Posts Tagged avoiding frustration

Driving Home Perspective


I can make the trip from my office to my home in 17 minutes, if traffic and lights cooperate, and in 22 minutes, if they don’t. I’m embarrassed to admit how much anguish that five-minute gap has caused me.

When I leave my office, my mind is often dulled from a day of recruiting talent. Though I enjoy what I do, being an executive recruiter can be very frustrating. Because we deal with rejection and disappointment daily, recruiters must be extremely persistent and remain unshaken by failure. Almost as important, they need to be able to switch off negative emotions at the end of the day. That’s often a challenge.

When I get into my truck and head into traffic, I often take the frustrations of the day with me, and that causes me to lose perspective. When I should be unwinding from the day and looking forward to the blessings that await me at home, I dive right into frustration, which is insane, because so little of my commute is within my control.

I can’t control how many red lights will stop me or how many blue-hair-driven Buicks will slow my pace. In my saner moments, I rationalize that God controls Buicks and red lights, and he uses them to remind me who’s in charge and what’s really at stake – 300 seconds. It’s easy to see that when I’m not staring at taillights, but when I’m on the road, those five extra minutes seem so much more important than they really are.

I believe that unbalanced perspectives like this are common in many areas and that they cause us way more stress than they should. Maybe someone doesn’t return our phone call as quickly as we think they should, and we assume that they’re indifferent to our relationship. Perhaps a temporary illness slows us down or causes us to miss something important to us. It can seem like a rain cloud hovers over our proverbial parade, if we lose our perspective.

I recently saw a sign that said, “Did you really have a bad day or have 15 bad minutes that you allowed to ruin your day?” We have all had truly bad days, but fortunately, the truly bad days are few and far between. Most of the time, a bad day is the result of our reaction to a disappointment, and we made it a bad day because we carried that disappointment with us through the rest of the day when we should have left it in place.

I’m currently reading a book that I highly recommend to anyone who recognizes this misbalanced perspective in their own life. The title is “The Gift.” It’s written by Rhonda Byrne, and is a sequel to her popular book, “The Secret.” The theme of the book is that appreciation shields us from negativity. When we’re truly appreciative, we’re impervious to negativity.

If we take time to count our blessings, we don’t have time to tally our frustrations and disappointments. When we’re truly appreciative, even if we recognize our frustrations and disappointments, we’ll put them in their place – deep in the shadows of our blessings.

I try to do that now, when I feel those frustrations bubbling up on the road. Instead of focusing on other drivers who don’t drive to my expectations, I think about the blessings that await me at home. Instead of focusing on the minutes ticking by as I wait for a light to turn green, I am quietly thankful for the comfort of my transportation. Without it, I wouldn’t have the freedom to travel virtually anywhere I want, at any time and in any weather.

If I’m successful in being truly appreciative, before I know it, I’m home and happy, because I didn’t let those 17-22 minutes pollute my mood. That sure beats the alternative.


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Save Yourself Holiday Stress, Live in the Moment

The holiday season is also often the season of unrealistic expectations. Fed messages of the perfect Christmas throughout our lives, we create an ideal in our mind that is almost impossible to reach, and when we don’t reach it, we feel guilt and/or disappointment, when we should just enjoy the moment.

If you expect perfection while involving other people, and you schedule during unpredictable weather, you are setting yourself up for frustration. If you drag out the nice china and allow little kids or drunk uncles to use it, you are setting yourself up for frustration. If you spend hundreds of dollars on gifts and expect commensurate appreciation, you are setting yourself up for frustration. If you can’t simply be happy when other people are happy, you are setting yourself up for frustration.

Don’t set yourself up for frustration. It’s the holiday season – a time when we’re supposed to be appreciative and spiritual. Giving up any of this precious time to frustration is extremely wasteful.

Help yourself avoid holiday stress by surveying the landscape ahead and trying to identify frustration before it’s upon you. It’s really not that hard. Because tradition, ceremony and habit play heavily into the holiday season, holiday frustration is more predictable and easily identifiable than everyday frustration. Look back at last year and the years before that. Note what made those days enjoyable and do more of that. Likewise, admit what detracted from enjoyment and do less or none of that.

Admittedly, that’s easier said than done, because OBLIGATION is involved. Obligation can be a good thing; taking time out of your weekend to attend a religious ceremony or stopping to see Grandma when you are in town are good things that don’t always appear as high on our priority list as they should. As my parents often explained to me during childhood, especially on holy days and when going to mass on weekends, sometimes you just do things, regardless of your wishes at the time.

It’s the gray, often unwritten area of obligation that causes us the most stress. Which events do we attend? How long do we stay? To whom should we give gifts, and how much should we spend? How extensive must our preparations be when we host family and friends? When we consider these questions, obligation too often is the deciding factor. Prioritizing obligation over fulfillment leads to unnecessary stress.

In our first few years of marriage, my wife and I lived in North Carolina, about three hours from her parents and three hours in another direction from her sister’s family. When we went for weekend visits, the expectation/obligation was to stay until mid-afternoon on Sunday. The problem with that was, because we didn’t arrive home until Sunday evening, we didn’t have time to take care of chores like laundry and grocery shopping that also didn’t fit in our work weeks. After our first few trips, we started leaving right after breakfast, and, though it took a little explaining and a little adjusting from the family, they learned to understand our motives. The people who really love you will understand when their expectations become frustration-producing obligations for you.

When someone releases you from your obligations by modifying their expectations of you, be ready to reciprocate. Be happy when other people are happy, even when that requires sacrifice.

There are times when we must push aside our own preferences to make way for another’s happiness. We’re going to find ourselves in a crowded room of children and noise or a company party held loosely together with uncomfortable conversation. Maybe we’ll have to get dressed up and pose for pictures. We’ll want to be elsewhere, but the ability to squash those emotions and find happiness in the happiness of others can be the difference between holiday frustration and the spirit of the season.

Learn to live in the moment and look for happiness from all angles. Do your part to make others happy, while not forgetting your own happiness and sanity, and you should have the holiday season you deserve. If you can do it every day, you’ll have the life you deserve.

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