Posts Tagged ‘strong minds’

5 Ways Strong Minds Tap Into Authenticity

Sunday, February 1st, 2015

No one on my squad liked George. He was an officious know-it-all who grated on everyone who had to work with him. The solution was obvious—find a reason to never work with him! We got very creative in finding ways to give George the crap assignments no one else wanted.

Authentic - strong woman

Once the FBI has enough probable cause, warrants signed by a judge to search a suspect’s trash is not uncommon. Guess who was given the unpleasant job of searching through the slime ball’s garbage? George!

I giggled with the other agents as he put on his rubber gloves and headed out the door.

But then—George and his wife asked me over for dinner at their house. I risked losing my “cool status” among my squad mates if I went, but it seemed too cruel to make an excuse, so I said yes.

The George I met at the front door of his home was a completely different man from the one that showed up at the FBI office every day. He was still a little weird, but I couldn’t get over the shock of him being one way at work, while reverting back to his true personality at home.

As I thought about it on my way home, I wondered if I “acted” differently when at work? At a church event? With family members?

George is not the only one who struggles to live all aspects of his life with authenticity. Many of us put on an act when in certain situations. While we can make excuses for our behavior, the fact remains that when we are not authentic, we are pretending to act like someone else and afraid to voice our own truths.

It takes mental toughness to have the courage to be seen for who you really are. Authenticity is NOT being pressured into emotions, thoughts, and behavior by outside influences. It is about trusting your heart and following your gut instinct.

Here are 5 ways strong minds tap into authenticity:

1. Use Your Gut Instinct To Make Decisions

Strong minds tap into their authenticity when they are able to make decisions that come from their gut. 

If you stay true to yourself, and stick with work that has both meaning and value for you, nothing will be able to distract you from achieving your goals. 

Stop wasting time and energy on projects that do not resonate with you. When you listen to your gut, you become a lot clearer on what is, or isn’t, on your priority list.

2. Keep Your Eye On The Bigger Picture

Strong minds tap into their authenticity when they are able to focus on a future that is full of promise.

Once you hitch yourself to a project or career that resonates with you, obstacles and roadblocks are temporary. You will find the energy and creativity to keep moving forward. 

Use your energy to control your emotions, thoughts, and behavior so your outlook always remain focused and positive.

If you focus only on your barriers, you’ll never see the road.“—LaRae Quy

3. Resist The Temptation To Take It Personally

Strong minds tap into their authenticity when they are able to accept rejection without crumbling like a sugar cookie.

No one likes to be rejected, and often we don’t let people see us for who we really are because we fear their disapproval. When we’re criticized by others, it can cause us to crumble a little inside each time. Many times, we do silly things just to make sure we’re loved and accepted.

Strong minds have a deep sense of self-worth because they’ve taken an honest inventory of their qualities. They are not afraid to take ownership for who they are—and most importantly, for the awesome person they are becoming. 

4. Learn From Bad Times

Strong minds tap into their authenticity when they are able to be their very best in the darkest moments.

It’s easy to give up and blame others for your misfortune. If you have mental toughness, however, you use times of hardship to discover your inner strengths and capabilities. Despite your darkest moments, you were able to stay connected to your core—you remained true to your values and beliefs.

5. Stay Strong By Being Soft

Strong minds tap into their authenticity when they are able to thrive by developing a flexible and agile way of thinking.

Lao Tzu once said, “Water is fluid, soft, and yielding. But water will wear away rock, which is rigid and cannot yield. As a rule, whatever is fluid, soft, and yielding will overcome whatever is rigid and hard. This is another paradox: what is soft is strong.” 

You can survive, thrive, and be an incredible leader if you remain flexible when times are tough and outcomes are not clear. Mental toughness does not mean blasting through your obstacles and roadblocks. 

Often, being mentally tough requires the resilience to cope with the harsh realities of life without ever losing sight of the road.

How have you relied on authenticity to be a better leader?

© 2015 LaRaeQuy. All rights reserved.


You can follow me on Twitter

Get my FREE 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.”

