Are You a Closet Pessimist?

pessimistMany people I speak with think of themselves in general as optimists, however the behavior they engage in on a regular basis suggests they may really be closet pessimists.

How do you know whether you are being an optimist or a pessimist?

In a book I read eons ago called, Learned Optimism by Martin Seligman, the author offers a scientifically proven argument for the importance of optimism for health, happiness and success. Seligman breaks down optimism and pessimism into three general categories:

  • Permanence
  • Pervasiveness
  • Personalization – this one is most connected to Pat Yourself on the Back!


  • The pessimist views bad events or more accurately, events they don’t like as permanent. “This always happens and won’t ever change.”
  • The optimist views the same events as situational or temporary. You’ll often hear them expressing the sentiment of ‘this too shall pass.’


  • People who make universal explanations for their failures give up on everything when a failure strikes in one area. People who make specific explanations may become helpless in that one area, but not in any others.
  • Optimists believe that bad events have specific causes and are compartmentalized, and that good events enhance everything they do. Pessimists believe that bad events have universal causes, and good events have specific factors.


  • People who blame themselves or who are always finding something wrong with themselves inevitably will create low self-esteem and / or unhappiness. People who blame external events preserve their self-esteem and like themselves better. 
  • Optimists internalize good events and externalize bad events. Pessimists do the opposite.

In my coaching work, I find a lot of people who have turned self-responsibility into self-blame. There is a big difference between the two. I absolutely encourage taking ownership and responsibility for our actions and for any corresponding consequences – it’s very empowering to do so. But self-blame damages your well-being and creates disempowerment and even hopelessness and depression. Where self-responsibility is empowering and focuses on a better future.

In an effort to “improve”, many people keep vigilant attention on what’s wrong with themselves – constantly identifying their own issues, what they need to change, etc. Always remember “the magic ratio,” the 5:1 of positive to negative. Be vigilant in catching yourself doing the things you like or want. When something doesn’t go the way you prefer, look at the external circumstances FIRST, then take positive ownership of your part and get on to what specific action you’ll take to correct it or if that’s not possible, what you’ll do differently in the future.

Then Pat Yourself on the Back for figuring that out 😉

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The Magic Ratio

5 to 1According to the Nobel Prize-winning scientist Daniel Kahneman, each day we experience approximately 20,000 moments — a moment being defined as the few seconds it takes our brain to process / record an experience.  We may record the moment as positive, negative or neutral however, we tend to primarily remember the positive or negative moments. How we remember these moments, the perspective we put on them dramatically affects the quality of our days, weeks, years and ultimately our life.

According to a decade of scientific study, the ratio of positive-to-negative interactions / experiences / moments we experience can be used to predict—with remarkable accuracy—everything from workplace performance to divorce. This work, which began with noted psychologist John Gottman’s exploration of positive-to-negative ratios in marriages. Using a 5:1 ratio, which Gottman dubbed ‘the magic ratio,’ he and his colleague predicted whether 700 newlywed couples would stay together or divorce by measuring their positive and negative interactions in one 15-minute conversation between each husband and wife. Ten years later, the follow-up revealed they had predicted divorce with 94 percent accuracy. 

Another example is the research of business teams by academic Emily Heaphy and consultant Marcial Losada, where they found that the factor that made the greatest difference between the most and least successful teams was the ratio of positive comments to negative comments that the participants made to one another. The average ratio for the highest-performing teams was 5.6 (that is, nearly six positive comments for every negative one). The medium-performance teams averaged 1.9 (almost twice as many positive comments than negative ones.) But the average for the low-performing teams, at 0.36 to 1, was almost three negative comments for every positive one.

Let’s bring this back to YOU! What is your internal ratio of positive-to-negative comments? I work with many clients who want to feel more confident, to take more action, to enjoy life more, to create more success. And yet, their own internal ratio of positive-to-negative is slanted heavily on the side of negative. Just note that it’s virtually impossible for you to create what you really desire if you don’t shift that ratio! What’s your commitment to yourself. Do you want to be a high-performing person or a low-performing person? Do you want to be happy, strong, confident or unhappy, weak and doubtful? It’s up to you to take charge and to build the habit!

One of the purposes of the Pat Yourself on the Back App is to give you a simple tool for giving yourself more positive comments and acknowledgements. Whether you utilize the app or not, please make sure to consciously build up your internal 5:1 ratio of positive-to-negative comments to YOURSELF. It will change the quality of your life experience!

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The Dipper and the Bucket

How Full Is Your BucketThere is an absolutely wonderful book entitled, How Full Is Your Bucket by Tom Rath and Donald O. Clifton, Ph.D. that offers the metaphor of the dipper and the bucket. They suggest we each have an invisible bucket that is constantly being emptied or filled based on what others do and say. My experience is that a major factor affecting the emptying or filling of that bucket is in YOUR hands!

A full bucket inspires a positive outlook and approach along with renewed energy. Each time you fill your own bucket (or someone else’s) you get stronger.

But an empty bucket poisons our thoughts, zaps our energy and weakens our will to take action.

