Posts Tagged ‘resilience’

4 Things Successful Women Need To Know About Mental Toughness

Monday, March 27th, 2017

Successful women take a different approach than their counterparts. The obstacles they face are tremendous, but what is commonplace among them is this: they are mentally tough.

This is not surprising to me because I understand that mental toughness is essential to overcome obstacles. As a new FBI agent, I thought learning how to shoot a gun and arrest terrorists would make me successful. I did not expect to learn that my biggest, and perhaps most important skill set, would be to develop the mental toughness needed to prevail in my circumstances.

Successful women also need to prevail in their circumstances because they need to work around unsurmountable obstacles, whether climbing the corporate ladder or achieving growth in their own businesses.

Many people believe mental toughness is a type of rigid thinking that plows through obstacles and roadblocks; while that approach might work in football, it doesn’t work in business and life.

Successful women have the mental toughness to manage their emotions, thoughts, and behavior in ways that will set them up for success.

Here are 4 things successful women need to know about mental toughness:

1. START WITH EMOTIONAL COMPETENCE

As a female FBI agent, I relied heavily upon emotional intelligence to help me recruit foreign spies to work for the U.S. government. Emotional intelligence is your ability to 1) identify and manage your own emotions; 2) pick up on the emotions of others and manage them; and 3) in so doing, build trust and grow influence.

We all feel the pressure to succeed and in today’s competitive market, it takes more than intelligence to keep ahead of the pack—it also takes competence. We all know people who are intelligent but not necessarily successful.

Successful women know what makes them tick. Self-knowledge is a powerful tool because when times are tough the last thing you need is to waste precious energy in trying to interpret your lack of decisiveness.

Time spent on understanding yourself is incredibly worthwhile, followed by your ability to relate to others and empathize with what they are feeling and experiencing.

Tip:

Girls are given permission to get in touch with their inner emotions more than boys, so take advantage of it. It is a soft skill that will allow you to make the hard decisions later in your career.

2. EMBRACE RESILIENCE

One of the first things I learned in the FBI Academy was that in order to be successful I would need to learn how to adapt if I wanted to overcome an unexpected blow from left-field. When you are chasing terrorists, you need to know how to land on your feet when confronted with the unknown.

Successful women do the same because resilience not only allows them to bounce back from setbacks, it also propels them to bounce around obstacles and roadblocks.

Confidence is an important element of resilience. If you have confidence in yourself, failure is taken in stride because you see it as a learning opportunity. If you refuse to learn from your failure, it doesn’t make you a loser—it makes you stupid. This means straightening your back and taking responsibility without whining, pointing fingers, or blaming others.

Confidence in yourself allows you to absorb the unexpected blow and remain non-defensive. If something doesn’t turn out as expected, you will remain flexible and look for new ways to solve the problem.

Tip:

Trace the origins of self-limiting beliefs about what you can, or cannot, accomplish in life. Pinpoint when and how they took root in your thinking. Develop the courage to push yourself into discomfort zones that will allow you blast through each self-limiting belief that is holding you back from success.

3. DRAW ON WILLPOWER

Willpower is that thing that pushes you to the next level despite obstacles and setbacks. It’s what keeps FBI agents on a case when there is no easy answer in sight. Sometimes, in order to find a kidnapping victim or arrest a terrorist, agents need to rely not only on their skills and training, but also on their sheer will and determination to cross the finish line.

Many people could improve their lives if only they had more of that mysterious thing called willpower, but most of us do not believe we have enough of it. In the American Psychological Association’s annual survey on stress, people cited lack of willpower as the No. 1 barrier to following through with changes that would improve their lives.

Tip:

Willpower requires grit, endurance, determination, and persistence. Keep this in mind: “Nothing in the world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent.”—Calvin Coolidge

4. DEVELOP A CHAMPION MINDSET

When I walked into my new FBI office, I was viewed as a curiosity more than anything else. In the 1980’s there weren’t that many female FBI agents; everyone was polite but distant. I pretended not to notice when the guys grabbed their jackets and headed out the door for lunch without inviting me. I also pretended not to notice that I wasn’t included in the informal squad debriefings about the most important cases.

We’ve all been in situations where it’s hard to keep a positive attitude. When this happens, we have intentionally to choose to be positive because we all have an innate bias toward negativity. We process bad news faster than good news because our brain is survival driven. Survival is a tough, uncompromising business. For centuries our brain programmed us to “Get lunch—not BE lunch.”

Tip:

We can chose to be influenced by our negativity bias, or conversely, pursue positive thinking. The choice is ours. We can choose to learn from our experiences and be better, or feel sorry for ourselves and be bitter.

© 2017 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.”

How to Stay Mentally Tough When You Face Difficult Stressors

Monday, February 13th, 2017

Guest post by Melanie Greenberg, Ph.D.

Stress is on the rise! In the latest (2015) version of the American Psychological Association’s Stress in America survey, 78% of respondents reported at least one symptom of stress (like feeling overwhelmed) and 34% reported increases in stress since the previous year. For many stress caused mental health problems like worry or depression, difficulty sleeping, or unhealthy behaviors. One-quarter (25 percent) of those employed report snapping at or being short with co-workers because of stress. If you can’t handle your stress, you are at risk of sabotaging your health and damaging your relationships at work or with customers, which will interfere with your longer-term success.

