Posts Tagged ‘resilience’

4 Traits Essential For Success

Monday, November 27th, 2017

When I was 12 years old, I learned a big lesson about some of the traits essential for success.

We got word around noon that my Dad’s father was in the hospital and not expected to live. Earlier that week, 4 feet of thick, wet snow fell on our remote Wyoming cattle ranch, burrowed in the shadow of Laramie Peak. The roads were impassable. The little town where Grandpa was hospitalized was 30 miles away as the crow flies.

They had a testy relationship, but Dad felt it very important to see Grandpa before he died. I suspect he hoped to make amends. Dad saddled his favorite horse, a tall bay with a black mane and tail named Fireball, and started out at 1:00pm.

The Laramie Range of mountains are rough, so my Dad followed a riverbed until he got to an old abandoned road. We had trailed our cattle on that road many times and Fireball sensed he was in familiar territory. At one point, Dad got off to lighten Fireball’s load, but the snow was crotch deep, forcing Dad to get back on his horse.

Darkness hit but they plowed onward. As they moved out of the mountains, bare patches of dead grass showed up through the snow. Dad tried to get Fireball to move beyond a walk but the horse was so tired, the most he could muster was a slow trot.

Wind had created a snowbank around a wire gate. Dad wrapped one end of his rope around the gate post and tied the other end to his saddle horn. As he led Fireball away, the gate post pulled from the ground. Both man and horse rode through the snowbank to the other side.

They arrived at my Grandpa’s ranch house in complete darkness. It had taken them 7 hours non-stop to make the trip. Fireball was so weary his legs shook. Dad found keys to a truck and headed to the hospital. He got there before his father died.

There are many traits essential for success no matter your circumstances or situation. Here are 4 that I learned from this experience:

1. Courage Will Move You Out Of Your Rut

It took courage for Dad to put his life in jeopardy by doing the hard thing. The easy thing would have been to stay at home. He had faith in Fireball to save his life.

Likewise, it takes courage to place your career in jeopardy when moving ahead holds no promises. The future looks bleak and the road will be hard. If things don’t work out, it might mean your career will stall and die. But if you don’t try it, your spirit might be the thing to die.

Courage is one of the traits essential for success because it’s fundamental to propelling change and motivating people—even if the idea sounds crazy. Benjamin Franklin must have looked crazy as he chased after thunderstorms and lightning.

If you want to inspire others to achieve what may look impossible, you need the courage to move into the unknown. Innovative companies such as Uber and Airbnb didn’t wait until tried-and-tested models were developed before they moved ahead. Both companies had the courage to change the way their two industries serviced their clients. 

TIP: Courage is not always easy but its essential if you plan to be successful in both business and life. If it scares you, do it. Every time you do something scary or uncomfortable, you learn so much about yourself and your character. That awareness is something you will take with you wherever you go. Self-awareness is a major part of mental toughness.

2. Take A Risk If You Don’t Know The Answer

About 5 miles after he started, Dad rode by the ranch house of Uncle Stanley. Uncle Stanley took one look at Fireball and said, “That horse will never make it. You’ll die out there.” Dad knew he was taking a risk, but it was a calculated one. He had picked his best horse, and he had lived in the mountains his entire life so he understood the terrain.

The willingness to take a risk is one of the traits essential for success because it requires that you embrace the belief you have what it takes. Belief in yourself, and your team, will take you where you want to go. The smallest amount of doubt can ruin your chances of success.

Assessing risk also relies on knowledge and experience. It makes no sense to take a risk unless you have underlying knowledge that will help in deciding. Whether you add a new item to a menu, test a new product, or add a service, you need to have a deep understanding of the move that is being considered.

TIP: Be smart about your risks, be logical, be rational and calculating, and always improve your skills. But most importantly, always believe in yourself. As Mark Twain said, “Twenty years from now, you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did.”

3. Resilience Is Needed When Life Gets Hard

Dad understood the risk he was taking. He could freeze to death if Fireball broke a leg in the deep snow and couldn’t continue. Dad assessed the risk and decided. He remained positive and focused on what was going right rather than on the negative.

