Posts Tagged ‘positivity’

5 Excellent Ways You Can Crush Negative Thoughts

Monday, September 10th, 2018

When you grow up poor, negative thoughts come very easily. My parents worked hard as cattle ranchers in a remote area of Wyoming. There was no money to pay a hired hand, so my brother and I started helping out with chores at the age of six.

 

By the age of eight, I could stack bales of hay, grease the baler, and move a hundred head of cows into another pasture.

As a girl, I was expected to marry and start a family, not pursue a career. The standing joke was that college was for young women looking for an MRS degree. After all, higher education is not needed to work on a ranch.

As I grew up, I heard self-limiting messages that looked at life in negative terms. They focused on what I couldn’t do rather than in positive terms of what I could accomplish. There were times when the negativity of others threatened to sabotage my own efforts to move beyond my circumstances.

However, I had the support of my parents to pursue a college degree, and I learned many lessons from them. Among the most important is that there are no guarantees in life, so you might as well take a chance on doing what you love.

Negative thoughts can slow down your business and personal goals. Successful entrepreneurs and business owners need ways to stop negative thinking when the economy spirals downward or competition threatens a portion of the market.

Here are 5 excellent ways to crush negative thoughts:

1. Be Mindful Of How Powerful Your Words Are

The words you use are important. Words are powerful because they energize our thoughts. Words are thoughts spoken out loud. The words we say to ourselves can either inspire or destroy, depending on what our brain hears.

When you think you can’t accomplish a goal and want to quit, your brain puts barriers around achieving the goal; often these are no more than self-limiting barriers because you’ve told yourself you can’t do it.

How To Make It Work For You: Become aware of when negative thoughts show up in your life. Don’t ignore them because they won’t simply go away. They’ll hang around and continue to pop up. To counteract them, recognize the negative thought or emotion and then name it. Keep it to a couple of words because if you enter into a dialogue about the negative thought, you give it the opportunity to take root and become even more powerful.

2. Stop Using The Word No

Researchers have determined that when you see the word NO for less than a second, your brain releases dozen of stress-producing hormones and neurotransmitters. These are the chemicals that interrupt the normal functioning of the brain and impair our logic.

Now, if you say the word NO, even more stress chemicals are released into your brain—and not just your brain, but into the brain of the listener as well.

The word NO and other negative messages interfere with the decision making centers of the brain, often causing a person to act irrationally. Mental toughness allows you to interrupt this flow of chemicals into the brain.

How To Make It Work For You: Since negative thoughts that hold you back are always based in fear, choose your words wisely and speak them in a slow manner. When your first reaction is NO, take the time to pinpoint the fear that sparked this response. Then replace NO with this question: why not?

3. Intentionally Choose To Be Positive

We’ve all been in tough situations where it’s hard to stop negative thoughts. Turns out that we have to intentionally choose to be positive because we all have an innate bias toward negativity. We process bad news faster than good news because our limbic brain system is survival driven. This explains why we’re driven to avoid losses far more than we’re driven to pursue gains.

The brain responds less to positive words and thoughts. That’s because they’re not a threat to our survival so the brain doesn’t need to respond as rapidly as it does with negative thoughts and words.

How To Make It Work For You: To overcome this natural bias toward negativity, we have to repeatedly and consciously generate as many positive thoughts as we can. Researchers have discovered that to overcome an obstacle or break a barrier, you will need to generate at least five positive responses to counter each negative one. This allows you to interrupt your brain’s natural inclination to be negative.

4. Create New Brain Connections

When we reinforce a way of thinking, either new connections are formed or old ones are strengthened. So, when you maintain a strong mind that knows how to stop negative thinking, these connections become more durable and easier to activate.

This is a tremendous concept, because it shows us how we can change our behavior. Our brain is more flexible than we thought and is capable of adapting to its circumstances. Our brain is a great survival machine because it can rewire itself to form neuro pathways that optimize the power of our senses. 

How To Make It Work For You: When we use the word yes, we are training our brain to make positive patterns more automatic. Since your brain is listening to everything you think about yourself, you might as well start using words that inspire and expand your vision of your life.

5. Surround Yourself With Positivity

The only four letter word I never heard in my twenty-four year career as an FBI agent was “quit.” No matter how tough the training got, or hard a case was to solve, or the size of the obstacle in front of me, I found ways to crush negative thoughts.

FBI agents are trained to overcome obstacles and break through barriers. It begins in the FBI Academy and continues through our career. This training created a mindset of like-minded people. We learned how to say yes to the unknown so we could move forward when confronted with the unknown. As a team, we stopped negative thinking in its tracks.

How To Make It Work For You: You increase positivity when you hang out with perpetually perky people. That can work, but the most powerful person in your life is yourself. You can’t get rid of negative thought patterns unless you can identify what triggers them to surface. Get to know your negative thinking and what’s behind it. Only with self-awareness can you begin to identify when it happens so you can make a choice to shift your attitude.

Mental toughness is positive thinking on steroids. When confronted with obstacles and adversity, mental toughness is saying yes to the unknown.

© 2018 LaRae Quy. All rights reserved.

You can follow me on Twitter, Facebook, AND LinkedIn

Get my FREE 45-Question Mental Toughness Assessment

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

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

Here Is What Happens When You Use Emotional Intelligence To Be Successful

Monday, July 23rd, 2018

Few could accuse FBI agents of being soft and fluffy, and yet emotional intelligence is at the heart of most successful FBI investigations. 

