When was the last time you got really frustrated?
Maybe you failed to advance in an audition. Or a student showed up with a terrible excuse for why they didn’t practice this week.
Or maybe someone cut you off in traffic on your drive to work this morning…or a colleague said something offensive in a meeting.
We all get frustrated from time to time.
But if left unchecked, that frustration can destroy your happiness. It can derail your productivity and send you into a mental tailspin.
So what can we do to remain happy and productive in the toughest of circumstances?
Ultimately, it all comes down to how we handle our unmet expectations.
How High Expectations Can Backfire
Take a second to remember…
Last time you felt really frustrated, was it because you thought something would happen a certain way…but it didn’t quite work out?
You had an awesome audition and you expected to be offered the position. But the committee gave it to someone else.
Your student promised to learn a new piece this week, but they came to their lesson barely able to play through the first line.
You did a colleague of yours a huge favor and (reasonably) expected them to express appreciation for your effort. But they ignored your generosity and seemed to take it for granted.
In each of these instances, you were left frustrated and upset because your expectations didn’t work out.
So you might ask, “Are you saying I should just quit having expectations, then?!”
Actually, no. Expectations are great!
Expectations can be the fuel that propels each of us toward challenging personal goals. Maintaining high expectations of yourself in the practice room and in the classroom can lead to significant musical growth and ultimately, success.
Having high expectations of others, especially in groups you lead, can inspire them to achieve goals that might otherwise be unattainable.
The key to your personal happiness rests in how you manage your reaction to the frustration of unmet expectations.
How to Move Beyond Frustration
There is nothing wrong with feeling frustrated. It’s a natural reaction to the strong emotions you feel when an event or situation violates a deeply-held personal expectation.
But you can remain happy by simply adjusting how you respond to frustration.
Notice when you feel frustrated. Observe your physical and mental reactions. Simply notice without labeling the sensations or attaching blame. See how much detail you can observe. You might make some interesting discoveries!
Breathe. Pause for a moment and take 3-5 deep rounds of breath through your nose.
Consider the root of your frustration. What expectation was violated? If you think you know the answer, try to go even deeper.
Then ask yourself, “Does this frustration help?” Does it make the situation better? If feeling frustrated doesn’t help you, then there’s no reason not to let the frustration go.
Allow things to be as they are. You can change nothing in the past. You can only act in the present. So accept things as they are in the present and move forward from there. You can make your world infinitely better through your positive action in the present, not through anger and frustration over the past.
When something doesn’t work out, view it as an opportunity rather than a setback. You have the power to constantly re-evaluate and change course so that you can be successful and happy, no matter the situation.
Allow yourself the freedom to adjust your expectations, evaluate your professional trajectory, and consider how to interact most productively with your colleagues.
By acknowledging frustration and skillfully moving past it when it happens, you embrace present-moment awareness and maintain your joy (and sanity).
How do you manage frustration?
What strategies do you find most helpful when coping with frustration and disappointment? Tell me about them in the comments!
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