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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 January 21, 2020

    The Best Way to Create a Vision for the Life You Want

    The Best Way to Create a Vision for the Life You Want

    Creating a vision for your life might seem like a frivolous, fantastical waste of time, but it’s not: creating a compelling vision of the life you want is actually one of the most effective strategies for achieving the life of your dreams. Perhaps the best way to look at the concept of a life vision is as a compass to help guide you to take the best actions and make the right choices that help propel you toward your best life.

    your vision of where or who you want to be is the greatest asset you have

      Why You Need a Vision

      Experts and life success stories support the idea that with a vision in mind, you are more likely to succeed far beyond what you could otherwise achieve without a clear vision. Think of crafting your life vision as mapping a path to your personal and professional dreams. Life satisfaction and personal happiness are within reach. The harsh reality is that if you don’t develop your own vision, you’ll allow other people and circumstances to direct the course of your life.

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      How to Create Your Life Vision

      Don’t expect a clear and well-defined vision overnight—envisioning your life and determining the course you will follow requires time, and reflection. You need to cultivate vision and perspective, and you also need to apply logic and planning for the practical application of your vision. Your best vision blossoms from your dreams, hopes, and aspirations. It will resonate with your values and ideals, and will generate energy and enthusiasm to help strengthen your commitment to explore the possibilities of your life.

      What Do You Want?

      The question sounds deceptively simple, but it’s often the most difficult to answer. Allowing yourself to explore your deepest desires can be very frightening. You may also not think you have the time to consider something as fanciful as what you want out of life, but it’s important to remind yourself that a life of fulfillment does not usually happen by chance, but by design.

      It’s helpful to ask some thought-provoking questions to help you discover the possibilities of what you want out of life. Consider every aspect of your life, personal and professional, tangible and intangible. Contemplate all the important areas, family and friends, career and success, health and quality of life, spiritual connection and personal growth, and don’t forget about fun and enjoyment.

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      Some tips to guide you:

      • Remember to ask why you want certain things
      • Think about what you want, not on what you don’t want.
      • Give yourself permission to dream.
      • Be creative. Consider ideas that you never thought possible.
      • Focus on your wishes, not what others expect of you.

      Some questions to start your exploration:

      • What really matters to you in life? Not what should matter, what does matter.
      • What would you like to have more of in your life?
      • Set aside money for a moment; what do you want in your career?
      • What are your secret passions and dreams?
      • What would bring more joy and happiness into your life?
      • What do you want your relationships to be like?
      • What qualities would you like to develop?
      • What are your values? What issues do you care about?
      • What are your talents? What’s special about you?
      • What would you most like to accomplish?
      • What would legacy would you like to leave behind?

      It may be helpful to write your thoughts down in a journal or creative vision board if you’re the creative type. Add your own questions, and ask others what they want out of life. Relax and make this exercise fun. You may want to set your answers aside for a while and come back to them later to see if any have changed or if you have anything to add.

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      What Would Your Best Life Look Like?

      Describe your ideal life in detail. Allow yourself to dream and imagine, and create a vivid picture. If you can’t visualize a picture, focus on how your best life would feel. If you find it difficult to envision your life 20 or 30 years from now, start with five years—even a few years into the future will give you a place to start. What you see may surprise you. Set aside preconceived notions. This is your chance to dream and fantasize.

      A few prompts to get you started:

      • What will you have accomplished already?
      • How will you feel about yourself?
      • What kind of people are in your life? How do you feel about them?
      • What does your ideal day look like?
      • Where are you? Where do you live? Think specifics, what city, state, or country, type of community, house or an apartment, style and atmosphere.
      • What would you be doing?
      • Are you with another person, a group of people, or are you by yourself?
      • How are you dressed?
      • What’s your state of mind? Happy or sad? Contented or frustrated?
      • What does your physical body look like? How do you feel about that?
      • Does your best life make you smile and make your heart sing? If it doesn’t, dig deeper, dream bigger.

      It’s important to focus on the result, or at least a way-point in your life. Don’t think about the process for getting there yet—that’s the next stepGive yourself permission to revisit this vision every day, even if only for a few minutes. Keep your vision alive and in the front of your mind.

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      Plan Backwards

      It may sound counter-intuitive to plan backwards rather than forwards, but when you’re planning your life from the end result, it’s often more useful to consider the last step and work your way back to the first. This is actually a valuable and practical strategy for making your vision a reality.

      • What’s the last thing that would’ve had to happen to achieve your best life?
      • What’s the most important choice you would’ve had to make?
      • What would you have needed to learn along the way?
      • What important actions would you have had to take?
      • What beliefs would you have needed to change?
      • What habits or behaviors would you have had to cultivate?
      • What type of support would you have had to enlist?
      • How long will it have taken you to realize your best life?
      • What steps or milestones would you have needed to reach along the way?

      Now it’s time to think about your first step, and the next step after that. Ponder the gap between where you are now and where you want to be in the future. It may seem impossible, but it’s quite achievable if you take it step-by-step.

      It’s important to revisit this vision from time to time. Don’t be surprised if your answers to the questions, your technicolor vision, and the resulting plans change. That can actually be a very good thing; as you change in unforeseeable ways, the best life you envision will change as well. For now, it’s important to use the process, create your vision, and take the first step towards making that vision a reality.

      Featured photo credit: Matt Noble via unsplash.com

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