The ability to recognize, control, and express emotions was often the single factor that led to my success as I recruited foreign intelligence officers to work for the U.S. government. I remained alert for how people reacted to different topics of conversation so I could gain insight into how their emotions and thoughts drove their behavior.

While the FBI constantly trains agents on how to do their job better, I learned about the importance of emotional intelligence by observing squad mates who failed to demonstrate it. They were the ones who could not break through barriers and develop rapport with people. Not only that, they often had a particular lack of self-awareness so they were unaware of what they were doing wrong—a wreck waiting to happen to anyone, not just those in law enforcement.

How Important Is Emotional Intelligence?

Research points to emotional intelligence as the critical factor that sets star performers apart from the rest of the pack. The connection is so strong that 90% of top performers have high emotional intelligence. On the flip side, just 20% of bottom performers are high in emotional intelligence. You can be a top performer without emotional intelligence, but the chances are slim.

This same study found that people with a high degree of emotional intelligence also make more money. This finding holds true for people in all industries, at all levels, in every region of the world.

Emotional intelligence affects how we manage our behavior, handle social complications, and make effective decisions that will achieve positive results. Awareness and curiosity about our own emotions, as well as those of others, places us in a stronger position to not only recognize the negative ones but to anticipate how they could spin out of control.

The way in which we react to obstacles, misfortune, and adversity is often the result of habit rather than deliberate choice. With a little training and awareness, we can develop the emotional intelligence we need to make smarter choices and be more successful.

Here are 6 ways you can use emotional intelligence to be successful:

1. Engage In Psychological Fortune Telling

Our preoccupation with being happy all the time can actually lead us to expect too much from everyday experiences.

Psychologist Maya Tamir recommends that instead of making the pursuit of happiness your guiding principle in stressful situations, you should think about your long-term goal first. Once you’ve clearly identified your long term goal, you can choose the emotion you want to experience in that situation. 

For example, leaders who are under pressure to make a compromise can use emotional intelligence to opt for the emotion or feeling that will help them be more successful.

TIP: Successful people with high emotional intelligence do not always choose the pleasant emotion; instead, they opt for the one that will move them down the road and toward their long-term goals. When you are faced with making a decision, don’t shy away from the one that won’t feel the easiest. Instead, make sure it’s the one that will lead you toward your long-term goal.

2. Early Intervention Is Key

Sometimes we’re thrown into situations where there is no exit strategy. If we can anticipate a negative situation, we can take pro-active measures. We’re better off if we can nip the monster in the bud before it overtakes us.

Emotionally intelligent people study their triggers and use this knowledge to sidestep situations and people before they get the best of them. There is always someone with an irksome laugh or annoying habit to deal with, so develop buffers if you know you’re going to be in their company. Situations that trigger negative emotions often leave people feeling depressed, especially when you know they could have been averted. 

Many events that produce stress and negative emotions are uncontrollable, such as accidents or illnesses. Many of them, however, can be managed if you are savvy about how to anticipate them and intervene.

TIP: Identify and address a potential source of stress that you know will arise in the next few days. Develop an exit strategy now so you’re not stuck with an emotional fallout later.

3. Avoidance Is Not An Option

However, it’s not always possible to run from a negative situation. Given a choice, most of us would choose to avoid recurring situations that evoke unpleasant or sad feelings. When we are forced to deal with people or situations that we know will bleed out negative emotions, it’s exhausting. It’s no wonder we seek distractions or look away with relief.

We all have emotional triggers—situations and people that push our buttons and cause us to act in ways that can sabotage our success. But studies have shown that those who anticipate a negative situation often respond in ways that are constructive. They develop the grit to pierce through the negativity.

The reason is this: when the situation is recurring, you bolster your brain’s ability to observe and detach from inner reactions so you can strengthen emotional management which acts as a buffer between yourself and the negative situation or person.

TIP: Identify those situations in your life where avoidance is not an option. Grit-up and punch through the negativity of the situation so you can find ways to manage your emotional reactions.

4. Reframe Your Emotion

Often, we can manage our emotions if we simply reframe them. Anger and fear are both freighted with energy; so, rather than express them in a negative way, channel them into a more positive one. Is it a lump of coal, or is it a diamond in the making?

For example, if you are afraid of public speaking, reframe that nervous energy as “getting pumped” for the next performance.

It takes skill to manage your emotions; you learn it better when you practice it over time. The same goes for the way you reframe your situation. It takes intentional training. Often, we let the energy from our emotions decide how we react. We do not intentionally cultivate the emotions that will serve us best.

TIP: Research in neuroplasticity has shown us that we can literally re-wire our brain by changing the way we think about negative situations. If we can take responsibility for own brain, then we can also take responsibility for our own emotions.

5. Let It All Hang Out

But what if someone insults you? You cannot avoid feeling hurt no matter how hard you try to control your response. There are times when we need to express our emotions because if we hold them back, it takes an even worse toll.

Psychologist Roy F. Baumeister conducted a series of experiments where people who suppressed their emotions, both happy and sad. He found they tended to give up sooner on projects. When they resisted their natural emotional responses, it taxed their willpower and energy.

Maya Tamir found that if we are able to accept and even welcome the emotions that we have, whether they are pleasant or unpleasant, we are likely to be happier and more satisfied.

TIP: Do not suppress your negative emotions all the time. Research has found that people who do so have an increased risk of cardiovascular disease. Suppressing all negative emotions can also lead to more broken relationships, chronic pain, tinnitus, and diabetes.

