Posts Tagged ‘self-awareness’

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

Monday, July 23rd, 2018

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

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

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

How Important Is Emotional Intelligence?

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

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

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

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

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

1. Engage In Psychological Fortune Telling

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

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

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

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

2. Early Intervention Is Key

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

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

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

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

3. Avoidance Is Not An Option

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

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

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

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

4. Reframe Your Emotion

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

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

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

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

5. Let It All Hang Out

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

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

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

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

6. Get Clued In

Among the first steps in any FBI investigation is to put the subject under surveillance. There are many reasons for this, but one of them is to identify their patterns of behavior.  In other words, agents need to be clued in to the thoughts, emotions, and behavior of the subject under investigation.

Often our success is the result of our ability to pick apart and analyze what makes people tick. It becomes a mindset and it is something that can be practiced by anyone at anytime.

Law enforcement officers often look at people around them in restaurants and airports and attempt to figure out their stories—such as what they do for a living, their mood, what they’re thinking—based solely on observation. This simple focused-awareness drill can train a person’s mind to be clued in on what is going on with the people around them. Getting clued in means you move your awareness level up a notch or two.

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

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

© 2018 LaRae Quy. All rights reserved.

You can follow me on Twitter, Facebook, AND LinkedIn

Get my FREE 45-Question Mental Toughness Assessment

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

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

The Truth About 3 Great Career Tips That You’ll Never Hear

Monday, July 9th, 2018

The career advice we receive changes as we age. As children, we’re encouraged to dream big about the things we want to accomplish in life. We grow up and assume we’ll do what we love.

As we become adults, the message starts to focus on how we can be successful. We begin to look at the subjects in which we excel in school. Grades become the measuring stick of our future.

Most of all, we’re told to be practical, find a good job, and stay there.

Those messages muddle our thinking when we seek out career advice. We look for ways to be successful rather than pursue the things we love. Too often, success is where we stop on our journey to what we truly want to do in life.

It takes mental toughness to say, “I want to create my own path” because it may not be where you found success. You may need to move out of your comfort zone to escape the mediocrity that has been aided and abetted by your career choices.

Success and self-awareness can happen at the same time, but they are not the same thing. If our quest for success is not in alignment with what matters most to us, we’ll be left empty and disappointed in the end.

Success is a competitive game. It triggers a breathless sprint to be the happiest, the richest, the sexiest, the most admired—you get the picture. This is the feedback loop from hell because today’s success story is always replaced by tomorrow’s newer, better thing.

The Stoics would say that being a good person, doing what matters most to you, and doing the right thing are the important things in life. It’s OK if you don’t find the cure for cancer or write the great American novel. What is important is choosing what matters most to you in life. And, what does not matter.

As successful leaders, entrepreneurs, and business owners, you’ve treated your career as a business. A business becomes prosperous when it has a clear vision for itself in the marketplace. Goals come later, after the vision is defined.

The same goes for you. In the absence of a vision for your life, goals are nothing more than a long to-do list.

Here is the truth about 3 great career tips that you will never hear—they are simple, but very important, if you want a career built around what is meaningful to you:

1. Answer The Right Question

This is a clarifying exercise I did while in seminary. We turned to the person next to us and asked, “What do you want?” We asked the question and waited for the answer. Then we asked it again and again—fifteen times. At first the answers were predictable: “I want a new car, I want a bigger house, I want to make more money, etc.”

After the mind is cleared of the superfluous stuff, deeper issues start to come out. “I want to be loved, I want to serve God, I want to help people tap into their inner strength.”

TIP:

The key is asking the same question fifteen times to dig beneath the surface to uncover what matters most to you. Everyone’s answers will be different, and the person to whom you are talking doesn’t even need to be a friend, but it does need to be someone you trust.

2. Remember the Crossroads

We have all been forced to make choices. Many of them had little impact on the direction of our life. Some, however, were big ones—crossroads choices—that moved us in a new direction. For example: in my second year at college I had to choose my major. My heart told me to pursue a degree in history, but my head told me that a degree in business management would be more marketable.

After I retired from the FBI, I knew I wanted to go back to school. I found myself revisiting the same question; again, I decided not to pursue the history degree and enrolled at San Francisco Theological Seminary. Any doubt I had about whether history would ever be more than a hobby was now firmly decided—it would not.

