Posts Tagged ‘positivity’

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. I felt like 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.11 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. It makes your mind active instead of passive.
  2. It encourages you to be more observant of new ideas.
  3. It opens up new worlds and possibilities.
  4. It creates an adventurous response that leads you in a new direction.

6. BUILD CONFIDENCE BY OVERCOMING SELF-DOUBT

Courage - take the path

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

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

How to make it work for you:

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

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

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

This article first appeared on Success.com

© 2016 LaRaeQuy. All rights reserved.

You can follow me on Twitter

Get my FREE 45-Question Mental Toughness Assessment

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

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5 Ways To Control Emotions

Monday, July 25th, 2016

As federal law 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 is managing our emotions, thoughts, and behavior in ways that set us up for success. Emotions and thinking 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 have the luxury of choosing 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 have found that people who are emotionally competent (possessing the ability to recognize and control emotions) tend to choose those situations which are most beneficial to them, regardless of whether or not it provided 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 spending time on the couch with a book felt the most appealing.

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. I found Earl irksome since he was the kind of guy always making snide remarks while other people talked. I decided to modify my situation—I got up, excused myself, and left the room. After chatting with people in the hallway for five minutes, I came back in. Sure enough, someone else had taken my seat next to Earl and I found another one across the room.

Sometimes getting out of a negative situation is harder than simply moving seats. Some events like losing 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 such as exploring 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, was giving her presentation during a squad briefing. I felt a growing resentment with each word she said because the supervisor couldn’t see through her line of bullsh*t.

She was exaggerating the facts to make herself look good so I chose to concentrate my attention squarely on Lucy, primarily because I wanted to be very clear on where she was slipping up and giving 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 be very exhausting, avoidance and self-distraction can be very helpful.

TIP:

Forget traditional thinking where we’re told that finding meaning in bad experiences is a healthy strategy while distraction and disengagement are not healthy and maladaptive. Instead, scientists are now saying that choosing the right coping strategy for the right circumstances is 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

Intuition

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

Instead of turning away from disturbing or unfavorable situations, mentally tough people tackle thoughts that lead to their negative emotional response. Studies have found that people can cope with unwanted emotions by “distancing” themselves or imagining 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 than if you relive the incident.

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.

I was repulsed by the man and 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 inhibiting expressions of stress 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. Regulating negative emotions does not mean avoiding 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.”

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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, 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 for turning 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; it is intentionally choosing 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 has shown that negative emotions interfere with the brain’s ability to solve problems and other cognitive functions.

ACTION: Since the brain responds so powerfully to negative emotions, you must intentionally choose positive thoughts to interrupt the brain’s tendency toward negativity.

3. DEVELOPING DEEPER RELATIONSHIPS HELPS 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-connecting with families, relatives, friends, co-workers, and neighbors. Positive growth from trauma is nurtured by supportive relationships.
  2. Volunteering, 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. Asking help from other people when everything seems insurmountable. This is the time to let go of individualistic attitude in favor of collective efforts.
  4. Turning 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.

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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5 Ways Resilience Can Make You A Survivor

Sunday, January 17th, 2016

FBI Agents working terrorism see firsthand how individuals and families are torn apart every day from stabbings, shootings, and bombings. They also see how people use resilience to bounce back from hard knocks by being a survivor in the midst of trauma and chaos.

Grit - Man jumping blog

Being a survivor should not be confused with being a superman—or woman—by performing heroic feats that saves the lives of millions. There are plenty of us who need to learn how we can bounce back from trauma of everyday life with the resilience to not only survive, but thrive.

For example, Lisa is a neighbor who recently lost her job, Mark is an entrepreneur starting a new company at the age of 48, and Veronika has learned that she has inoperable brain cancer. 

All of these people were thrown into shock and turmoil, in part because they all seemed to live charmed lives in which they were in total control—until they got news that changed their circumstances forever.

As I listened to each of their stories, I was reminded of an old parable where a little boy is so discouraged that he was planning to quit school. His grandfather boiled three pots of water: into the first pot he placed a carrot, into the second pot an egg, and into the third pot coffee beans.

When the little boy asked what this was meant to teach him, the grandfather replied, “Each of these objects faced the same adversity—boiling water—but each reacted differently.”

When adversity strikes, do you respond with resilience? 

