“The desperate anxiety to be doing something to relieve the pain, or lessen the danger, which we have no power to alleviate; the sinking of soul and spirit, which the sad remembrance of our helplessness produces.”
Charles Dickens (Author, Oliver Twist)
“Often it isn’t the mountains ahead that wear you out, it’s the little pebble in your shoe.”
Muhammad Ali (Former World Heavyweight Boxing Champion)
“Effort only fully releases its reward after a person refuses to quit.”
Napoleon Hill (Author, Think And Grow Rich)
I was stuck in my own personal hell.
Waking up every day to work for someone who hated me.
Someone who was actively trying to hold back my career.
Someone who referred to me as a “boob” and a “moron.”
Imagine working for the same boss in the world’s smallest work space for five long years.
Imagine spending 18 hours a day only a few feet away from someone who didn’t like you.
Crossing them in the hallways ten times a day, avoiding eye contact like an awkward teenager.
This was my life.
I tried to fight it once.
I tried to stand up for myself.
I tried to get help too.
But I failed.
I was smacked down hard by the administrators I reached out to.
I could have quit but I had invested so much time and energy into this career.
So I gave up.
I accepted my fate.
I showed up to work and just went through the motions.
I stopped working to improve, I stopped trying to move my career forward, I stopped trying to regain control.
I learned to be helpless.
It was a miserable time in my life and it wasn’t until many months later that I was able to move forward by relearning the fact that no one is ever helpless.
What Is Learned Helplessness?
Baby zoo elephants are tied to trees with chains when they’re young.
This keeps them from running away.
But as adults, they’re only tied with ropes.
Even though these adult zoo elephants can easily snap the ropes, they don’t.
They’ve learned to not escape.
But what about humans?
Of course, a human being would realize that he or she could escape, right?
Not so much.
Studies referenced in the Oxford Bibliographies show that humans who are conditioned to receive a mild electrical shock will not try to escape from the shock even when they are free to do so.
They’ve learned to not escape.
Learned helplessness is what happens when someone is repeatedly subjected to a negative situation they believe they can’t control or escape from.
As a result, they stop trying to avoid the situation and start behaving as if they are utterly helpless to change the situation.
Someone who has developed learned helplessness will continue to act helpless even when opportunities to control a situation are presented.
5 Signs To Help You Stay Motivated
Obstacles can weigh you down.
Especially obstacles that are hard to define.
Sometimes you don’t know what’s standing in your way.
Maybe a negative friend is subtly putting you down and your confidence has dipped as a result.
Maybe you’ve been working hard to connect with the right person but you can’t see anything happening.
Maybe you’ve put yourself out there over and over again and no one is taking you seriously.
This is when you start to feel out of control.
Like nothing you do matters.
Like nothing will ever change.
In times like these, it’s easy to sink into a state of learned helplessness.
The key is realizing that even though you can’t always see the positive effects of your actions, the effects are still there.
The best way to deal with learned helplessness is to start seeing seemingly negative feedback as a sign you’re headed in the right direction.
You have to rise above your fear, uncertainty, and discomfort.
You have to realize that you are making progress, even when all you see and hear is silence, laughter, or resistance.
A study reported by the Journal of Abnormal Psychology found that dogs given an inescapable shock until they learn to be helpless are later “cured” by repeatedly compelling the dogs to terminate the shock.
In other words, you can unlearn helplessness.
By compelling yourself to move forward and take action, even when you don’t feel like it, you can keep making progress.
Here are 5 signs you’re finally going to get what you want…
1. When no one will help you.
Being ignored or blown off is one of the first steps to getting what you want.
Don’t take it personally.
Just see it as a challenge.
No one can see inside of your head.
You will have a vision for what is possible for your life far before other people do.
It’s not your job to make other people see your vision.
Stop expecting them to “get it” right away.
Like Gandhi said, “First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win.”
If no one is willing to help you, it doesn’t mean your goal is bad.
It’s doesn’t mean your goal is too small or not worthy of being accomplished either.
