Frustration is not merely a state of mind, it is a powerful force. Frustration is certainly something that we have all felt at one time or another. Whether frustrated by the choices we make or by the choices others have made, or when we see hard work go unrewarded or a tremendous effort go uncredited, we feel a very deep sense of frustration.
It is not enough to recognize that frustration is a common feeling. In a school or any community, frustration is almost inevitable. Whenever humans interact, eventually people become frustrated. No matter how successful we are, we can always find fault with ourselves and with others. The most important thing we can recognize in frustration is that we must limit its potential to damage our community.
Frustration is natural in a school environment where students and teachers are working hard to achieve an outcome and that outcome goes unrealized. But what do we do when we feel that sense of frustration? Do we allow it to control us? Do we allow it to build and fester and create a sense of negativity? Or do we see frustration as an opportunity? Earlier this year the Head of School wrote about “the growth mindset“. A growth mindset forces us beyond embracing a challenge, it is a mindset that overcomes failure and channels frustration. A former colleague of mine, who seemed to control frustration better than any person I had ever met, once said to me that there are two types of things we can worry about: things we can control and things we can’t. If there is something within your control about which you worry, the simple choice is to take action. If there is something beyond your control, worrying about it does little positive good. This piece of advice is closely related to dealing with frustration. When we miss the mark or when our efforts go unrecognized, frustration is often the natural response. We except that, and we understand that. The real question is: What do we do next? Do we cry foul, do we indict the system as unfair? Or rather, do we reflect, contemplate, and plan for the future?
I was a football, hockey, and baseball coach for many years. I became fond of saying “the most important play is the next one”. We must overcome life’s frustrations; we have to put the future in front of us first. If we dwell on our own frustration and give in to the negative impulse of complaint without action we very much risk becoming paralyzed into a spiral of failure. The best answer is to seize on something we can control (the next play, test, or performance) and attack it with gusto.
I challenge everyone to ask themselves a simple question the next time they are frustrated, what are you going to do about it? How are you going to channel this powerful emotion into a positive outcome? What can you focus on within your control that will improve the community as a whole? Find something you can control, even if it is very small and pour your emotion into action.
Matt comes to O'Neal from Berkeley Preparatory School in Tampa, FL where he served as director of student life. He is a graduate of Washington and Lee University and received a Master of Arts degree in history from the University of New Hampshire. Currently he is in the process of earning his Master of Science in education from the University of New England. Matt began his teaching career as an intern at Woodberry Forest School and then served as teacher and department head at Bishop Guertin High School before Berkeley Prep.