After a brief hiatus, the FBI has reinstated the annual FIT test so they can assess the overall health and fitness level of field agents. On a yearly basis, the continued maintenance and development of each agent’s physical fitness will be placed into their personnel file.

The FBI is concerned about the breakdown of their most precious asset—the agents.

The inevitable fact of deterioration is true not only for FBI agents, but for all of us as well. We need to continually refresh, renew, and stretch past our comfort zone if we want to invest in ourselves.

Because this is the thing: continued growth is essential for safety. I’m not just talking about physical well-being; I’m also talking about your relevance in your business and job.

Self-improvement means staying professionally and personally fit. It often requires lifestyle changes that will necessitate adjustments in the way we think.

Self-improvement is not a course in miracles. It is something that takes hard work. Perhaps the real secret to becoming a better person is coming to grips with the fact that everyone has to work hard—very hard, to become the person they know they can be.

No one ever drowned in a pool of sweat“—LaRae Quy

It also takes a positive attitude because we all have demons, baggage, anxieties, worries, and fears. The trick is controlling them—and that takes mental toughness.

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Here are 8 powerful secrets for self-improvement:

1. Go Ahead And Talk To Yourself

Special Forces and Navy SEALS use self-talk as a powerful mental toughness tool when confronted with obstacles and adversity. Research estimates that we say 300-1,000 words to ourselves per minute.

  • Teach yourself to react positively to your circumstances so you can override the emotional part of your limbic brain system that regulates anxiety.
  • Positive self-talk can shift the way you see your stressors.
  • Mental toughness is recognizing that even in the roughest circumstances, we are never helpless.

2. Formulate Action Plans

Lasting change ultimately requires you to make the new behavior automatic.

  • Prepare yourself for specific situations. “If I am offered a glass of wine, I will say “no”.”
  • Frame your intentions as positive actions: “I will not speak in derogatory terms about my supervisor behind her back.”
  • Picture yourself carrying out your plans.

3. Launch A Personal Research and Development Program

Every good company spends time and resources on R&D. If you are planning to invest in yourself, you should do the same. Take a closer look at how you can discover hidden talents, interests, and skills. Your personal R&D might look something like this:

  • Buy 5 new magazines every month.
  • Visit 5 new websites every week.
  • Every time you meet someone interesting, ask them what they’re reading.
  • Take a vacation to somewhere new.

4. Try Out A New Pair Of Training Wheels

As long as we’re talking personal R&D, do something at which you are a beginner. Like any newbie, you will fear failure and rely upon training wheels to keep you upright. That’s OK. If you wobble and fall down, you’ll already know how it feels when you get knocked down by the competition. The sting won’t come as a shock and you won’t waste precious time whining about it.

  • Come out swinging.
  • Live by your wits.
  • Let your ego get bruised.
  • Be stronger when you finish than when you started.

5. Recruit A Board Of Personal Advisors

As Plato said, “The people we hang around are like dirt; they either help us grow and thrive, or they make us wither and wilt.”

  • Look around the conference room.
  • Who do you admire? Who do you know the least?
  • Invite them to lunch.
  • Stay in touch with the people who believe in you.
  • Cultivate people who will challenge you to be your best self.

6. Learn a New Habit

This requires you to choose between something pleasant and familiar or something much less so.

  • Think about how this goal will help you become the person you want to be.
  • Even if the goal originated from an external source, such as doctor’s warning to lose weight, you can still make it your own by finding your personal reasons to pursue it.
  • Try to come up with fun ways to learn your new habit.

7. Believe It To Be True

Studies have shown that people with unrealistic expectations are the ones mostly likely to give in to temptation and stick with old habits. Long-term lifestyle changes require you to control your impulses and stop making excuses for why you’re not changing your behavior.

  • Visualize your success along with the specific obstacles you will face.
  • Avoid situations that will trigger a bad habit that you want to break.
  • Forgive yourself if you slip up; keep moving forward.

8. Make Sure You’re Pursuing The Right Path

A powerful motivator for self-improvement is to figure out exactly why you are pursuing a particular goal or course of action in the first place.

  • Find your personal motivation to change a negative habit.
  • Listen politely to advice, but stick to your guns and choose your own goals.
  • At the end of each day ask yourself, how would you would rate each conversation, interaction, and decision you made on a scale of 1 to 10?
  • Now, ask yourself what it would take to make it a 10?

As seasoned FBI agents know, successful people never stop learning how to continually refresh, renew, and stretch past their comfort zones.

© 2015 LaRae Quy. 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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