  • Are you the carrot that looks strong but becomes soft and loses strength?
  • Are you the egg that does not appear to change on the outside but grows hardened inside?
  • Or are you the coffee beans that learn how to adapt? As a result, they change the hot water, the very thing that brings pain, into something that is desirable.

It is not the experiences that are important; it’s how we interpret them. It is our choice whether or not we grow stronger from them.

Here are 5 ways resilience can make you a survivor:

1. Understand The Obstacles You Face

The way in which you deal with turmoil in life is determined at an early age. Overprotective parents try to shield their children from adversity, but in doing so they also keep them from the hardships that help them mature.

Getting in shape to meet life’s difficulties takes considerable effort and practice; start now so you are not traumatized when faced with giant-sized turmoil.

How you do one thing is how you do everything.

2. Overcome The Urge To Run Away

Resilience can be summed up like this:

Resilience is recognizing that if you are dissatisfied with certain aspects of your life, then it is your responsibility to take the initiative and make the changes you need to become a survivor.

Running away or expecting others to handle your problems is childish.

Gritup and change the way you look at your obstacles and roadblocks. Mental toughness is believing you can prevail in your circumstances rather than believing your circumstances will change.

3. Acknowledge All Emotions You Are Feeling

Because many of us are wimps, we run away or deny unpleasant thoughts and feelings. We don’t think we’re strong enough to handle the hard stuff so we listen to self-help gurus and pretend negative emotions and feelings don’t exist.

Ignoring negative feelings is not healthy, nor is wallowing in them. If life has handed you a tough hand, remember that the only thing you may still have control over is your attitude. If you feel powerless because of your circumstances, it’s because that is what you are telling yourself.

Your circumstances may not be what you planned, or expected, but if you are a survivor, you never forget that you still own your thoughts—so make them powerful.

4. Challenge Yourself To Be Brutally Honest

When the chips are down, honesty is your best salvation.

Self-awareness, or mindfulness, is the practice of thinking about the way you think. It’s hard to change negative habits and ways of thinking if we aren’t aware of them.

As you become more aware, take negative reactions and feelings as clues that you need to probe deeper into where the resistance is coming from and what is causing it. Train yourself to notice what is going on.

A survivor knows himself/herself well enough that they can discern the best way forward in every situation—even the tough ones.

5. Keep Three Types Of Friends In Your Life

No matter who you are or what you do, you need three types of friends in your life.

  1. First: the one you can call when things are going well and you need someone with whom to share the good news, someone who will be genuinely happy for you.
  2. Second: the one you can call when things are going miserably and you need a listening ear.
  3. Third: the one who holds you accountable. Life is hard, and you need people who will stop you from feeling sorry for yourself so you can reach down and pull yourself back up by the bootstraps.

None of us have a magic ball to predict our future. However, we can become a survivor and be prepared for what we can’t predict

What other traits do you think make a survivor?

© 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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4 Secrets of Mental Toughness

Sunday, December 6th, 2015

FBI agents working knotty and sophisticated cases—like terrorism, cybercrime, and counterintelligence—build mental toughness to handle themselves in dangerous situations.

4 Secrets Of Mental Toughness

As the world has become more complex, the focus of FBI investigations has evolved from hunting bank robbers like John Dillinger and criminals like Al Capone to better address the current threat to American lives.

It’s no secret that business and life are not as simple as they were, either—even a few years ago. It is no longer a matter of knowledge, ability, and skill.

As entrepreneurs and business owners you need to be psychologically prepared to deal with strong competition, recover from mistakes and failure quickly, tackle tough situations, devise strategies, and collaborate with others.

In other words, you need mental toughness to manage the emotions, thoughts, and behavior that will set you up for success in business and life.

Mental toughness allows us to push past hard situations and face adversity with confidence.

Here are 4 secrets of mental toughness taken from the FBI playbook,:

SECRET #1 Mental Toughness Requires Self-Control

Being the loudest, or toughest, or meanest is not being mentally tough—it is being a bully.

People act aggressively out of defense. Only when we do not feel strong enough to resolve a situation do we rely upon aggression as a means of dealing with the conflict.

The strongest leaders you know do not need to act aggressively because they have power.