6. Get Clued In

Among the first steps in any FBI investigation is to put 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 thoughts, emotions, and behavior of the subject under investigation.

Often our success is the result of our ability to pick apart and analyze what makes people tick. It becomes a mindset and 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 you move your awareness level up a notch or two.

Learn more about yourself, as well. Ask yourself, “What preoccupies my thinking?” “When am I most comfortable with myself?” “What do I notice first in others?”

TIP: Get curious! Curiosity is an important trait for geniuses, FBI agents, and anyone who wants to be emotionally intelligent. Curious people have active minds that are always asking questions and searching for answers.

© 2018 LaRae Quy. All rights reserved.

You can follow me on Twitter, Facebook, AND LinkedIn

Get my FREE 45-Question Mental Toughness Assessment

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

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

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.

You can follow me on Twitter, Facebook, AND LinkedIn

Get my FREE 45-Question Mental Toughness Assessment

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

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

5 Tips From The Stoics On How To Develop Mental Toughness

Monday, March 19th, 2018

As an FBI agent, I became an observer into the lives of people under investigation. Upon my retirement from the FBI, I completed graduate studies at San Francisco Theological Seminary. In the process, I became a more thoughtful observer of my own life.

I started to embrace the Stoic claim that many of the things we desire are not worth the pursuit. Instead, Stoic philosophy focused on how to develop the mental toughness to manage negative emotions such as anger, grief, anxiety, and fear.

Stoicism was the forerunner of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, one of the most effective psychological tools used by therapists today. CBT proposes that when we change the way we think about a problem, it leads to a change in behavior. Mental toughness can be defined as managing our emotions, thoughts, and behavior in ways that set us up for success.

The ancient Stoic philosophers had great tools to help fight the helplessness that sets in when it feels like the world is against you. Stoics knew how to develop mental toughness. Stoicism sounds serious but it started with a bunch of guys in togas who sat on porches almost two thousand years ago and taught philosophy. Stoa means porch so stoicism is actually porch wisdom.

Here are 5 tips from the Stoics on how to develop mental toughness:

1. Train In Winter

We must undergo a hard winter training and not rush into things for which we haven’t prepared.”—Epictetus

Roman armies disbanded during the winter unless engaged in a series of raids. Epictetus believed that there was no such thing as Spring training for soldiers—or anyone for that matter. To land on our feet, we must keep our mind active all the time.

It’s too late to train or prepare when the shit hits the fan or when the stakes are high. As entrepreneurs, business owners, and leaders, you already know you can’t read a book on basketball and then go to the NBA. You know you must always prepare for what life might throw at you, so when it does, you’re ready.

When we train and prepare, we continually learn new skills. Neuroplasticity is the ability of the brain to continuously create new neural pathways. When we repeat skills we are trying to learn, we strengthen those neural networks.

How To Make It Work For You: You learn how to develop mental toughness when you train your mind to think and prepare for the challenges ahead. Keep your brain alert and active all the time. If you can’t actually perform a particular task, simply visualize yourself doing it. Your brain cannot tell the difference.

2. Embrace The Test

I judge you unfortunate because you have never lived through misfortune. You have passed through life without an opponent—no one can ever know what you are capable of, not even you.”—Seneca

When I look back over my 24 year career as an FBI agent, you know what I remember the most? The difficult times. The hardest training at the FBI Academy and the most frustrating investigations were also the moments that were the most formative for me.

Challenges in life are unavoidable. Researchers believe that if we can learn to accept them as children, it will help our chance of success as adults. Children who learn to handle their own problems are also the ones with exceptional achievement as adults.

There is a Chinese saying “Chi Ku Shi Fu” (eating bitterness is good fortune) that highlights the idea that there is the opportunity for wisdom and growth in the midst of misfortune. While we don’t have control over the situations that life will bring to us, we do have a choice as to how we will react to them.

How To Make It Work For You: You learn how to develop mental toughness when you face your opponents, challenges, and misfortunes with an open mind. Look for ways to learn from your challenges. You may need to dig deep, but claim the wisdom from those times you are tested. It will you move to a higher level of well-being and perspective.

3. Prepare On Sunny Days

It is when times are good that you should gird yourself for tougher times ahead…so it is that soldiers practice maneuvers in peacetime, erecting bunkers with no enemies in sight and exhausting themselves under no attack so that when it comes, they won’t grow tired.”—Seneca

Seneca writes that we should prepare in advance so that nothing ever takes us by surprise. In today’s language, he wants us to develop resilience in the face of adversity. We should toughen up before the crisis hits us so we know how to respond.

When we spend time thinking about the downside, Cognitive Behavior Therapy says that we decatastrophize it. Remember CBT? The Stoics invented it. Don’t be the person who freaks out at work when something goes wrong. Be prepared and handle it with finesse and aplomb.

How To Make It Work For You: You learn how to develop mental toughness when you ask “What is the worst that could happen?” This is not pessimism; it’s being realistic. Take the time on a sunny day to prepare yourself to respond in an effective manner when the storm hits.

4. Find Your Hidden Power

Consider who you are. Above all, a human being, carrying no greater power than your own reasoned choice, which oversees all other thing, and is free from any other master.”—Epictetus

Epictetus walked with a limp as the result of being chained up as a slave. For Stoics like him, the only thing you ever really have control over are your deliberate thoughts. You can’t control other people, you can’t control your situation, and you can’t always control your own body. So the only thing over which you do have control is your emotions, thoughts, and behavior—the essence of mental toughness.

