“Laughter and tears are both responses to frustration and exhaustion . . . I myself prefer to laugh, since there is less cleaning up to do afterward.” – Kurt Vonnegut Jr.
I used to totally, utterly, absolutely, downright hate frustration. It was an emotional reaction, I just couldn’t help it. Whenever I got caught in its the subtle yet powerful chains I felt like crap. I think you know the feeling. Hands tied up, no possible solution to the current situation and a lot of mess to deal with. Yes, frustration can do that to you.
Being so keen on doing things, starting new projects all the time, entering new challenges almost daily, it was absolutely natural to face a lot of frustration. It was the expected behavior. Only I thought it wasn’t. I thought I didn’t deserve it. Why this is happening to me? It took me a long time to understand, but it really worth the wait.
Be a Friend of Frustration
The good news is that you can overcome frustration. I’m not talking about avoidance here, because, believe it or not, frustration is a key ingredient in your personal development, but rather about a friendship strategy. An alliance with frustration, an armistice. As any other emotional response, frustration leverages huge amounts of energy. And you can use that energy. In fact, it’s such a shame to let it slip away.
Step 1: Acknowledge the Problem
Accept it. Yes, you are frustrated. It’s already happened, can’t bring time back. You’re here and you’re frustrated. You’re not sad, angry or apathetic. You’re frustrated. Write it down on a piece of paper. Find a mirror (preferably in an isolated place) and say to you: “I’m looking at me and I’m frustrated”. Find a good friend, call him and say to him: “Buddy, I’m frustrated”.
This requires a little bit of courage and a little bit of exercise. You need courage to accept it, because frustration is often associated with being powerless. To some extent, you are powerless when you’re frustrated. You really lost your power over the specific events you were trying to control. But only on those events, not over your entire life. You still have enough power to move on. Yes, you lost power over what you’re trying to do, accept that.
Acknowledging the problem will stop your current flow of actions. Maybe you’re doing the same thing for weeks months or years, without any positive results. Acknowledging that you’re frustrated about that will stop you. And that’s a good thing. It’s good to stop when you’re doing stupid things.
Step 2: Change the Status Quo
Now that you know you’re frustrated, start working on the status quo. Start changing the current environment. Somehow accepting your frustration already did half of the job: it stopped your current flow of actions. You’re not doing stupid things anymore. That’s good. But that’s not enough. You have to move forward.
Changing the status quo involves reversing part of the actions you’ve done so far. If it’s possible. If there are persons involved, you can start by apologizing to them. If there are broken things, you can start fixing them. If there are damages, you can start covering the loss. Somehow.
Changing the status quo also means acting. Just do things again. Frustration is like a snake venom: paralyzes you, makes your muscles useless and you can’t speak anymore. Reverse that. Start moving around. Stretch your legs, start babbling even if you’re pathetic. Being pathetic means you’re no longer frustrated, you’re just pathetic.
Acting after accepting your situation will reorganize the odds around you. The mere fact of moving in a new direction will bring in some luck. Sometimes enough to put you on the right track again, sometimes much more than you can even imagine. I know for sure that some of my bigger breakthroughs were born out of some of my bigger frustrations.
Step 3: Enjoy your New Level
After you started to act on your status quo, your environment will look better. Sometimes you can completely reverse the situation which causes frustration, sometimes you’re just ameliorating things. Whatever the case, you’re out of the dead hole. You’re on a new track, trying something new. Stay there.
And, above all, enjoy it. There is this popular habit of mild sorrow after you overcome a huge obstacle. Man, it’s good to be here, but before wasn’t so bad after all. Don’t do this to you. Just fully enjoy your new level and leave the past tot the past.
Frustration is not a dead hole, unless you want to make a dead hole out of it. It’s an elevator, a way to quickly reach to a new level. You could take the stairs, of course, and have a leaner course to the top. But if you want to reach there faster, you’ll need more energy. A lot more energy. You’re going to make leaps instead of going step by step.
And what you call frustration, is in fact the manifestation of an elevator right at your fingertips. You asked for it, because you wanted to reach out faster, now you have it. Don’t reject it, don’t misuse it. An elevator can take you in a few seconds to the top of the world, or it could take you to the basement. Be careful what buttons you push.
After all, it’s just an elevator, you’re in command.