Tuesday, February 16, 2010


By Theresa McKeon

TAGteach – A means to promote positive interactions that encourage skill acquisition and retention

Self-Tagging – A means to promote positive interactions with yourself, to encourage skill acquisition and retention

The means and methodology of TAGteach start with providing focus. Focus is generated through well defined goals which are broken down into easily achievable points, presented with minimal verbal intrusion, and clearly highlighted and reinforced as they occur. (Note: Success for many humans is very reinforcing. The sound of the tag highlights success and quite often becomes a conditioned reinforcer.)

When we self-tag, the same rules apply. Goals must be broken into easily achievable points, delivered appropriately, highlighted and reinforced as they occur.

Real Life Example:

I know there are many things in my personality that could be improved. (Say it isn't so! - editor's note). I also know from experience that if my goal is to be better organized or eat better or be more patient I will feel like a failure by my second cup of coffee. (which automatically ruins “eat better” and casts serious doubts on any ability to be “more patient”). I can pick one thing, a single tag point and begin there. For my self-tag scenario I chose to begin with something that did not involve food, coffee, or patience. I chose… my cell phone.

I hate the sound of a cell phones ringing. The faster I can get to my phone and answer it, the faster the ringing stops. Quick access to my phone is vital. Unfortunately, I always throw my cell phone into the heart of the infinite void I call my purse. I then yell at my cell phone when it can't be found beneath the chewing gum, receipts, and abandoned pennies. I bought my current purse expressly because it had an outside pocket just big enough for a cell phone. Even with that pocket, I still hang up and toss the phone into infinity instead of taking 4 extra seconds (yes, I timed it) to place it in the outside pocket. TAG time.

I knew I didn’t want to jump right into the end-goal behavior. If putting my cell in the outside pocket was an easy behavior for me I would have done it already. The first tag point should always be a point of success so I came up with a tag point that I was 99% certain I could and would do.

“Before throwing the cell phone into the purse, say, outside pocket. The tag point is…say outside pocket”

Finally my phone rang. Yadda yadda, yadda, blah, blah, blah, and my conversation was over. I looked at my purse, said “outside pocket”, and without guilt, threw the phone into the black gaping mouth of my purse. “Yes! Success!” I tagged and pulled a bead on the tagulator* that was attached to the outside dedicated cell phone pocket of my purse.

Turns out I only needed about 5 “say outside pocket” tags and was eager to move on.

I felt a silly, yet profound moment of exhilaration as I planned for the new tag point. “It will be more challenging than the first, but now I am ready. The tag point is…phone in outside pocket”. Bring it!

I wanted to stay in the moment and the dang phone wouldn’t ring so I forced the issue and made a phone call to my daughter away at college.

“Hi Kate, how are ya…no just calling to chat…you got an A in photography? Fantastic!...Yep, I put some money in your account…Your coming home next week?…Ya, we’ll be here…Ok…I know, you gotta go…I’ll talk to ya later…Love ya, bye.”

I ended the call and triumphantly put my cell phone in the dedicated outside pocket. Woo hoo! No one saw or cared that I had done this bit of self-improvement but in my mind it was a success worth noting. I tagged and pulled a bead to highlight my success.

It took about 20 tags until I felt safe that `phone in outside pocket' had become a habit. I am now proud to be a near `perfect pocket placer' of my cell phone. Most interesting to me was the fact that it took at least twice the time to tag and pull the bead than it did to just place the phone in the outside pocket! The acknowledgement of a task performed, was more reinforcing than the reason the task was performed. The behavior of placing my cell phone in the small outside pocket increased only after I rewarded myself for performing the task by tagging and pulling the bead on my tagulator. I learned something important about what is truly reinforcing for me.

Update: Most of the time I still place the phone in the outside pocket as that is very reinforcing. Once in a while, I throw it into the infinity pocket just to prove I am still edgy and a rebel.

*Tagulator - a specially designed string of beads made so that you can slide one bead down at a time. The beads can be used to keep track of tags or to mark the accomplishment of a focus point 

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