TIP:

  • Concentrate on one period of your life at a time
  • Go back to a particular period in your life and identify a crossroad event
  • Write up three paragraphs describing the crossroad event as best you can
  • Focus on the key factors that influenced your decision
  • Would those same factors influence your decision today?

3. Embrace Your History

Do not fear the future; instead, read the past.

Don’t live in the past, but it’s a great place to visit. Looking back, for most people, is usually a mixed bag. There are bright moments, but there are also shadows. To truly understand ourselves, however, we need to delve into both the light and the shadow.

Life is hard. Pain is inevitable. Growth is optional.

It does no good to make excuses or blame others for your situation. Successful people do not see themselves as a victim—ever! Instead, they recognize that their situation may not be perfect right now but they also know they have the power to change it.

One of the most important tools an investigator uses is surveillance. It allows agents to gain an understanding of the target’s habits, routines, and contacts.

TIP:

Place yourself under surveillance. Go back in your history and identify an inflection point—actions, people, ideas, or events that moved your life in a new direction.

How did you change during that period? How did it contribute to what you are today? To assist with this, recall the following:

  • Key people
  • Activities that demanded time and attention
  • Important ideas
  • The nature of your inner life: dreams for your life, longings, and emotions
  • The nature of your health: exercise, sports, and illness
  • Creative impulses that shaped you
  • External events that shaped you

Summary

If you don’t grow, everything becomes a repetition of the past. As leader of your life, decide which behaviors served you well enough that you want to repeat. Conversely, identify the behaviors and reactions that you don’t want to repeat so you can let go of what doesn’t work for you.

© 2018 LaRae Quy. All rights reserved.

You can follow me on Twitter, Facebook, AND LinkedIn

Get my FREE 45-Question Mental Toughness Assessment

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

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

5 Easy Ways To Persuade Others That You Are Trustworthy

Monday, July 2nd, 2018

FBI agents tend to be hard chargers who look at the world in terms of black or white, right or wrong, legal or illegal. It’s important that we are perceived as trustworthy because if the public cannot place its trust in us, we can no longer do our job.

The FBI is under deserved scrutiny for its investigation into the 2016 election. In my time as an agent, we welcomed outside inquiries because it’s essential that investigators be non-partisan and non-biased. Lessons from our history books remind us that the result is not always morally acceptable when the few in power decide who should win, or lose, an election. The results may not be to our personal liking, but investigators must be perceived as trustworthy in their pursuit of the truth.

Agents who worked criminal crimes had it easy because it was more of a “just the facts” approach to an investigation. Laws helped to establish clear lines of acceptable behavior. My work was in counterintelligence which relied on building trust. I was assigned the colossal sales job of persuading foreign spies to work for the U.S. government. There’s no possible reason why a foreign spy would want to continue a conversation with me.

It was essential that I created strong relationships built on trust, even when they knew I was an FBI agent. Especially when they knew, because they looked for deception and traps.

As entrepreneurs, business owners, and sales people, you’re in the same boat. You need to persuade others that you’re trustworthy in an era of deceit and cynicism. Maybe what your potential customers hear about you isn’t correct, or even fair, but that doesn’t stop the rumors from flying around and your reputation can be at stake. 

Often the question is not whether people lie, it’s what are they lying about? Do they stretch their optimism and hope that business will turn around? Will they create a fabrication like Bernie Madoff? Does the CEO tell a half-truth or do they simply omit an important piece of information?

Here are 5 easy ways to persuade others that you are trustworthy:

1. Start With Self-Awareness

Our greatness lies not so much in being able to remake the world as being able to remake ourselves—Gandhi

Remember that people deceive themselves as much as they deceive others. They may be unaware of how others perceive them. People can deceive themselves and believe any number of things—sometimes they exaggerate their own importance or abilities to impress others. Sometimes they’re too critical of their own efforts. At other times, they don’t give themselves enough credit for their accomplishments.

The incredible thing about self-deception is that not only are we telling a lie, but we’re lying to ourselves! We all have blind spots about our own performance.

How To Make It Work For You: Don’t sabotage yourself and your best efforts to be seen as trustworthy to others by a lack of self-awareness. Work to understand your emotions—what you feel and what triggered it—so you can choose whether your response is productive and effective. Mental toughness is the ability to manage your emotions, thoughts, and behavior in ways that set you up for success.