52 Tips cover smallS







5 Harsh Reasons You Don’t Seize Opportunities

Sunday, December 21st, 2014

As a child, I loved taking risks. Growing up around rattlesnakes, barbed wire fences, and frisky horses that liked to kick the saddle out of my hands, there was very little I thought I couldn’t do.

Mistake - bear

The key was putting my mind to it.

With age comes wisdom—or so I thought. As an adult, I was less amenable to taking risk. I was very strategic about relationships, careers, and spiritual formation. And I realize that there is a place for strategy, as long as it does not make your thinking soft.

Soft thinking is the opposite of mental toughness. If you suffer from soft thinking, you are afraid of seizing opportunities because you are afraid that your emotions, thoughts, or behavior might spin out of control—or, you are afraid to leave your comfort zone.

As it turns out, the key to managing risk is still in our mind.

There is no way to sugar-coat it—you’re afraid of risk and don’t seize the opportunities in your life because you don’t:



Strong minds seize opportunities because they allow themselves to be terrified—quite often. As a result, terror is a feeling that they are familiar with.

If you continually place yourself in situations where there is a little risk involved and the outcome is not known, your comfort zone is stretched.

Our brain likes to feel comfortable and seeks pleasure over pain. That’s why we’re tempted to abandon ship at the first sign of distress.

Our desire to avoid losses is almost twice as powerful as our desire to take a risk. This explains why we often walk away or fail to recognize new opportunities.

If you start your day without feeling a little terror from the challenges before you, you’re not pushing yourself hard enough.



Strong minds seize opportunities because their minds are agile and flexible.

Thinking fast is automatic, frequent, emotional, stereotypic, and subconscious. It means we can throw out long debates in favor of snap judgments and hard-wired rules of thumb that have served us well in the past.

Thinking fast is driven by your past experiences and memories. If you move into your discomfort zone on a regular basis, you frequently experience doses of terror and uncertainty. As a result, your mind does not get mired down with fear when new opportunities present themselves.

Fast thinking is efficient and effective, and essential if we want to seize opportunities in the fast-moving world of life and business.



Strong minds seize opportunities because they do not allow themselves to get stuck in a rut.

In business and life, the comfort zone has never been a good place to be. It may feel comfortable but then we face another kind of risk: one of being irrelevant, obsolete—and extinct.

If you plan to think forward, you will need to continually question conventional wisdom, reinvent your work, and welcome disruptive innovation.

In short, you will need to live in a petri dish in which you are continually experimenting with new ideas and maneuvering in a perpetual zone of distress and uncertainty—and sometimes, even embarrassment.



Strong minds seize opportunities because they learn from their past mistakes so they don’t repeat them.

Our ability to think fast and think forward is determined by our brain, and our past behavior.

As children, our brains were flexible, creative, and unpredictable. As adults, however, our brain becomes more rigid—anything with unvaried repetition like careers, cultural activities, and skills all lead to rigidity.

Once we make the same decision a second or third time, a habit is formed, and one that becomes quite inflexible.

Rigid patterns of thinking tend to become self-sustaining over time. Habits of behavior produced from past failure is not the same thing as learning from a mistake.

Habits are often a default reaction that leads to rigid thinking; learning, on the other hand, requires a flexible mindset that is always collecting and processing new information.

Often, we are not aware of these rigid patterns of thinking until we pinpoint their genesis in our memory. At that point, we recognize them for what they are and are able to move on from them.

Turn your ghosts into ancestors.



Strong minds seize opportunities because they are always looking for new things to do, and once they are engaged, they turn their full attention to it.

Researchers have found that curiosity is the single necessary condition for creating a flexible and agile mind.

When we are curious, we are engaged. Giving a subject our full attention and concentration is important if we want our brain to be more flexible and agile. It’s also important that, once we thoroughly understand a subject, we move on to something else.

To keep the brain fit, we must learn something new, rather than simply replaying already-mastered skills.

The important thing is not to stop questioning. Never lose a holy curiosity—Albert Einstein

How have you taken a risk and seized an opportunity?

© 2014 LaRaeQuy. All rights reserved.


You can follow me on Twitter

Sign up for 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.”

