Posts Tagged ‘visualize’

Why Mental Toughness Gives You A Competitive Advantage

Monday, April 23rd, 2018

The biggest challenge I had in graduating from the FBI Academy was meeting the physical fitness standards. I was a slow runner and found pushups very difficult. I did not have a competitive advantage. As a result, I failed the interim FIT test and was almost washed out of the Academy.

Instructors and coaches at the FBI Academy expressed concern that I was not athletic enough to become an agent. My first response was, “How is running 2 miles in 10 minutes going to help me be a better investigator?”

This was my reasoning was this: Agents don’t use their physical muscles to puzzle their way through the facts of an investigation. Instead, they use their mental skills. Only later was I able to recognize that brawn would not make me a better agent. My athletic training, however, had created a set of mental skills to give me a competitive advantage that I would utilize throughout my 24 year FBI career.

Research and common sense tell us that top athletes have a competitive advantage because of their physical talents and dedication to training. However, they also succeed because of their ability to deal with the psychological pressures of their sport. Mental toughness is extremely important for any athlete aiming to be the best.

The real question of coaching in sports is this: Are you mentally tough enough to compete?

There was a recent study of athletes who successfully completed sport injury rehabilitation. The study determined that the top 3 mental skills reported were Goal Setting, Positive Thinking, and Imagery.

I was not surprised by this list because these mental toughness tools can produce the right attitude to move everyone toward success. The same mindset is needed by leaders, entrepreneurs, and business owners who need to stay ahead of their competition. Here is a closer look at why mental toughness gives you a competitive advantage:

1. Goal Setting

When you set a goal, you identify something you want, and also something you are willing to pursue in order to achieve.

Setting a specific goal makes you more likely to achieve it. This becomes important when you want a competitive advantage so you can take your sport to the next level, make a change in your career, or overcome an obstacle on your journey toward that goal.

TIP #1 SET GOALS FOR THE RIGHT REASON

Stop fantasizing about winning the lottery or making $10 million. Instead, set goals that align themselves to what really matters to your happiness and future well being. This is what will give you the competitive advantage you need in life.

TIP #2 FOCUS ON A DIRECTION

Set your training in a direction so that the pursuit of it will produce the life you want. If the journey is the right one, don’t worry if goals change or evolve with time.

TIP #3 CHANGE THE GOAL IF NEEDED

You will have a competitive advantage when you use mental skills to focus on the right thing—the direction you want your life to move. Don’t make the mistake of getting married to your goal. Often, goals need to change as our circumstances change. Goals are the steps to reach your vision, what really matters to you. 

2. Positive Thinking

There is a big difference between being an optimist and being a positive thinker. Positive thinkers are not necessarily happy or optimistic. Instead, positive thinkers are blunt realists who look misery right in the eye. They confront the most brutal facts of their day without expecting things to change. They adapt to their circumstances without ever losing hope.

Positive thinking is a mental skill that will give you a competitive advantage and help get you through any setback that comes your way.

TIP #1 FIND 5 POSITIVE THOUGHTS

The brain is naturally wired to pay more attention to negative rather than positive information because negative alerts us to emergencies and threats to our life.

When confronted with something that feels overwhelming, you will need to find 5 positive thoughts to counter each one negative thought that comes to mind. Sometimes it’s hard to find something positive in your situation and you have to look really hard.

TIP # 2 REFLECT ON EACH POSITIVE THOUGHT FOR 20 SECONDS

Take the time to really think about each positive thought. Let it soak in, don’t gloss over it. Negative thoughts are like velcro; they stickPositive thoughts are like teflon; they slide away easily.

TIP #3 STOP USING THE WORD “CAN’T”

This is the only 4 letter word I never heard in the FBI. Every time you say “I CAN’T” you create a negative feedback loop in your brain that keeps getting stronger and stronger. Synaptic connections thicken the brain tissues over time, wiring in that negativity. Negative thinking will never give you a competitive advantage.

3) Imagery

The benefits of using imagery and visualization is an incredible tool to develop mental toughness. This mental skill is based on solid science. By visualizing your successful performance repeatedly, your brain stores that information as a success.

TIP #1 VISUALIZE YOUR SUCCESS

When we give our brain a detailed portrait of our end goal, our brain releases dopamine. Dopamine is a powerful mental toughness tool that can give us a competitive advantage. This is the chemical that becomes active when we encounter situations that are linked to rewards from the past.

Dopamine enables us to feel good about our experiences and gives us confidence to move toward those rewards. To boost this brain response:

  • Imagine how events will unfold.
  • See yourself winning or achieving your goal.
  • Hear yourself being positive about the challenge before you.
  • Form a clear mental picture and do it several times a day.
  • Create a positive frame of mind.
  • Find images that represent your goal and post them where you’ll see them regularly.

