How to: Mental Toughness ft. @flowjunkie and @AthenaSanDiego

Last night was my first time attending an Athena event. Feeling inspired, I stayed up late to write but decided to finish it the following morning once my eyelids felt too heavy to keep open. But it looks like I forgot to click the save button, so here we go again! Tips for mental toughness round 2! Why doesn't this CMS auto save?

I first heard about Athena at an event about 3D printed shoes that I never blogged about. Do yourself a favor and click that link to geek out at how amazing it is for technology to be applied to various aspects of our lives! With Feetz, you can get a custom shoe made for YOUR perfect fit which is determined by a machine that takes photos of each foot, measuring 22 different angles! They're a startup local to San Diego but recently scored a deal with DSW, so we may be seeing them throughout the US soon! I have a discount code if you're interested in purchasing a pair, but reach out to me about that later because I'm losing focus. Let's get back to mental toughness.

As I was saying, I was first introduced to Athena because Girl Develop it shared a booth with them at the shoe event. Athena is an organization that promotes the professional and personal growth of entrepreneurial women in life sciences, technology, engineering and healthcare. There is an application process for membership, which unlocks some seriously awesome perks, a sisterhood of power women (and men) and connections. Upon approval, there is an annual membership fee which also helps to support the community via high school scholarships for example. However, in regards to the events, you don't have to be a member to attend. For last night's event, the non-member ticket cost $75 vs $50 for the members. And yes, members still have to pay to attend events. Given my circumstances at the time, I didn't submit an application but bookmarked this org as a future to-do item. But by the grace of Qualcomm, who offered free tickets to the event, that future came sooner than later.

To be honest, I was feeling very anxious about attending. I knew that I wouldn't know anybody,  but I pushed myself to go anyways. I'm thankful for being that person who hates being late, so I usually arrive way too early to everything. Arriving early allowed me to ease into my surroundings before the crowd of other attendees filled the room, who enjoyed networking with wine and small bites to eat. Being an unfamiliar face, I was grateful for the woman who approached me (thank you), who happened to have been a Software Engineer turned Program Manager. Sometimes being introverted is socially difficult for me, but I tried my best to feel confident among a group of extremely inspiring and talented individuals. The social lasted an hour and I was grateful for the advice bestowed upon me from the women I met, who taught me that it is OK to be assertive and unapologetically go after what I want, which is the perfect segue to the event's topic, "Forging a Mental Six Pack" with Renita Kalhorn.

By no surprise, Renita is a woman who has already accomplished more than others do in a lifetime, all by mastering her mental state and maintaining a state of "flow". A black belt Julliard concert pianist, she has trained Navy Seal candidates in mental toughness and delivered leadership and development programs for Fortune 500 clients. It was a pleasure to witness her speak. There is a calming presence about her that made me feel safe. I'd like to share some takeaways with you, even though she also included a lot of the scientific data behind each point during the talk. I will be practicing these techniques daily. 

1) Feel your feelings. Observe them and pinpoint where it is in your body that you feel it. That feeling is just a chemical reaction that ends up negatively manifesting in your body and mind if you hold on to it for too long. Instead of trying to numb the discomfort (which I usually do with food), take a moment to acknowledge it, stick with it and let it go. If you are irritable, write down what's bothering you then throw that paper away. Burn the mental fat of guilt, anxiety, stress, resentment, etc. Harboring it will do you no good. I especially appreciated the bit where she talked about setbacks. The difference between champions and everyone else is that they're able to move on the quickest from mistakes. 

2) Strike a pose. Watch the TED talk by Amy Cuddy for details. Practice power posing for at least 2 minutes per day. 

3) Make decisions and make them often. Here she included the Buddha quote, “Pain is inevitable, but suffering is optional.” We get to choose how we respond to our circumstances and emotions. For a personal example, learning how to program has been hard for me. But instead of saying "this is so hard" every time I sit down to code, I could switch that to "I'm up for the challenge". If I keep saying "this is so hard, this is so hard", guess what it's going to be? HARD! Even at this internship, when I am given tasks I don't know how to do, it makes me feel uncomfortable. But that discomfort is actually opportunity for growth, which is never a bad thing. It's OK to be uncomfortable. 

4) Practice! For this, she had the group pair up for an exercise where we'd pretend we were asking our boss for a raise. We'd practice saying our request and reasoning out loud five times, to know how it feels to say uncomfortable words and to embrace them; it gets easier. Then we practiced telling our partner the positive outcome of our request. Because I was sitting in a row to myself, I was surprised when she came over to be my partner! 

5) Visualize. When you truly visualize what you want in life, your brain doesn't know the difference between what's real and what's being envisioned. You'll become engrossed in such positive feelings that your real-life actions will start to align with your vision. I've always referred to this as the Law Of Attraction, which I'm a huge believer of.

6) Create micro-goals and celebrate. The example she gave here is when a 3-year-old is happy because she "did it" no matter how little that "it" was. 

7) Live in a constant state of gratitude.

I'm so glad I attended this event and I look forward to the opportunity of one day joining the Athena organization. As an intern amongst such lady bosses, I left feeling empowered and inspired to be and do great things with my life. On a final note, I've said this before but I have to say it again. I'm blow away by the support and opportunities within Qualcomm. I'm here to soak up every minute, and I'm looking forward to attending other sponsored development events, like ToastMasters, soon.