Frustration Is A Gift
Better Questions is supported by readers like you. If you get value from my writing, consider becoming a supporting member. Exclusive content, weekly deep-dives, free beta-access to future courses and more. Thanks.
Frustration is a gift.
That doesn't mean it's fun. I've watched one of my sons, in particular, struggle with this over the past few weeks.
He's very into LEGO, but the things he builds often fall apart. He loves putting it together the first time around, but watching it all come to pieces depresses him. The thought of having to go through it all again seems unbearable.
Conservation of energy has been critical to human survival for as long as we've existed. Frustration at taking one (or several) steps backward is baked into our DNA.
But there can be a great deal of value in taking a step back and starting again.
The world is constantly shifting, changing, and evolving. The relationships that govern the people and things around us are in perpetual flux.
This means that it's easy for the rules of the games we play to change without our knowledge. Momentum tends to obscure the feedback the universe gives us.
Moments of frustration and setback are the perfect time to reflect and reconsider. Is this the path we want to be on? Have things changed? Have I changed?
By viewing these moments as precious gifts we can remind ourselves that we don't have to keep doing a thing just because we've been doing it.
A personal example:
Music has been a huge part of my life since I was in middle school. Most of my dearest friends are my friends because of music in one way or another. Many of my fondest memories are of particular performances or of the ridiculousness that often accompanied those performances.
It's not much of a stretch to say that music has become a part of my identity; that it's hard to picture my life without music playing a huge role in it.
But - does it have to be that way?
Recently, I've been experiencing real frustration with music. Despite plans to do so, I haven't been able to write anything particularly interesting or even invest much time in working on it. Live performances got put on hold because of COVID, and sometimes it just feels like too much time has passed.
Maybe it's over. Maybe this is a logical time to hang it up and let other people do their thing.
While this line of thinking can sometimes be distressing, it's also hugely valuable. Remember: we don't have to keep doing a thing just because we've been doing it.
It's good to take a step back and think through whether something you're doing still aligns with your goals and values. There's no shame in simply quitting if something doesn't serve you anymore. The world is constantly changing and so are we - it's only the irrational among us who can't change their mind when presented with compelling evidence that they should do so.
If something serves us - if, for example, music SHOULD still be a part of my life - then taking a moment to think things through will only reveal that fact. It'll strengthen your resolve, or perhaps reveal ways in which you can improve your current approach.
If something no longer serves us, thinking things through will show us that - and potentially save us years of wasted struggle and effort in the process.
I concluded that I still enjoy music, but am currently struggling to work on it given my business and family responsibilities...and that's OK. If it comes, it'll come; if it doesn't, that's fine.
Whatever you're struggling with - whatever the source of your frustration - take this moment as an opportunity to re-assess. You'll either come away more dedicated than ever or realize you have drifted off course...
And set yourself a better one in the process.
COOL STUFF TO READ:
Why too much evidence can be a bad thing.
This COMPLETELY blew my mind. I still don't really know what to do with it.
"The researchers showed that, as the group of unanimously agreeing witnesses increases, the chance of them being correct decreases until it is no better than a random guess.
In police line-ups, the systemic error may be any kind of bias, such as how the line-up is presented to the witnesses or a personal bias held by the witnesses themselves. Importantly, the researchers showed that even a tiny bit of bias can have a very large impact on the results overall. Specifically, they show that when only 1% of the line-ups exhibit a bias toward a particular suspect, the probability that the witnesses are correct begins to decrease after only three unanimous identifications. Counterintuitively, if one of the many witnesses were to identify a different suspect, then the probability that the other witnesses were correct would substantially increase."
Better Questions Newsletter
Join the newsletter to receive the latest updates in your inbox.