Posts Tagged ‘mental toughness’

6 Easy Steps To Make You More Resilient

Monday, June 18th, 2018

When I joined the FBI, the FBI’s transfer policy stipulated that I could be sent anywhere in the U.S.—the needs of the Bureau would always come before my own. After I told myself that I was resilient and could survive transfer-hell, I learned that every few years the FBI’s transfer policy changed!

My biggest fear was to be transferred to a dead-end outpost in the middle of nowhere. The constant threat of change and upheaval made me doubt whether I was resilient enough to always land on my feet.

Change frightens us because it is a voyage into the unknown. Ironically, since the unknown forces us to adapt to new circumstances, it is also the place where we can develop new talents and strengths. If we are resilient, we can embark on a journey that moves us beyond self-limiting beliefs, boredom, and lack of confidence.

Change is the great dream of every heart because it moves us closer to our full potential. To refuse the challenge that comes with change can be a great act of self-neglect.

If you have mental toughness, you will do anything to break the cycle of behavior that disempowers you. To push beyond your limits takes a resilient mind. It requires you to move into your discomfort zone and cross a threshold that awakens a variety of emotions such as confusion, fear, excitement, sadness—and yes, dreams.

There should always be a healthy tension between the life we have settled for and the potential that still calls us.

Here are 6 easy steps to make you more resilient:

1. Make A Plan

It’s very important that we find ways to feel relaxed with the new direction life is taking us, even if it is unwanted or unexpected. Plans are an easy way to make us feel comfortable and in control.

According to social psychologists, we feel the most comfortable and in control of life when our thoughts and feelings are consistent with our behavior. When we think or feel one way, and then behave in a manner that is inconsistent, it produces cognitive dissonance. This creates the anxiety we experience when we try to justify stressful behavior.

Plans create a roadmap that can help us work through the stress that is produced when we need to be resilient in the face of change. They are a safety net that gives our mind reason to believe that we are in control. Therefore, we’re more comfortable when we need to make a break from the past.

How To Make It Work For You: If you are going to change by moving into your discomfort zone, you need to have a strategy in mind of how you’re going to do it. Keep it simple, and review it often to make sure you’re still on course.

2. Ask Yourself Lots Of Questions

Our brain is uber alert for change of any kind in our environment. When our limbic brain detects an abnormality, our animal instinct takes over. As a result, our first reaction is to fight, flee, or freeze. None of these reactions produce the results you need to be resilient in the face of change.

Instead, rewire your brain. Psychologist Marilee Adams suggests that questions can virtually rewire our emotions, thoughts, and behavior. According to her research, the probing questions that we ask ourselves can open up our mind. We are then receptive to new information and connect it to what we already know. This allows our brain to assimilate new knowledge about our circumstances so we can develop a comfort zone that lessens stress.

How To Make It Work For You: Ask questions that probe the facts surrounding your new situation. Questions are piercing little darts that expose hidden anxiety. Once they elicit an honest answer from us, we are able to name the beast in the room—that is, the fear we are experiencing. It is, however, essential to honestly name what is going on before you can trigger change in emotion, thought, or behavior.

3. Take Small But Steady Steps Forward

When change is foisted upon us, we’re often left with an overwhelming feeling that at the end of the day we can only accept our fate. While that is true to some degree, a resilient mind will find ways to adapt and adjust in a way that will leave it in control.

Small wins are critical because they make the change real. They also create the opportunity to build momentum. Confidence is produced as we move past our self-limiting beliefs and become more resilient.

How To Make It Work For You: The way to adapt to new circumstances is to look for opportunities to improve your situation in small, continuous steps. Continuous improvement is key because it also implies steady movement forward. Small steps allow you to make changes, monitor the results, and then adjust as needed.

4. Get Rid Of Doubters

Whether you chose your new circumstances, or they were foisted upon you, doubters and haters are likely to rear their ugly head. There are people who spew negativity wherever they go, and if you’re smart you’ll turn on your heel and head in the opposite direction.

This is not so easy when the doubters are members of your own family. As they say, “Pick your friends well because you’re stuck with family.” It’s important to realize that most people are negative as a result of their own problems and issues.

Be very intentional about those with whom you share your plans and dreams. Think about how you might connect with people who are wiser and more experienced than yourself. If there are people who will not support you, don’t spend as much time with them, or limit how much you see them.

