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The Gift of Frustration

We’ve all been frustrated at work. In fact, a 2022 Leadership IQ study found that over 60% of the nearly 3,000 workers polled were so frustrated that they were either quietly thinking about or outright quitting their jobs. You may or may not be at that point but if you’ve ever dreaded coming to work on Mondays you know it’s not fun. That’s why I want to share a little secret about frustration that can begin to transform your work experience immediately

Frustrations are expressions of unconscious, undeclared, and unwritten Definitions of Success (DOS).
Let me explain what I mean.

 After more than twenty years of coaching, I have found that when a person is frustrated, it’s because there is something very important to them that is hard to express, so it comes off sounding like a complaint and they get labeled a “whiner.”  I have heard them all, leadership has no clue about what they are doing, Our company is frantically changing priorities every week and sometimes every day, No one listens so I just come in and do my work,  etc.

If we listened differently, we would realize that those expressions are not really complaints but rather undeclared statements of our truest desires, or Definition of Success. A Definition of Success is simply a clear affirmation that provides a focus on what a person wants, versus what they don’t want. 

 More often than not, a person’s attempt to ease their work frustrations either fail or are short lived. In fact, you may have tried techniques before to ease your irritation only to find your discontent and dissatisfaction growing each time your environment reminds you of the frustrating thing. The first time “it” happens, you think, I don’t want that. It happens again and you think, Ugh, I really don’t want that. After a few more times you think, I am so sick of that, I quit. Sound familiar? The part of the equation most people miss or have a hard time articulating is, What DO I want?  

 What I don’t want (complaint) = frustration
Knowing what I do want = opportunity to win at work

 When you take a moment to discover the heartfelt desire your frustration is trying to “gift” to you, you won’t have to waste your precious time, power and energy. You can stop playing the blame, complain, or waiting game, feeling stuck and defeated and start winning instead. Or, you can gain the clarity needed that can make your choice to leave the organization viable versus forced AND a lot easier. So, let’s define success for you now. 

 Steps to create and fulfill a definition of success (what do I want?)

 A definition of success is an affirmation, an intention you live daily. It is a set of conditions, which when written in the present (not the future, like a goal) proclaims who you are and makes you happy NOW. Ultimately, it is a commitment/promise you make to yourself as a reminder of what is important and dear to you. It makes you feel successful regardless of what is going on around you. It is not a mantra!

 Step 1: Ask yourself, what is it about my current environment (work, home, school, life) that I wish was different. Write it down. An example is: I wish my company wouldn’t change priorities every week, and sometimes every day.

 Step 2: Take your statement from Step 1 and reverse it to make it positive (something you want). An example is: I want to be able to focus on my work and be productive. Note: Take a moment to notice how, in this example, the frustration this person is experiencing is an unspoken desire that can be written as a definition of success.

 Step 3: Take the statement from step 2 and write it as an affirmation, as if you have what you want. For example: I am focused and productive.

 Step 4: Record your definition of success from step 3 and make it visible. YOU WILL FORGET IT, IF YOU DO NOT. Then whenever you become frustrated, say it like you mean it.

 You may be wondering, after you write your dentition, how to fulfill it if others are unwilling to align with you? The answer is your fulfillment begins with you. Start by asking yourself some very hard questions about how your actions might be sabotaging your definition without you even realizing it. It might feel uncomfortable to investigate yourself in this way, but the impact of this knowledge can be enough to begin to shift your experience.

In the example I used above, “I am focused and productive”, my client had been sabotaging her productivity goals by doing her most challenging work in the afternoon, when she knew she was most productive in the morning. Her thinking was if she got the easier tasks done first, then she could focus on working accounts to meet her goal for the day. That approach was not working, and she would get frustrated.  After realizing her error, she rearranged what work she did when, and her productivity was consistently met, and she was happy. 

Having a definition of success (personal or professional) does not mean you do not have long-term goals or priorities. You still will. A definition of success provides a daily focus.  It is a condition to look forward to waking up to and to working in every day. If you are not getting it in your environment, it is up to you to choose to act responsibly to have it. 

A little heads up: Whenever you declare success for yourself, you will be tested about whether you really believe and want that definition. Everything inconsistent with it will be magnetized to you. One of my clients explained it to me this way by asking,” Is a DOS like becoming pregnant and then all of a sudden you begin noticing pregnant women everywhere?” I said, yes. It is just like that. 

 To summarize, frustration is ultimately a gift you give yourself. It is designed to get you back into the driver’s seat of your life. If you’re like most people, what really matters at work has less to do with meeting deadlines or performance expectations and more to do with having an experience that makes you feel good. A definition of success is your opportunity to be happy and win at work.


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