52 Tips cover smallS


Change Attitude So You Can Be Better, Not Bitter

Sunday, June 30th, 2013

I needed to change attitude when I walked into my new FBI office where 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 wore a suit and low-heeled shoes—despite what is shown in movies and TV shows, nothing looks more ridiculous than a woman tottering around on high heels while trying to balance the weight of a gun on her hip.

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 direction the more important cases were headed. Our squad worked counterintelligence and espionage cases and only senior agents were considered experienced enough to be investigating the activities of an intelligence officer.

It soon became evident that I would never get the opportunity as long as I was assigned the cases no one else on the squad wanted. If I wanted to work against a foreign spy, I’d need to go out and find one myself.

What I needed to do was change attitude and learn to be better, not bitter.

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

This explains why we’re driven to avoid losses far more than we’re driven to pursue gains. When faced with uncertainty, the brain is wired to quit because it is reminded of past failures. And I’ll admit that there were times I wanted to quit the squad and ask to be reassigned.

It is at this point, however, that we can chose to be influenced by our negativity bias, or conversely, pursue positive thinking. The choice is ours.

When you change attitude, you choose to learn from your experiences and be better, instead of feel sorry for yourself and be bitter.

I did not leave the squad. Instead, I made a choice to be proactive. I crafted an undercover proposal where I would be the undercover agent in a position to target foreign spies visiting companies with classified or proprietary information. FBI Headquarters loved it because it was a fresh and unique approach.

Each one of us has a choice when faced with adversity and obstacles: we can either continue the negativity spiral or decide to move forward in other ways. Here are four suggestions:

1. Admitting The Negativity Bias Helps To Change Attitude

Once you acknowledge what is going on, it prompts you to move out of the emotional limbic system, which is survival-driven, and into the cerebral brain, which is logical and thinking. Once you admit your negativity bias, it also helps you to identify partners and colleagues who can offer you support and assistance in your move.

2. Distinguish Between “Wishful Thinking” And “Positive Thinking”

Your brain will dismiss wishful thinking as a threat to your survival. Positive thinking requires you to recognize a situation for what it actually is and then work within those confines.

3. Notice Legitimate Positives

Try to identify at least 3 times as many positives as negatives in your situation. Because of your negativity bias, it’s important to consciously focus on positive experiences wherever they may be in your everyday life.

4. Focus And Sustain

Once you have noticed (or created) a positive response, stay focused on it for 10-20 seconds. Basically, positive experiences have a cumulative effect over time. The longer and more often you do this, you will not only get more curious about those experiences, you’ll actually be changing the structure of your brain. You will be creating new connections and building pathways associated with positive experiences.

Whenever I am tempted to feel bitterness toward the way I was treated by my squad as a new agent, I remind myself that because of their cold shoulder, I dug deep and found positive attributes in myself that I may not have discovered otherwise.

Be better, not bitter.

Change one letter of the alphabet and change your attitude.

How do you find positives in the middle of negative situations? 

© 2013 LaRaeQuy. All rights reserved.

You can follow me on Twitter

Get my FREE 45-Question Mental Toughness Assessment

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

52 Tips cover smallS

Effective Leaders are Authentic, Positive & Bold

Sunday, June 16th, 2013

Recently, I was honored to be a guest on The Iron Jen Show, a radio program dedicated to helping leaders overcome adversity.

We talked about several examples I provided in my book, Secrets of A Strong Mind. Among the topics we discussed during the interview were the roles of authenticity, faith, positive thinking, and boldness in effective leadership.

This is a transcript of that interview:


You can follow me on Twitter at

Read my book Secrets of a Strong Mind, and Mental Toughness For Women Leaders, both available now on Amazon.

52 Tips cover smallS



How To Develop A Leadership Brain

Sunday, May 26th, 2013

Growing up on a remote cattle ranch in the middle of Wyoming, I learned at a young age to never say “I can’t.” Then again, I had a grandmother who was a crack shot with a shotgun. Come summer, she was the kind of person who would rather burn her front yard than mow it.

