What to Do When Frustration Threatens Your Success

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From time to time, we all experience what I call “potentially terminal frustration.” This is the kind of deep frustration that causes us either to give up and walk away or break through and achieve.

The barriers can seem insurmountable. Consider what used to be considered impossible: breaking the sound barrier, running a four-minute mile, a decent frozen dinner.

At those moments of crisis there is almost always a choice, whether we see it or not. When it most seems like we are out of options, we are actually standing at a fork in our road. The way we frame our internal questions can be the determining factor between moving forward and moving on.

1. Understand the real enemy. The powerful force called Resistance is the biggest enemy anyone faces when they try to achieve. You can imagine it as an internal barrier of your own construction, but it can also be seen as an invisible cosmic force dedicated to keeping you from success. Stephen Pressfield’s The War of Art: Break Through the Blocks and Win Your Inner Creative Battles is an incredible look at how Resistance tries to prevent our progress.

2. Who can give you perspective? Look for one or two people who know you well and understand what you are trying to do. Listen and consider their assessments of your situation. Brutal honesty may be called for here.

3. What are your real choices? Are you seeing all the options? Again, someone else’s perspective may give you more clarity.

4. What do you really want? How many different forms could “success” take? If you want to perform, does it have to be Carnegie Hall or could it be with friends in your living room? What one facet of your goal is the all-important one, the part that means “success” to you?

5. What actual things are holding you back? Nothing imaginary here, only real stumbling blocks to your progress. Identify specific, definite things that you will need to have or develop to move ahead.

6. Are there steps you can take to fix or work around these things? Is there a progression of skills or knowledge you will need to acquire? What is the smallest positive step you can take? The largest leap?

7. If you choose not to move ahead, if you take the other fork instead, what will really happen, where will you be? What does the other road look like? Envision it not as a road of failure, but a path to somewhere else. Where does it lead?

8. Do you have to decide today? Give yourself a time frame. “I will make a decision in this number of days, weeks or months. In the meantime, I will…” Sometimes just waiting a little will allow you to see solutions that aren’t apparent today.

9. Take one step (of the ones you identified in step 6 above) today. You might as well keep working while you wait.

How will you conquer Resistance today?

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