Life's journey is filled with many twists and turns ... so much so that at times, we find ourselves overwhelmed and downtrodden. Yes, it's true! We ALL face challenging situations along the journey.
I would argue that one of the greatest challenges we face, one that has a huge potential impact on how we live our lives, is ... FRUSTRATION.
If you've lived a day in life, you've experienced frustration. Whether you like it or not, frustration is a part of life! And, it can rears its ugly head across many situations, both in our personal and professional lives.
Please allow me to share a personal example ...
Throughout the past few years, I've been afforded extraordinary professional opportunities, which have allowed me to travel, present, and serve in countries all over the world. With these gifts came additional opportunities to expand my career in new ways. So, this year, I worked tirelessly on an international collaboration ... one that I hoped would fully manifest within the coming year. This summer, however, I learned that the collaboration would come to an unanticipated end, as a result of funding challenges within the host country's organization. Needless to say, I was disappointed ... and, honestly, quite frustrated.
Faced with the situation at hand, I had a decision to make ... simply sit in the frustration or explore the roots of my frustration. I chose the latter and gained tremendous insight in the process!
My primary insight ... frustration can hinder where and how far you go in life. This may sound like an overstatement, I know. Let me explain ...
Frustration, in its rawest form, can leave you feeling overwhelmed and ready to abandon ship. As I considered all of the energy involved in creating my collaboration, as well as the disappointing outcome, I thought about scrapping the entire project idea. Yet, I believe that this is part of my purpose ... something that will position me well for where, I believe, my life is headed. Could the same be true for you, in spite of your frustration?
Colleagues, I challenge you to embrace frustration as a tool.
If we don't recognize that frustration is only a tool, a couple of things can occur. First,you might abandon your project, scrap your idea, or throw in the towel on an entire career path. Now, I won't argue that sometimes, choosing a new path can be advantageous to our emotional and physical well-being. Nevertheless, wouldn't you agree that "giving up" can also be premature, if the frustrating situation is not properly explored?Second, you might begin to experience symptoms of depression or anxiety, both of which may be mitigated if you take the time to explore the root of your frustration.
So, the burning question ... how can you use frustration to propel you forward?
You must first recognize frustration for what it really is ... a tool.Think of frustration as a signal that something has gone awry in your life. Of course, when you experience anything that creates unrest or a lack of balance, your first instinct is to rid yourself of the source of frustration ... or, more accurately, what you think the source of frustration is. Yet, you must not simply react ... you must respect the reality that frustration alone is only information.
Next, you must use the knowledge that you are frustrated to search yourself. Frustration, as a signal, provides a wonderful opportunity for you to stop and self-reflect. Take a moment when you feel frustration rising to the surface to pause and ask yourself, "What's going on within me?" Sometimes, what you're feeling frustrated about has absolutely nothing to do with what's happening on the outside. I had to tell myself the truth that my frustration had everything to do with proving myself as an early career professional and very little to do with the failed collaboration attempt. Thank goodness I took the time to pause and self-reflect!
I'm happy to report that frustration served as a healthy tool for me this summer! Not only did I realize the need to remain focused on my project goals, but I also gleaned valuable insight into strategies for more effective communication and collaboration moving forward! If I hadn't answered frustration's urgent call for self-reflection, I would have abandoned ship prematurely!
Remember, colleagues ... frustration can serve as a source of motivation vs. something that completely derails the plans in front of you. Pause, self-reflect, and then, keep going!
Mekel Harris, Ph.D., NCSP is an Associate Professor at The Chicago School of Professional Psychology – Los Angeles and a licensed psychologist in Los Angeles, CA, with expertise in health psychology. She has presented at over 25 national and international conferences throughout the past 5 years, targeting an array of health-related topics. As an avid proponent of wellness, Dr. Harris recognizes the importance of cultivating physical, emotional and spiritual balance in all areas of life and leadership.