability to understand and manage emotions in a today’s environment. It is a cornerstone of mental toughness. We are emotionally competent if we know how to control our emotions rather than allowing our emotions to control us.

Professor Robert Plutchik created a Wheel of Emotions to show that emotions follow a path. What starts as annoyance can move on to anger or even escalate to rage.

TIP: Human beings are hard-wired to be emotional. If your emotions get the best of you, be adult enough to admit you said something stupid or hurtful. Then put it behind you and move on.

Mistake #6: Give Up Too Early

Stick it out. Talk through difficult topics even if you want to walk away. There might be moments in the conversation when silence occurs. Silence can be an opportunity for the message to sink in. A pause can morph into a moment of clarity.

TIP: Extroverts tend to think as they speak, so they are more uncomfortable with silence. On the other hand, introverts want to think before they speak. If you understand these differences, it will help you navigate moments of silence so you don’t give up too early.

Mistake #7: Forget To End Well

There is no need to have the last word. If at all possible, do everything you can to preserve the relationship. Relationships can take years to build and minutes to blow up over a difference of opinion.

If possible, think about how your discussion might fix the situation or at least expand your understanding of it. The last thing you want to do is create an irreparable wall between youself and the other person.

TIP: Always end a difficult conversation in a friendly and gracious way. Try to find common ground that will set the groundwork and tone for future constructive conversations.

© 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.”

 

Why Some People Succeed Almost All The Time

Monday, October 16th, 2017

I was never the smartest student in my classes. I had to really work hard to earn an A. But, I thought I knew why some people succeed almost all the time. Because they are smart!

When it comes to success, it’s easy to think that people who are blessed with brains are the ones who will make it to the top. Common sense suggests that being smart inspires confidence. It does for awhile, but only while the going is easy.

The deciding factor in success is how you handle setbacks and challenges. People who are convivial and pleasant even in hard times tend to attract the right people around them. With the right people come the right opportunities.

There is a reason why some people succeed almost all the time, and it has little to do with being smart. Instead, they develop personal habits that carry them through setbacks and challenges. They use mental toughness to master the art of discipline and become the right person at the right time.

Here is a list of personal habits for you to cultivate as well:

1. Forget Self-Improvement

The reason why some people succeed almost all the time is because they understand their core strengths. They don’t waste precious time trying to fix their weaknesses. Too much popular self-improvement tries to build up a skill set or talent that is lacking.

Identify your strong character strengths and skill sets. Think about how you might use those strengths at work, in relationships, and at home. You’re also less likely to experience depression and other anxiety.

TIP: Bask in what is already great about yourself rather than try to fix what is not.

2. Savor “Me” Time

The reason why some people succeed almost all the time is because they understand the value of time. They direct their efforts toward the most important things in their life. It is important that they impose effective time management skills and learn how to say no.

They prioritize what needs to be done from what would be nice to get done. People who savor “me” time are very good at cutting out toxic relationships that add no value. Small acts of self-care do not need to take up giant blocks of time. But it is important to allow yourself to indulge in the stuff that brings you joy.

TIP: Spend a little time and write down the things that bring a smile to your face. Find ways to incorporate these small acts of joy into your daily life.

3. Develop A Back-Up Plan

The reason why some people succeed almost all the time is because they don’t leave things to chance. They have a back-up plan—for just about everything. From electrical outages to failed business plans, they create strategies that will help them move forward.

One of my favorite lines comes from The Eiger Sanction, a movie starring Clint Eastwood in which 5 men plan to climb the Eiger in Switzerland. Eastwood asks one of the climbers about the back-up plan in case they need to retreat. The climber replies, “I consider it self-defeating to plan in terms of retreat.” Eastwood’s character responds with, “I consider it stupid not to.”

Have a Plan B, because if Plan A is derailed, you can land on your feet and move right into Plan B. You might get blindsided by new competition, new regulations, or a turn in the economy.

TIP: Always have a Plan B to fall back on when things go wrong. And have other people available to help you execute it when the time comes.

4. Know What Makes Them Tick

The reason why some people succeed almost all the time is because they pursue things that bring them value and meaning. They’ve figured out what makes them tick and they go for it. They edit the stuff that detracts from their pursuit.

Often, they make an extra effort to educate themselves about different issues and topics. This doesn’t mean they have loads of formal education, but they are curious.  Most likely, curiosity is what alerted them to their passion in the first place.

