How To Deal With Frustration With Life: 20 Questions

“I have a lot of faith in myself which is why I am frustrated with the fact that I am not doing more,” said my ridiculous-too-hard-on-myself mind. Can anyone relate to this?

About 5% of the month (or more), I wake up with this overwhelming thought that I am not doing enough and/or have not accomplished enough by my age. If I am honest with myself, it’s usually around the time(s) when work, bills, stress, life, and my personal goals collide in competition for my time. If I am not careful, these few days or moments of the month can snowball into longer negative narratives that re-play in my head. The mind is a terrible thing to waste, especially when it’s being wasted thinking negatively.

Two months ago I wrote a blog post about Having Faith in Yourself. It was a great reminder to rethink the mental and emotional limits we place on ourselves. Yes, exactly– the limits that we place on ourselves. It is true that sometimes the world, circumstances, and people seem like they are against us; however, it is also often true that our worst enemy is the person in the mirror looking right back at us. For this post, I want to chat with you about another side of life’s Rubik cube: When you have the faith in yourself to accomplish your plans/dreams, but things are not moving forward in the way you planned or hoped in your mind. What do you think/do then?

There is so much I want to experience and accomplish and at times it can begin to feel like I am not moving at the pace I would personally prefer. The pace, whether slow or fast, is attributable to either my own action/inaction while other paces are simply due to life and/or God having a better plan or better timing for me. Nonetheless, in some areas of my life things are moving slower than I would like and in other areas the pace is faster than my little life legs want to run.

When I think I am “not moving fast enough” or determine that “I am not yet where I want to be in life,” it is usually traceable to my tendency to over-analyze things. In most of my being-too-hard-on-myself sessions, it is easy to fall into the trap of focusing so much on the big picture that I overlook past and present victories. Sometimes we need to slow things down, count the blessings, weigh the good versus the bad, and appreciate the accomplishments and victories written in our life’s story.

When I start feeling like life is not moving at the pace I planned, I have discovered that it is very important to evaluate whether my frustrations are warranted, healthy, logical, or accurate. It is true that sometimes we are justified in feeling frustrated with certain aspects of our lives. On the other hand, sometimes we are dangerously infusing negative self-talk and energy into our life where it doesn’t need to exist. In order to figure out the difference and to minimize the negative thinking in my life, these are some of the questions I ask myself:

  1. Am I frustrated because I am being too hard on myself?
  2. Am I realistic about the goals I have created?
  3. Am I creating more frustration in my life because my priorities are not in the right places?
  4. Am I frustrated because I have not dealt with past frustrations and issues?
  5. Am I sacrificing too much in one area while neglecting other important areas of my life?
  6. Are my frustrations based on things within my control? If not, how can I spend more energy on the things I can control?
  7. Am I creating harmful frustration because I am comparing myself to other people’s timelines and successes?
  8. Am I listening to life when it tells me to readjust my plans?
  9. Am I adopting the right attitude for the situation at hand?
  10. Am I creating frustration because I am not organized/disciplined enough with my time and energy?
  11. Am I creating frustration in my life by  having the wrong kinds of people around me?
  12. Am I frustrated because I am trying to copy another person’s life?
  13. Am I frustrated because I have not taken the time to examine whether I am in line with my purpose, morals, principles, and values?
  14. Have I taken the time to establish what I want out of life?
  15. Do I need to learn to be more flexible?
  16. Am I just cranky and tired?
  17. Am I frustrated and just blaming my problems on everyone else?
  18. Am I really frustrated with the right situation or am I deflecting/avoiding addressing other issues in my life?
  19. Am I willing to throw in the towel on unnecessary battles?
  20. Am I creating frustration because I am living in a box that is too small for me and my life knows/feels it?

If you are willing to learn from the mistakes and successes in your life, then you are growing and learning! The faster you learn the lessons, the less time you will waste repeating the same test(s). Your life can change overnight– positively or negatively– so what’s the point in being stuck in a frustrated mindset? We will get frustrated; that’s life. But, we should still be willing to discover the lesson within our frustrations, move forward, and find greater success than before. Remember, you are only stuck if you keep repeating the same mistakes. Life is full of frustrations, but we don’t have to let the frustrations fill up our mental space.

