Have you experienced rejection or failure? Of course you have. We all have. So how we we respond?
Dr. Martin Seligman conducted a ground-breaking experiment in which he administered shocks to dogs who were placed in boxes from which they could not escape. Next, he put the same dogs into open boxes that they could easily exit. But when shocked, they did not try to escape or even attempt to avoid the shocks. Dr. Seligman named this concept “learned helplessness.”
Does this principle apply to you? Have you experienced so many rejections or failures that you have given up trying to succeed? When you feel completely discouraged, it’s easy to slip into a stagnant, despondent state.
Often, your despondence stems from negative thoughts which become exaggerated over time. The thoughts turn into debilitating messages that your mind repeats over and over, detailing your weaknesses and the hopelessness of reaching your goals.
Dr. Seligman recommends aggressively challenging these persuasive thoughts—actually arguing with them. A negative message may tell you that no one will want what you have to offer because the economy is down. Argue the opposite—that companies always appreciate good value and you just have to find the right opportunity.
If you try but cannot overcome learned helplessness by yourself, don’t suffer unnecessarily. Seek help from someone you trust, like a good friend or therapist, until you start feeling better. Much of the discussion in this section has been about the ways you can get stuck as you pursue your goals. You become afraid of the risks. You quit taking action because of failure and discouragement. You go back to the status quo because it’s familiar and safe, even if you hate it.
When you feel yourself being hindered by any of these issues, take some kind of action to counter their effect. The key is to create and maintain momentum. Here are some activities to get you moving again: • Talk with someone who inspires you and can help give you new ideas or energy.
- Refresh your target list.
- Send email to your connections.
- Go knock on a target company’s door.
- Write in a journal. Writing untangles thoughts.
- Pray or meditate to clear your mind.
- Do something kind for someone else. Service creates positive energy.
Similar to your life depending on oxygen, your success depends on momentum. Do something each day that moves you toward your goal. As you experiment with various goals, sometimes you may find yourself going in the wrong direction. This situation will require a major change, which can be difficult.
It’s tempting to stay in a given direction longer than you should. Sometimes you may be tempted to persist even when you know it’s time to move. Other times it is fear that may hold you back from making a big change.
Early in my career, I took a position with a modest base salary plus commission. After six months of hard work, I realized that this opportunity was moving much too slowly for me, and I would not be able to achieve my income goal by the date I had planned. A colleague opened up another opportunity in a more mature market with a much better compensation plan. With my income objective in mind, I jumped at it and met my goal that year.
As difficult as major course corrections can be, find the courage to recognize that your current situation is no longer taking you in your desired direction. Set a new goal and start looking for new opportunities.