TIP: Find something that provides you with value and meaning. It might be related to your job, or it might not. It isn’t always important to get paid. But do put your gift to use.

5. Unafraid Of The Unknown

There was a shepherd boy named David. He was not a warrior and he was small in size. David looked at a giant named Goliath and said “I will strike you down and cut off your head. ” That is exactly what he did. Challenges are only as big as we make them.

The runt of the litter takes on the giant. We love stories of the underdog who musters the courage and confidence to find ways of beating the odds!

According to the story, David ran toward the giant. As Goliath moved in for the kill, David noticed a gap in the armor that protected Goliath’s head. David reached into his bag and slung one of his stones. It struck on the forehead, the giant fell down on the ground.

TIP: To increase safety, move toward the unknown. When David moved closer to the threat, he was able to see where and how to strike. Opportunities not seen from a distance were made visible as he pressed forward.

6. Cultivate Kindness

The reason why some people succeed almost all the time is because other people like being around them. They attract other people who succeed almost all the time!

Being a do-gooder can increase your level of contentment. It doesn’t have to be anything big, but small acts of kindness can change your mental outlook. If the man standing behind you in the grocery line looks hungry and is buying one item, let him go ahead of you. Give someone a compliment.

What goes around comes around. If you are kind to others, there’s a decent chance you’re kind to yourself as well.

TIP: Try this 10-second exercise from Chade-Meng Tan. Identify two people in your office and think, “I wish for these two people to be happy and content.” Don’t say or do anything else. Since no one else knows what you’re doing, there’s no risk of embarrassment. It turns out that being on the giving end of a kind thought is rewarding in and of itself.

© 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 Get Along With Negative People

Monday, October 2nd, 2017

Negative people show up in all walks of life. As an undercover FBI agent, I couldn’t pick and choose the people I met. So, I learned to get along with everyone, even negative people who were downright toxic. Often I was forced to spend time with people who felt trapped by their life and blamed others for their situation.

What are the characteristics of negative people?  They are soul-sucking individuals who take but never give back. Often, they refuse to accept responsibility for their failures. Blame others for their hardships. Possess no desire to improve themselves. Search out and find the negative in everything they see. They then pass on those observations to everyone around them. Have I missed anything?

I’m picky about the friends with whom I spend time. It’s important to be surrounded who uplift, energize, and encourage those around them. I’ve always believed that the people with whom I surround myself will either make or break my success.

My undercover experiences made me realize that many people go to work everyday and find themselves surrounded by colleagues and associates who are losers. Losers are people who are depressed, unhappy, frustrated, or angry about their situation in life.

Negative people often become toxic.

It takes mental toughness to walk into the same situation day after day and face the negative attitudes of others. And, not let it rub off on you. That negative shit can be catching! We need to find ways to get along with the people without becoming depressed or frustrated ourselves.

Here are 4 things to understand if you want to get along with negative people:

1. Catch the Right Attitude

Negative attitudes catch on more easily than positive ones. The reason is our survival-driven, limbic system in the brain is powerful. It has kept us safe for centuries by alerting us to negative information that warns us of danger. Negative stimuli produce more neural activity than positive stimuli. Social psychologists explain that negative information is like velcro while positive information is like teflon. Negativity is stickier; we take it more seriously and pay more attention to it.

Tip: We don’t need to run from negative information because it creates anxiety or fear in us. Do not let the negativity of others affect your well-being. Instead, handle negative information and do one of the following:

  • write in a journal
  • focus on a positive thought for 20 seconds or more
  • talk it through with a trusted friend

These activities will move you from the emotional brain to the part of the brain that thinks.

2. Groupthink is Strong

Once a negative synergy develops within a work environment, it’s tough to break the culture that’s been established. Groupthink is strongly associated with survival. To express a contrary view places us at risk of being ostracized. Negative behavior is sometimes encouraged by leadership so watch your step. Make sure you understand your organization’s culture and groupthink.

Tip: Walk into work everyday and understand that your co-workers and colleagues are heavily influenced by the message sent from leadership. We tend to give more heft to messages delivered from people in authority.  If you’re trying to bring positivity into the conversation, you must be seen as a person of influence.

3. Keep Your Mental Chatter Positive

The way in which we speak to ourselves is one of the best indicators of our chances of success. Because of our negativity bias, our mental chatter is up to 70% negative.