Calming down your stressed out feelings is only one aspect of managing stress and it may not be the best strategy for every situation.  To most effectively master stress, you need to be self-aware about your own reactions. You also need to be able to focus and think clearly about your values and goals and to sustain attention and motivation in the face of roadblocks and failures. Finally and most importantly, your mindset about stress makes all the difference. Learning how to reframe stress more positively – as a challenge with potential for growth and learning – can help you feel more confident and excited about the possibilities. Building the four qualities of mental toughness: emotional competency, resilience, willpower, and attitude can set you up for success when stress inevitably hits you!

Stress and Emotional Competency

Stress sends your brain into “fight or flight” mode, which sets into play a cascade of neurotransmitters and hormones like adrenaline and cortisol. This response is very rapid and sometimes occurs before the conscious parts of the brain even know what’s going on. “Fight or flight” can trigger impulsive, behaviors like screaming at co-workers because your body is gearing up to fight a threat. This is where emotional competency comes in. You can’t stop “fight or flight,” but you can learn to identify when it’s happening and take a mindful pause before reacting automatically. Being mindful means being able to notice and describe what’s happening in your mind and body – observing rather than absorbing the stress. Mindfulness enhances your emotional competence because, over months and years, it actually changes the parts of the brain involved in the stress response. It also helps you find a more compassionate view of the situation, which helps you feel less stressed. Practicing mindfulness meditation can help strengthen this response.

Stress and Resilience

Resilience is another part of mental toughness that can help you deal more effectively with stress.  One aspect of resilience is “grit,” a concept defined by researcher Angela Duckworth. Grit means being able to tolerate discomfort and setbacks because you are driven by your passion for long-term goals,  Research studies in college students, salespeople, and Westpoint cadets shows that grit is just as or more important than intelligence and mental ability in determining long-term success. To build grit, you have to know what values and goals are most important to you and why. Stress makes you reactive in the moment, but grit can help you step back and take a long-term view. Think about your passion for building your business or your organization’s mission and let that empower you to plough through the difficulties.  In one study (Brooks,2014) subjects who felt anxious about public speaking were told to relabel their anxious feelings as excitement while another group was told to try to calm down.  Those in the “excitement”group felt more excited and actually performed better at the speaking task. The anxiety and adrenaline surges involved in “fight or flight” can actually fuel performance if they are managed effectively.

Stress and Willpower

One of the challenges of the stressors we face these days is that they can be chronic and that the outcomes are often at least partially out of our control. Retaining customers, making sales, and getting promotions involve making consistent effort to work hard and build relationships over long periods of time. This is where willpower comes in. Staying organized and focused on your goals means being able to manage your body’s “fight to flight” response so it doesn’t “hijack” your brain’s attention.  Time spent worrying about things you can’t control can be counterproductive and get in the way of getting things done.  Willpower means that you learn to direct your brain’s focus of attention, rather than letting automatic stress reactivity distract you. Willpower does not occur in a vacuum – you can deliberately organize your environment to sustain willpower (e.g., by programming reminders into your phone, having a vision board,  or putting your running shoes where you’ll see them).

Stress and Attitude

Research shows that your attitude towards your stress can have as much influence as the actual events in determining how well things turn out.  In a study by Crum, Salovey, and Achor (2013) the researchers used a questionnaire to assess whether people saw stress as damaging or as having some benefits.  Those who saw stress as damaging were more likely to focus on avoiding feeling stressed, which led them to miss out on opportunities to learn and grow. In their study, students who saw stress as damaging were less likely to want to hear feedback after they gave a speech. In another study (Keller et al., 2012), people who saw stress as damaging their health and who also experienced a lot of stress had a 43% increase in premature death. In a third study, participants who were able to reframe their stress reactions as functional had an improved cardiovascular response to stress and were less likely to think about negative aspects of the situation (Jamieson, Nock & Mendes, 2012). The take home message is that you need to think of your body’s stressful arousal as gearing yourself up for a challenge you can master, rather than something that threatens to derail you.

Stress is an inevitable part of life but mentally tough people know how to befriend their stress and use it to their advantage.  To learn more about your brain’s stress response and how to develop resilience, read my new book The Stress-Proof Brain, released in February 2017 and available on Amazon.

http://amzn.to/2kNwRqC

Melanie Greenberg is a practicing psychologist in Marin County California and an expert on managing stress in life, work, and relationships using proven strategies from neuroscience, mindfulness, cognitive-behavioral approaches, and positive psychology. She is the author of The Mindful Self-Express blog for Psychology Today (8 million+ page views). Her new book. The Stress-Proof Brain was released last week by New Harbinger. It received a starred positive review from Library Journal and is an Amazon bestseller in Neuropsychology and Stress-Management.

© 2017  All rights reserved.

You can follow LaRae Quy on Twitter, Facebook, AND LinkedIn

Get LaRae’s FREE 45-Question Mental Toughness Assessment

Sign Up for LaRae’s How To Build Confidence on-line training course

LaRae Quy is the author of “Mental Toughness for Women Leaders: 52 Tips To Recognize and Utilize Your Greatest Strengths” and “Secrets of a Strong Mind.” 

The Complete Beginner’s Guide To Mental Toughness

Monday, December 19th, 2016

In the 1930’s FBI agents needed mental toughness to hunt bank robbers like John Dillinger and mobsters like Al Capone.

