Posts Tagged ‘mental toughness’

Why Body Gestures Are More Accurate Than Words

Monday, April 24th, 2017

If you want to know what a person is really thinking or feeling, pay more attention to their body gestures than the words they use. When there is a conflict between what a person is saying and what they are doing, body language will give you more accurate feedback.

Babies will pucker their lips when fed food they don’t like, whether they were born in Africa or Norway. A five-year-old child is likely to cover their mouth when they tell a lie. This body gesture continues to mature throughout their adult life. Instead of covering their whole mouth, they may rub their fingers around their lips.

Famously, one of the most telling body gestures was Bill Clinton as he answered questions about Monica Lewinsky in front of a grand jury. His two front index fingers pressed together and touched the tip of his nose; the gesture effectively covered his mouth in the process.

Research at UCLA shows that only 7% of communication is based on the actual words we use. 38% of communication is based on the way words are expressed (including tone and voice). That leaves a whopping 55% of communication to be based on body gestures.

No matter how hard you’ve worked to perfect your presentation or polish your elevator speech, it’s a competitive market and polishing your body gestures will give you a powerful edge.

Understanding how people communicate is a core component of mental toughness. Accurate communication helps leaders and management to be emotionally competent, a skill that can provide a valuable and reliable way of evaluating both their team members and the market competition.

Here are some things you need to know about accurately interpreting body gestures:

1. BODY GESTURES COME IN CLUSTERS

Conversations are a string of words put together to create meaning. One word, by itself, can mean many things, or nothing. A sentence, however, expresses complete thoughts. Similarly, one gesture can mean anything—it’s only when we put them together that they have meaning. Nonverbal gestures come in clusters so it’s important to observe a person’s initial cluster of gestures to establish a norm.

It’s dangerous to interpret a solitary gesture—scratching the head can mean confusion or it could indicate a serious case of dandruff.

TIP: Many people punctuate with body language gestures and movement while others are relatively still. They key is to notice when these gestures change during a conversation. Pinpoint what word or topic was introduced in the conversation that produced the change in behavior.

2. WOMEN’S INTUITION OR BODY GESTURES?

A hunch or gut feeling that someone has not been truthful really means that the spoken word and the body language do not agree. This is one aspect of intuition. Are women better at it than men? Here is one very simple explanation:

Women who have raised children are usually better at hunches than others. For the first few years, mothers rely almost exclusively on the nonverbal messages of young children. It is the way they communicate with each other.

TIP: The UCLA research also revealed that our facial expressions produce the most important body gestures when it comes to conveying our emotions and feelings. Young children and babies provide excellent opportunities to fine-tune your ability to accurately understand what the child is trying to communicate.

As an FBI counterintelligence agent, I worked closely with the FBI’s Behavioral Science Unit on several of my cases. Here are some tips I want to share with you on how to recognize and interpret body language:

3. TIPS ON HOW TO READ HEAD MOVEMENTS

The head shows the most expressive body language characteristics. There has been a lot of research done on reading facial features and here are some generalizations that you can rely on when trying to read a person’s face to determine whether or not they’re being sincere:

  • Contempt – lip corner tightens and lifts on one side of the face
  • Happy – a real smile will always have crow’s feet wrinkles and pushed up cheeks
  • Surprise – lasts for only a second: eyebrows raised, mouth open, eyes wide open
  • Anger – eyebrows down and together, narrowing of lips

4. TIPS ON HOW TO READ EYE MOVEMENTS

As a general rule, breaks in eye contact are the most important non-verbal gesture. If you suspect deception in a conversation, here are some eye clues to watch for at the point at which they tell a lie:

  • Closing the eyes
  • Covering the eyes
  • Glancing at watch
  • Showing intense interest in fingernails
  • Looking out the window or at the floor
  • Avoid looking you in the eye during the moment of deception
  • Rapid eye movement
  • Raised eyebrows

Here are some eye clues that can reveal what a person is focusing on during your conversation:

  • Recalling a visual memory—eyes move upward.
  • Remembering something they heard—eyes move to the side
  • Recollecting a feeling—eyes look down and to the right
  • Thinking to oneself—eyes look down and to the left

5. TIPS ON HOW TO READ HAND MOVEMENTS

There are more connections between the brains and the hands than any other body part.

Positive impressions:

  • Palm up—nonthreatening. Even animals recognize this approach as friendly.
  • Squeezing thumb against the fingertips—avoids intimidating the audience
  • Shaking with two hands is meant to convey sincerity and trust. Don’t do this unless you and the other person have a strong bond of some sort. Otherwise, you end up coming across like a smarmy politician.
  • Grasping elbow with left hand—communicates depth of feeling and was commonly used by Bill Clinton with everyone.

Negative Impressions:

  • Holding the shoulder with left hand—invades personal space and may result in a hug
  • Palm down—authority. Think of the Nazi salute.
  • Pointing finger—leaves a negative feeling in most listeners

Top performers understand body gestures and avoid unspoken signals that could sabotage their best efforts to move forward.

© 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 Tips To Build A Strong Mindset

Monday, April 17th, 2017

A strong mindset is unafraid of the risks in the unknown. I learned this as a kid growing up in Wyoming while playing among rocks and sagebrush that hid rattlesnakes.

When you are not certain of your environment, it pays to be alert and ready to make sudden changes when confronted with unexpected—whether they are rattle snakes or a volatile stock market.

A strong mindset is open to possibilities. It is constantly on the watch for potential opportunities and it works hard to make them happen. Sometimes, it means being alert to rattlesnakes camouflaged as sagebrush; sometimes it means embracing a different way of thinking about a  career change.

Learning to build a strong mindset is crucial as we encounter changes in the economy or fierce challenges from our competitors. It is a strong mindset that will get us through the challenges we will meet in both business and life.

Here are 5 tips to help you build a strong mindset:

1. BUILD CONFIDENCE ONE SMALL STEP AT A TIME

When I took the physical fitness test at the FBI Academy I was the 1 percent that makes the top 99 percent possible. I failed miserably, so my challenge became twofold: maintaining confidence in myself while training to pass the rigid test.

My confidence plummeted. I worked with a coach at the Academy who taught me the secret to building confidence—take small steps.

