Unlearning Learned Helplessness

by David Ryback, Ph.D.

The opposite of being plugged into your relationship eco-system can be characterized as learned helplessness. That’s what happens when an individual experiences a string of failures and takes from those experiences that he or she will never be able to succeed in similar circumstances. You’ve no doubt heard of how elephants are conditioned to being tethered to a small spike in the ground. The grown elephant could easily dislodge that small spike. But as a very young elephant, that spike was probably a large tree trunk and, try as it might, it could not budge it. So it learned to stop trying. With the passing years, the elephant grows larger and the spike becomes smaller, but the elephant has already learned that it is helpless to pull at the chain-the opposite of awareness reality.

If we allow our own small failures to “teach” us not to resist, then we have learned not to try even though we have the resources to win if we should. After a certain number of failures, we may come to expect that we just don’t have what it takes to make things work out in our favor.

Don’t be held back by thinking small. You may have more power to overcome challenges than you give yourself credit for.

If you found these tips from David Ryback, Ph.D. of value and are a PMP looking to earn PMI PDUs, you might be interested in his self-paced, downloadable courses at PDUs2Go.com.

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