As the world became more complex, FBI agents started working complex and sophisticated cases like terrorism, organized crime, cyber, and counterintelligence to better address the threats to American lives and interests.

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 just a matter of knowledge, ability, and skill to succeed.

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.

People define mental toughness in different ways. Often, they think it is plowing through obstacles and roadblocks. While that mindset might work in football, it is not an effective way to succeed in business and life.

Here is a complete beginner’s guide to mental toughness:

SKILL #1: MENTAL TOUGHNESS REQUIRES EMOTIONAL COMPETENCY

Most of the FBI agents I worked alongside would never sputter the phrase emotional intelligence—much less attribute their success to it. While they considered themselves mentally tough, they preferred words like competence and alertness to describe the skills they carefully honed over the years.

I prefer the term emotional competency rather than emotional intelligence. I know of lots of people who are intelligent but not necessarily competent. Competency requires more than just information; it requires the practical wisdom to put that knowledge to work in real life situations.

Let’s break emotional competency down:

1. Self-Awareness—know what fuels you. I am not talking about fluffy ideals or stuff that gives you the warm fuzzies. Training at the FBI Academy at Quantico is constructed to filter out those who do not feel deeply attached to upholding our federal judicial system.

To be mentally tough, you must know what you feel down deep in your bones. If you are not pursuing something that really holds value and meaning for you, you will not have what it takes to keep going when the going gets tough.

If you are self-aware, you have clarity about your values, operate from a place of authenticity, and go after the things in life that are hard-wired to give you a purpose.

2. Communication—you know how to interpret the words and body language of others. This means you are a good listener and know how to build genuine trust with others. An essential element of mental toughness is the ability to accurately read the emotions of others and then adapt your behavior accordingly.

To be successful, match your personality to your boss, employee, or client. Assess whether they are introverts or extraverts, analytical or a visionary, purpose-driven or security-driven, goal-oriented or people-oriented. If you’ve been a good listener, you will be able to make these distinctions.

3. Empathy—it’s not feeling sorry for the other person; it is feeling their sorrow. If you can understand the emotions of others, it is easier to create empathy.

Sometimes we don’t really want to hear what other people have to say! We love our own opinions and thoughts and would prefer to shut out those of others.

Once we close down, however, we risk becoming judgmental and opinionated. More importantly, we miss out on what others have to share with us.

SKILL #2: RESILIENCE — MENTAL TOUGHNESS MEANS WE ADAPT TO OVERCOME

The ability to pick ourselves up when life knocks us down is called resilience. In today’s competitive culture, resilience has become a critical skill because it takes more than talent to succeed.

Resilient people do not blame others, whine, or complain about how unfair life is. Yes, life can be unfair but that is no excuse to give up.

As a new FBI agent, I learned to be bold, take risks, move into my discomfort zone, and put myself out there, even when scared to death of what I might face. The way in which we adapt to overcome our adversity determines how we will achieve success.

More than talent, more than education, more than experience, the ability to bounce back from setbacks determines who will succeed and who will fail. That is true in the classroom, in sports, and in the boardroom.

Here’s a breakdown of resilience:

1. Confidence—if you don’t believe in yourself, how can others believe in you? When you’re knocked down in life, you must have enough confidence in yourself to get back up, find a way to move forward, and adapt to overcome.

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. We must face our fears. If we have confidence in ourselves we are not afraid of how others perceive us, afraid of commitment, or afraid of failure.

Confidence is a critical building block for a successful career because it is the one mindset that will take you where you want to go.

2. Take Risksmost of us don’t know what we’re capable of until we’re truly challenged. And most of do not want to be truly challenged because we don’t want to fail.

But failure can be very beneficial for building confidence because it allows you a perfect opportunity to 1) learn why things went wrong, and 2) see how you can make adjustments next time.

When learning how to make an arrest or interview a terrorist I needed to take risks, fail, and learn from my mistakes as much as possible before I found myself in the actual situation.

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 taking risks, making mistakes, and failing will help you understand that there is always something you can do to be better.

3. 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.

It’s tempting to give up and not try for anything beyond the predictions and admonitions of others. While many of these people are well-intentioned, they feed negative, limiting, and inaccurate narratives about what it possible once you put your mind to it.

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

SKILL #3: WILLPOWER — MENTAL TOUGHNESS ENABLES PERSONAL MASTERY

The capacity to say “no” to the call of temptation and desire to quit is called willpower. It is the ability to find the energy, motivation, and enthusiasm to keep going even when you’re tired, anxious, and looking for a way out.

Many people could improve their lives if only they had more of that mysterious thing called willpower, but most of us do not believe we have enough of it. In the American Psychological Association’s annual survey on stress, people cited lack of willpower as the No. 1 barrier to following through with changes that would improve their lives.

Willpower is something that can be learned and can be strengthened with practice. It’s also a vital component of mental toughness.

Here’s a breakdown of willpower:

1. Grit—it keeps FBI agents on a case when there is no easy answer in sight. Sometimes, in order to find a kidnapping victim or arrest a terrorist, agents need to rely not only on their skills and training, but also on their sheer will and determination to cross the finish line.

Jack Dempsey once said, “A champion is someone who gets up when he can’t.” He was talking about perseverance, persistence, and determination—grit.

Researcher Angela Duckworth has 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.

