Posts Tagged ‘mindset’

4 Tips On How To Handle Stress

Monday, June 13th, 2016

As the spokesperson for the FBI in Northern California, I learned more about how to handle stress in those four years than at any other time in my life. The constant demand from the media for information that was timely, on-message, and accurate was relentless.


Interestingly enough, it was also the period in my life when I felt the most energized and invigorated. After twenty years as an investigator, I needed the boost of adrenaline that a fast-paced environment gave me.

As entrepreneurs, sales executives, and leaders, you are stressed by deadlines, responsibilities, and your ever-increasing workload. You may be wondering how to handle stress and worried that it is interfering with your job performance and even your health.

The conventional wisdom about stress warns that too much of it can cause high blood pressure, heart attacks, and other health hazards. Although non-stop stress can be harmful, recent research is providing new insight into how measured doses of stress can actually enhance our performance.

Our brains are hard-wired so that it is difficult for us to take action until we feel stress or anxiety. Mentally strong people are able to manage their emotions, thoughts, and behavior in optimal levels to achieve top performance.

Here are 4 tips to help you handle stress and keep stress levels in check:


In the past, psychologists believed that it was the amount of stress that was bad for a person’s health. But in recent studies it’s become clear that the amount of stress is a surprisingly poor predictor of whether it will leave you better, or worse, off.

New research from Yale University and Shawn Achor, author of The Happiness Advantage, reveal that people can be divided into two groups:

  1. those who believe that stress-is-debilitating, and
  2. those who believe that stress-is-enhancing.

The Yale Study found that people who had stress-is-enhancing mindsets reported having better health, greater life satisfaction, and superior work performance.

Stress produces cortisol—too much or too little cortisol release in response to a stressor can have negative physiological consequences.

The Yale research, in combination with Achor’s findings, paint a very clear picture:

Stress is killing you if you believe it is. Studies confirm that people who die from stress do not die from stress itself, but from the belief that stress was bad for them. Those who do not believe it is harmful experience no negative side effects on their health.

If you can use mental toughness to manage your mindset and handle stress, you will see challenges you face as opportunities to grow and learn. In addition, you will be both happier and more productive.


We all know that anxiety can hurt performance and most of us have been in situations when we were anxious, couldn’t think straight, and experienced temporary lapses in memory.

Too much cortisol and our performance withers, but people who are calm experience too little cortisol and their performance also withers.

The key is learning how to manage your emotions with self-talk and using the right words when controlling your thoughts.

In a study published by the Journal of Experimental Psychology, people who told themselves that they were excited about the challenge ahead of them performed significantly better than those who told themselves that they were calm.

If you are excited about your job or task, you will be more persuasive, competent, confident, and persistent. You will grit-up with the mental toughness to change the way you label your feelings and emotions—from stressful to exciting. This helps create a shift toward a more positive mindset.


Taking the time to be grateful lessens anxiety because it reduces the stress hormone cortisol. Professor Robert Emmons conducted a study at the University of California, Davis, of over 1,000 people, from ages 8 to 80. They found that those who cultivate an attitude of gratitude experienced a host of benefits:

  • Stronger immune systems and lower blood pressure
  • Higher levels of positive emotions
  • More joy, optimism, and happiness
  • Acting with more generosity and compassion
  • Feeling less lonely and isolated


The higher levels of stress that I experienced as the FBI spokesperson brought me closer to understanding what fired up my heart. Because of the constant deadlines, I found myself doing two things:

1) Focusing on what I liked to do, and 2) delaying until later or delegating to others the things I didn’t like to do.

One of the things I loved to do was gather stories from other agents and then work with reporters on getting those stories out to the public. I delayed as long as possible doing the record checks and going through files for details of an investigation.

When I created stories around FBI best practices and shared them with others, I knew that the audience would benefit from the life lessons that twirled all around me.

The stress imposed upon me by my job forced me to prioritize, and in those priorities I found where my heart was leading: I wanted to write and share the lessons I learned from my time as an FBI agent with others.

