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Aaaaaah! That is the moment you decide to see just how far you can whip a MacBook Air! Turns out, the answer is about 27 feet if you go with the frisbee-style throw. But now you have a bunch of cleaning up and explaining to do.
Ok. We have all been there. Even if you can’t get the word out through the clenched teeth, frustration is a common emotion across all age ranges. It usually comes right before you “lose it”. Frustration lights the fuse on the anger bomb you have been building inside. But is the explosion inevitable? How do different people handle frustration? Where does it come from? Can anything positive come from that blood-boiling feeling of frustration?
The Left Fork
One possibility when you become frustrated is to just give into it. Let the frustration take root and beat the holy hell out of some inanimate object until you feel better. Cathartic as this option is, it is a bit inconvenient for the majority of people. Unless you have immediate access to a scrap pile, boxing gym, or a stockpile of old dishes, you most likely won’t be able to reach a “break” through this way.
And since you are being forced to hold it inside, it will come out as an explosion of anger. Because you are frustrated and feel powerless to do anything about it, your anger is most likely to manifest aimed at the people you care most about. That means your family and close friends get to catch the brunt of your rage and poor attitude. Seem fair? Of course not! But this scenario plays out the world over every day. And, yes, it can lead to irreversible damage.
If only there was a better, more positive way of dealing with frustration, right? Well, lets back up the emotion train and take a look at the other path.
The Right Fork
Have you ever been so frustrated that you broke out laughing? I have! I have been so absolutely and completely screwed and out of ideas that it was literally comical. And I laughed until my sides hurt at my own situation, replaying every dead-end I had tried. Come on, I can’t possibly be the only one to ever have experienced this! I distinctly remember when the realization dawned on me that nothing I had done worked because I was trying to control something that was completely out of my control.
The truth is that much of our frustration is caused by our own expectations. We decide on a goal, we begin working toward achieving that goal, and then a variable changes (or an unforeseen variable pops up) and we scramble to control it; to not allow this roadblock to derail us from our path. But, much to the dismay of many individuals, we do not have the ability to control everything. No matter how much you squirm, struggle or beat your head against the wall, there are some circumstances beyond your control. That is where frustration is born.
And here is where you have a decision to make. Will you: A.) Give up and allow anger, regret and depression to tell you that you failed; or B.) Learn the lesson being taught and approach the problem from a different angle? We all know plenty of people who choose “A”. They are the people who are quickly angered; have a low opinion of themselves; and feel like the deck is constantly stacked against them. But WE need to be the type of people who choose option “B”.
Frustration Can Be Channeled
A goal achieved without any hardship or obstacles to overcome was a goal set too low. When we are striving toward something in our lives, be it professional or personal, we need to be aware of what is within our control and what is not. Being flexible and creative enough to deal with factors we do not control is the key to avoiding frustration, anger and burnout. Running into a stumbling block is not failure! Being unwilling to stand back up and keep moving is the only failure.
That all sounds good, but it is not easy! We tend to face frustration when we are at our weakest. The exhausted single parent gets frustrated when they learn of their 9 year old’s diorama on Thursday night which is, of course, due Friday. The struggling writer gets their 7th rejection letter and their “Final Notice” electric bill on the same day. Real world frustration. Both are perfectly understandable reasons to slip into anger. However, yelling at the child does not get the diorama done; and throwing the laptop across the room is not going to pay the electric bill. The circumstances are out of control. So, once you are done laughing at the absurdity of the situation, roll your sleeves up and get creative. The diorama may not be the Mona Lisa, but you and your child can get it done with some out of the box thinking. And you may need to pick up a part-time job to pay down some bills while you wait for your writing career to take off, but do not quit writing or submitting.
It is important to remember that the Universe is on our side. Quite frankly, we are all designed to succeed. We all begin in the same position – a defenseless blank slate made of promise. It is our decisions; our ability to see a problem from different angles; and our willingness to lay it all on the line which will determine our ending position. It is all about taking our frustration and using it to drive us forward. Never give up. Reassess, realign, and resume.