2. Performance Focus—unless you know your limits, you will not be able to prepare either your mind or your body to move past them. To move toward peak performance, you need to stretch your current skill level—but not so hard that you want to give up.

Experts agree that this magic stretch is 4% greater than our skill. For most of us, that’s not much at all. However, it’s important to keep that continual tension between stretch and skill if we want to move toward our peak performance.

Managing time wisely and developing good habits are essential if we want to push our limits and reach peak performance.

Never be content with mediocrity.

3. Mastery—research on elite athletes has found no correlation between innate talent and trainability. Mental traits were just as important as fitness level in differentiating top athletes from amateurs.

Successful people spend their time thinking about what they want to do and how to make it happen. And it doesn’t always take talent; it needs flow to make it happen. Flow is described as a state of deep absorption in the activity during which performance seems to happen effortlessly and automatically.

According to psychologist Mihály Csíkszentmihályi, flow happens when a person’s skills are fully involved in overcoming a challenge so it acts as a catalyst for learning new skills and increasing challenges.

SKILL #4: ATTITUDE — CHAMPION MINDSETS ARE THE PRODUCT OF MENTAL TOUGHNESS

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

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

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

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

The study also implies that those who do not experience trauma or tough times earlier in life are less likely to have the drive necessary to achieve peak performance. The mid-life event reminded them of the original loss and motivated them at a deep-seated level.

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

Here’s a breakdown of attitude:

1. Positive Thinking—positive thinkers are not optimists. 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.

Visualizing your successful performance is based on solid science. By visualizing your performance repeatedly, your brain stores that information as a success.

The way in which we look at ourselves, and our circumstances, dictates our attitude when faced with adversity. 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. That said, we do not need to let the crap moments produced by adversity sabotage our efforts to keep moving toward success.

2. Growth Mindset—mentally strong leaders have a growth mindset that looks at success as hard work, learning, training, and having the grit to keep moving ahead even when faced with obstacles and roadblocks.

When facing uncertainty, you have two choices: You can dread it because you are afraid of failing—you believe that failure sends a negative message about your abilities, or…

You can anticipate it because you interpret failure as an opportunity for learning and improvement.

The first choice describes a fixed mindset that does best when there is a heavy hand running the show. That way of leading may have been efficient years ago, but today’s leaders are learning that the brain power of their workforce is a terrible thing to waste.

The second choice describes a growth mindset that looks at success as hard work, learning, training, and having the grit to keep moving ahead even when faced with obstacles and roadblocks.

3. Gratitude— is a positive emotion that encourages reciprocal altruism, well-being, and appreciation. The strong and unequivocal support of others produces gratitude, and it is powerful because gratitude increases an individual’s self-confidence, provides a safety net for those times when they fall, and enhances their belief that they can overcome obstacles.

As Sebastian Junger wrote in his book, “Tribe”—“We have a strong instinct to belong to small groups defined by clear purpose and understanding–tribes. This tribal connection has been largely lost in modern society, but regaining it may be the key to our psychological survival.”

Bonding strongly with others in a tribe provides greater security than if we strike out on our own.

Emotional competency, resilience, willpower, and attitude are the four essential components of mental toughness. 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.

© 2016 LaRaeQuy. All rights reserved.

You can follow me on Twitter, Facebook, AND LinkedIn

Get my FREE 45-Question Mental Toughness Assessment

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

6 Ways FBI Agents Increase Resilience

Monday, December 5th, 2016

In today’s competitive culture, the ability to increase resilience has become a critical skill because it takes more than talent to succeed.

Increase Resilience

The ability to pick ourselves up when life knocks us down is called resilience. As a new FBI agent, I learned to be bold, take risks, and put myself out there—even when scared to death of what I might face.

Adversity creates many forms of stress—whether it’s the stress that comes scaling a business, expanding into a new market, or juggling the demands of family.

The way in which we overcome adversity determines how we will achieve success—LaRae Quy

More than talent, more than education, more than experience—the ability to bounce back from setbacks determines who will succeed and who will fail. That is true in the classroom, in sports, and in the boardroom.

Here are 6 ways to increase your resilience:

1) INCREASE RESILIENCE: REINTERPRET NEGATIVE EVENTS

Setbacks are a natural part of life. Resilience requires mental toughness because it is the ability to recover quickly from adversity, no matter your situation.

Nip negative emotions and reactions in the bud, when they first appear. This is when they are the weakest—LaRae Quy

Cold cases are those in which the leads have grown cold, but nothing motivates an FBI case agent as much as looking into the face of an innocent victim who trusts and expects them to find the answer.

To reinterpret negative events, agents reappraise the facts of the case to find new clues. As a result, they become wiser and more resilient investigators. They are better able to see new possibilities in how the case can move forward.

Quit is not a word used in FBI investigations.

2) INCREASE RESILIENCE: ENHANCE POSITIVE EMOTIONS

successful-business-woman

increase resilience

Resilience is often described as bouncing back from whatever adversity you are facing; but sometimes, the only way out is through. So grit-up and keep moving forward.

Optimism and positive thinking are two different things: optimism is believing that your circumstances will change in the future—and for the better. Positive thinking is not believing that your circumstances will change; instead, it is believing that you will prevail in your circumstances.

FBI are resilient because they are positive thinkers who do not look at their world through rose-colored glasses. Their buoyant outlook overpowers stress and sticky situations because they are confident they will find a way to get through the difficulty that lies ahead.