By taking steps so tiny that they seem trivial, you can sail through obstacles that you never thought you could defeat. Slowly, you can cultivate an appreciation for the small improvements when they happen. Success builds upon itself, and slowly, it lays down a permanent route to change.

TIP: Small steps are concrete. Mountains are climbed one step at a time, not by giant leaps. You are less likely to feel out of control if you can locate the smaller problems within the larger situation.

My coach encouraged me to acknowledge the small accomplishments and savor them before moving on to the next.

2. EMBRACE YOUR OWN HELL

Everyone’s hell is different. I was scared—if I didn’t get pass the Academy’s physical fitness requirements, I couldn’t become an FBI agent. I needed courage. My strength came from facing the reality of the obstacles in front of me and reaching deep within for the resolve to overcome them. My courage came from facing inward and developing a strong mindset. I told myself:

  • Don’t run
  • Don’t panic
  • Face the situation
  • Believe you can do it
  • Fix it as soon as possible
  • Waiting will only make the situation worse
  • Now is the best time
  • I am the best person

The fear I felt did not weigh me down; instead, it deepened my resolve. A strong mindset is not built on something that is slapped together on a shallow foundation. It needs solid rock—like a skyscraper, the higher you want to go, the deeper you must go.

TIP: Remain alert for both positive and negative changes in your environment. When the negative turns into your own personal hell, look at your obstacles and setbacks as challenges to be met rather than threats to be avoided.

3. COMMITMENT COMES FROM WITHIN

In the deepest part of me I knew that I would make the FBI my career. It wasn’t a stepping-stone to something better that might come along. I was a disciple of my own deep values and beliefs. I had the will to subjugate my feelings to those values.

People are often unsuccessful because they lack commitment to their deepest values. Competence is not an inherited trait, like blue eyes. Competence is the result of working hard and concentrating on bringing about the desired result. No one succeeds overnight; failures do not happen overnight, either. A person who is fully committed can find a creative solution to almost any task.

TIP: Keep these words from Jim Collins in mind: “The best form of commitment comes from a single-minded passion for what they do and an unwavering desire for excellence in the way they think and work.”

4. WHEN YOU TAKE CONTROL, YOU EMPOWER YOURSELF

To be in control means that, through personal struggle, you can find ways to empower yourself and influence both the direction and outcome of your own life. A strong mindset shuts out feelings of fear and inadequacy and focuses on reaching the goal.

I learned a great deal about developing a strong mindset in firearms training. As a shooter, I employed many of the contemplation techniques I used in prayer; emptying my mind of extraneous thoughts and keeping my mind’s eye focused on one thing—the target. And then I narrowed the focus even further so my total concentration was on one thing—the gun sight at the end of the barrel.

Once your mind is quiet, you can challenge the beliefs you hold about yourself that are false or can be changed. Athletes will not improve their performance unless they reach for the goal that is beyond their grasp.

If you settle for mediocrity in yourself, that’s what you’re going to get, so don’t be surprised when your response is not what you had hoped it would be.

Challenge the beliefs you hold about yourself and enlarge your territory.

TIP: When you take control, you empower yourself because you are the one who shapes your destiny rather than passively accepting events as they come along.

5. PURPOSE IS NOT OVER-RATED

I learned from my firearms instructors that if you aim at nothing, you’ll hit it every time. Live your life with a purpose. No matter how many major changes and transitions you go through in your life, if you rely upon guiding principles and values that are important to you, they will always give your life meaning.

Dr. Benjamin Mays said,

The tragedy of life does not lie in not reaching your goals, the tragedy lies in not having any goals to reach. It isn’t a calamity to die with dreams unfilled, but it is a calamity not to dream. It’s not a disaster to be unable to capture your ideals, but it is a disaster to have no ideals to capture. It is not a disgrace not to reach the stars, but it is a disgrace to have no stars to reach.”

TIP: To have a strong mindset, it’s essential that you align your career and life with your deepest values.

Mental toughness is a mindset; it is never too early, or too late, to build a strong one. 

© 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 Make Tough Decisions

Monday, April 3rd, 2017

Tough decisions need to be made by FBI agents who work knotty and sophisticated cases such as those involving terrorism, cybercrime or counterintelligence.

In the beginning, FBI investigations hunted down back robbers like John Dillinger and mobsters like Al Capone. As the world became more complex, the focus of FBI investigations evolved to better address the current threats to American lives.

It’s no secret that business and life are not as simple as they were, either. Executives, business owners and entrepreneurs need to make tough decisions to overcome strong competition and market upheavals.

Being bold and showing courage can be scary. Yet it is precisely this behavior that enables you to move forward, because history shows us that those with the guts to step forward and lead change are the winners when things turn around.

Here are four ways to be bold and make tough decisions:

1. FIND YOUR COURAGE

Boldness comes from your head; courage comes from your heart. Boldness is a cerebral activity that recognizes opportunities, creates plans and assesses the danger. Courage is a visceral reaction that comes from your gut.

The word courage comes from the Latin root “cor,” which means heart. It represents our innermost feelings and propels us to take a chance without knowing the result.

Successful executives, entrepreneurs, and business owners may be uncertain, but they do not let fear paralyze them.

TIP: Once you give in to fear, a pattern begins to develop where you continue to avoid the fear by giving in to it. If you listen carefully, however, there is a tiny voice inside, saying that you will die full of regrets for a life that might have been if you do not be courageous and move beyond your fears.

“If you’re not living on the edge, you’re taking up too much space.”  ~ Will Willis

2. MOVE TOWARD YOUR FEAR

FBI Academy instructors would shout in my ear, “Are you feeling the pain yet?” “Is this still easy?” After I had convinced myself that I had not joined an organization full of sadists, I began to look at my discomfort and fears as a sign that I was moving out of my comfort zone. If I wanted to stay comfortable, I should have stayed in my old job.

To engage and defeat a superior foe, you will need to embrace danger. All opportunities bring danger with them, because they bring the risk and fear of the unknown.

To be bold means making tough decisions in spite of the danger. If you refuse to face your fear, it’s almost impossible to grow. In its simplest form, all behavior is the result of fear or desire.

Your decisions do not always need to be right, but there is something powerful about having the courage and boldness to move toward our fears. Courage is not the absence of fear but moving ahead despite fear. If there is no fear, who needs courage?