How To Make It Work For You: Identify two or three (or more) people you admire and respect with whom you can sit down with on a quarterly basis to review your progress. These are the same people you can turn to when times get tough as well.

5. Develop New, Better Habits

New circumstances may require new habits so we can remain diligent and resilient.

Psychologist Wendy Wood suggests that 40% of the time we don’t actually think about what we’re doing. This is because our mind is trained to fall back on habitual behaviors.

Habits are hard to break because they are found in deeper structures of the brain. This leaves much of our working memory available to deal with everyday surprises and situations. Habits don’t need as much of the brain’s energy, so changing them takes a lot of attention.

How To Make It Work For You: A change in your situation is the perfect time to establish new habits because the old ones are more easily disrupted. Immediately replace an old habit with a new one. Stay aware of a change until it becomes a new habit. Don’t push yourself too hard or too fast because this may only cause you to slip up.

6. Grit Up

Wimps are not resilient because they don’t know how to move forward when the going gets tough or uncomfortable. They roll over and play it safe. Grit is your ability to persevere over the long-run and thrive despite all kinds of unplanned events.

As leaders, entrepreneurs and business owners, grit is an essential skill because it is the one thing you will need to succeed. If you give up when the going gets tough, you’re done.

Talent does not trump determination. Nothing is more common than unsuccessful people with talent. Grit, persistence, and determination will keep you moving ahead when your circumstances and environment has changed.

How To Make It Work For You: Face your problems head on. It isn’t your problems that define you—it’s how you react and recover from them. Your problems are not going away unless you do something about them. Do not quit when you feel you can no longer deal with a crisis. Have the grit to stay in the game but be flexible with your idea of what is “right” as you approach your new situation.

© 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 Erase Painful Memories From Your Mind

Monday, May 7th, 2018

Like every kid, I have some painful memories from childhood. We never bought milk at the grocery store; instead, we had Spot, a mangy-looking Holstein who often grazed on weeds rather than grass. 

She kicked, and twitched her filthy tail, so Dad had to hobble her every night when he milked her. No one liked Spot; she smelled bad and her milk was tainted with the taste of weeds. I complained every time I was forced to drink a glass of milk. Chunks of coagulated cream floated on the top, and often there were flecks of dirt—or something worse—resting at the bottom.

“You need milk to grow tall and strong,” my Mother would assure me. I held my nose and drank the weedy stuff, leaving as much of the dark flecks at the bottom as I could.

Much as our body is built on the foods we eat and drink, our mind is built on our memories and experiences. As we all know, the residue of our experiences can be thrown into two piles: those that are beneficial and those that can cause harm.

There are many painful memories that we replay in our mind: conversations with our boss, disagreements with colleagues, arguments with partners and spouses. Many of us were called names or bullied as kids in school. Often those hurtful comments rear their ugly head when we meet new people.

We beat ourselves up for things said, and left unsaid; when we play that same scene over and over, it only increases our fear that we’ve said or done the wrong thing.

Mental toughness is the ability to control thoughts, emotions, and behavior in ways that will set you up for success. If you are mentally tough, you can find ways to erase painful memories from your mind. Here are 4 ways:

1. Interrupt Your Tendency to Brood On Negative Memories

Studies have shown that even when positive experiences outnumber our negative ones, the pile of negative and painful memories will always grow faster. Our mind is like Velcro for negative experiences and Teflon for positive ones! The solution is not to suppress negative or painful memories, but rather to encourage more positive ones.

Years of survival among saber-toothed tigers have created a human brain that is designed to change through negative experiences, not positive ones. Natural selection shaped our minds to respond to situations that contain threats to life. The cost of failure to respond to a life threatening situation could be death, whereas the cost of failure to respond to a life opportunity does not carry the same dire consequences. 

This explains why the negative experiences and painful memories from our past stay in our mind for so long.

While self-reflection is helpful, brooding is harmful. When we dwell on our problems, it magnifies our misfortune. In the end, we host our own pity party which increases our distress!

How To Make It Work For You: Mindfulness is the key to living in the “here and now.” When you’re mindful, you are present in the moment. Mindfulness takes practice, but over time, it can greatly decrease our tendency to brood over negative memories.