So we face a choice on a daily basis. Do we fill or empty other’s buckets (which indirectly affects our own)? Do we leave it up to the external world to fill or empty our own bucket or do we take charge of filling it ourselves? Well, you already know what I think the best answer is to that question. 😉

It’s a profoundly important choice / decision for you to make, one that will influence your relationships, productivity, health, confidence, happiness and success.

Spread the word, Debra

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Have you been waging psychological warfare on yourself?

Psychological_WarfareIn the North Korean POW camps there were fewer cases of physical abuse than in prison camps from any other major military conflict throughout history. Why then was the death rate 38% – the highest POW death rate in U.S. military history? The full story is absolutely fascinating but the bottom-line is that the soldiers experienced extreme hopelessness.

In my almost 30 years of coaching, I have found that people commonly use two of the primary psychological warfare tactics used to “torture” soldiers:

1)   Self-criticism

2)   Withholding positive emotional support


Regular “therapy” sessions were held with groups of 10-12 soldiers. The entire focus was to confess all the bad things he had done, as well as, all the good things he could have or should have done but didn’t.  How much time do you focus on what you haven’t done well, should have done better, etc.? That’s right, every time a person does this they are tearing themselves down bit by bit – it was a weapon used in psychological warfare!

Withholding positive emotional support:

Some believe the most damaging tactic was withholding emotional support. The captors withheld any and all letters from home that contained love and support. They of course, let through any that told of loved ones passing away, wives leaving husbands, etc. They even delivered overdue bills from collection agencies. How often have you “deleted” examples of love and support or withheld love and support of yourself while letting through any and everything that feels bad?

Thank goodness there is a flip side! Any time you catch yourself in self-criticism, STOP and look for something to acknowledge in yourself. Practice giving yourself a pat on the back on a regular basis – building yourself up each and every day. You really can build the muscle to increase your focus and attention on the good things in yourself and your life.

So Give YOURSELF a Pat on the Back each and every day. It truly is a secret for creating greater motivation, confidence and success.

Spread the word,



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The Beatings Will Continue Until the Morale Improves

The Beatings Will Continue..Are you beating yourself up thinking it will make you do more, be better? News flash – it doesn’t work!!!

One of the saddest things I experience in my coaching practice is seeing amazing, wonderful, fabulous people who feel they aren’t good enough. People who are constantly striving but no matter how much external success they attain, never feel like it’s enough. Sometimes, this is simply a misplaced idea that the “beatings” are necessary to keep them motivated. I would suggest that they are motivated by some other deep desire IN SPITE of the useless and damaging habit of self-abuse. For others they have been beating themselves up for so long it has become a habitual pattern.

I won’t deny that a well-place kick in the butt is sometimes the perfect answer but always keep in mind the 5:1 ratio of positive to negative. However, constant negative critique is truly damaging to your spirit, your motivation, your confidence, to your success and to your enjoyment of life.

If you’ve been a self-beater, please print out and sign your resignation letter below from that ridiculous club NOW.


To: The Chairman of the Self Beaters Club

Re: Notice of resignation

Date: (fill in date)

I (fill in your name), hereby give my notice to the Self Beaters Club to take immediate effect.

I understand that by giving my notice, I will never, ever be allowed to renew my membership for the rest of my life.

If anyone ever notices me beating myself up again, they have my permission to laugh uncontrollably for at least one minute and remind me that I am no longer a member of that ridiculous club.

Sign (in ernest) __________________________________

Spread the word, Debra

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Give YOURSELF a Positive Ticket!

Positive TicketAs with many, if not most, of the examples I’ll be giving you, this one is focused on the power of positive reinforcement of others. So I will continue to stress the importance of using the same principles on YOURSELF…

For years, a detachment of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) Richmond, Canada used the strategies of most other law enforcement bureaucracies – with similar results. Their reoffending rates ran at around 60% with spiraling rates of youth crime. A forward-thinking new superintendent, Ward Clapham, did something amazing when he challenged the core assumptions of the system itself. He asked: “Could we design a system that encouraged people to not commit crime in the first place?”

They decided to test an approach that was to try to catch youth doing the right things and give them a Positive Ticket. The ticket rewarded the kids with various things from free entry to the movies or to a local youth center and more. The officers starting giving out an average of 40,000 tickets positive tickets per year – three times the number of negative tickets over the same period. According to research, the Losada Line states that 2.9% is the minimum ratio of positive to negatives that has to exist for a team to flourish. On higher-performing teams (and marriages for that matter) the ratio jumps to 5:1. But did that hold true in policing?

According to Clapham, youth re-offensives were reduced from 60% to 8%. Overall crime was reduced by 40%. Youth crime was cut in half. And it cost one-tenth of the traditional judicial system – incredible!

So what about YOU? Do you want to be a high performer? Can you afford to wait for external positive reinforcement? Let whatever comes from the outside be gravy and make sure you are giving YOURSELF a 5:1 ratio of positive to negative reinforcement.

Spread the word!  ~Debra

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