Resilience is one of the traits essential for success because an adaptable and flexible mindset can find ways around obstacles. Resilient people cultivate a strong sense of opportunity during periods of turbulence. They cope well because they see challenges as part of life’s journey; they embrace them rather than fight them.

Resilience is the ability to bounce back from whatever adversity you are facing. Often the only way out—is through the adversity. We must push through a bad situation that faces us. We need to be positive thinkers. The best time to nip negative emotions is when they first appear because this is when they are the weakest.

TIP: A resilient individual is not someone who avoids stress; rather, it is someone who learns how to tame it. Psychologists distinguish between good stress, or “eustress” and bad stress. Positive experiences cause eustress while negative experiences cause bad stress. A new body of research suggests 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.       

4. Confidence Is Needed To Manage Ambiguity

Fireball and Dad stepped into the unknown as they made tracks through the thick, heavy snow. Dad had no way of knowing what to expect but he had confidence in Fireball. He also had confidence in himself because this was not his first rodeo. Although the stakes had never been this high, he well knew of the danger that lay ahead. He was also confident he would make it.

The ability to manage ambiguity is one of the traits essential for success because change is the only certainty in this world today. Ambiguity creates complexity and confusion around the decision-making process.

To deal with ambiguity you must be comfortable with uncertainty. You cannot control everything so make peace with it and prepare as best you can. A great deal of learning how to deal with ambiguity is having confidence in yourself so you can land on your feet when confronted with the unknown.

TIP: Confident people are not afraid to take a stand, even when surrounded by uncertainty. Prepare as best you can. Lean into your own experiences and knowledge, reach out to others with more experience and different ideas, and be a good listener.

P.S. While Fireball lived another 10 years, he was never the same because tendons in his legs had torn. He walked with difficulty so Dad kept him on good feed and never rode him again.

© 2017 LaRae Quy. All rights reserved.

You can follow me on Twitter, Facebook, AND LinkedIn

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

5 Mindsets Of Resilient People

Monday, October 9th, 2017

When I interviewed with the FBI, I was asked why I wanted to become an agent. I answered, “I want to make the best, better.” Apparently my interview panel liked that answer because 6 months later I was in the FBI Academy.

My answer was freighted with the stuff that makes resilient people—grit. It’s not knowing how, but doing it anyway. Push through the obstacles and crap that shows up in life, and always seek ways to improve and be better at what we do.

Organizations need resilient people. We all know that things do not always go according to plan, and employees can lose both heart and focus. When it happens, leaders need to be resilient people who are flexible and resourceful so they can create productive work environments for people. Uncertainty and ambiguity are the enemy, but if we want to survive in today’s environment, we’d better get used to them.

The right mindset produces the coping skills we need to resilient. Here are 5 mindsets of resilient people:

1. ACCEPT THAT IT’S NOT ALL ABOUT YOU

In the FBI Academy I was surrounded by colleagues who were truly extraordinary people. I did not feel as though I measured up against them; after all, most were seasoned armed forces personnel, successful trial lawyers, or stalwart law enforcement officers. I was a buyer at a fancy department store. When I stood and introduced myself at the FBI Academy, everyone turned to get a look at the fluffball who had accidentally found herself at the Marine Corp base In Quantico, VA.

I suffered the instant humiliation of being average, and being average in an organization like the FBI is akin to sanctioning a standard of failure. I could either wallow in self-pity or I could accept  that it was not all about me.

Instead of worrying that I was not exceptional, I honestly evaluated my skill set and understood where I was mediocre and average; but this is what made me resilient—I knew I could improve.

Resilient people focus on improvement, because it shifts the focus from feeling sorry for their situation to the humble acceptance that we all need to find where and how we can improve—whether it’s in our relationships, our ability to embrace change, or in our corporate governance.

The pressure to be the next best thing is automatically lifted from your back, along with the stress and anxiety that comes with being “exceptional” in everyone’s eyes, especially your own.

TIP: Success will not make you a better person. All the self-esteem coaching and books in the world only gives you permission to focus on what you don’t have. You don’t need more mantras or affirmations; you need a better way to look at your world. No matter where you are in life, simply focus on how you can improve as a person.

