By Michael Angier
"I'm so frustrated!" These words, or something perhaps even more
colourful, are things we've all said at one time or another. Several times over
the past few days, I said them myself--at least in my head.
We recently incorporated a new computer into our network and it raised all
kinds of havoc. An installation that should have taken only a few hours turned
into a three-day exercise in aggravation and frustration.
If you're an achiever, someone who gets things done, you can feel quite
frustrated when things don't go according to plan. This is natural. The issue is
how you handle it.
In our recent experience, my wife and I dealt with it better than we thought.
We never lost our patience with one another, and we were never rude to each
other, or to the people we worked with in resolving the problems.
As I look at what happened, I can see things that allowed us to get through
the installation with no upset. Here are what I see as the key strategies we
used--although not perfectly-to avoid being victims of the experience.
Emotional Bank Accounts
One of the things that made our recent ordeal more bearable was that my wife and
I had high balances in our respective "emotional bank accounts." When
these bank balances are low, the little things can easily become big things.
Little "forgotten" resentments can turn into major issues. By making
daily deposits into our emotional bank accounts with people we're close to, we
can avoid having unnecessary upsets make a difficult situation impossible.
Ask Good Questions
When we get frustrated, it's easy to ask fruitless, impotent questions,
questions that exacerbate the situation rather than improve upon it.
Questions like, "Why did this happen to me?" "Why is life so
unfair?" "Why are people so unreasonable?" are the kind of
questions that keep us stuck and feeling unresourceful. We need to ask questions
that move us forward. Keep asking, "What's really important?"
Stay Focused … Identify the Problem
In the midst of a crisis (whether perceived or real) it's easy to lose our
focus. We have to keep coming back to what the problems are and what we can do
to solve them.
Charles Kettering, the great American industrialist and inventor said,
"A problem clearly stated is a problem half solved." I believe that.
As the experience and drama unfolds, stay with the intended result and keep
redefining the problem.
Take a Break
It's important to take breaks. Don't become obsessed with the problem(s) and
keep at it without any let-up. We can't be at our best when we operate non-stop
without a chance to step back and gain some perspective … and rest.
Stop. Get some exercise. Take a walk. Work out. Take a nap. Watch a movie.
You'll be surprised how much more resourceful you can be after a break. In the
whole scheme of things, how much difference will a few minutes (or hours) make?
Remember to breathe. As someone once said, "Inspiration is the art of
Keep in mind that frustration is an emotional reaction. It doesn't happen
"out there", it happens inside us. And we have choice about whether we
Be aware. Notice when you're feeling frustrated. Don't judge it. Blaming
oneself, or others, will not work. Ninety percent of overcoming the problem is
your conscious awareness that you're stressed. Ask yourself, "In three
years' time, will this situation be worth being upset?" Chances are, it
We stress ourselves out by taking things too seriously. Being serious
doesn't mean we have to be grim. Learn to laugh at yourself as well as the
situation. The things that seem upsetting now will usually be things that we'll
find humorous later. If we're going to laugh about it then, we might as well
laugh about it now.
Going through any challenging situation is more bearable and often more fun when
we experience it with a friend or team member. Ask for help. Where is it written
that you need to go it alone?
What was the end result of that week's computer fiasco? Well, one of our
publications was delayed two days and it's doubtful anyone noticed. We learned a
lot. And, we ended up with a better system than we'd originally planned because
we exchanged the first computer for a better one.
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