Posts Tagged ‘Persistence’

Determination — 4 Reasons Why It’s Important

Monday, February 6th, 2017

Determination and persistence were a way of life for me growing up as a hillbilly in Wyoming. We were among the poor and rural that make up most of this state—a two-hour drive from the nearest small town.

For this reason, we had a private tutor provided by the state who lived in the house with us. I was in first grade and her name was Mrs. Garrity. A retired school teacher from Chicago, she thought living on a remote cattle ranch in the middle of Wyoming would be an adventure.

It was 10 miles on dirt road from our ranch house to the last gate on our property, and another 60 miles to town. Mrs. Garrrity went home for Christmas and was due back after the New Year. She didn’t arrive on Sunday evening as scheduled, and I was happily playing in the snow by the horse barn when I looked up and saw my grandfather screech his pickup to a halt. He didn’t even bother to open the gate and drive in. Instead, he jumped over it and motioned to my dad to join them. Immediately, both raced to the house.

The only communication available in this remote area was a two-way radio so I followed them. I knew something big was up and I couldn’t wait to find out!

It seems that Mrs. Garrity got her car stuck in a snowdrift just as she passed through that last gate that led onto our property. Perhaps she didn’t realize she was 10 miles from the ranch house, but she started to walk in the cold and dark. She made it 5 miles before she froze to death.

My grandfather had found her body beside a wire fence. He covered her up with an old tarp he had stashed in his pickup and weighed it down with 2 fence posts placed on either side of the body.

Saddened beyond words, our whole family reacted as only stoic and stalwart people can in a situation like this—we kept moving forward. We had no contingency plan for a tragedy like this. We had a body to protect from wolves and coyotes until a coroner arrived, no teacher, and absolutely no idea how I would graduate from first grade without one.

Entrepreneurs, business owners, and leaders all understand how life and business can surprise us. You have plans, and they work fine, until you get sucker punched by new competition, market upheavals, or high employee turnover.

Often, your determination is the glue that holds your organization together when plans go awry or you’re confronted with an unexpected obstacle.

Here are 4 reasons determination is important to your success:

1. DETERMINATION HELPS YOU OVERCOME THE UNEXPECTED

When things do not go according to plan, it’s tempting to give up. We lose our confidence and think about moving on to something that is easier. This is exactly what most people do because we’re afraid of failure and shirk away from things that are hard and necessary.

Plans make us feel safe, but be ready when things spin out of your control so you can still land on your feet. You may need to change course and adapt in some way. Your goal remains the same, but your roadmap to get there may need to be changed.

My parents could never have anticipated Mrs. Garrity’s death, but they drilled into me the dangers of surviving winters at an altitude of 7,000 ft. We always had extra blankets and clothes in our pickup when we traveled in cold weather.

Mrs. Garrity was found wearing nothing but a dress, light jacket, low heels, and a flimsy scarf.

What It Means For You: Develop an agile mindset by trying to anticipate potential setbacks and have a contingency plan for them.

2. DETERMINATION ENABLES YOU TO KEEP FOCUSED

When things go wrong it is hard to maintain motivation and focus. Determination allows you to remain focused on long term goals so you can adjust your behavior accordingly.

Often, this requires you to keep emotions in check to prevent them from sabotaging your efforts to keep moving forward.

We were laden with grief when Mrs. Garrity died. Packing up her things and sending them, along with her body, back to Chicago was emotionally very difficult. Maintaining focus on our duty to her family remained at the forefront of our thinking.

What It Means For You: Visualize yourself accomplishing your goal no matter what it takes. Keep your eye on the goal and see yourself reaching the end.

3. DETERMINATION IS FED BY ENCOURAGEMENT AND SUPPORT

When things spin out of your control, find support and encouragement from those around you whom you trust and admire. Based on their experience and expertise, seek out their advice and suggestions on how to keep moving forward.

Successful people with determination understand that they still need to do the hard work, but it is very encouraging when you are surrounded with positive reinforcement. No one is their own island and we all need other people’s assistance. It might just be a short chat or a few words of support.

Be the person who reaches out when you need support rather than give up.

A former schoolteacher heard about our situation and agreed to replace Mrs. Garrity so I could graduate from first grade. Our predictament was shared by many good friends and neighbors who wanted to reach out and help.

