Posts Tagged ‘negativity bias’

What To Do When You Think Your Life Sucks

Monday, July 16th, 2018

When life sucks, it’s hard to be around perpetually perky people. My college room mate had unrelenting positivity and I frequently responded with sharp-tongued barbs intended to wilt her enthusiasm. It never did though—no matter what obstacle or barrier I presented, she found a way around it.

As I growled and sniped, however, I couldn’t help but be impressed by the way she always came out on top of the situation. I’m an over-achiever so this was irritating to me—but it turned out to be a game-changer.

As I moved into the real world after graduating from college, the obstacles and barriers popping up in my life seemed to take on new, gigantic proportions. The sarcasm and negativity that had seemed clever in the old days no longer seemed so witty.

When I applied to the FBI as a new agent, I quickly discovered that, while no one could be called perky, most agents could be described as possessing unrelenting positivity. Even when life sucks, a case looks hopeless, or a barrier appears unsurmountable, there are differences between agents who just survive and those who thrive in their circumstances.

The game-changer for me came when I finally understood that mental toughness is unrelenting positivity in the midst of uncertainty and risk. The strong minded know how to look for the positive when life sucks. Follow these tips:

1. Swap Out One Emotion For Another

We’ve all heard that our well-being is increased when we turn our thoughts to gratitude. But gratitude is more than a platitude. It’s impossible to be negative and grateful at the same time.

A recent study brings us closer to understanding how gratitude can affect the way our brain works. Participants were asked to write simple, short notes of gratitude to other people for three weeks. An MRI scan measured the brain of the participants and found they showed greater neural sensitivity in the prefrontal cortex, a brain area associated with learning, judgment, and decision making.

When we feel that life sucks, it’s important to find things for which we can be grateful. We may need to force ourselves at first but our heart will soon catch up to what the brain already knows.

How To Make It Work For You: When you express gratitude, it has lasting effects on the brain. The study suggests that even months after a simple, short gratitude writing task, people’s brains were still wired to feel extra thankful. The implication is that gratitude has a self-perpetuating nature: The more you practice it, the more attuned you are to it.

2. Focus On What’s Next

Arrests are a mix of organized chaos. As much as an FBI agent prepares for an arrest, there is always the element of the unknown. Would the suspect shoot, grab a hostage, or go berserk? Unintended consequences to an arrest that goes bad immediately escalates from a when life sucks moment into a when the shit hits the fan moment. It does no good to moan or complain when life takes an unexpected turn of events.

Questions like, “Why me?” only weaken our mindset. When we blame others or make excuses for ourselves, we become victims. As a result, we often feel that we don’t have the strength to deal with our situation.

How To Make It Work For You: When you focus on your next steps, you empower yourself to organize your thoughts so you can plan what to do. If you can’t change your situation, plan next steps on how to mitigate the blowback for a better outcome.

3. Learn From Your Setbacks

Many people I know do their best to avoid setbacks and obstacles. They don’t want to surround themselves with anything negative. What these precious petunias refuse to acknowledge is that life is hard and pain is inevitable, but growth is optional.

If you run away from conflict and mistakes in life, you will die an ignorant person because you didn’t take the time to examine your life. The key is to learn from your mistakes so you don’t make the same ones over and over again.

How To Make It Work For You: As long as we learn, we grow. Before you move on from a difficult situation, ask yourself:

  • What is one thing I can learn from this experience?
  • How can I avoid this trap next time?

4. Sweat The Small Stuff

It’s a temptation to spend 80% of our time on the negative of our situation and only 20% looking for solutions. Switch those numbers around.

Your emotional, survival-driven brain will feel safer if you take the time to chart your plan or new reality with small and positive steps. With each success, you will train your brain to feel more comfortable with taking more, and eventually, bigger steps toward your new reality.

Be aware that most of us automatically look at change as a negative experience. As a result, you tend to look at your new situation as permanent, pervasive, and personal. Once you realize this negativity bias, you strengthen your mind to accept your new direction with a more positive attitude.

How To Make It Work For You: Spend more of your time on the the small and practical steps you can take to make things better. Even if things get better a little at a time, you’ve still moved in the right direction. Each step will make you feel more confident and in control of your situation.

© 2018 LaRae Quy. All rights reserved.

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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.”

7 Mental Hacks To Be More Confident In Yourself

Monday, October 17th, 2016

On my first day at the FBI Academy, I didn’t feel like a superhero. In fact it wasn’t until after four grueling months of being placed in dangerous and awkward situations that I built the self-confidence necessary for my career. Boosting confidence is the primary goal of the Academy—before they send agents out with a gun and badge.

successful-business-woman

There were days when my heart raced and my palms sweat just thinking about the new challenges that faced me. But I learned that success would not make me confident—confidence in myself and my abilities would make me successful.

On the first day, I was filled with doubt. I had never shot a gun, made an arrest or investigated a foreign spy—these challenges pushed me outside my comfort zone. It felt as though I was at the mercy of the unknown, not knowing how I would land on my feet. But I held onto my dream of becoming an agent and plodded forward.

I’d venture to guess entrepreneurs, leaders and business owners might share some of the same fears I faced at the FBI Academy: How can I pull this off? But in my 24 years in the FBI, the only four-letter word I didn’t hear was “can’t.”