TIP: Fear is not something to be avoided. A strong mind has the mental toughness to recognize fear for what it is: a sign that you need to face the obstacle in front of you.

“Bran thought about it. ‘Can a man still be brave if he’s afraid?’ ‘That is the only time a man can be brave,’ his father told him.” ~ George R.R. Martin, “A Game of Thrones”

3. STAY IN FRONT

To be seen as a bold and courageous leader you must be seen. We all know executives who hide out in their office all day, and we’ve all seen a pattern in troubled companies — leadership equivocation on new initiatives, failure to help those struggling, and hoarding resources.

It takes courage to step in front of subordinates, but your credibility rests on not only being in front, but also being seen in front. When you start to hedge your bets, hoard information or fail to take a stand, you forfeit your right to be seen as a tough and fair leader.

TIP: When you lead from the front, you send the message that you would never ask someone else to do what you wouldn’t do. This not only inspires those around you, it reassures them that you are a team player and collaborate with others.

4. EMBRACE ANXIETY

I once had the subject of one of my investigations walk toward me like a charging bull after I asked him a direct question. I didn’t move or flinch.

My heart was beating fast and my palms were sweaty — what if he attacked me? He didn’t succeed in intimidating me, and he stopped within inches of my face. I smiled and repeated the question.

I’m not the only one who has experienced anxiety. Perhaps there’s an important meeting in the morning and you’re asking: “Am I ready? Can I really do this? What if I mess up?”

Researchers have determined that a little anxiety may be just what you need to focus your attention and energy and perform at your peak. Somewhere between being freaked out and checked out is your anxiety sweet spot. You are motivated enough to succeed and yet not so anxious that you falter.

TIP: If you’re not pushing the boundary enough to produce a healthy dose of anxiety, you will never reach peak performance. If you do not feel a little bit scared about the consequences of tough decisions, there is no reason for you to be bold.

© 2017 LaRae Quy. All rights reserved.

You can follow me on Twitter, Facebook, AND LinkedIn

Get my FREE 45-Question Mental Toughness Assessment

Sign Up for my How To Build Confidence on-line training course

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

4 Things Successful Women Need To Know About Mental Toughness

Monday, March 27th, 2017

Successful women take a different approach than their counterparts. The obstacles they face are tremendous, but what is commonplace among them is this: they are mentally tough.

This is not surprising to me because I understand that mental toughness is essential to overcome obstacles. As a new FBI agent, I thought learning how to shoot a gun and arrest terrorists would make me successful. I did not expect to learn that my biggest, and perhaps most important skill set, would be to develop the mental toughness needed to prevail in my circumstances.

Successful women also need to prevail in their circumstances because they need to work around unsurmountable obstacles, whether climbing the corporate ladder or achieving growth in their own businesses.

Many people believe mental toughness is a type of rigid thinking that plows through obstacles and roadblocks; while that approach might work in football, it doesn’t work in business and life.

Successful women have the mental toughness to manage their emotions, thoughts, and behavior in ways that will set them up for success.

Here are 4 things successful women need to know about mental toughness:

1. START WITH EMOTIONAL COMPETENCE

As a female FBI agent, I relied heavily upon emotional intelligence to help me recruit foreign spies to work for the U.S. government. Emotional intelligence is your ability to 1) identify and manage your own emotions; 2) pick up on the emotions of others and manage them; and 3) in so doing, build trust and grow influence.

We all feel the pressure to succeed and in today’s competitive market, it takes more than intelligence to keep ahead of the pack—it also takes competence. We all know people who are intelligent but not necessarily successful.

Successful women know what makes them tick. Self-knowledge is a powerful tool because when times are tough the last thing you need is to waste precious energy in trying to interpret your lack of decisiveness.

Time spent on understanding yourself is incredibly worthwhile, followed by your ability to relate to others and empathize with what they are feeling and experiencing.

Tip:

Girls are given permission to get in touch with their inner emotions more than boys, so take advantage of it. It is a soft skill that will allow you to make the hard decisions later in your career.

2. EMBRACE RESILIENCE

One of the first things I learned in the FBI Academy was that in order to be successful I would need to learn how to adapt if I wanted to overcome an unexpected blow from left-field. When you are chasing terrorists, you need to know how to land on your feet when confronted with the unknown.

Successful women do the same because resilience not only allows them to bounce back from setbacks, it also propels them to bounce around obstacles and roadblocks.

Confidence is an important element of resilience. If you have confidence in yourself, failure is taken in stride because you see it as a learning opportunity. If you refuse to learn from your failure, it doesn’t make you a loser—it makes you stupid. This means straightening your back and taking responsibility without whining, pointing fingers, or blaming others.

Confidence in yourself allows you to absorb the unexpected blow and remain non-defensive. If something doesn’t turn out as expected, you will remain flexible and look for new ways to solve the problem.

Tip:

Trace the origins of self-limiting beliefs about what you can, or cannot, accomplish in life. Pinpoint when and how they took root in your thinking. Develop the courage to push yourself into discomfort zones that will allow you blast through each self-limiting belief that is holding you back from success.

3. DRAW ON WILLPOWER

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

Many people could improve their lives if only they had more of that mysterious thing called willpower, but most of us do not believe we have enough of it. In the American Psychological Association’s annual survey on stress, people cited lack of willpower as the No. 1 barrier to following through with changes that would improve their lives.

Tip:

Willpower requires grit, endurance, determination, and persistence. Keep this in mind: “Nothing in the world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent.”—Calvin Coolidge

4. DEVELOP A CHAMPION MINDSET

When I walked into my new FBI office, I was viewed as a curiosity more than anything else. In the 1980’s there weren’t that many female FBI agents; everyone was polite but distant. I pretended not to notice when the guys grabbed their jackets and headed out the door for lunch without inviting me. I also pretended not to notice that I wasn’t included in the informal squad debriefings about the most important cases.

We’ve all been in situations where it’s hard to keep a positive attitude. When this happens, we have intentionally to choose to be positive because we all have an innate bias toward negativity. We process bad news faster than good news because our brain is survival driven. Survival is a tough, uncompromising business. For centuries our brain programmed us to “Get lunch—not BE lunch.”

