You Can Recover From A Fall

When we hear the word trauma and we often think of something violent or physical. Car accident, broken bones, something very big, gruesome even. But sometimes trauma isn’t physically violent. Sometimes trauma can be the loss of a job or a career. Or trauma could be the loss of a relationship, a loved one, a partner, husband or wife, boyfriend or girlfriend. Or it could be the loss of a dream. You were pursuing a vision, a mission and now it’s over. That can be trauma too.

When you go through a moment like that, when you fall, it's traumatic and if you're not careful it can change the way you see the world and change how you behave

Brene Brown has a great phrase. She says it can have you foreboding joy. What that means is, after a fall, you may find yourself back in a new job or with a great partner, boyfriend, girlfriend, husband or wife, fiancée. Or you may find a new dream but you’re foreboding joy. So part of you is thinking, “When’s the other shoe going to drop? How long is this going to last before it ends? Why do I even bother?”

That impulse can lead to very troubling behaviour known as learned helplessness. Learned helplessness is a very serious term that Dr. Martin Seligman has studied for close to three or four decades. He’s the father of the positive psychology movement and he has conducted a number of studies on the condition of learned helplessness.

In one study, he took test subjects and separated them into three different groups.

The first group was placed in a room and he played a really obnoxious noise and hid the switch in the room to make it difficult for them to turn the sound off.

So the group came in, they sat down. Then all of a sudden this really irritating, obnoxious sound came on. They started hunting around the room, looking around and they finally turned the sound off.

The second group was placed in the room. Seligman’s team played the obnoxious, irritating sound but this time they did not put an “off” switch in the room. So, the participants could not turn the sound off. The participants started looking around trying to turn it off and they couldn’t because there was no switch. Eventually they just accepted that, this is the way it is, and they just sat there with this sound in the background totally frustrated and defeated.

The third group was the placebo group. There was no sound at all. Sit there, just chill out. Easy.

In phase two of the study, they kept the same three groups and placed them back in the rooms with a similar context. In short, similar sound but they placed the solution or the off switch a little closer. The investigators moved the switch within about 12 inches of the participants.

In other words, they could just reach out and turn it off.

The first group went into the room. The similar sound was triggered; they looked around, found the switch 12 inches away. Pop. They turned the sound off, no problem.

Now pay attention. The second group enters the room. The similar sound goes off. Remember the switch is only about 12 inches away and the second group does nothing!! Why? They didn’t try because in the first scenario there was no solution and they failed. So now they’re thinking why bother. It’s called learned helplessness. They didn’t even look for the answer, and it was literally was just 12 inches away. Yikes.

The third group, the placebo group, what did they do. The sound was triggered. Obviously they were simply surprised, “What’s going on?” And consequently they just turned it off.

Our focus for this post is learned helplessness and the fall, or the setback. When setbacks happen, a lot of people when given a second opportunity to try again simply won’t.

However, in this study, Seligman discovered something fascinating. About 30% of the people in the second group kept trying, even when there was no solution. They refused to give up.

He thought, “What in the world? 70% of them are giving up but this weird little subset here just kept going and kept trying. Why? What the heck’s going on there?”

So, they studied that section. What they found was that small subset had a different view of the world.

Specifically, they possessed an optimistic view of the world. Understand I’m not trying to promote wishful thinking, hug a tree, Pollyanna, go smoke some stuff ideas. No, that’s not what this is about.

The optimistic viewpoint was evident when the setbacks happened to this group. When a fall happens to this group: they believe it’s temporary; they believe it’s short-term; they believe it’s not going to last long; they believe they’re going to get through this even though it seems impossible. Even when common sense says, “No. No. You failed last time. You failed the last 10 times,” they’re still saying, “No. No. No. It’s just temporary. We’re going to get this.” That’s the optimistic viewpoint.

The pessimistic viewpoint says, “Been here, done this. Obviously it won’t work. Why bother?”

Possessing an optimistic viewpoint is the key to recovering from a fall and pushing through learned helplessness. After decades of research they can predict the results on high school exams. Investigators can determine how well kids will do based on their viewpoint, optimistic or not. Researchers can also predict university dropout rates, athletic performance, business performance, and sales results based on optimistic viewpoints.

One famous sales study, showed that the people who were more optimistic outsold their negative colleagues by 57%.

So, if you want to recover from a fall, I’m not asking you to be Pollyanna and hug a tree.

I'm saying take on an optimistic viewpoint. Believe the setback is temporary and that you can find a way through this and that you will figure it out.
If you can do that you will find a way to win.

Calvin Strachan made the Find a Way to Win programs after becoming a leader in several multi-million dollar sales organizations ranging from: direct sales to pharmaceutical sales to personal development.

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