Celebrate — Every time you fail!

high jumperOkay Debra, now you are taking this pat yourself on the back stuff a little too far! What do you mean — celebrate every time you fail?

When I first started into this field of personal development I was lucky enough to have a friend and mentor who was (and still is) one of the best in the industry. You may know that tall guy with the big teeth who does firewalks 😉  Well, back in the day he used to do a lot of personal coaching and had been called upon to work with an Olympic High Jump hopeful who was struggling badly.

Tony watched him for a few minutes and saw the pattern the young man was in which was to jump, miss the mark, come down to kicking the mat, muttering curses and generally being as frustrated and angry with himself as he could muster. Well, that makes sense as a response to “failing” right? But does it help you progress?

My friend challenged the high jumper to shift that pattern immediately. He told him that when he hit the ground he was to IMMEDIATELY jump up and CELEBRATE  for a minute, then stop and say what he had learned. The young man was very dubious about this approach and had a very difficult time with it at first but finally gave into the big guy and did it repeatedly.

Within about one hour our young high jumper had BROKEN HIS OWN RECORD! And that was the ONLY thing they did!!

Hummmm, something to think about!

Spread the word,

Read More

Now, Later, Never – When to Use Positive Reinforcement

0DelayPositive reinforcement can be very effective whether that means giving yourself a simple pat on the back or using some other type of positive reinforcement. Positive reinforcement is widely accepted as a powerful method of teaching, training and building positive habits and behaviors.

But WHEN should you give it to yourself (or someone else)?

Utah State University published a behavioral guidelines checklist which confirms that  positive reinforcement is most effective when it occurs immediately after the behavior. The guidelines also recommend the reinforcement should be presented enthusiastically and should occur frequently. One of the beauties of a pat on the back (and the iPhone APP that makes it even easier) is that it can easily be done in the moment and the applause setting on the app definitely adds a fun sense of enthusiasm!

The shorter the amount of time between any behavior you want to reinforce and the subsequent positive reinforcement, the stronger the connection will be in the brain — remember the brain tells us to move TOWARD pleasure and AWAY from pain.

Delay of positive reinforcement…

If a long period of time elapses between the behavior and the positive reinforcement, the connection will be weaker from the behavior to the brain and heart. So as the delay increases, the effectiveness of the reinforcement decreases. The scary thing is that I find many people aren’t giving themselves much, if any positive reinforcement, ever – urghh! And then they wonder why they aren’t feeling motivated!

So the important message here is catch yourself (and others) engaged in behaviors you want and find lots of ways to enthusiastically reinforce them as quickly as possible.  You’ll be building connections from the behavior to the pleasure center in the brain. It just makes sense 😉

Spread the Word,




Read More

How would YOU go about winning the GOLD?

winning_gold_sageFrom the time I began in the field of personal development, I’ve heard about the importance of modeling others as a way of speeding up the process of creating success.  Find out what others who have succeeded thought, what actions they took, what strategies they used — do the same and you’ll get the same results. Great!

And modeling does work — at least a good portion of the time. However, there is an important caveat.

Model people who are similar to you who have created the success you desire.

Sage Kotsenburg just won the first gold of the 2014 Winter Olympics and when he stood at the top of the course at Rosa Khutor Extreme Park on Saturday, he was not sure which tricks he would attempt.

The one that mattered was one he had never attempted“I just kind of make things up,” he said.

Think of how different this is from other competitors who have spent all winter perfecting runs that they imagined for months.

Which strategy is better for you? For some of you, this “I just make things up.” strategy would never work and for others it could be a way of thinking that frees you to create greatness!

It depends on your natural strengths.

Another example… If you are a quiet person who wants to be a speaker would it really make sense to model someone like Anthony Robbins? If you are a high energy, boisterous person would it really make sense to model someone like Deepak Chopra? Well, yes and no. Of course there are things to learn from everyone and we most likely can all benefit from stretching ourselves to grow and expand our idea of who we are and who we can be.

But when it comes right down to it, what I’ve observed after almost 30 years in this field is that people rarely change the core of their personality so doesn’t it make sense to just go with it? Make the absolute most of your uniqueness instead of trying to model someone completely different from yourself?

Learn from / model others but make YOUR mark, YOUR way!