TIPS For You:

  1. Spend your energy on understanding your weaknesses so you can manage them rather than trying to cover them up.
  2. Focus on turning painful situations into a time for personal growth and meaningful development.
  3. Control your own emotions, thoughts, and behavior, rather than trying to control other people. Meditation is described as too touchy-feely by many, but it is a valuable tool for building mental toughness. The discipline of continually bringing thoughts and emotions back to where you want them (instead of letting them wander) is the way to start bringing them under your conscious and intentional control.

SECRET #2 Mental Toughness Requires Positive Thinking

Positive thinkers are not optimists and here is why:

  • Positive thinkers believe they will prevail in their circumstances rather than believing their circumstances will change.
  • Optimists believe their circumstances will eventually change for the better.

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

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

TIPS For You:

  1. Talk positively to yourself. Research has determined that you say between 300-1,000 words to yourself per minute. Keep those words positive!
  2. Remember the mind’s first response is a negative one when you’re stressed or have encountered an obstacle.
  3. Recognize the 3 P’s of negativity and pessimism:
  • Permanent (“It’ll never change or I won’t ever get it done.”)
  • Pervasive (“You can’t trust any of those people.”)
  • Personal (“It’s all my fault. I’m terrible at this.”)

SECRET #3 Mental Toughness Requires Grit

Jack Dempsey once said, “A champion is someone who gets up when he can’t.”

He was talking about perseverance and determination—grit.

Entrepreneurs, leaders, and business owners all know that while intelligence and creativity are important, you need grit to accomplish anything big.

Researchers like Angela Duckworth have found that grit is more predictive of success than IQ in military academies like West Point.

In fact, grit is unrelated, or even negatively correlated, with talent. When working with West Point cadets, she found that those who scored higher in grit had the mental toughness to keep going when times got tough.

The high score on grit surpassed other tests such as SAT scores, IQ, class rank, leadership, and physical aptitude when it came to predicting retention rates.

TIPS For You:

Gritup

  1. Face your fears
  2. Pursue work that has value and meaning for you
  3. Believe in something bigger, better, and bolder than yourself
  4. Establish strong relationships
  5. Challenge your brain
  6. Challenge your body
  7. Control your emotions and thoughts through meditation and mindfulness exercises

SECRET #4 Mental Toughness Requires Visualization

Visualizing your success is a powerful mental toughness tool because when we visualize our success, our brain produces dopamine—a “feel-good” hormone that associates our visualized success with actual success.

In fact, parts of our brain can’t tell the difference between a visualized version of a successful performance and an actual performance!

Be careful, however; your brain is smart enough to recognize a fantasy for what it is and will not produce the dopamine that you need to create the motivation to succeed.

TIPS For You:

  1. Imagine a presentation or meeting in the future where you need to perform at your best
  2. See yourself in front of the crowd—what you will be wearing and how you will be standing
  3. Practice exactly what you will say and how you will say it—many times
  4. Anticipate negative reactions or questions from the group
  5. Imagine how you will respond
  6. Rehearse your body movements

As our world becomes more and more complex, mental toughness will become an essential mindset.

Building mental toughness is a life long task, but here is the good news: Mental toughness is not something we were born with—it is something we can learn.

When have you been mentally tough?

© 2015 LaRaeQuy. All rights reserved.

You can follow me on Twitter

Get my FREE 45-Question Mental Toughness Assessment

Get my FREE Mental Toughness Mini-Course

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

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7 Ways Negative Feedback Can Build Mental Toughness

Sunday, November 22nd, 2015

One of my more humbling, and humiliating, experiences occurred when our Firearms Instructor gave instructions during one of our annual night shoots for an arrest scenario where I would be the one to make the arrest. I had my gun in one hand and a flashlight in the other. Tucked into my belt were the handcuffs.

7 Ways Negative Feedback Can Build Mental Toughness

All went well until I went to handcuff the prisoner. My night vision is not so great so I replaced my weapon in the holster as I grappled for the handcuffs—while holding the flashlight in my other hand.

In the dark, I didn’t realize I hadn’t properly holstered my weapon, which fell onto the pavement with a clatter. The guy I was trying to arrest (another FBI agent) tried not to laugh as I fumbled in the dark to snap open the handcuffs. In the end, I put the flashlight on the ground next to where my weapon had landed and just felt my way around my prisoner’s wrists.

Without looking at me or saying a word, my Firearms Instructor picked up my weapon and handed it to me as I tried to pretend all had gone well.