2. Choose To Forget

 

Have you ever wondered why students who cram to prepare for an exam can cheerfully expunge their brain of all that hard-won learning once it’s no longer needed? Within days, they can barely remember the basics let alone the details. It’s as if they’ve forgotten on purpose.

A recent study shows that, under the right conditions, we can forget what we choose to forget. It’s possible to forget painful memories if we discard the mental context within which the memories were first learned.

The brain that wants to remember needs to keep active the mental context that was present  during the learning experience. For example, our brain’s memory is enhanced when it imagines the sequence of events and their locations. When we think about memorable parties we’ve attended, our mind wanders through the rooms and contexts of conversations. Our brain is able to recall what we experienced first-hand in each location.

The same study provided evidence that we forget things when we discard the mental context and images that go with the painful memories.

How To Make It Work For You: Vision is the most dispassionate, the least emotional, of all our senses. Reduce your painful memory to only the visual image rather than the actual first-hand experience. This will help dislodge the context of the memory so your recollection of it becomes thinner and less potent over time.

3. Replace Painful Memories With Positive Ones

Like pulling weeds, the pesky things won’t go away unless they’re pulled out by the roots. Often, it takes mental toughness to be inquisitive enough to get to the root of our memories. Look at your life as an investigator would look at it.

Delicately probe the deep roots of a recurring negative memory. The tips are often found in childhood experiences. Deliberately interrupt that negative memory with a positive one in order to pull it out at its core. When you do, you’re building new, positive neural connections.

It takes active effort to pull painful memories from our mind and replace them with positive ones.

How To Make It Work For You: Pair a bad memory with a good one. Each time you think about a painful memory, shift your thoughts to the good one.

  • When you remember a childhood feeling of sadness, recall being loved by other people in your life.
  • Give those positive feelings of love and appreciation 20-30 seconds to really sink in.
  • Add the power of language by saying: “I got through that, I’m still here, and people love me.”

4. Get Control Of The Painful Memories

The most common mistake most people make when they try to erase painful memories is to control, or suppress, their negative thoughts and feelings. This does nothing but create a vicious loop of more negative feelings and emotions. The more you feed this loop, your painful memories will only become more intense and persistent over time.

You cannot control or stop the way you feel, but you can learn to change the way you react to negative emotions. If you choose to remain a victim, you have no way to empower yourself. You’ve given your power away to those who hurt you. It is not your fault you were the victim of an unpleasant situation, but it is your fault if you choose to remain a victim long after the incident.

How To Make It Work For You: First, be aware that painful memories are in the past and are not relevant to you now. Second, since you cannot control or repress them, learn to observe them instead. Go ahead and feel painful memories, but stay calm around them. The secret is to remain relaxed and change your response.

© 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.” 

Why Mental Toughness Gives You A Competitive Advantage

Monday, April 23rd, 2018

The biggest challenge I had in graduating from the FBI Academy was meeting the physical fitness standards. I was a slow runner and found pushups very difficult. I did not have a competitive advantage. As a result, I failed the interim FIT test and was almost washed out of the Academy.

Instructors and coaches at the FBI Academy expressed concern that I was not athletic enough to become an agent. My first response was, “How is running 2 miles in 10 minutes going to help me be a better investigator?”

This was my reasoning was this: Agents don’t use their physical muscles to puzzle their way through the facts of an investigation. Instead, they use their mental skills. Only later was I able to recognize that brawn would not make me a better agent. My athletic training, however, had created a set of mental skills to give me a competitive advantage that I would utilize throughout my 24 year FBI career.

Research and common sense tell us that top athletes have a competitive advantage because of their physical talents and dedication to training. However, they also succeed because of their ability to deal with the psychological pressures of their sport. Mental toughness is extremely important for any athlete aiming to be the best.

The real question of coaching in sports is this: Are you mentally tough enough to compete?

There was a recent study of athletes who successfully completed sport injury rehabilitation. The study determined that the top 3 mental skills reported were Goal Setting, Positive Thinking, and Imagery.

I was not surprised by this list because these mental toughness tools can produce the right attitude to move everyone toward success. The same mindset is needed by leaders, entrepreneurs, and business owners who need to stay ahead of their competition. Here is a closer look at why mental toughness gives you a competitive advantage:

1. Goal Setting

When you set a goal, you identify something you want, and also something you are willing to pursue in order to achieve.