Spread the word,

Read More

Is Fear Blocking You from Your Strengths?

cowardly lionWe all have natural strengths and talents and when we spend the lion’s share of our time and energy engaged in activities that bring out those strengths and talents, most of us will be much more successful and certainly more fulfilled.

But are you letting fear block you from your strengths?

You may not even realize it. In my coaching practice, I’m working with clients every day to go after and attain what they truly desire in their life. Sometimes repeated efforts without results is simply a matter of needing a better strategy but that’s rare.

Two of the most common reasons for not attaining what you truly desire are:

1) Going after goals that are not aligned with your strengths and/or

2) Allowing fear to block you from a relentless pursuit of your goals.

So how do you handle both of these. For #1 — Take the Strengths Assessment and then honestly evaluate what you are up to. Make sure the majority of your goals are primarily aligned with your natural strengths – it’ll make a huge difference.

Now how to overcome fear…

One of my favorite techniques (and there are many) is what I coined “Natural Affirmations.” This was one of the primary techniques I used in overcoming my phobia of public speaking. You may have heard of affirmations or incantations as a method for reinforcing and/or directing your unconscious mind to create what you want. Those can work but I’ve found this simple twist on affirmations to be much more effective.

Here’s how I used Natural Affirmations to overcome my phobia of public speaking and I really do mean phobia. Everyday for three weeks (would have done it longer if I had needed to) I pretended to have already overcome the phobia. Instead of standing in front of a mirror and saying ten times “I love public speaking” — which for me feels a little unnatural — periodically throughout the day, several times a day I would say things like… “I’m so happy I overcame that silly phobia.” “It’s awesome that I enjoy public speaking so much now.” “I’m so proud of myself that I put that behind me.” “Gosh, I wish someone would call me and invite me to do some speaking.” “I just freakin’ love getting up in front of people now.” The idea is to talk to yourself the way you really would if you had already accomplished the goal hence, Natural Affirmations. 

A couple of nuances… 1) It’s critical that you say it like you mean it!  That means say it with conviction, excitement, energy, playfulness, etc. 2) You most likely won’t believe it or feel congruent at first. When I first started saying those things the little voice in my head would say, “Bullshit” (or some equivalent).  After a couple of weeks the little voice timidly mused, “It really might be kind of cool to do some public speaking.” And by week three, the little voice (which was now a lot stronger) declared, “I really am excited to get up in front of people and do this!”

It’s a process but it’s so incredibly worthwhile in freeing you up to identify, maximize and master your strengths!

Spread the word,

Read More

One Way to Really Have a HAPPY New Year!

Happy New Year

Around this time of year most of us begin thinking about what will make the upcoming year a happy one. We usually then start with goals, thinking that the achievement of these goals will make us happy and they do or at least can for the moment. But what is happiness really? Of course that’s for each person to determine for themselves but one thing that makes people happy through time is loving what they do – loving how they spend their time.

My work with Pat Yourself on the Back – and I hope you are still giving those pats to yourself several times a day – has another side to the same coin and that is my work with Strengths.

When you…

IDENTIFY Your Strengths

MASTER Your Strengths

MAXIMIZE Your Strengths

LIVE a Strengths-Based Life

then life feels great and if you create your world such that you are spending 70-80% of your time engaging your strengths, the chances are YOU’LL BE HAPPY!

When you are using your strengths everyday, most of the day, you’ll have even more reasons to give yourself regular pats on the back – it’s a beautiful cycle that produces happiness, fulfillment, and success.

So decide now to make 2014 a truly Happy New Year by bringing your strengths to the forefront of your life!

Spread the word!
Your coach, Debra

P.S. If you’d like to learn more about your strengths you can…

  1. Click here to take the StrengthsFinders Assessment.
  2. Click here to take the StrengthsFinder Assessment plus get a one-hour personalized Strengths Consultation with Master Coach, Debra Russell
Read More

But I Need a Kick in the Butt

kick_in_the_buttMaybe you do – I suppose we all need a swift kick once in a while but I guarantee you that a steady diet of kicks in the ass will not work!  There are two primary motivators that we all deal with which are 1) pain / consequences and 2) pleasure / rewards. Which is more powerful? Well that depends. Pain or consequences can be very powerful in getting us to start or stop something. I definitely utilize this power in my coaching but SPARINGLY!