My grandmother never had more than an 8th grade education, but she knew something that researchers at world-class universities are just now understanding.

And that is, every time we say the words “I can’t” we are creating a feedback loop in our brain that impacts the way we’re going to behave in the future. We’re reminding ourself of our limitations, and we’re really saying, “I don’t have the confidence to do this.”

Have you ever said to yourself:

  • I can’t speak well in front of a bunch of people, so don’t blame me if it goes badly.
  • I can’t perform well under pressure, so don’t blame me if nothing happens.
  • I can’t take on a project like that, so don’t blame me if it’s not a success.

Every time we repeat phrases like these, they produce a negative feedback loop in our brain.

There are two regions of the brain, and an MRI scan can show what parts of the brain are lighting up when we are thinking. If you fold your fingers into a fist, they would represent the cerebral cortex—the thinking part of the brain. This is the brain that finds new ways of thinking and generating solutions; it is more logical in it’s approach.

But the moment something creates fear or discomfort, we move into another part of the brain. The thumb underneath your fist would represent the limbic system—the reactive or emotional part of the brain.

The limbic system is instinctive and survival driven. When we’re confronted with threatening obstacles, we move from the cerebral to the reactive limbic system and it creates the “fight” or “flight” reactions that have kept humans alive for centuries. I describe the limbic system as our “bird brain” because it’s the home of our small but powerful gut instinct. It helps us deal with emergencies and threats to our life.

The bird brain is 100% self-protective and it’s not a good place to be when we’re trying to make decisions when facing adversity. But we don’t need to flee from every challenge just because it scares us. The bird brain can’t discern between anxiety about a threat to our safety and anxiety about speaking in front of a group of people.

All it knows is that if you’re in discomfort and feel anxious. Instinctively, it tells you to flee or withdraw, so you obey and say, “I can’t.” We have to switch gears to consciously move out of the reactive limbic system and into the thinking cerebral brain. When facing adversity and obstacles, it’s vital to get the two brains working together so the best decisions can be made.

Here are 4 steps to develop a leadership brain:

1. Prioritize Information To Develop A Leadership Brain

You will be creating a leadership brain because prioritizing forces the brain to interact with information rather than simply react to it. Creating visuals with whiteboards and listing projects is an excellent way to force the limbic system to interact with the cerebral brain to sort out the day’s activities. Otherwise, we risk the chance of our two brains fighting against one another for attention and energy.

2. Manage Stress to Develop A Leadership Brain

As an FBI agent, I experienced as much fear and anxiety as anyone when confronted with stressful situations. Research has shown that law enforcement personnel such as FBI agents and Special Forces have developed a leadership brain by learning how to quickly manage their fear and anxiety. It’s not that they don’t feel discomfort; it’s that they have been trained to manage that discomfort so they are hardier and more resilient.

Here are two ways to manage stress:

  • Learn to Be Grateful—gratitude emanates from the limbic system, and because of this, we can use gratitude to influence other emotions such as anxiety and fear. The ancient book of the Bible reminds us that “This is the day that the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it (Psalm 118:24 ESV)
  • Learn to Write Down Feelings—writing down and then thinking about certain areas of our life for which we feel grateful can boost our ability to counter the negative emotions we are experiencing. Keeping a journal moves us from the limbic system into the cerebral. It’s important to not only think about why we are grateful, but also to focus on the feelings attached to our gratitude.

3. Label Emotions To Develop A Leadership Brain

This means describing an emotion in one or two words. Step 2 encouraged you to identify and write down your emotions. In Step 3, you will label them.

Although most people expect labeling emotions to increase emotion, 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 emotional state of the limbic system.

Again, the leadership brain is one that learns how to control emotions, thoughts, and behavior in ways that set them up for success.

4. Remain Positive To Develop A Leadership Brain

Change your interpretation of the situation. Since we have an innate bias toward negativity, we process bad news faster than good news because our bird brain is survival driven. This explains why we’re driven to avoid losses far more than we’re driven to pursue gains. Our emotional responses flow from our appraisals of the world.

