One thing schools do not teach you is how to deal with frustration. It is also something that is increasingly ignored by parents as well.

The society of now

We live in the society of the now. You see something, and you want that thing, must have a way to get it now. In the spur of the moment. While your emotions are still high and the analytical brain hasn’t kicked in. The fact that we also live in probably the most prosperous time ever for humanity does not help. Unlike before, western countries have never had citizens with so much disposable income or at least access to money (which would take us to the topic of lenders), which means that we have access to stuff. Oooh! Apple came out with the new version of their iPhone. I must get rid of the old one that I bought a year ago and buy the new one which has more bells and whistles. But this is not a rant about consumerism; this is to say that we get what we often want these days. Waiting for the metro is a few minutes, versus waiting for a ride could take an hour and in some areas waiting for the bus could take the whole morning.

What happens then?

So what happens when we don’t get what we want or expect (and expectations are rising fast due to technology)? We get frustrated. We get angry. We don’t know where to turn. How does this thing not work? Who can I complain to about it? So before we even try to fix it ourselves, we are on the phone/chat/ticketing support with the maker of that thing to complain and ask for a replacement. Amazon and Zappos have made that into their banner: we’ll refund or replace the article, no questions asked.

My personal experience

I feel a lot of frustration daily. I know it because my therapist mirrored it to me. I get angry (internally) about the smallest things, like the Ghost application back button not working this once, when it always has. Before I hit reload (and find my text all still there because how would they dare not to auto-save what I wrote beforehand), I click the button multiple times and insult (also internally) the makers of this web app dressed as a native app. This internal struggle, as you can imagine, creates a lot of negative talk inside of me, negative talk that gets echoed around and eventually turns to myself, because I also frustrate myself regularly. I consistently think that I’m almost done” until I hit the next roadblock and because I was already in the final sprint and giving it my all to finish fast, I don’t have any emotional energy left and become frustrated with myself for not being able to finish it.

The source of it all

The source of the frustration is that reality does not match the expectations that we have of the world. Part of those expectations is our fault. We are bad estimators (as countless studies have shown). We under-estimate timelines for tasks to be done and over-estimate results from those tasks. We even have a word for it: the pitch. But there is also another part of false expectations that come from outside. We get sold daily on tens, maybe hundreds of products, saying that they will improve our lives, only if we pay them some money. The most apparent industry to do this is the self-help industry. Internet and TV packages, bio or superfood, faster or more economical cars, you name it, you’ve heard about it and at some point even bought it (either physically or bought the idea of it). To protect ourselves, we develop a filtering system, in which we only believe 10% of what people are selling us. But technology is evolving so fast that even things that would be considered ridiculous or impossible now exist. So how can you know without trying them out?

How not to get frustrated

The key here is not to avoid getting frustrated (and all the nasty consequences that entail for both yourself and others around you). The key then is to rethink your expectations when you hit a bump. Of course, this expectation setting also goes for personal and professional relationships. For example, a good business practice when I am starting a consultancy job is to set expectations as explicitly as possible for both myself and my client. I try to add buffers to that as well, given that experience has told me that even though I can do something in 30 minutes, I never count on having to go to the bathroom or some other incidental during that half an hour. So, let me leave you with this. Today when something doesn’t work out exactly as you expected it to, try to think about it like this: Oh! This [thing] is not working as I expected. Hmmm.. maybe I had put too much faith in this product. Let’s try this again in a different way.