Why I Love Sports

Debra on safari with Richard Branson and family (she loves her Chicago Cubs)

Debra on safari with Richard Branson  (she loves her Chicago Cubs)

I don’t get irked very easily but you know when I do?  When people roll their eyes upon discovering that I love college and professional sports.  I think I really confuse them when someone they see as a “spiritual leader” actually cares who wins the World Series or the NBA Championship.  It appears that many or maybe most of my colleagues and clients are somehow disappointed that I could be so captivated with such a seemingly superficial aspect of creation—especially given the state of the world.

Although I feel no need to justify my love of the Chicago Cubs, Bulls and even da Bears, I will tell you why I love sports in general:

1.  Sports inspire us. When we see some kid from the Bronx with little hope of crawling out of poverty hit the home run that makes his team the world champions and all the team members run on the field and jump on top of him like a pile of puppies, I don’t know about you, but it inspires me to do greater things in my own life.

2. Sports allow us to feel empathy. When it’s your home team whose players are running towards that kid and jumping with uncontainable joy landing in the big man pile, you feel indescribable elation yourself. And if your team is the one whose players are sitting in shock peering out through the metal of the fence around the dugout with tears streaming down their faces, your heart breaks along with theirs.

3.  Sports give us a glimpse of the best in each other. I just heard a story on the news about a kid named Zach in Iowa who was about to finish ahead of the pack in his state cross-country meet when he went to the aid of a runner who had collapsed. Although he still ended up finishing the race in a qualifying position, he was told he was disqualified because Iowa state athletic rules say no runner can help another. When asked about his disappointment he said, “If I could do it all again I wouldn’t change a thing. I did what I felt was right.”

Debra and her son Daniel cheering on their Iowa Hawkeyes

4.  Sports let us feel like a winner. Even when we don’t have one ounce of athleticism anywhere in our being, we can still be a winner. When our team triumphs, we parade through the streets wearing our team’s cap as proudly as if we were the one who shot the winning basket or caught the final touchdown pass. Long after the confetti has been swept up, we still puff up our chests as we wear our teams jersey and proudly tell everyone who wants to listen to us, that we were even at the parade.

5.  Sports let us connect with others in profound camaraderie. The bonds that result from sharing your teams sporting event transcend gender, race, age, socioeconomic background, political differences and more. Where else can you be surrounded by total strangers who within minutes you’re high-fiving and hugging like you’ve known each other for years?

6.  Sports allow us to have a spiritual experience without having to admit that we’re spiritual. Ken Reed, author of How We Can Save Sports, likens sports to a spiritual experience. He says that athletes, when they are “in the zone,” convey a sense of ecstasy, confidence, and oneness with the universe, and we, as spectators, get to experience that contact high. Furthermore, brain research has shown that we get “lit up” equally as much when we celebrate another’s success as when we win ourselves. 

So if you want to roll your eyes when I just have to tell anyone who will listen including you about the 90 yard touchdown run by the rookie in his first game, or the title-clinching 3-pointer from half court at the buzzer, or where I was when my Cubbies won the World Series, that’s your prerogative….but I’m here to tell you, you really might want to come with me to a game sometime—after your yoga class.

The Myth of Perfection

According to Brené Brown, author of several New York Times bestsellers including The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You’re Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are, the definition of perfectionism goes like this: “Perfectionism is a self-destructive and addictive belief system that fuels the thought, ‘If I look perfect, live perfectly, and do everything perfectly, I can avoid or minimize the painful feelings of shame, judgment, and blame.'”

Brené goes on to explain that perfectionism is self-destructive simply because there is no such thing as perfect. Perfection is an unattainable goal and is in fact really only about perception. We want to be perceived as perfect but it’s unattainable because it doesn’t exist and there’s no way to control other people’s perception of you, regardless of how much time and energy you spend trying.

Perfectionism is addictive because when we do experience being judged or blamed or feeling shame, we often believe it’s because we weren’t perfect enough so rather than question the faulty logic of perfectionism, we become even more committed to our mission of living, looking and doing everything just right.

So how do we overcome perfectionism?

We need to be able to acknowledge our vulnerabilities and practice self-compassion. When we become more loving and compassionate with ourselves and we begin to practice what Brené calls “shame resilience,” we can embrace our imperfections.