2. PRIORITIZE WHAT IS IMPORTANT

 

Events in themselves are not necessarily traumatic. It’s the way we choose to interpret those events that produces the negative emotions. Events can be neither good nor bad; it is our interpretation of them that makes them good or bad.

If someone puts a gun to your head and orders you to run 6 miles, that is a negative event. If you run 6 miles to graduate from the FBI Academy with a throng of people cheering you on, it is a positive event. Its the same 6 miles; what is different is your attitude.

Resilient people choose the right mindset when they focus and prioritize their thoughts based on what matters to them. This produces a mindset that teaches them how to fight for what they want in life without becoming a casualty themselves.

TIP: Resilient mindsets are those that choose to be the victory rather than win the victory. Real success comes from who they become, not what they achieve.

3. REFUSE TO PLAY THE BLAME GAME

The only 4 letter word I never heard in my 24 years in the FBI was “can’t.” Do not bitch, whine, complain, or blame others. As agents, we took responsibility for the cases we investigated and worked hard to help the victims. We looked struggles in the eye because they produced the kind of problems that were worth fighting for.

To make an excuse for yourself or shirk responsibility is immature. You might as well lower your standards here and now because you’re not resilient enough to face life’s struggles and endure the pain and ambiguity that is needed to move forward.

When you choose to live according to your values, you automatically generate a better set of problems. When you have better problems, you have a better life.

TIP: Ask yourself, “What am I willing to struggle for?” Remember: Life is hard. Pain is inevitable. Growth is optional.

4. BRING IT ON

One of the things the FBI liked about me is that I grew up on a remote cattle ranch in Wyoming. I was tough scrappy, and full of grit. They liked that I wasn’t coddled, pampered, or entitled. When I was 5 years old, I got bucked off my pony, Socks. I learned early that getting knocked down was part of life; I also learned that getting back up was part of it as well.

Snowflake is a term used to characterize the young adults who are more prone to taking offence and less resilient than previous generations, or are too emotionally vulnerable to cope with views that challenge their own.

They are entitled people and they are not resilient because they need to feel good about themselves all the time. Entitled people are needy—they put themselves before others. Besides being a pain in the ass to be around, they crumble when things get tough. You can’t count on them when the chips are down.

The easy way does not create resilient people. You may want to start your own business or work your way into the C-suite, but you won’t end up a successful entrepreneur or executive unless you find a way to work through the uncertainty and ambiguity that comes with change and risk.

If you want the benefits, you also have to want the struggle. A beach body requires the sweat of intense workouts. To lose weight, you have to want the hunger pangs that go with it. If you want success, you have to want the hard work, persistence, determination, and endurance that comes with success.

TIP: If you keep finding yourself wanting something but never getting closer, then maybe what you are looking at is a fantasy. Or even worse, a false promise.

5. STOP TRYING TO BE HAPPY

Happiness is transitory. It can claim our full attention for a few moments, and then it disappears as it passes through our life. Happiness doesn’t have the same heft as an emotion like sadness, joy, or contentment. It’s a bit of fluff; nice, but of no real consequence.

Happiness depends upon external circumstances, those in which you are never in total control. Happiness is anchored in the future and depends upon outside situations, people, or events to align with your expectations.

Joy and contentment, however, depend upon our internal circumstances. They can’t be bought and don’t rest on someone else’s behavior. You can get fired, dumped, pulled through the coals of a fire and still feel joy deep in your heart.

It is in our choices that we become mentally tough. We learn to prioritize our emotions, thoughts, and behavior so we can pick what is important to us based on our values and beliefs.

TIP: All the “be happy” shit is a lie. Happiness is an emotion; joy is an attitude. Demand more from life than a few fleeting moments of an emotion that draws its power from others. Instead, dare yourself to dig down deep and find joy.

© 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.”

8 Ways To Become More Resilient

Monday, September 18th, 2017

FBI agents need to be resilient so they can solve cases that have no easy or obvious solution. They go to where they are needed, not to where they feel comfortable.

As an FBI agent, I was assigned investigations where I had no idea how to solve them. But this was my thinking: Drop me in the middle of any squad or any situation; anywhere, anytime. I will not be scared, nor will I give up. If I’m knocked down, I’ll drag myself back up and keep at it until I solve the case.