What It Means For You: Do not be afraid to share your situation with others, but be picky about it. Make sure they are people who truly want what is best for you and will give you both constructive and positive feedback. Look for “mirror” friends who will be honest, loving, and objective.

4. DETERMINATION MAKES YOU DIG DEEP DOWN

If you are on a path that has value and meaning for you, you are definitely on the right path, so keep going. If you are not, then a setback or failure will be enough to make you give up and try something else.

Success can be very misleading because often it is where we stay, whether it’s what really fuels us or not. 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.

What It Means For You: Don’t take the easy way out. Dig deep down and find the things that you can’t walk away from; that is your true north. When you are pursuing that kind of goal, it won’t matter what other people say because your inner vision is far stronger than any external obstacle you will come up against.

© 2017 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.” 

Why You Need Grit When Life Throws You A Curveball

Monday, November 14th, 2016

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

Grit Up!

My working class background was worn like a badge of honor. There was pride in the fact that my family took showers at the end of a hard day instead of stepping out of a shower smelling like a petunia each morning.

I grew up an unsophisticated ranch girl, and believe me, it takes a while to put a shine on a sneaker. Educated elitists I met at universities ridiculed me because I wasn’t as enlightened as them.

Each curveball thrown my way was met with determination and persistence. Grit was needed to make sacrifices and keep my eye on the larger goal.

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

Entrepreneurs wake up every day to new challenges in their business. Startups are faced with new competition and unstable markets. Leadership can get blindsided by investors. 

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

1. GRIT UP & MANAGE YOUR EMOTIONS

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

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

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

I had no friends and started to stack hay bales when I was 8 years old. Believe me when I say that I thought it terribly unfair that life had dealt me this crappy hand.

Later, researchers noticed a connection between grit, success, and early adversity in life. Why would adversity when I was young give me an advantage?

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

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

What This Means For You:

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

2. GRIT UP & LEAN INTO THE STRUGGLE

persistence

As I worked counterintelligence cases, I learned that grit meant I had to lean into the struggle when hit with a curveball or roadblock. I had one case that lasted 7 years before I was able to successfully close it. While I had other cases assigned to me during that time, this one case just reared its ugly head year after year.

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

Sometimes productive behavior means leaning into a struggle in ways that you can’t anticipate. Mental toughness is knowing when to change your behavior or when to change your environment. There will be times when you do need to change the environment so you can be your best self. 

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

What It Means For You:

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

3. GRIT UP & STOP WHINING

 

whining-kid

The quickest way to be ostracized from an FBI squad is to whine, point fingers, or blame others. Whining about your problems always makes you feel worse, not better, because your words have power, both over yourself and others.

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

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

But we can choose how to live—either with purpose and joy or adrift and hopeless. It’s important to choose what makes us significant so we live according to our most deeply felt values.

Don’t whine, point fingers, or blame others for your predicament. You be the hero of your own life and choose your destiny.

What It Means For You:

Take time to find out your core values because they drive your behavior. They move and inspire you. Identify what is wrong, but don’t waste time talking about it. Instead, find ways you’ll make it better.

© 2016 LaRaeQuy. All rights reserved.

You can follow me on Twitter, Facebook, AND LinkedIn

Get my FREE 45-Question Mental Toughness Assessment

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

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4 Characteristics That Set Successful People Apart

Monday, November 7th, 2016

The FBI only hires successful people because investigations often involve life and death situations where our mindset dictated the choices we make every day. As an FBI agent, being successful was not an option—it was a requirement. 

successful

The average age of a new agent is 32 because the FBI only hires people who have proven themselves to be successful in a previous career.

As successful leaders, entrepreneurs, and business owners, your ability to make decisions and execute is the lifeblood of your organization. As such, you need a mindset that says, “Grit up and make it happen.”

You need to have intense focus under pressure. Research suggests that it takes just the right mix of innate talent, personality traits, and life experiences to be successful and reach the top of the ladder.

Here are 4 characteristics that set successful people apart:

1. SUCCESSFUL PEOPLE GRIT UP

Grit Up!

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. The slogan “Press On” has solved and always will solve the problems of the human race—Calvin Coolidge

No matter how talented someone is, success demands psychological traits like grit and persistence if they expect to keep moving forward when confronted with an obstacle or roadblock.

