20 Questions for When You Feel Frustrated With Life

Feeling frustrated with life bullseye

Do you ever feel frustrated with life and/or yourself because you think you should be doing more in life? Do you feel like life keeps throwing up obstacles at you when you feel like you’re getting a few steps ahead?  

When the reality of life, work, responsibilities, stress, and our personal goals collide, they can often compete for our time and attention. If we’re not careful, these can cause frustration and throw us into a cycle of negative talk, and trigger poor physical, emotional, and mental habits. 

Two months ago I wrote a blog post about having faith in yourself. It was a great reminder that we have to rethink the mental and emotional limits we place on ourselves. Yes, it is true that sometimes the world, circumstances, and people can feel like they are working against us; but, it is also true that the person staring right back at you in the mirror has control over how they respond to that frustration.

Perspective and peace are crucial in life, especially when you feel frustrated. 

It is so easy to fall into the trap of focusing so much on the big picture that we overlook our past and present victories. Yes, life is frustrating right now, but this too can and shall pass. Sometimes we need to slow 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 my pace, or like things are not going as planned, I try to take some time to evaluate whether my frustrations are warranted, healthy, logical, or accurate. Listen, this little brain of ours is POWERFUL! If we let it, it will control our mood and energy—for better or for worse.

When things are starting to feel overly frustrating, I try to process using some of these questions: 

  1. What is within my locus of control that I can change right now?
  2. Where can I spend more energy on the things I can control?
  3. Am I extending enough grace to myself in this situation?
  4. How am I contributing to this ongoing frustration?
  5. Is this situation more frustrating for me because there are things I still need to heal within myself? 
  6. Do I feel frustrated because I am out of balance in important areas of my life?
  7. Has this frustration the result of comparing myself to other people’s timelines and successes?
  8. What can I learn from this moment in life? How can I readjust, reset, and rest?
  9. Do I just need to adjust my attitude?
  10. Have I contribute to this frustration by not monitoring my time and energy? 
  11. Am I taking enough time to take care of my mental health or just push forward in life?
  12. Who and what do I need to take a break from in order to regroup? 
  13. Am I in misalignment with my deepest and truest self? 
  14. Do I have a vision for my life or am I just winging it? Could this be adding to my frustration?
  15. Do I need to learn to be more flexible?
  16. Have I been getting enough sleep and taking care of my body? (Believe it or not, this does influence your mood!) 
  17. Am I taking responsibility for my life or waiting to blame my problems on other people?
  18. Am I projecting my frustration in this situation and avoiding addressing the root concern(s) in my life?
  19. How willing am I to take different actions to have a different outcome? Do I secretly enjoy the misery? 
  20. To what extent am I living in a box that is too small for me? Is it possible that this frustration is really a catalyst to grow?

Before or after processing these questions, I encourage you to spend some time also recording a few things that you are grateful for. Gratitude is the best thing you can do to start changing your attitude and mindset. It really is all that it’s hyped up to be. 

If we are willing to learn from our mistakes and successes in life, then we are growing and learning! The faster we learn the lessons, the less time we will waste repeating the same test(s). Life can change overnight (for the better or worse), so there is no point in staying stuck in a frustrated mindset.

We will inevitably get frustrated, but we can overcome it, move forward, and find greater balance 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 them become the overarching theme of our lives.

Let’s take back our control, power, and just take life one deep breath at a time. 

Having Faith in Yourself

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

As defined, faith is a strong belief in someone or something. If you trust a person or object, you believe in their/its ability to be who or what you know them to be. In other words, you have faith in them/it. For example, I trust that the ladder will support me as I climb to reach the top shelf because I believe it is 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.

Do you have faith in yourself?

But what about having faith in yourself? Do you have confidence that you can do what you are designed to do? Why do we believe in our own abilities less than we believe in others? Sometimes it is because we cannot see ourselves as clearly as we can see others. Other times, it might be because our fears and doubts blur our ability to see all the great qualities that exist within us. In my opinion, it is probably a little of both.

There is another side of having faith in yourself that can be even harder: having faith in your ability to achieve greater or do better than where you are now. Our past experiences and patterns often make us think that who we are now is who we will be forever. Most times that lack of confidence starts when we look at the sum of what we want or need to achieve. It looks insurmountable.

It’s like buying a 50,000-piece puzzle. You can see the complete picture to build but the process to get there feels overwhelming. You cannot imagine how you are going to put all these pieces together to get to that final product.

That’s the problem: we focus on how huge the task is instead of just starting with a few small pieces. You might not have confidence in your ability to lift 300 pounds at one time, but if you start with 20 pounds and build over time, you will eventually get to the goal.

Faith is built through action

A few years ago, I asked God to help me discover everything I am supposed to accomplish in this lifetime and to help me have the patience, willingness, and courage to complete it. Yet, even after those prayers, I hesitated to move forward. I was praying for the big picture but not starting with even the small pieces in front of me.

My prayer essentially went something like this…

Me: “God, I just want to know that you are going to be with me. I know that if you destined this path for me then everything will ultimately work out. I trust you, God.”

God: “Yes, this is the 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 if I start this. So, will you?”

Every day it was the same version of this cyclical prayer. Unfortunately, repeated reassurance still didn’t give me the confidence to move full steam ahead down the path. Something was wrong and it wasn’t God; it was me. I wanted confirmation that my strengths and abilities were enough to protect me from failure and the hard moments, which is very unrealistic. It’s like I wanted a guarantee that if I put the effort into building this 50,000-piece puzzle I will get to the big picture.

But, the process is where you build faith. Once you build a few pieces, you gain the strength to build more. I did not need prayer (although, that’s very important), I needed to stop procrastinating and get busy with one piece at a time.

You have what you need inside of you

Consider this parent-child exchange:

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 have your back every step of the way. You are never alone because I support you.”

Child: “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.”

That is a sad dialogue. The parent can see what the child is capable of but the child will not believe it. How often are we like that child? To start to build your faith, start changing the way you speak about and to yourself. You are CAPABLE and you CAN do it! [Click here to read more about ways to change your negative self-talk!]

Have faith in your preparation

What about this coach-athlete exchange?

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). Now it’s 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.)

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

Athlete: I got overwhelmed and they were so much better than me. It threw me off!

Doubt will make you question your preparedness and cause you to look down on your progress. The athlete questioned whether the coach was just pumping them up because that’s their job or if they were really prepared. No pep talk can outweigh preparation. Everything you go through is preparing you for exactly where you need to be. But, you can’t skip the workout and preparation and wonder why you don’t have faith in yourself.

Most of what we need to take those first steps toward our scariest goals are already inside of us. The goal is to start believing that you are strong and have enough inside of you to show up and take the first step.

Start building the puzzle one piece at a time. That is faith.

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.

Photo credit: https://flic.kr/p/qBtgR4

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.”