2. Keep Your Word

As simple as this sounds, it’s one of the most important steps in building a foundation of trust. Do what you say and say what you do. When you cancel an appointment or fail to follow through, it creates fractures in your trustworthiness.

It might not seem like a big deal to you, but repeated failures to keep your word add up over time. People will perceive you as less trustworthy so when you make a promise, keep it.

How To Make It Work For You: If you can’t keep a promise, explain why you can’t. You may need to make a new promise to make it up. Be sure to keep this new promise no matter what! This also means that you show up on time and respond quickly to emails and phone calls.

3. Learn to Communicate In A Clear Manner

I once had a supervisor who seemed to change his mind every week about the squad’s strategy on reporting contacts with foreign spies. Whether he actually did change his mind or not, his lack of ability to communicate his thoughts undermined our trust in him. His lack of ability to communicate in a clear and consistent manner caused many failed relationships with the agents on his squad.

How To Make It Work For You: Clear and constructive communication encourages honest conversations. It also means they’re willing to admit their mistakes and communicate them to those who both rely upon and trust them. It is an constructive reaction that shows genuine interest in the good of all. A good communicator will also ask for more details to show their interest and acknowledge the experiences or feelings of the other person. They will be consistent in their response and the message they send to others.

4. Commit To The Relationship

Authentic conversations are built when people are committed to grow and deepen the relationship, not just to maintain the status quo. If the relationship is the central consideration, mutual commitments are essential to avoid concerns about manipulation or control in the conversation.

How To Make It Work For You: Speak to the other person’s interests and priorities. Validate them and their choices. Don’t judge their behavior, actions, or choices. It means you will need to invest the time it takes to be a true friend who is concerned about their well-being.

5. Stop Being A Prick; It’s Not All About You

This should be obvious, but the ego is a wild beast that needs to be tamed on a regular basis. Your time with the other person really does need to be about the other person. Trustworthiness can be undermined by vanity and ego when the conversation no longer focuses on the person in front of you.

Research tells us that we are most happy when we have positive social interactions and relationships. Our brain rewards us when we are able to share our views, desires, and goals with others. The simplest way to persuade others that you are trustworthy is make it all about them. And mean it.

How To Make It Work For You: Don’t let your ego override your mouth and good intentions. Don’t talk about yourself. Do spend time with follow-up questions from your last meeting with them. When you make every single statement about the other person and not about yourself, it becomes very powerful. It builds trust because it conveys two simple messages: 1) they are important, and 2) you care about them. It shapes everything else from that point forward.

© 2018 LaRae Quy. All rights reserved.

You can follow me on Twitter, Facebook, AND LinkedIn

Get my FREE 45-Question Mental Toughness Assessment

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

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

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.” 

Are You Mentally Tough Enough to Be An Entrepreneur?

Monday, August 15th, 2016

The FBI Academy engages their new agents by teaching them psychological readiness. At the root of all the mental training was the answer to this question: are you mentally tough enough to beat the opponent?

Complexity and turbulence in the business creates opponents and tough competition. Entrepreneurs need to be psychologically prepared to do battle with their competitors. They need to deal with stress, recover from mistakes quickly, and adjust strategies with each new innovation. On top of that, they need to stay positive about their chances of success.

Yes, you do need to compete if you want to run a successful business. You also need to be mentally tough enough to make it happen.

Here’s how:

1. CREATE THE RIGHT ATTITUDE

Mentally tough entrepreneurs do not rely on knowledge, skills, ability or past success to break through roadblocks. Instead, they draw on an attitude of toughness that allows them to push through hard situations and face adversity with confidence.

FBI agents are trained how to conduct complex and sophisticated investigations, but they are also trained in mental toughness. This does not mean they bulldoze their way through people or problems. Instead, they are trained to be aware of their own emotions and reactions when they are being pushed into their discomfort zones.

You can only be game-ready when you can predict your response when confronted with the unknown.

TIP:

  • Be curious about the things you do not know.
  • Let your grasp exceed your reach.
  • Place yourself in situations where you are a beginner

2. STRETCH TO BE MORE FLEXIBLE

Struggles - tiger in water

When mentally tough entrepreneurs move past their comfort zone, they learn how to absorb the unexpected. This makes them more self aware and in the process they become mentally stronger. They learn how to anticipate their responses and correct them if needed.