This is the mindset of a survivor—a person who is resilient enough to bounce back from the trauma of everyday life.

As business leaders and entrepreneurs, you will be required to be resilient when confronted with obstacles and roadblocks. You have a willingness to swim upstream and not give up simply because the tide is against you.

Resilient people are successful because they possess certain qualities. Here are 8 ways you can become more resilient:

1. Take Responsibility For Your Actions

I quickly learned that the FBI would not tolerate whining and complaining when my circumstances were less than ideal. Instead, they drilled into me the need to take personal control and responsibility for the direction life was taking me.

Resilient leaders do not seek out happiness by relying on others, nor do they blame others for their situation.

How To Make It Work For You: Don’t whine, blame others, or point fingers if you don’t get what you want.

2. Focus On Possibilities

Resilient people are always asking this question: what can I do to change my situation? When they focus on the possibilities that lie before them, they make their own luck. They do what they can with the hand they’ve been dealt, and in doing so, they take control of their 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.

His team took into consideration on variables such as smoking and poor nutrition. His research team concluded that those in lower category jobs had less control over their life. That is why they were more likely to suffer from heart disease.

How To Make It Work For You: Believe 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.

3. Become A Positive Thinker

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.

As FBI agents, we planned arrests by giving priority to what could go wrong. We were not optimists who hoped everything would go according to plan. We weighed the possibility of a negative outcome with equal heft as the possibility of a positive outcome.

How To Make It Work For You: Hunt the good stuff and find 5 positive thoughts to counter each negative thought. 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.

4. Prioritize What Is Important

Squad briefings were a great way to help agents get over a hurdle in one of their investigations. When an agent briefed the squad on a case, white boards were created with priorities listed—from most important to least.

Prioritizing information is a useful resilience tool because forces your brain to interact with information rather than simply react to it. Lists are an excellent way of forcing different parts of the brain to interact with each other. This also prevents different parts of our brain from fighting against each another for attention and energy.

How To Make It Work For You: Writing down your priority list 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.

5. Manage Emotions

You are a wimp if you run away from a negative emotion or deny unpleasant thoughts and feelings. You don’t think you’re mentally tough enough to handle the hard stuff.

Too often, people pretend negative emotions and feelings don’t exist. Ignoring negative feelings is not healthy; nor is wallowing in them. Resilient people hurt when life hands them a rough time, but they never forget that they still have control over their attitude.

How To Make It Work For You: Identify your emotions, and then call them, or label them, for what they really are. If the emotion is pride, envy, or anger—own up to it. Although most people expect labeling emotions to increase them, when you label your fear or anxiety you actually lessen your discomfort. It’s very important, however, to keep the label to one or two words because if you open up dialogue about it, you will only increase the emotion.

6. Reframe 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.

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. Quit is not a word used in FBI investigations.

How To Make It Work For You: Reframing is a fancy word for changing the way you look at adversity or a negative situation. Reframing can provide you with different ways of interpreting your less than perfect situation so you can expand the possibilities and overcome the adversity.

7. Find Your Tribe

Friendship 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 developed during our training as special agents 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.

How To Make It Work For You: Find your tribe. Whether it’s your biological family or your adoptive one from work, school, or church—find people who give you the sense of security and connectivity.

© 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.” 

3 Beliefs Of People Who Refuse To Quit

Monday, July 31st, 2017

I have always admired people who refuse to quit, but when my cover was blown on my first undercover assignment, I had no choice but to throw in the towel.

I worked on building the backbone to find other ways to get back in the game. I was resilient and kept at it until another opportunity presented itself.

Resilience is not just about having backbone. It’s building up everything that supports our backbone, starting with the way we think about the negative events that happen in our life. Let’s face it, we need resilience when the shit hits the fan and things go bad. If everything was a bed or roses, we would never need to dig down to find greater strength and deeper meaning.

Mental toughness is developing a tough mindset that refuses to quit when life throws a curveball. People who refuse to quit are game-ready when opportunities show up as obstacles.

