Monthly Archives: November 2019

Capable: Overcoming Learned Helplessness

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I can’t jog. 

If I had a Native American name, it would mean “Runs Like a Fat Antelope.”

I just have an aversion for running. As far as we can tell, Jesus never ran anywhere.

And Solomon said, “The wicked run when no one pursues” (Proverbs 28:1). 

As so goes my reasoning; rationalization covers a multitude of sins.

A friend of mine, Michael, a PhD candidate, once challenged my thinking on this. He was working on a book about overcoming “learned helplessness” – in our culture, as a nation, in the church, and as individuals.

As he was describing what he had in mind, it felt like I was being tazered. All of my well-honed excuses started crumbling in front of me.

Here’s how Michael might challenge my thoughts on jogging.

“Doug, are you incapable of running?”

To which I’d have to answer, “No”  …

I could get one of those “Couch to 5K” apps and do the program, start walking, and go a little further each day, get on a treadmill, etc.

What I tell myself I can’t do, in reality, I’m usually capable of doing.

I don’t think this problem is limited to me. I know so many people who hate their jobs, but believe that they can’t do anything else. Others are caught up in bad habits that they tell themselves they can’t shake. A few of my friends have made themselves financially dependent on people who, in turn, treat them like obligated servants.

So I’m getting into the habit of asking myself,

“Am I truly incapable of doing “A,” “B,” or “C”?

If the answer is “no,” then maybe it’s time to get off the couch.

Especially when,

Schmidt Happens …


Reflection Questions …

  1. Finish the following sentence … “I just can’t [blank].”

  2. Are you truly incapable of doing [blank]? If not, is it time put together a plan of action? Explain.

Update: I’ve recently gamified my workout routine by putting together a (simulated) 3000-mile hike from Kennebunkport, Maine to San Diego.

For every high-interval-training cycle I complete, I give myself “10 miles” on the hike. Then I look up (online) where the ten-plus miles would have taken me, and check out the local attractions! It’s great fun!