But in his critique in front of the entire group, he let everyone know it had not gone well. At all. His negative feedback felt like barbed wire being pulled across my face.

I felt about one inch tall when I left the firing range later than night. It was one of those experiences that left me wondering if I had simply chosen the wrong career.

But I needed to toughen up and become more resilient if I wanted to learn how to filter junk feedback from good information in order to improve.

Here are 7 ways negative feedback can help you build mental toughness:

1. Increases Self-Awareness

If you are able to accept feedback without getting angry or defensive, you probably have a great deal of self-awareness.

If you think you never make mistakes, you are a narcissist—either that or stupid. But if you are humble and self-aware, you recognize that you need feedback to continue climbing the ladder of success. You understand that there is always something you can do to be better.

2. Fuels Personal Growth

Great athletes spend hours studying films of their performance. They are great because they are good at accepting all kinds of feedback, and then use it to fuel their personal growth. Low-performers tend to take feedback personally or feel they are above taking criticism seriously.

High-performers are better at accepting feedback because they know it is essential for growth.

3. Paves The Way For Success

Research by Leadership IQ shows that people who are good at managing negative feedback tend to be more successful than those who cannot. The study further indicates that of those who fail, 26% do so because they are unwilling to accept feedback.

4. Stretches Performance

In another study, it was found that people who ask for feedback are the most effective leaders. According to Joseph Folkman, leaders who are in the top 10% are those who are willing to ask for feedback—both positive and negative.

This study suggests that the worse you are as a leader, the less likely you are willing to ask for feedback because you’re afraid you will hear the truth!

5. Eliminates Personalization

The better you are at accepting negative feedback, the less likely you will view it as an indictment of who you are as a person.

Feedback can be viewed as one more piece of data to analyze, digest, reject, or accept as information to make a better decision. Taking it as a piece of data with which to make future decisions will allow you de-personalize it.

6. Aids in Self-Improvement

Closely related to self-awareness, negative feedback can be valuable data for self-improvement. Be the sort of person who believes there is always a better way to do things.

I tend to say, “Let’s find ways to make the best, even better.”

No one piece of feedback means the end of the world. If, however, you begin to see repeated comments in the same area, you may need to take a closer look at what has been clearly identified as an issue—especially if you don’t recognize it in yourself.

7. Trains You To Pay Attention To The Facts

Look for what is factual in the feedback. For example, your boss criticizes your presentation in a harsh manner. E.g. “It had typos, incomplete transitions, and it rambled! From now on, run everything past my personal assistant first to see if you get a passing grade!”

Your boss could have been gentler in her feedback—yes, but what are you going to do? Cry like a baby? Or, realize that there was more than a grain of truth in everything she said. You really do need to work on spelling and punctuation and you don’t use transitions well.

Do not focus on the anger and frustration of your boss; rather, focus on the errors you made and how you can avoid them in the future.

How have you learned to embrace negative feedback?

© 2015 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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Mental Skills Every Business Leader Can Learn From Athletes

Monday, November 2nd, 2015

The biggest challenge I had in graduating from the FBI Academy was meeting the physical fitness standards. I was a slow runner and found pushups very difficult. As a result, I failed the interim FIT test and was almost washed out of the Academy.2

My instructors and coaches expressed concern that I was not athletic enough to become an FBI agent. My first response was, “How is running 2 miles in 10 minutes going to help me be a better investigator?” After all, agents don’t use their physical muscles to puzzle their way through the facts of an investigation. Instead, they use their mental skills.

Only later was I able to recognize that while brawn would not make me a better agent, my athletic training was creating a set of mental skills that I would utilize throughout my 24 year FBI career.

As entrepreneurs and business owners, you will need these same mental skills to keep moving forward when you hit a roadblock or an unexpected obstacle stands in your way.

In a recent study of athletes who successfully completed sport injury rehabilitation, it was determined that the top 3 mental skills reported were Goal Setting, Positive Thinking, and Imagery.

I was not surprised by this list because these mental toughness tools can produce the right attitude to move everyone toward success. Here is a closer look at the mental skills every business leader can learn from athletes:

1. GOAL SETTING

Setting a goal is not only identifying something you want, but also something you are willing to persevere in order to achieve.

Setting a specific goal makes you more likely to achieve it, and that is especially important when you want to make a change in your career or business, or if you run into an obstacle on your journey toward that goal.