Tip:

We can chose to be influenced by our negativity bias, or conversely, pursue positive thinking. The choice is ours. We can choose to learn from our experiences and be better, or feel sorry for ourselves and be bitter.

© 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 Ways Great Leaders Get Through Tough Times

Monday, February 27th, 2017

Great leaders are defined by tough times; this is when they either lean into their inner toughness for the grit they need to keep moving ahead, or become victim to circumstances they have not learned to control.

One of the greatest leaders of all time was Genghis Khan. He conquered substantial portions of Central Europe and China to create the largest empire in history.

Temujin was born into a nomadic Mongol tribe in 1162. When Temujin was 12 years old, his father was killed and the family left to die in the harsh Mongolian winter. Temujin and his family survived, but the lessons he learned evolving from manhood at the age of 12 into the warrior known as Genghis Khan, are timeless.

As I read his story, I was struck by how human nature never changes.

The disciplines used by Genghis Khan created a great leader who had the mental toughness he needed to prepare for the unknown and embrace the unexpected. They are the same disciplines great leaders need today to face unexpected turns in the marketplace, compete against new competition, and embrace changing technology.

Great leaders are effective, no matter the challenges they face. Here are 5 ways they get through tough times:

1. GREAT LEADERS FOCUS ON A CLEAR GOAL

Genghis’s father was the leader of his Mongolian tribe but was assassinated by a rival. Genghis  and his family were then left to starve in the cold winter. Genghis had one goal in mind as he developed the skills necessary to become a great leader in those bleak months and he never lost focus of that goal—to stay alive.

My goal was to become an FBI agent. Albeit very different circumstances, both Genghis and I dug deep to find the passion behind our goals; it’s what kept us going.

How To Make It Work For You: You owe your team a clearly defined goal worthy of dedicating their efforts. You also need to demonstrate that you are willing to do whatever it takes to make it happen. Goals can shift over time so it’s important to measure progress on a regular basis.

2. TIE THAT GOAL TO A PURPOSE

While goals can shift, our purpose never does. Genghis had one purpose in life—to see the enemies who killed his father brought to justice. Even though he amassed the largest empire in history, he never became distracted by a desire for possessions or wealth as he became more powerful.

Genghis’s wounds drove him; most of us have wounds that drive us. What is important is to learn how to channel the passions that run the deepest toward achieving something we never thought possible.

How To Make It Work For You: We all come out of childhood wounded; it’s where we begin to develop the character that shows itself in great moments as adults. You have a choice: you can piss and moan about how life has handed you unfair circumstances, or you can take the bit between your teeth and convert your wounds into strengths. Grit Up and develop mental toughness.

3. BUILD UP ENDURANCE

As a boy, Genghis trained by running up and down a mountain with a mouth full of water. Over time, he got to where he could return to the starting point and spit the entire mouthful on the ground. This was a triumph that signaled he had developed the aerobic strength to run up and down mountains breathing only through his nose.

The FBI Academy had new agents run around a basketball court with a medicine ball in one hand and sweaty towel in the other. At the time, I failed to see how building endurance would make great leaders.

In hindsight, I understand they are inexorably interlinked. For both Genghis and myself, we were pursuing goals that were truly important to us.

How To Make It Work For You: Building endurance requires that you find a purpose that has value and meaning for you; persevere and do not give up, believe that you are giving it your best, and have confidence that you are in control of yourself and what happens to you.

4. STRETCH TOWARD PEAK PERFORMANCE

Genghis Khan used archery to conquer his empire. Drawing a bow and arrow from the back of a galloping horse and accurately hitting the target is not easy. Genghis mastered his art by doing two things:

1)    He developed the power to heave the thick bow back so he could aim his arrow. The Mongolian bow was covered with so many layers of sinew that it had the pull of approximately 160 pounds.

2)    He understood the movements of the horse he was riding. When a horse is galloping, there is a moment when the horse is air-borne and all four hooves are off the ground. In that split-second, as he sat in his saddle and sailed through the air in smooth flight, he could shoot his arrow with enough accuracy to hit the target.

How To Make It Work For You: Genghis Khan honed his skill with the bow and arrow. In the same way, you and I can build our mastery by pushing the boundaries of our skill levels. Experts agree that your grasp should exceed your reach by about 4% if you want to achieve peak performance.

5. DEVELOP A HIGH-FUNCTIONING TEAM

Genghis Khan took the time to understand the thinking and movements of his chosen partner—in his case, a horse. He studied the movements of the animal and synchronized them with his own so they functioned as one fluid and powerful weapon.

In this modern age, you and I work with other partners in business and life, and if we plan to be great leaders, we will need to understand the way they think so we can enable them to perform at optimal levels—especially during tough times. We need to anticipate their reactions as much as we need to anticipate our own.

How To Make It Work For You: Spend time understanding what makes your team members successful and what makes them fail. Don’t stop there; help them understand as well so they can start thinking ahead of time about how they will react in tough times. This will free up both you and team to spend your energy adapting quickly in crucial moments.

© 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 Stay Mentally Tough When You Face Difficult Stressors

Monday, February 13th, 2017

Guest post by Melanie Greenberg, Ph.D.

Stress is on the rise! In the latest (2015) version of the American Psychological Association’s Stress in America survey, 78% of respondents reported at least one symptom of stress (like feeling overwhelmed) and 34% reported increases in stress since the previous year. For many stress caused mental health problems like worry or depression, difficulty sleeping, or unhealthy behaviors. One-quarter (25 percent) of those employed report snapping at or being short with co-workers because of stress. If you can’t handle your stress, you are at risk of sabotaging your health and damaging your relationships at work or with customers, which will interfere with your longer-term success.

Calming down your stressed out feelings is only one aspect of managing stress and it may not be the best strategy for every situation.  To most effectively master stress, you need to be self-aware about your own reactions. You also need to be able to focus and think clearly about your values and goals and to sustain attention and motivation in the face of roadblocks and failures. Finally and most importantly, your mindset about stress makes all the difference. Learning how to reframe stress more positively – as a challenge with potential for growth and learning – can help you feel more confident and excited about the possibilities. Building the four qualities of mental toughness: emotional competency, resilience, willpower, and attitude can set you up for success when stress inevitably hits you!