We often assume that a when a person uses positive language, it’s an accurate indication of their attitude. However, studies have shown that behavior is a far more reliable predictor of what a person really thinks than the words they speak. People can appear positive on a superficial level when they use the right words. But their loser behavior is a far better indicator of what is going on inside their head.

Tip: When negative people surround us, we need to recognize when their negativity affects our own mental chatter. Research shows that we say between 300 to 1,000 words to ourselves every minute. Train yourself to speak and think in positive terms. You can “override fears” that are stimulated by the continual negativity of others.

4. Maintain a Positive and Realistic Attitude

Researchers have drilled down into the science of positivity. The positivity of Normal Vincent Peale quotes may seem trite to some. However, there is ample evidence to suggest that a positive attitude makes a difference. You can either survive your circumstances or thrive in a world that you create.

When we are positive, we are able to look reality in the face and not flinch. Positive thinking is not sugar-coated phrases or optimism that insists circumstances will change.

Tip: Often, your circumstances will not change and you must decide how you will continue to move forward anyway. Be positive and believe your destiny is in your hands.

Be an example to the negative people around you. Help them identify what they are good at. Encourage them to focus on those positive qualities. Once they do, they may believe they are more than passive observers in their own life.

“Our attitude toward life determines life’s attitude toward us.”~John N. Mitchell

© 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.” 

8 Ways To Become More Resilient

Monday, September 18th, 2017

FBI agents need to be resilient so they can solve cases that have no easy or obvious solution. They go to where they are needed, not to where they feel comfortable.

As an FBI agent, I was assigned investigations where I had no idea how to solve them. But this was my thinking: Drop me in the middle of any squad or any situation; anywhere, anytime. I will not be scared, nor will I give up. If I’m knocked down, I’ll drag myself back up and keep at it until I solve the case.

This is the mindset of a survivor—a person who is resilient enough to bounce back from the trauma of everyday life.

As business leaders and entrepreneurs, you will be required to be resilient when confronted with obstacles and roadblocks. You have a willingness to swim upstream and not give up simply because the tide is against you.

Resilient people are successful because they possess certain qualities. Here are 8 ways you can become more resilient:

1. Take Responsibility For Your Actions

I quickly learned that the FBI would not tolerate whining and complaining when my circumstances were less than ideal. Instead, they drilled into me the need to take personal control and responsibility for the direction life was taking me.

Resilient leaders do not seek out happiness by relying on others, nor do they blame others for their situation.

How To Make It Work For You: Don’t whine, blame others, or point fingers if you don’t get what you want.

2. Focus On Possibilities

Resilient people are always asking this question: what can I do to change my situation? When they focus on the possibilities that lie before them, they make their own luck. They do what they can with the hand they’ve been dealt, and in doing so, they take control of their life.

In his book, The Status Syndrome: How Social Standing Affects Our Health and Longevity, Michael Marmot explains how clerks and secretaries are more likely to die of heart attacks than senior executives.

His team took into consideration on variables such as smoking and poor nutrition. His research team concluded that those in lower category jobs had less control over their life. That is why they were more likely to suffer from heart disease.

How To Make It Work For You: Believe you can control the important events in your life. Often this will mean you will need to be flexible in the way that you approach your goals. And agile in the way in which you overcome obstacles.

3. Become A Positive Thinker

There is a big difference between being an optimist and being a positive thinker. Positive thinkers are not necessarily happy or optimistic.

Instead, positive thinkers are blunt realists who look misery right in the eye and confront the most brutal facts of their day without expecting things to change. They adapt to their circumstances without ever losing hope.

As FBI agents, we planned arrests by giving priority to what could go wrong. We were not optimists who hoped everything would go according to plan. We weighed the possibility of a negative outcome with equal heft as the possibility of a positive outcome.

How To Make It Work For You: Hunt the good stuff and find 5 positive thoughts to counter each negative thought. When confronted with something that feels overwhelming, you will need to find 5 positive thoughts to counter each one negative thought that comes to mind.

4. Prioritize What Is Important

Squad briefings were a great way to help agents get over a hurdle in one of their investigations. When an agent briefed the squad on a case, white boards were created with priorities listed—from most important to least.

Prioritizing information is a useful resilience tool because forces your brain to interact with information rather than simply react to it. Lists are an excellent way of forcing different parts of the brain to interact with each other. This also prevents different parts of our brain from fighting against each another for attention and energy.

