In tonight’s post, guest blogger Bruce Baker walks you through a struggle we are seeing all around us: learned helplessness.
Many business owners and CEOs we partner with suffer tremendously due to being in a state of learned helplessness.
It is astonishing to see people that reach out to us at Workplaces simply because they are in a state of pain and the challenges they have or perceive they have don’t have a resolution. After lengthy discussions, the challenges they have “tried everything” to solve become less daunting and transition into something inspiring. At least four out of five times, we have the privilege of partnering with these individuals to better their business situation and ultimately achieve the goals that they work so hard to achieve. Unfortunately, once they experience solving these challenges (something they never thought possible) and, of course, do their “celebratory dance,” they fall right back into their learned helpless state due to a new challenge they face yet again. This constant state repeating itself seems to be a drug that people seek to justify the pain of their challenge and their perceived inability to solve it.
As time goes on, the more resilient the Business owner/CEO inevitably becomes, the more they transition their business and themselves to an ongoing and sustainable state of success. This is not because they now have “better business tools” necessarily, but because they reduce falling back into a state of learned helplessness. Those who persevere and learn this new conditioned response to challenge and, at times, failure becomes more successful consistently.
To conclude, I wanted to share a powerful story (author unknown) that I have always turned to when I feel this way and need a path back to a positive state. The story goes like this:
As my friend passed the elephants, he suddenly stopped, confused because these huge creatures were being held by only a small rope tied to their front leg. No chains, no cages. It was obvious that the elephants could, at any time, break away from the ropes they were tied to, but for some reason, they did not. My friend saw a trainer nearby and asked why these beautiful, magnificent animals just stood there and made no attempt to escape.
“Well,” he said, “when they are very young and much smaller, we use the same size of rope to tie them and, at that age, it’s enough to hold them. Then, as they grow up, they are conditioned to believe they cannot break away. They believe the rope can still hold them, so they never try to break free.” My friend was amazed. These animals could at any time break free from their bonds, but because they believed they couldn’t, they were stuck right where they were.
Like the elephants, how many of us go through life hanging onto a belief that we cannot do something simply because we failed at it once before?
How many of us are being held back by old, outdated beliefs that no longer serve us? How many of us have avoided trying something new because of a limiting belief? Worse, how many of us are being held back by someone else’s limiting beliefs?
You do not deserve to feel this way! Your business should be a source of pride and achievement for you, whether you are significantly challenged today or are feeling helpless because you can’t find a solution. Don’t let your ego and your feeling of learned helplessness be your guide in building your business; you will fail and not return. Instead, reach out to someone you trust, someone that will hold you accountable and show you that the solutions you seek are not far away.
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