Don’t give up: You can overcome frustration with patience

Here are five ways to approach challenges so that they don’t turn into a recipe for frustration and failure.

Several weeks ago, my wife and I were visiting our daughter and her family in Southern California. Wrestling with a latch on my 2-year-old granddaughter’s car seat, I couldn’t figure out how to open it. Our perky granddaughter, Layla, looked me in the eye, with her million-dollar smile and declared, “Don’t worry, Grandpa, you can do it.”

After trying different strategies to open it, she repeated her refrain. By then I was frustrated, but I didn’t give up until I figured it out. After all, I wanted her to be right. Free at last, she said, still smiling — “I knew you could do it, Grandpa.”

Layla reminded me of something that adults can easily forget — be confident, persistent and tolerate frustration. Without her cheerleading, I’m sure I would have given up after a few minutes and asked my daughter to help me.

When it comes to mechanical aptitude, my IQ points plummet. I have no natural ability when it comes to the physical world. I get easily frustrated and give up quickly. The net effect is I have little confidence or skill in that area.

So, what is our 2-year-old friend teaching us?

Set your mind. Many adults train for and run a marathon to demonstrate to themselves that they can accomplish a difficult goal, running 26.6 miles. They don’t care how long it takes them. They just want to cross the finish line. This takes commitment, because it’s a painful experience, both in preparing for and finishing the race. In 2015, in the United States, more than 500,000 people completed the 26-mile run. You don’t have to run a marathon to set your mind to complete a challenging task. But you do have to commit.

Perform with confidence. In my years of aikido training, the chief instructor, Koichi Tohei, reminded students to “perform with confidence.” What does that mean? Believe that you can do it when you are executing a task. It means set self-doubt aside when you are doing something. Be 100% present in your intention and your action. This is easier said than done, especially when self-doubt is your next-door neighbor.

Tolerate frustration. I wasn’t cursing when I grappled with the latch, but my blood pressure was going up. When something doesn’t come easily or quickly, we get frustrated. Our blood pressure, heart rate and respiration notch up, and it’s just plain uncomfortable. Step back and breathe slowly and deeply. Let your nervous system settle down enough to approach the task calmly. Staying upset doesn’t improve performance.

Don’t give up. Facing frustration and lack of confidence, it’s easy to throw in the towel too soon. Persistence requires patience. When approaching a task that’s a challenge, give yourself more time. I write this column every week, and writing doesn’t come easily to me. I struggle to find the words that will convey my meaning, my hopes and my dreams to readers. I make sure to dedicate enough time to find my voice.

Don’t be a perfectionist. For some tasks, good enough is just fine. Do you have to get a high mark in everything? Or is just OK enough for the task at hand. Setting the bar too high may be a recipe for frustration and failure.

I look forward to reminding Layla, when she gets older, that she can accomplish her goals.

Paul Schoenfeld is a clinical psychologist at The Everett Clinic. His Family Talk blog can be found at www.everettclinic.com/family-talk-blog.

More in Life

Twin sisters do makeover magic to local homes in HGTV series

New “Unsellable Houses” focuses on transforming modest Snohomish County homes into hot properties.

Meet the author whose novel ‘The Ghost Bride’ is a Netflix series

Yangsze Choo will be in Everett to talk about her second book, just as the series based on her debut is airing.

Rockhounds unearth a righteous gemstone near Darrington

It’s the discovery of a lifetime — an 8-ton nephrite jade boulder.

Everett’s biggest little spot for music is Black Lab Gallery

With live shows almost every weekend, it’s become the place to hear up-and-coming local musicians.

Got time to spare? 9 things you can do while you’re waiting

Ten minutes is enough time to change your clothes or change your life, depending on what you choose to do.

Snow days start out grand but quickly cause cabin fever

The recent bout of snowy weather made her family feel all of the emotions. Here’s a day-by-day recap.

Rick Steves on what’s new for travelers in Great Britain

Many travelers are curious about how Brexit is affecting tourists — from his experience, it isn’t.

Interior designer Kelly DuByne shows off Pantone’s Color of the Year, classic blue, with a setting featuring an antique Victrola cabitnet painted with the color and staged with neutral colors and strong white accents. (Dan Bates / The Herald)
This year’s Color of the Year is a timeless hue — classic blue

A Lake Stevens interior designer calls it a “grounded” tone, easily worked into existing color palettes.

Dr. Paul on how to keep your cool when you’ve been triggered

When your body goes into fight-or-flight mode due to stress, follow these steps to calm yourself down.

Most Read