Setting a specific goal makes you more likely to achieve it. This becomes important when you want a competitive advantage so you can take your sport to the next level, make a change in your career, or overcome an obstacle on your journey toward that goal.

TIP #1 SET GOALS FOR THE RIGHT REASON

Stop fantasizing about winning the lottery or making $10 million. Instead, set goals that align themselves to what really matters to your happiness and future well being. This is what will give you the competitive advantage you need in life.

TIP #2 FOCUS ON A DIRECTION

Set your training in a direction so that the pursuit of it will produce the life you want. If the journey is the right one, don’t worry if goals change or evolve with time.

TIP #3 CHANGE THE GOAL IF NEEDED

You will have a competitive advantage when you use mental skills to focus on the right thing—the direction you want your life to move. Don’t make the mistake of getting married to your goal. Often, goals need to change as our circumstances change. Goals are the steps to reach your vision, what really matters to you. 

2. Positive Thinking

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. They confront the most brutal facts of their day without expecting things to change. They adapt to their circumstances without ever losing hope.

Positive thinking is a mental skill that will give you a competitive advantage and help get you through any setback that comes your way.

TIP #1 FIND 5 POSITIVE THOUGHTS

The brain is naturally wired to pay more attention to negative rather than positive information because negative alerts us to emergencies and threats to our life.

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. Sometimes it’s hard to find something positive in your situation and you have to look really hard.

TIP # 2 REFLECT ON EACH POSITIVE THOUGHT FOR 20 SECONDS

Take the time to really think about each positive thought. Let it soak in, don’t gloss over it. Negative thoughts are like velcro; they stickPositive thoughts are like teflon; they slide away easily.

TIP #3 STOP USING THE WORD “CAN’T”

This is the only 4 letter word I never heard in the FBI. Every time you say “I CAN’T” you create a negative feedback loop in your brain that keeps getting stronger and stronger. Synaptic connections thicken the brain tissues over time, wiring in that negativity. Negative thinking will never give you a competitive advantage.

3) Imagery

The benefits of using imagery and visualization is an incredible tool to develop mental toughness. This mental skill is based on solid science. By visualizing your successful performance repeatedly, your brain stores that information as a success.

TIP #1 VISUALIZE YOUR SUCCESS

When we give our brain a detailed portrait of our end goal, our brain releases dopamine. Dopamine is a powerful mental toughness tool that can give us a competitive advantage. This is the chemical that becomes active when we encounter situations that are linked to rewards from the past.

Dopamine enables us to feel good about our experiences and gives us confidence to move toward those rewards. To boost this brain response:

  • Imagine how events will unfold.
  • See yourself winning or achieving your goal.
  • Hear yourself being positive about the challenge before you.
  • Form a clear mental picture and do it several times a day.
  • Create a positive frame of mind.
  • Find images that represent your goal and post them where you’ll see them regularly.

Visualizing is not fantasy or wishful thinking. Fantasies can actually lessen your chance for success. Your brain can tell the difference, and looks at fantasies as a threat! If people fantasize about their future performance, they are less prepared and more stressed when things don’t workout. 

TIP#2 MOVE AHEAD WITH FEARLESSNESS

Use imagery and visualize how you will succeed in various situations you might encounter in the future. For example,

  • Visualize how you will react and respond when criticized by a competitor.
  • Prepare for the hard questions from your supervisor.
  • Rehearse your response to conversations that might come up.

This is enough to get that important shot of dopamine. It can give you a competitive advantage so you can move beyond your self-limiting beliefs about yourself and current circumstances.

© 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.” 

6 Ways To Become A Charismatic Leader

Monday, April 2nd, 2018

The most charismatic leader I have ever met was an FBI supervisor who had a powerful personality, a powerful sense of humor, and a powerful ability to motivate the agents who worked for him.

Many of our most effective leaders are labeled charismatic and yet it was not something they were born with. They acquired it through knowledge and practice.

We can learn effective leadership skills. In the same way, charisma is a process of learning how to motivate others to help achieve group goals. We are not born with a natural ability to win the hearts and minds of others.

Many people confuse charisma with likability and while likable people can be persuasive, charismatic leaders have thoughtfully fine-tuned their public image into one where they are seen to be someone who advances the interests of the group they represent.