TIP #1 Set Goals For The Right Reason

Stop fantasizing about winning the lottery or making $10 million. Instead, set goals that align themselves to what really matters to your happiness and future well being.

TIP #2 Set A Direction

Set your life in a direction so that the pursuit of it will produce the life you want. If the journey is the right one, don’t worry if goals change or evolve with time.

TIP #3 Change The Goal If It’s Not Taking You In The Right Direction

Use mental skills to focus on the right thing—the direction you are moving. Don’t make the mistake of getting married to your goal.

2. POSITIVE THINKING

There is a big difference between being an optimist and being a positive thinker.

Positive thinkers are not necessarily happy or optimistic.

Instead, positive thinkers are blunt realists who look misery right in the eye and confront the most brutal facts of their day without expecting things to change. They adapt to their circumstances without ever losing hope.

Positive thinking is a mental skill that will help get you through any setback that comes your way.

TIP #1 Find 5 Positive Thoughts To Counter Each Negative Thought

The brain is naturally wired to pay more attention to negative rather than positive information because negative alerts us to emergencies and threats to our life.

When confronted with something that feels overwhelming, you will need to find 5 positive thoughts to counter each one negative thought that comes to mind. Sometimes it’s hard to find something positive in your situation and you have to look really hard.

TIP # 2. Reflect On Each Positive Thought For 20 Seconds

Take the time to really think about each positive thought. Let it soak in, don’t gloss over it.

Negative thoughts are like velcro; they stick.

Positive thoughts are like teflon; they slide away easily.

TIP #3 Stop Using The Word “Can’t”

This is the only 4 letter word I never heard in the FBI.

Every time you say “I CAN’T” you create a negative feedback loop in your brain that keeps getting stronger and stronger. Synaptic connections thicken the brain tissues over time, wiring in that negativity.

3) IMAGERY

The benefits of using imagery and visualization is an incredible tool to develop mental toughness. This mental skill is based on solid science. By visualizing your successful performance repeatedly, your brain stores that information as a success.

TIP #1: Visualize Your Success

When we give our brain a detailed portrait of our end goal, our brain releases dopamine, a powerful mental toughness tool to steer us toward success. This is the chemical that becomes active when we encounter situations that are linked to rewards from the past.

Dopamine enables us to feel good about our experiences and gives us confidence to move toward those rewards. To boost this brain response:

  • Imagine how events will unfold.
  • See yourself winning or achieving your goal.
  • Hear yourself being positive about the challenge before you.
  • Form a clear mental picture and do it several times a day.
  • Create a positive frame of mind.
  • Find images that represent your goal and post them where you’ll see them regularly.

If you don’t see yourself as a winner, neither will anyone else.

TIP #2: Differentiate Between Visioning and Fantasy

Visualizing is not fantasy or wishful thinking. Fantasies can actually lessen your chance for success. Your brain can tell the difference, and looks at fantasies as a threat!

If people fantasize about their future, they are less prepared and more stressed when things don’t workout they way they had hoped.

TIP#3: Move Ahead With Fearlessness

Use imagery and visualize how you will succeed in various situations you might encounter in the future. For example:

  • Visualize how you will react and respond when criticized by a colleague
  • Predict your performance in the morning meeting
  • Be prepared for the hard questions that will come from your boss.
  • Rehearse your response to situations/conversations that might come up.

This is enough to get that important shot of dopamine. It can help take you beyond your self-limiting beliefs about yourself and move you beyond your current circumstances.

Which one of these mental toughness tools have you used to keep moving forward?

© 2015 LaRaeQuy. All rights reserved.

You can follow me on Twitter

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

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How To Overcome Adversity —The Big Bounce Back

Saturday, October 17th, 2015

Kidnapping cases present FBI agents with some of their most challenging investigations and opportunities to overcome adversity. More often than not, the choices that the agent makes has life and death consequences. The goal is always to recover the victim safely and put the kidnapper behind bars.

How To Overcome Adversity

Grit is the word that best describes the attitude that takes hold of an agent when they will not allow themselves to consider the possibility of failure. When someone’s life is at stake, you keep going—no matter how dark the path ahead.

The way in which we look at ourselves, and our circumstances, dictates our attitude when determining how to overcome adversity. As entrepreneurs and business owners, you will have several moments where lots of negative thoughts will be occupying your mind.

