Part of my job as a career consultant is to lift people up and keep them going when they’re feeling down, so I always try to maintain an aura of positivity and confidence. After all, I can’t imagine my clients wants to take advice from a guy who seems lost himself.
However, we all have off weeks. And I just had one.
This past week was supposed to be a really exciting, productive one for me. I had just come off the heels of giving a meaningful talk at General Assembly London, and I was finally kicking off work on a very exciting initiative to launch my first online personal branding course after a very busy first quarter for my business. I felt energized after the long holiday weekend, and I was all ready to go!
Unfortunately, I had a pretty bad week. Nothing tragic or game-stopping, but just really, really frustrating week full of setbacks from start to finish—mostly related to administrative and technical aspects of my business, but some personal things also. And just to finish off my week, I was going to record a very exciting interview with a guest for a future episode of my Career Relaunch podcast after months of back & forth to secure an interview date. Then, my internet suddenly dropped out before the call. Then again during the recording. And again. We ended up cancelling the call midway through.
We all have weeks that just don’t go our way. We all have moments when it seems like the forces are working against us. We all have days when nothing seems to go our way, when we just can’t seem to catch a break.
We all have weeks that just don’t go our way.
Whenever you have been working so hard at something for so long, and you just can’t seem to turn that corner, it can be incredibly frustrating. It’s like being the pilot of an airplane that’s been taxiing along the airport runway for years trying to build up enough speed to take off. But you just can’t quite get those wheels off the ground.
I’m not a quitter, and I don’t give up easier, but I would be lying if I said I didn’t have moments when I just throw my hands up in the air and wish there was an easier way.
So what do I do when I’m feeling really dejected? I try to do three things.
I try to remind myself of the progress I’ve made
During those moments when I feel like I’m not making any progress, I try to reconnect with where I was in the past. I remind myself of where I have been and the progress I have made. It can be easy to get frustrated by the micro-setbacks that we feel each and every day and how far we still are from reaching our destination. However, I’ve found it helpful to step back and reflect on how far I have come from my starting point.
One way I do this is to dig into some old emails or client communications from years ago—the emails where I was trying hard to land my first paying client or first keynote gig or first podcast guest or feature article. I also keep a journal, and although I don’t write in it as often as I would like, I find it reading past entries to be regrounding.
I try to reconnect with how far I’ve still come.
I often find that I’ve progressed further than I acknowledge to myself on a day-to-day basis in spite of moments of setback. Sometimes, it’s not until I look at the snapshot of the before & after, that I realize how much progress I’ve still made.
I try to regain perspective
I have a roof over my head, a wonderful family, plenty to eat, and a very comfortable lifestyle. I live in a pleasant part of the world with fresh air to breath, clean water to drink, security, civility and peace. At least at this moment, I’m very healthy, and no one close to me is dealing with any major, life-threatening or debilitating health issues. The list could go on and on. 99.9% of my “problems” are first-world problems. I try to remind myself of this whenever I get excessively frustrated with thing like an important podcast interview dropping out because my wireless went down.
The truth is, I have so much to be grateful for, and so little to complain about. Sometimes, I just have to remind myself of this. And I have to remind myself that while things could always be better, things could always be much worse.
Things could always be better,
but they could always be much worse.
I try to give myself permission to blow off a little steam
Last week, during my talk at General Assembly, someone in the audience asked me a question about how to let go of being angry at a former employer. I thought the question was an interesting one because it suggested that she recognized that she was angry, and was eager to stop being angry, yet still felt angry anyway. I told her to ask herself to dig a little deeper and ask her how her anger was serving her now, and if it would continue to productively serve her moving forward.
It reminded me that we often feel emotions because that serves us in some way.
I aspire to always be a calm, composed person where nothing truly rattles me. On top of that, given all the things I should be grateful for, I feel like I often don’t have a right to feel frustrated at anything. However, the reality is that I’m human, and certain things do frustrate me. So sometimes, I just have to allow myself to feel frustrated because it does serve me in some way.
Sometimes, I just have to allow myself to feel frustrated.
Frustration allows me to burn off some steam so I don’t hold it all inside. Sometimes, I just need to listen to some loud music, a little Eminem! I’m not joking—listening to “Till I Collapse” right now. It helps me get some negative energy out of myself so I can eventually focus on being productive again.
There’s a counterintuitive concept in coaching where you connect with your negative emotions and allow yourself to intensify what you’re feeling in order to get out of that funk. Ironically, if I allow myself to be frustrated long enough and deeply enough, it actually forces me to question whether it still serves me in a positive way and ironically helps me move on.
I try to redirect my frustration toward something productive
If I’ve had a bumpy set of days, I try to redirect my energy toward something that’s actually productive. For example, I’ve had some of the best workouts I can remember in a long time this week because I was, well, a bit angry. I also try to capture how I’m feeling in writing during times of frustration to hopefully help others who might be feeling the same way.
I’ve found that frustration and setbacks can actually serve as a fuel toward doing other things that feed off of emotion. I really do believe that extreme emotion, both positive and negative, can be a very productive if applied in the right way. So when I’m feeling emotional, I do my best to connect with it, capture it, and repurpose it.
Easier said than done.
How do you deal with frustration?
So this is typically where I share a worksheet or 4-step framework to help you manage the issue I’m talking about in my article. However, this time around, I’m actually interested in how YOU manage frustration. I’d welcome any tips.