We need to accept that there are many things over which we have no control. We can, and should, try to influence them if we can. But once you begin to feel you need to control other people or situations, it’s likely that emotions will get out of control if things don’t go your way.

How To Make It Work For You: You learn how to develop mental toughness when you acknowledge that it does no good to worry about things you can’t control. Instead, spend your time on things over which you have complete control, like your goals and values. If you do this, you’ll avoid the anxiety that comes with the need to control.

5. Color Your Thoughts

Your mind will take the shape of what you frequently hold in thought, for the human spirit is colored by such impressions.”—Marcus Aurelius

The Stoics had some great tools to help fight negative feelings because when you know how to deal with the negative, it gives you more time for the positive.

If we maintain a negative outlook, soon everything we encounter will seem negative. When we color our thoughts with negativity, it bleeds into other parts of our life as well.

Stoics believed that we are moved to action by positive emotions, such as a sense of indignation at having witnessed an injustice, or a desire to make the world a better place for everyone. Negative emotions color our thoughts, emotions, and behavior in unproductive ways.

How To Make It Work For You: You learn how to develop mental toughness when you seek the positive in your situation. Believe you will prevail in your circumstances rather than believing your circumstances will change.

© 2018 LaRae Quy. All rights reserved.

You can follow me on Twitter, Facebook, AND LinkedIn

Get my FREE 45-Question Mental Toughness Assessment

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

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

7 Things Mentally Tough People Refuse To Think

Sunday, February 18th, 2018

I learned how to become mentally tough after I failed the interim physical fitness test at the FBI Academy. With this failure came the understanding that I was not so great after all and that I stood a good chance of being washed out.

I became obsessed with improving my fitness scores. My focus narrowed down to the next day’s training. I dug deep to uncover why I wanted to become an FBI agent. Drilling down on these sets of values propelled me over the next couple of months and I did eventually pass the fitness test.

As business owners and entrepreneurs, you also face hard challenges. It might be the marketplace, nervous investors, or aggressive competition, but you will need to be mentally tough if you plan to focus your thinking and move through those challenges successfully.

It’s hard to feel mentally tough when you’re stuck. You need the grit to welcome challenges as obstacles to overcome.

Here are 7 things mentally tough people refuse to think:

1. Struggle Has No Meaning

To my horror, many of my FBI colleagues relished the new challenges presented each day at the Academy. I thought they were crazy—they actually volunteered to experience pain and discomfort! What normal person does that?

I learned that mentally tough people often voluntarily choose the hard path, the road less traveled. They will go out of their way to experience failure so they can turn their focus into looking for ways to turn obstacles into opportunities.

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

TIP: People become mentally tough when they give their struggle the finger, and instead, focus on improvement and growth.

2. Winning Is Everything

When people ask me to talk about my biggest failure, I talk about the pain of failing the interim physical fitness test. It was a failure that cut to the core, but it also inspired a remarkable amount of personal growth. I learned more from that single failure than from any of my successes.

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

TIP: Mentally tough people recognize that the way in which they deal with failure determines how they will achieve success.

3. Pain Is To Be Avoided

Sports psychologist Tim Woodman has done a lot of studies on what makes superior athletes. He spent time interviewing many top performers and the one thing that he came away with was this: nearly every top performer in his study had experienced a critical negative event in their life—parents divorcing, a death, disease, or some other perceived loss—and they experienced it early in life.

Mentally tough people learn early that life is hard, pain is inevitable, and growth is optional. They find ways to turn shit into sugar.

Pain is nature’s way of getting our attention. Mentally tough people do not coddle themselves or avoid situations where there are problems to solve and the pain that comes with them. Some of our best insights are at the tail end of our worst moments. Pain often forces us to look at our values and beliefs and question why they might be failing us.

Weak people try to cover up the pain and delude themselves rather than intelligently looking for way to produce real change.

Don’t hope for a life with no pain; hope for a life with good pain. We all know that not everything that feels good is actually good. In the same way, not everything that feels painful is necessarily bad.

TIP: Once you forget about the pain, you become unstoppable.

4. Focus Only On The Positive

Positive thinking is a cornerstone of mental toughness. Research has proven the real benefits of staying positive, especially in adverse situations. Unfortunately, many people today only focus on the positive and refuse to acknowledge the negative in their life. Used in this manner, positive thinking becomes little more than a bandaid trying to cover a cancerous lesion.

Reminding yourself of what could go wrong is not pessimism. It’s being smart. You will encounter rude bosses, conniving colleagues, and unruly customers. Why not prepare for them?

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

Mentally tough people are less likely to get frustrated and blow a deal or lose control during a tense negotiation. The reason is because they do not focus only on the positive. They imagine every conceivable setback and obstacle that could materialize; they find ways to cope and overcome the adversity before it becomes a reality.

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

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

5. Suppress Emotions

In our current feel-good self-improvement culture, we’re encouraged to only acknowledge positive emotions and feelings. Shove down the negative stuff and pretend it doesn’t exist. All that is fine until you have a negative emotion that won’t be silenced, and I’m betting all of you have been there before.

It’s stupid to pretend everything is fine and that you don’t experience negative, even humiliating, emotions. What is smart is to use neuroscience to figure out what to do with them so they don’t sabotage your best efforts to move forward.

