Posts Tagged ‘mental toughness’

3 Reasons Why Stoics Make Great Leaders

Monday, May 29th, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here are 3 reasons why stoics make great leaders:

1. Accept What Is Out Of Your Control

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2. Search For The Worst That Can Happen

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

3. Stumbles Are Welcome

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

© 2017 LaRae Quy. All rights reserved.

You can follow me on Twitter, Facebook, AND LinkedIn

Get my FREE 45-Question Mental Toughness Assessment

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

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

Boost Your Self Esteem – 5 Effective Ways

Monday, May 22nd, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

1. UNDERSTAND YOUR ENVIRONMENT

understanding your environment will help to improve your self esteem

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

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

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

2. FIND A MENTOR

find a mentor to boost your self esteem

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

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

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

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

3. BE HONEST WITH YOURSELF

be honest with yourself to improve your self esteem

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

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

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

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

4. HEAL FROM THE PAST

healing from your past will improve your self esteem

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

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

5. EXPLORE NEW LIFE EXPERIENCES

explore new life experiences to gain self esteem

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

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

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

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

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

© 2017 LaRae Quy. All rights reserved.

You can follow me on Twitter, Facebook, AND LinkedIn

Get my FREE 45-Question Mental Toughness Assessment

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

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

10 Hard Skills To Learn That Will Last A Lifetime

Sunday, May 7th, 2017

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

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

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

1. Hunt The Good Stuff

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

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

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

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

2. Become Emotionally Competent

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

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

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

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

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

3. Know What Makes You Tick

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

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

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

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

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

4. Have The Confidence To Fail

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

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

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

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

5. Identify Self-Limiting Beliefs

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

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

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

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

6. Stretch Toward Peak Performance

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

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

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

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

7. Manage Time Wisely

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

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

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

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

8. Use Positive Self-Talk

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

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

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

9. Make Room For Your Emotions

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

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

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

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

10. Find Your Tribe

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

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

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

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

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

© 2017 LaRae Quy. All rights reserved.

You can follow me on Twitter, Facebook, AND LinkedIn

Get my FREE 45-Question Mental Toughness Assessment

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

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

4 Tips To Create Stronger Bonds

Monday, May 1st, 2017

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

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

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

Here are tips on you can create stronger bonds:

1. SHUT UP AND LISTEN

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

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

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

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

2. ENGAGE IN CONVERSATIONS

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

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

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

3. ACTIVELY LISTEN

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

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

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

4. NOTICE FEELINGS

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

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

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

© 2017 LaRae Quy. All rights reserved.

You can follow me on Twitter, Facebook, AND LinkedIn

Get my FREE 45-Question Mental Toughness Assessment

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sign Up for LaRae’s How To Build Confidence on-line training course

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.”