Stress and Emotional Competency

Stress sends your brain into “fight or flight” mode, which sets into play a cascade of neurotransmitters and hormones like adrenaline and cortisol. This response is very rapid and sometimes occurs before the conscious parts of the brain even know what’s going on. “Fight or flight” can trigger impulsive, behaviors like screaming at co-workers because your body is gearing up to fight a threat. This is where emotional competency comes in. You can’t stop “fight or flight,” but you can learn to identify when it’s happening and take a mindful pause before reacting automatically. Being mindful means being able to notice and describe what’s happening in your mind and body – observing rather than absorbing the stress. Mindfulness enhances your emotional competence because, over months and years, it actually changes the parts of the brain involved in the stress response. It also helps you find a more compassionate view of the situation, which helps you feel less stressed. Practicing mindfulness meditation can help strengthen this response.

Stress and Resilience

Resilience is another part of mental toughness that can help you deal more effectively with stress.  One aspect of resilience is “grit,” a concept defined by researcher Angela Duckworth. Grit means being able to tolerate discomfort and setbacks because you are driven by your passion for long-term goals,  Research studies in college students, salespeople, and Westpoint cadets shows that grit is just as or more important than intelligence and mental ability in determining long-term success. To build grit, you have to know what values and goals are most important to you and why. Stress makes you reactive in the moment, but grit can help you step back and take a long-term view. Think about your passion for building your business or your organization’s mission and let that empower you to plough through the difficulties.  In one study (Brooks,2014) subjects who felt anxious about public speaking were told to relabel their anxious feelings as excitement while another group was told to try to calm down.  Those in the “excitement”group felt more excited and actually performed better at the speaking task. The anxiety and adrenaline surges involved in “fight or flight” can actually fuel performance if they are managed effectively.

Stress and Willpower

One of the challenges of the stressors we face these days is that they can be chronic and that the outcomes are often at least partially out of our control. Retaining customers, making sales, and getting promotions involve making consistent effort to work hard and build relationships over long periods of time. This is where willpower comes in. Staying organized and focused on your goals means being able to manage your body’s “fight to flight” response so it doesn’t “hijack” your brain’s attention.  Time spent worrying about things you can’t control can be counterproductive and get in the way of getting things done.  Willpower means that you learn to direct your brain’s focus of attention, rather than letting automatic stress reactivity distract you. Willpower does not occur in a vacuum – you can deliberately organize your environment to sustain willpower (e.g., by programming reminders into your phone, having a vision board,  or putting your running shoes where you’ll see them).

Stress and Attitude

Research shows that your attitude towards your stress can have as much influence as the actual events in determining how well things turn out.  In a study by Crum, Salovey, and Achor (2013) the researchers used a questionnaire to assess whether people saw stress as damaging or as having some benefits.  Those who saw stress as damaging were more likely to focus on avoiding feeling stressed, which led them to miss out on opportunities to learn and grow. In their study, students who saw stress as damaging were less likely to want to hear feedback after they gave a speech. In another study (Keller et al., 2012), people who saw stress as damaging their health and who also experienced a lot of stress had a 43% increase in premature death. In a third study, participants who were able to reframe their stress reactions as functional had an improved cardiovascular response to stress and were less likely to think about negative aspects of the situation (Jamieson, Nock & Mendes, 2012). The take home message is that you need to think of your body’s stressful arousal as gearing yourself up for a challenge you can master, rather than something that threatens to derail you.

Stress is an inevitable part of life but mentally tough people know how to befriend their stress and use it to their advantage.  To learn more about your brain’s stress response and how to develop resilience, read my new book The Stress-Proof Brain, released in February 2017 and available on Amazon.

http://amzn.to/2kNwRqC

Melanie Greenberg is a practicing psychologist in Marin County California and an expert on managing stress in life, work, and relationships using proven strategies from neuroscience, mindfulness, cognitive-behavioral approaches, and positive psychology. She is the author of The Mindful Self-Express blog for Psychology Today (8 million+ page views). Her new book. The Stress-Proof Brain was released last week by New Harbinger. It received a starred positive review from Library Journal and is an Amazon bestseller in Neuropsychology and Stress-Management.

© 2017  All rights reserved.

You can follow LaRae Quy on Twitter, Facebook, AND LinkedIn

Get LaRae’s FREE 45-Question Mental Toughness Assessment

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LaRae Quy is the 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, January 23rd, 2017

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.

Like learning effective leadership skills, 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 advancing the interests of the group they are representing.

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 advancing 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 overcoming adversity while JFK reminds us 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.

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 and following their conversation.

  1. Nod occasionally, not frequently.
  2. Ask questions, even if it means interrupting them. It shows you are genuinely interested in what they are saying.
  3. Don’t let your eyes wander; stay fixed on their face.

3. Use The Right Pronouns

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.

4. Tell Our Story

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.

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

5. Conceal Your Craft

The act of charisma is subtle and not obvious. It is rarely productive to bluntly say, “This is who we are” because it can often be met with a “No, we’re not” retort. Instead, 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.

6. Create A Strong Persona

A strong persona does not require great physical strength or ego; however, it does require two things:

1) full display of core competencies such as intelligence, kindness, empathy, etc.

mixed with

2) warmth of personality

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.

© 2017 LaRae Quy. All rights reserved.

You can follow me on Twitter, Facebook, AND LinkedIn

Get my FREE 45-Question Mental Toughness Assessment

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

The Complete Beginner’s Guide To Mental Toughness

Monday, December 19th, 2016

In the 1930’s FBI agents needed mental toughness to hunt bank robbers like John Dillinger and mobsters like Al Capone.

As the world became more complex, FBI agents started working complex and sophisticated cases like terrorism, organized crime, cyber, and counterintelligence to better address the threats to American lives and interests.

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

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

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

People define mental toughness in different ways. Often, they think it is plowing through obstacles and roadblocks. While that mindset might work in football, it is not an effective way to succeed in business and life.

Here is a complete beginner’s guide to mental toughness:

SKILL #1: MENTAL TOUGHNESS REQUIRES EMOTIONAL COMPETENCY

Most of the FBI agents I worked alongside would never sputter the phrase emotional intelligence—much less attribute their success to it. While they considered themselves mentally tough, they preferred words like competence and alertness to describe the skills they carefully honed over the years.