How To Make It Work For You:

  1. Nip negative thoughts and emotions in the bud when they first appear and are at their weakness.
  2. Label each emotion for what it truly is, not just what sounds good to you.
  3. Call out the emotion by name: shame, envy, anger, jealousy, lust, etc.
  4. Describe the emotion in 1 or 2 words; be succinct and to the point.
  5. Do not enter a dialogue about the emotion; anything more than 1 or 2 words will only give it legs with which to run wild.
  6. Resist attempts to justify the emotion. Notice it and move on.

6. Stick To What Feels Comfortable

If our coaches at the FBI Academy weren’t pushing us into our discomfort zone, they weren’t doing their job. After I realized I hadn’t joined an organized group of sadists, I understood that the coaches moved us into our discomfort zones so we’d be better able to cope with the trials that lie ahead of us as FBI Agents.

If success and comfort is all you’ve ever known, you will not be prepared for the shitstorm that will come at some point in your life. Whether it’s your career, your health, old age, or something unseen, if you are mentally tough you know you will be able to endure the discomfort.

Mentally tough people embrace discomfort zones because they have learned that unpleasant experiences are not something to fear. In the process, they’ve learned the survival skills that will take them to the next level.

How To Make It Work For You: Don’t throw yourself into unproductive things, but do seek out experiences that will move you into the unknown so you know how you will respond when confronted with adversity.

7. Others Are To Blame

One of the most important lessons learned in childhood is that you don’t always get to play with the red ball in the playground. This early lesson illustrates how you deal with failure, struggle, and loss. You can whine, point fingers, and blame others but ultimately you must choose how you deal with not always getting what you want.

Victimhood has become very popular. It’s now possible to be offended and insulted for just about anything. It feels self-righteous to cast ourselves as a victim, but as cartooonist Tim Kreider points out, outrage is one of those things that will eventually devour us from the inside out.

TIP: Grit-up and be mature enough to take responsibility for your actions. There are enough real victims in the world. If you want to be authentically outraged, help one of them.

© 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.”

5 Ways To Make Gratitude A Stronger Emotion

Monday, January 29th, 2018

As an FBI agent, I was surrounded by people who had a strong sense of right and wrong. Research shows that emotions are strongly connected to our morality—the ability to tell right from wrong. Since strong emotions were closely connected to my fellow agents’ morals, it allowed them to move into adverse and dangerous situations to protect the well-being of others.

Gratitude and indignation are both moral emotions. Gratitude is a positive emotion that encourages reciprocal altruism, well-being, and appreciation. Indignation, on the other hand, is a negative emotion that is closely related to anger and revenge—it motivates individuals to punish cheaters.

Mental toughness strengthens our ability to distinguish positive emotions from negative ones. We can use this awareness to strengthen positive emotions like gratitude and control negative ones like anger.

Understanding our emotions is the key if we want to control them. Mentally tough people learn how to connect with emotions that attract more of the things that represent our moral standards. In turn, we live and do what is right.

As leaders, it’s important to find ways to make gratitude a stronger emotion. We can use mental toughness to strengthen our gratitude emotion. When we do, we control the negative emotions that impact the way we treat not only ourselves, but those around us. 

Here are 5 ways we can make gratitude a stronger emotion:

1. Make It Intentional

Intentional behavior is the ability to move ahead with a thoughtful and deliberate goal in mind. To do so, we need to seek out and identify specific acts for which we can, and should, be grateful. Gratitude only works when you’re grateful for something real.

We perceive an act as more worthy of gratitude when:

  • it cost someone (either time or effort)
  • we perceive it to be of value
  • it is not obligatory or habitual in nature
  • the result produces relief or happiness

How To Make It Work For You: So, how do you manage the bad things that show up in life? Even bad, or negative events, can have positive consequences. Choose an experience from your life that was either unpleasant or unwanted. Focus on the positive aspects or consequences of this difficult experience. As the result, is there anything for which you now feel thankful or grateful? Has this experience made you a better person? Have you grown? Did the experience help you appreciate the truly important things in life? Can you be thankful for the beneficial consequences as a result?

2. Keep Focused

Most FBI agents and law enforcement officers enter their career to arrest criminals who exploit the needs and weaknesses of others. Over time, however, their idealism is threatened because life is rarely lived in absolutes. The black and white of justice frequently morphs into shades of gray. Good is often found in the midst of the bad, and bad sometimes results from good intentions.

We become mentally tough when we learn to live with the paradox of contradiction and not run from the mystery of life. It’s especially important to remain grateful when life takes a down turn.

  • Seek out events and people that represent the things that embody your moral standards
  • Express gratitude when you see them
  • Let go of your need for the “right” way to be “your” way
  • Clarify what you know to be the truth in your heart, get to know it better
  • Remember that truth is it’s own best argument

How To Make It Work For You: To keep focused, think about what the absence of a positive influence in your life would mean to you. What would life be like if you hadn’t met your spouse or partner? Or if you hadn’t taken that job transfer? Or if you hadn’t moved to your neighborhood? Take something positive away from your life and you’re forced to focus on what brings you happiness and gratitude. Something that, perhaps, you had started to take for granted.

3. Change The Way Your Brain Works

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.

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.

4. Ditch The Ego

Narcissists believe their presence entitles them to special rights and privileges. They often make selfish demands of others. People with large egos tend to be ungrateful. Instead, they believe they deserve the favors and gifts that others give to them.

Deepak Chopra makes these points about ego and gratitude:

  • Ego can get stuck on being right or wrong
  • Real gratitude isn’t passing and temporary
  • Gratitude takes openness and the willingness to set your ego aside
  • No one is grateful for things they think they deserve.
  • Gratitude is unearned, like grace
  • When it is deeply felt, gratitude applies to everything, not simply to good things you hope come your way

It’s impossible to give full attention to both ego and gratitude at the same time. When you appreciate something or someone else, your ego must move out of the way.