3) INCREASE RESILIENCE: GET PHYSICALLY FIT

exercise

increase resilience

Exercise can lengthen your attention span, strengthen your decision making abilities, enhance memory, and empower you to handle stress.

Exercise can also enhance resilience because it activates genes for proteins that promote growth and repair of neurons damaged by stress.

When we get physically fit, it boosts endorphins as well as neurotransmitters responsible for elevating mood and suppresses the release of the stress hormone cortisol.

FBI agents are required to maintain physical fitness standards through their career and are given time during the week to work out. Once a year, all agents are given a field FIT test to gauge their body fat levels as well as pushups, sit-ups, and a two mile run.

4) INCREASE RESILIENCE: STICK WITH YOUR TRIBE

Teamwork - puppies

Friendships are important; they can lift you up, provide security, and prevent slip-ups in both business and life.

As Sebastian Junger wrote in his book, Tribe, “We have a strong instinct to belong to small groups defined by clear purpose and understanding–“tribes.” This tribal connection has been largely lost in modern society, but regaining it may be the key to our psychological survival.”

A strong psychological thread within the Bureau is the concept of the “FBI family.” FBI employees will close ranks around one of their own if the individual is targeted or harmed in some way.

The strong and unequivocal support of others is powerful because it increases an individual’s self-confidence, provides a safety net for those times when they fall, and enhances their belief that they can overcome obstacles.

Bonding strongly with others in a tribe provides greater security than if we strike out on our own.

5. INCREASE RESILIENCE: IMITATE OTHERS

Adversity - ducks

increase resilience

Look for people in your circles who have learned how to recover from hardship quickly so you can learn from them.

Research by psychologist Albert Bandura indicates that imitating the behavior of those whom we admire provides us with resilient role models. The “fake it until you make it” proverb will work but with a couple of important caveats:

1) First, you cannot look to others to make you competent, knowledgable, and confident—you must own those qualities. There is a big difference between imitating someone and trying to be an imposter.

2) Second, the individual whom you are imitating must possess the resilience qualities you admire and they must allow you to walk alongside so you can imbibe those qualities.

All new FBI agents are assigned a training agent, and this individual is often the one whom the new agent will imitate as they learn their job. I found informal mentors were also a great way to learn how to do something by simply watching and understanding how they developed their resilient qualities.

6) INCREASE RESILIENCE: STAND UP TO STRESS

stress

increase resilience

A resilient individual is not someone who avoids stress; rather, it is someone who learns how to tame it.

For years, psychologists distinguished between good stress, or “eustress” which is caused by positive experiences, and bad stress which is caused by the bad stuff. A new body of research is suggesting that stress is not bad for you unless you believe it is bad for you. Seeing stressors as challenges rather than threats invites physiological responses that can improve thinking and cause less physical wear and tear.                 

FBI agents often compare “war stories” with colleagues, and since we all shared these experiences, we treated the experiences as stimulating challenges in our job to be overcome. However, if I shared these same stories with friends or neighbors, they treated them as potential threats to my safety. The difference in response created the tribe mentality (as described above in #4) as well as reminding me that my outlook determined whether the experience was an exciting challenge, or a threat to be avoided.

How have you increased your resilience when confronted with roadblocks?

© 2016 LaRaeQuy. All rights reserved.

You can follow me on Twitter, Facebook, AND LinkedIn

Get my FREE 45-Question Mental Toughness Assessment

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

book

7 Things Successful Entrepreneurs Never Do

Monday, October 3rd, 2016

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

entrepreneur-getty

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

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

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

Here are 7 things successful entrepreneurs never do:

1. SUCCESSFUL ENTREPRENEURS NEVER GIVE UP

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

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

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

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

2. SUCCESSFUL ENTREPRENEURS NEVER STOP FLIRTING WITH FAILURE

grit-training

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

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

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

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

3. SUCCESSFUL ENTREPRENEURS NEVER BACK AWAY FROM CHALLENGES

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

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

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

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

4. SUCCESSFUL ENTREPRENEURS NEVER SPIN THEIR WHEELS IN A RUT

Struggles - tiger in water

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

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

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

5. SUCCESSFUL ENTREPRENEURS NEVER LEAVE THEIR “WHY” BEHIND

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

7. SUCCESSFUL ENTREPRENEURS NEVER CONSIDER THEMSELVES A VICTIM

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

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

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

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

© 2016 LaRaeQuy. All rights reserved.

You can follow me on Twitter

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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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13 FBI Principles Of How To Be Mentally Strong

Monday, July 18th, 2016

Rare is the person who writes about how to be mentally strong from personal experience. I get quite a few chuckles from people who write about mental toughness when all they have to cite are statistics that come from other people’s experiences. 

Attitude - serious

When I interviewed to become an FBI agent, one of the things that the interviewing panel liked about me was that I was born and raised on a cattle ranch in the middle of Wyoming. I did not grow up pampered and did not see myself as entitled to anything. Instead, I was young, scrappy, and hungry to prove myself worthy of a chance to work hard and climb the ladder of success on my own.

I did not have parents hovering over me to give me all the advantages that are making today’s kids soft, entitled, and ungrateful.

Search the phrase mental toughness and you’re likely to come up with a muck-up of assorted opinions on what it means.

