Don’t be Victim to Learned Helplessness

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A couple days ago, I was attending the National AfterSchool Association’s national conference and heard the best keynote speaker I’ve heard in a long time. While his presentation was a geared toward the afterschool professional, his message resonated with me in several ways because it could apply to just about any industry.

So, what is this message? Don’t become victim to learned helplessness.

Learned helplessness is a behavioral psychology term used to describe people when they feel like they don’t have control over a situation or the outcome it will produce, thus producing a helpless attitude. I wish I could say that this only applies to kids or to animals, which was the basis for this theory, but the reality is it applies to all of us. As a business woman looking to jump start your career, how often to you feel like you'll never advance up the corporate ladder? It’s often natural to have reactions like this when your outcome is regularly the same, but not doing anything about it often leads to missed opportunities.

The next time you find yourself lacking control of a situation or feel there’s nothing you can do to impact the outcome, take a step back and look at the situation objectively. Ask yourself a few questions:

    •    How did you get to this point?
    •    What’s stopping you from getting where you want to go?
    •    What can you do differently to get where you want to go?

I know this is easier said than done, and we can all make up a thousand reasons why we can’t do something. However, you only need one new reason to give yourself the nudge to push past your own obstacles. Be the person who looks at what you’re facing with an objective eye and figure out a creative solution so you don’t fall victim to this nasty thing called learned helplessness.

Written by: Kasie Smith is a Michigan native. She was born in Traverse City, and now lives in Grand Rapids. She enjoys golfing, spending time in the sun, and watching romantic comedies with her very own leading men, her husband Jason and her twin boys.

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