Foreclose on your Frustrations

Have you ever said something so wise and profound, that after you have said it, you are forced to ask yourself the question… “Now where did that come from?”

Chances are, you’ve never consciously thought of what you just said… not to mention, spoken those words before, or even, heard anyone else say them. In some cases, you do not even immediately fully understand what you just said.

For me, in moments like those, I just know, it must be  inspiration from God.

One such inspired moment resulted in this gem – “Frustration is a Function of Expectation” And since first saying it, I have repeated it to thousands of people.

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We all try to avoid frustration, and just by its definition, and even worse still from its description, there is nothing nice about frustration. Since the word “function” has mathematical connotations, when used in that context, it means that there is a direct relationship between expectations and frustration.  Let me illustrate with numbers.

Assuming there are no volume discounts or price breaks,  where the weight of potatoes measured in pounds is A” , and where the price per pound as measured in dollars is “B”, and where the total price for the amount of potatoes bought measured in dollars is “C”, then increasing either A (the weight of the potatoes) or increasing “B” (the price per pound of the potatoes), will have an accurately predictable result on “C”, the total price paid for the potatoes.

All right… This is really simpler than it sounds. If the price per pound for potatoes is $1 and I decide to buy 10 lbs, the total price is going to be $10. If I check my wallet and discover that I have only $5 with which to purchase the potatoes, and if the owner is unwilling to make any adjustments to his price, then I must reduce the amount of potatoes that I purchase to 5 lbs.

That is a detailed example of a direct relationship between two things. And to give a shout-out to the Math gurus in the audience, it was not only a direct relationship, but a directly proportional relationship.

Great… enough of that journey back to school days… But having graduated from school, to our dismay we discover that we have not graduated from life… and the mathematical real-life equation that will always stalk us is  – you guessed it – “Frustration is a Function of Expectation”.  Only this time, the simple sounding equation is a lot more complex than the example about purchasing potatoes. So let us dig in.

At face value, since frustration is a function of expectation, if I want to keep my frustration levels low, then all I need do is keep my expectation levels low. And the corollary or opposite is also true.  If I want to keep my frustration levels high, then all I need do is raise my expectations.

That is simple. And that is true. But that is simply not true!

Wow… I told you that real-life is more challenging than the classroom. But by God’s help, we are all more than up to the challenge. So let us dig even deeper still.

Frustration is a function of expectation, but expectation is not the only variable.  Let me illustrate. Another variable is “preparation” and into that big “preparation bag”, I am dumping things like “qualification” and “planning” and “training”. If 5 years ago, I was the 100 meters champion athlete at my school, it is not unreasonable that I should expect to win the 100 meters race at an invitational meet that’s about 2 weeks away.

In fact, that’s absolutely fantastic… and there is every possibility that I just might win. However, if I am 50 lbs overweight, or if it was 1 year since I did any running at all, and more like 2 years since I walked around the block, I just could end up being very frustrated on sports day.

But suppose I was the 100 meters champion at school five years ago. I am still in reasonably good physical shape… and yes, I do a fair amount of keep-fit activities… I still could end up frustrated on Sports Day, if Usain Bolt accepted an invitation to headline that same race. Of course, upon seeing Usain Bolt, I could pray that his nagging hamstring injuries would act up… but then that would not be very Christian of me and I suspect that God frowns on such prayers.

In such a situation, a pragmatic approach to managing my potential for frustration would be to lower my expectation from winning the race, to placing second. I would still have bragging rights. After all I would not be the first super athlete to be beaten by Usain Bolt in the 100 meters race. In fact, I would be an instant sensation when the word spreads that the only person in the world that could have beaten me in the 100 meters race was Usain Bolt. Now you see why they call me Doctor Perspective!

What we just learnt is that to minimize the risk of frustration, we can adopt one of two courses of action. First, we can lower the level of our expectation to the level of our preparation, planning, qualification and training, or we can raise our level of preparation, planning, qualification and training to match our level of expectation. The latter is a function of ambition.

And that’s where the rubber hits the road. How ambitious are you? How hungry are you for the results and success that you want, or that you say you want? In one of my earliest televised presentations over 30 years ago… I illustrated the correlation between desire, hunger and activity… the end of which is success. [watch clip from Profile TVJ 1988]

A second variable that affects the Expectation/Frustration equation is time. Do not shackle your expectations in unrealistic time limits. Even with realistically achievable expectations, you can end up being frustrated, if the achievement timeline you set is too short. Reconsider the first variable. Planning takes time. Preparation takes time. Qualification takes time and Training takes time.  Insert interim check-points into your achievement time-line, and reward yourself for each small step in the right direction that you make. The fundamental equation holds good at both the macro and the micro levels. Frustration is a function of expectation.

Today I challenge you to manage your risk of frustration by increasing the level of your planning, preparation, qualification and training to the high levels of your expectation. Allow your desire and hunger for success to force you to plan and prepare and qualify and train yourself for the success you desire. That is one sure way to effectively reduce the likelihood of your ever being frustrated and to foreclose on your frustration.


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