Category Archives: Personal Development

What You Need Is Will Power

When I first started my counseling practice I had all these people coming to me complaining about not having willpower.

If only they had willpower they would tell me, they would be able to
– lose weight / get fit
– stop smoking / drinking / gambling / womanizing
– control their domestic violence / drug problem / children / finances
– achieve their goals / dreams / aspirations / next birthday
– basically, succeed in anything and everything instantly and forever.

All they needed was some Will Power!

After one such session I got so fed up that afterwards I went over to my bookcase and took down the phone book.

I looked up Mr Power and discovered to my amazement

Power, Bill
Power, W
Power, William
and yes even
Power, Will!

I fantasized for months about calling each of them up and explaining I was a therapist fed up with people complaining to me about needing Will Power, and would it be alright if the next time this happened, I gave the client their phone number and told them to call.

I never did phone anyone up, and somehow I seem to get less people asking for Will Power after that phase.

Pity really.

But these days I wouldn’t give them a phone number anyway because I now have a better option.

An Australian guy has given me a website to offer instead…

Go Will Power!

-Dr Martin Russell

Are You Going Wrong Right?

You might have heard many times that it’s okay to make mistakes.

If so, good.

But what sort of mistakes?

Has anyone ever told you what sort of mistakes to make?

As a small kid I used to enjoy watching on TV the enthralling game of darts.

I would marvel at big blokes standing back from a target with all these numbers on it, throwing small spiky things into a board.

The camera would pan onto the man as he walked up to the line to throw, and then as his first dart landed, it would give you a real close up of where he was aiming.

The dart would be hanging on the board and then the other two darts would follow, thudding solidly into the board nearby.

Most often the camera wouldn’t focus on the center where the obvious bulleye was, but would instead be focused up higher waiting for all three darts to go into the triple 20, so that the cry would ring out in an excited English drawl… “One hundred and eighty!”

As the game went on and it got more tense, suddenly they would be throwing darts into new areas of the board. I wasn’t able to do my maths fast enough to sort out how they jumped about, but I would hear the tension in the announcer’s voice as it turned into a whisper. Suddenly the scattered ease was no more. The darts would come slower and more deliberately.

The camera would watch the thrower shifting his position to throw. Darts would start to regularly miss.

Sometimes it would slow dramatically, and a bunch of darts would all miss, clustered together just past the outside edge of the scoring zone. I didn’t understand why it was happening but I could sense there was a fear of hitting inside. Better to err wide.

When you make a mistake you identify the mistake by comparing what happened to what you were aiming for in the first place.

In psychological mistakes, people tend to be the same each time. We err consistently.

What if you decided to still be wrong… just in a total different or even opposite way?

For example if you are told you are lacking confidence, you could find out what it takes for you to be told you have too much confidence.

If you are driving too fast, how much do you have to slow down before your back seat driver, even it it’s just the one in your head, says you are going too slow? Does the number you see then on the speedometer, have any correlation with what a police radar would call slow?

If you are depressed, have you also identified what it means to be unsuitably happy?

Since you’re going wrong anyway, is it really the end of the game where you have to err on the side of caution, or something else?

The highest priority is in fact usually about learning to do better next time, and this works best by being in and around the mark in all sorts of varied ways.

When something is important to you and you’re not succeeding, are you at least going wrong in the right, left, up, down, back, and front ways as well?

If not, here’s something to help you play better:

-Dr Martin Russell

Count On Your Blessings

The biggest problem with reading all the self-help literature is that so much of it is just ideas with very little real evidence to back it up.

Fortunately there are some notable exceptions.

But first, take a moment to do a bit of a self-assessment.

Do you want to have any of these changes in your life…?

– Better feelings about your life as a whole,
– More optimism about your expectations for the upcoming week.
– More regularly helping others if they have a personal problem or need emotional support.
– Fewer physical complaints.
– More exercise happening in your life automatically.
– Improved amounts of sleep and quality of sleep.
– And improvements in your well-being big enough that those closest to you notice it too.

Here’s a proven self help way to get all these results.

In a series of 3 studies back in 2003 researchers Robert Emmons and Michael McCullough found that all these can be produced by doing a simple task for just 5 minutes each day over 3 weeks (or a couple of months if you want the exercise and physical benefits.)

Take a pad or diary and follow these instructions they gave study participants:

“There are many things in our lives, both large and small, that we might be grateful about. Think back over the past week and write down on the lines below up to five things in your life that you are grateful or thankful for.”