Stretch past your comfort zone and learn how to be flexible in your approach when something doesn’t turn out as expected. You can quickly decide to change course or look for new ways to solve the problem.

FBI arrests require flexibility because they rarely go according to plan. This is especially important in tense and dangerous situations. Constant training helps them uncover their go-to reflexes and evaluate whether they are helpful or harmful, before they find themselves in an unexpected situation.

TIP:

  • Constantly re-educate yourself, even in the basics
  • Resist the temptation to fall back on ideas simply because they are comfortable
  • Always look for new ways to do business

3. MANAGE RELATIONSHIPS

Successful financial plans

Mentally tough entrepreneurs are emotionally competent enough to manage the relationships that affect them and their ability to be effective.

If they experience a setback, they know how to keep their emotions in check so they can set the tone for the rest of the organization. Mentally tough leaders do the right thing for the organization and suppress the temptation to cut corners. They know how to make the right decisions for their team.

Teamwork is essential for all law enforcement, and communication must be clear and concise. In addition, FBI agents use interviews more than any other investigative tool in their arsenal which requires them to respond appropriately and effectively to the emotional reactions of their audience.

TIP:

  • Work on communicating in ways that cultivate healthy, enduring, and valuable relationships
  • Cut loose relationships that weigh you down or are negative
  • Recognize that collaboration is actually a back-and-forth flow of ideas, words, and actions

4. DEVELOP A CHAMPION MINDSET

Success - biker

Mentally tough entrepreneurs have a champion mindset that remains engaged when they are under pressure. They are constantly identifying the opportunities, challenges, and threats to their environment.

A champion mindset looks for new ways to think about adversity, and most importantly, looks for fresh ways to look at problems and roadblocks. Champions look at life with a sense of urgency and respond to the challenges of the changing face of business with innovation and curiosity.

FBI Cases are not given to agents with directions on how to solve them. Each one is a mystery to be explored, which means setbacks and false assumptions are encountered along the way. The champion mindset continues to chip away at a mystery, or problem, until a solution can be found.

TIP:

  • Pay attention to what is going on in the world around you
  • Jettison old assumptions about how business operates
  • Assume holding onto yesterday’s trend, or solution,  is dangerous

In what other ways do entrepreneurs need to be mentally tough?

© 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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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. I was ready 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. 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. Mentally tough people continue to march stalwartly onward. But mental toughness is not that simple.

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

Principle #3: Communication

You can have the greatest ideas in the world. If you can’t explain them to others, however, 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, agents work hard to communicate with people. They want people to cooperate. It’s far more effective than extortion or threats.

Principle #4: Resilience

Resilient people are mentally strong because they take responsibility for their actions and don’t whine or blame others for their situation.

FBI agents are not give a choice of assignments when they get out of the Academy. They learn to be resilient and bounce back from unwanted situations, and unwanted assignments. 

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 helped me to develop 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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5 Ways Resilience Can Make You A Survivor

Sunday, January 17th, 2016

FBI Agents who work 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. They do not perform 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 who started a new company at the age of 48. 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 received 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. It is then your responsibility to take the initiative and make the changes you need to become a survivor.

Run away or expected others to handle your problems? That is childish.

Grit-up and change the way you look at your obstacles and roadblocks. Mental toughness is believing you will 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.

It is not healthy to ignore negative feelings. Nor is it healthy to wallow 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. Discover where the resistance comes from and what causes 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. They 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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Why You Need Self-Awareness And 16 Steps To Get There

Sunday, November 29th, 2015

As part of an arrest team in the uglier part of Oakland, my job was to cover the back door while the FBI SWAT team crashed through the front door with a bantering ram. These were the sort of criminals who did not hold day jobs—we had waited until 5:00am to make certain they had made it back home.

Self Awareness - desert

I heard, “FBI, come out with your hands up.” I tried to control my fear as I waited for one of the suspects to make a run for it out the back door. I was wearing a bullet-proof vest and knew that I was surrounded by highly skilled FBI snipers, but that was not enough to assuage my worry that something could go wrong.

Then a scuffle, shouts, and the back door opened. One of my colleagues stepped out and gave me the OK sign that the suspects were in custody. As I lowered my weapon, my emotions immediately calmed down—the pressure was off.

As entrepreneurs and business owners, you may have felt fear when in a tense situation; or, found yourself sabotaged by an unwelcome emotion when under pressure.