For stress to be beneficial, it’s important to find meaning in your work . Research has shown that workers in high-stress jobs like air-traffic controllers and intensive-care nurses thrive under heavy stress if they are positive about the future and find their work meaningful.

You cannot be stressed out and empowered at the same time! Be mentally strong and keep your anxiety from taking over.

When has stress enabled you to perform at your best?

© 2016 LaRaeQuy. All rights reserved.

You can follow me on Twitter

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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.”

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4 Surefire Ways To Move Through Uncertainty

Saturday, January 23rd, 2016

The FBI requires all agents to qualify with their firearm at least four times a year. Part of this training is taking turns arresting fellow agents and putting them in handcuffs. As I tried to handcuff one of the senior agents on my squad, I found he didn’t have the flexibility to place the back of his hands together behind his back. Over time, he had lost a great deal of the suppleness in his shoulder muscles.

Uncertainty - waves

While he took great deal of ribbing by fellow agents, I remember thinking: “If only he’d made the effort to keep limber, he would have more flexibility.”

If stretching and yoga can promote healthier bodies, we need to find similar ways to keep our mind flexible and agile for top performance. Rigid thinking cannot help us adapt when we are faced with the uncertainty of today’s workplace.

As entrepreneurs, leaders, and business owners, you are required to adapt and move through transitions at faster and faster paces. Whether it is a new assignment, a new supervisor, or a new career—success depends on finding new ways to keep our minds supple.

Mental toughness is the ability to be flexible and agile in the way we respond when faced with the uncertainties of both life and work.

Here are 4 surefire ways you can develop the mindset to move through uncertainty:

1. Overcome Uncertainty By Growing A Little Each Day

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.

2. Overcome Uncertainty By Discovering What Makes You Feel Strong

As an FBI agent, one of the first things I did was surveil the target of my investigation. I analyzed and assessed their strengths, weaknesses, needs, and wants. This gave me tremendous power, because I usually came to know more about them than they knew about themselves.

Harness that same power by making yourself the target of your own investigation:

a. Discover your own patterns: What makes you smile? What are you always wanting to do or think about? What can you not help do, think, or feel? Even if someone asks you not to?

b. Keep track of how you spend the next week: What are you doing, feeling or thinking about daily? Write down everything that energizes you and makes you feel strong. It could be a particular physical activity, or a book you read, or people you meet. Alongside, write down everything that makes you feel less confident or anxious. How many of these do you encounter at work?

c. Compare the lists: How can you start doing more of the things that make you feel strong? And eliminate those that make you feel threatened?

When you find a few things you repeatedly do and love, dig deeper and see what part of that particular activity makes you feel good—and empowers you.

As you transition out of your current situation or move into a time of uncertainty, lean into those things that make you feel strong and keep a wary eye out for those things that do not empower you.

3. Overcome Uncertainty By Mixing It Up

FBI training is relentless and continuous, but this kept our minds flexible and agile so we could adapt to the unknown when confronting an arrest situation.

When a roadblock or obstacle confronts us, we often have no Plan B. Instead of moving around a roadblock in a deliberate and flexible manner, we continue to assault it using the same tactics that have already proven ineffective. Our default explanation is blaming others.

The only thing worse than getting into a rut is staying in one. Often, our patterns of thinking become rigid because we’re fixated on thinking about achieving our life’s goals in one way.

Mix up the way you think. It’s important to combine focused thought with periods of play and scattered attention because changes in your environment, attitude, and behavior influences how you think.

When you’re feeling happy or optimistic, you are more inclusive and more creative. When you are fearful, your focus narrows down to specific details.

Mental toughness is having the flexibility to make a mental shift without remaining stuck in a particular mindset.

4. Overcome Uncertainty By Summoning The Courage To Try New Things

Finding our courage is no small thing, but once we find it, it takes over everything in its path. A flood of courage is exactly what we need when faced with uncertainty.

The goal is to move fluidly between specific and abstract thought patterns so you can flex and bend with the changing circumstances of your life. Start with making small changes in your routine. Taking the stairs instead of the elevator or listening to different music can boost your mental agility.

