Underachieving?

Underachieving?

Date: 12/4/2013

Let's examine some of the more common reasons why people are underachievers and how to correct them so that people live up to their potential.

Some people are underachievers because they have low self-esteem or lack self-confidence. Other people are struggling with personal issues that occupy their thoughts and sap the energy they could be using to accomplish. Then, there are people who have trouble deciding on goals for themselves.  And, there are people who cannot seem to follow through on their goals.

Here are examples of people I have worked with who were underachieving...

#1--A man in his late 20s who was not functioning well because of a number of personal conflicts he had, two of which are listed here. He lives in Israel and feels "unsatisfied" here (for reasons he could not pinpoint) and wanted to go back to the United States. "There I could be successful", he thought. The conflict was that his family had moved here and he did not want to move away from them.   The second conflict was that he felt a strong need "to be recognized", particularly among the people in his neighborhood.  On the other hand, he wanted to be "like everyone else".  The reason his conflicts were so problematic was that they seemed unsolvable and completely preoccupied his thoughts.   This really slowed him down in life.   We worked on his becoming more aware of his personal Values in order to make decisions that would be meaningful to him and help him resolve his conflicts in a way that he would feel comfortable with.  The underlying reason for his need for more recognition came from a need to connect with people.  As a child he had been a good athlete and won instant popularity.   He did not have to make efforts to have friends; they naturally gravitated towards him and even idolized him. As an adult he was unconsciously searching for an effortless way to make friends.  By becoming aware that making friends was not so simple and easy, he accepted that he would have to be more active in making friends.  We learned principles of communication and making friends so that he could build friendships with peers. As for his conflict about where to live, it became apparent to him that he could be quite satsified here once he began to function on a higher level.   Developing the confidence to make decisions and resolve his conflicts and building friendships gave him a more positive picture of his future here.

#2 An intelligent 12 year old boy who was failing in school   He had social problems: "the boys treat me like a dog", and he perceived that the teacher did not like him. He was unhappy, frustrated, and developing a poor self-image.   He was also beginning to give up hope of ever finding a solution. He needed something that would give him quick relief. We worked on creating a "refuge" to make him feel more comfortable in life; his life did not have to revolve exclusively around school. This included:  having him speak on the phone once or twice a week to his older syblings and visit them once every few weeks.  His father, who was very busy, would find 20 minutes every day to spend quality, undisturbed time with him and once a week do some activity with him outside the house.   Finally, the parents were to speak to the school and teacher and work together to find ways to improve his situation. 

#3 A man in his early 20s who was underachieving because he "likes to take the easy way out".   He was intelligent and quite capable of accomplishing. Indeed, he had been doing well in Yeshiva. Then, things started to slow down until they came to an almost complete standstill. He was learning a total of  only 2-4 hours a day!  The problem was connected to a fear of responsibility of the next stage of life--marriage and what he would be doing in life.  Furthermore, his parents had become quite concerned about his situation and kept prodding him to perform better.   He resented their intrusions and did whatever he could to distance himself from them.  We worked on helping him overcome his fears of taking responsibilities.  I worked with the parents that they can offer their opinions and express their concerns, but that they should recognize that he is capable of making decisions and that he needed more "space'.  They should express their confidence in him about making decisions about his life.

#4 A young girl with low self-confidence. By nature she was more sensitive than most children her age and any critical remark from a teacher or her parents penetrated deeply.  We worked on building her self-confidence. "That's right, you can't do it now, but you can learn how to do it.  You have learned how to do many things in life and you can learn how to do this, too" is a good slogan to teach people who have developed beliefs that "I can't do it". There is a corresponding NLP technique to help a person discard the old belief of "I can't do it" and replace it with a new belief of "I can learn how to do it" that makes people aware of their true capabilities. It is especially effective with people who have developed poor self-concepts because of constant criticism and ridicule when they were young and defenseless.  I suggested to  the parents to use more positive reinforcement (praising her for her good behaviors and accomplishments) and less negative reinforcement (pointing out and criticizing her mistakes and failures).