And it’s in the process of embracing our imperfections that we find our truest gifts and create our most meaningful connections and deepest relationships.

So first we want you to notice the difference between perfectionism and healthy striving. Healthy striving is simply wanting to do a good job for positive reasons and not because you believe that if you’re perfect you can avoid shame, blame, and judgment-all three of which we need to accept as realities of life.
So when you find yourself re-writing the report for the fourth time, ask yourself, “Am I just wanting to do a good job or am I trying to be perfect in order to avoid shame, blame or judgment?” Be honest with yourself and if the answer is the latter, stop and accept “good enough” or ask for help. It’s that’s simple. You can, at that moment, also remind yourself that perfection doesn’t exist and no one is going to notice the difference between excellent and what you think is perfect. You can also remind yourself that the time and energy it takes to go from excellent and what you think is perfect is not worth your health and your relationships.
Brené also believes that the need to be perfect is what kills creativity. How can you let creativity loose when you’re afraid to make a mistake? It even kills risk-taking for the same reason. If you take a risk, there’s always the chance you won’t appear perfect – and risk taking is what leads to the greatest entrepreneurial success.
Here’s a test to see if you fall in the category of perfectionist:

1. You feel compelled to be the best in everything you do, even if it’s something you don’t care that much about.

2. You’re hyper-critical and highly conscious of your and other people’s mistakes.

3. You spend much of your time to perfect something even at the expense of your health and well-being.

4. You set absolute ideals. There is only black and white, no grey.

5. You beat yourself up over the smallest thing that goes wrong.

6. You obsessively mull over outcomes and how you could have done things differently if they didn’t turn out as perfectly as you had envisioned.

7. You’re hyper-sensitive and defensive towards criticism.

8. You are so obsessed about achieving your goal that you seldom, if ever, enjoy or even notice the journey.

So I invite you to let go of the need to be perfect because the opposite of perfection isn’t imperfection or mediocrity—it’s reality.

If You Ever Let Fear Stop You, Think of Susan

Several years ago I attended a fund-raising gala for a fabulous organization called The Unstoppable Foundation, a non-profit started by my dear friend Cynthia Kersey that brings clean water, education and hope to some of the poorest communities in Africa.

One of the highlights for me that night was when we heard the story of a young girl from Kenya whose life looked like it would be a typical one for the girls in her community… fetching water and helping her mother care for her brothers and sisters until she was a young teen at which time she’d be married off and begin having babies herself. The girl’s name was Susan and she was born to an impoverished family in a village where the closest school was miles away. Almost no one went to school in her region – especially if you were a girl. Only through sheer determination was Susan able to complete primary school and graduate at the top of her class. She’d worked incredibly hard as her dream was to qualify to fill one of only 40 positions available to girls out of the almost 1000 who applied to the only secondary school for girls in the entire area. The day came when the list arrived of the 40 girls who were chosen to fill the spots and Susan’s name was not on the list.

Here is her story of going for her dream no matter what….

Susan’s teachers were as broken-hearted as she was when her name didn’t appear on the list, but there was nothing anyone could do – or so they said. Susan, however, was not taking no for an answer. She wanted to know why she wasn’t chosen.

So on the day that school began she walked for miles to the place where the 40 girls were ready to enter the school building and begin their year.

Susan marched right up to the head mistress in front of all the other girls in their beautiful new school uniforms and demanded to know why she hadn’t been chosen. The head mistress said she was sorry but there were only 40 spots because they only had 40 beds and 40 desks and 40 sets of books and she was number 41. There was no money for any more girls and there was nothing she could do. Susan held back her tears as she implored the head mistress to let her in and said there must be something that could be done. Soon the other girls also began begging the head mistress to let Susan in saying they would share their books and push beds together and share their uniforms and give Susan their desks and they would sit on the floor if they would please let her in…

Susan was flown in from Kenya to address the gala and thank the donors as she had just graduated from the school at #1 in her class and was now going to graduate school to become a nurse.

What struck me most about this story was how fearless this young girl was. She didn’t care if the other girls laughed at her. She didn’t care if the head mistress reprimanded her and sent her home. She wanted what she wanted.

How many times have you let fear stop you? How many times have you shrunk with the first no? And worse yet, how many times have you let other’s opinions of what you think they’re going to think about you cause you to let go of your dreams?