Variety is also good. Try different foods and different methods of exercise. Call a friend and go to a place you’ve never visited. Watch your thoughts become more expansive as you break out of old patterns and develop your brain.

A flexible and agile mindset is essential if you plan to get past the roadblocks and obstacles ahead of you. Remember this: everyone can get smarter about how to overcome obstacles if they work at it.

How have you pushed through periods of uncertainty?

© 2016 LaRaeQuy. All rights reserved.

You can follow me on Twitter

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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WILLPOWER —The Secret To Getting What You Want In Life

Sunday, September 27th, 2015

A few years back I entered a 6 mile race called the Jingle Bell Run with some of my fellow FBI agents. Fueled by willpower, I tried desperately to keep up with them, but within the first few yards they pulled away and left me behind. 


And then, as we entered the last mile, a woman pushing a stroller sailed past me. The child sitting in the stroller weighed about 40 pounds—to add insult to injury.

I wish I could tell you this was a joke, but it wasn’t. I felt both defeated and humiliated. I watched as the woman’s back quickly disappeared into the crowd as well. By now, I was limping along with runners from the Shady Rest Retirement Community.

I thought about dropping out of the race altogether, but I willed myself to keep moving ahead even though I was gasping for breath and barely able to move.

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.

Here are 7 ways you can use willpower to get everything you want in life:

1. Keep Your Eye On The Big Picture

Make sure your goals and priorities are clear in your mind. You must be able to make the choice that matters when you run into difficulties and feel like giving up.

Willpower takes energy because you must use mental toughness to control your thoughts, emotions, and behavior.

2. Connect Your Activity To Your WHY

You must be able to remind yourself WHY it’s important for you to do something.  When you have a purpose and are engaged in activities that are freighted with both value and meaning, you have the beginning of what it takes to commit to your goal.

Dump the trivia because meaningless tasks do not activate willpower.

3. Pare Down Decisions

School uniforms are popular for a reason: they reduce the number of choices students have to make every morning. President Obama only wears blue or gray suits. He told Vanity Fair that he doesn’t want to make decisions about what he wears because he has so many other decisions to make.

Fewer decisions allow you to find the energy, motivation, and stamina to keep going even when you’re tired or anxious.

4. Train Your Brain

You can make the willpower centers of your brain more dense and better connected by meditating every day. Neuroscientists have found that meditation leads to better focus and self-control after just 3 hours of practice. MRI scans show increased neural connection in brain regions responsible for impulse control.

Don’t worry if you think you are “bad at meditation.” The act of constantly pushing away intrusive thoughts is precisely what trains the brain and strengthens willpower.

5. Defer Gratification

Success usually comes down to choosing the pain of discipline over the ease of compliance. So, if you want to succeed at something, at some point you will need to ignore doing easier things in favor of doing something harder.

Willpower is the ability to delay gratification, resisting short-term temptations in order to meet long-term goals.

6. Be Optimistic

When we increase our optimism, we increase our willpower to accomplish a task. When we mix optimism with willpower, it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. Studies have shown that if we raise our expectations of success, we find ways to overcome the temptations or obstacles that might pop up along the way.

Our ability to overcome an obstacle depends upon how likely we think we’ll be able to overcome it.

7. Change Your Mindset

People who think that willpower is limited are always on the lookout for signs of fatigue. But people who believe that willpower is not limited only dig deeper and find more resources.

Recent findings by Greg Walton and Carol Dweck fly in the face of what has been preached about willpower for years—that willpower is limited and that we need constant glucose boosts throughout the day.

If we have a growth mindset, we will work harder and dig deeper to find the willpower we need to overcome our obstacle or reach our goals. According to Walton and Dweck, willpower can indeed be quite limited—but only if you believe it is. When people believe that willpower is fixed and limited, their willpower is easily depleted.

But when people believe that willpower is self-renewing—that when you work hard, you’re energized to work more; that when you’ve resisted one temptation, you can better resist the next one—then people successfully exert more willpower. It turns out that willpower is in your head.