What is one of your frustrations with life? What do you do when you feel frustrated? Care to share, vent, get some ideas, etc.?

Comment below or chat with me!

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Having Faith in Yourself.

“Faith is the bird that feels the light even when the dawn is still dark.”

As defined, faith is a strong belief in someone or something. That concepts seems very vague, somewhat intangible, and also requires a significant level of trust. If I trust a person or object, I believe in their/its ability to be who or what I know them to be. Subsequently, I have faith in them or it. For example, I trust that the ladder will support me as I climb to reach the top shelf because I believe it was designed correctly. Therefore, I can say I have faith in the ladder. If a person has proven to be trustworthy in their character and actions over time, you might say you have faith that they will be there for you when you need them.

In general it is easy to have faith in other people or objects. But what about having faith in ourselves? What makes it so difficult to believe in our own ability as confidently as we believe in others’ abilities? Is it because we cannot see ourselves as clearly as we can see others? Or, is it because our defense mechanisms and doubts blur our ability to see all the great qualities that exist within us? In my opinion, it is probably the latter. It is great to have faith in other people, but it should not outweigh the faith we have in our own capabilities.

Over the past two years, I have wondered even more about what I would do if I had no fears or doubts. I started praying that God would (1) allow me to continue to discover everything I am supposed to accomplish in this lifetime and (2) to have the patience, willingness, and courage to complete it. After a while, it was no longer a new prayer. My confidence to explore my interests increased, yet I was still doubtful and fearful. I knew some of my interests and goals were/are destined and ordained, but I was still hesitant to move forward without more reassurance from God.

Me: “God, I just want to know that you will be with me if I journey down this path. I know that if you destined this path for me then everything will ultimately work out in my best interest. I trust you God.”

God: “Yes, this is path I ordained for you. I am with you and will always be with you”

Me: “Thank you God, but I just need to know that you will be there for me…”

Repeat this dialogue every day about the same goals and paths and that’s how ridiculous I sounded asking the same questions over and over again. Unfortunately, having repeated reassurance didn’t result in me running full steam ahead down the path. Something was wrong and it wasn’t God.

I started to recognize a contradiction in the overall situation. I felt God signalling, encouraging, and supporting me to move down certain paths, yet I still kept asking for sign after sign that I would be successful. In some way I was looking for confirmation that my strengths and abilities were enough to protect me from failure — very unrealistic. If I had faith in God, then why would I doubt him so much? Why did I need to keep asking for reassurance? I finally realized that the problem was tangled somewhere within my fears, doubts, and insecurities. The problem wasn’t God; the problem was me.

With this realization I started praying instead for God to help me believe everything he already believed about me. He made me strong and intelligent (I believe), so I just needed to have faith that he knew what he was doing when he created me. I was not a fluke creation, but rather a destined life on earth. Ultimately, the goal now was for me to learn to believe the greatness he created in me and still sees in me.

Think of it like a parent-child, teacher-student, or coach-athlete dynamic:

Parent: “You are so capable, strong, and loved. I believe in you and I want you to reach for the stars. Just know that I will always have your back every step of the way. You will never be alone because I support you.”

Child: “I know. I know. But, I am still scared and afraid that things will not work out. I know you love me and believe in me, but I just can’t do it.”

Parent: “Trust me! You CAN do it and I am in your corner! Haven’t I always been there for you? Listen, I am very proud of you and I will continue to be proud of you even if you fail.”

Child: “Yes, you have always been there for me, but I don’t know what will happen if I fail. I don’t think I have enough in me to do this. I love you too, but I just can do it.”

I don’t know about you, but to me that is a sad dialogue. If I am ever having that conversation with my future children, I will wonder why my inspiration and encouragement doesn’t seem to garner even a little bit of faith that his/her goal is worth trying. I will wonder if my child trust that I will be there to catch them if they fall.

Coach:“You have so much talent and ability. If you are committed to the training, you will go very far. You can do it.”

(Athlete goes through weeks of training, is committed to the process, and begins seeing improvement in practice. )

Fast forward to game day

Coach: “You ready? Let’s do this! You are prepared. Now all you have to do is execute what we practiced, Go get ’em!”