Would you have had the courage to do what Susan did or would you have just accepted your fate?

Fear will always be there no matter how successful you become. Success doesn’t mean you’ll never be afraid. It simply means that if you really want to live a life you love you don’t let the fear stop you.

I invite you to begin to notice when you’re about to let fear stop you. Feel the fear in your body, breath into it – then think of Susan and move courageously forward knowing that everything you want, every dream you hold, is waiting for you—right on the other side of the fear.

The Amazing Power of Our Attention to Create a Life We Love – and What Happened When I Died


As you all know from having passed Law of Attraction 101, whatever you give your attention to will grow in your life. If you use your powerful attention to dwell on lack and limitation or what’s not going well, you’ll manifest more of it. If you put your attention on what’s good and abundant, you’ll manifest more good and abundance.

So why is it that even when you’re putting your attention in all the right places sometimes you just feel energetically thwarted?

There are probably many reasons but one might be this: there are too many other people around you whose thoughts aren’t supporting your vision…

Although we believe that everyone is doing the best they can given their own life’s circumstances, you might want to ask yourself, “Are there people in my life who are creating a field of resistance that might be holding me back? Are there people who for one reason or another might not want me to be happy and successful? Is it wise to continue to have these people in my life?”

Several years ago I had a powerful experience in the ER room that made me ponder these questions more deeply.  It was a direct experience of how other people’s thoughts can effect our lives.

Here’s what happened:

I woke up on a Monday morning not feeling great. I thought I had the flu which was not big deal.  I was so healthy that  my “flus” would only last a few hours or a day at most since I’d knock them right out with my cache of Echinacea, golden seal and vitamin C. Although I executed my usual routine, as that day and the next few passed I realized that this flu was not going away so quickly and by Friday, I was sicker than I ever remember having been in my life. In fact on Saturday when I managed to lift my head to dial my local energy healer he told me he’d help me—but only if I called 911 immediately.

When the paramedics arrived and asked what hospital I wanted to go to and I told them, they commiserated and decided that I might not survive the 11-minute ride to that hospital and instead took me to the hospital three minutes away. My blood pressure at that point was 57/28 and it turned out I had what is known as an acute sepsis. The majority of people don’t survive since this means you have a deadly bacteria in your bloodstream—I had two.

When I arrived at the ER I started to lose consciousness. I guess I had what might be termed a near death experience but I didn’t go through any dark tunnel or see any being of light. I just noticed that when my eyes were open I could see what was going on in the room and when my eyes were closed I could also see what was going on, but everything seemed to be orchestrated by a radiant light.

I noticed that this light was guiding everything that anyone in the room was doing and that there was no such thing as a mistake. There was only perfection in the room and in the universe. Then the most amazing thing happened. I saw the power of people’s words and thoughts…

Although she knew that my life was hanging by a thread, one of the nurses noticed the tear trickling down my husband’s cheek (he had subsequently arrived) so she went over and put her hand on his shoulder, and said, “Don’t worry. She’s going to be fine.” And as the words came out of her mouth I saw them as a sparkling pink energy stream that went from her mouth into my body and made me fine. I felt her words strengthen every cell in my body. I remember thinking that I now had proof of what I had taught for years about the power your words have over life and death.

Then, a few moments later, the doctor came in, looked at the monitors and in a very tense and urgent voice said, ‘Get that blood pressure up or we’re going to lose her.’ I saw a murky brown-gray energy accompany his words and enter my body, visibly weakening my condition.

So here I am close to death and I have the clear thought that if I had the strength to speak, I would tell everybody in the room to just turn towards me and say or think, “She’s going to be fine,” and I could have gotten up off the gurney and headed to the gym for a workout.

The good news is, I lived….but you probably figured that out. And the better news is that from that moment on I have been even more committed to sharing the power of your words and how they not only effect your life but they can actually effect the lives of those you speak them about.

Actually my experience has a lot of scientific evidence to support it. If you saw the movie, What the Bleep?!, you’d know that there have been ample studies proving that matter and reality are profoundly effected by our thoughts and words.

In fact, a few years ago a woman named Lynne McTaggart began a global movement called The Intention Experiment. The Intention Experiment was a series of scientifically controlled experiments testing the power of intention to actually change the physical world. Thousands of volunteers from 30 countries participated with astonishing results all of which have been verified by leading researchers including physicists and psychologists at Princeton, Cambridge, the International Institute of Biophysics and The Institute of Noetic Sciences.

