I get frustrated a lot these days. About work, and my life as a whole, and about whether I’m making the right decisions to get me where I want to be.
This evening, I attended a free workshop on email marketing. The woman running the workshop has a career I dream of: working for herself, helping local organizations effectively reach their audiences and build their businesses through the power of the Internet. She even has someone working for her — someone who, according to her Twitter profile, is a content strategist.
I call myself a content strategist on Twitter, too. Except many days I’m not. I spend many days running on a hamster wheel of administrative and reactive tasks while the content strategy work I love sits in the backseat. It taunts me, telling me I’m losing experience and skills while other people — people like the woman running tonight’s workshop and her content strategist employee — scoop up all the experience and skills I want to gain.
In a word, I’m frustrated. I feel underused, undervalued, underappreciated. I’m not achieving what I know I’m capable of.
Frustration, I keep reminding myself, gets me nowhere.
Frustration is nothing more than wasted energy. Frustration is channeling your ideas and dreams and passions through a negative funnel, comparing them to an ideal fantasy of what you could be doing instead. Except that ideal fantasies rarely, if ever, exist.
So the question is: How do I bust out of this rut when work gets me down? How do I channel my ideas and dreams and passions through a positive funnel? How do I take my energy and shift it from frustration to fullfillment?
There are a few techniques I use to get through bouts of frustration. They’re certainly not groundbreaking. But they help me, and maybe they can help you, too.
My hairdresser — a good hairdresser is worth her weight in gold, I say — passed on to me a great tip about dealing with anxiety. “Smell a flower, blow out a candle,” she told me. Smell a flower, blow out a candle, I thought. Was this supposed to be some sort of relaxing image that I could meditate on to relieve my stress?
Then she made me do it. “Smell a flower.” I smelled a flower. Breathe in.
“Blow out a candle.” I blew out a candle. Breathe out.
Oh right, I realized. It’s a reminder to breathe.
Sometimes when you’re frustrated, you just need to breathe. The energy is pent up inside you and threatening to bubble out in a fury. Let it glide out on a deep, slow breath instead. I guarantee that, right away, you’ll feel at least a tiny bit better.
So next time you’re feeling frustrated, remember: smell a flower and blow out a candle.
To paraphrase a great quote I recently read, there’s no burden so great that you can’t walk it off. Sometimes simply pausing to breathe isn’t good enough. You need to get away from the issue causing frustration for a little while. For me, the act of physically getting away from your problems is extremely powerful.
If you can, go for a walk. Around your building, around the block. If you have a special place you like to visit, go there. If you need a snack or caffeine, get it.
When you move yourself away from the frustration, you’ll often find it’s not the same when you revisit it. It shrinks a little, or puts itself into perspective. Or, sometimes, it completely disappears.
I’m an unabashed introvert — really, the only way to deal with introversion is to embrace it for the quirky, awkward, creative beast that it is. So it goes without saying that I do a lot of thinking.
Thinking through my frustration (while walking, not coincidentally) is what led me to write this blog post. I was able to organize my thoughts into actions — which, also not coincidentally, is my final tip.
You’ll never be able to completely breathe, move or think your way out of frustration. If you keep finding yourself frustrated by the same issue, and you’ve identified the reasons why you’re frustration, it’s time to be constructive and act.
A lot of people never get to this step. Instead they wallow in their frustrations, letting them take over their lives. Passions become extinguished and bitterness takes root.
I never want to let that happen to me. So, now, I’m acting.
I’m writing this blog post, and I’m going to keep writing blog posts to share my valuable perspective with the world. I’m going to volunteer for a friend to help her with communications and marketing for her grassroots organization. I’m going to network and gain experience with what I have now, instead of being frustrated by what I don’t have.
I don’t have a neat, fancy acronym to help us remember these techniques. I guess I’ll just have to keep practicing them so they’re ingrained in my memory and my attitude.
Breathe, move, think, act. Get past your frustrations and fulfill yourself. The world will thank you, but more importantly, you’ll thank yourself.