How To Make It Work For You: Writing down your priority list helps you to visualize, so keep paper and pen handy. Typing your list out on a computer does not satisfy the brain’s need for visualization.

5. Manage Emotions

You are a wimp if you run away from a negative emotion or deny unpleasant thoughts and feelings. You don’t think you’re mentally tough enough to handle the hard stuff.

Too often, people pretend negative emotions and feelings don’t exist. Ignoring negative feelings is not healthy; nor is wallowing in them. Resilient people hurt when life hands them a rough time, but they never forget that they still have control over their attitude.

How To Make It Work For You: Identify your emotions, and then call them, or label them, for what they really are. If the emotion is pride, envy, or anger—own up to it. Although most people expect labeling emotions to increase them, when you label your fear or anxiety you actually lessen your discomfort. It’s very important, however, to keep the label to one or two words because if you open up dialogue about it, you will only increase the emotion.

6. Reframe Negative Events

Setbacks are a natural part of life. Resilience requires mental toughness because it is the ability to recover quickly from adversity, no matter your situation.

Nip negative emotions and reactions in the bud when they first appear. This is when they are the weakest.

Cold cases are those in which the leads have grown cold, but nothing motivates an FBI case agent as much as looking into the face of an innocent victim who trusts and expects them to find the answer. Quit is not a word used in FBI investigations.

How To Make It Work For You: Reframing is a fancy word for changing the way you look at adversity or a negative situation. Reframing can provide you with different ways of interpreting your less than perfect situation so you can expand the possibilities and overcome the adversity.

7. Find Your Tribe

Friendship are important; they can lift you up, provide security, and prevent slip-ups in both business and life.

As Sebastian Junger wrote in his book, Tribe, “We have a strong instinct to belong to small groups defined by clear purpose and understanding–“tribes.” This tribal connection has been largely lost in modern society, but regaining it may be the key to our psychological survival.”

A strong psychological thread developed during our training as special agents is the concept of the “FBI family.” FBI employees will close ranks around one of their own if the individual is targeted or harmed in some way.

How To Make It Work For You: Find your tribe. Whether it’s your biological family or your adoptive one from work, school, or church—find people who give you the sense of security and connectivity.

© 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 Strategies To Deal With Difficult Colleagues

Monday, September 11th, 2017

It is hard to put difficult colleagues into a one-size-fits-all box. After all, they come in so many shapes and sizes. No workplace is without them.

What about the passive-aggressive who feeds on bullying others? How about the know-it-all corporate climber who walks all over people in her 5 inch stilettos? Or the two-faced backstabber who delights in betraying confidences?

Difficult colleagues create stressful environments and unpleasant working conditions. A survey by the American Psychological Association (APA) found that 65% of Americans cited work as a top source of stress. Only 37% of Americans surveyed said they were doing an excellent or very good job managing stress. In fact, work-related problems significantly outpaced other leading causes of stress such as health concerns or family responsibilities.

Not all stress at work can be blamed on difficult colleagues, but our workplace is a perfect breeding ground for people who push our buttons. A gossip who might not ordinarily get on our nerves becomes toxic when we are forced to work with them on a daily basis.

Unfortunately for entrepreneurs, business owners, and leaders, difficult employees are not always bad employees. They may be highly skilled or very talented. They may add to the bottom line of your company, but they can also create stress for your other team members which reduces overall productivity.

The way your team deals with difficult colleagues will have a major impact on their careers and their well-being. Here are 5 strategies to deal with difficult colleagues:

1. Keep Friends Close, Enemies Even Closer

A difficult colleague may not be your enemy, but the more you know about them, the better you can understand them.

I will admit that, as an FBI agent, there are people out there who considered me to be the difficult colleague. I (sometimes) regret that I left casualties in the squadroom, but I also know I had reasons for taking my stance. I’m not justifying my behavior; I make this point to underscore the importance of trying to understand the difficult colleague.

A Buddhist practice suggests that if someone is causing you to suffer, it’s because they’re suffering as well.

If someone had taken the time to ask me about my behavior, I would have pointed out that I am an overachiever. As such, I put so much pressure on myself to excel that, at times, I had no time for the pettiness of common courtesy! The stress I put on myself to run undercover operations and develop human intelligence (humint) sources caught up with me; I ended up incredibly sick for several months.

TIP: Take the time to understand that your workplace antagonist is an imperfect person, just like you. You don’t have to like them but if you can understand why they act like a jerk, you might be able to prevent yourself from adding fuel to the fire.