Charisma is not something possessed by a leader; it is foisted upon the leader by followers. It is a gift bestowed by the group because the leader has conveyed to the group that they all share the same sense of worth, vision, and goals.

German sociologist Max Weber did not believe charisma was a rare quality possessed by certain lucky individuals. Instead, he said that what is important is how the individual is regarded by his/her followers. In other words, followers distinguish the leader from others and confer charisma on him or her.

A charismatic leader is someone who is emotionally competent—a core component of mental toughness.

Here are 6 ways to become a charismatic leader:

1. Win The Hearts Of Followers

Charisma centers on the capacity for a leader to be seen by followers as someone who advances the interests of the group. We trust the leader to take us in the right direction and believe he/she is one of us.

It’s important, however, that the group feels on equal footing with the leader, so find ways to confirm in their minds that you are all in it together and that your self-worth is tied to their best interests.

The inaugural addresses of Franklin D. Roosevelt and John F. Kennedy represent charismatic leadership. FDR spins a tale of how he overcame adversity while JFK reminded people of youth and opportunity. In neither case was the charisma that flowed from their speeches self-evident. Rather, both were constructed to win over their followers.

How To Make It Work For You: Use stories and anecdotes when you speak to others. They help people feel engaged, and as a result, they will feel connected with you.  When you show your team how you’ve worked together with others in the past, it assures them that you’ll do it again. Stories and anecdotes also provide a way for others to visualize how they could have been a valuable team member if they had been there.

2. Make People Feel Special

No matter who you are, take the time to make the person across from you feel important and fascinating. Make them feel as though you are completely with them as you follow their conversation. 

A study conducted by Harvard professor Daniel Gilbert estimated that 46.9% of the time our mind “wanders.” To make a person feel special, focus on what they say and reflect back on what you heard. We are active listeners when we have a moment-to-moment awareness of what’s happening. In the middle of a conversation, if your mind is somewhere else, your eyes will glaze over and your companions will notice. Make an effort to be in the moment.

Most of us wait for someone to finish speaking before we offer our response. Instead, ask them questions. It’s another way to let others know that they are special and you are truly interested in what they have to say.

How To Make It Work For You: 1) Nod occasionally, not frequently; 2) Ask questions, even if it means interrupting them because it shows that you are genuinely interested; 3) Don’t let your eyes wander— stay fixed on their face; and 4) Pause for a couple of seconds before responding. This lets others know that your response will be thoughtful.

3. Use The Right Words

Solidarity in vision and direction of the company inspires people and increases group optimism for the future. When group identity is strong, there is more likelihood of referring to the group as “us.” Use words like us and we rather than me and I. When you’re dealing with diverse groups, divide and conquer. Find ways to use the words us and we when talking to each group separately. Each group needs to be left with the impression that you are on their side.

But here is where charisma becomes more of an art than a science—never let others feel that you are not genuine in the way you reach out. Show diverse groups that you understand the unique struggles they face, and that by advocating for one it does not imply you are abandoning the other.

When President Reagan was asked what voters saw in him, he responded, “I think they see themselves and that I am one of them.”

A charismatic leader is someone who clarifies what we believe rather than telling people what they believe. They are able to lead their audience to draw the conclusions one desires rather than spelling out those ideas for them. A charismatic leader allows their story to unfold rather than issue an order or proclamation. This allows followers to make up their own mind. In doing so, you’ve implied that you rely on your followers to use their own intelligence and experience to draw the right conclusions.

How To Make It Work For You: Use words that people can relate to. Charismatic leaders use words that are concrete rather than abstract. “I feel your pain” creates an emotional tie whereas a phrase like “I understand” does not. The most charismatic leader is the one talks to people’s gut rather than their brain.

4. Be Sincere

A charismatic leader watches their body language because they know it’s vital that they give the impression they are open and sincere to the people they meet. Paul Ekman’s research tells us that it takes as little as 17 milliseconds for people to read another person’s face. We may present a primary expression to others when we meet them, but if the micro-expression that we leak is incongruent with the primary expression, people will know in their gut that you’re not sincere.

Studies have shown that our brains do not know the difference between imagination and reality. Visualization is another important mental toughness tool because we can trick our mind into believing we will succeed at a task.

How To Make It Work For You: Think of something pleasant when meeting others. It will show in your face. When you smile, make it sincere. That means your cheeks must push up and create wrinkles around your eyes. Yes, wrinkles can be a good thing.