A grit up and make it happen attitude requires confidence, competitiveness, positivity, and mental toughness. It also requires that you are able to relish your accomplishment while at the same time tolerating mistakes that you make along the way—self-criticism can be very destructive since it brings your focus on the negative instead of the positive.

TIP:

To sharpen this grit up mindset, place yourself in situations where you have ample opportunities to experience it. You can recognize when this mindset occurs when you are doing something excellent and you perceive you are close to your best performance.

2. SUCCESSFUL PEOPLE LOOK IN THE MIRROR

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The way you view yourself predicts your level of effectiveness in every area of your life. It explains why the brain has such a powerful effect on your performance. If you see yourself as someone who cannot organize effective meetings, you won’t.

No matter where you are in business and life, you need to uncover and develop your skill sets. What you can glean from coaching and mentoring depends a great deal on how you see yourself.

Coaches and mentors can make you smarter, but they cannot make you smart.

Success demands that we identify our innate talents and skill sets, apply mental toughness to keep moving toward our goals, and train to develop and expand our talents.

TIP:

Most of what you think about yourself and your abilities were programmed in early childhood. This will play a decisive role in the way you approach challenges, and successes, in life.

Take the time to trace back the origins of many of the self-limiting beliefs you have about yourself. Ask yourself whether they are still true because you can use mental toughness to change your self-concept when new information is shown to you.

3. SUCCESSFUL PEOPLE FIND THE FLOW

Woman thinking

Successful people spend their time thinking about what they want to do and how to make it happen. And it doesn’t always take talent; it needs flow to make it happen.

Claude Bouchard’s research on elite athletes found no correlation between innate talent and trainability. Mental traits were just as important as fitness level in differentiating top athletes from amateurs.

Whether it’s an elite athlete, entrepreneur, business owner, or leader, the most successful people are those who have experiences described as flow—a state of deep absorption in the activity during which performance seems to happen effortlessly and automatically.

According to positive 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:

If challenges are too low, one gets back to flow by increasing them. If challenges are too great, one can return to the flow state by learning new skills.

4. SUCCESSFUL PEOPLE DON’T EXPECT A BED OF ROSES

grit-training

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

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

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

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

The study also implies that those who do not experience trauma or tough times earlier in life are less likely to have the drive necessary to achieve peak performance. 

The mid-life event reminded them of the original loss and motivated them at a deep-seated level.

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

TIP:

Successful people are not content with beating their competition; they are just as interested in beating themselves. Personal best is very important because they believe they can always do better, no matter how well they perform.

They are always striving toward peak performance.

© 2016 LaRaeQuy. All rights reserved.

You can follow me on Twitter, Facebook, AND LinkedIn

Get my FREE 45-Question Mental Toughness Assessment

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

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7 Things Successful Entrepreneurs Never Do

Monday, October 3rd, 2016

Working undercover to recruit foreign spies to work with the U.S. Government was always a gamble: the failure rate was high, the emotional toll was hard, and it took a lot of hard work.

entrepreneur-getty

I learned that my success was inexorably linked to the choices I made regarding attitude and subsequent actions. More often than not, it was the choice I made to kick myself into high gear rather than relying on someone else to do the kicking.

Sounds a lot like starting a new business! Entrepreneurs know that the failure rate is high, the emotional toll on them will be hard, and that it will take a lot of hard work.

So what makes one entrepreneur succeed when so many small businesses fail? Whether working undercover or starting a new business, there are choices we make that lead to a higher likelihood of success.

Here are 7 things successful entrepreneurs never do:

1. SUCCESSFUL ENTREPRENEURS NEVER GIVE UP

As an undercover agent, it was often difficult to get introduced to the subject of an undercover investigation—most foreign spies do not want to meet an FBI agent in person!

Grit, however, kept me moving forward—especially when things didn’t go according to plan. I never made the mistake of believing that just because a way out, or through, a situation was not obvious that there weren’t ways around those roadblocks. What I needed was mental toughness to push through the barriers I encountered.

According to Harvard researchers, persistence and grit is essential for entrepreneurs—they need to be able to deal with obstacles and roadblocks.

Prospective clients might present a lot of excuses for not getting back in touch with you; yet, if you are persistent in trying to make things happen, your chances for success vastly improve.