2. Know What Pushes Your Buttons

 

 

 

No one escapes childhood without a few bruises and scrapes. We all have flash points that stem from our upbringing, family life, and relationships. Anger or frustration can be triggered when we least expect it. We react to a situation or individual rather than choose our response.

Our buttons are our responsibility to uncover. It’s so much easier to blame the difficult colleague or stupid supervisor rather than admit we have our own flaws.

Instead, take a look at why you react to certain people or situations in a negative way. Mental toughness is managing your emotions, thoughts, and behavior in ways that will set you up for success. You need to be brave enough to look at yourself with honesty and compassion. This might mean going back to childhood hurts to discover the patterns of thinking that are sabotaging you now.

TIP: Don’t be a wimp. Get a handle on what those buttons are and who, or what, pushes them. Rather than seeing difficult colleagues as a burden, they could actually be your ticket to dramatic professional growth.

3. Save The Fight For What Matters

Analyze the person and situation so you can rule out “false triggers” that create unnecessary stress in your environment. If you can’t, you will be at the mercy of the office bullies because they will know how to manipulate you. By pushing one of your buttons, you can be made to look oversensitive, weak, or gullible.

TIP: Be responsive, not reactive when someone pushes your buttons. A knee-jerk reaction is never a good choice.

4. Keep A Lid On Anger

Anger flares up when we feel that we, or another co-worker, have been unjustly treated by the difficult colleague. There are several reasons anger is not a good reaction:

  • An unpleasant emotion
  • Bad for your health
  • Clouds your judgment
  • Makes you look unprofessional

Avoid anger in the workplace. If you are embroiled in a constant conflict at work, you risk being seen as unable to handle the situation like a seasoned professional. Worse yet, you may get labeled as being a difficult colleague as well.

TIP: Don’t flare up in the immediate heat of a confrontation. Instead, allow yourself to observe what is happening without getting caught up in it (meditation can help you with this). If you feel you can’t control your anger, try stalling for time. Here are some suggestions:

“Can I have a little more time to think this through? I’ll get back to you with an answer.”

“This isn’t on today’s agenda. Can we talk about it later?”

“I have a deadline. Can I get back to you on that?”

Bottom line: get out of the situation as quick as you can so you can decide if this is the hill you want to die on. If not, wait until your emotions are under control and then choose your response rather than reacting with negativity.

5. Face Conflict

Conflict avoidance is not always a great idea, either. Staying away from disagreements and conflict creates stress as well.

If you’re faced with a difficult colleague, take some time out to reflect on the situation. Think about what the ideal outcome would be for you. What would you hope to accomplish from a conversation with your colleague?

Talk the situation out with other co-workers to gage their assessment of it. They might be able to offer constructive advice and observations.

Don’t criticize, blame, or judge. Point out what you both agree upon at the beginning of the conversation.

TIP: Things might not change between you and the difficult colleague at first, but it’s worth a try. In a corporate environment that is known for tactics and playing games, develop a reputation of someone who is direct, personal and genuine. You’ll stand out!

© 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 Gain More Clarity Of Goals

Monday, September 4th, 2017

As a kid, my parents gave me no choice—I was going to go to college after I graduated from high school. I had no clarity of goals for my life, so I followed the blueprint laid out by my parents.

I followed the path chosen for me all through school, and when I graduated, some fool told me to follow my passion. Clothes were fun and interesting to me, so I looked for a job in retail. I was miserable, bored, and restless. To get out of the rut I had dug for myself, I went back to school to pursue a Masters degree—but in what?

I had no clue what I wanted to do with my life. Most of my friends had gotten married and started families. Was I supposed to do the same thing? I’d had enough of the “follow your passion” crap advice so I set out to pinpoint when and where I found joy in my life. Not vacuous happiness experiences, but deep and meaningful joy.

Two things came to mind: I loved history and books. Did that mean I was to be a writer of historical fiction? Or were history and books to be my favorite hobbies?

Leadership is understanding how to help people plot out clarity of goals. It can be a difficult and messy process and it takes mental toughness to work through the uncertainty. 

Do you follow the blueprint of someone else’s life or create one of your own? Parker Palmer wrote in his book, Let Your Life Speak, that he grew up admiring people like Martin Luther King and Ghandi. He set out to change the educational system from within. His goal was to become the president of UC Berkeley, and he was almost able to achieve his goal.