How To Make It Work For You: We strengthen our gratitude emotion when we seek out and find people and circumstances for which we can be grateful. We also need to focus on the priority of being grateful, especially in tough times. And finally, we need to demand the ego to be put it in its proper place.

5. Use Gratitude To Build Resilience

Since 2001, the suicide rate among U.S. soldiers is at an all-time high. The number of soldiers suffering from post-traumatic stress is also very high. In 2008, Martin Seligman was invited to have lunch at the Pentagon with General George Casey. Casey advised that he wanted a fighting force that could bounce back and cope with the trauma of persistent warfare. Seligman and other researchers implemented the Army’s Comprehensive Soldier Fitness (CSF) program, a preventive program that seeks to enhance resilience among members of the Army community. The program aims at prevention rather than treatment of PTSD.

To build resilience among U.S. soldiers, the CSF brought in elements of positive psychology, and discovered that gratitude is an essential component of positive thinking.

Because here is the thing: it is impossible to grateful and negative at the same time.

Gratitude is the most powerful emotion in the world. Why? It allows you to love not only yourself, but others as well.

How To Make It Work For You: Here is what you can expect if you practice gratitude:

  • A renewed appreciation for life
  • New possibilities for yourself
  • More personal strength
  • Improve relationships
  • Spiritually more satisfied

© 2018 LaRae Quy. 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.” 

 

7 Things Mentally Strong People Never Do

Monday, December 4th, 2017

Mentally tough people have surrounded me my entire life. My Dad picked away at a challenge until he found a way around it.

As an FBI agent, I found even more mentally strong people who worked their way through sticky and complex investigations. They took bold new directions that required grit and spunk. They set themselves apart from the crowd. Where others saw barriers, they saw challenges to overcome.

I learned there is no one secret to success. There is no single habit that will guarantee you’ll make it to the top. There are, however, behaviors that mentally strong people have in common to help them achieve their goals:

1. They Never Spread Negativity

It is tiresome to spend time around negative people. They spread no joy and relish dropping little bits of acid on everyone they meet; just enough to make sure their misery finds ample company. Some of the most negative people come disguised as family and friends.

If you surround yourself with negative people who don’t have dreams of their own, then guess what? You will be just like them.

TIP: You reflect the 5 people with whom you spend the most time. Distance yourself from losers who dwell on negativity.

2. They Don’t Give In To Indifference

Indifferent people find themselves satisfied with the status quo and eventually end up in a comfortable rut. They make excuses, blame others, and usually whine a lot to whoever will listen to them. To sum up: they are lazy, passive, and boring as hell.

When you care about something, you become unstoppable. Mentally strong people learn how to focus and prioritize their thoughts. They pick what is important to them, what they care about. This can be difficult, however, because it takes discipline

TIP: Pinpoint which values are important enough that you will become unstoppable in achieving them. When you care about something, you will do what you feel is right. That is what will make you unstoppable.

3. They Don’t Let Resentment Rear Its Ugly Head

Fear often hides itself in resentment. We fear the future, are angry about the present, and resent something that has happened to us in the past. Resentment rears its ugly head when we can’t let go of a slight or injustice, whether real or perceived. It’s nothing more than feeling sorry for yourself because things didn’t go your way.

Shit happens. It can hurt us and those feelings of anger are real and legitimate. But, if we let emotions simmer beneath the surface, they grow and eat away at us. Mentally strong people don’t waste precious energy on crap emotions like resentment. It sucks up too much of our stamina, the strength we need to achieve our goals.

TIP: The best way to eliminate resentment is not to set yourself up for it. Remember a time when someone asked you to do things for them. Subconsciously, you form expectations of what they’d do for you in return. If there’s a chance of you thinking, “what’s in it for me,” you’re headed for future resentment.

4. They Don’t Avoid Pain

The pursuit of happiness has gotten to be a problem. We are told happiness is something they can work for, achieve, or buy. Pain is nature’s way of inspiring change in our life. Let’s face it—if everything was perfect, would it motivate us to be innovative and survival-driven?

The constant building, conquering, and striving is the product of pain and dissatisfaction. Pain spurs action and mentally strong people understand that pain can show us where and how to take our next step.

TIP: Don’t coddle yourself or your children. Life is difficult. Pain is inevitable. Growth is optional.

5. They Don’t Buy Into Victimhood

It’s become popular these days to be a victim. It’s possible to be offended about anything. We deserve to be outraged and we expect our pathetic little grievances to get attention.

There are legitimate victims out there, but they’re not the anemic gripes that pass themselves off as news these days. Mentally strong people understand infractions happen for many reasons, but to bitch about them to whoever will listen does nothing but take focus away from the real victims.

Rejection is a part of life, so grit-up, and grow up. Feeling offended gives us a sense of self-righteousness and moral superiority.

TIP: Tim Kreider said the following in a New York Times op-ed: “Outrage is like a lot of other things that feel good but over time devour us from the inside out. And it’s even more insidious than most vices because we don’t even consciously acknowledge that it’s a pleasure.”

6. They Don’t Shy Away From Failure

We are programmed at an early age to avoid failure. Both parents and teachers pound into our heads that failing produces losers. Slick ads show us how winners look and live and they reinforce our desire to avoid failure.