I have worked hard to identify my core beliefs about how to be mentally strong. Here I share 13 key principles I learned from my time with the FBI:

Principle #1: Self Awareness

Unless you know what makes you tick, you’ll be forever ignorant about the most important person in your life—yourself.

FBI agents must know themselves well enough that they can predict their response when confronted with the unknown.

Principle #2: Awareness of Others

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

FBI agents are successful investigators because they are able to recognize the negative emotions of others and anticipate how they could spin out of control.

Principle #3: Communication

You can have the greatest ideas in the world, but if you can’t explain them to others, you will never be anything more than educated derelict.

FBI agents use interviews as their most reliable and successful investigative tool. Despite what you see in movies and TV, communicating with people and getting them to cooperate is far more effective than extortion or threats.

Principle #4: Resilience

Resilient people are mentally strong because they take responsibility for their actions and do not resort to whining or blaming others for their situation.

FBI agents are not able to choose their assignments so they learn to be resilient and bounce back from the sticky situations in which they often find themselves.

Principle #5: Authenticity

The only time I got into trouble in undercover work as as an FBI agent was when I tried to be someone I am not. I could slap on a different name or title, but if I wanted to be successful I needed to be authentic about who I was.

I learned this from years as an FBI investigator: It takes courage to tell the story of who you are with your whole heart. It’s hard to let go of who you think you ought to be in order to be who you really are. What makes your story unique also makes you powerful.

Principle #6: Confidence

The first thing I learned in the FBI Academy is that success would not make me confident; instead, confidence in myself and my abilities would make me successful. My four months at the academy were spent developing that confidence—before I was sent out with a gun and badge.

Drop me in the middle of any squad or any situation, anywhere, anytime—I would not be scared because I was confident I would succeed wherever I was.

Principle #7: No self-limiting beliefs

Self-limiting beliefs are lies we tell ourselves because of something that has happened in our past.

FBI agents learn early not to let the crap from their past bog them down; they know it’s not their past that defines who they are or where they are going in life. What truly defines them is their expectation of the future.

The only difference between a rut and a coffin are the dimensions.

Principle #8: Willpower

The capacity to say “no” to the call of temptation and a desire to quit is called willpower.

FBI agents need willpower to find the energy, motivation, and enthusiasm to keep going even when they are tired, anxious, and confronted with an investigation with no easy answers or solutions.

Principle #9: Grit

Grit is your ability to persevere over the long-run and thrive despite all kinds of unplanned events.

As an FBI agent, I knew that the way in which I dealt with challenges would determine how I would achieve success. Grit and perseverance, not talent or education, was the key to unlocking my greatest potential.

Grit Up—Be.Fiercely.Awesome!

Principle #10: Positive Thinking

Our greatest mental toughness tool is our ability to choose one thought over another.

FBI agents are positive thinkers who believe they will prevail in their circumstances rather than believing their circumstances will change.

Principle #11: Growth Mindset

A growth mindset believes that intelligence and personality can be developed; they are not immutably engrained traits.

The most successful FBI agents possessed a growth mindset that thrived on challenge and saw failure as a springboard for growth and stretching their existing abilities.

Principle #12: Gratitude

Gratitude is one of the most important emotions we can cultivate because if we aren’t thankful for what we have, we will never be thankful for what we’re going to get.

FBI agents, Navy SEALS, and special forces cultivate the emotion of gratitude to help get them through tough times.

Principle #13: Mastery

The secret to success is simple: work hard. People who achieve success work hard to become top performers.

FBI agents master skill sets by developing a flexible and agile mindset that can quickly change course if circumstances change. They know better than anyone that no one ever drowned in a pool of sweat.

© 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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Why Successful People Never Blame Others

Sunday, February 28th, 2016

As a young adult looking for the perfect job, I wanted to blame others for why my life wasn’t spectacularly successful.

Success - finger pointing

It was always someone else’s fault—not recognizing my potential, not giving me a chance, not giving me a second (or third) chance.

I became an FBI agent at the age of 25 but I still balked at taking full responsibility for my actions, whined when things didn’t go my way, and pointed fingers at someone else when things went south.

This attitude was challenged the first day of my training at the FBI Academy. I was there to learn lessons. And once I learned a lesson I moved on the next one. The pieces shifted into place when I realized that if I failed to learn a lesson, I needed to keep finding opportunities to learn it again and again until it stuck.

For entrepreneurs and business owners, it means having the mental toughness you need to get through the failures and hard times, without giving up or blaming others for your situation.

Here are 5 reasons why successful people never blame others:

REASON #1: When You Don’t Blame Others You Become Resilient

The FBI Academy and my first couple of years as a field agent quickly knocked these negative traits out of my system because to be successful, agents need to be resilient.

To be resilient is to recognize that if you are dissatisfied with certain aspects of your life, then it is your responsibility to take the initiative and do something about it.

TIP: Take responsibility for your actions—stop whining, blaming others, and pointing fingers if you don’t get what you want.

REASON #2: When You Don’t Blame Others You Become More Confident

Lack of confidence in ourselves and our abilities is a major reason we blame others when something goes wrong.

Instead of being open or curious about learning more, a part of us shuts down. Sometimes we blame ourselves as much as blaming others. Focusing on why we failed at something does nothing more than chip away at our confidence; instead, dig down and uncover what we can learn from the experience.

TIP: Consciously and deliberately move into an exploratory frame of mind that is more curious about learning than shameful of making mistakes.