In her pilot experiment, Lynne asked a group of people based in London to direct their thoughts to four remote targets in a laboratory in Germany. The targets were two types of algae, one plant and one human volunteer.

The people in London were asked to attempt to lower certain measurable biological processes in the four targets. The result? The doctors at the German lab found significant changes in all four targets – that means the people in London, through their intentions created changes in the algae, the plant and even the human volunteers in Germany!

And now Lynne has gone on to experiment with groups of people putting their attention on each other’s success, happiness, and physical and emotional well-being through what she calls The Groups of Eight. She has eight people put their attention on one member of the group at a time and the miracles that these group intentions are creating for the individuals are far beyond what they could generate themselves including healings, loved ones being reunited, monetary windfalls, houses selling in twenty-four hours that had been on the market for years, lost pets showing up, and more.

So if this is all true, wouldn’t it be fantastic to have people around you who genuinely desire your success and happiness? I definitely think so.

So here are some things you can do to capitalize on this new-found power you have over life and death:

1. Invite into your life only those people who want the best for you.

2. Get a copy of Lynne McTaggert’s book The Power of 8 and organize a group of friends to do the Intention Experiment with you and see what you can create for each other with your intentions.

3. Remember the power of your words. For the next couple weeks, notice when you make a statement of something you don’t want to manifest and replace it with the opposite statement of what you do want and watch how much your life shifts from this practice.

It will only take a week or two to change this habit for good and I promise that your life will never be the same.

Be Careful With Whom You Share Your Cherished Goals – and Thank You for Sharing

While we’d like to have the support and encouragement of the people in our lives when we share our visions, we’ve all had the experience of our loved ones telling us to be realistic or completely stomping on our dreams.

It hurts to be criticized or even ridiculed. And although I believe that everyone is doing the best they can given their own life circumstances, we do need to be careful with whom we share our cherished visions.

When you have an idea that lights you up and you share it with a member of what I call the discouragement committee and they tell you immediately all the reasons why your idea will never work, it could blow your candle out, never to be lit again.

It’s not that these people consciously don’t want you to be happy, but they most likely are unconsciously threatened in some way by your vision. Maybe they’re afraid that you’ll leave them behind as you pursue your dreams or they wrongly think that your success in some way will take success away from them.

So sometimes it’s good to keep our cherished dreams to ourselves. The words sacred and secret come from the same root–that which is sacred should be kept secret and your precious dreams certainly fall into that category.

In an ideal world, we would always be surrounded by positive, encouraging people but since we can’t control others, if you do encounter the discouragement committee, just don’t allow yourself to be dissuaded – or even use their discouragement as “inspirational dissatisfaction.”

When Henry Ford had the idea to build the Model T, he shared his idea with his dad who said to him, ” And you gave up a good $5 a week job to chase a crazy idea like that?” Ford said that that was the moment that he committed beyond a doubt to creating his vision of a horseless carriage.

Several decades ago my brother-in-law came to one of my Yes to Success seminars. He had always loved music, was a disc jockey in college, wrote a music column in his school newspaper and had a real eye for talent. His dream was to pursue a career as a manager or agent in the music industry.

At the seminar he told me that his parents were encouraging him to be practical and go into computers and were going to pay for him to attend graduate school in that field, warning him that the music industry was too difficult and hardly anyone makes it. During the seminar he had an epiphany. He realized that he didn’t care how difficult it was or how few people made it, it was what lit him up and made his heart sing. He told his parents thanks but no thanks.

So he went out and started a small independent record label and one day in a café in Seattle playing to a room of about 12 people he heard a band that he knew could be hot so he signed them to his label and that little group named Nirvana became one of the most successful bands in music history. Soon my brother-in-law’s little record label was worth 10’s of millions of dollars.

Remember the quote from Ralph Waldo Emerson: “There’s nothing capricious in nature. The implanting of a desire indicates that its gratification is in the constitution of the creature who feels it.”

In other words, you wouldn’t have had the idea in the first place if you weren’t meant to bring it to fruition. So you can tell the naysayers, “Thank you for sharing,” and continue to make your dreams come true. Remember your dreams want you as much as you want them.