(Athlete gets out there, observes the competition, and begins to doubt him/herself and the coach’s words).)

Fast forward to after the performance/match…

Coach: “What in the hell happened out there? You are better than that performance today.”

Athlete: I felt (insert lame injury or excuse here)… and when the referee (insert lame scapegoat excuse here) it threw me off!

(Or maybe the athlete will be more reflective and say…) “I felt great today coach. I don’t know what happened.”

Well, I will tell you what happen dear athlete: Doubt made you question you preparedness. You questioned whether your coach was just pumping you up because that’s his/her job and you froze! You didn’t have faith in yourself, your abilities, or your coaches words.

A few weeks ago I reached out to an old friend to touch base about a new project I am working on. For the most part I was super excited and confident that I was going to do a great job on this project, but of course my insecurities, doubts, and fears needed confirmation that my strengths were indeed strong enough to outweigh my weaknesses. To make a long story short, after chatting with this person for a while, I realized that although they had many great suggestions and resources to offer me none of the information outweigh the preparation and lessons I learned along the journey.

In essence, in that moment I realized that everything I went through — both the good and bad — had prepared me for exactly where I was/am. I didn’t need reassurance or more resources, what I really needed was to have faith that (1) God would not give me this path if he/she/it (whatever you what to think God is) knew I was not prepared for it and (2) that even if I hadn’t learned the lessons along the journey (as I was supposed to) that God would be there to support me when I fall. Therefore, success seemed to lie in whether I not only had faith in myself but also in his plan for me.

I have many weaknesses, but the good news is that I have many, many more strengths. Most of what we need to take those first steps toward our scariest goals are already inside of us; it is just a matter of whether we start believing the idea that (1) we are strong and (2) that God and the universe — already knowing our weaknesses — still thinks we have enough strength inside of us to positively impact the world around us. Maybe in the end embracing our weaknesses as much as we embrace our strengths is what makes us unstoppable.

Photo Credit: Zhao

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Protect Your Optimism

Man, oh man! How much bad, poor, negative news can we handle? Does anyone else feel like every time they turn around there is more bad news being reported? Yes, Facebook is usually filled with positive messages and laughs; Instagram with joyous photos and smiles; but, the news, forget about it– sad news upon weird news upon more sad news. Of course, there are many hopeful stories mixed in, but violence, rape, fraud, cancer, overdoses, war, terrorism, racism, death, and financial ruin seem more prevalent than the positive, the hopeful, and the good.

I often struggle with keeping a positive, hopeful, faith-filled head when I watch or receive dreadful news. In the moment, it really knocks a little bit of the wind out of me and makes me wonder if there is any good left in the world. In some instances, I find myself asking myself “why” this or that happened. Thereafter I usually utter a “God, help me,” put everything back into perspective, and realize more and more that living to the fullest is the only alternative to the negative surrounding us. Herein lies the good news: the more I attempt to live life to the fullest is the more that I realize and believe that there is still more positive than negative in the world.

Some time ago, I began thinking about how often fearful negative things actually happen to me or people I know. Throughout this exercise, I found that more negative instances did happen more in some areas than others, but overall the chances of the negative prevailing were lower than my fears would lead me to believe. In no way does this mean that I believe bad things will not or cannot happen to me or those that I know. It just means that although the negative, bad, discouraging events may happen, they are probably far less prevalent than my fears will allow me to believe.

Sometimes it can feel that negative things unceasingly happen to us. While this may or may not be true, the goal is to not lose hope and try not to become too overwhelmed by them. In the grand scheme of life, the statistics may still fall on the side of hope and good. If life does not feel positive right now, keep living and eventually the numbers will straighten themselves out. Who knows? Maybe the positivity and optimism we all seek lies inside of us all.

Protect your optimism, then, share it with the world.

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Dealing with Crappy and Sh*tty Stuff

I was talking to my cousin the other day about some shitty things that have been happening in my life lately. Well, it’s more like crappy things happening to someone else that in turn affected me. I guess this area of my life has just been somewhat of an adventurous ride recently. Naturally at this point I feel the need to say that by no means is it the end of the world or a life-shattering development, but it still has the slight smell of crap (and what others might call “shit.”) But, I digress. After discussing my anticipated responses to the situation, the therapist in her pointed out that the positivity current moving through my mind was something to be proud of. I was a little surprised by her response because despite seeing myself as a positive person I know there are many people out there more positive than even me. Yes, I made the cardinal mistake of comparing my crappy situation and reaction to other people and I minimized my feelings to the too often heard phrase “someone always has it worse.” Nonetheless, I took the compliment and listened.