I’m glad I finished the Jingle Bell Run because every obstacle I work through makes the achievement that much more valuable. Giving up is often the easiest option in today’s world, but it’s important to think about how that choice may affect your life ten years from now.

Don’t live a life of regrets.

How do you increase your willpower?

© 2015 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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7 Surprising Ways You Can Increase Your Willpower

Sunday, August 9th, 2015

The majority of complicated and sophisticated cases worked by the FBI take several months, if not years, to solve. It can take willpower to doggedly continue to pursue new leads and maintain the hope of bringing the case to a conclusion.

Willpower - man on top of mountain

Whether I was sitting across from parents whose child had been abducted, elderly people who had been swindled out of their life savings, or a young executive coming to grips with the fact that her company was the victim of corporate espionage, I felt the full heft of responsibility as the lead investigator.

I was committed to these people, and I promised that I would do everything in my power to bring justice in each of their situations. The idea that I might fail them was scary.

You do not tell the parents of a missing child that the case is “too hard,” give up, and walk away. No—this is when you realize how willpower plays such a crucial role in mental toughness.

There are times when you simply must keep moving forward—family, career, and life depend upon it. Surrender is not an option.

Every day we are tempted to surrender and quit. It might be a cookie that is tempting us to stray from a diet, a warm bed in which to sleep late and miss work, or the feel of cool water on a beach instead of spending time strategizing our next career move—we all need willpower to decide the direction in which we will take our life.

Willpower is the ability to resist impulses with discipline and self-control. Researchers are discovering that willpower is a mental muscle, and certain physical and mental habits can weaken or strengthen our self-control.

Here are 7 surprising ways you can increase your willpower:

1. Don’t Leave Home Without Your “Why”

To activate your willpower, you must remind yourself why something is important to you. If you are engaged in meaningless tasks or jobs, willpower will not save you.

When you have a purpose and are pursuing a goal that has meaning and value for you, your willpower can be tapped into because you are committed to something important to you.

2. Keep Front Sights On Your Goal, Not Your Fear

When you focus on the goal, your concentration is channeled into a productive cycle of thinking. Instead of worrying, or becoming fearful, focus on planning how you will move toward your goal and overcome your obstacle.

Once you get your mind straight, and focused on your performance, options and plans of action become clearer.

3. Wrap Your Behavior Around Your Goal

It is easier to muster the shot of energy you need if you define your goals as specific behavior. For example: if I my goal was pushups, I should specify a number, like “35 good pushups” rather than just “do more of them.” If it’s a behavioral choice, the goal becomes a natural outgrowth.

Nordstrom is a great example of how a company can define its goal in terms of behavior: superior customer service. Sales and customer loyalty are the by-products of Nordstrom’s behavior.

4. Good Habits Are The Magic Bullet

Charles Duhigg explains in his book, “The Power of Habit,” that habits cannot be eradicated; instead, they must be replaced. Habits are most malleable when we keep the same cue and the same reward.

If you want to change a habit, you must find an alternative routine. You may need to change your environment to make sure what you should do is easy and what you shouldn’t do is hard.

For example, perhaps you want to accomplish more first thing in the morning—study your habits to determine why you tend to feel groggy when you wake up. You may need to go to bed earlier, stop taking sleeping pills, or avoid alcohol in the evening.

For a habit to stay changed, people must believe change is possible. While belief is essential, it often only emerges with the help of a group—even a group of two people is large enough to change habits.

The best way to accomplish any change is by having a supportive group of friends around you.

5. Do The Hardest Thing First

Once you’ve set your goal, it must become a priority. Wishing for something to happen won’t make it happen. Reorganize your day so that you have time to make your goal a reality.

You have the greatest amount of mental energy in the morning. The National Academy of Sciences reports that a survey of parole board judges determined that the judges were most likely to give a favorable ruling earlier in the morning. The odds of a favorable ruling plummeted right before lunch.