5. Learn How To Read Body Language

The brain controls all behaviors, both conscious and subconscious. This premise is the cornerstone if you want to understand verbal and non-verbal communication.

The limbic system is that part of the brain that reacts to events around us—in real time and without thought.

These reactions are genuine and are considered to be the “honest” part of our brain. The limbic brain enlists the body to send messages about what it is really feeling. The body will signal stress and discomfort in a variety of ways, and we interpret these behaviors as body language.

How To Make It Work For You: Turn off the volume of your favorite television show and watch without any sound. Figure out what is going on in the scenes. Then watch the scene again, only this time with the volume turned on. This practice will help you become more attuned to verbal and non-verbal cues.

6. Create A Strong Persona

Charismatic leaders communicate with confidence and clarity. People sit up and pay attention. They are clear and articulate with their words and ensure that each statement has a purpose.No matter what the situation, they articulate their goals and vision.

Warren Bennis wrote, “Good leaders make people feel that they’re at the very heart of things, not at the periphery. Everyone feels that he or she makes a difference to the success of the organization. When that happens, people feel centered, and that gives their work meaning.”

A strong persona means that you are confident in your abilities but not puffed up because of them. It also means that you have no self-doubt about your talents and skill sets.

How To Make It Work For YouA strong persona does not require great physical strength or ego; however, it does require two things: 1) full display of your core competencies (intelligence, kindness, empathy, etc) mixed with 2) warmth of personality.

© 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.”

5 Tips From The Stoics On How To Develop Mental Toughness

Monday, March 19th, 2018

As an FBI agent, I became an observer into the lives of people under investigation. Upon my retirement from the FBI, I completed graduate studies at San Francisco Theological Seminary. In the process, I became a more thoughtful observer of my own life.

I started to embrace the Stoic claim that many of the things we desire are not worth the pursuit. Instead, Stoic philosophy focused on how to develop the mental toughness to manage negative emotions such as anger, grief, anxiety, and fear.

Stoicism was the forerunner of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, one of the most effective psychological tools used by therapists today. CBT proposes that when we change the way we think about a problem, it leads to a change in behavior. Mental toughness can be defined as managing our emotions, thoughts, and behavior in ways that set us up for success.

The ancient Stoic philosophers had great tools to help fight the helplessness that sets in when it feels like the world is against you. Stoics knew how to develop mental toughness. Stoicism sounds serious but it started with a bunch of guys in togas who sat on porches almost two thousand years ago and taught philosophy. Stoa means porch so stoicism is actually porch wisdom.

Here are 5 tips from the Stoics on how to develop mental toughness:

1. Train In Winter

We must undergo a hard winter training and not rush into things for which we haven’t prepared.”—Epictetus

Roman armies disbanded during the winter unless engaged in a series of raids. Epictetus believed that there was no such thing as Spring training for soldiers—or anyone for that matter. To land on our feet, we must keep our mind active all the time.

It’s too late to train or prepare when the shit hits the fan or when the stakes are high. As entrepreneurs, business owners, and leaders, you already know you can’t read a book on basketball and then go to the NBA. You know you must always prepare for what life might throw at you, so when it does, you’re ready.

When we train and prepare, we continually learn new skills. Neuroplasticity is the ability of the brain to continuously create new neural pathways. When we repeat skills we are trying to learn, we strengthen those neural networks.

How To Make It Work For You: You learn how to develop mental toughness when you train your mind to think and prepare for the challenges ahead. Keep your brain alert and active all the time. If you can’t actually perform a particular task, simply visualize yourself doing it. Your brain cannot tell the difference.

2. Embrace The Test

I judge you unfortunate because you have never lived through misfortune. You have passed through life without an opponent—no one can ever know what you are capable of, not even you.”—Seneca

When I look back over my 24 year career as an FBI agent, you know what I remember the most? The difficult times. The hardest training at the FBI Academy and the most frustrating investigations were also the moments that were the most formative for me.

Challenges in life are unavoidable. Researchers believe that if we can learn to accept them as children, it will help our chance of success as adults. Children who learn to handle their own problems are also the ones with exceptional achievement as adults.

