Richard was the sort of FBI agent everyone wanted to be. Even his supervisor walked a few paces behind him because Richard looked the part—he absolutely oozed sophistication, confidence, and success.
He gave me this very important bit of advice early in my career: “It’s not what you do, it is how you look doing it. From the way you look, to how you think about this organization, to the way you speak and represent yourself to the public.”
Some people, like Richard, command respect, admiration, and loyalty. They exude the qualities of both confidence and competence—and one thing I’ve learned is that those two always travel in pairs.
If you are competent, you will be confident. If you are not competent, no matter how confident you try appear you know you’re an empty suit and full of bullsh*t. It will only be a matter of time before you’re found out.
And have you noticed—the person who is the most respected is also the most successful!
Mental toughness boils down to the way we think. If we think we can accomplish a thing, we can. It is harnessing the power of our mind to break through our barriers and accomplish our goals.
If you believe your are inferior, you are—regardless of your qualifications. The way we think affects our behavior, and this is the essence of mental toughness:
Manage your thoughts, emotions, and behavior in ways that set you up for success.
How you think determines how you act.
How you act determines how others react to you.
Let’s take a look at how you can use the way you think, feel, and behave to impress anyone—even your boss:
1. Look Important
Call it shallow but Richard was right: it’s not what you do, it’s how you look doing it.
It doesn’t matter whether you are a man or a woman, don’t leave the house without your polish. Spend that extra amount of time to make sure you are sending the message you really want to send.
Having spent hours on surveillance, I’ll tell you one thing: FBI agents can usually spot a criminal just by looking at them. It may not be fair, but it’s a fact: the way you dress, comb your hair, and carry yourself speaks volumes about how you feel about yourself.
Before you step out the door, ask yourself how your colleagues, competitors, and neighbors see you. What do they think about you, based on your appearance?
And yes, I already know that intellect should be the criteria upon which we judge a person. In theory, this is true. But this is the real world of hard knocks where you can lose a promotion, a relationship, or a chance to take on new project simply on the basis of how you come across to others.
If you haven’t already figured it out, first impressions may be the only impression you’ll ever make. And they stick in the mind of the other person because it is the only criteria they have for evaluating you.
You are what you think you are. Do not ever think small, so start with the first thing first—your appearance.
2. Think Important
My career before the FBI was a department store manager at a large retail chain. It was a brutal and thankless job, and many of my colleagues moped around like the walking dead during the holiday season.
If asked what they did for a living, Irma would say, “I persuade women to buy polka dot blouses instead of striped ones this season.” Edith would reply with, “I work long hours and get paid minimum wage.”
When I was interviewed by the FBI, I answered that question by saying, “I am helping to build the country’s largest retail chain.”
Attitude is everything. If you think that you, and your work, is important, it will be. That sort of attitude is both inspiring and infectious.
The way we think tells others a lot about our potential for responsibility. There is an amazing correlation between a person’s job attitude and their job performance.
Do not think of your present job, even if it isn’t perfect, as a necessary evil. Instead, think on a broader scale. Make suggestions for ways to grow the business. Look at time in the C-suite as opportunities to learn and soak in the attitude and thinking of others who are more successful.
Your thoughts have incredible power. Be mentally tough and channel those thoughts into power horses.
The key to success is thinking positively about yourself and your contribution to the job. Enthusiasm is contagious, so be that germ that spreads first-class performance.
3. Speak Important
The words you use are important. They have a lot of power because they energize our thoughts. Words are thoughts spoken out loud. The words we say to ourselves can either inspire or destroy, depending on what our brain hears.
When you think you can’t accomplish a goal and want to quit, your brain puts barriers around achieving the goal; often these are no more than self-limiting barriers because you’ve told yourself you can’t do it.
Research estimates that we say 300-1,000 words to ourselves per minute. So teach yourself to react positively to your circumstances so you can override the anxiety that can come from negative thinking.
Positive self-talk can shift the way you see your stressors. It can help you become more flexible in the face of change and uncertainty. Mental toughness is recognizing that even in the roughest circumstances, we are never helpless.
What sort of impression do you think you make on others?
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