Frustration And Failure

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This article is meant to give you some helpful ideas for how to handle the inevitable times in life when you encounter challenges that are difficult to overcome, leading to mounting frustration or sometimes even the pain of failure. Most aren’t successful all the time, but some find ways to minimize feelings of frustration and to bounce back quickly, not really letting failure get to them.

Think about the last time you came up against a difficult, seemingly insurmountable obstacle, like a work project where you didn’t really know what you were doing and didn’t have the skill set to get the job done. How did you feel about yourself? People who are immune to the sting of failure are able to compartmentalize a deficit, not letting it seep into any of the other aspects of their lives. This is a key to being able to deal effectively with difficult challenges. The frustration you feel when you start to realize you are not up to the task is much more intense than it needs to be when deep down it makes you feel that you don’t measure up as a person. You take something specific and turn it into something global.

In psychology we usually think of compartmentalization as a bad thing, as something that hinders growth. For example, how can someone go to church every Sunday and then spend the rest of the week taking advantage of everyone and everything for his own profit? But we can also use this strange ability we have as human beings to compartmentalize to our advantage, realizing that a failure or a deficit in one realm doesn’t have to bleed into other realms of our lives. It can stay local in whatever challenge it is we are facing.

One of the most useful things you can do for yourself as frustration mounts during a difficult task is to take a step back and remind yourself that you have many skills and talents in other areas. These don’t just magically disappear because of your troubles. The negative self-talk can start up where you tell yourself that you are incompetent. Use compartmentalization to your advantage, centering your frustration solely around the specific task you are focused on, remembering your areas of competence too.

No one is good at everything. If we’re lucky, we get to spend most of our time at projects and endeavors that we are good at, feeling smart and capable. But however hard we try to avoid them, occasions will arise that test our specific skill sets, and it’s helpful to remember during these times that setbacks and failures do not signify that we are failures as people.