Our brains are hardwired to make us emotional creatures—first and foremost. No matter how tough and self-controlled we think we are, our first reaction will ALWAYS be emotional. We can dampen or deny our emotions, but we are kidding ourselves if we think we can actually control the way in which our brain processes emotions. 

You do have total control, however, over the thoughts that follow an emotion. If you are in control, you also have a great deal of power over the way in which you react to your emotion and the situation that created it.

Mental toughness is managing your emotions by controlling our subsequent thoughts and behavior in ways that will set you up for success.

The key is to be aware of your emotion. If you are not fully aware of what you are feeling, you will be clueless in how to handle it effectively. You cannot change what you will not acknowledge.

1. Self Awareness Is Essential

Mentally tough leaders understand that self-awareness is the first step in building an unbeatable mind. Self-awareness is not some touchy-feely exercise that is meant to make you feel better about yourself.

Instead, it requires mental toughness to come to terms with the good, the bad, and the ugly about yourself. You will need a strong mind to face who you really are, without the pretense of illusion or vanity.

And it takes an equally strong mind to not let your emotions jab you in the stomach when you admit to yourself that you are not Superman or Wonder Woman. If you are not in control of your emotions, you can feel like a loser and give up.

2. Self-Awareness Takes Honesty And Patience

Mental toughness requires us to develop our strengths, and just as importantly, manage our weaknesses.

That means identifying what triggers 1) positive and healthy emotions, and 2) negative and unproductive ones. Mentally tough leaders know what triggers both types. Whether you like it or not, only by learning and understanding what triggers unhealthy patterns of thought and behavior can you begin to notice it and control it.

3. Steps To Self-Awareness

  1. Stop treating your emotions and feelings as either good or bad.
  2. Admit each emotion has something to teach you, even your negative emotions.
  3. Recognize that pretending a negative emotion doesn’t exist doesn’t mean it’s not still there, lurking beneath the surface and ready to sabotage you when you least expect it.
  4. Put yourself under surveillance.
  5. Notice what event, person, or situation provokes a good emotion.
  6. Notice what event, person, or situation provokes a negative emotion.
  7. Keep a journal of what you’ve noticed.
  8. Explore why you experienced a good and positive emotion.
  9. Explore why you experienced a negative and painful emotion. Did I mention: Keep a journal of what you’ve noticed and explored—no matter how unpleasant the emotional experience.
  10. Work your way through the positive and negative emotion.
  11. Express what you are feeling in less than 3 words if it’s a negative emotion. Be honest and stop pretending your aren’t feeling jealous, envious, angry, etc. Do NOT engage in dialogue about these negative feelings, however, as it will only increase your anxiety.
  12. Drill down and ask yourself Why you do the things you do.
  13. Revisit your values.
  14. Spot your emotional reactions in others, including movies and books.
  15. Use stress as a time to get to know yourself better.
  16. Ask for feedback from people you trust. One more time: are you keeping track of this?

Facing the truth about who you can be hard—even ugly at times. But it will remain ugly only if you don’t start doing something about the things you don’t like about yourself. Getting in touch with emotions that produce the thoughts and behavior you don’t like takes courage and a strong mind.

TIPS:

  • Start on one area at a time.
  • Find a trustworthy mentor or coach to help you through the process.
  • Forget about perfection, just measure your success.
  • Be patient with yourself.
  • Keep a journal or record of what you’ve learned about yourself.

What strategy have you used to become more self-aware?

© 2015 LaRaeQuy. All rights reserved.

You can follow me on Twitter

Get my FREE 45-Question Mental Toughness Assessment

Get my FREE Mental Toughness Mini-Course

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

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7 Ways Negative Feedback Can Build Mental Toughness

Sunday, November 22nd, 2015

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

7 Ways Negative Feedback Can Build Mental Toughness

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

1. Increases Self-Awareness

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

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

2. Fuels Personal Growth

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

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

3. Paves The Way For Success

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

4. Stretches Performance

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

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

5. Eliminates Personalization

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

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

6. Aids in Self-Improvement

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

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

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

7. Trains You To Pay Attention To The Facts

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

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

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

How have you learned to embrace negative feedback?

© 2015 LaRaeQuy. All rights reserved.

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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6 Ways To Stay Mentally Strong In Tough Times

Sunday, November 15th, 2015

As the spokesperson for the FBI in Northern California, I experienced some tough times while dealing with curious radio, television, and newspaper reporters. If I inadvertently revealed information that was sealed by the U.S. Attorney’s office, I could have been fired or even prosecuted.

