One of the biggest roadblocks to achieving goals and realizing success in life is a
feeling of helplessness. So many people go through life assuming that they can do
nothing about their circumstances and simply wait around until someone else
intervenes and make things better.
Of course, in the vast majority of cases, no superhero is going to jump into your life
and take care of everything for you, and so many people who do not take
responsibility for their own lives end up wasting most of their potential and only
achieve mediocre success and happiness. Why is this the case? Is learned helplessness
really a major problem in our society?
A professor from the University of Pennsylvania dedicated over 25 years of study to
a syndrome he labeled " learned helplessness." In this study, the professor studied
thousands of people and concluded that most individuals in our society (perhaps even
80%) have acquired some level of learned helplessness.
Even if it seems that these numbers are exaggerated, it is clear that a large portion of
the country (perhaps a majority) have learned to feel helpless about their own
situation. No matter what goal they would like to achieve, they always end up telling
themselves that they simply can't do anything about it.
They tell themselves (either subconsciously or quite consciously) that they cannot do
anything to improve their career and earning potential. They assume that they cannot
really save money and improve their financial health, and this kind of attitude
pervades every aspect of their lives. These people feel helpless when it comes to
health and fitness, starting their own business, improving or maintaining a
relationship, and just about everything else that is important in most people's lives.
The root cause of this symptom is probably an accumulation of failures and
destructive criticism in a person's past. At some point in life, a person begins to
experience failures in various aspects. These may include failures in relationships,
academic work and school, business, and just about any other part of life that we can
think of. On top of this, there is often a great destructive criticism that comes from
friends or family members at the same time, and this only compounds the idea that a
person is no good at doing this or that task.
Regardless of the root cause of learned helplessness, it is extremely important for
every person to begin taking steps toward accepting responsibility and taking action to
achieve goals. We probably all have a sense of this helplessness at some time in our
lives, for all of us have been plagued with negative thinking and a failure to act at the
However, some people are truly paralyzed mentally or emotionally and never seem
to get started toward achieving their goals. It is important for these kinds of people
(and probably for all of us) to begin setting small, easily achievable goals.
Accomplishing these goals will only lead to confidence, and this will help people
achieve more important goals down the road.