In the study some examples of gratitude-inducing experiences participants gave included: “waking up this morning,” “the generosity of friends,” “to God for giving me determination,” “for wonderful parents,” “to the Lord for just another day,” and “to the Rolling Stones.” (These were after all college students.)

Gratitude is such a simple activity.

It means acknowledging that we are blessed or advantaged in ways that have nothing to do with our own efforts.

If you are in the US and reading this on Thanksgiving Day then it may be even more important than it is for others to begin this gratitude diary starting today.

Self help doesn’t have to be hard. It’s available and ready when you are. You can count on it.

-Dr Martin Russell

Self Help Martial Arts

Solving people’s problems day in and day out can seem like a hard thing to do.

I met with a very successful woman a few weeks back who runs her own multi-million dollar company with many employees. She also has her own coaching practice where she has done telephone and personal coaching for hundreds of people.

She very clearly distinguishes between coaching, which is what she offers, versus counseling / therapy, which people often seem to expect in coaching, but is what she doesn’t do.

She told me how she couldn’t imagine dealing with the type of people I meet. Just too hard, too draining, to be able to keep being positive and inspired about life when continually meeting people who are stuck and in such a bad way in their lives.

Yet I enjoy meeting almost all the people who come to me in my counseling practice.

Personally I look back to a decade ago when I was working as a family medical doctor and I think of that work as so much less inspiring for me. I was doing 10-minute in-out medicine, in an office with doctors who did 5-minute medicine, competing with a clinic down the road that seemed to be doing 2-minute medicine.

These days I luxuriate in 50 minute long sessions that allow me to explore more and offer more too.

But the best part is meeting people who are motivated.

Yes the motivation is mostly desperation, but for my purposes that’s far better than the apathy and disinterest that most of my medical patients had.

I use the metaphor of martial arts in my self help work.

If you want to get someone flat on the ground you can either use brute strength, or you can use leverage. Best of all you can wait until they are coming at you with force. Then you just need enough finesse to redirect their momentum to where you want them to go.

Personally it’s more frustrating for me to hear “ordinary” people talking about their problems and issues. I sit there with a whole toolkit of options knowing that the moment I bring one of them out and offer it, there will most often be a polite curiosity and then either a change of subject or a raft of excuses/explanations about why it won’t work in their particular case. No momentum.

Henry David Thoreau said that most people live lives of quiet desperation.

What kind of life do you lead?

In my one-on-one work I prefer to wait until someone is unable to keep quiet any longer. My job is much easier when I wait for them to come to me.

If you have desperation in your life, you don’t have to find a psychiatric label for it, you can just embrace it and go with it.

Look for self help martial arts classes.

You can think of this blog as being such classes, and each of my products is a set of moves for a particular situation.

Some people are only ready to learn when they are in danger. Others learn self defense as a life skill ahead of time.

A fundamental set of self help moves I recommend people learn is here:

-Dr Martin Russell

The Importance Of Dying – Part 3

Part 1 introduced the last lecture of 47-year-old Randy Pausch who summarized the lessons he wants to pass on from his life.

Let me give you Randy’s most important lesson from his entire life…

“Find the best in everybody. You might have to wait a long time, sometimes years, but people will show you their good side.

Just keep waiting, no matter how long it takes.”

Or as he restated it in the ABC interview…

“If you wait long enough other people will show you their good side, and if there’s anything I have learned this is absolutely true, and sometimes it takes a lot longer than you might like, but the onus is on you to keep the hope and keep the waiting.”

This might be very easy to read, acknowledge, and then dismiss.

But ponder for a moment that a man who is distilling his entire life’s experience into a single, solitary idea, comes up with that.

So let me dissect Randy’s comments just a little.

At first sight it could be simply a garden-variety positive affirmation, or as a part of a PMA (Positive Mental Attitude), that just marks Randy as one of those guys who thinks the best of everyone.

But it is not.

Notice two things.

First, Randy is giving this as something he discovered during his life.

Therefore he did NOT always think this, and changing to this made the most valuable difference in his life that he wishes to pass on to others.

In other words he isn’t a ‘positive-only’ guy!

He’s tried out not thinking this way, and it wasn’t as good for him. In fact it was so much better when he changed that he is recommending this to everyone else too. He’s a raving fan for this idea!

In my own counseling, this belief about people that Randy begins assuming, also underpins my work. It is the biggest lesson that I gained from my non-medical training, and it changed forever the approach I was given as a medical student into one that I too think works much more effectively.