There is a Chinese saying “Chi Ku Shi Fu” (eating bitterness is good fortune) that highlights the idea that there is the opportunity for wisdom and growth in the midst of misfortune. While we don’t have control over the situations that life will bring to us, we do have a choice as to how we will react to them.

How To Make It Work For You: You learn how to develop mental toughness when you face your opponents, challenges, and misfortunes with an open mind. Look for ways to learn from your challenges. You may need to dig deep, but claim the wisdom from those times you are tested. It will you move to a higher level of well-being and perspective.

3. Prepare On Sunny Days

It is when times are good that you should gird yourself for tougher times ahead…so it is that soldiers practice maneuvers in peacetime, erecting bunkers with no enemies in sight and exhausting themselves under no attack so that when it comes, they won’t grow tired.”—Seneca

Seneca writes that we should prepare in advance so that nothing ever takes us by surprise. In today’s language, he wants us to develop resilience in the face of adversity. We should toughen up before the crisis hits us so we know how to respond.

When we spend time thinking about the downside, Cognitive Behavior Therapy says that we decatastrophize it. Remember CBT? The Stoics invented it. Don’t be the person who freaks out at work when something goes wrong. Be prepared and handle it with finesse and aplomb.

How To Make It Work For You: You learn how to develop mental toughness when you ask “What is the worst that could happen?” This is not pessimism; it’s being realistic. Take the time on a sunny day to prepare yourself to respond in an effective manner when the storm hits.

4. Find Your Hidden Power

Consider who you are. Above all, a human being, carrying no greater power than your own reasoned choice, which oversees all other thing, and is free from any other master.”—Epictetus

Epictetus walked with a limp as the result of being chained up as a slave. For Stoics like him, the only thing you ever really have control over are your deliberate thoughts. You can’t control other people, you can’t control your situation, and you can’t always control your own body. So the only thing over which you do have control is your emotions, thoughts, and behavior—the essence of mental toughness.

We need to accept that there are many things over which we have no control. We can, and should, try to influence them if we can. But once you begin to feel you need to control other people or situations, it’s likely that emotions will get out of control if things don’t go your way.

How To Make It Work For You: You learn how to develop mental toughness when you acknowledge that it does no good to worry about things you can’t control. Instead, spend your time on things over which you have complete control, like your goals and values. If you do this, you’ll avoid the anxiety that comes with the need to control.

5. Color Your Thoughts

Your mind will take the shape of what you frequently hold in thought, for the human spirit is colored by such impressions.”—Marcus Aurelius

The Stoics had some great tools to help fight negative feelings because when you know how to deal with the negative, it gives you more time for the positive.

If we maintain a negative outlook, soon everything we encounter will seem negative. When we color our thoughts with negativity, it bleeds into other parts of our life as well.

Stoics believed that we are moved to action by positive emotions, such as a sense of indignation at having witnessed an injustice, or a desire to make the world a better place for everyone. Negative emotions color our thoughts, emotions, and behavior in unproductive ways.

How To Make It Work For You: You learn how to develop mental toughness when you seek the positive in your situation. Believe you will prevail in your circumstances rather than believing your circumstances will change.

© 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.”

5 Things Positive People Never Do

Monday, February 26th, 2018

I make an effort to surround myself with positive people. Positive thinking is a cornerstone of mental toughness because positivity creates a mindset that can adapt to obstacles and roadblocks that show up in both business and life.

Unfortunately, positive thinking has become ensconced in a culture of woolly and fluffy assumptions that imply all we need to do is visualize what success looks like—and it will happen! It has been reduced to weak platitudes and shallow quotes meant to inspire us to soar to greater heights.

Gag.

If that wasn’t bad enough, positive people are also confused with optimists. Let me clarify for you: positive people believe they will prevail in their circumstances rather than believe their circumstances will change. Optimists, however, believe that things will change, and for the better. Positive people rely on their grit and determination to make the most of a bad situation because sometimes, shit happens. They’re stuck in an undesirable situation and no amount of hope will change it.

An optimist can never relax; they can’t afford to let sadness creep in. They can try to follow the famous self-help advice and eliminate the word “failure” from their vocabulary; but then how will they explain failure when it strikes? And it will. Positive people are not afraid of failure because their minds can adapt to their new circumstances and plan for a better iteration next time.