Mentally strong people are the ones who continue to improve and innovate their craft. Performance improvement is built around the idea that failure is the best way to move forward. We fail, we evaluate and analyze why we failed, and try another iteration. This is the attitude that helps us weather the “shit storm” when we face a roadblock in business or life.

TIP: You’re only stupid if you don’t stop and learn from each failure. Don’t allow yourself to keep doing the same thing, each time hoping for a different result. You already know that one approach doesn’t work, so be smart and learn the lesson failure teaches you.

7. They Don’t Become Rigid In Their Thinking

When people set out to achieve their dream, they make goals to help them get there. Goals become the focus rather than the dream. That’s fine until they hit a roadblock or obstacle. Then, the goal is the thing to achieve rather than the dream. Our vision, or dream, often takes a back seat because we’ve become so focused on achieving our goals.

Every New Year begins with: what are your goals this year? The real question should be: what goals need to be modified this year to keep you moving toward your dream?

Mentally strong people understand their thinking must remain nimble and flexible. They evaluate the challenges that present themselves and pivot so they can adjust to them.

TIP: Instead of writing a list of goals, revisit your dream or vision. Then write the steps needed to get you there. Those steps are your goals.

© 2017 LaRae Quy. All rights reserved.

You can follow me on Twitter, Facebook, AND LinkedIn

Get my FREE 45-Question Mental Toughness Assessment

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

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.

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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.” 

book

5 Ways To Control Emotions

Monday, July 25th, 2016

As Federal laws enforcement, FBI agents are required to control emotions as they conduct investigations in a fair and efficient manner. But it is difficult to look the victim of a crime in the face and not feel anger toward the person who caused the pain. 

Argument

When we let our emotions take control, we become a victim of our circumstances—LaRae Quy

Mental toughness allows us to manage our emotions, thoughts, and behavior in ways that set us up for success. Emotions and thoughts are linked, but if we can control emotions we do not have to be slaves to them.

Here are 5 ways to control emotions—and have a great day, all backed by research:

1. LOOK INTO YOUR FUTURE

After a long week all I wanted to do was sit, relax, and read. When a friend called and suggested we go for a rigorous hike. I hesitated. Which situation would benefit me the most?

When we can chose one situation over another, we have power over the emotional outcome of our day. So how do we make the right choice on how to spend it?

Psychologists find that people who are emotionally competent (you possess the ability to recognize and control emotions) tend to choose those situations which are most beneficial to them, regardless of whether or not it provides the most pleasure.

TIP:

Don’t let the pursuit of happiness lead you to make decisions that are based purely on fleeting emotional experiences. Instead, look into your future and make decisions that are grounded in a clear vision of long-term goals.

For example, I chose to go for the rigorous hike because physical exercise keeps both the mind and body active, even though I would rather have spent the time on a couch with a good book. 

2. MODIFY YOUR SITUATION

Competitive

I was early for a supervisor’s conference and took a seat; then Earl showed up and sat down beside me. Earl was irksome since he was the kind of guy who made snide remarks while other people talk. I decided to modify my situation—I got up, excused myself, and left the room. I chatted with people in the hallway for five minutes and I came back in. Sure enough, someone else had taken my seat next to Earl and I found another one across the room.

Sometimes it takes more than moving seats to get out of a negative situation. Some events—the loss of your job, the death of a partner, or an unexpected illness—are not controllable. However, no matter the stressful situation, look for ways you can be proactive and take interventional measures.

Recent research suggests that people who do not take steps to modify their situation only compound their problems. If they learn how to reframe their circumstances, they are better able to control their emotions.

TIP:

If the situation is uncontrollable, take proactive measures and expolore new opportunities and options that might not have been available to you before. If the situation is controllable, find ways to modify it—so you can control emotions before they spill out and make matters worse.

Either way, take action.

3. CONCENTRATE—OR DIVERT—YOUR ATTENTION

A female agent, whom I will Lucy because she was always a little loose with the facts, once gave her presentation during a squad briefing. I felt resentment grow with each word she said because the supervisor couldn’t see through her line of bullsh*t.

She exaggerated the facts to make herself look good so I chose to concentrate my attention squarely on Lucy. Why? I wanted to be very clear on where she was slipped up and gave false information.

Research by Gal Sheppes suggests that when we’re in an uncontrollable situation the best way to control emotions and deal with negative ones is to either concentrate on what is in front of us, or divert our attention.

In his studies, he found that most people preferred to divert their attention and think of something completely different when faced with a negative emotion. Since sad and distressing situations can exhaust us, avoidance and self-distraction can be very helpful.

TIP:

Forget traditional thinking where we’re told to find meaning in bad experiences. Instead, scientists say to choose the right coping strategy for the right circumstances. It’s the key to mental health. Sometimes it’s logical to disengage emotionally, but in other contexts it may be harmful. The key is knowing which is which.

4. TACKLE NEGATIVE THOUGHTS

Knowing that the person I arrested was responsible for the agony and heartache of others made it difficult to treat the suspect with the respect and dignity required by law.

It’s not always possible to turn away from disturbing or unfavorable situations. Mentally tough people tackle thoughts that lead to a negative emotional response. Studies have found that people can cope with unwanted emotions if they imagine the situation as an impartial observer.

When you imagine an event as though you’re a bystander, you will notice that you harbor fewer aggressive and negative emotions.

TIP:

Instead of asking, “Why do I feel that way?” I recommend you put the question in the third person: “Why does LaRae feel this way?” In this way, you can visualize yourself as a mere witness to events.

