Dealing with Frustration & Managing Expectations

Oh yes, there’s nothing that can send us quicker into Camp Crappy than feeling of frustration. So what is frustration, and how can we navigate our way through it and around it?

The way I look at it is that frustration the inability to produce the specific result that you are seeking within the time frame you are seeking it. It’s something that we can feel both in the moment- so in specific training situations with our horses- and also generally, as an overriding feeling that clouds our ability to enjoy the present moment and warps our sense of possibility for the future.

Although the reasons as to why we might be feeling frustrated are individually specific, speaking generally there are a few likely culprits that come up in relation to frustration that tend to apply across the board.

Let’s have a look at those sneaky suckers now and more importantly, look at some ways that we can bust through to the other side.

Mindset: Are you attached to the result or focused on the process?

When it comes to goals and outcomes, my take on it is this; goals are there for the sole purpose of creating a line of positive tension between you and a experience, place or result you would like to see happen in the future. But setting the goal is only the preliminary step; what we then need to do is reverse engineer our way back to create an incremental, progressive and attainable way forward that allows us to experience a sense of progress and gradually expands our competency, confidence and possibilities for the future.

Goals in and of themselves are not fixed. The process that you define as a result of your goal is the ways and means for you to maximize your level of effort and get the most out of yourself, but it is not a benchmark for you to measure your self worth or your future capabilities against (more on this shortly!).

Frustration often arises when we become attached to the result at the expense or ignorance to the process. Essentially, the ability to attain a fixed result- be that a competitive outcome or a specific movement in training- is something that is outside of your control and influence, and for the most part, focusing your attention there is creating a framework that fails to set you up for success.

The only thing that is within your control and influence is the process. If you are feeling frustrated, accept the possibility that you are fixated on a result and instead think about what you might need to clarify, change or improve in your processes to maximize your chances of success.

Instead, get curious. The key to unlocking the vault of internal resourcefulness within is to ask yourself some empowering questions. And while we are on the topic, questions ARE actually the answer. Asking yourself good quality questions is definitely the way forward when it comes to breaking through any self-imposed, momentary limitations.

If you are having trouble producing the result you are wanting, here are some things to think about.

Does your horse know the answer to the question that you are asking?

How can you break things down into bite sized pieces?

What could you do to better set yourself up for success?

Who can you speak to or get help from that can help you find a solution to your current challenge?

In the context of what you are currently working on or where you find yourself, what is working for you right now?

Remember everything is feedback. Use it to your advantage to create a better plan for the future.

Time Frames: What’s the current target?

The next big kahuna in the frustration cycle? Time frames. Often it’s not our ability to produce a certain result that is in question, but the time frame that we are looking to produce that result in.

Like I said previously, it’s not necessarily your capacity to produce a certain result that is in question, but the time frame you have allowed yourself to attain that result in.

Again, pay attention to the processes, but also be mindful of dealing with the horse that you have in front of you and allowing yourself to respond compassionately and effectively to what they need from you also.

Comparisonitis: what’s the benchmark?

Beware of the Itty Bitty Shitty Committee (IBSC; more commonly recognized as the little, somewhat unhelpful voice inside your head that gets in the way of what it is you want to do or how it is that you feel about yourself). You know how I mentioned before that empowering questions are really the way forward? Well, the IBSC are kings and queens of asking disempowering questions. Here are a few examples that you may have seen floating across your brain space…

Why does this happen to me?

Why can’t I seem to get it together?

I’m the only one that can’t make it to work.

Why do I even bother?

Yep. We’ve all been there.

The thing is, this kind of mindset is pretty much a high end to nowhere except #campcrappy and ain’t no one got time for that.

Remember, the situation you find yourself, for better or for worse IS temporary and it ISN’T personal.

The thing that you have to do is get proactive, look for the opportunities and start to make a plan that moves you incrementally forward towards where it is you want to go.

Learn to recognize the Sweet Spot

I talked about it a lot in this blog so I want go and reinvent the wheel here, but it is important to understand that when you are in a learning zone, you aren’t going to be getting things “right” or “pulling it off” all of the time. In fact, the stats provided by those who study this sort of thing specifically tell us that when we are in the optimal training zone, 50% of the time we are capable of producing the result that we are looking for, and 50 % of the time, we are having trouble differentiating between our left and right leg (that wasn’t the specific example that they used but you get the gist). That’s the nature of learning. If it’s easy, chances are you already know it or aren’t venturing too far out of your comfort zone.

We need to learn to adopt a growth mindset and recognize that there is an inherent degree of uncomfortableness to being outside your comfort zone. Actually, one of my favourite things of late to say is that the amount of growth you experience is directly proportional to the amount of discomfort you are willing to tolerate. It’s true. I like it.

Right. So the next burning question- how do we deal with it when we are feeling frustration in the moment? ‘

Here’s my step by step “plan in a nutshell”…

  • STOP! Take a break. Breathe. That’s right. You owe it to your horse to be in charge of yourself. It’s not their fault that you are frustrated and it’s important that we don’t let our emotions overcome us to the point of negative ramification for either of us. So just stop. Get off if you need to. Take some time out and break the pattern. It will only take a few moments but you will feel better for it (and your horse will thank you).
  • Redirect your focus. What’s working? What specifically is the problem? How can you break it down to set you and your horse up for success?
  • Make a plan. Your plan might not be to address the specifics in the moment. Go back to what it is that you can both do well so you end the session on a good note, with the mindset of asking those with more knowledge than you how you can approach the challenge next time. It may also be a case of managing your expectations. Do you need to reset the time frames that you are working within? Are you too focused on the outcome and not the process? How can you make this happen?

Feelings of general frustration

If you are finding yourself feeling generally frustrated, it’s a good idea to make a plan and rethink your approach. Chances are you are getting ahead of yourself and need to break things down into incremental chunks; that you are being way too hard on yourself and are using the results (or lack of) that you are currently experiencing as an indicator of your self worth and capacity to produce the result in the future or your focus is on things that are outside of your control and influence.

Again, it comes back to those awesome questions; what is it specifically that is making you feel this way? And what is the one best thing you can do to get you moving forward?

Don’t be an island. Draw on the people around you. Ask questions. Think of it as an adventure. And make a plan.

It’s just a moment in time. You’ve got this.

xx Jane

3 thoughts on “Dealing with Frustration & Managing Expectations

  1. Excellent again Jane! Just the message I needed today and yes. I was focused on results in relation to time instead of process and allowing the errors of learning something new. Thank you!! I’ll revisit this often.

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