Second, and just as important, Randy is giving much more than a positive attitude.

He is outlining a method for HOW to start and KEEP this attitude.

So many beliefs and positive affirmations are set up in ways that just fall apart.

Saying “People Are Good” in the mirror each morning is unlikely to hold water for many of the 6 billion people on this planet, starting with the ones who don’t have access to a mirror, or even enough water to see their reflection in.

Instead of attempting to declare definitively that people have a good side, he is giving you a way to act and respond, EVEN IF IT IS A LIE!

Truth is not the issue. In fact, trying to find what’s true and what’s not just creates distracting arguments, usually inside your own head.

Randy is saying, here is how to act AS IF it was true, and that by behaving this way you will live your life more successfully.

It is only way one to do it, but if you are having difficulty believing what he says is useful, then you won’t believe my version. So start with Randy’s version.

“If you wait long enough other people will show you their good side.”

[You can find the original 1 hour 44 minute lecture, and the short ABC interview here in The Importance Of Dying – Part 1.]

-Dr Martin Russell

A Foundation For Self Help

One of the books that has had the most influence on me is “The Selfish Gene” by Richard Dawkins.

For me “The Selfish Gene” was ultimately a scientific clarification of Richard Carlson’s multi-million seller “Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff” with it’s strange subtitle “… and It’s All Small Stuff”.

The premise of Dawkins’ book is that life is merely a mechanism for our genetic code to spread itself. We as human beings can be thought of as simply gene factories, and our success not only spreads ourselves, it spreads our genes too, and that is the crucial factor.

When we raise animals, be they dogs, cows, or battery hens, we are helping one group of genes outlast and outgrow others like the Dodo or the shark. When we provide a means for HIV and SARS and influenza to spread worldwide, we are helping another group of genes too.

Human beings are just the most visible of genes. We are nowhere near the most successful. Each human body is just 1 set of genes which means there are less than 7 billion human gene copies around. Microbes get 7 billion into a pool of water and are ready in moments to get more billions spreading further.

Humans are in fact a rather fragile gene container, balanced precariously on the top of a whole ecosystem, that has the same potential to collapse for us as it did for the dinosaurs. We could disappear in any one of a variety of ways, and life, and genes, would continue on.

Until the Earth succumbs to forces that rip every molecule back into atoms and pieces of atoms, this planet’s genes will continue replicating and spreading themselves. Humans are useful only in the sense that they are one more way that Earth genes could spread out to the rest of the universe. Space travel inevitably carries genes, be they human, monkey or microorganism, out away from our planet and would allow genes to escape potential local destruction by supernovas or black holes or the like.

Does it all his genetic competition get lost anyway when the whole universe collapses on itself billions of years from now? … I’m happy to hang around with you to wait and see.

Intelligence and human beings ourselves are just side effects of genes replicating themselves into every available niche and permutation. Humans could be wiped clean out of the universe and genes would just keep evolving other ways as inevitably as gravity makes water pool into dips and crevices.

Your life problems would be gone in an instant, if humans disappeared forever. However the universe and genes wouldn’t miss a step.

Might not seem uplifting or helpful to think of yourself as an irrelevance. In fact one of the reviews on explains the depression and existential crisis he went through after reading Dawkins’ book.

But it can also be a release. Much like a scientific Buddhist philosophy.

It is then a secure foundation to start to make your personal choices for life. Cheers to irrelevance.

-Dr Martin W. Russell

Funny Compliment

Compliments can be really interesting things.

Here’s one I got sent that made me stop and think…

“I enjoy your insights on your blog and have been inspired several times to keep striving for what I am capable of attaining.”

I think this sentence is incredibly funny. This type of comment happens to me so often in my counseling work. I love these compliments, and yet I still scratch my head about them.

Let me explain…

If anyone can find a more downbeat, irritated, question-all-right-answers, and sometimes just downright negative blog about self-help and success, then let me know. I haven’t found one yet, but if there is I’d love to visit it.

Self help seems to come in 2 main forms.

One is the positivity type. You know the stuff. Affirmations, Law of Attraction, Unlimited Success, and on and on. Life is wonderful, and you’ve just got to believe it enough and it will be so.

I don’t buy it. It doesn’t make sense to me. To me this approach reeks of Western, democratic,  human-centered arrogance, and it sets more people on a path of disappointment than success.

The other main form of self help seems to be the “get real” type.

