In 1967, scientist Martin Seligman conducted an experiment to see how animals reacted to persistent failure. In the first experiment, the animals were put in a situation where they had no control over the outcome, so no matter what they did, they failed. In the second experiment, they were placed in a similar situation, but this time, success or failure depended on them. To Seligman’s surprise, the animals did nothing to succeed — they just sat there and accepted their fates.
It was then he realized they had developed learned helplessness — a feeling of hopelessness after repeated failures to succeed or perceived lack of control over things that happen in life.
They learned from the first experiment no matter what they did they failed, so when introduced to an environment where they could succeed, they did nothing, because they believed the outcome was out of their control.
Seligman saw similar behavior exhibited in both animals and humans. People, like animals, lose motivation after repeated failures and defeats, eventually giving up. They believe things that happen in their lives are out of their control.
We discourage ourselves by saying, “I’m not meant to be happy, I’m not meant to find love or get a good job.” As we learned from the experiment, giving up is an option but not the only choice — the moment you do could be the moment a door opens.
I’ve been there myself. I believed once that college was not meant for the likes of me — a belief reinforced after repeatedly getting poor grades in high school.
I am have been humbled and shown how fortunate I am each time I walk through school.
I see the most amazing and courageous feats on campus, the elderly and disabled who come to class daily and are actively engaged in the process of earning a degree, willing to make the necessary sacrifices regardless of their circumstances. It’s a great sight to see, how much dedication and will they have to wake up each morning and do it repeatedly day after day.
So, I ask you, if they can do it, why can’t you?
I don’t know what your situation is, but you’re not alone. Look around you, and you’ll see. We’ve all been there in some way or form.
Don’t give up, learn to be optimistic.
America wouldn’t be here today if the 13 colonies didn’t believe they could gain their independence from the British. The Civil Rights Act wouldn’t have passed if African-Americans and minorities didn’t fight for it, and women would not have attained the right to vote if they were passive about it. Do not think for a moment that your life is out of your control.
Fight for change in your life and remember — failure may be an option, but it’s not the only choice.