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That’s SO frustrating!

Updated: Nov 10, 2020

A natural byproduct of any learning process is frustration. Frustration that things are moving too slowly, frustration that what you thought would work didn’t and frustration that you’re not getting the results you want yet. This is all completely natural but man does it suck sometimes.

I see 2 ways people (and myself) often respond to frustration. The first is trying too hard, going out on the court and hitting 10,000 balls, trying to fix everything at once. The second is to walk away, to avoid the frustration and try to forget it, pretending it’s all good or just avoiding it altogether. While opposing reactions, both are guided by a level of emotional avoidance.

Some people might say, ‘Well isn’t that good that they’re hitting 10,000 balls? That doesn’t sound like avoidance!’ And yes, reps are important. But if you’re hitting 10,000 shots to compensate for feeling shitty about yourself, it‘s simply not possible to pay close attention to or really feel into shot. Which means you would be putting in reps without really putting in reps. It would be like reading a book while your mind wanders elsewhere. Yes, the time is spent reading the book but if I gave you a pop quiz on what you just read, I’m not sure that would go well. It’s putting in the work without actually paying attention to the work. Feeling productive without being productive.

I’m not sure there’s a universally ‘correct’ answer for how to respond to frustration, but I believe the hardest part about choosing a productive response is acknowledging those feelings in the first place. In fact, if we don’t acknowledge those underlying emotions, we‘re likely to end up taking the emotional avoidance route. And that means that our emotions are in the driver seat!

So what can we do when we’re frustrated? I suggest that we work with the emotion. If your instincts are telling you to go work it out that moment, do it! Just make sure you know why you’re going on court. And on the other hand if you don’t feel up for it, maybe take some space, regroup and keep yourself accountable to reengaging with things another day when you’ll be more productive. It’s simple, not easy (at least for me) and incredibly valuable to have the courage to acknowledge our emotions and then actually work with them. Then we are not fighting them and fighting ourselves.

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