Frustration: it affects all of us at some stage. It’s a part of the human experience and it’s an emotion that doesn’t discriminate. We often find ourselves frustrated when things don’t turn out the way we expected or hoped they would or should. More often than not, our frustration is triggered by something (a situation, a conversation, a circumstance, a person, an event) which is beyond our immediate control.
Like that idiot who lives across the road.
Having said that, what is in our control, is our reaction. Like all emotions, frustration is a personal response to something that’s happening (or not happening, as the case may be) in our world. And while most people believe it’s the external stimulus that produces our internal response, in reality, our frustration is self-created. The challenge is not to overcome frustration (as such) but rather, to learn to manage it as opposed to being managed by it.
So, having worked with the frustrated multitudes for years, I thought I’d share a few suggestions that you might find helpful.
1. Don’t Try to Change People. Trying to change others (we’ve all done it) is an exercise in frustration and, at times, disconnection and aggravation. Giving people unwanted advice, direction or feedback (no matter how well-intended) will invariably end in tears. Either literally or metaphorically. Keep in mind that unwanted input or commentary is typically interpreted as criticism.
2. Stop Wasting Your Emotional Energy. Control what you can and let go of what you can’t. All too often, we invest our emotional energy into things (situations, circumstances, issues) over which we have little or no control. Not surprisingly, sending our blood pressure through the roof while screaming at a sporting event on television (for example) won’t change the outcome. Or the umpire’s stupid decisions. In fact, the only thing it might do is send us to an early grave. Oh, and possibly, annoy the crap out of everyone else within earshot.
3. Stop Juggling. Stop doing fifty things poorly and focus your time and energy on doing the important things well. That is, prioritise. I had to learn this lesson as I once had a propensity to bite off more than I could chew. Many of us simply take on more things than we can do well. Sometimes the answer is to put certain things on hold in order to be able to make progress in other areas. As a rule, over-commitment leads to exhaustion, anxiety and frustration. And eventually, physical illness. So, what’s the best use of your time, skill and energy right now? The answer to that question is your starting point.
4. Stop Aiming for Perfection. Aim for better. Aim for improvement. Aim for growth. Our society’s obsession with perfection has led to unrealistic expectations, unhealthy thinking, mass frustration and disappointment. Of course frustration will be the result when our goal is unattainable. When perfection is the goal, no result will ever be good enough.
5. Be Patient. Stop trying to reinvent yourself by next Tuesday. It took you a long time to get where you are now (practically, financially, emotionally, physically, psychologically, sociologically), so be realistic with your expectations as you work towards creating the new and improved version of you. I’m always amazed by people who have punished their body for decades (with atrocious eating, zero exercise and poor lifestyle habits) who then find a way to be disappointed and frustrated when they don’t look like a supermodel or elite athlete two weeks into their ‘weight-loss kick’. Good grief.
6. Stop Relying on Others to Get You There (wherever there is). It’s great to have support, encouragement and help along the way, but it’s not great to be totally dependant on others to make our dreams a reality. While it’s healthy to be part of a team of people who are all on the same page and all moving in the same direction, it’s still important for us to be functional, productive and effective on our own. Independent and strong. Being totally reliant on someone else (to reach our goals) is an exercise in both frustration and disempowerment.
7. Compare Yourself to Others – with Caution. Comparing ourselves to others rarely results in something positive. It can, but typically, it won’t. Invariably, it will focus our attention on what we don’t have or what we haven’t done and lead to self-pity and/or frustration. Having said that, it can work in our favour when we make it. Comparisons can be a positive when we use the achievements of others with similar attributes, potential and opportunities (to us) as a source of motivation, inspiration, learning and perspective for our own journey.
Now… deep breaths.