“Not everyone knows how to see their way out of a situation,” she said. She continued to remind me that too often people become overwhelmed by the moment as if given situations are the end of the world. As she spoke I couldn’t help but think about all the times that I too have been in those situations. I recalled all the times when I felt overwhelmed by the ignorance of tomorrow all complicated by the “what the heck am I going to do” thoughts. I also imagined all the moments in the future that I might be guilty of thinking that circumstances are the end of the world. However, as she spoke I realized the reason I was able to change my thinking from overwhelming and paralyzing to hopefully and positive. The answer: I had the privilege of living through enough tough moments to notice that they never actually were the end of the world. Guys, in some way “time” does have a slightly healing quality to it. If we allow ourselves to learn and mature in and from situations, wounds/pain are eased/healed in time, forgiveness is given in time, solutions are found in time, true love is discovered in time, and stability/success is found in time. Inevitably I will continue to have crappy moments in my life, but as I get older I have discovered that I don’t have to let my life become crap because of one crappy moment… or two…or three. Life is too short.

Another perspective I have tried to adopt during crappy times is the thought that maybe God is testing me. I always think that life is trying to see if I have learned anything in the time that I have been alive. Ok, this might be a weird collision of my belief in God and the teacher inside me, but I really do believe that something-someone out there is watching to see how we respond to “situations.” How else might you explain the fact that typically positive people go much further in life than negative thinkers? There is definitely something to be noted about the perseverance and success of people who find the positive in any given situation (even if they have to dig down deep to find it). For me, one word separates the times in which I am more positive from the times in which I am more negative — faith. Most people associate faith with God (which I personally do), but being hopeful doesn’t necessarily have to be that deep. Listen, I still doubt, question, get depressed, and discouraged about crappy situation, but I always try to conclude my personal pity-party with positivity and hope. I figure if this is a life test to see if I am capable of handling more success or more challenging portions of life I had better try to pass it by rolling with the punches, cleaning off the crap, and adjusting for the next move.

I remember reading about this man named Job in the Bible when I was younger. His life was utterly destroyed. Although he was a worthy man, he still experienced the loss of almost everything. Oddly enough the people around him were trying to get him to blame God and denounce his faith. He did end up crying and mourning his loss, but ultimately he never gave up his faith. I don’t know why but that story always stuck with me. Maybe it is because it seems bad things often happen to good people in this world. After hearing this story numerous times, I still had one question. Would denouncing his faith have saved him from having to experience negative things in the future? Personally, I don’t think so; I think he would have had to deal with both the good and the bad at some other point in his life.That’s life.

Ultimately, when I look around me I see both people who believe that life will get better and those that believe life will always SUCK. In the end, crappy things do happen to everyone. Maybe I am delusional but having the belief that there is always some light at the end of the tunnel, even if I can’t see it in the moment, somehow helps me eventually get through crappy times. If I didn’t think this way, I don’t know how I would handle life. I mean really; even watching the news for 3 minutes is enough to make someone transition from happy to crappy to hopeless. The good news is that for most crappy situations I have experienced thus far,  I can definitely say that there has always been a lesson, a blessing, or something greater on the the other side…. in time of course.

So, what tips do you have for getting through crappy times?

Lesson from Stuart Scott: Live.

I am not going to lie. My first reaction to Stuart Scott’s passing was “he didn’t deserve to die.” I didn’t venture far enough to blame God, but I was initially baffled. “But he fought so hard with such fortitude and faith, if anyone deserved to beat cancer didn’t he?” I thought about his ESPN ESPY Award acceptance speech and the two beautiful daughters that he leaves behind. It would have made the ultimate fairytale story – father beats cancer three times to live to hear his grandchildren say “Boo-yah” (one of this infamous commentating expressions). For me, it called human mortality into question: What’s the rhyme and reason to all of this anyway? How and whom decides who lives and who dies? In the first minute after hearing of the passing of someone that appears so full of faith, so full of life, so full of legacy, promise, and love, all of these thoughts went through my mind.