I prefer the term emotional competency rather than emotional intelligence. I know of lots of people who are intelligent but not necessarily competent. Competency requires more than just information; it requires the practical wisdom to put that knowledge to work in real life situations.

Let’s break emotional competency down:

1. Self-Awareness—know what fuels you. I am not talking about fluffy ideals or stuff that gives you the warm fuzzies. Training at the FBI Academy at Quantico is constructed to filter out those who do not feel deeply attached to upholding our federal judicial system.

To be mentally tough, you must know what you feel down deep in your bones. If you are not pursuing something that really holds value and meaning for you, you will not have what it takes to keep going when the going gets tough.

If you are self-aware, you have clarity about your values, operate from a place of authenticity, and go after the things in life that are hard-wired to give you a purpose.

2. Communication—you know how to interpret the words and body language of others. This means you are a good listener and know how to build genuine trust with others. An essential element of mental toughness is the ability to accurately read the emotions of others and then adapt your behavior accordingly.

To be successful, match your personality to your boss, employee, or client. Assess whether they are introverts or extraverts, analytical or a visionary, purpose-driven or security-driven, goal-oriented or people-oriented. If you’ve been a good listener, you will be able to make these distinctions.

3. Empathy—it’s not feeling sorry for the other person; it is feeling their sorrow. If you can understand the emotions of others, it is easier to create empathy.

Sometimes we don’t really want to hear what other people have to say! We love our own opinions and thoughts and would prefer to shut out those of others.

Once we close down, however, we risk becoming judgmental and opinionated. More importantly, we miss out on what others have to share with us.

SKILL #2: RESILIENCE — MENTAL TOUGHNESS MEANS WE ADAPT TO OVERCOME

The ability to pick ourselves up when life knocks us down is called resilience. In today’s competitive culture, resilience has become a critical skill because it takes more than talent to succeed.

Resilient people do not blame others, whine, or complain about how unfair life is. Yes, life can be unfair but that is no excuse to give up.

As a new FBI agent, I learned to be bold, take risks, move into my discomfort zone, and put myself out there, even when scared to death of what I might face. The way in which we adapt to overcome our adversity determines how we will achieve success.

More than talent, more than education, more than experience, the ability to bounce back from setbacks determines who will succeed and who will fail. That is true in the classroom, in sports, and in the boardroom.

Here’s a breakdown of resilience:

1. Confidence—if you don’t believe in yourself, how can others believe in you? When you’re knocked down in life, you must have enough confidence in yourself to get back up, find a way to move forward, and adapt to overcome.

Lack of confidence can rear its ugly head at any time. No one is immune because we are most vulnerable any time we’re out of our comfort zone or experience change in our life. We must face our fears. If we have confidence in ourselves we are not afraid of how others perceive us, afraid of commitment, or afraid of failure.

Confidence is a critical building block for a successful career because it is the one mindset that will take you where you want to go.

2. Take Risksmost of us don’t know what we’re capable of until we’re truly challenged. And most of do not want to be truly challenged because we don’t want to fail.

But failure can be very beneficial for building confidence because it allows you a perfect opportunity to 1) learn why things went wrong, and 2) see how you can make adjustments next time.

When learning how to make an arrest or interview a terrorist I needed to take risks, fail, and learn from my mistakes as much as possible before I found myself in the actual situation.

If you think you never make mistakes, you are a narcissist—either that or stupid. But if you are humble and self-aware, you recognize that taking risks, making mistakes, and failing will help you understand that there is always something you can do to be better.

3. Self-Limiting Beliefs as children we think we can conquer the world, but somewhere between childhood and adulthood, our enthusiasm and natural inclinations to dream big are squashed. Parents and teachers start imposing their own beliefs—about what we can and can’t do in life—upon us.

It’s tempting to give up and not try for anything beyond the predictions and admonitions of others. While many of these people are well-intentioned, they feed negative, limiting, and inaccurate narratives about what it possible once you put your mind to it.

If the instructors at the FBI Academy were not pushing us past our self-limiting beliefs, they weren’t doing their job.

SKILL #3: WILLPOWER — MENTAL TOUGHNESS ENABLES PERSONAL MASTERY

The capacity to say “no” to the call of temptation and desire to quit is called willpower. It is the ability to find the energy, motivation, and enthusiasm to keep going even when you’re tired, anxious, and looking for a way out.

Many people could improve their lives if only they had more of that mysterious thing called willpower, but most of us do not believe we have enough of it. In the American Psychological Association’s annual survey on stress, people cited lack of willpower as the No. 1 barrier to following through with changes that would improve their lives.

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

Here’s a breakdown of willpower:

1. Grit—it keeps FBI agents on a case when there is no easy answer in sight. Sometimes, in order to find a kidnapping victim or arrest a terrorist, agents need to rely not only on their skills and training, but also on their sheer will and determination to cross the finish line.

Jack Dempsey once said, “A champion is someone who gets up when he can’t.” He was talking about perseverance, persistence, and determination—grit.

Researcher Angela Duckworth has found that grit is more predictive of success than IQ in military academies like West Point. In fact, grit is unrelated, or even negatively correlated, with talent. When working with West Point cadets, she found that those who scored higher in grit had the mental toughness to keep going when times got tough.

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

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

Experts agree that this magic stretch is 4% greater than our skill. For most of us, that’s not much at all. However, it’s important to keep that continual tension between stretch and skill if we want to move toward our peak performance.

Managing time wisely and developing good habits are essential if we want to push our limits and reach peak performance.

Never be content with mediocrity.

3. Mastery—research on elite athletes has found no correlation between innate talent and trainability. Mental traits were just as important as fitness level in differentiating top athletes from amateurs.

Successful people spend their time thinking about what they want to do and how to make it happen. And it doesn’t always take talent; it needs flow to make it happen. Flow is described as a state of deep absorption in the activity during which performance seems to happen effortlessly and automatically.

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

SKILL #4: ATTITUDE — CHAMPION MINDSETS ARE THE PRODUCT OF MENTAL TOUGHNESS

There’s a long-standing belief that happiness makes people achieve more. However, a study by sports psychologist Tim Woodman shows that happiness is not the key to success. In fact, it didn’t factor anywhere in the results.

