How to cure yourself from learned helplessness?

Have you given up on a dream of yours lately? Did you think, because you failed in the past in what you were pursuing, that you will get the same result. If these thoughts have crossed your mind, then you might me suffering from learned helplessness. This might be a familiar concept to you, but it was totally new to me when I first heard it from Anthony Robbins. Not knowing anything about learned helplessness, even though I suffered from it, I went researching the term and the following is what I found out. 

“The concept of learned helplessness was discovered accidentally by psychologists Martin Seligman and Steven F. Maier. They had initially observed helpless behavior in dogs that were classically conditioned to expect an electrical shock after hearing a tone. Later, the dogs were placed in a shuttlebox that contained two chambers separated by a low barrier. The floor was electrified on one side, and not on the other. The dogs previously subjected to the classical conditioning made no attempts to escape, even though avoiding the shock simply involved jumping over a low barrier.”

The dogs which were subjected to electrical shock believe they had no control over their situation. So they accepted their plight and did nothing. Now humans are not very different when it comes to learned helplessness. How many of us give up at the first sign of difficulty because of a past experience. Because we failed at something before, we think that there is no point in trying again. I do not believe that people are born negative or complacent. I believe they are influenced and conditioned by  environment. However it does not have to be that way. We have the power to change ourselves, change our circumstances, and change the things around us. Settling should not be an option. I am offering here three steps that should help cure you from learned helplessness.

  • Realize that your past does not equal your future. You need to understand you are more than where you come from. The past is over and gone, spending your time thinking about it will not help. Your past failures have nothing to do with your future successes. Immigrants do very well in this field. No matter where they come from, no matter what their past circumstances were, they come to a new place hungry for success. Most make it in a big way regardless where they landed or what they started with. One thing I know help immigrants a lot is the notion of intelligent ignorance. That is when you do not know that something can not be done so you go ahead and do it anyhow. For instance, aerodynamically, the bumblebee should not be able to fly, but because it does not know that, it flies anyway. Immigrants, not knowing a lot about their new found place, will try a lot of endeavors and become successful at them whereas the natives would not even take a shot at the same ventures because it will be of no avail.
  • Be patient. Since success does not come overnight, you will have to take the “patience pill” from time to time and relax a little bit. Just because you tried one more time and you are not successful, does not mean that your are a permanent failure. “All great achievements require time” said the great American poet, Maya Angelou. Being patient has it values. It not only develops understanding, but also helps you appreciate the process of growth. One way to develop patience is to do something else in the meantime. When you get stuck in a project, or writing a book, etc., put it aside, take a break or get involved in something totally different in nature, that would clear your thoughts and give you a fresh start when you come back to it. At the same time it allows time to do its work.
  • You are not insane, or are you? So stop doing the same things over and over again and expect different results. Isn’t that the definition of insanity. When you want a different outcome, you must have a different input. If you were unsuccessful in the past, that condition should not become your reality in the present. As I said earlier, you have the power and the ability to change things. Sometimes it is not what you do, but who surround yourself with, that gives you unwanted results. If you are in an environment where people are not very supportive, where they tear you down and shoot down any high hope your have, it is time to make a change. You need to remove yourself from such limiting surroundings. As Eleanor Roosevelt once observed: “no one can make you feel inferior without your consent”. You are never helpless. In fact you are unlimited in potential. If you happened to unknowingly learn helplessness, now you have a few ideas on how to unlearn it. I hope they help!

Question: Has learned helplessness ever stopped you from getting what you wanted? If yes how did you get over it? You can leave a comment by clicking here.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.