My grandmother knew that it was not lack of fear that creates a successful response; it’s how we deal with fear and anxiety. For FBI agents, leaders, or grandmothers everywhere, let your discomfort be a trigger to take positive and constructive action so you can move forward with a leadership brain.

© 2013 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.” 



3 Ways To Build Strong Minds

Monday, December 17th, 2012

We admire heroes who can show us how to build strong minds and be mentally tough because life’s challenges seems to bring out the best in them. In the process, they remind us that strength is an inner place we can all find when our backs are against the wall.

Mental toughness is needed to overcome obstacles and break through barriers. In my book, Secrets of A Strong Mind, I talk about the mental skills necessary to confront the challenges of life. We all have the psychological muscle to do this; we simply need to develop these muscles so that we respond to life’s challenges leading with our strengths and not our weaknesses.

Many people don’t take the time to discover and develop their strengths because they’ve been told time and time again to focus on developing their weaknesses. They are told they need to overcome them and turn them into positive qualities. The problem with this approach is that there is no strategy to convert your weakness into strength.

We can build strong minds strong minds by bolstering our positive qualities so we can overwhelm our less desirable ones. Once we shift your focus, we can begin to take ownership of your strengths. None of our successes are accidental—they are the result of our talent and skills.

We can build strong minds if we are self-aware. We need to know ourselves well enough to not only anticipate, but also control, our response to the unexpected challenges in life. Here are 3 successful ways to help us build strong minds:

1. Build Strong Minds By Finding Strengths

One of my favorite areas of instruction during my training at the FBI Academy was surveillance. It required that we remain alert and observant so we could identify behavioral patterns in the people under surveillance.

I learned to use surveillance techniques on myself to identify my strengths. It’s impossible to develop your strengths unless you know what they are. I started by paying attention to the activities that drew my interest. I then answered the following questions:

  • How long did it take for me to accomplish the activity?
  • Did I do it well and did it leave me feeling satisfied?
  • Was it time-consuming and leave me drained?
  • Did I get so absorbed that I lost track of time?

It can take months for a pattern to emerge, but eventually, one will. By constant observation over time, your dominant strengths will show themselves. Once you identify them, you will be able to hone them, and this will place you on the road to building a strong life.

2. Build Strong Minds By Acknowledging Weaknesses

Before I entered the FBI Academy, I had never shot a gun. I discovered I was quite good—I scored high on the bull’s eye target and never let the shotgun’s recoil get the upper hand. The physical fitness portion of my new agent training, however, left something to be desired. I scored near the bottom on everything—when I scored at all . . .

My natural reaction told me to focus all my energy on improving my pushups and pull-ups and the 2-mile run. As a result, I rarely spent any time on developing my proficiency with firearms. I obsessed over my weaknesses and devoted all my energy into fixing them.

One of my class counselors planted an important seed that has continued to germinate over the years. Weaknesses are to be managed, not changed. Instead of focusing on what was left out, concentrate on what was left in.

I had spent too much time trying to draw out skills that simply did not exist. Instead, I turned my focus toward developing my strengths. It was not possible for me to ignore my weaknesses because I needed to graduate from the Academy; however, instead of obsessing over them, I learned to manage them.

Don’t try to overcome a weakness, learn to overwhelm it.

3. Build Strong Minds By Reinforcing Strong Points

I was required to shoot over three thousands rounds of ammunition while in the FBI Academy. The reason was this: the more I practiced on the firing range, the more confident I would be when confronted with the real situation out on the street.

For a skill to be strength, it must be something that is done with consistency. The secret to inner strength is being able to replicate moments of success so there is a predictable outcome. This is why it’s so important to accurately identify the strongest threads in your pattern and reinforce them with training and learning.

Spend time growing your strong points, not on strengthening your weak ones.

Strong minds developed at the FBI Academy had nothing to do with push-ups or shooting a gun. It had to do with discovering our greatest areas of growth would be in our strengths, not our weaknesses.

What else is needed to grow strong minds? 

© 2012 LaRaeQuy. All rights reserved.

You can follow me on Twitter

Get my FREE 45-Question Mental Toughness Assessment

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

 52 Tips cover smallSSM book-cover