5. LET IT LOOSE

One of my interviews was a pedophile who had abused his daughter. Since I needed his cooperation, I smiled, kept my face a mask, and acted unfazed by his confession.

The man repulsed me and I had to work hard to keep my feelings from showing. Afterwards, I went for a run and took a long shower—even the smell of him made me nauseous.

Like me, most people try to suppress negative physical reactions when they are angry, frustrated, or disgusted by the situation. Studies by psychologist Roy Baumeister explain why we should not inhibit expressions of stress. If we do, it actually leads to exhaustion and is linked to health problems. My run after the interview was one of the healthiest things I could have done.

TIP:

When confronted with an intense moment, visualize the outcomes you want and identify the actions you need to take to make it happen. Regulate negative emotions; don’t avoid them. Negative emotions can prompt us to dig into our beliefs and misconceptions and help us discover new insight into ourselves.

How do you control your 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.”

52 Tips cover smallSSM book-cover

3 Tips To Get Through Challenges

Sunday, March 20th, 2016

A few years back, I faced a health scare that forced me to take a different look at how to get through challenges and setbacks. 

I was on a treadmill for my annual physical and the attending physician suddenly shouted for me to stop—immediately. He said the test was showing I had ischemia. It’s a condition wherein the heart does not get enough oxygen and stops beating, resulting in instant death.

The FBI sent me to a heart specialist and prohibited me from participating in firearms or any activity that involved physical exertion. The ischemia scare was a life-changing event for me; it’s the primary reason healthy athletes drop dead.

I suffered a long period of high-magnitude stress. In the months that followed, it was determined that my heart gulps for oxygen, corrects itself, and recovers quickly. While my physical condition was eventually diagnosed as excellent, I had suffered my first health crisis.

A challenge is amplified when we don’t see it coming. When we don’t have any control over it. And when it’s something we’ve never had to deal with before.

I had to change the way I looked at how to get through challenges, so I turned to research conducted by the U.S. Army on Post Trauma Stress Disorder (PTSD). We all deal with stress, trauma, and crises in different ways.

When faced with a traumatic event, most people react with symptoms of depression and anxiety. But within a month or so are physically and psychologically back to where they were before the trauma. They accept responsibility for their actions, forget about blaming others, and move. That is resilience.

The study found that some have a tougher time and may need counseling and medication to get through. There are a few individuals, however, who actually have post-traumatic growth. They, too, first experience depression and anxiety, but within a year they are actually better off than they were before the trauma, crisis, or challenge.

These were the people I needed to learn from, and so do you if you’re in leadership, a business owner, or an entrepreneur because you’ve also faced your share of challenges. If you have mental toughness, you will learn from your experiences so you are stronger than when you started. 

Mental toughness is managing our emotions, thoughts, and behavior in ways that set us up for success.

Here are 3 tips on how you can use mental toughness to help get through challenges:

1. THINK ABOUT YOUR CHALLENGE DIFFERENTLY

Soldiers who experienced a crisis or trauma were able to reframe the trauma in such a way that they could extract meaning from it.

Although they are able to reinterpret their situation, it is not blind optimism or disingenuous positive thinking that creates the change. The suffering is real. The difference is that they use positivity as a mental framework to turn their suffering into achievement and self-improvement.

ACTION: Post-traumatic growth does not mean you will be free of the memories or grief. If you try to put your life back together and pretend that nothing has happened, you’ll remain fractured and vulnerable. But if you accept the breakage, you can cultivate growth within yourself, become more resilient, and open to new ways of living.

2. USE DIFFERENT LANGUAGE WHEN TALKING ABOUT YOUR CHALLENGE

Mental toughness in the face of crisis and trauma is not simply about coping. Intentionally choose to change the way your see yourself and the challenge you are experiencing. It is not choosing to be a victim.

It is estimated that we say between 300 to 1000 words to ourselves per minute. If we speak positively to ourselves, we can over ride fear, worry, and anxiety when faced with adversity or trauma. Emotions are processed by the limbic brain system.

Brain imaging shows that negative emotions interfere with the brain’s ability to solve problems and other cognitive functions.

ACTION: The brain responds most powerfully to negative emotions. Intentionally choose positive thoughts to interrupt the brain’s tendency toward negativity.

3. DEVELOP DEEPER RELATIONSHIPS TO GET THROUGH CHALLENGES

People who experience post traumatic growth are able to do so only when they deepen their relationships with others. Their depth and appreciation for those relationships is extraordinary.

Soldier Fitness programs have identified these key areas as essential for resilience and post traumatic growth:

  1. Re-connect with families, relatives, friends, co-workers, and neighbors. Positive growth from trauma is nurtured by supportive relationships.
  2. Volunteer in whatever capacity, to ease the pain and suffering of the general population. The benefit we receive when helping others is as great as the feelings of wellbeing from those we help.
  3. Ask for help from other people when everything seems insurmountable. This is the time to let go of individualistic attitude in favor of collective efforts.
  4. Turn to one’s faith as a source of solace and comfort. Numerous studies have discovered that religious and spiritual activities can moderate depression and stress.

ACTION: You are stronger than you think you are. Remember to focus on how to change your emotions, thoughts, and behavior to get through challenges and setbacks. 

Consider the words of Warren Buffett in a recent Wall Street Journal article: “The truth is, everything that has happened in my life… that I thought was a crushing event at the time, has turned out for the better.

How do get through challenges in your life?

© 2016 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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