Then, in the next minute I started reflecting on the graceful way that Stuart lived after his cancer diagnosis. I thought about how he kept exercising, working, loving, traveling in a time in which I probably would have been on my knees begging for life, mercy, and healing from God. Or, I would have been in total denial about death and probably became some radical zealot that spent my entire waking time believing that God had already healed me. Okay, maybe I wouldn’t have handled it like that, but I am not sure I would have been as strong as Stuart; I want to believe I am that strong, but I really don’t know how I would handle being faced with death in that manner.

Then in the third minute, it suddenly all made sense. The feeling of defeat went away and I started to feel a sense of victory and honor. It was exactly what Stuart said: “When you die, that does not mean that you lose to cancer. You beat cancer by how you live, why you live, and the manner in which you live. So live. Live. Fight like hell.” Yes Stuart! You freaking lived man. You WON. Period. End of story. Guys, he won! Despite the trials of life (in his case, cancer), his outlook remained one in which he used every last moment to live, love, laugh, learn, and leave a legacy! What an honor. How many people can say that they made a positive difference in this world? How many people can say that their legacy is meaningful? I don’t know about you, but that’s something I think about sometimes – what will my legacy be when I die? Will I have touched people’s lives in a meaningful way? Will I have accomplished what I was created to do? I am not God, so I cannot judge how Stuart lived or if he fulfilled his purpose, but goodness gracious he sure set the bar high!

In my mind he died too young (age 49). I still have that underlying belief that people are supposed to live to see old age. However within that I ask, what is life if we live to be old and still accomplish nothing or very little? I am not sure but I still desire to live to be very old. Despite it all, death never seemed fair to me, yet the more I live and grow is the more I see that death is actually one of the only fair parts about life. Everyone dies. Everyone. The rich, poor, kind, mean, healthy and diseased, we all have a moment waiting when we will pass on. Yes, “pass on” because “death” seems too harsh, too finite. Since we probably live a life after earth (my hope), then death is just passing to another world where our loved ones are waiting to say “what the heck took you so long? It’s freaking awesome over here.”

I am not happy that Stuart’s journey on earth has ended, but I am happy that he lived such an amazing life. As of this point in my life, I cannot say that I understand the concept of life and death. If lacking the full comprehension of such a simple matter is not confusing enough, losing three students within the last year to tragic accidents (as recent as four days ago) has left me even more stunned about death. I am quite certain that if I were to ask each of those students how long they thought they might live, they would have said pass the age of 18 or 30 years old. After these losses, I have pondered a new question — for which I do not have the complete answer — what is more important, the quality of life or the quantity of life? I do not know, however, I believe that the two ideas are not completely separable.

In it all, there is one thing I know: how we live seems to be central to the concept of a fulfilled life. If we can make each moment matter and find meaning in each moment — even the good and the bad are lessons that lead us toward mastering and conquering life — maybe we too can win. Still alive? Then there is still time to live the life you were created to live. Haven’t been living? Then there’s no better time than the present, right?  In the words of Stuart Scott, “have a great rest of your night and have a great rest of your life.” In my words, Stuart Scott, I think you might have just beat the game of life without a game guide or a cheat code. This is what I call “Life Me.”

The Sky is Always Blue

Although I have what I would call “a health fear” of flying,” I still love to get in a plane and soar above the clouds. There is just something quite calming when we finally reach the cruising altitude where the clouds are beneath us like fluffy cotton balls drifting off into the sun. I don’t know why, but I often stare out at the clouds and contemplate life. The combination of the beauty, the strange idea that I have no control if the plane decides to stop working, and the awesome technology that is planes makes every problem seem literally and figuratively small. At the end, I always arrive at the same conclusion about life: beyond the darkest clouds and the roughest turbulence usual lies beauty and peace; it is just a matter of perspective.