#5 An 18 year old with anxieties, panic attacks,  and OCD that severely interfered with his functioning in life.  For example, he would spend a half an hour saying the Shma and even longer saying the Tefillah. This was because he was unsure if he had kept the obligations required by Jewish law.In addition, he would get panic attacks and overwhelming feelings of anxiety in situations where he did not feel he was in control.  The work we did was 1) He was to consult with a Rabbi he felt comfortable with and had confidence in. This Rabbi was to help him clarify exactly what he was required to do in all matters of Jewish law and customs so that he would know that he is doing the right thing.There would be no more "I don't know if I did it correctly so I am going to go back and do it again."  2) When he finds himself in a situation where he does not have control, he should categorize it into one of two possibilities:  Either he can do something about the situation or he cannot.  An example of a situation that he can do something about was getting on to the wrong bus.  In situations like this he was to decide if he wants to go with his own intuition about what to do or to ask someone how to proceed.  An example of a situation that he has no control over is when a Rebbe in his Yeshiva came over and took his learning partner away to speak with for a few minutes.  In such situations he was to remind himself of the Torah principle that everything happens for a reason and in some way is to our benefit. 3) I taught him relaxation techniques he could use whenever he felt that he needed them. 4) Since his symptoms were markedly reduced when he felt satisfaction in his learning, he was to learn at a speed and choose material that he felt satisfaction with. At the follow up session he reported that he still occasionally felt some feelings of anxiety and panic, but they were milder and lasted a shorter amount of time.  Knowing that he now had methods he could use to reduce and eliminate them helped him feel more relaxed and confident and to function on a normal level.  

#6 A middle aged man who had been hospitalized for a psychotic breakdown.   He had been on anti-psychotic medication and when his psychiatrist reduced it to a maintenance level he was sent  to me to improve his interactions with the world. A more specific and immediate goal was that he had been learning a trade and had to finish a project to receive his certification.  The work we did involved 1) Awareness of himself and his qualities.  This included a values elicitation to be more aware of what was important to him.  Knowledge of one's personal values is also a key to motivating oneself and we learned how to use them to motivate himself to deal with things he found challenging--such as finishing the project to receive certification.  It also included eliciting what his personal qualities were and that he had available to help him interact with the world.  He was a bit surprised to "discover" that he had demonstrated in many past situations that he had willpower, flexibility, persistence, can stand up for himself, and can be forgiving. Personality traits that he considered "negative" we reframed as being positive in certain situations.  For example, he felt that he could be "brazen".  However, this can mean that he has a sense of himself , of right and wrong, and when he is being violated--all important for healthy and effective interactions in life. . 2) Correcting a faulty belief about the world.  He had an expectation of consistency in life and that things run automatically. We discussed that life has it's ups and downs for everyone because...we are human!  Unlike machines which can be very consistent, human beings are influenced by their moods, feelings, extenuating circumstances, fears, drives, etc--all of which affect our performance. On a personal level, too, he felt frustrated and disappointed whenever he failed to be consistent.  For example, the medication he was taking made him drowsy and he would often wake up late.  As a way of dealing more effectively with failure, whenever he failed he was to ask himself "How can I improve this situation in the future?"  In other words, instead of feeling sad that he had once again failed, he turned the failure into a springboard for learning how to improve.   He figured out ways of getting himself up in the morning such as putting his alarm clock on the other side of the room. Just because I have "failed" at a certain task does not mean that I am a "failure" in life.  3) Interacting with other people.  He did not need to learn social and communication skills because he was friendly and sincere. However, he wasn't able to mix well with people because of his condition and the side effects of his medication. He was a little bit slower in his responses than the average person which made it somewhat unpleasant to be in his company. He wasn't "with it". I encouraged him to upgrade his mode of dress one level because he will feel better about himself and people will relate to him differently. If he dresses more "put together" he will feel more "put together".  When he feels more "put together" he will act more "put together."

To schedule an appointment contact me by phone: 052-763 7029 or by email: shlomokory@gmail.com 

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