6. Master Your Mindset

In the old days it was believed that willpower was a limited resource, or that it could be jumpstarted with a sugary drink. Failure of willpower over bulging waistlines and dead-end careers could be blamed on our biological limits.

This myth has been debunked by newer research. According to a study conducted by The National Academy of Sciences, willpower can indeed be quite limited — but only if you believe it is!

When people believe that willpower is fixed and limited, their willpower is easily depleted. But when people believe that willpower is self-renewing — that when you work hard, you’re energized to work more; that when you’ve resisted one temptation, you can better resist the next one — then people successfully exert more willpower.

It turns out that willpower is in your head.

7. Be The Person Too Stupid To Quit

There is a reason we admire people who have achieved long, happy marriages and overcome difficulties in life. Those individuals remain persistent even when it doesn’t appear that success is guaranteed.

There is value in delayed gratification—some things are worth holding on to; the key is knowing which ones.

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

How do you increase your willpower?

© 2015 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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The Secret To A Successful Mindset

Sunday, October 12th, 2014

FBI agents are required to qualify at firearms at least four times a year throughout their career. Years of training in mock arrest scenarios and target practice prepare agents to respond to threats automatically. When confronted with fast-moving situations, there is no time for decision making—they must rely on instinct to survive. 

Voice heard - leopard

Training is an important component of mental toughness because it builds confidence, produces a sense of control, and provides insights into our behavior when we’re pushed to our limits. These traits help successful leaders make good decisions in life.

Let’s take a closer look at the secrets to a successful mindset:


1. Prepare to Win

It’s not the will to win that matters—everyone has that. It’s the will to prepare to win that matters—Bear Bryant

As an FBI agent I dreaded Firearms Training. I shot over 3,000 rounds from my Smith & Wesson .38 caliber revolver before graduating from the FBI Academy. The soft flesh between my thumb and forefinger was bruised from the recoil. During the next 24 years I transitioned from a Sig Sauer automatic to a Glock, each gun requiring the same level of expertise and familiarity.

If confronted with the stress of a gunfight or arrest situation, it would be too late to stop and think about when and how to use my weapon. My training prepared a mindset that could make good decisions quickly. 

Training so many times over the years etched a pattern of thinking into my subconscious mind that led to incredibly solid instincts. The power of repetition allowed me not only to anticipate my reactions, but also to review my performance in a timely manner. 

Training creates a mindset that understands each failure brings you closer to being successful.

Most successful leaders are instinctual decision makers because they have made decisions so many times before in their career. They become immune to the pressure associated with decision making because they have a mindset that can anticipate their patterns of behavior, find opportunities in stressful situations, and overcome obstacles.

You can prepare mindset for success if you:

  1. Visualize how you will succeed in various situations you might encounter in the future.
  2. Use the power of repetition by rehearsing situations that might logically come up in a meeting or conversation with your boss.
  3. Survive a stressful encounter by noticing how you responded in the past to similar encounters; evaluate your response by picking it apart to see where you could have reacted with greater strength or more compassion.
  4. Practice your responses ahead of time so you can spend your energy evaluating what else is going on around you.


2. Move Ahead with Fearlessness

Babe Ruth was not afraid to strike out. And it was this fearlessness that contributed to his remarkable career—Simon Sinek

Yale psychiatrist Andy Morgan has studied Special Forces soldiers for over a decade. Their training is meant to create the same fear that would be experienced in capture, interrogation, and torture. The fear produced by these exercises causes the stress hormone cortisol to spike about as much as in a patient undergoing heart surgery—about 20 times the normal rate. 

Morgan’s research has shown that those who successfully finish the training were found to have elevated levels of another hormone, called neuropeptide Y, which is believed to be a natural relaxant. 

Morgan states that the way in which we talk to ourselves about stress and threatening situations influences our neurobiological response to it. Once you begin to express fear to yourself—Oh my God, this is awful—you begin releasing more cortisol. When you say, I know what to do here, this turns into a positive response and produces more neuropeptide Y.