To jettison those negative thoughts, you may find it necessary to express your situation differently. When you rethink, or reframe, your adversity, it helps to move it into a context that is more favorable.

This is not to make light of tragedy. It’s perfectly normal to be sad when we are immersed in a negative situation and we need to overcome adversity. That said, we do not need to let the crap moments produced by adversity sabotage our efforts to keep moving toward success.

1. Reframe Your Situation To Overcome Adversity

Reframing is a fancy word for changing the way you place limits around your goals and behaviors. If something sucks, the most logical thing in the world is to call it out for what it is. But, when you grit up to overcome adversity, it means you seek out new interpretations and perspectives that will help you keep moving forward.

Bad news will never keep a dedicated FBI agent from looking for a kidnapping victim. Instead, the agent will reframe the situation so they maintain a more positive and resourceful state of mind.

Reframing is not about pretending everything is perfect and positive! Instead, it’s about providing you with different ways of interpreting your less than perfect situation so you can expand the possibilities to overcome adversity.

2. Reframe The Content

If you reframe the content of your situation, it means you choose what you focus on. Nothing has changed, but instead of wallowing in what did not work, you intentionally choose to focus on what did work.

For example, instead of spending time complaining to everyone that you’ve lost a contract, take the time to analyze why you lost it—learn from the incident. And then move on. No one wants to keep hearing about it…

Ask yourself:

  • Why did we lose the contract?
  • Could we have done something earlier to head it off? What?
  • What can losing this contract teach me about myself? My company?
  • Are there any negative behaviors that need to be addressed for the future?

Another example might include a mistake that you made. Ask yourself:

  • What is positive about this situation?
  • What did I do well?
  • What can I learn about myself from this experience?
  • How can make this information useful for future behavior?

3. Reframe Context

In almost every situation where the interrogation of a kidnapper does not lead to a confession, the interviewing agent always kicks themselves by asking, “What should I have done differently? What could I have said that would have made them buckle and confess?”

Perhaps the evidence was overwhelming, and yet the kidnapper did not feel compelled to admit to the kidnapping. It’s even worse when the victim has still not been found.

Almost all behavior is appropriate in some context—maybe not the one in which you are currently in—but in another situation, your behavior or decision might be quite acceptable and helpful.

Just because your performance was not appreciated in this context, it does not mean it might not be appreciated in another time or place. This is important to remember so that you don’t come down too hard on yourself when you face adversity and things don’t work out the way you anticipated.

Let’s take the same example as above: you’ve lost a contract so you might ask yourself:

  • What different conversations would have been appropriate?
  • In what context would my choice of words have been the right one?
  • What behavior or words could have saved me in this situation?
  • Can I recognize that situation in the future?
  • When has my behavior helped me in the past?

Often there is no right or wrong way to overcome adversity. What might work in one situation or context may not work in another. Keep reframing things so you can look at all possibilities.

Grit is learning how to bounce back, no matter what your situation.

How have you bounced back from adversity?

© 2015 LaRaeQuy. All rights reserved.

You can follow me on Twitter

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

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How To Raise Mentally Tough Kids

Sunday, October 4th, 2015

When I was offered a position as an FBI agent, I was told one of the things they liked most about me was that I came from a large cattle ranch in the middle of Wyoming. I was among the few mentally tough kids who didn’t expect a career to be handed to them on a platter.

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The FBI liked that I was not a pampered and coddled child so often produced by modern parents and growing up in the suburbs. Living on a ranch, I learned the meaning of the word “responsibility” because my daily chores included feeding horses, cows, cats, dogs and a meager number of chickens that managed to escape the jaws of hungry coyotes.

The word chore means “a necessary but unpleasant task.” In fact, I couldn’t join after-school programs or participate in sports because my first responsibility was always my chores waiting for me at home.

In the rough Wyoming winters, the very weather I most wanted to avoid is exactly when I was most needed by the animals who depended upon me for their food, water, and shelter. It mattered when I was late—or simply forgot because of my own selfish behavior. I saw it in their eyes as they waited with expectation for me to take care of them.

Mentally tough kids are not wimps who sit out a snowstorm next to a fireplace. Mentally tough kids are not allowed to be self-indulgent and blowing off chores and responsibilities because they’d rather be having fun with their buddies.