2. SUCCESSFUL ENTREPRENEURS NEVER STOP FLIRTING WITH FAILURE

grit-training

If I whined and cried every time one of my undercover operations failed, I would have ended up on Team B running leads for other agents instead of calling my own shots on Team A. I did a postmortem on each failed operation and explored why the operation failed so I could learn from the experience.

Making a mistake is not the problem. What is not acceptable is making the same mistakes over and over—if you do, you’re either stupid or incompetent.

Look at your mistakes as opportunities to grow and improve. Be willing to keep trying until you get it right. Learn from past mistakes so you can make better decisions in the future.

“Life is hard. It’s even harder when you’re stupid”—John Wayne

3. SUCCESSFUL ENTREPRENEURS NEVER BACK AWAY FROM CHALLENGES

FBI agents know that emotions like fear and anger are OK; it’s complacency that will kill them. Awareness of their fear doesn’t mean they back away from the unknown; instead, they move through it with a sound strategy and a resilient mindset.

It takes resilience to deal with constant challenges, some of those you anticipated and some that come at you from left field.

You’ll face complex financial problems, long hours, sudden changes, and market predictions that are never reliable. Success is not so much a matter of how many obstacles in your path but how you respond to them.

Successful entrepreneurs are resilient and are able to face constant challenges without ever weakening their determination to keep moving forward.

4. SUCCESSFUL ENTREPRENEURS NEVER SPIN THEIR WHEELS IN A RUT

Struggles - tiger in water

I learned early that our comfort zone is a dangerous place—it can be a dark and deep abyss where it’s possible to lose yourself entirely in mediocrity. Staying in your comfort zone is giving up on life.

Get out of your rut and experience breakthroughs by pushing through the discomfort and uncertainty you are feeling. Strong minds continually expand their boundaries and enlarge their territory, both personally and professionally.

Entrepreneurs with mental toughness always do something that they’re not ready to do because they know that’s how they grow.

5. SUCCESSFUL ENTREPRENEURS NEVER LEAVE THEIR “WHY” BEHIND

It was my passion for the job that what got me through the FBI Academy. It was hard for me and I was almost washed out. But I had found a career that gave me both value and meaning, and I wasn’t going to let the opportunity slip away.

It is impossible to be a successful entrepreneur if you aren’t passionate about your work. You must understand why you are excited to come to work everyday. And if you can’t find that sort of excitement, you owe it to yourself to pack up and find something that does.

You don’t have to like every task you have to perform or every person you have to work with, but at the end of the day, you must be in touch with your passion and find a career that provides you with both value and meaning.

6. SUCCESSFUL ENTREPRENEURS NEVER BLAME OTHERS FOR THEIR SITUATION IN LIFE

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No one is owed anything in life. We were born, and at some point, we must take responsibility for where we end up. If we want something, it’s up to us to make it happen.

This may come as a big shock to lots of people, but there are no handouts in life. So stop whining, pointing fingers, or blaming others when things don’t work out.

Successful entrepreneurs with mental toughness rely on backbones rather than wishbones to make their success happen.

7. SUCCESSFUL ENTREPRENEURS NEVER CONSIDER THEMSELVES A VICTIM

One of the most important lessons I learned while working undercover is the importance of always maintaining a positive attitude. I found that mental toughness becomes most apparent in the midst of adversity.

Be smart—learn how to identify your negative thoughts when they arise and replace them with  positive ones.

Often, life is not what is happening to you; rather, it is your attitude about your situation. Studies show that positive thinkers are more likely to listen to negative information about their business or competition than pessimists, because they think they can do something about it.

Successful entrepreneurs with mental toughness always find the positive and run with it.

© 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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7 Ways Coaches Train Athletes To Manage Emotions

Monday, August 8th, 2016

Athletic success is not dictated by body shape and movement alone. Elite performers learn how to manage emotions so they can keep moving forward when faced with tough competition.

Coaching sports

Entrepreneurs, business owners, and leaders face tough competition as well. Emotional competency is one of the core principles of mental toughness. Successful people learn how to manage emotions if they want to be confident, resilient, and persistent.

Coaches know how to build people up. This can have a permanent impact on the mind-set of their athletes that reaches far beyond the playing field. Here are 7 ways coaches train athletes to manage emotions—that can apply to everyone:

1. LOOK WHERE YOU ARE HEADED

Coaches will tell you to never look down at the ground. Instead, keep your sights on where you want to go. Keeping a vision of where you want to end up is critical when you come up against a roadblock or obstacle.