REASON #3: When You Don’t Blame Others You Stop Making Excuses For Yourself

Blaming others for our own actions is nothing more than making excuses for ourselves. In the process, we will have learned nothing from what has transpired and so the lesson inevitably will have to be learned again…and on it goes.

Stop blaming others for what you have or don’t have, or for what you feel or don’t feel.  When you blame others for what you’re going through, you deny responsibility and perpetuate the problem. Blaming is just another sorry excuse, and making excuses is the first step towards failure; you and only you are responsible for your life choices and decisions.

When we blame others, we give away our power.

Often, our thinking is caught up in blame and dealing with the pain of our thoughts and what it all means rather than simply and quickly doing what we need to do.

TIP: Start to question your thoughts and probe deeper into why you default to “blaming others.” Ask yourself, “Is this really true?” Often you will find the basis of those thought are just plain silly! The key is to question your thinking because once you do, you often discover that what you think you believe really isn’t true at all.

REASON #4: When You Don’t Blame Others You Allow Space For Personal Growth

Too many of us spend so much of our time on going through the motions of living—getting married, buying homes, climbing the corporate ladder—that we don’t focus on personal growth. We do not allocate enough time just for ourselves.

Instead of concentrating on what others did wrong, focus on what you want to go right in your life. And then do it.

Grit up. Be. Fiercely. Awesome!

If you don’t, you will wake up some day and realize that you are no closer to being the person you want to be than you were years ago. You will find that you’ve aged, but never grown into your potential.

TIP: Realize that the next step in living a life full of value and meaning for you will not reveal itself in the future—it is to be taken now

REASON #5: When You Blame Others You Become The Victor, Not the Victim

When you feel the victim, you gain power over the situation by blaming other people for your situation.

Loss of control over one’s life is always associated with feelings of helplessness. There is a very clear link between mental toughness and the way we approach our helplessness.

If we believe a situation is permanent, we’ll remain helpless—we think about our lack of talent, ability, etc—and believe nothing we can do will change it.

But if we believe the cause is temporary, we can act to change it. We feel more in control if we believe we have a possible solution at hand.

TIP: With each problem you face, you can learn a new skill or new fact.

Why do you think you blame others?

© 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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3 Ways To Be More Resilient

Sunday, January 10th, 2016

My grandmother was a tough old bird. She lived in a time and place where she needed to be resilient if she expected to survive tough winters on a Wyoming cattle ranch. If I moped around while doing chores she would yell, “Get the lead out of your ass and start moving!” 

Resilience - tree

She learned at an early age to value her skills and talents because she knew she’d need them again—most likely in the near future. Taking personal responsibility for her contributions was not boasting; it was learning how to survive and be resilient.

Resilience is a component of mental toughness. It is the ability to take personal control and responsibility for the direction our lives are taking. Resilient leaders do not seek out happiness by relying on others, nor do they blame others for their situation.

Resilient people are always asking this question: what can I do to change my situation?

For entrepreneurs and business owners, it means believing that you can control the important events in your life. Often this will mean you will need to be flexible in the way that you approach your goals and agile in the way in which you overcome obstacles.

Here are 3 ways you can learn to be more resilient:

1. Become More Resilient By Focusing Your Energy On What You Can Control

I watched as my Grandmother’s cranky horse stretched out his neck, bared his teeth, and bit down on her left breast so hard that she had to have a mastectomy. But she was resilient—she knew while she couldn’t control everything that came her way, she could absolutely control her response to it.

And that changes everything.

A major component of positive thinking is the belief that the future will be a more pleasant place because, to a large extent, we can control important events in our life.

In his book, The Status Syndrome: How Social Standing Affects Our Health and Longevity, Michael Marmot explains how clerks and secretaries are more likely to die of heart attacks than senior executives.

Even taking into consideration other variables such as smoking and poor nutrition, his research team concluded that those in lower category jobs had less control over their life, and the more likely they were suffer from heart disease.

2. Become More Resilient By Not Looking To Others To Provide Your Happiness

When I was about 6 years old, I was given a tall black quarter horse to ride. The only way I could get on him was to lead him to a rock high enough that I could step into the stirrup. Horses are not stupid—it didn’t take him long to catch on and he started shying away from the rock.

I would cry in frustration as everyone left me alone to deal with my problem. Although my Grandmother never graduated from high school, she asked me an incredibly wise question: Why did I keep doing the same thing over and over even when it didn’t work?

She was right. I had a self-limiting belief about what I could, and could not, do. From then on, I grabbed the leather ties hanging from the pommel of the stock saddle, pulled myself into the stirrup, and then into the saddle seat. 

To be resilient is to recognize that if you are continually dissatisfied with aspects of your life, then it is your responsibility to take the initiative and rewrite the self-limiting beliefs you have about yourself that keep you chained to repetitive thinking and behaving.

Try this:

  • List 3 things in your life you would like to change.
  • List steps taken in the past to make these changes.
  • Why do you think you were unsuccessful?
  • What is a self-limiting belief you have about yourself?
  • What steps will be required for you to change this self-limiting belief?
  • What obstacles might interfere with these steps?
  • What is your backup plan?

3. Become More Resilient By Finding Your Zones Of Competence

As a child, I needed to learn acceptance, not narcissism, was the path toward a resilient mindset that accepted ownership for my achievements.