Here’s the thing, pain works in short doses at the right time. If you are right on the edge and you want something and you are capable (whether you know it or not), then a swift dose of immediate consequence can be perfect to get yourself moving. However, if you use this tactic consistently it loses it’s power and it takes more and more pain to get you to take action and that’s a very unfulfilling and unhappy game to play in life. And unfortunately, if you consistently use negative consequences as a motivator then at some point it will likely backfire causing you to become disempowered or hopeless.

When writing my book, I Almost Missed My Life, I knew that some pain / consequences would be necessary to get me started. So I intentionally set up a consequence to get a positive result. I wrote to several people whom I greatly respected and told them I would send one “secret” (there were 52) to them each Monday morning until I finished. I know myself and I would have felt terrible to not keep my word to these people. Sometimes I found myself starting at 10:00 p.m. on Sunday night but I got it done. But I also gave myself pats on the back each time I sent a secret out!  After about seven weeks I started to get momentum and I no longer needed the “pain.”  The good feelings I gave myself for the progress started to kick in and I was able to complete the entire 52 Secrets in about four months instead of twelve.

It’s amazing to me how many people though are still stuck on kicking themselves constantly to get themselves to do what they want or for not doing what they wanted to do — in spite of the fact that it doesn’t work most of the time. Even the old adage about mother birds pushing their babies out of the nest is a myth. For example, Ornithologists have observed eagles coaxing, their young from the nest, rather than just giving them a shove. When the fledgling eagle is almost ready to fly, parents have been observed to swoop by the nest with a fresh kill. Instead of landing in the nest as usual to share the meal, the parent lands near the nest and eats in plain view of its squawking, hungry teenager. This behavior continues until the fledgling is decides to venture out of the nest, at which point the parent will share its food. REWARD!

So if you REALLY need a swift kick in the butt — go for it! But make sure you also give yourself that pat on the back when you take the action!

Spread the word,


Read More

The Deep Fear of Not Being Good Enough

Not Good EnoughThere are experts who propose that our two greatest fears are 1) Not being good enough and 2) Not being loved.

Really those fears are one in the same because what we’re really afraid of is that if we’re not good enough, competent enough, smart enough, “fill in the blank” enough, then we won’t be loved.

Think about this…

We are humans (big surprise right?) and as infants we depend on love, attention, and care for our physical survival.  Therefore, somewhere deep in our psyche is a fear that if we aren’t loved, we could die — overly dramatic? Maybe, but haven’t you ever noticed that the intensity of some of your fears frequently are just not supported by the reality of the situation? The girl rejects you when you ask her out, or someone doesn’t agree with your opinion, or someone simply says “no” to you —so freakin’ what? But how many of us avoid experiencing rejection at all costs? It just doesn’t make sense! Oh yeah, it actually does make sense but what to do about it.

I’m certainly not here to say that patting yourself on the back and living a strengths focused life is all there is to it but building an internal foundation of personal acknowledgement and focus on what’s RIGHT about yourself can go very far in strengthening your certainty and confidence in yourself and lessen your concern of not being enough.

Just start small with noticing. Notice ANYTIME you do something remotely in the direction of being, doing, having, creating what you truly desire and then build on that by consistently giving yourself credit / acknowledgement for whatever you noticed. Here’s a simple, personal example.

I’m not sure why but I just never was comfortable giving people compliments. I would think a nice thought about someone in my head and then not say it aloud to them. I decided I really wanted to learn and get comfortable with expressing these thoughts to people. One day (not really all that long ago — this is an ongoing habit I’m building) I went into a restaurant and the hostess was a girl of about 19 who had the most beautiful, bright face I’d seen in a long time. As she was escorting us to our table I realized what had just happened — I had had the thought and didn’t say anything. Right then I stopped and turned to her and said, “I was just thinking that you have one of the most beautiful, bright faces I’ve seen in ages. How do you do that?” She beamed even brighter and started talking about how she loved her job and was having such a good time with it and school, etc.  She felt GREAT and I felt GREAT.

I must have given myself a dozen pats on the back over the next few days for that little progress in being a person who expresses compliments to others and it just made me want to do it more! The Pat Yourself on the Back iPhone App is a great little tool for helping you acknowledge yourself but you can certainly do it on your own.

When you focus on progress, on little and big accomplishments, on what you like and / or appreciate about yourself, you will be more likely to enjoy the acceptance and love of the outside world but your fear of not having it will diminish greatly – ahhh what a relief 😉

Spread the word,

Read More