The problem was that he hated his job. Palmer finally realized that he could be inspired by people like King and Ghandi, but he didn’t have to walk their path. He resigned and started another career that was more authentic to him.

There are powerful and wonderful voices in the world that provide ideas of what we can do and where we should go. Ultimately, however, you must choose to create your own unique blueprint and not try and imitate the lives of others.

At the age of 25 I became an FBI agent. I had found a path that resonated with me. The values held closest by this venerable organization are Fidelity, Bravery, and Integrity. I loved the grit in integrity because I grew up a scrappy kid on a Wyoming cattle ranch. My new career wasn’t in history or books, but I didn’t leave them behind, either.

It was a trade-off, but the values of the FBI were also important to me. I cut myself a deal: I was living in alignment with my goals even though not everything was in perfect order. There were connections between what I was doing and what I believed to be true.

I retired from the FBI after almost 25 years and wrote 2 books about leadership development. And we’ll see where my love of history takes me in the future.

Here are 5 ways you can gain clarity of goals that are important to you:

1. Create The Right Morning Ritual

Research confirms that our brain is most active and creative immediately following sleep. Unfortunately, 80 percent of people between the ages of 18-44 check their smartphones within 15 minutes of waking up, thereby losing those precious creative moments.

In Morning Papers, Julia Cameron suggests we sit down every morning and write out 3 pages of whatever is on our mind. It might sound like a time-waster at first, but neuroscience backs up Cameron. Your brain is most creative upon waking up; use this time wisely to gain clarity on goals.

How To Make It Work For You: Go to a quiet place and grab a journal. Data dump whatever is on your mind but loosely direct your thoughts on how to gain clarity of goals. Write down whatever comes to mind about those things.

2. Focus Your Energy

Stoic philosopher Lucius Annaeus Seneca states that, “it’s not that we have a short time to live, but that we waste a lot of it.”

Today’s entertainment-on-demand world provides instant distractions. It’s easy to catch ourselves getting off track. As a result, our clarity of goals tend to rolled over by those distractions.

Steve Jobs suggested that we ask this question everyday: ”If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I’m about to do today?” It’s a powerful question because it forces us to focus on what we want to accomplish each day. Our approach to our day is purposeful because we identify which tasks are essential.

How To Make It Work For You: Say “no” to opportunities that do not align with your goals for the day. Forget the “busy work” that doesn’t move you toward your goals. Leave social media until the important work is done.

3. Align Immediate And Long-Term Goals

Psychologists Ken Sheldon and Tim Kasser have found that people who are mentally healthy and satisfied with life have a higher degree of vertical coherence among their goals. Long-term and immediate goals all fit together. The connection, even if loose, is important. The pursuit of short-term goals also advances the pursuit of long-term ones.

How To Make It Work For You: Always keep in mind that successful people achieve their goals not because of who they are, but because of what they do.

4. Create A Work Blueprint

Psychologist Martin Seligman found that people who can make a connection between their work and something socially meaningful are more likely to be satisfied. They are better able to adapt to the inevitable compromises that we all have to make in our job because they have clarity of goals.

How To Make It Work For You: Take a look at the questions below. The answers to them shouldn’t be a job description of what you do. What you do for a living is not important because the real question here is: why do you work. This will give you a general idea of your view of work:

  • What is work for?
  • Is it just about the money?
  • How does my work relate to what I feel is important?
  • Is my work worthwhile?
  • How does work provide you opportunities for growth and fulfillment?

5. Place Yourself Under Surveillance

Surveillance can produce a mother-lode of accurate information. FBI agents surveil terrorist suspects to get answers; you can surveil yourself at work to get answers about yourself. Create your own surveillance log.

How To Make It Work For You: Each evening, go back over the day’s activities:

  • Pinpoint where you were most engaged and energized.
  • Zoom in where you were least engaged and energized.

Rate each on a scale from 1 (lowest) to 10 (highest).

Reflect on “why” for each of the above. Did it have anything to do with environment, people, activities, or technology?

Now that you know where you are energized at your work, and where you are not, what can you do to change your situation? These are indicators of clarity of goals. Once you pinpoint the areas that breathe life into you, either look for ways to expand those areas in your current job, or start looking for a job where you can.

Remember that life is often a series of trade-offs between the values that are important and the opportunities in front of us. Many things in life are a compromise. Give yourself permission to cut a deal with yourself as long as there are connections between your short-term and long-term goals.

© 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.”