I was a slow long distance runner. But in the FBI Academy I needed to up my game and run 2 miles in 10 minutes to qualify—and ultimately, graduate. My coach told me to keep my eye on the back of a runner who was faster than me and focus on keeping up.

TIP: Whether you play on the field or in the boardroom, you need persistence. It will allow you to live the vision you have for yourself everyday. Manage emotions so you remain positive. Determination will help you plan how to accelerate the timeframe and reach your goal.

2. DON’T COMPARE YOURSELF TO OTHERS

Self aware - dog

Coaches encourage personal best, not competitiveness. Whether you are on the playing field or in a boardroom, focus on your performance and development.

While at the FBI Academy it was hard not to compare myself with agents who were buff and premium athletes. I had to focus on my own strengths/weaknesses and improve in increments. This would eventually lead to my success.

TIP: Comparing yourself to others will only create frustration and resentment. Instead of looking at how the rest of the team is doing, focus on your own performance. Ask how you can make your contribution even stronger.

3. STRESS YOURSELF REGULARLY

Michael Phelps’s coach writes that he once cracked the swimmer’s goggles before a routine race to see how he would cope. Fast forward to the 2008 Olympics when water began to seep into Phelps’s goggles at the start of the 200-meter butterfly. By midpoint in the race Phelps could hardly see, but unflustered, he broke his own world record.

FBI agents train throughout their entire career so we were regularly exposed to performance pressure where we were required to manage emotions. Our firearms and defensive tactics coaches placed us in situations where we were intentionally stressed. We would know how the pressure felt when we actually encountered it.

TIP: You should never be surprised by your emotional reaction to a stressful situation. If you are, you will not be able to land on your feet when confronted with the unknown.

4. SKIP THE OVERTRAINING TRAP

Missing the deadlines. Thoughtful young woman in suit looking at the stack of paperwork and holding head on chin while sitting at her working place

It’s not surprising that many athletes burnout once they’ve finished competing. Progress is the byproduct of grit, not glamour.

However, a coach who has your best interests at heart will keep tabs on you. They stop you from overtraining. If you push yourself too hard, you can fall into a physiological and mental abyss.

TIP: Pursue a hobby to give yourself an emotional and physical break. Spend more time with friends and family, or take a vacation. Create a bucket list of things you want to do in the next year, next 5 years, and the next 10 years.

5. BUILD RELATIONSHIPS

There is no one set of attributes that makes a great leader. Instead, what seems to matter most is the kind of relationship both leaders and coaches develop with others.

Despite the time-honored tradition of coaching like a drill sergeant, the disciplinarian approach is gradually shifting toward a more psychologically balanced approach.

TIP: The coaches that motivated me the most were the ones that uncovered what motivated me to become an FBI agent. They referred to those motives when giving me a pep talk or used related external cues when I felt emotionally exhausted or defeated so I could better manage emotions.

6. BELIEVE IN YOURSELF TO MANAGE EMOTIONS

Heart eye

Whether you are in the locker room, board room, or class room, the key to building relationships with others is by focusing on the positives.

Many coaches use the sandwich approach in which constructive criticism is bookended with praise. This increases motivation, the development of specific skills, and lessens anxiety.

TIP: Start by saying something positive to your team. People need to feel as though you are on their side if they are to accept what you are trying to tell them.

7. TEACH AUTONOMY

Studies have confirmed that coaches who deliver information in an interactive and relationship-based manner have the most success.

Pete Carroll of the Seattle Seahawks was voted in 2014 as the most popular coach in the National Football League. Carroll is known for being supportive of other players’ opinions, encourages loud music in the locker room, and focuses on wins and not losses when reviewing past games with his players.

TIP: When your team feels that you listen to them and their input, you are giving them confidence in themselves. It is this confidence that will lead them to greater autonomy as they move forward in business and life.

How do you manage emotions?

© 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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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

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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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The Most Important Skill in Life — Don’t Give Up

Sunday, October 13th, 2013

I watched as my nephew tried to stand on his feet at nine months old. He fell down and returned to crawling before trying to stand again. A few minutes later, he ignored his fears as he pulled himself back onto his feet, wobbled with his first step, and then fell again.

