Sometimes when you try to achieve a goal, it can seem like an uphill struggle, and it’s not uncommon to feel like giving up, especially if it’s something you’ve tried to achieve before and it didn’t work out. Examples include things like becoming healthier, stopping a bad habit, starting a new venture, learning something new etc. But don’t give up! Let me explain something to you that may help you move forward.
In psychology we use a phrase called learned helplessness to describe a state that can happen after a person has experienced a stressful struggle or uncontrollable situation repeatedly. It happens to a lot of people. They come to believe that they are unable to change situations, or future situations, so they lose motivation to even try— even when opportunities for change become available.
Here are some tips to ensure you keep on track.
Normalise the feeling.
Get this, you are not a robot— it is completely normal to react to situations that feel difficult or that you feel out of control of. It is okay not to be perfect and not get it right every time. You’re not supposed to have all the answers, you’re not supposed to be able to fix everything, but sucking it up and pretending everything is okay won’t help. Instead just acknowledge any difficulty you might be experiencing as normal and with a little compassion, adjustment and possible support, you can achieve your goal. Beating yourself up just makes you feel helpless,
Remind yourself how many times life and situations have changed for the better before.
Life is filled with ups and downs, and there’s a good chance you’ve already overcome hardships in the past, even when you were very young. Nothing ever stays the same, it is only your perception of it that can, if you allow it to. Looking back on your life, you can see many times that hard situations ended. It’s only when you create a concrete representation of something being permanent that struggle is compounded. Loosen things up and allow change to occur. If you hit an obstacle, pick yourself up, dust yourself off and start again. There’s no shame in multiple attempts. When you were a child mastering your language, your ability to spell and read, it was all a matter of trial and error. You did not doubt your ability. If an Olympian falls at a hurdle, do they lie of the floor and give up forever? No, they get back up, again and again and again. They understand it’s part of the process!
Acknowledge the root of the feeling.
When you feel helpless it is wise to know why exactly. A good way to do this is to do a needs-threat assessment so you can see what the feeling and/or behaviour is linked to specifically. If you are a club member, please look at focus video 1 on needs. If you are not a club member, but you’d like to explore this, see https://www.donnakennedy.com/join-donnas-club/
Do an on-the-spot check in
Whenever you start feeling hopeless, ask yourself what is that feeling telling you:
- Are you engaging in negative thinking?
- Are you interacting with pessimistic people and having negative conversations that might be affecting your mood?
- Do you need some alone time or time to talk things through with someone?
- Have you done anything you enjoy lately?
- Have you been nurturing your connection to others?
- Are you using stress management techniques that replemish your emotional reserves?
Feeling hopeless could be how your mind is asking you to engage in self-care practices to make things easier to progress.
Identify behaviors that reinforce learned helplessness
Do you give up easily when you engage in certain behaviours? For example, when you drink alcohol does it put you in a position of vulnerability or self-criticism? If you lack sleep, are you less motivated? Are there certain triggers that lead you to feel more vulnerable. e.g. conversations with specific people, rehashing past “failures”, Googling the difficulty so you’re immersed in the problem, not the solution etc.. Is there a secondary gain?
*Note to club members, please see the video on values in the members Self Discovery Library.
Find a support network
Might it help if you had accountability and support? For example, if you have a fitness goal, would having an exercise buddy or class membership help? Or perhaps you need to be around people who are already achieving the goal you want to achieve? This can often be inspiring and motivate you. Look for ways that you have a system to keep you in check and support, if you need extra help or just a vent. You are welcome to be part of my club, if you are not already and you feel it might help https://www.donnakennedy.com/join-donnas-club/
Work on doable action steps
Break the big goal into manageable steps and reward yourself when you hit each target. Several small achievements will motivate you to keep going.
Practice and be patient
Give yourself a chance, remembering that everything extraordinary is a result of doing lots of ordinary things well and practicing them often. You are not here to impress. Do what you can with what you have and allow time.
Feeling confident can really help. Confidence is a skill that can be learned like any other. You are welcome to download my ebook for free as it may help you with this. You can download at https://donnakennedy.com/#ebook