Today I want to share with you a simple trick that has made a very meaningful difference in how I deal with frustration and how I handle common I’m-feeling-helpless situations.
You know the sunk feeling you get when you look at a situation and feel you can’t do something to improve it? Maybe you’re losing weight but you’re feeling stuck. Maybe you have some physical limitations that don’t allow you to some things that you really want to do. Or your work is getting in the way from writing your book.
- Many of us respond with throwing pity parties. “Poor me, I cannot do it! This is not working! Nothing works!”
- Others respond with anger. They blame their metabolism, their doctor, their bad genes, their boss, the government, the rich people or the poor people, etc.
Both of those responses come from focusing on the obstacle, looking at what you feel you can’t do. Of course, you can’t help but get frustrated when you’re putting your attention on what seems like an insurmountable obstacle.
Both of those responses don’t actually help you deal with frustration. Instead, they keep you stuck and make frustration bigger. How can you deal with the problem when all you can think about is that you’re helpless? You cannot change the government. Feeling pity for yourself is not creative problem-solving (instead, it digs you deeper.)
But there’s a third way; and this way will actually help you deal with frustration.
Instead of focusing on what you cannot do, focus on what you can do.
- So maybe your weight loss plan is not going as you hoped, but you can start using the treadmill you have at a home.
- Maybe the doctor told you to avoid walking, which is frustrating and makes you feel rusty, but you can go swimming.
- Maybe your boss wants you to stay later, but you can block one more hour in the weekend for writing.
I know it sounds terribly simple. But how many of us really practice that?
Usually, what happens is that our frustration has momentum. Thinking about what we can do, does not alleviate how we feel right away. So we dismiss it quickly and continue feeling frustrated.
But try holding the thoughts about what you CAN do for more than a few fleeting seconds. Try writing them down. Try putting a (gulp!) full minute into this.
You’ll find that the picture totally changes. Since you haven’t yet tried all the things in your “CAN do” list, how can you keep being frustrated?
You see, it was all an illusion from the beginning. It was like you were at a buffet, you focused on the 1-2 dishes you didn’t like, and then concluded: “there’s nothing to eat here!”
But in reality, there may be another 15 dishes in this buffet. 15 dishes that you like. Once you discover them, then who cares about the 1-2 dishes that you didn’t like? It’s so refreshing to be able to think clearly!
Just keep in mind that the extra 15 dishes won’t reveal themselves if your attention keeps being pointed on the 1-2 dishes that you didn’t like. You have to look for them.
So next time it’s time to deal with frustration, go from “I cannot do this!” to “what can I do?”
- Resist the impulse to quickly dismiss the question. Persist. And the picture will change completely. You’ll become happier and more productive as a result.
- Keep in mind that frustration will want to pull you back into feeling frustrated and focusing on what you can’t do. As you recognize those urges, gently pull your attention away and back into what you CAN do.
- Understand that responding with self-pity and/or anger is most likely an established habit, meaning this is the response that feels “natural” to you. The more you practice the new response, the more the old ineffective response will fade away and the more the new one will become a habit – i.e., your second nature.
Where can you apply this in your life? How can you deal with frustration better? Leave a comment below!