When I was a teenager, I listened to a sermon entitled “The Sky is Always Blue.” Lies, I said. Lies! I sat there trying to anticipate where the minister was going with this lie. How could that be true? I sat there thinking about the many rainy days I’ve lived through and wondered if maybe he lived in a place like California where there was always blue skies and sun. But, it didn’t matter where he lived because the rainy days in my neck of the woods meant his statement should not include the word “always.” After thinking back to a flight earlier that year, I concluded that maybe he actually was not lying to me. I remembered the rain beating on the windows and the wind shaking the plane like the earth needed salt and pepper. I remembered the turbulence shaking every secret ounce of pray out of my heart as I tried to remain calm and “trust God” with my life. “Please remain in your seats. We are experiencing a little turbulence,” said the pilot. A little? Good one Captain, good one. Despite the rough ride, the pilot kept taking us higher and higher until eventually we reached an altitude above the storm. Boom! And there it was! Nothing but blue skies, a bright sun, and shades of pink and orange as the sun was beginning to set. So the minister was right – beyond the clouds, the sky is actually always blue.

Thinking back to this moment makes me wonder if some of the solutions to my problems are simply a matter of my ability to change my perspective about what’s in front of me. What if in some cases, the success I seek is just a few more steps past what seems like nothing. Whatever the circumstance looks like, there is always hope and blue skies on the other side, if I can just soar above it. Yes, there are challenges that may come with “soaring above” but that conversation is for another post for another day. So for now, just focus on trying not to get stuck in the turbulence of life by keeping those wings flapping. Until next time, flap on!

 

Going With God

“So, you are going with God,” I asked. “Yes,” they replied.

I am a firm believer that God can do the impossible; but I also believe that we cannot expect miracles to happen if we don’t put forth the effort to prepare ourselves to sustain that “impossible opportunity” once it happens. The statement above was the last exchange in a conversation with a friend who was applying for a job promotion. After talking through the entire process, I began asking them if they knew anyone that might be able to put in a good word for them. “I am sure I do” they said, but proceeded to inform me that they decided to just leave the outcome to fate.

This reminded me that in some situations going with God is the best decision one can make. It is very easy to become accustomed to working hard for new opportunities that we just stop believing God has any hand or place in the paths we take. Funny thing is that God gave us the ability to work hard in the first place so it probably all leads back to God anyway; but I digress. Nonetheless, we can often find ourselves so caught up in our own world and abilities that we forget that God wants to be a part of them. We get to the point where we so heavily trust our partners, family, friends, our skills, our networking, and our resumes that we forget to sometimes solely trust God. So, maybe when you are picking your next success team and assembling your success checklist you will remember to pick God to be on it; and if you want to go that extra mile, you can do like my friend and just go with God as your sole team member. If you do, whatever the outcome, you will clearly know that “it” was or was not meant for you.

I understand that sitting back and letting things unfold is not always the best strategy; but for those ambitious people that may forget to include God in decisions, this is just a little reminder. We tend to trust friends, family, and at time even strangers enough to rely and depend on them. I wonder if I really trust God that much?

Let Me Fly

I think they were afraid to let me fly – scared that if I left the ground it would expose their inner fear of leaving the ground. My flight would expose the fact that they were actually the ones that were supposed to teach me how to fly, but for one reason or the other, they could never leave the ground.

As life passed there was this voice inside that always told me that I was meant to fly – even nudging me toward the edge, daring me to take flight. Second guessing, listening, asking around, and running this “fly” things by friends, I wondered if maybe it was just gas or something I ate, or better yet, the introjection of someone else’s dream. Until I realized that the voice inside never quieted, and as much as I tried to silence it away, “fly, fly, fly” was always in the back of the head. As I got older, I could see more and more people in the distance leaving the ground, some even soaring so high they looked like ants with wings – and higher they flew until they disappeared.

Realizing that I still had time and the desire to fly, I stood, looked and day-dreamed, finding inspiration in all those that ever left the ground. Still hesitant about what I might be leaving behind and about what fantasies I might fail to find out there in open space, I still did not leave the ground. Then, one day they returned with stories of what it feels like to fly and of what the world looks like from the sky. They said, “all those mountains seem so small from way up there. Come on, just try it…fly.” Since I figured that gravity was created as an invisible leash to always help me find my way back home, I said “screw it,” and turned to all those people whispering warnings in my ear and said “excuse me while I fly.”