Instead, those who were most successful had experienced a negative, critical event in their life—such as death, the divorce of parents, disease, or some other perceived loss—all fairly early in life.

This is when they kicked into high gear and began to develop their talents and skills, and in the process, changed their life course almost immediately. As a result, they felt valued, important, and inspired—perhaps for the first time.

What stands out in Woodman’s study is that these same individuals also experienced another critical turning point in mid-life. It could have been positive, like finding the right marriage partner, or negative, like the death of a loved one; but it caused these successful people to redouble their efforts.

The study also implies that those who do not experience trauma or tough times earlier in life are less likely to have the drive necessary to achieve peak performance. The mid-life event reminded them of the original loss and motivated them at a deep-seated level.

This is a common finding among successful people; they have a deeper motivation that pushes them toward fame, happiness, or money.

Here’s a breakdown of attitude:

1. Positive Thinking—positive thinkers are not optimists. Positive thinkers believe they will prevail in their circumstances rather than believing their circumstances will change; optimists believe their circumstances will eventually change for the better.

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

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

Visualizing your successful performance is based on solid science. By visualizing your performance repeatedly, your brain stores that information as a success.

The way in which we look at ourselves, and our circumstances, dictates our attitude when faced with adversity. To jettison those negative thoughts, you may find it necessary to express your situation differently. When you rethink, or reframe, your adversity, it helps to move it into a context that is more favorable.

This is not to make light of tragedy. It’s perfectly normal to be sad when we are immersed in a negative situation. That said, we do not need to let the crap moments produced by adversity sabotage our efforts to keep moving toward success.

2. Growth Mindset—mentally strong leaders have a growth mindset that looks at success as hard work, learning, training, and having the grit to keep moving ahead even when faced with obstacles and roadblocks.

When facing uncertainty, you have two choices: You can dread it because you are afraid of failing—you believe that failure sends a negative message about your abilities, or…

You can anticipate it because you interpret failure as an opportunity for learning and improvement.

The first choice describes a fixed mindset that does best when there is a heavy hand running the show. That way of leading may have been efficient years ago, but today’s leaders are learning that the brain power of their workforce is a terrible thing to waste.

The second choice describes a growth mindset that looks at success as hard work, learning, training, and having the grit to keep moving ahead even when faced with obstacles and roadblocks.

3. Gratitude— is a positive emotion that encourages reciprocal altruism, well-being, and appreciation. The strong and unequivocal support of others produces gratitude, and it is powerful because gratitude increases an individual’s self-confidence, provides a safety net for those times when they fall, and enhances their belief that they can overcome obstacles.

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.”

Bonding strongly with others in a tribe provides greater security than if we strike out on our own.

Emotional competency, resilience, willpower, and attitude are the four essential components of mental toughness. Building mental toughness is a life long task, but here is the good news: Mental toughness is not something we were born with—it is something we can learn.

© 2016 LaRaeQuy. All rights reserved.

You can follow me on Twitter, Facebook, AND LinkedIn

Get my FREE 45-Question Mental Toughness Assessment

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

How To Build Trust With Others

Monday, December 12th, 2016

As a former FBI counterintelligence agent, I needed to learn how to build trust with others.

trust

I needed information from them; in return, they needed to know that I could be trusted to keep our relationship discreet.

Trust is at the heart of every business. Entrepreneurs, small business owners, and leaders need to work with people both inside and outside of their organization to create mutually beneficial relationships.

People who live in high-trust environments thrive. They are able to build strong relationships because trust is give-and-take. 

Emotional competency is a core component of mental toughness—the ability to manage our own emotions and empathize with the emotions of others. When learning how to build trust with others, you must find a way to relate to them in a meaningful way. Here are 6 tips:

1. Build Trust With Others By Trusting Yourself

Adversity - give up!

You will not be able to trust others if you cannot trust yourself. It requires you to be honest about who you are as a person. Learn how to be compassionate with yourself and not harshly judge the person you find. Compassion and forgiveness opens you up and allows you to learn.

Self-awareness enables us to understand and accept our limitations; in turn, it’s easier to understand that everyone has limitations.

2. Build Trust With Others By Mirroring Them

Self-awareness - squirrel

Neuro-linguistic researchers have found links between our mind, language, and behavior. The three primary modes through which people react to the world around them are visual (seeing), auditory (hearing), and kinesthetic (feeling).

These sensory channels become important when building trust because they impact the way we can relate to people in a way that is meaningful to them. Pay attention to the language that a person uses—chances are, they will follow one of the following three patterns in their speech.

Sounds like . . . a lot of information.

Looks like . . . a lot to learn.

Feels like . . . more than I can handle.

If someone expresses themselves using a feeling word, use a feeling word to respond. If someone is an auditory person, use sounds to bring home your point: “it sounds like a thousand people in the room.” For visual people, ask them what the issue “looks” like to them.

3. Build Trust With Others By Noticing Their Words

Trust - whispering

When people are passionate about something, they use words that are freighted with meaning. The first step is to notice the words they use that are full of energy. Here are some energy words another person may use in a conversation that point to their emotional state:

  • Disappointed
  • Baffled
  • Cautious
  • Confused
  • Grateful
  • Hesitant
  • Interested
  • Relaxed
  • Surprised
  • Uncertain
  • Nervous

The list goes on. After you have noticed the way a person uses an energy word, draw attention to it by simply repeating it, and then pausing. By repeating the word, and pausing, it alerts them that you 1) have noticed their concern, 2) are validating it, and 3) giving them an opportunity to further elaborate.

4. Build Trust With Others By Making Promises. And Keeping Them.

Successful financial plans

The promise does not have to be big, but small things like sending a timely email or sticking to a schedule can go a long way in building trust.

When others realize you can be trusted to keep your word on small things, they will instinctively trust you with bigger ones. This becomes very important when the stakes are higher.

5. Build Trust With Others By Admitting You Don’t Have All The Answers

Tough Decisions

It takes genuine confidence in yourself to admit you don’t know something, but this simple act of trust on your part speaks volumes to the people who hear it. Your team will understand that you are an honest and open person.

Trust is reciprocal, so the more you trust others, they more likely they will trust you. Trusting others also requires you to take a risk because you cannot always predict their response.

6. Build Trust With Others By Remaining Vigilant

Positivity - looking forward

We spend a great deal of time trying to size up other people to determine their trustworthiness. However, once we make a decision, we rarely re-evaluate it even if a significant period of time has lapsed.

Complacency is dangerous.

Always remain vigilant for instances of where trust can be abused. If we’re not paying attention, the landscape can change and suddenly the attitude and behavior of people you once trusted can shift.

This is not being paranoid, it is being wise. We all know of instances where deals have fallen through or bad decisions were made because they were based on a false sense of security.

Trust, but verify—Ronald Reagan

© 2016 LaRaeQuy. All rights reserved.

You can follow me on Twitter, Facebook, AND LinkedIn

Get my FREE 45-Question Mental Toughness Assessment

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

book

Why You Need Grit When Life Throws You A Curveball

Monday, November 14th, 2016

When I interviewed with the FBI, they liked my grit and scrappiness—a hillbilly from a cattle ranch in Wyoming had clawed her way through college, and was now sitting in front of a panel of polished FBI agents interviewing for a job as a special agent.

Grit Up!

I wore my working class background like a badge of honor. I was proud of the fact that my family took showers at the end of a hard day instead of stepping out of a shower smelling like a petunia each morning.

I grew up an unsophisticated ranch girl, and believe me, it takes a while to put a shine on a sneaker. I spent years being ridiculed because the educated elitists I met at universities and in business didn’t feel I was as enlightened as them.

Each curveball thrown my way was met with determination and persistence. I grew up with the grit it takes to make sacrifices in order to keep my eye on the larger goal.

The FBI liked that; when I was hired it was not because I was a female, it was because I was the best person for the job who happened to be female.

Voters feel they’ve been handed a curveball; entrepreneurs wake up every day to new challenges in their business; and startups are faced with new competition and unstable markets.

Here is why you need grit when life throws you a curveball:

1. GRIT UP & MANAGE YOUR EMOTIONS

body language

Growing up on a remote cattle ranch presented different types of adversity—rattlesnakes in the summer and deadly snowstorms in the winter. Both presented life and death situations.

At an elevation of 7,000 feet, we were frequently snowed in for months at a time during the winter. My brother and I had a private tutor who lived on the ranch with us because we were hours from the nearest town. When I was in first grade, our first tutor’s vehicle got stuck in a snowdrift and she froze to death while trying to walk back to our house.

We worked hard and lived in poverty. While the educated elitists and slick professionals in the cities were discussing whether schools should teach bi-lingual classes, we were more interested in keeping our livestock alive.

I had no friends and I started stacking hay bales when I was 8. I thought it terribly unfair that life had dealt me this crappy hand.

I also had no idea that years later researchers would notice a connection between grit, success, and early adversity in life. Why would adversity when I was young give me an advantage?

The answer in this study suggests that adversity at a young age teaches us early in life how to deal with our emotions. The ability to regulate our emotions gives us an advantage in both business and life.

Emotional competence is one of the cornerstones of mental toughness. If we are emotionally intelligent and aware of our innermost emotions, we have a much better chance of dealing with them when a curveball comes our way as an adult.

What This Means For You:

No one gets through childhood without a few scrapes. We don’t all get the red ball in the playground. Mine the significance of your own stories and experiences to uncover the way in which you dealt with blows in the past. They are an accurate predictor of how you’re dealing with them now.

If you don’t like what you see, start working on changing your response.

Teach your children how to get in touch with all of their emotions now, even the negative ones. Pretending they don’t exist or protecting them from adversity will not prepare them for the inevitable ones that will show up. There are no safe zones in life.

Throwing tantrums and blaming others is not a strategy for success in either business or life.

2. GRIT UP & LEAN INTO THE STRUGGLE

persistence

In working counterintelligence cases, I learned that grit meant leaning into the struggle when hit with a curveball or roadblock. I had one case that lasted 7 years before I was able to successfully close it. While I had other cases assigned to me during that time, this one case just kept rearing its ugly head.

There is a difference between being persistent and being stubborn. The case demanded that I change my behavior, tactics, and mindset if I planned on solving it.

Sometimes productive behavior means leaning into a struggle in ways that you don’t feel like doing but mental toughness is knowing when to change your behavior or when to change your environment. There will be times when you do need to change the environment so you can be your best self, but grit can help you respond to hardship in a more efficient manner.

Positive thinking is another cornerstone of mental toughness; FBI agents survive because they are always prepared for the worst-case scenario. We don’t go into arrest situations assuming everything will work out OK.

What It Means For You:

Don’t run from adversity or struggles if they are lying in the path of what you want to do in life. That means you will need to adapt and be flexible with micro quotas as you move toward your macro goal. Anticipate what could go wrong so you are better able to predict your response and land on your feet when confronted with the unknown.

3. GRIT UP & STOP WHINING

 

whining-kid

The quickest way to be ostracized from an FBI squad is to whine, point fingers, or blame others.

Whining about your problems always makes you feel worse, not better, because your words have power, both over yourself and others.

If something is wrong, save your mental energy for finding ways to make the situation better.

There are so many things over which we have no control—our parents, the country of our birth, the time in history. Most of us do not have a choice of when or where we die, nor can we control the time and manner of our death.

But we can choose how to live—either with purpose and joy or adrift and hopeless. We can choose what makes us significant, we can choose to be creative, and we can choose whether or not we live according to our most deeply felt values.

When you stop whining, pointing fingers, and blaming others you are able to choose your destiny.

What It Means For You:

If you don’t know your core values, take time to find out what they are because they are what drive your behavior, move you, and inspire you.

Identify what is wrong, but don’t waste time talking about it. Instead, talk only about how you’ll make it better.

Everyone goes through the school of hard knocks in different ways and at different times in their life. The questions for you:

  • If you’ve already experienced those hard knocks, how did you pull yourself through?
  • If you are currently experiencing them, how are you doing?
  • If they lie in the future for you, what will you do?

© 2016 LaRaeQuy. All rights reserved.

You can follow me on Twitter, Facebook, AND LinkedIn

Get my FREE 45-Question Mental Toughness Assessment

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

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