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Staying Strong When It’s All Going Wrong

Staying Strong When It’s All Going Wrong

    Photo credit: `◄ccdoh1► (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

    Learned helplessness is the condition when we’re so used to being able to do nothing that we, in effect, give up trying to do anything – even though the circumstances might have changed so that we could do something if we tried.

    It can be learned by animals when given electric shock and by babies who, for example, get no feedback from their mother: They learn that nothing they do gets any response. (Presumably human babies can also learn it from receiving unavoidable electric shocks, but to my knowledge this particular scientific experiment has never been published!)

    As you can imagine, it can have massive implications for us as adults – if we believe nothing much we do can influence how things will turn out we’re fare less likely to try and do anything to improve our situation. We’re therefore much, much less able to be able to cope when things go wrong.

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    The universe doesn’t hate you – honest

    Things go wrong for everyone – the universe doesn’t have a grudge for anyone in particular. How we cope with the inevitable setbacks of everyday life is one of the things that differentiates between those people who are ultimately successful and those who aren’t.

    This doesn’t mean, of course, that at the individual level some people aren’t unlucky and that others don’t get away almost without challenge by life – but in overall, big-picture terms our responses dictate a great deal of how life treats us.

    It’s this approach which appears in such trite sayings as “If life throws you lemons, make lemonade”. They may be trite, but there’s an element of truth in them.

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    One of the big issues about learned helplessness is that we tend to regard the negative things in life as ‘permanent, pervasive and personal’. In other words, we tend to subconsciously believe that a bad situation will never change; that a bad situation in one part of our life is generalised to the rest of our lives; and that it’s something to do with us in some way that is our fault.

    To challenge these assumptions, all you have to do is find a set of tools which encourage you (or force you) to look at things objectively, rather than dwelling on the negative. By getting a greater sense of perspective it puts the our setbacks in their place, cutting away at the effects of the Permanence, Pervasive and Personalisation agenda.

    Two simple but massively useful questions to ask yourself when things get you down are these (there are others!):

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    If this was someone else’s problem, what would I do?

    It’s always easier to solve other people’s problems than your own, isn’t it? After all, the chances that you can give someone else good advice is greater than the chance of you accepting good advice that someone gives you!  Find ways of making the problem objective, so that it feels more like it belongs to someone else – getting distance from the setback is a very powerful tool.

    Examples might include such things as writing the problem down in a letter to yourself (perhaps addressed to yourself at work if you’re at home or visa versa and perhaps using your middle name if you have one). Post it second class mail so that it takes a few days to arrive…

    On a scale of one to ten, where ten is dying, how bad is it?

    A seven? A five?  And having established that it’s not the end of the world, don’t dwell on how bad it is – instead ask yourself the killer question “What’s the one thing I can do, now, to move from a five to a four?”.  There’s always something – but as humans we tend to simply get over-whelmed by the big picture of how bad something is and dwell on the enormity of the issue, effectively saying to yourself “I can’t solve this, so I might as well not try”.

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    And you’re probably right – you can’t get from an eight to a one, probably, but there’s no reason to give up and stay at an eight. Seven is better than eight and there’s always something you can do.

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    Last Updated on March 13, 2019

    How to Get out of a Rut: 12 Useful Ways to Get Unstuck

    How to Get out of a Rut: 12 Useful Ways to Get Unstuck

    Have you gotten into a rut before? Or are you in a rut right now?

    You know you’re in a rut when you run out of ideas and inspiration. I personally see a rut as a productivity vacuum. It might very well be a reason why you aren’t getting results. Even as you spend more time on your work, you can’t seem to get anything constructive done. While I’m normally productive, I get into occasional ruts (especially when I’ve been working back-to-back without rest). During those times, I can spend an entire day in front of the computer and get nothing done. It can be quite frustrating.

