Can frustration ever be a good thing?

Do you remember this game?

Frustration was a very simple, ludo-based game, its main attraction being the ‘popomatic’ dice. Contained within a plastic dome, the dice lay on a thin flexible plate. When you pressed the dome, it caused the plate to flex and the dice was thrown into the air but unable to roll off the board. The dome made a very satisfying clunking sound as you pressed it. I saw a vintage Frustration on eBay the other day and it got me thinking about frustration in general.

We tend to think of frustration as a negative emotion. As I talk to my clients, it seems that we are frustrated either by a lack or by a surfeit: a lack of time, a lack of relevant skills, a surfeit of choice, a surfeit of things to do – all these can frustrate us. This frustration can hamper us.

How about if we look at it in a different way? How could this frustration spur us on? Could frustration be an agent for change?

Here are some of the questions my clients and I have asked as we face frustration.

What is it that is actually frustrating you?
Get to the root of what frustrates you. Are you frustrated that you always seem to run late or are you frustrated that you don’t seem to manage your diary properly?

What is this frustration telling us?
Frustration is a message. Is it saying ‘you need to take better care of yourself’? Is it saying ‘this job needs doing and you have the time to do it even though you’d rather not’? Is it saying ‘don’t you wish you’d taken that course? Then you’d be able to go for that job’?

Is this frustration about you or about someone else?
One thing about coaching is that I can only coach the person who’s in the room. If the client’s frustration is completely focused on someone else’s behaviour, our task is not to work out ways to change that third party. Our task is to work out how we can manage our own responses to the third party’s behaviour. We concentrate on what we can change and influence, not on that which is outside our circle of influence.

If this issue didn’t frustrate you, what would be different? What would you be doing? How would you feel?
Imagine your leg is in a plaster cast and all the things you can’t do. You can’t go swimming, you can’t drive, you can’t run up the stairs. It’s easy to imagine all the things you could do once the cast is removed. Now see your frustration like that. Imagine what you will be able to do once it’s been taken away. Sometimes doing this can help you decide to take action and deal with the frustration so that you can move on, unimpeded.

What change does this frustration provoke?
If frustration were hunger, you’d deal with it by having something to eat. You’d change your state from hungry to satisfied. So what is it that needs to change in order for the state of frustration to one of satisfaction?

None of these questions will make the frustration disappear in a puff of smoke. However, when we see frustration as a messenger telling us that change is necessary, we can identify its key elements, deal with them and move on.

Today’s pebble for you to examine:
What is your frustration telling you and what will you do next?

I’d love to hear from you,

Turning over pebbles is the blog of Thinking Space Coaching.

If you’d like to make progress in your work and life, why not email me to see how we could work together?

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One Response to Can frustration ever be a good thing?

  1. Pingback: Pick me! Pick me! | Turning over pebbles

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