When times get tough, here are 5 things positive people never do:

1. Fall For Sappy Slogans

I’ve read so many articles on how to fill my life with happiness that I’m ready to puke. Happiness is the by-product of vacuous and superficial sappy slogans that prey on our emotions. You want real happiness? Grab hold of something with more substance, like joy and contentment.

Positive people avoid cheery, sappy slogans that are intended to lift the user’s mood when they repeat them. Post-it notes litter mirrors and computers across the country and while they boost our mood for a while, the results are temporary.

Researchers have discovered that there is a distinct difference between happiness and meaning. When we achieve our goal, we experience happiness for a short period of time. When we achieve a goal freighted with value, we experience joy and contentment that provides meaning for our life.

How To Make It Work For You: When you try too hard to convince yourself, and others, that you’re happy and lovable, all you’ve done is remind yourself, and others, of what you don’t have! Instead, focus on goals that are meaningful to you. Happiness is the by-product.

2. Forget To Plan For The Worst Case Scenario

When you remind yourself of what could go wrong, you’re not being a pessimist. You’re being smart. You will encounter rude bosses, conniving colleagues, and pain-in-the-ass customers. Why not prepare for them?

There is a place for those who plan for the worst-case scenario so they can plan on how to turn the situation around and make it successful. 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.

How To Make It Work For You: Imagine how you would handle a bad situation. Assume for a moment that a rival buys your company. Jot down a few ways you might come out on top if it happens. For example, arrange to meet key executives of the rival company so they know you’ll handle the situation in a professional and respectful manner.

3. Set Unrealistic Goals

Positive people are always realistic about their goals. Gabriele Oettingen, professor of psychology at New York University and the author of Rethinking Positive Thinking believes that part of the problem is that people tend to visualize their goals as already accomplished without thinking about the obstacles that stand in the way.

If a person is optimistic about the future, they’ll enjoy it in the moment but they won’t get the energy and motivation they need to attain the goal. Oettingen touches upon the need to differentiate fantasy from visualization. Visualization is a science-based way for people to achieve their goals. The problem happens when fantasy raises its ugly head. The brain is smart and it can tell the difference between a desire to stretch our performance to meet a goal and our fantasy about it.

A goal might be to play the guitar. Your fantasy might be for you to perform in a sold-out rock concert. When we daydream about the future, we convince ourselves we’re already there and are less inclined to put in the effort required to reach our goals.

Oettingen feels that a bit of negativity can help us determine whether or not it’s worth it to pursue our goals. Positive people are not afraid to look at the negative side of an equation. They know it might have something important to tell us. When they contrast the future with the current reality, and assess the obstacles, they might let go of the dream and focus on more realistic goals.

How To Make It Work For You: We need to be on the lookout for what might go wrong without allowing negativity to overwhelm us. Positive people can hold the tension of a pessimistic evaluation alongside a positive one.

4. Let Anxiety Take Over

In her book, The Positive Power of Negative Thinking, Julie Norem wrote “At first, I asked how these people were able to do so well despite their pessimism. Before long, I began to realize that they were doing so well because of their pessimism.”

Norem found that pessimists turned their anxieties into action. Because they expected the worst, they were prepared for it and put more effort into finding a solution.

Oliver Burkeman makes an interesting observation in his book, The Antidote: Happiness For People Who Can’t Stand Positive Thinking. He argues that because people are led to believe they should always feel happy and motivated, they often put off tasks that don’t make them happy. If life were perfect and there were no such things as unpleasant tasks, that mindset might lead to success. But, in the real world, this mindset leads into a downward spiral of unaddressed tasks and actions.

How To Make It Work For You: Learn to live with the unpleasant tasks and get on with the job at hand. Co-exist with what isn’t perfect and do something anyway.

5. Ignore The Sweet Spot

Pessimists help us anticipate the worst and prepare for it. People who never worry have lower job performance than those who worry about it on a regular basis. Studies have shown that when CEO’s are optimistic, they take on more risky projects and often put their companies in jeopardy.

Positive people know how to weigh the wisdom of both pessimists and optimists. Pessimists are catastrophes waiting to happen while optimists are impractical. Positive people look for the sweet spot that combines the benefits of both approaches.

How To Make It Work For You: Your success is not determined on whether you are an optimist or pessimist, but rather how you choose your strategies to process information from both sides.

© 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.” 

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 in whatever our situation.

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.”