3. If You Can’t Stay Positive, You’re Dead In The Water

Positivity is a critical mindset if you want to develop the mental toughness to keep going when the going gets tough—LaRae Quy

Research estimates that we say 300-1,000 words to ourselves per minute. By teaching ourselves to react positively to our circumstances, we can override the amygdala, the emotional part of our brain regulating anxiety. 

With the right self-talk, we can shift the way we see our stressors and become more flexible in the face of change and uncertainty. Fearlessness is a mindset that recognizes even in the roughest circumstances, we are never helpless. 

Mental toughness is believing that while you may have only some control over your external circumstances, you have total control over your response to them. You understand the importance of preparing to win so you can be successful by knowing how to move ahead with a sense of fearlessness.

What others tips for a successful mindset would you add?

© 2014 LaRaeQuy. All rights reserved.


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Mental Toughness Requires Emotional Intelligence

Monday, December 2nd, 2013

Leaders with mental toughness need to identify and control emotions, not only of themselves but of others as well. Mental toughness is not ignoring feelings or refusing to express them; instead, it is the emotional intelligence to perceive, use, understand, and manage them.

Vision - glasses

During a recent interview on the Iron Jen radio show, I was asked how the “touchy-feely” aspect of emotional intelligence was viewed by the FBI agents with whom I worked alongside for 24 years. I would be the first to say that the FBI is not a touchy-feely sort of organization; on the other hand, emotional intelligence is an important tool for agents required to recruit human intelligence (humint) sources and interview suspects.

Many believe that mental toughness is a leader’s ability to plow through emotions and feelings without being touched by them so they can continue to march stalwartly onward. It’s not that simple.

Awareness and curiosity about their own emotions, as well as those of others, places leaders in a stronger position to not only recognize the negative ones but to anticipate how they could spin out of control.

So how do the mentally tough use emotional intelligence?

They label their own emotions and those of others, identify what creates stress and what motivates positive behavior, and finally, listen and talk in ways that resolve conflicts rather than escalate them.

Here are essential 3 mindsets used by FBI agents to develop emotional intelligence:

1. Clued In

Among the first steps in any investigation is putting the subject under surveillance. There are many reasons for this, but one of them is to identify their patterns of behavior.  In other words, agents need to be clued in to the activities, behavior, motivation, thinking, and emotions of the subject they are investigating.

Picking apart and analyzing what makes people tick becomes a mindset. Because of this, it is something that can be practiced by anyone at anytime.

Law enforcement officers often look at people around them in restaurants and airports and attempt to figure out their stories—such as what they do for a living, their mood, what they’re thinking—based solely on observation. This simple focused-awareness drill can train a person’s mind to be clued in on what is going on with the people around them.

Getting clued in means moving your awareness level up a notch or two. Learn more about yourself, as well, by asking, “What preoccupies my thinking?” “When am I most comfortable with myself?” “What do I notice first in others?”

2. Curious

Curiosity is an important trait for geniuses, FBI agents working investigations, and anyone who wants to be emotionally intelligent. Curious people have active minds that are always asking questions and searching for answers, instead of passive ones.

A curious mindset is continually expecting and anticipating new information about events and situations. Curious people seek new insight into the behavior of others, as well as themselves.

They do not accept the world as it is without trying to dig deeper beneath the surface around them. This is why interviews and questioning is another essential investigative step for FBI agents. Using open-ended questions by starting them with these words—who, what, when, where, and how—are great ways to unlock information.

3. Disciplined

The ability to become mentally tough can be attained by anyone with the will and the discipline to do so. It’s not possible to become an expert at anything unless you are disciplined to put in both the time and the effort.

Self-discipline is not an attitude of harshness or limitations. Instead, it is an element of inner strength where you choose what you will make a priority. To become an expert, you will need to stick with it, practice, fail many times, find new approaches to attack the problem, and continue to study in your field until you find a path to success. This takes a discipline that will leave you with such deep skills that when confronted with obstacles and barriers, you will have the mental strength to do things faster, smarter, and better.