Once I was able to claim ownership for my zones of competence, it didn’t hurt so bad to let go of those areas in which I was not as competent. My confidence was not shaken when I was asked to drop choir class because I sang so off-key it was disturbing the other kids!

If we believe that chance or luck is responsible for our achievements, then we march through life believing we have no control over our destiny. We develop a victim mentality.

Once we realize that we are responsible for our success, we also experience more satisfaction when we do attain our goals.

Resilient people believe that problems can be solved, the solutions must be found within themselves, and success is not about self-glorification.

How have you learned to be more resilient?

© 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 Develop Thicker Skin To Become More Resilient

Sunday, October 11th, 2015

Being nice to colleagues is one of the first casualties when work gets stressful. So how can we develop a thicker skin and become more resilient when we’re in a fast-paced environment that produces criticism that stings us?

Thick Skin

Most of us can shrug off a certain amount of criticism by telling ourselves not to take the comment personally. But when you are face to face with someone who accuses you of lying, betraying their trust, or not caring about other team members, it’s hard not to take it a little personally.

Many of us work in fast-paced, high-stress environments and we know how important it is to have a strong mind. So what happens when we realize that we actually do care what people think of us?

Being sensitive to criticism can hold you back. Here are 5 ways you can develop a thicker skin to become more resilient:

1. Welcome Constructive Criticism

Every successful leader and entrepreneur has not only been criticized in their career, but they have also failed spectacularly at something along the way.

If criticism is coming your way because of something you did wrong, be thankful that someone is willing to take the time to let you know how badly you did mess up. So what if the tone is loud and the words are sharp!

Grit up!

If there is a nugget of information that can help you become more successful, grab onto it and let it teach you what you need to know. When feeling down in the dumps after her employees blamed her for glitch on a marketing program, a friend of mine was told by her boss, “It’s time to put your big-girl panties on now.”

Maybe his words were not politically-correct or even polite, but my friend got the message—grow up and face the fact that there will be a few bruises and scars in moving up the ladder of success. The key is to sift through the dross to find the nugget of wisdom—and learn from it.

TIP: Become more resilient by writing down the basics of a critical comment so you can go over it later, when emotions have been tamped down, and you can take a closer look at the facts. Address the errors you made and how you will avoid doing the same in the future.

2. Throw Out The Junk Comments

Just as it’s important to squeeze every ounce of understanding out of a criticism laden with constructive observation, be smart enough to jettison the junk comments that reflect more on the person speaking than your performance.

Stress makes us more emotional and blurting out hurtful or negative comments is common. The reason is that stress decreases our “working memory.” which is the amount of information we hold in our mind.

When we are under stress, our working memory doesn’t allow us to access big chunks of information about the individual whom we are criticizing. All our brain can access is why we’re pissed off at this person. As a result, we say things we really do not mean.

This is when we shouldn’t take a negative criticism personally.

TIP: As you think about a conversation or communication, separate fact from interpretation.

3. Nurture Important Relationships

When you are being assaulted by negative comments and criticism at work, it’s critical that you stay close to people who will support and encourage you. If you do not have strong connections with a core group of friends or family, take the time to do so.

Relationships with others reminds us that we are not alone and that all of us struggle. Talk out your fears and concerns. Once you do, you may find that people who exude the outward appearance of confidence and success have the same fears and concerns that you do.

This is where self-care becomes very important if you want to become more resilient.

When you’re stressed, it’s easy to become worn down emotionally and physically. Even minor stressors feel like a major event.

TIP: Seek out supportive friends or family members so you can give and receive the assistance that we all need at times. This includes developing a proper relationship with yourself—make healthy lifestyle choices that remind you that you’re a priority.

4. Create A Success List

Most critical remarks contain a combination of constructive and junk comments. It’s not always easy to quickly sort out the good, the bad, and the ugly.

Make a list of some of your accomplishments in your current situation. If you don’t feel good about your contributions, you will take the criticism harder.

Whenever you are feeling down or unjustly criticized, take a long and loving look at that list. Remember that you’ve made significant impact on your work environment and that all the negativity flowing around you does not accurately represent your accomplishments. The right attitude will help you become more resilient.

TIP: Writing stuff down helps you to visualize, so keep paper and pen handy. Typing your list out on a computer does not satisfy the brain’s need for visualization. Remember projects that have gone well, people you have helped out, or prospects who were happy with your services.

5. Examine The Deeper Wound

The ability to look at a criticism objectively has a lot to do with self-awareness. Sometimes the reason a person’s comment hurts so deeply is because it pricks at a deeper wound from our past.

Self-awareness will allow you to identify the original injury so you can gain proper perspective on your reaction to your current situation. For example, if image is extremely important to you, any implied criticism that calls into question the image you are portraying will wound more deeply than other ones.

We often do not realize the tender places from our past, and a rejection found in a critical remark can unconsciously take you all the way back to why you didn’t get the red ball in the playground.

TIP: Spend time getting to know who you are, what makes you tick, and what pushes your buttons. Not all childhood memories will be pleasant, but toughen up. Pretending painful past experiences aren’t influencing your behavior in negative ways today is just plain stupid.

No one gets a pass on life. Scars from life’s battles are the places where we are the toughest and our skin is the thickest. Do not let those experiences slip away before you’ve had the chance to learn all they have to teach you.

How have you developed a thicker skin and become more resilient?

© 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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