Martin Seligman is a psychologist who has spent decades studying how people deal with setbacks. In his book, Learned Optimism, he states that we all have a way of explaining the bad events that happen to us. This habit of thought starts in childhood and stems from our view of our place in the world.

The crux of mental toughness is being willing to take responsibility for our actions.  As Seligman states, people cannot learn how to be resilient unless they assume responsibility for the way they think about themselves. Maintaining positive beliefs about our abilities and our situation can enable us to become people who refuse to quit or give up on ourselves.

Here are 3 beliefs of people who refuse to quit:

1. Nothing Is Permanent

When I learned the undercover project would be shut down, I felt like I’d been punched in the stomach. Failure hurts and it’s stupid to pretend it doesn’t. Failure makes everyone helpless, at least for that moment.

The difference between remaining helpless and bouncing back is by accepting that negative events are simply a part of the human condition. Aging, dying, and pain are inevitable. Joy, laughter, and happiness are also inevitable. And all will dissipate despite our best efforts to make them last forever.

Seligman states that people who refuse to quit do not feel that negative events will always happen to them. They also do not feel as though an opportunity will never come their way again.

The two key words to remember are always and never. Banish those words from your vocabulary and replace them with sometimes and lately. The negative event or situation becomes transient rather than permanent.

Affective forecasting is predicting how you will feel in the future. As it turns out, we’re terrible at it. We’re not good judges of what will make us happy. For example, in predicting how events like winning the lottery might affect their happiness, people are likely to overestimate how wonderful their life will become.

The same is true of interpreting how negative events will affect their life. People overestimate how their life will be ruined or negatively impacted by the event.

How To Make It Work For You: When you are down in the dumps and beating up on yourself, think about how much worse things could be for you. This forces you to identify the stuff in your life for which you are grateful.

2. Get Specific About Pervasiveness

It was tempting for me to throw up my hands and declare that I would never be an effective undercover agent. This would be a universal, or blanket explanation, that implied I lacked the ability to ever be good at it.

Instead, I got specific about why my cover had been blown. I was helpless, and a failure—in that particular situation. However, I also knew I could learn from that experience and move on.

People who refuse to quit are not drama queens who make every negative event a catastrophe. Yes, crap happens but people who refuse to quit narrow down the reasons why something was a failure. They are specific about what went wrong and why. Again, they are willing to accept responsibility for their actions and for the way they think about themselves.

“Catastrophizing” implies that you are a loser in all areas of your life, not just in the troubled area. This thinking is pervasive and can lead to people giving up on everything.

How To Make It Work For You: Hope is the cure for catastrophizing. Finding specific causes for misfortune is the art of hope. When you are confronted with a misfortune, check that your self-talk is not hopeless. Instead, inject a large dose of hope into your language.

3. Be Wary Of Personalization

I blamed myself for my failure as an undercover agent. I needed to take responsibility, and I did. As a result, my self-esteem plummeted. I began to see myself as worthless and not making a significant contribution to my squad.

I personalized the incident, and as a result, it affected the way I felt about myself.

They way we think about permanence and pervasiveness affects the things we do. The way we personalize a negative event controls how we feel about ourselves. People who never give up like themselves because they believe they are, and have been, the catalyst for good things. They do not believe good things come from other people or circumstances.

They accept that failure and misfortune will happen along the way, but they have hope that they will be resilient and bounce back because they’ve done it before.

Remember that personalization can be internal, where you blame yourself for what has happened. It can also be external, where you blame everyone else for your misfortune.

How To Make It Work For You: Optimism is not about ignoring life’s challenges. It’s the mental toughness to discipline our minds to create more powerful explanations about what is going on in our life.

© 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.” 

4 Reasons Why Stoics Make Great Leaders

Monday, May 29th, 2017

When I was 8, my grandfather bought me a quarter horse from the Denver stockyards. A cutting horse, he could pivot on his back legs so fast that I scrambled to stay in the saddle. 

Because the horse was trained to cut cattle from a herd, my dad would regularly send me out to bring in a single cow he wanted to either sell or put in a different pasture. On our Wyoming ranch one pasture was often several thousand acres of rough country.