What if infants feared failure? Most of us would probably still be crawling around on all fours. Our fear of failure is irrational; it is supported by an illusion that failure means we are worthless.

The reality is that we cannot fail; we can only produce results. Psychologists recommend we respond to these results with questions such as “What have I learned?” What did I discover that I didn’t start out to discover?” “What worked, or what didn’t work?” Mistakes are portals for discovery. When you try something and produce a result that you did not intend, but find interesting, pursue it. Don’t give up.

It is a paradox of life that we have to learn to fail in order to succeed.

People can fail and still be successful because they don’t give up. Here are 5 traits that distinguish successful people from average performers:

1. Keep At It

  • When average performers fail at something, they try something new.
  • When successful people fail at something, they don’t give up. Instead, they attack the same problem again and again until they succeed.

Rather than run from the failure that is keeping you from success, learn from it and embrace it. Others encounter an adversity, and then give up, moving to other projects until they find something at which they finally succeed. People with mental toughness don’t give up. They keep at it until they find the answer to the problem.

2. Bounce Back

Great leaders, whatever organization or walk of life they are from, always go back to the same failure to explain their success. The failure, without exception, was traumatic and personally very difficult. It made them feel as though they’d hit rock bottom and filled with desperation. As Warren Bennis said, “It’s as if that moment the iron entered their soul; that moment created the resilience that leaders need.”

3. Choose Your Attitude

The odds are good that if you find a path with no obstacles, it probably doesn’t lead anywhere. Since adversity in life is a given, our success and happiness depend upon our ability to grow because of it. One of the most important decisions you make every day is the attitude with which you greet the world and the obstacles that come with it. Don’t give up; every day, you choose your own happiness.

4. Flexible Mindset

People have one of two belief systems about how the mind works. We have either a fixed mindset or a growth mindset. People with a fixed mindset believe that each time they attempt something it’s a reflection of their intelligence. A fixed mindset sees things in a winner/loser frame and therefore tends to see little that can be done to change the outcome.

But people who are taught that the brain is elastic and that they can become smarter and more competent—that the brain grows, like a muscle, when you work it hard—are less afraid to fail, they succeed more.

5. Be Patient

Success is a slow-cooker, not a microwave. Often showing patience is boring—most of us are stimulated by drama, immediate gratification, and creativity. But patience is a skill, not an inherited trait. Catch your mind from ranting that you shouldn’t be in this situation—you may have lost the battle, but not the war. Don’t give up and keep your eyes on the process—the results will take care of themselves.

The number one skill in life is having the mental toughness to not give up. Failure is life’s great teacher so don’t give up. While it may take a little effort to find it, as Viktor Frankl wisely reminds us, it is always possible to wrench something good out of misfortune.

Failure is where success likes to hide—in plain sight.” ~ Scott Adams

What failures in your life have moved you in a better direction? 

© 2013 LaRaeQuy. All rights reserved.

You can follow me on Twitter, Facebook, AND LinkedIn

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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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6 Ways To Get Through Adversity

Sunday, March 10th, 2013

To get through adversity, many homesteaders sold whiskey illegally during Prohibition in the 1930’s. When we were kids, Dad pointed out a still used to brew whiskey to my brother and I on our Wyoming ranch. We were on horseback and rode past a few barrel rings and a wall of rocks. Tucked into a steep draw, it was surrounded by aspen trees and a little cow trail that led to the bottom of the canyon near our house.

My brother and I collected antique glassware as a hobby. We planned to go back to the whiskey still and look around for old bottles. It should be easy enough to find, we told ourselves. So after school we told our parents we were going out to play and would be back in time for supper. We walked up the canyon, and when we saw a draw that looked familiar, we started up.

Our ranch was located in the scatterings of the Snowy Mountain Range at an altitude of 7,000 feet. Summers are short in that country. The green aspen trees that looked lush and cozy when we rode past them a few months before, were now barren and cold.

Night fell much earlier in the winter months and dusk had begun to set in. We could not find the whiskey still but continued on until we reached the top of the draw. When we saw Laramie Peak in a distance, we knew we had climbed over 2,000 feet out of the canyon bottom.

We had climbed up the wrong draw, night was coming, and we had no flashlights. The rattlesnakes had hibernated for the winter, but conditions were still adverse. It was dark, the terrain was steep and rocky. The temperature had begun to drop at an alarming rate.