Mental toughness is many things and rather difficult to explain. It is combined with a perfectly disciplined will that refuses to give in. It’s a state of mind—you could call it character in action—Vince Lombardi

Self-awareness is a critical skill for FBI agents who continually seek out ways to overcome obstacles and adversity. Self-awareness is being in touch with emotions. It is not being tough or strong to ignore them.

Acknowledging emotions does not make you weak; instead, it is an essential element of mental toughness (click to tweet).

How have you used emotional intelligence to be a better and stronger leader?

© 2015 LaRaeQuy. All rights reserved.

You can follow me on Twitter

Get my FREE 45-Question Mental Toughness Assessment

Get my FREE Mental Toughness Mini-Course

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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How To Create A Success Mindset

Sunday, July 7th, 2013

I learned to create a success mindset during my 4 months at the FBI Academy as a new agent. Each of us were pushed to the limit of endurance and performance to where we wanted to say “I can’t.” If we weren’t pushed into our discomfort zone, the instructors weren’t doing their job.

In my book, Secrets of A Strong Mind, I talk about my training at the Academy. I expected rigorous defensive tactics training, but I was not prepared for the intense mental discipline that accompanied it.

As it turned out, the FBI’s use of a success mindset significantly impacted the way I have lived the rest of my life. These tactics taught agents like myself how to create new ways of thinking about overcoming obstacles and breaking through barriers. They showed agents how to develop a Can-Do mindset early in our career.

As a trained investigator, I’ve been taught to look for evidence. And there’s actually scientific theory to back up the FBI’s approach to a success mindset.

Neuroscientists have learned that whenever you learn something new, you change your neural connections. When we reinforce a way of thinking, either new connections are formed or old ones are strengthened.

When you maintain a success mindset and think in positive, constructive ways, these connections become more durable and easier to activate. This is a tremendous concept, because it shows us how we can change our attitudes and behavior.

We can train our brain to make positive patterns more automatic. When we look for and become more aware of positive aspects of life, we fight off our brain’s natural tendency to scan and spot the negatives. This allows us to look at obstacles and barriers in new ways.

A success mindset came in very useful, because one of my most successful FBI investigations was also one of my longest—four years. I worked counterintelligence and espionage cases and my job was to identify foreign spies working inside the U.S. and attempt to recruit them to work for the FBI.

Persistence, hard work, and applying the success mindset that I learned at the Academy made the difference between failure and success.

Here are some brain power tactics to help you develop more positive patterns in your thinking and create a success mindset:

1. No Pain, No Gain

Where most folks go wrong is in assuming that if they feel discomfort, they’re not ready for a challenge. Don’t pretend that discomfort does not exist; instead, the goal is to find strategies to cope with the discomfort. New neural connections are created with each new experience.

2. Visualize Your Peak Performance

This is not fantasy or wishful thinking. Studies have shown that fantasies of success can actually be counterproductive. Rather, it is anticipating how things could go wrong and counteracting, by visualizing your positive responses. Visualize how you will react and respond when criticized by a colleague, predict your performance in the morning meeting, and be prepared for the hard questions that will come from your boss.

This will make it easier for you to visualize your inner sense of strength. It’s faking it until you make it . . .

3. Broadcast Your Intentions

We all learn in different ways. Some of are hardwired to process by speaking, others by writing, and others by listening. Talk to friends, write in journals, or speak into a recorder and listen to yourself talk. All are ways we can access different aspects of our brain so we can continue to create positive neural connections.

4. Give Yourself A Deadline

One of the best ways to develop a mindset of success is to put yourself under a deadline so you can achieve your goal even in the midst of interruptions and distractions. The more you can practice “under the gun,” the more confidence in yourself you will achieve. This positive reinforcement is an important component in creating new ways of thinking about your performance, especially when facing obstacles and breaking through barriers.

Success is a mindset. I believe we can change “I can’t” into “I can” by simply changing the way we think.

What are some ways you are creating a success mindset?

© 2013 LaRaeQuy. All rights reserved.

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Author of “Mental Toughness For Women Leaders” and “Secrets of a Strong Mind.” 

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