I found the cow I was to bring in but she did not cooperate. When she tried to turn back to the herd, my horse blocked her. She took off running and we followed. Suddenly, the cow turned right. My horse turned right. I, however, kept moving forward and landed in a barbed wire fence.

Several things went through my mind—Dad would be pissed the cow got away; I’d have to walk several miles back to the ranch house; and how would I find my horse in that big pasture?

Not knowing what would happen, exactly, I held tight to the reins. The barbed wire fence tugged at my clothes in one direction, and my horse dragged me in another. I was in great danger of being trampled under horse hooves so I reached out and grabbed a bush and clung tight. My horse was pulled up abruptly because while I didn’t have the strength to stop him, the bush was big enough to do the job. I got back on my horse, found the cow again, and took her to the corral.

Further obstacles presented themselves while in the FBI Academy as I trained to become an FBI agent, but among the many lessons I learned along the way is this: it’s important that we understand the obstacles that we face and not run from them.

I could have let go of the reins and suffered the consequences, but I choose to work through the obstacles facing me the best way I could. Some obstacles cannot be avoided, not if we want to come out on top.

Stoicism teaches that, before we try to control events, we have to control ourselves first. Leaders like Marcus Aurelius have found a stoic attitude prepares them for failure and guards them against the arrogance of success.

As a leader, entrepreneur, or business owner it is important to find ways to become stronger in the face of adversity, turn obstacles around, and spin problems into opportunities.

Here are 3 reasons why stoics make great leaders:

1. Accept What Is Out Of Your Control

Leaders who are stoics recognize that only their thoughts and attitudes are within their realm of control; everything is ultimately uncontrollable.

Face it—there is a lot of stuff over which you have no control. You cannot control nature, other people, or even your own body at times. You can whine, complain, and pout but in the end you need to make peace with your situation. Only at this point can you start looking for ways to influence the people and things around you and try to change the outcome.

If you cannot identify and accept what is out of your control, you will collapse into a pit of negative emotions like frustration, sadness, and anger. Tantrums may have worked as a kid but they won’t take you very far up the corporate ladder.

The only thing you can totally control is your own thoughts. No one can take them away from you so make the most of them. If someone holds a gun to your head and demands that you run 6 miles, you feel stressed. If you run 6 miles to graduate from the FBI Academy and have colleagues cheering you on, you feel happy. You cannot blame events or situations for your emotions. The same 6 miles were run; what is different is your attitude about them.

“Today I escaped anxiety. Or no, I discarded it, because it was within me, in my own perceptions, not outside.”—Marcus Aurelius

Resilient people are stoics who are mentally tough. They are not disturbed by events because they know how to control their emotions, thoughts, and behavior in ways that will set them up for success.

TIP: Look for ways to understand the importance of your own efforts, regardless of the outcome. Just as importantly, don’t be afraid to pinpoint where you could have done better in controlling your emotions, thoughts, and behavior.

2. Search For The Worst That Can Happen

“Begin each day by telling yourself: Today I shall be meeting with interference, ingratitude, insolence, disloyalty, ill-will, and selfishness.”—Marcus Aurelius

Marcus was a stoic who did not want to be surprised and caught off guard at what might happen during his day. He knew how it feels to fall flat on his feet when confronted with the unknown or unexpected.

Positive thinking is a cornerstone of mental toughness. However, reminding yourself of what could go wrong is not pessimism. It’s being smart. You will encounter rude bosses, conniving colleagues, and pain-in-the-ass customers. Why not prepare for them?

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

Leaders who are stoics are less likely to get frustrated and blow a deal or lose control during a tense negotiation. They imagine every conceivable setback and obstacle and find ways to cope and overcome the adversity before it becomes a reality.

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

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

3. Stumbles Are Welcome

Stoics do not gaze at their navel to become better leaders. They don’t waste time trying to find themselves to become more authentic leaders. Instead, they turn their focus and energy to look for ways they can turn obstacles into opportunities. Often this means they voluntarily choose the hard path, the road less traveled.

What normal person volunteers to experience pain or discomfort? It’s not a self-inflicted penitence; instead, it’s another way the stoics develop character—they go out of their way to experience failure.

