Learned Helplessness

There was a trick that a professor pulled on her college class that taught me a great lesson, and this lesson has served me very well over the years, and now, perhaps it will serve you well too. Read on… it’s important!

She handed out a sheet of paper to each of her 30 students. On the sheet of paper was 3 words.

She told the students to look at the first word and give an anagram of it. That’s where you take all the letters in 1 word and make another word using all the letters. For instance, “Bat” is an anagram of “Tab”.

Once they had written down the solved anagram, they were to raise their hand indicating to the teacher and other students that they had solved the puzzle.

Here’s the trick…
The students all thought they had the same 3 words, but, they didn’t.

The students on the right side of the room had an easy one to solve, “Tab” to become “Bat”.

On the left side of the room, their first word was “Whirl”, which apparently has no anagram and is “unsolvable”.

So when she said “go” to solve the 1st word, the right side of the room all had their hands up in about 15 seconds because it was an easy puzzle.

On the left side, with the unsolvable word “Whirl”, none of them had their hand up even after about a minute, again, because it’s unsolvable.

You could see the frustration of the students on the left side of the room as they didn’t know they had a different word, and they saw how quickly some of the other students had solved the puzzle (those on the right side who had the easy word “Tab”).

The professor told them times up on word #1, and to now do the same thing for word #2.

Same thing, the right side’s 2ndword was again, an easy word, and the left side had an unsolvable word. Within 20 seconds, all the students on the right had their hands raised, none on the left side.

Again, keep in mind, that the students thought that they all were working on the same words.

So here again while watching the video of this study, you can really see the students on the left feeling frustrated, rolling their eyes, slumping their shoulders, and embarrassed that they couldn’t solve the puzzle when apparently many of their fellow classmates could.

Ok, follow with me here for just a minute, this is a big message. Read on…

When she told everybody to stop working on the 2nd word and to work on the 3rd word, and now for the first time all the students had the same word, an easily solvable word, well something amazing happened…

The right side of the room solved it pretty fast, but the left side, well, most of them couldn’t solve it, even though it was the same solvable word for everybody.

On the left side of the room, students had “learned” that they weren’t successful at solving anagrams so they just gave up and didn’t even try, which was totally inaccurate information they had “taught” themselves.

In a period of 5 minutes, they had radically changed their opinion of themselves that they weren’t smart, they couldn’t do “thinking” puzzles, others could and would be successful but not themselves, that they had acquired “Learned Helplessness”.

So what’s the take-home message here, for us as mortgage pros?

3 things.

  1. It’s critical that you hang out with positive people that encourage us to do “good work”, “smart work”, and work on solvable things… strategies that are proven to work over and over.

Because if we don’t work on proven methods, we may be working on an unsolvable issue and teaching ourselves lies about how we aren’t smart enough.

For instance, make sure when you are working with referral partners and using methods and strategy to get their referrals, that you actually are using those strategies on agents that actually have referrals to give to you.

Otherwise, we may teach ourselves that we are helpless to use this strategy for success and that we are going to fail, so no reason to even try.

2. It’s critical that we know what to say to get referrals; and that we use the right words and the correct conversations that get results.

Otherwise, we are at risk of teaching ourselves that we are helpless and people are rejecting us because we aren’t worthy or not bringing enough value.

3. It’s critical that you recognize the fact that you are worthy. Period.
You are worthy of great success, you are worthy of agents and friends referring you business.

I believe that “Learned Helplessness” is one of the primary reasons that most LOs don’t reach out for help or guidance from those who have achieved great success. Instead, many are attracted to other “helpless” business people to agree with them that “it” won’t work.

They are attracted to others that say things like “you aren’t enough, they won’t refer to you, and “nobody is doing well”.

That, my friend, is the senseless poison to success.

The narrative of “Learned Helplessness” is powerful because it highlights a fundamental human tendency. However, with awareness and the right strategies, mortgage loan officers can steer clear of its pitfalls.

It’s crucial to guard your mindset and influences zealously, ensuring that you’re continually setting yourself up for success.

Surround yourself with positivity, refine your communication skills, and always, always believe in your inherent worth. Let us help here.

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