As one of those mentally tough kids, I grew up understanding the importance of grit, accountability, and self-reliance.

A 2014 Braun Research study surveyed 1,001 U.S. adults and found 82 percent had regular chores as youth, but only 28 percent expect the same for their children.

The reason?

Kids are so busy learning foreign languages, sports, and other skills that will catapult them to success as adults that they have no time for the rigors, discipline, and dull routine of household chores.

There is no doubt that the discipline of learning in general, and sports in particular, will lead to confidence and self-reliance. But according to Richard Rende, co-author of “Raising Can-Do Kids,” decades of studies show that household chores are a proven predictor of success.

To raise kids who are mentally tough in today’s world means they need to succeed academically, emotionally, and professionally. Academics, sports—and yes, chores—all need to be present if you want your child to have the mental toughness they will need to thrive as adults.

Here are 5 tips on how to raise mentally tough kids:

1. Start Early

Dr. Marty Rossmann found that young adults who began chores at the age of 3 were more likely to have good relationships with family and friends, to achieve academic and early career success, and to be self-sufficient.

2. Create A Need For Empathy

While livestock in the backyard may not be suitable for most suburban families, when your child learns to care about someone or something besides themselves, they become empathic and responsive to the needs of others.

In a startling survey by psychologist Richard Weissbourd, he discovered that almost 80% of high school students chose either achievement or happiness over caring for others.

Parents can readjust their child’s skewed priorities by teaching them to be loving and kind at home. Pets are a great place to start, just as I grew up loving animals.

3. Stick To Your Guns

Many kids do have household chores, but when they come whining and complaining about how much homework they have to do, parents are tempted to let them off the hook.

Big mistake.

You are sending a dangerous message to your kid about their responsibilities and priorities by saying that achievement is more important than sticking to their commitments. They may be able to sweet-talk you into giving in, but eventually they will meet someone who is not concerned that they’ve got a full plate.

I mean, how well do you think whining and complaining about a busy day is going to work with their boss?

4. Use The Right Language

Studies have found that being described as a “helper” gives a child a positive role and identity, as opposed to saying the child is “helping.”

A helper is an individual of action who helps others.

5. Praise Often

Remember to acknowledge when your kid has done their chores and to praise them correctly by saying, “You did a great job because you worked so hard.”  When you affirm that they have succeeded because of the effort they put out, they will understand that it always takes effort to do a job well.

This creates a growth mindsetI can learn to be smarter, better, or more skilled.

Never say, “You did a great job because you are so smart.” This creates a fixed mindset that leads a child to believe their success is dependent upon their intelligence, skills, or attractiveness.

6. Keep Allowances And Chores Separate

Experts advise that external rewards, like money, can actually lesson a child’s motivation to help out with chores. Rewards teach them to turn altruistic acts into business transactions.

7. Teach Independence

Why do American children depend on their parents to do things for them that they are capable of doing for themselves?

According to the Wall Street Journal’s “Field Guide to the Middle Class,” while a 5-year-old in Peru’s Amazon region can be found climbing trees to harvest papayas and “helping haul logs thicker than her leg to stoke a fire,” an 8-year-old in America’s Los Angeles region can be found lying on his back on a sofa, ordering his dad to untie his shoe—and being scolded only because he didn’t say “please.”

We’re all very busy, and sometimes it’s just much easier to do the chore ourselves rather than see it done slowly and imperfectly. But parents are the ones who must teach their kids to be capable and independent.

Click here for a list of suggested chores by age.

How have you raised your child to be mentally tough?

© 2015 LaRaeQuy. All rights reserved.

You can follow me on Twitter, Facebook, AND LinkedIn

Get my FREE 45-Question Mental Toughness Assessment

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

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9 Powerful Ways To Build Confidence

Sunday, August 23rd, 2015

During a mock trial, I was selected to be a witness and cross-examined by a criminal lawyer. The purpose of the mock trial was to give FBI agents an idea of how defense attorneys would try to distort our words and use them against us, especially in front of a jury.

9 Powerful Ways To Build Confidence

We were in a real federal courtroom with real lawyers and judges. I had never testified in a court of law before—I felt inadequate, uncertain, and afraid that I would blow the case by saying the wrong thing.

Sure enough, I answered the defense attorney’s question and she immediately twisted the meaning of my words. I wanted to say, “That’s not what I meant,” but she had already moved on to another topic. I was flustered and my lack of confidence plummeted ever further.

When she asked another question, I kept my answer very short. I knew that I risked sounding defensive but I simply did not have enough confidence in myself to engage with her at any length. Realizing that my lack of conviction about her client’s activities would not present a real threat, I was quickly dismissed as a witness.

All I remember about that entire exchange is how crappy it felt to be both humiliated and impotent as a government witness in a mock trial.

Lack of confidence can rear its ugly head at any time. No one is immune because we are most vulnerable any time we’re out of our comfort zone or experience change in our life.

Confidence is closely linked to mental toughness because it takes a strong mind to conquer fear, anxiety, and worry.

Our brain is naturally wired to pay more attention to negative thinking because bad news has alerted us to danger for centuries. Our cave dweller ancestors went out each day to “get lunch” not “be lunch.”

But not everything that is new or different is a threat to our survival these days. The good news is that we can train ourselves to be more confident. Here are 9 ways:

1. Isolate Your Fear

In my case, I was afraid of making a fool of myself in front of my colleagues during the mock trial. I was afraid of what they might say and think if I screwed up.

Other common fears are: fear of how others perceive us, fear of being physically hurt, fear of commitment, or fear of failure.

It is important to dump the ego and get right down to the origin of your fear.

2. Take Action

If you hesitate and wring your hands, your fear will only grow.

I should have prepared better, worked harder to anticipate the way the defense attorney would parse my words, and trusted my own judgment.

3. Deposit Positive Memories in Your Memory Bank

We are bombarded with so much information that our brain stores information in a way that makes sense to it.

So, if you lack confidence, all your brain will remember about a specific event are those things that confirm you messed up.

If you hold a memory freighted with lack of confidence, go back and revisit it to make sure you are remembering correctly. Often, you will find out that others did not perceive or remember an event the same way.

At the end of each day, examine it. Remember all the positive and good things that you said, did, or accomplished that day. Reflect on all the positive victories and go to sleep with those memories on your mind.

4. Withdraw Only Positive Memories

It is easy for any negative thought, with enough encouragement and recall, to turn into a mental monster. The best way to defeat it is to ruthlessly nip it in the bud.

Find at least 3 things every day for which to be grateful. Write them down. Smile when you think of them.

Successful leaders move forward with confidence because they learn from their fears and failures, and then let them go.

5. Respect Yourself

If you don’t respect yourself, why should anyone else? I can’t think of any situation where a doormat is someone who is respected.

If you are not in a situation where you do not feel respect from others, change your situation; do not walk—run. The devil you don’t know is NOT worse than the devil you know.

Perhaps this means changing friends, jobs, or relationships—whatever it takes, place yourself in a position where you respect yourself and others reciprocate these positive feelings.

6. Sit In The Front Row

I always sat in the front row of every class I ever took. It takes confidence to sit in the front row and be noticed, but the more you do it, the easier it gets.

Start today and sit in the front row of every meeting, conference, or class you attend. Start getting comfortable with being noticed.

7. Make Eye Contact

Body language is important in building confidence. I immediately categorize people who do not look me in the eye as losers, whether they are or not. This means they have to work extra hard to convince me they are not.

Failure to make eye contact indicates either 1) they feel inferior to you and lack confidence, or 2) they are guilty of something.

This may be a great clue when interviewing suspects, but it’s not the message you want to be sending to your team members.

8. Walk Faster

I’ve had people come up to me out of a crowd and say they knew I was an FBI agent because of the way I walked—fast!

You know what, my time is important, and where I’m going is important—or I wouldn’t be going. Don’t be an average walker, or an average thinker. Moving with intention says, “I’m going to be successful.”

9. Speak Up

A sign of a true milquetoast is someone who doesn’t speak up. Instead, they feel their opinions don’t matter and that no wants to hear them.

Each time you clam up you are injecting more confidence-poison into your system. Your feeling of inferiority and inadequacy will just keep growing.

Bite the bullet and speak up! Practice what you are going to say ahead of time so it sounds good. Keep it short and pithy.

You will be amazed at how good it feels!

How do you build your confidence?

© 2015 LaRaeQuy. All rights reserved.

You can follow me on Twitter, Facebook, AND LinkedIn

Get my FREE 45-Question Mental Toughness Assessment

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

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