Learned helplessness: why you’re afraid of taking risks
The most terrifying part of the world of entrepreneurship is certainly the risks involved. When you read about creating companies and startups, hiring people, supply chains and marketing, your mind is filled with all of the possible ways in which everything could go wrong.
And I can’t blame you. All that is really hard and can really go wrong if you don’t know what you’re doing. For every company that reaches the sky, there are thousands of others which either stagnate or go bankrupt early in their lives.
But this fear of entrepreneurship doesn’t really come from the specific fear of watching everything go to ruin. Not even a fear of responsibility or of failure.
It comes from frustration.
Frustration is the key factor in what psychologists call “learned helplessness”: a behavior pattern originated from repeated frustration which gives you a constant feeling of helplessness, making you feel like you are unable to change your life and fulfill your dreams.
But that doesn’t mean you have to bear that for the rest of your life. You can change it, little by little.
You are always facing risks
The first thing to realize is you aren’t afraid of risks. You are afraid of big risks. We face many kinds of risks everyday, whether we know it or not. Cooking a meal? There is the risk of causing a fire. Using social networks? There is always the risk of being stalked, or developing anxiety or depression. Leaving your house? Countless risks for your health. Staying home all day every day? Countless risks for your health and mental health.
Everyday we face those risks and barely notice them. Why? Because we are already used to them, we know how to avoid them and minimize them, and many are already small to begin with. Taking risks is a part of life, and necessary to live. It is inevitable. But, of course, some risks are bigger than others. And that is what makes them scary.
Knowing your comfort zone
In order to be able to face bigger risks, especially the ones which may be necessary to take, it is important to find out what exactly you are comfortable with right now. What kinds of risks don’t scare you? What risks do you face everyday? How do you handle them?
This is a way to find out what is your comfort zone. There is no problem with having one. It is even healthy to have one. Don’t take all of that “go out of your comfort zone” stuff to heart. Instead, work on expanding your comfort zone. Anything becomes easier to do when you are comfortable with it.
Those high-stake guys you keep reading about? They do high-stakes investments because they are comfortable with it. They have a safety net, safer investments, tons of money stored in a bank somewhere. Or they are just out of their mind and you shouldn’t really follow in their steps. Start with safer risks and aim for the sky, at your own pace.
Remember your objectives
Also, don’t take unnecessary risks or go do something just because everyone else is doing it. Focus on your objectives. On your life. Whatever your objectives are, focus on them and strive to go toward them with whatever means are at your own disposal, at your own pace. No need to rush.
The main thing is to get the small victories within your reach, which will lead you toward your objective. Learned helplessness comes from repeated frustration, and can be overcome with repeated victories, no matter how small they are. Each victory is a further step toward hope.
So, right now, don’t focus on getting glory, recognition or leaving a legacy for the world. Focus on today and tomorrow. Focus on getting better and improving yourself. On improving your mental health, your self-image, your self-esteem. One victory at a time. And with this, you will gain the experience and mindset necessary to face the bigger risks that the world can bring.