Frustrated? Here’s How to Put an End to Such a Feeling in Five Seconds…

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 Philosopherโ€™s Guide to Becoming Tougher, Calmer, and More Resilientย 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… ๐Ÿ™‚

49 thoughts on “Frustrated? Here’s How to Put an End to Such a Feeling in Five Seconds…

    1. we use the term retained earnings as to where dividends come out of; but a drawing account is fine. And I would rather see a doodle than the income statement as an answer…


  1. I think the stoic gods have a cruel sense of humor. They keep messing with me to see if they can produce a negative reaction. So far, they’re winning, but I’ve also kept my sense of humor. That means I’m still in the game. What is that line from Dumb and Dumber? “So you’re saying there’s a chance.”

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  2. All sound advice for dealing with frustrations. I find that frustrations are often connected to expectations. We become easily frustrated when our expectations are not met. It may help to be more realistic in our expectations too. Great post, Jim!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I find that way of dealing with frustration very appealing. Thanks, Jim. Also, I note you are listening to the Hidden Brain podcast. I hope you are enjoying it.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Ugh, those stoic gods have been messing with me for years. I’ll give it another try though…as to the dividends, I have a question: dividends are considered retained earnings for a company, but once those dividends are paid out to shareholders, how do the shareholders account for this income in their taxes? Also, is there a difference in dividends that one receives from a company that one is a partner in and dividends that you get from stocks traded in the stock market?

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    1. The tax rate you pay on ordinary dividend earnings is at the same level as taxes for regular federal income or wages. qualified dividends are taxed at a 20%, 15%, or 0% rate, depending on your tax bracket. I am not sure about the last part of your question…

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  5. My favourite cartoon has an office worker in a tall building telling someone on the phone ‘the computer’s gone down’ and there is the computer being pushed out of the window! When you’re tempted to smash up something that won’t work, pause five seconds to realise that there will be even less chance of it working if it’s broken into pieces or flattened.

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  6. You are so lucky I am not one of your students… for frustration would definitely happen. Have I mentioned I hate math? LOL!
    Yes, humor always helps relieve frustration! Its essential to have in life. ๐Ÿ™‚

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  7. Thanks for sharing – it’s been a tough year of trying to make the best of it, with outbursts of frustration at times.

    Good luck with getting Bruce to make an appearance, I would have thought with no one touring right now he’d be able to make an appearance!

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