Success or Learned Helplessness? Whose Choice?

Why do some people sail along in life from success to success, while others careen along from failure to failure?

Perhaps it is because of something called Learned Helplessness.  In a recent article on the subject called  Leaders Break the Cycle of Learned Helplessness, leadership guru Orrin Woodward talked in depth about it .

Orrin Woodward

Scientist have discovered that cats, fish, dogs, rats, cockroaches, mice, and people all are capable of acquiring this trait. Learned helplessness is simply internalizing the belief that what you do does not matter, sapping one’s sense of control.” When a person believes that he cannot change his situation, he won’t even try, becoming hopeless because he believes he is helpless. On the other hand, people can change nearly anything with the right knowledge applied consistently and persistently. Learned helplessness, because it destroys this hope for change, must be exposed for the lie that it is, teaching one’s self and others that change is possible only when a person believes that he can change. Indeed, leaders must rid themselves and their teams from Learned Helplessness as its acid is fatal to all personal growth.

Another compromise that leads to failure and despair is an improper response to the pain inherent in the process of growth.  There are actually two types of pain: one comes from the inside due to the change process; the other comes from the outside due to criticism from those unwilling to make the same changes. Hope is the only fuel capable of burning through both types of pain.  Without hope, either of the pain versions will trump one’s willingness to endure, instead choosing to stop the pain by quitting the journey.  Author Robert Grudin writes, “One might reply that most people who surrender simply lack the ability to get very far.  But it is more accurate to say that ability and intelligence, rightly understood, include a readiness to face pain, while those characteristics which we loosely term ‘inadequacy’ and ‘ignorance’ are typically associated with the avoidance of pain.” When the pain reaches a certain threshold, everything inside of a person screams for relief, but champions, people with high AQ, persevere. Pain is overcome through the continuous focus on one’s purpose. Moreover, achieving greatness will require a faith that can move mountains, an AQ to endure the rising pain in the process, eventually reaching levels of success that more timid souls refuse to believe possible.

Wow, what awesome stuff, if you can get your mind around it!  When I read it, I was

Orrin Woodward

reminded of one of Orrin‘s favorite sayings. “When the pain of staying the same becomes greater than the pain of changing, you will change!

Our challenge lies in realizing the pain is not what is to be avoided.  To surmount adversity and succeed, we need to understand pain is part of the process, accept it in that role and seek to find the lessons it is teaching us, so we can grow beyond it.  Welcome to the journey called success!

Cathy

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