Visualizing is not fantasy or wishful thinking. Fantasies can actually lessen your chance for success. Your brain can tell the difference, and looks at fantasies as a threat! If people fantasize about their future performance, they are less prepared and more stressed when things don’t workout. 

TIP#2 MOVE AHEAD WITH FEARLESSNESS

Use imagery and visualize how you will succeed in various situations you might encounter in the future. For example,

  • Visualize how you will react and respond when criticized by a competitor.
  • Prepare for the hard questions from your supervisor.
  • Rehearse your response to conversations that might come up.

This is enough to get that important shot of dopamine. It can give you a competitive advantage so you can move beyond your self-limiting beliefs about yourself and current circumstances.

© 2018 LaRae Quy. All rights reserved.

You can follow me on Twitter, Facebook, AND LinkedIn

Get my FREE 45-Question Mental Toughness Assessment

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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.” 

How To Overcome Adversity And Come Out A Winner

Monday, August 7th, 2017

A shetland pony named Socks helped teach me how to overcome adversity. We lived on a cattle ranch in Wyoming and my parents bought him for me when I was 4 years old.

Socks had a hard and dry little heart; all he wanted to do was terrorize his little rider. Dad would get on him and he was a well-mannered horse. When I got on him, however, I couldn’t get him to do anything. Worse yet, when Dad wasn’t looking, Socks would kick up his heels to see how much it would take to buck me off.

As time marched on, I got very worried because Dad said I wouldn’t get a “real” horse until I learned to ride Socks. I worked at it and finally rode Socks down the meadow about half a mile. We had to cross a ditch to go further. Socks turned his neck to get a good look at me before he let loose and bucked high and fast as he crossed the ditch. I went flying through the air.

Dad watched and saw the whole thing. I was humiliated; I cried and walked away but my Dad caught Socks and made me get right back on. Right then and there, not later when I’d plucked up enough courage to get back on and ride Socks again.

Although I didn’t know it at the time, neuroscience tells us that new memories remain unstable for a short period of time after an event. It’s during this unstable period that memories are being coded and consolidated into your subconscious.

We can erase our fear of an event if we can alter our memory of it, and the best time to do that is during the unstable period. That unstable period lasts for the first few hours.

We can learn how to overcome adversity and come out stronger than before if we do these things:

1. Get Back In The Saddle

We have all had experiences with colleagues, employees, or prospective clients that have left us unsettled, afraid, or unsure of how to move forward. We learn how to overcome adversity if we find ways to tackle the problem again so we can update our memory before that negative feeling becomes codified in our brain.

It might be with a different colleague, employee, or client but don’t let the experience of fear or anxiety get embedded into your thinking. It is important, however, that you make sure your environment is safe before trying to extinguish your fear-conditioned memory.

TIP: Replace a bad memory with a better one. The sooner, the better.

2. Grit Up

When I interviewed with the FBI, they liked that I wasn’t coddled, pampered, or entitled. Growing up on a cattle ranch in Wyoming left me scrappy, hungry, and full of grit. Getting bucked off Socks gave me the understanding that getting knocked down is part of life. But it’s those knocks that produce the grit we need to be successful.

Grit is doing what is needed even when you don’t know exactly how to do it. Grit is determination, persistence, and endurance.

Sports psychologist Tim Woodman has done several studies on what makes superior athletes. He spent a lot of time interviewing many top performers, and the one thing that he came away with was this: nearly every top performer in his study had experienced a critical negative event in their life—parents divorcing, a death, disease, or some other perceived loss—and they experienced it early in life.

Winners learn early that life is hard. Pain is inevitable. Growth is optional—LaRae Quy

Hard times create the need for a coping system. Because there is one of two ways to react to the crap that happens in life: you can whine, complain, and blame others. Or, you can take responsibility for your own actions, grit up, and look for solutions.

TIP: Learn to overcome adversity by developing a grit-up attitude. It’s your choice—you can have the mindset that your adversity creates trauma. Or, you can decide to look at your adversity as an opportunity to learn and grow.

3. Express Gratitude

Hunt the good stuff in your situation and express gratitude for what you find because you cannot be anxious and grateful at the same time.

The area of the brain that produces anxiety and fear overlaps with the area of the brain responsible for positive emotions. This is one of the reasons it’s hard to be stressed out and grateful at the same time.

TIP: Use mental toughness to override your fear by focusing on positive emotions so they can tamp down negative ones. When you are mentally strong, you decide how to overcome adversity by choosing which positive emotions to focus on.

4. Acquire Lots Of Information

FBI agents making arrests face the unknown because they can’t predict how an individual will react when arrested. To alleviate the fear they may experience, they collect information in several different ways:

First, they collect information about themselves. They practice arrest scenarios with red handled guns that do not have firing pins. This provides feedback on how they respond to different situations. It allows them to constantly fine-tune their response so they can anticipate a good outcome when confronted by the unknown.