To be confident in our abilities is the cornerstone of leadership. If you don’t believe in yourself, how can others believe in you? Here are seven ways FBI agents learn to boost their confidence—mental hacks you can use to be more confident in yourself, too:

1. BUILD CONFIDENCE BY PUSHING THROUGH SELF-LIMITING BELIEFS

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

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

How to make it work for you:

Find your limits by exposing yourself to different situations and pushing through the uncomfortable. Once you have confidence in yourself, you’ll be amazed what you can accomplish.

2. BUILD CONFIDENCE BY NEVER CONFUSING MEMORY WITH FACTS

Adversity - give up!

Our memory does not store information exactly as it’s presented to us. 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.

Your brain has a built-in confirmation bias. That means it stores information that is consistent with your own beliefs, values and self-image. This selective memory system helps keep the brain from getting overloaded with too much information.

So recognize that your memory does not always provide you with accurate information. For example if you have low self-esteem, your brain tends to store information that confirms your lack of confidence. That will be all you remember about a specific event.

How to make it work for you:

Revisit the facts of a memory loaded with self-limiting beliefs and try to gain a more accurate perspective on the event. Talk with others that might have a different perspective.

3. BUILD CONFIDENCE BY TALKING TO YOURSELF

This might seem crazy, but it works. Talking to yourself can make you smarter, improve your memory, help you focus and even increase athletic performance. The documentary The Human Brain claims we say between 300 to 1,000 words to ourselves per minute. The Navy SEALS and Special Forces use the power of positive self-talk as a way of getting through tough times.

For example by instructing recruits to be mentally tough and speak positively to themselves, they can learn how to override fears resulting from the limbic brain system, a primal part of the brain that helps us deal with anxiety.

How to make it work for you:

Be positive, because the way you talk to yourself influences your neurobiological response to it. When you say, I know what to do here or see things as a challenge rather than a problem, you’ve turned your response into a positive one.

4. BUILD CONFIDENCE BY THINKING POSITIVELY TO OVERCOME YOUR NEGATIVITY BIAS

Willpower - rough road ahead

Since the early days, humans learned to get lunch or be lunch. Our natural negativity bias has kept us safe from danger for thousands of years. But not every new or different thing is a threat to our survival. This negativity bias can chisel away at our confidence because we’re hardwired to pay attention to all that we’ve done wrong.

FBI agents are taught to hunt the good stuff. It can be hard at times because positive information is like Teflon and easily falls away. But negative information, like Velcro, sticks.

How to make it work for you:

  1. Come up with five positive thoughts to counter every one negative thought.
  2. Let every positive thought sit for 20 seconds before moving to the next positive thought.
  3. Acknowledge both good and bad emotions.
  4. Do not try to suppress negative ones.
  5. Label the emotions for what they truly are and move on. Do not enter into inner dialogue about the negative emotion because then it becomes more powerful.

5. BUILD CONFIDENCE BY RAISING YOUR CURIOSITY LEVELS

Curiosity is an important trait for FBI agents working investigations and anyone who wants to be confident and successful.

Curiosity is the foundation of life-long growth. If we remain curious, we remain teachable and our minds and hearts grow larger every day. We can retain our beginner’s mind by always looking forward and discovering new experiences and uncovering new information.

How to make it work for you:

Ask questions and be curious because:

  1. Your mind will be active instead of passive.
  2. It encourages you to be more observant of new ideas.
  3. New worlds and possibilities open up.
  4. Adventurous responses are created that lead you in a new direction.

6. BUILD CONFIDENCE BY OVERCOMING SELF-DOUBT

 

If you lack self-confidence, you will always feel like you’re at the mercy of other people. When you assume a victim mentality, you are no longer resilient to life’s inevitable obstacles and roadblocks.

FBI agents go where they are needed, not to where they feel most comfortable. I was assigned investigations I had no idea how to solve. But my thinking was this: Drop me into the middle of any squad or any situation, anywhere, anytime. I will not be scared because I am confident and I will succeed wherever I am.

How to make it work for you:

No one but you is stopping you from achieving what you want to accomplish. It’s time to identify the areas in which you doubt yourself and remove those barriers.

7. BUILD CONFIDENCE BY FACING YOUR FEARS

When we feel in control, we’re not afraid. If we have a level of comfort with something, it’s not scary. Those times we don’t feel in control, we don’t think clearly because our emotional brain is in the driver’s seat and takes over. This is why fear often seems random and irrational—our emotions are in control.

To increase safety, FBI agents are taught to move closer to the threat. It does no good to avoid, deny or ignore the fear.

How to make it work for you:

Harvard Medical School professor Ronald Siegel recommends this in his book, The Mindfulness Solution:

  1. Think about your worst fear.
  2. Spend time with it.
  3. Now make your fear worse by getting closer to it.
  4. Imagine the worst that could happen.
  5. Now focus on your breathing.
  6. Feel your body relax.
  7. See, you didn’t die, did you? You’re on your way to conquering your fear.

If you don’t believe in yourself, how do you expect anybody else to? Start today.

This article first appeared on Success.com

© 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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