    Over time, I have tried and found several methods that are helpful to pull me out of a rut. If you experience ruts too, whether as a working professional, a writer, a blogger, a student or other work, you will find these useful. Here are 12 of my personal tips to get out of ruts:

    1. Work on the small tasks.

    When you are in a rut, tackle it by starting small. Clear away your smaller tasks which have been piling up. Reply to your emails, organize your documents, declutter your work space, and reply to private messages.

    Whenever I finish doing that, I generate a positive momentum which I bring forward to my work.

    2. Take a break from your work desk.

    Get yourself away from your desk and go take a walk. Go to the washroom, walk around the office, go out and get a snack.

    Your mind is too bogged down and needs some airing. Sometimes I get new ideas right after I walk away from my computer.

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    3. Upgrade yourself

    Take the down time to upgrade yourself. Go to a seminar. Read up on new materials (#7). Pick up a new language. Or any of the 42 ways here to improve yourself.

    The modern computer uses different typefaces because Steve Jobs dropped in on a calligraphy class back in college. How’s that for inspiration?

    4. Talk to a friend.

    Talk to someone and get your mind off work for a while.

    Talk about anything, from casual chatting to a deep conversation about something you really care about. You will be surprised at how the short encounter can be rejuvenating in its own way.

    5. Forget about trying to be perfect.

    If you are in a rut, the last thing you want to do is step on your own toes with perfectionist tendencies.

    Just start small. Do what you can, at your own pace. Let yourself make mistakes.

    Soon, a little trickle of inspiration will come. And then it’ll build up with more trickles. Before you know it, you have a whole stream of ideas.

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    6. Paint a vision to work towards.

    If you are continuously getting in a rut with your work, maybe there’s no vision inspiring you to move forward.

    Think about why you are doing this, and what you are doing it for. What is the end vision in mind?

    Make it as vivid as possible. Make sure it’s a vision that inspires you and use that to trigger you to action.

    7. Read a book (or blog).

    The things we read are like food to our brain. If you are out of ideas, it’s time to feed your brain with great materials.

    Here’s a list of 40 books you can start off with. Stock your browser with only the feeds of high quality blogs, such as Lifehack.org, DumbLittleMan, Seth Godin’s Blog, Tim Ferris’ Blog, Zen Habits or The Personal Excellence Blog.

    Check out the best selling books; those are generally packed with great wisdom.

    8. Have a quick nap.

    If you are at home, take a quick nap for about 20-30 minutes. This clears up your mind and gives you a quick boost. Nothing quite like starting off on a fresh start after catching up on sleep.

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    9. Remember why you are doing this.

    Sometimes we lose sight of why we do what we do, and after a while we become jaded. A quick refresher on why you even started on this project will help.

    What were you thinking when you thought of doing this? Retrace your thoughts back to that moment. Recall why you are doing this. Then reconnect with your muse.

    10. Find some competition.

    Nothing quite like healthy competition to spur us forward. If you are out of ideas, then check up on what people are doing in your space.

    Colleagues at work, competitors in the industry, competitors’ products and websites, networking conventions.. you get the drill.

    11. Go exercise.

    Since you are not making headway at work, might as well spend the time shaping yourself up.

    Sometimes we work so much that we neglect our health and fitness. Go jog, swim, cycle, whichever exercise you prefer.

    As you improve your physical health, your mental health will improve, too. The different facets of ourselves are all interlinked.

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    Here’re 15 Tips to Restart the Exercise Habit (and How to Keep It).

    12. Take a good break.

    Ruts are usually signs that you have been working too long and too hard. It’s time to get a break.

    Beyond the quick tips above, arrange for a 1-day or 2-days of break from your work. Don’t check your (work) emails or do anything work-related. Relax and do your favorite activities. You will return to your work recharged and ready to start.

    Contrary to popular belief, the world will not end from taking a break from your work. In fact, you will be much more ready to make an impact after proper rest. My best ideas and inspiration always hit me whenever I’m away from my work.

    Take a look at this to learn the importance of rest: The Importance of Scheduling Downtime

    More Resources About Getting out of a Rut

    Featured photo credit: Joshua Earle via unsplash.com

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