Becoming Unfrustratable: It's a Good Choice

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What do you do when you get frustrated?

Slam doors?


Stomp around?

Clam up?

Raise your voice?

Take it out on other people?


At some point in my life I have behaved in all of those ways. I’m not proud to say it, but it’s true. I know I have encountered people in cars, airports, stores, or work groups that have no idea what they did to deserve the looks or words I sent their way. Fortunately, for all humans, as well as inanimate objects, I have learned to accept a situation as it is – take a deep breath or a walk – and make a choice to dismiss my frustration.

I have a coaching client who really lets things get under his skin. Most of the time, the things are outside of his control and they aren’t bad things – they just aren’t being handled the way he would do it. During one coaching session I could feel myself becoming frustrated with his constant frustration, so I asked “Is this really how you want to spend your life?  Seems like a huge waste of energy to me, but it’s your choice and if you like the feeling of being frustrated, then stay there. However, I don’t want to hear about it anymore.”  

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That might not have been my most brilliant coaching moment, but it got us on a path that led to the declaration “I am going to become unfrustratable.” Here are the steps we took:

Step 1:  What frustrates you?  (When management makes stupid decisions)

Step 2:  What frustrates you about that? (They don’t understand how the decision affects me)

Step 3: What frustrates you about that? (No one cares about my opinion)

Step 4: Now that we are at the core of your frustration, let’s figure out what choices you have when someone that frustrates this core value of yours. How do you currently respond? (I don’t say anything and just wait for their decision to bite them in the butt)

Step 5:  What are the benefits of that action? (The brain/ body enjoy frustration as it increases energy when we feel like we are fighting something. It gives us an excuse to do things the same way, which means we don’t have to learn anything new. It reinforces my story that management doesn’t listen and gives me a reason to continue to mistrust them.)

Step 6:  What are the costs of that action? (I get frustrated. They don’t hear my ideas. I get labeled as someone who doesn’t like change.)

Step 7: How could you handle this differently? (Discuss at least 3 options)

Step 8: Choose an option and come up with action steps of how to put it in place, and ask for accountability

This conversation took about 30 minutes and at the end, my client said “I am going to become unfrustratable.” Not sure that is even a word!  He made this choice because he very much likes to be in control, and once he recognized that he was letting other people’s choices dictate how he felt, and how he showed up at work, he decided that he needed to take control back.  For him, that meant he would not allow frustration to dominate his thoughts, actions and take a toll on his health. By the way, we can become frustrated with ourselves and that can be even trickier because we don’t have an external focus. That is why I emphasize that we need to not let frustration control us instead of saying other people’s actions – sometimes it’s our own actions that frustrate us.

Now becoming unfrustratable isn’t as easy as flipping a light switch, but neither is it impossible. He has made great strides. The things that help him have been:

·       Stepping away

·       Getting fresh air, as in outside

·       Keeping his body moving

·       Asking himself 3 levels of why this is frustrating him

·       Asking himself what is most important

·       Asking himself how he could share his perspective in a positive way

·       Celebrating that he shared his perspective and then letting it go and getting back to the task at hand

I, too, have put these steps into practice and the two actions that offer me the best hope of dismissing my frustration are to take a walk outside and ask myself what is most important.  I have never answered that question by saying that the most important thing is for me to stay frustrated and let everyone know it. Those moments still come for me, but they are short lived and I know that I am healthier – physically, emotionally, and socially – for refocusing my energy on choices that move me forward!

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