A Coaching Power Tool created by Christy Calbos
(Small Business, Attorney, and Wellness Coaching, UNITED STATES)
Feeling helpless about a situation or goal is an experience every human has had at one time or another. Often, clients seek coaching specifically because they doubt their ability to achieve an objective or make a perspective shift. In short, they feel frustrated and helpless, at times. The definition of helplessness is
- Unable to help oneself; powerless or incompetent.
- Lacking support or protection.
The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition copyright ©2000 by Houghton
Mifflin Company. Updated in 2009. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.
Helplessness and victimhood are closely related. Helplessness is often a learned behavior in which a person manipulates others into caring and nurturing him/her, sometimes leading to being overly dependent on caregivers emotionally and/or financially. A client may engage in the provoking of sympathy via work issues, relationship problems, illnesses, academic issues or failures which draw attention and support from others.
Helpnessness can be a false sense of incompetence someone uses to make others believe a person is incapable of or lacking in competence, skills, or abilities to handle his or her own issues. Helplessness can be fueled by fear of success and act as a mask a person hides behind. It can be a lack of self-trust and a refusal to hold oneself responsible for life’s outcome. http://www.goodtherapy.org/therapy-for-helplessness.html
Let’s draw the distinction even further, to examine learned helplessness. Learned helplessness is the condition of a human or animal that has learned to behave helplessly, failing to respond, even though there are opportunities for it to help itself by avoiding unpleasant circumstances or by gaining positive rewards. Seligman, M. E. P. (1975). Helplessness: On Depression, Development, and Death. San Francisco: W. H. Freeman.
Learned helplessness can contribute to poor health when people neglect diet, exercise, and medical treatment, falsely believing they have no power to change. The more people perceive events as uncontrollable and unpredictable, the more stress they experience, and the less hope they feel about making changes in their lives.
Learned helplessness can also fuel a motivational problem. Individuals who have failed at tasks in the past conclude erroneously that they are incapable of improving their performance. In children, this might set children behind in academic subjects and dampen their social skills. Children with learned helplessness typically fail academic subjects, and are less intrinsically motivated than others. They may use learned helplessness as an excuse or a shield to provide self-justification for school failure. Additionally, describing someone as having learned to be helpless can serve as a reason to avoid blaming him or her for the inconveniences experienced. In turn, the student will give up trying to gain respect or advancement through academic performance.
Resourcefulness is defined as
able to act effectively or imaginatively, especially in difficult situations.
The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition copyright ©2000 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Updated in 2009. Being resourceful means knowing how to get the information and results you want. Being organized and having trusted systems are big pieces of the productivity puzzle, but sometimes
Getting Things Done
means being a creative problem-solver.
There are internal and outer resources. Much of the feeling of personal control revolves around the beliefs each individual holds about the causal impact of his or her actions on gaining desirable outcomes and preventing undersirable ones. When personal control beliefs are strong, the individual feels a sense of mastery over life’s outcomes, as she perceives a strong and causal link between the action she initiates and the likelihood of good and bad events happening to her. When personal control beliefs are weak, the individual feels a sense of helplessness, as she believes that good and bad events occur on a random basis, with no causal link between her actions and her outcomes.
Since resources are often categorically distinguished between “inner” and “outer” resources, coaches can consider these two lists: