There are all kinds of things you’ve told yourself you could not do that are within your reach. The current podcast episode provides the mindset that shows you how to spot and achieve them.


Lately I’ve been feeling very empowered, and it all began with me standing in my garage looking at a broken garage door opener. I know it sounds like a stretch that something so simple could cause such a big mental shift, but it did. This simple mechanical breakdown caused me to clearly understand learned helplessness and that you are only as powerful as you allow yourself to be.

So let me roll tape to set the stage: I’m getting ready to make a trip to the grocery store and do what I have done thousands of times: open the garage door and back the car out, when suddenly I hear a pop and the door stops. I instantly realize that something is wrong with the garage door opener and have to open the door manually. It will not budge and I am trapped. I call a friend who arrives and shows me how to disengage the pulley that has jammed the door.

This same friend later helps me rig up something to make the opener work that he seems quite satisfied with but appears to me to be an accident waiting to happen and might ultimately ruin the garage door. I thank him but don’t voice my concern, and later grudgingly go through the pain in the butt of manually opening and closing the garage door each time I need to leave. My brother recommended a repairman who confidently told me he charges $75 just to reach my driveway and then the clock starts ticking. Needless to say at this point I accept that I might as well buy a new opener but was still faced with the prospect of that repairman’s speech or the friend who came cheap but whose work was not up to my standards and felt helpless to do anything about it. Stop the tape right there!

I stopped the tape because I want to dig into the mindset that went with that scene. People who purchased a similar unit in the comment section of Lowes and Home Depot’s websites mentioned how well it worked and installing it yourself was easy enough but involved a little time and effort. How well it worked jumped out at me but the installing it yourself didn’t seem to register so much. And then out of the blue the words “learned helplessness” popped into my head.

For those of you who may not be familiar with the term “learned helplessness” it basically means you encounter a situation and no matter the circumstances, give up before you even try. This was the picture rolling around in my head as I stood there looking up at the broken garage door opener. All those reviews from both men and women who had never installed anything said they were able to do this, and yet somehow I told myself that this was something that was too difficult for me. I mentioned this to another friend back in Denver who offered encouragement that this was something I probably could do myself and my response was “In this movie I want to play the helpless female.”

powerful-2bThat was when I realized how easily learned helplessness can find its way into your life. And so with fear and trembling I clicked my way over to You Tube and searched “Install garage door opener.” Several videos popped up that walked you through how to install the opener, even as a one person operation. Slowly I could feel my confidence rising and it gradually began to talk back to all those negative voices in my head that had been yelling “You can’t do this!” And at that moment I decided I would go further out on the ice.

Those feelings of doubt don’t give up easily. In the checkout lane at Home Depot the cashier asked if I have “someone” to install it for me. I hesitated and answered “Yessss…” And then my confidence yelled at me “You’re doing it again!”, so I quickly followed up with “I’m doing it myself!” Doubt still testing she says “Do you know how to do it?” and confidence responds “I’m getting ready to learn”. I knew the circumstances were beginning to bend to my will when she added “There are lots of You Tube videos to help you figure it out…”

I won’t keep you in suspense very long and cut to the chase that there was definitely hair pulling involved as the original video I chose to follow was demonstrating a very different model from the one I purchased. I looked further down the video list and there was this guy called “TufDog” who walked me through a model exactly like mine. More hair pulling and playing and rewinding the video, but slowly it all began to make sense. Then, my confidence growing even stronger, I realized I could shorten the process by leaving the wires to both sides of the door in place and simply install only the motor because it was the same type only a newer model. A gamble, but one I was now willing to take.

I followed TufDog’s instructions to take down the motor and then connected all the parts. Around midnight TufDog had become my best friend telling me all the mistakes to avoid. Finally, me and the dog stood back ready to push the remote button to see if the gamble I had taken had paid off… and BAMM!! The door opened!

There was a lot of dancing around the garage and the dog even got a treat to add to the sense of celebration because she stuck with me. The next day I casually called my brother and told him the door opener was now working after I bought a new unit. He asked if the guy he recommended had installed it and I could hear the sense of surprise in his voice when I said: “No… I did it myself”.

Since that day I have been challenging everything I’ve told myself I couldn’t do. And discovered how I’ve limited myself despite previously feeling fairly brave. You really can learn something every day and mine that day was: Learned helplessness is easy to fall in to but you’re as powerful as you allow yourself to be.