When successful executives are asked to list the top five moments their career took a leap forward, failure is always on that list. It might be the loss of a job or a lost client. It is always a time when failure requires them to step up to the plate.

TIP: If you want to increase your performance, set high goals where you have a 50-70% chance of success. According to Psychologist and Harvard researcher David McClelland, that’s the sweet spot for high achievers. When you fail half the time, it motivates you to figure out what you should do differently and try again. That’s called practice.

4. Develop A Petri Dish

The mindset of a stoic leader is not perverse. There is a method to their madness! After all, we will all fail at something sooner or later, so why not practice failing well? There are several reasons to keep a petri dish on hand full of experiences that can lead to discomfort or failure.

First, failure helps you build up the strength to cope with whatever the future holds for you. Success and comfort does not prepare for the shitstorm that will come at some point in your life. Whether it’s your career, your health, old age, or something unseen, know that you will be able to endure the discomfort.

Second, when you experience stumbles and failures along the way, they will help you mitigate the fear that always comes along with the unexpected. Expose yourself to discomfort and failure so you know how you will respond when a setback rears its ugly head.

Third, regularly embrace the discomfort of the road less traveled because it will create an appreciation for what you do have.

TIP: Do not make failure a stranger. Embrace the stumbles along the way and become smarter because of them. Recovering from failure is a mindset.

“Life is hard. Pain Is Inevitable. Growth is optional.”—LaRae Quy

© 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.”

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. The American Psychological Association’s Stress in America survey indicate that 78% report at least one symptom of stress. 34% report increases in stress since the previous year. 

 

It can cause mental health problems like worry or depression or difficulty sleeping. 25% of those employed snap at co-workers because of stress. If you can’t handle it, you can sabotage your health and damage your relationships. This 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!

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.

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.

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).

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. In doing so, they were better able to 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.

Once you become self-aware, you have clarity about your values. This enables you to 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

Empathy is 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. I was 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. This is the only way to find a way 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 Risks

Most 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. Instead, they believe they will prevail in their circumstances rather than believing their circumstances will change. Optimists, on the other hand, 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. They remain flexible and choose to remain positive so that they will find a solution.

Visualizing your successful performance is based on solid science. As you visualize 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 move ahead even when faced with obstacles and roadblocks.

When you face uncertainty, there are two choices: You can dread it because you are afraid you will fail. 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

This is a positive emotion that encourages reciprocal altruism, well-being, and appreciation. The strong and unequivocal support of others produces gratitude. It’s 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 is largely lost in modern society, but if we regain it, 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 is 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. It happens when we scale a business, expand into a new market, or juggle 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

Agents are motivated when they look into the face of an innocent victim who trusts and expects to find answers. However, many of these cases are so old that the leads have become cold. 

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

Resilience is the ability to bounce back from whatever adversity you are facing. But often the only way out—is through the adversity. We must bounce through the adversity that faces us. This is when we must be positive thinkers and not optimists.

Optimism and positive thinking are two different things: optimists believe their circumstances will change in the future—and for the better. Positive thinkers believe that your circumstances will change; instead, they believe they will prevail in their 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 lengthens your attention span, strengthens your decision making abilities, enhances memory, and empowers 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 that elevate our mood and suppress 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

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

As Sebastian Junger writes 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. To regain it might 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. It also 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

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

Research by psychologist Albert Bandura indicates that when we imitate the behavior of those whom we admire, it 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 imitate must possess the resilience qualities you admire and they must allow you to walk alongside so you can imbibe those qualities.

The FBI assigns a training agent to all new agents. This individual is often the one whom the new agent will imitate as they learn their job. I found that informal mentors were also a great way to learn how to do something. I would watch and understand how they developed their resilient qualities.

6) INCREASE RESILIENCE: STAND UP TO STRESS

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

Psychologists distinguish 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 suggests 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. Since we all share these experiences, we treat them as stimulating challenges in our job to be overcome. However, if  we share these same stories with friends or neighbors, they would treat them as potential threats to our safety. The difference in response creates a tribe mentality (as described above in #4) and reminds us that our outlook determines whether the experience was an exciting challenge, or a threat to avoid.

How do you increase 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.

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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

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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

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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.

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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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