Are You Frustrated?

Life can be frustrating. It doesn’t matter if you are young or old. It doesn’t matter if you are rich or poor. Each phase of life comes with its own frustrations and that can be…well…frustrating.

In reality, it’s probably more accurate to say life IS frustrating instead of saying it CAN BE frustrating.

If you have been living longer than a minute, you have had times in your life when problems seems to dominate. Nothing seems to be going the way you want it to. During those phases of life, it’s really easy to let frustration get the best of you.

On the flip side, I’m sure there have been times in your life when things have gone well. Overall, life is heading in a good direction. But even during the “good times”, your life was not void of frustration. There were still frustrations in your life, but when the good outweighs the bad, your frustrations are less frustrating.

Now it may sound like I’m gearing up for a good old fashion pep talk. “Suck it up buttercup. Life is hard!” But that’s not my intention. The purpose of this article is to let you know that it’s OK to be frustrated and to give you some simple tools to help you along the way.

Let’s start by talking about why it’s not only OK to be frustrated, but why frustration is actually a good thing. In order to do that, you have to ask yourself a simple question, “Why do I get frustrated?”

On the surface, you may conclude that frustration is simply the result of things not going your way. But it’s more than that. Frustration is the result of repeatedly, unmet expectations.

You care about something. You try to get a particular result. You fail. You still care about that something. You try again to get a particular result. You fail AGAIN. Now, you have a recipe for frustration.

Of course, some people get frustrated faster than others, but the answer is still the same. Why do you get frustrated? It’s because you repeatedly failed at something that you care about.

Now that we got that out the way, let’s talk about why it’s OK to be frustrated. By its very definition, in order for you to be frustrated, you have to both care and try. Those are good things! You are supposed to care about things. You are supposed to try.

The only people in the world who are never frustrated are the ones who have stopped caring or who have stopped trying (or both). Do you want to be that person? I sure hope not. That’s not a happy or purposeful way to live. 

People who care, get frustrated. People who try, get frustrated. It’s just part of the process. It’s a good frustration.

But not all frustration is good. Bad frustration often comes from you having unrealistic expectations or from incongruent actions…meaning your actions do not line up with your expectations.

The good news is that there are some simple things you can do to minimize bad frustration, and you should proactively do something about it. Yes, frustration is a part of life, but there’s no reason to make it any worse than it has to be.

So the first thing you want to do to minimize bad frustration is to manage expectations. Unrealistic expectations are a sure-fire way to experience bad (and completely unnecessary) frustration.

Think about it. What if you expected to look like Arnold Schwarzenegger in his prime, but only went to the gym for 30 minutes each day? What if you expected to be a millionaire by age 30, but your only job was flipping burgers at Burger King? I would bet that you would be super frustrated, but that’s not good frustration. That’s bad frustration that stems from unrealistic expectation.

I realize that those are silly examples, but how often do you sabotage your own happiness by setting unrealistic expectations? It happens all the time, and most of us live in a world where it is encouraged.

The world today praises the quick and easy. Get rock-hard abs in 21 days! Go from $0 to millions in just 6 months! Even on social media, everyone shares an edited, glorified version of their life. At a glance, it makes you think that great things come easy…that your life shouldn’t be as hard as it is. It’s frustrating.

Great things don’t come quick and easy. It doesn’t matter if it’s your personal life or your professional life, great things are the product of hard work and consistency.

Of course,  “hard work” and “consistency” are not the sexy words that you probably want to hear. But if I don’t tell you the truth, you will continue to have unrealistic expectations, and you will continue to experience bad frustration.

Before I move on to my next point, I want to clarify something. I’m not at all telling you to LOWER your goals. I believe everyone should shoot for the stars, no matter how crazy it may seem.

You do need to have a clear understanding of the kind of time, effort, and commitment that will be required of you to achieve your goals and set your expectations accordingly. The higher the flight, the harder the fight.

Once you have properly set your expectations for a particular situation, you need to add some structure. Structure? I know…another unsexy word. There’s a theme here.

Successful people do not accomplish their goals by accident. There is a method to the madness. They have a plan. Unsuccessful people have a tendency to deal with things as they come…fly by the seat of their pants.

The problem with having good intentions but lacking structure is that people are creatures of habit. In all areas of life, you are where you are now because of your habits. If you want to grow to a new level (personally or professionally), you have to create new (better) habits.

Unlike bad habits, good habits are not created mindlessly. You have to be intentional about it. No one has ever gotten out of bed and said to themselves, “How did I get so fit?!?” But a lot of people have had that experience with fat…myself included.

If you want to lose weight, you should set aside time to exercise…maybe hire a personal trainer. If you want to improve your back pain, you should schedule time in your day for stretching or pencil in some visits to the chiropractor. If you want to have a better relationship with your spouse, maybe you should plan a regular date night.

This may seem oversimplified, but structure helps you do the things you know you should do but aren’t in the habit of doing yet. If you do the things you know you should do, you will head in the direction you want to go. As a result, you will minimize bad frustration.

Once you have properly set your expectations and added some much-needed structure to your life, you are ready for the last thing. Can you handle one more boring word? It’s boundaries.

Boundaries are similar to structure. But instead of helping you do the things you know you should do, boundaries help you NOT do the thing you know you shouldn’t be doing.

Now before you get all defensive, I’m not accusing you of doing anything wrong in the sense of right and wrong. But what you do have to understand is that just like there are things that will help you accomplish your goals, there are also things that will keep you from them.

Successful people know that in order to be successful, they are going to have to say “no” to some things, and those things aren’t necessarily bad. For instance, if you want to lose weight, you may have to say “no” to pizza. Pizza’s not bad. Pizza is delicious!

Another example could be if you want to improve a personal relationship, you may have to say “no” to playing golf every chance you get. Nothing wrong with golf, but if it’s taking up all your time, you may need to scale it back a bit…unless of course, you two golf together.

If there is an area of your life that has you frustrated, you need to ask yourself a very simple question. What are the things that I’m doing (good or bad) that are undermining my goal?

Be honest with yourself. Too many people sacrifice great in their life because they are holding on to things that are good…or even worse, they are holding on to things that don’t really matter.

When you identify things that are holding you back, set up some boundaries in those areas and stick to them. If you want to stack the deck in your favor, set up boundaries in places that you can more easily say “no.”

I’ll give you an example from my own life. Personally, I don’t want to eat a bunch of sugary treats. It’s not because I don’t like the taste, but because I gain weight and my body hurts after I eat a bunch of sugar.

With that said, it’s really hard for me to say “no” to anything sugary once it’s in my house. I have zero self-control. I eat anything sugar-loaded like it’s my job…not a good thing.

What I have learned about myself is that I don’t have a hard time saying “no” to sugary treats in the grocery store. So that’s where I set up my boundaries. I don’t have sugary treats in my cupboards at home. I leave them at the store.

If I ever want a sugary snack, I have to drive down to the store and get it, and I only buy what I’m going to eat. It’s a simple boundary that keeps me from overeating sweets, but I don’t try to fight that fight in my house. I fight it in the store where I am most likely to win.

You can do the same thing in your life. Identify the areas in your life where you need to set up boundaries. Figure out where it’s easiest for you to say “no”.  Set yet your boundaries there.

Conclusion: The bottom line is that frustration is a normal part of life. You are supposed to care, and you are supposed to try. That’s what life is about. That doesn’t mean you have to be unnecessarily frustrated. Help minimize the bad frustration in your life by setting proper expectations, adding structure, and setting boundaries. No, it may not be sexy, but it works.