Second, they collect as much information about the person to be arrested as possible. The agents can prepare if they have reason to believe the suspect might be armed and dangerous.

Third, agents qualify in firearms 4 times a year to fine-tune their skills. By the time they actually make an arrest, they have enough muscle memory that they don’t even have to think about what to do because they’ve done it before so many times.

TIP: You’ll have a better chance of coming out a winner if you practice or rehearse your performance ahead of time. It might not be possible to replicate the exact experience, but pay attention to your response in similar situations so you can decide whether or not you need to fine tune it.

5. Visualize Your Success

Visualize how you will overcome adversity. When you visualize your success, your brain releases a neurotransmitter called dopamine. That is the chemical that becomes active when you are rewarded or have positive feelings. Dopamine enables you to not only see rewards, but to move toward those rewards as well.

By visualizing your performance, your brain actually stores that information as a success.

There is one important caveat here, though; your brain is not easily fooled. It knows the difference between visualizing your success and fantasizing about something you can never do, like being a rock star on stage. Your brain will only store it as a success if it represents real life and real situations you will encounter.

TIP: Educate yourself about your fear, find out as much as you can, and then practice how you can overcome it.

© 2017 LaRae Quy. All rights reserved.

You can follow me on Twitter, Facebook, AND LinkedIn

Get my FREE 45-Question Mental Toughness Assessment

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

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

How To Visualize Success

Saturday, September 7th, 2013

I’ve always been afraid of water and to confront those fears, I had to visualize success. I did this learning how to scuba dive—even before I learned to swim. 

One of the requirements of scuba diving certification was to descend under water ten feet, take off my mask and mouthpiece, and then put them back on again. I was afraid I would drown in those few moments underwater and without oxygen.

What if I lost my mask? How would I get back to the surface? After all, I couldn’t even swim. My instructor was with me, and during practice he had helped me several times. But on the day of certification I would need to do it on my own.

My fear of water had not subsided as I hoped it would. I did not feel safe in the water, especially when I was ten feet under.

The night before the test, I spent hours trying to visualize success by mimicking how I would take off the mask and replace it without drawing a breath or dropping the mask. I walked myself through the exercise time and time again. 1. Take a deep breath and let go of my mouthpiece. 2. Pull off the mask with my left hand and hold it tightly as my right hand came around and pulled it back over my face. 3. Keep salt water out of my eyes and by keeping them tightly closed. 4. Grab hold of my mouthpiece and bring life-giving oxygen back into my lungs.

I visualized the sequence dozens of times. And when it came time for my scuba dive certification, I performed the underwater portion exactly as I had visioned it. Later that day, I dove 100 feet down a seawall!

Little did I know at the time that I could visualize success and point to solid science to explain why it worked. Achieving my goal was about more than work and discipline—it was also about physiology.

By visualizing my performance repeated, my brain stored that information as a success.

Whenever I could visualize success, my brain released a neurotransmitter called dopamine. That is the chemical that becomes active when we encounter situations that are linked to reward from the past. Dopamine enables us to not only see rewards, but to move toward those rewards as well.

If we can visualize success, it has implications that go far beyond scuba diving certification:

1. VISUALIZE SUCCESS IN BUSINESS LEADERSHIP

Mental toughness is the ability to envision the outcome of an event to trigger the production of dopamine. Sometimes asking yourself a simple question such as “What do I want this meeting to look like?” and then visualizing your performance is enough to get that important shot of dopamine. Start with visualizing every objection and/or question that is likely to come up in the meeting, and your response to it.

2. AND IN PERSONAL LEADERSHIP

Visualizing can help you see your own ability to perform in difficult or stressful situations. It can help take you beyond your self-limiting beliefs about yourself and move you beyond your current circumstances. Visualizing encourages leaders to ask “What if?” or “What else?” These types of questions open doors of possibility and opportunity. It’s an invitation to move past the status quo.

3. DON’T FORGET TEAM LEADERSHIP

If dopamine is associated with increased creativity, leaders can use this knowledge to help their teams find ways to be create a more satisfying work environment. Research has determined that dopamine is produced in anticipation of reward, not as the result of the reward.

The very act of giving your brain a detailed portrait of your end goal ensures the release of dopamine, a powerful mental toughness tool to steer you toward success.

From Victor Frankl: “There’s one reason why I’m here today. What kept me alive in a situation where others had given up hope and died was the dream that someday I’d be here telling you how I survived the concentration camps. I’ve never been here before. I’ve never seen any of you before. Nor have I ever given this speech before. But in my dreams I’ve stood before you in this room and said these words a thousand times.”

© 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.” 

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