Now this one makes more sense to me. In fact a few years back I spent about a month watching Dr Phil episodes until I was doing him in my sleep, and I get this. I also recognize that AA is a successful model for a proportion of people.

The problem is the lack of uniform results with this “get real” version. If all it took was to honestly face the problems and then get started on fixing them then more people would do it. The results would be obvious once someone got started and although they might ‘relapse’ on occasion, they would learn to get back to what worked soon enough. But they don’t.

Both approaches, “being positive” and “getting real”, do work for certain people at certain times. But success is not certain with either method.

And if you don’t succeed, well you didn’t believe enough, you didn’t trust enough, or you weren’t really being honest enough with yourself.

There is a third type of self help which seems to be much less common because it doesn’t really seem to be self help at all. How can it be helpful to be negative? How can it be sensible to believe in things that are irrational? How can believing that you are more often wrong than right actually create any success at all?

Well these paradoxes are what my work is about, and I think it taps into something important. Important enough that people give me back comments like the one above.

If you’ve not found the success you want in your life, you’ve probably been trying the 2 approaches I mentioned above.


You may have come to the right place.

Sign up to this blog on the boxes on the side of the home page to discover more.

-Dr Martin W. Russell

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The Quicksand Guide To Professional Help

In a jungle clearing, a person is struggling, up to their waist in quicksand.

They cry out for help, but unfortunately only professional help is available…

Psychiatrist – “What you are in is called quicksand.”

Medical Practitioner – “Quicksand is a physical condition.”

The Freudian – “How old were you when you first played in a sand pit?”

Psychologist – “Let’s find the moment when your foot first touched the quicksand.”

Counselor – “You need to get out of the quicksand.”

Cognitive Behavioral Therapist – “What evidence do you have that you will die?”

Self Help Groups – “Look around, you’re not the only one. We’re under here too.”

Former Sufferer/Victim – “I found when I struggled I sank quicker.”

Hypnotist – “Use the Force, Luke”

Post-modern therapist – “You must realize this is a jungle.”

Rebirthing – “Want a different life?”

Chiropractor – “You would be further out of the sand if you stood up straighter.”

Existentialist/Logotherapist – “Like sands through the hourglass, so are the days of our lives.”

Creative Visualization – “See a house brick transforming into a helium balloon.”

Iridologist – “I can help you as long as you keep your eyes out of the sand.”

Reflexologist – “Please invert yourself so I can get to your feet.”

Tarot Reader – “Hmm. Goddess of Sand – never seen that one before.”

Astrologer – “Keep your head up today. Don’t let things get on top of you.”

Social Worker – “How are your kids and your finances?”

Evangelist – “What do you mean my laying on of hands pushed you down?”

Past-Life Regressionist – “Many of your friends preserved in the tar-pit with you are now in museums.”

Allopathic Practitioner – “Take 2 anti-sand tablets and see me tomorrow.”

Homeopath – “Here is some watered down glue.”


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Got your own suggestions for helpful professions?

Great! You can add them by commenting below.

-Dr Martin W. Russell

Final Chance

This is the last post of the week.

On around Sunday or Monday, depending on your time zone, I will be sending out a 24-hour special offer.

This will only be sent to those of you who already have one of my products.

You have until midnight Sunday US Eastern Standard Time, to order and get sent this offer.

The final product this week is one that I’m not going to explain myself.

I’ll let others tell you about it…

“Your Self-Help Meeting gave me a new slant on some problems that so many of us grapple with. It’s not a rehash of the same old info we’ve heard before. I found your video both helpful and interesting. Right after listening to it, I recommended it to a friend.”

Gary Bridgemaster

“My wife and I are on our 7th play and plan to listen yet again.

We continue to discover new principals each time.

In a time when most medical professionals are happy to prescribe a “pill” and move on, your insight and skill at seeing to the root of a problem is no less than groundbreaking.

Thank you for your help.”

Denver Fields

” I have many interests, but self help — or personal development as I think of it — is one subject I’ve read the most about over the years.

I’ve devoured hundreds of books and audio programmes by the likes of Napoleon Hill, Steven Covey, Tony Robbins, Wayne Dyer and many others.

‘Self Help Meeting’ … contains some quite provocative ideas (which have practical application) that I’ve never read or heard anywhere else.

Afterwards you may find yourself thinking and acting differently — and you may also stop ‘beating yourself up’ for things you’ve either done or think you shouldn’t do.”

Ed Rivis, UK

Here’s the page for you to check out Self Help ‘Meeting’ for yourself:

-Dr Martin W. Russell