You know those times where you work hard on something and yet no matter how hard you try or how important it is, it just won’t work? It’s worthwhile focusing on how to manage frustration because unmanaged, it soon becomes anger. Then, before you know it it’s not your challenge that’s the challenge, it’s your state of mind.
Step one is to be more emotionally aware. Don’t be the frustration, realise that it is a product of your use of your consciousness. If you want to change how you feel you need to change what you’re focused on. The frustration emerges from that focus being on your desire. All you start seeing is that a) you want it, and b) you can’t have it. But those are both things that don’t relate to your actual problem, they are judgments regarding your inability to solve it. That’s quite different than tackling the actual solving.
After I’ve noted I’m feeling the emotion, the first thing I try to check for is my two common mistakes: I’m overtired or really hungry. I’m normally better at these, but with my life being very naturally busy at this stage there isn’t as much choice in these matters as I would like. But I can still make sure I rest and eat when it’s most helpful. It’s a challenge I’m actively working on.
Another action to take is to remove yourself temporarily from the problem. Ideally this is to do something entirely unrelated, like spending time playing a game, or walking in nature, seeing loved ones (including pets), as well as things like cooking or other non-word-based activities like gardening or photography. It can even be a 20 minute power nap.
It’s said that Thomas Edison, when stuck on a problem, sat in a rocking chair with a fork pinched between his two fingers, which he hung over a metal pie plate he placed on the floor next to him. As he fell asleep his grasp would ease, the fork would clatter down and Edison would be awakened in a fresh state of mind, having let go all of his previous avenues of thought.
Remember, frustration is the overuse of one area of your mind. You burn it out, and if you’ve been through it exhaustively then the answer just isn’t there. The only thing that prevents you from abandoning the path you’re on is your own self-generated internal dialogue about how much work you don’t want to abandon. That causes your narratives to keep trying to meaninglessly convey the importance of your deadline or the thing itself. It doesn’t matter how important those are if you’re not looking in the right place for your answer. It’s time to accept that reality and regroup and set out in a new direction. Your emotions are guiding you wisely.
After you’ve done your reset, simply relooking at the problem will often present new ideas for solutions. This is where all of your seemingly wasted previous work becomes useful because, by working so hard on figuring something out, you get to know its component parts extremely well. Once you find your path you really can move faster.
Sometimes this needs to be done multiple times on a task. I watched a guy go for about 20 walks on his way to trying to building a model airplane. I remember him telling me that he found it hard to surrender, but he knew from experience that it was better to go for the walks than to smash the airplanes. Indeed, it’s easier if you start the management process before you’ve lost your cool numerous times.
A lot of anger would be avoided if people managed their irritations and frustrations more actively. Work on yours this week. Stay aware of your state of mind and actively manage it to your maximum benefit. You’ll be more productive, happier and you’ll enjoy what you’re doing a lot more. Here’s to a great week for all of you.
Scott McPherson is an Edmonton-based writer, public speaker, and mindfulness facilitator who works with individuals, companies and non-profit organizations locally and around the world.