We’ve all experienced frustrations, particularly over this past year. And many times, we don’t respond in the healthiest of ways to such frustrations.
Here are some examples of frustrations I’ve experienced this past year:
- I’m in the middle of a workout, and the next thing I know I’m laying in my driveway with two broken wrists. I start cursing (inside), I start thinking about how I am ever going to teach the next day, I tell myself I’m going to sue the maker of these exercise tubes, and on and on…
- I try to emphasize, really emphasize, a particular point in one of my accounting lectures – dividends declared by a company do not show up on the income statement. I say it probably close to a couple of dozen times. The test rolls around, and a handful of students put dividends on the income statement as an expense. Seriously? What did I do wrong? Are students not listening to me? I start telling myself I’m not a good teacher; I tell myself it’s time to find another profession…
- I send a letter to Bruce Springsteen asking him if he will come to my house for my birthday and do a private performance for a few friends and family. No response. Crickets. What did I do wrong? Did I not ask properly? Have I not been to enough of his concerts? Is he too busy to reply? I start yelling that I’ll never listen to Bruce again, I’ll never write another blog post about him again, I’ll throw out all my Springsteen records and books. While this is hypothetical, I am sure that is how I would react…
As you can see, probably not the best way to respond to such frustrations.
Well in this week’s Pinkcast, Dan Pink shares an approach he learned about how to deal with such frustrations. He found the advice in the book: The Stoic Challenge: A Philosopher’s Guide to Becoming Tougher, Calmer, and More Resilient by William Irvine.
The key is using what Dan refers to as the Stoic test.
Irvine says that rather than reacting in a negative way to our frustrations, we have five seconds to reframe the experience as a test; a test of the imaginary stoic gods. We shouldn’t view the frustration as a setback, but as the stoic gods testing us.
They are testing your resilience and your ingenuity. They are not trying to punish you – they are giving you an opportunity to be courageous.
Here is the Pinkcast video:
And here is part of the transcript from an interview with Irvine from the Hidden Brain podcast:
Yeah in the stoic challenge book, I describe what I call the five-second rule. It’s a nice thing to keep in mind because my own experience with anger is that you need to nip it in the bud. You need to get to it quickly. So I described five seconds and I don’t know if that’s the exact time, but if you let the anger burst into flames, you’ve got a real problem on your hands because it’s going to burn. It’s going to burn for a long time.
…And so the best thing is to prevent it from even being activated to begin with. And that’s why you have to be quick and you get to develop your instincts on this so that when a setback comes along, you very quickly put it into the proper frame. You say this is a test by the stoic gods. I’m atop my game and I’m going to show the stoic gods what I’m made of. So here’s a thought for you.
Give it a try, you know, put it to work in your life, test drive it. And if it doesn’t work for you, you’ve lost very little. And if it does work for you, you’ve acquired a very important psychological tool.
I think I can spare five seconds to see if something like this will work.
I sure hope it does, because I don’t want to stop listening to Springsteen… 🙂