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.

 

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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:

 

1. EMBRACE A LITTLE TERROR IN YOUR LIFE

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.

 

2. THINK FAST ENOUGH TO MOVE AHEAD OF THE HERD

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.

 

3. THINK FORWARD WITH CREATIVITY AND INNOVATION

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.

 

4. MOVE ON FROM THE PAST

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.

 

5. FEED YOUR CURIOSITY

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.

 

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

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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:

http://blogtalk.vo.llnwd.net/o23/show/4/961/show_4961913.mp3

 

You can follow me on Twitter at http://twitter.com/LaRaeQuy

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

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How To Develop A Leadership Brain

Sunday, May 26th, 2013

My grandmother didn’t know much about leadership, but she knew a lot about grit. She was a crack shot with a shotgun. She never allowed me to say “I can’t” when she told me to do my chores. 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:

  • Public speaking is not my thing, so don’t blame me if it goes badly.
  • I don’t like to perform under pressure is not something I do well, so don’t blame me if nothing happens.
  • This project is too much, 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.

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