At the ages of ten and eleven, my younger brother and I learned young to how to get through adversity.

Here are 6 ways that will help you get through adversity as well:

1. Develop Confidence To Get Through Adversity

We were too young to rely on pep talks or motivational speeches to give us the stamina to keep moving forward. We had climbed over 2,000 feet out of the canyon in daylight. Now we had to be confident enough in our ourselves that we could repeat our performance downhill in the darkness.

The lessons I learned to get down the mountain stayed with me the rest of my life. In my book Secrets of A Strong Mind, I talk about the four months I spent at the FBI Academy in new agent’s training. We trained hard day in and day out, no matter the weather conditions—in snow, wind, rain, or heat. Those experiences drilled confidence in ourselves.

If we performed well when we faced adversity, we would have the self-assurance that we could beat the odds. Whenever I thought I couldn’t push myself any further, I remembered that cold night climbing back down a mountain when I was eleven years old. I was confident I had what it took to move on.

2. Use Persistence To Get Through Adversity

My brother and I were not sure how to get back home before we found ourselves in complete darkness and freezing temperatures. We decided that if we stayed with the cow trail it would ultimately lead us to our destination. The trail was lost but we hopped over rocks and fallen trees to find it. We knew that as long we were headed downhill we were headed in the right direction. But the draw had many smaller ones that meandered over the sides of the canyon. Time was important and we knew the quickest way down was the way we came up. We persisted and found the cow path again.

As an FBI agent, there were many times when I needed to remember that dedication and blind persistence are two different things. We can work hard, but not always smart. If something doesn’t work, pivot and attack the problem from a different angle. Where there is a will, there is a way.

3. Manage Emotions To Get Through Adversity

While neither my brother or I panicked, we were scared—but we never let negativity set in. We acknowledged our fears but remained confident in our ability to get home safely.

I have drawn my weapon while making an arrest. I was scared and afraid of what I would need to do if the person resisted. When I leaned into my training, I regained my confidence and managed my emotions.

It’s always important to acknowledge emotions, but to get through adversity you need to remind yourself that you have the mental toughness to manage the negative ones. You may not be able to change the conditions but you can change the way you deal with them. It’s possible to have self-control in an out-of-control environment.

4. Accept Blame To Get Through Adversity

We had no one to blame but ourselves. This was no game we were playing and we had to have the strength to look at our adversity realistically and take responsibility for getting ourselves back home. Our parents had no idea we had headed out to find the whiskey still because we hadn’t told them.

As an FBI agent, I found that self-examination would be one of the most important ways I could become a more effective leader and achieve my goals. When I confronted obstacles and adversity, I was not afraid to question my thinking. Often, this self-examination uncovered biases or assumptions I had made that either contributed to the obstacle or stood in my way of overcoming it. A merciless review of traits, desires, and fears can lead to a reinvention of goals and beliefs.

5. Pace Yourself To Get Through Adversity

My brother and I both knew that if we stopped, we’d freeze to death before morning. On the other hand, if we depleted our resources, we’d be unable to continue.

I learned it was important to pace myself while running obstacle courses at the FBI Academy. I was not a strong runner, and while I enthusiastically charged out the gate, I knew I’d need to pace myself to last the entire obstacle course.

The same logic applied to my investigations: if I depleted my resources, ran myself to exhaustion, and then needed to respond to a fast-moving break in the case, I was in serious trouble. Read the chapter on the 20 mile march in Great by Choice by Jim Collins.

6. Create Community To Get Through Adversity

My brother and I were a team and we worked together to get back down the hill. We provided moral support for one another. We jumped across waterfalls and mucked through inches of mud to follow the meandering cow path.

The personal leadership skill of camaraderie is one of the first lessons taught at the FBI Academy. For the first three weeks, new agents are not allowed to leave the Marine Corp base. Instead, we were expected to develop a supportive community that would be needed during our four months of training.

The ability to relate to others was one of the most effective skills I developed in my career as a counterintelligence agent. Everyone has the need to be heard, and the need for information that can be put into action. The listener is a essential role because even very successful leaders need people who are allied to their cause.

My brother and I made is safely home that night to parents who were very worried.

If you learn how to get through adversity, it will help you turn underachievement into superior achievement. As long as you can stay alive, you are still in the game.

© 2013 LaRaeQuy. 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.” 

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