6 Ways To Stay Mentally Strong In Tough Times

Often, I’d fret that my words would be taken out of context or that I would be misquoted. I worried and lost sleep as I waited until for the interview to air or be printed.

As entrepreneurs and business owners, you know what it feels like to worry in tough times and you’re faced with uncertainty. This is when you need to be mentally strong so you can keep moving forward.

Here are 6 ways to stay mentally strong in tough times:

1. Control Your Thoughts

When tough times hit, the first thing we do is start to worry. But we need to control our thoughts because they control our emotions and behaviors.

Anxiety and fear are housed in our limbic brain system, but mentally tough people have figured out how to ignore them—or at least, control them.

TIP: Name Your Fear

Instead of pretending that you are not scared, admit what is creating the fear. Research has indicated that recognizing and acknowledging one’s fears are critical steps towards tackling and overcoming them.

If you try to suppress a fear or worry, it won’t work—the brain is smarter than that. Instead, name your fear or anxiety for what it is and you will actually lessen your discomfort. It’s very important, however, to keep the label to one or two words because if you open up a dialogue about it, you will only increase the emotional state of the limbic system.

2. Prepare For The Lonely Work

Self-awareness is not a prerequisite for climbing the ladder of success—but it sure helps to keep you there.

Self-awareness empowers you because it instills a confidence that comes from a deep understanding of who you are and why you are special. It’s called lonely work because this is one thing you truly must do for yourself.

TIP: Spend Time With Yourself

  • Get to know what makes you tick
  • Learn your strengths so you can use them
  • Accept your weaknesses so you can minimize them
  • Develop your strengths and manage your weaknesses; forget about trying to change who you are by trying to “work” on them
  • Give yourself permission to shine in those areas in which you are blessed

3. Get Priorities Straight

A recent Gallup poll indicated that 90% of workers were not engaged in their jobs. This is a modern day phenomena that started after Adam Smith, the father of industrial capitalism, stated that people were naturally lazy and would work only for pay.

Mentally strong entrepreneurs and leaders understand that wages are important—of course they are! But, if you are naive enough to believe that chasing after that almighty dollar will bring you happiness, I have a piece of swamp land in Wyoming to sell you.

TIP: Engage In Work That Provides Both Value And Meaning

Mentally strong people are smart enough to know that when they get their priorities straight, it does several things:

  • Provides work that is both engaging and meaningful
  • Offers opportunities to learn and grow.
  • Allows control over what we do and how we do it

4. Take A Risk

In firearms training I learned one thing: it’s not risk that will kill you, it’s complacency. Sitting in the same spot all your life will bite you in the butt when the unexpected lands at your feet and you face tough times because you won’t know how to move forward with confidence and flexibility.

The mentally strong use tough times as opportunities to take a risk because they understand that risks, and the change they produce, are what will save you from a life of complacency—and stagnation.

TIP: Calculated Risks Make It Easy

As an FBI agent, my colleagues and I took smart risks by planning what could go wrong, and then forging ahead.

Calculated risks mean looking at all the positive and negative outcomes and then proceeding forward by putting all of that information to best use.

5. Be Grateful—ALWAYS

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

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

Another thing about gratitude—it is impossible to grateful and negative at the same time.

TIP: Keep Focused On Being Grateful When Life Is Taking A Down Turn

We perceive an act as more worthy of gratitude when it:

  • costs someone (either time or effort)
  • is perceived to be of value
  • is not obligatory or habitual in nature
  • produces relief or happiness

6. Control What You Can Control

When making an arrest, agents are given specific assignments; for example, “Cover the back door so the criminal can’t run away.”

It is the agent’s responsibility to control what they can control; they do not worry about what others are doing or any other aspect of the arrest.

TIP: Ignore The Things You Can’t Control

In the same way, you must ignore the things over which you have no power. You have limited resources, so why waste them on things that are out of your control?

For some, it might be the politics of your organization; for others, it might be your environment. Whatever it is, realize that you can only control the things that come under your purview. You might want to save the world, but do yourself a favor and take it one step at a time.

Mental toughness separates the successful entrepreneur and business owner from the mediocre. It allows successful people to keep moving forward when they hit tough times.

© 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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