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A trailblazing new study from researchers in Germany frames clinical depression in a fresh light. The researchers found that adapting to life circumstances by letting go of unattainable goals may be a psychological perk of depression that has gone under the radar until now.
The February 2017 study, “Let It Go: Depression Facilitates Disengagement from Unattainable Goals,” was published yesterday in the Journal of Behavior Therapy and Experimental Psychiatry.
During this study, researchers from the Institute of Psychology at Friedrich Schiller University in Jena, Germany unearthed fresh evidence that clinical depression might serve an adaptive function by facilitating more rapid disengagement from unattainable goals.
Christopher Bergland is an athlete, coach, author. He has a Guinness World Record for running (153.76-miles in 24 hours on a treadmill) and is the three-time champion of the Triple Ironman, which is a 7.2-mile swim, 336-mile bike, followed by a 78.6-mile run done consecutively. He completed the Triple Ironman–which is the longest non-stop triathlon in the world–in a record-breaking time of 38 hours and 46 minutes. Christopher is a founding partner of City Coach, a New York based coaching service..
Editor: Arman Ahmed
The researchers concluded that although clinical depression may be pathological, those with major depressive disorders (MDD) were able to let go of unattainable goals more quickly than their counterparts who weren’t depressed and tended to have more trouble letting go of unrealistic expectations.
To the best of my knowledge, this is the first study to present a somewhat radical and paradoxical challenge to mainstream notions of perseverance and a “never give up” mindset through the lens of depression.
As we all know from our childhood experiences, the maxim “If at first, you don’t succeed, try, try again!” is drummed into our heads from a very young age. These type of pep talks may backfire if the goal is unachievable regardless of how much effort someone pours into his or her futile struggle to succeed.
Yes. Bouncing back from the disappointment of failure is key to maintaining a “growth mindset” and maximizing your potential as Carol Dweck has importantly shown us through her research at Stanford University. (I wrote about this topic in a recent Psychology Todayblog post, “Self-Compassion, Growth Mindset, and the Benefits of Failure.”
But, the new German study by Klaus Rothermund and Katharina Koppe challenges the cliché notion that with perseverance and hard work: Anything is possible.