It means your goal is big and others can’t see it.
The fact that they won’t get it or help you proves you’re headed in the right direction.
2. When other people make fun of you.
Being mocked or feeling like a misfit can make you want to give up.
This is normal.
Everyone wants to fit in, to some extent.
Everyone has the biological urge to be part of the herd.
You must resist this urge.
Don’t let the desire to fit in keep you from having a breakthrough.
Don’t let the desire to fit in keep you from finally getting what you want.
Public ridicule is the strongest sign that you’re close to doing something no one else has done before.
It’s a guidepost—a North Star—for you to follow.
The key is to make sure you keep chasing your goal, not the attention of others.
Don’t get baited into defending yourself and don’t fall into the trap of living to get a reaction out of others.
Decide what you want and chase it.
Ignore other people’s unsolicited opinions and stay on your path.
The more they laugh at you for working hard on your dreams, the closer you are to having the last laugh.
3. When your “friends” try to hold you back.
You’ll never achieve anything great if you’re afraid of conflict.
Stop fearing resistance.
Start inviting it.
Don’t be afraid of negative people and negative circumstances coming against you.
Don’t be afraid of your own negative emotions.
Resistance to opening a new door in your life is always strongest right when you get to the door.
Very often you’ll reach out and grab the door knob only to find that 10 people are standing on the other side, pushing against the door to keep it closed.
Some of these people might be your friends.
Some might be your family members.
Stand firmly in your position.
Refuse to be bullied.
Increased resistance on the opposite side of a door you’re trying to open simply means there is something of great value on the other side.
4. When you want to give up or change your goal.
Don’t feel guilty for doubting yourself or your path from time to time.
Don’t feel bad for wanting to quit.
Instead, lean into this feeling.
Because it means you’re close to getting what you want.
Never wanting to quit is not a sign of strength, it’s a sign that your goals are too small.
If you find yourself laying in bed at night wondering if it’s all worth it—congratulations—you’re one of the few people who is actually doing something worthwhile.
It means you have a growth mindset.
Look—greatness comes at a price.
No matter what mountain you’re climbing, there are going to be times when you want to stop and settle before reaching the top.
There will also be times when you want to get off the mountain altogether and start climbing one of the “greener” mountains next to you.
This is normal.
The higher you climb on one mountain, the better you’re able to see all of the other mountains.
But that doesn’t mean you should stop climbing the one you’re on.
It means you should start climbing harder.
Imagine how many other mountains you’ll be able to see and conquer once you reach your current peak.
5. When you’re scared, alone, and unpopular.
Right as you start to have a breakthrough is when you’ll want to shrink back the most.
That’s when things will get real.
That’s when you’ll have to step up and step into a new way of living.
Everyone knows they fear failure but very few people understand that they also fear success.
By having a breakthrough—by being successful—you put yourself in the precarious position of having to live up to that success.
You can handle success.
You deserve to be wildly successful.
Most importantly, you’re allowed to be scared of being successful.
Changing your life is scary.
Being afraid is normal.
Feeling alone is normal.
It’s just part of the process.
It’s a sign that you’re about to get what you really want in life.
Breakthroughs are life-changing events.
They are uncertain events.
They are lonely events.
Moving forward often means leaving other people behind and a part of yourself behind.
When this happens, don’t be surprised if some of these people turn their backs on you.
Don’t be surprised if your own emotions start to fight you.
Be forgiving of others because, in a way, you’re turning your back on them by moving forward.
Be gentle on yourself because transition periods are always uncomfortable.
The good news is the pain of change is temporary, but the breakthrough that comes with it is forever.
The fastest way to get what you want in life is to avoid learned helplessness and stay motivated. This means rising above the fear of uncertainty and realizing the silence, laughter, and resistance are all signs that you’re making progress towards your goals. The bigger your goals, the more you’ll want to quit and the more unpopular they’ll become. But in the end, it will be worth it because breakthroughs erase the pain of breaking through.
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