How to Reduce Frustration in Your Life in 3 Easy Steps

Frustration is a terrible feeling, and no one is immune to its negative effects. But where does frustration come from and how can we lessen its impact? Below are three easy steps to minimizing the impact of frustration in your life.

1. UNDERSTAND WHERE FRUSTRATION COMES FROM

The first line of the “frustration” page on Wikipedia defines the concept nicely: “In psychology, frustration is a common emotional response to opposition.” (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Judgement) In general, the source of that opposition is going to come from one of two places: from within yourself, or from others. Today, I am going to focus on the latter.

All too often, we end up judging others by using ourselves as a basis for comparison. When we encounter those who differ from our way of thinking, our way of life, or even our daily preferences, we can become frustrated if we perceive those differences as somehow impeding our progress. Our judgment creates barriers, and those barriers yield frustration.

Whoever said opposites attract…well, I don’t buy it. I absolutely believe that there can be an interest in different things but when we seek comfort, however, we seek commonality. On the contrary, when we encounter opposition we become primal in our response, as if our very survival was at stake. That is why aggressive tendencies often ensue when we feel frustrated. Frustration turns to anger, which can lead to physical aggression if not handled or mitigated properly (think: road rage).

2. RECOGNIZE POTENTIAL SOURCES OF FRUSTRATION IN YOUR LIFE

Whenever someone’s limits differ from our own, a potential for frustration arises. To help illustrate this, take a moment to write down your answers to the following questions:

A) What speed (relative to the speed limit) do you consider to be too slow when driving on a highway, and what speed do you consider to be too fast?
B) What is too hot to be comfortable room temperature and what room temperature would you consider being too cold?

Now answer these: At what speed do you drive on the highway, and what temperature do you prefer in your home?

I would bet my lunch (and I love food!) that your answers to the second set of questions fall in between your limit-setting answers for the first set. Personally, I drive 5-7 miles per hour over the speed limit. Anyone who drives the speed limit or below is just too slow for me, and anyone who drives 10 or more miles per hour over the speed limit I think is driving too recklessly and is just asking to be pulled over! While I find this to be a perfectly reasonable and logical response, I know not everyone agrees with me. How? I’m reminded every day when I must pass a slug or I get passed by a racecar driver. Their reasoning may be exactly the same as mine, but their limits are different.

Any two people are bound to have different preferences on almost any topic. How we respond to those differences is what determines how we feel about them, which brings me to the last step.

3. UNDERSTAND THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN EVALUATION AND JUDGMENT

When we evaluate something, we measure it against some standard. We evaluate students when they take tests in school. Athletes are evaluated with a myriad of statistics regarding their performance. A judgment, however, is the result of taking those evaluations and making some decision about it. To say that one is better than the other.

When a student is deciding on which college to attend, he or she may evaluate a number of different areas: distance from home, cost of tuition, size of the school, etc. A judgment is then required to decide which school is best. Making a judgment often involves stating an opinion as if it were a fact. When we then believe that statement to be true (and why wouldn’t we? We came up with it!), we become frustrated when others differ from ourselves.

Not only do we state opinions as facts when we make judgments, but we create global statements based on specific pieces of information. It is the difference between evaluating that another car is traveling more quickly or slowly than you are and making the judgment that the driver of the other car is an inconsiderate jerk.

It is infinitely easier to prevent problems than to fix them once they exist. We can avoid many frustrating situations if we recognize our differences and avoid placing judgment on them. Recognize that someone feels more comfortable driving more slowly than you. Recognize that someone is willing to spend more or less money than you. Recognize that other individuals have priorities that may differ from yours. And that’s okay, as long as it is not something that impedes directly on the basic rights of others.

Diversity across every facet is what makes life tolerable and yet, ironically, breeds the most intolerance. As much as we sometimes wish other people were more like us, how awfully boring would that be? Who would you learn from? Who would you grow from? I wouldn’t want to find out. Embrace the differences, avoid judgment, and live a life free of frustration.

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