Frustration and dissatisfaction: “I’m not where I want to be and that sucks”
Here’s the Podcast version of this article on iTunes and Soundcloud.
This is for anyone in a place of constant frustration with your current life – wanting to be somewhere in the future or wishing life was better, like it was in the past. Maybe you are working toward some kind of personal growth and you’re getting mad at the slow speed by which it’s happening. Or you’ve been struggling to make something happen for a long time and it’s not happened yet – and because of that you’re getting super bummed out.
This is the place where a lot of us get stuck – because we’re taught that if you set the right goals, you can achieve them and then you’ll be happy. So if you are driven – what you end up doing is just that: pursuing goals, hardcore. And overtime, you realize most of your life is spent in the “getting there” part. So we reach a place of frustration – with ourselves, the universe, the path, how many obstacles there are – everything between us and our goal. A goal like becoming our ideal self, getting our ideal job, or something else, but whatever it is – it’s a marker. Something we desperately want to feel whole.
This is not about talking yourself out of the goal – goals are good and possible. I a-thousand-percent believe that. You can and will have everything you want, if you decide the work is worth it, and you unabashedly go for it. This is about something that happens along the path to self-realization. We set goals from the start position and in the process of pursuing them, we lose sight of new insight, new lessons, new evolutions of our dream that come to light. In our drive, we suffer a kind of single-mindedness that prevents us from accepting new awareness that is very vital to our success and our happiness. It is not that the goal itself is sour – it’s how we insist we must get there. And this is the moment when dissatisfaction comes into play.
I’m doing this podcast in honor of Irene May. My Grandma. Who just passed. And I got to be with her. Which was such an honor – such a blessing in my life. And the reason I chose this topic to honor her, is the role she played in my life. She was one of my favorite people and one of the most inspiring individuals I ever had the privilege to know.
I got to go visit my grandma on a weekly basis. I got to sit and have lunch with her. She picked out my wedding dress. She was a best friend from another century. She lived through World War II England, while pregnant. And she met the love of her life and had him by her side for 71 years. So this woman – in my life – was grounding. And she still is in how she talks through me. What she represented in my life was the truth I know but I lose touch with when the petty stuff takes over. The hyper-focus on the immediate situation vs. life as a whole. She recognized you down to your core: a witness to your capacity as a human. All it takes is a visit to one with a vast and deep perspective like hers, to reset the bar of “Yeah – life’s actually, okay.” And so that’s what I hope to inspire in you, compliments of Irene May – one of my greatest heroes. Because you are a lot stronger than you demand yourself to be – and that’s because of circumstance. It’s not that you’re lazy or selfish – it’s that you likely don’t have the benefit of a test, like a world war. A foundation that sets in you the perspective to appreciate and accept what is worth fighting for, and lamenting, and what is simply a stupid and trivial obstacle.
And who would you rather live as? The one with the built in perspective! Duh. Because life tastes richer, you’re happier, and you don’t suffer at your own hand. We all strive for that. With all self-improvement comes the goal to put down our petty crap and really get down to business. But it’s tough to create that contrast of perspective in yourself – from scratch. It takes constant refocusing, manual redirecting, and work. You can absolutely empower yourself to change – to create perspective, and live as a result of it. Most importantly, you can ask more of yourself in the area of bravery. Maturity. And balls. Sorry grandma! (She was a proper British lady…) But truly, be brazen about the way you challenge yourself – your beliefs, what you’re capable of, and what you can face. Be brave enough to be honest with yourself in this life. THAT is how you can really make the most earth-shattering and profound growth. Beyond anything you ever wished in your journal.
But I know that’s easy to say, harder to do – so this episode is going to be all about reorienting your attention and changing the way you look at your life. Instead of focusing on the outcome, shifting your approach to your day. Practicing deliberate acceptance and choosing empowering actions – not the frustration with what is. So with that – let’s get started. There are three parts: the what, the why and the how – the tools.
Part 1: The What
A frustration and dissatisfaction with what is, today, right now, comes from a place of refusal to accept. A part of us is fighting with what is – and we are seeking solace is in either the past or the future. We are literally saying that what is, is not good enough – that it should be something different. That it’s better another way that we can imagine. And what we usually don’t realize is that our dissatisfaction is what creates the condition of our dissatisfaction. It’s the exercise itself that manifests the majority of the outcome, not the literal conditions of today.
In general, everyone falls into two groups: a future-focused person and a past-focused person. If you are a goal-oriented person and always striving for the future – the present day will always fall short. You will live with a pervasive sense of dissatisfaction with where you are right now. Because it’s not this thing we’re looking toward. It’s like living life on a treadmill staring at portrait of a finish line.
If you are focused on the past, you tend to live in what was – that was better, glorifying the memories and comparing today to the past. When you are past-focused, growth tends to stagnate and cement – instead of change, you replay past experiences, choosing the comfort of watching old memories as a replacement for experiencing new, present ones. It’s totally okay to be future-focused or past-focused, but you must become aware that it is affecting the result of your life as a whole sum, via its affect on today, right now.
You live only in today, so how you choose to invest your time, today, can be translated into your life and its trajectory as a whole. So whether you’re focused on the future or the past, you’re overlaying it onto the present moment. You experience the visualizations of both the past and future – today, right now. If you are past-focused you are watching a head-movie during a large majority of your life. The past will always be other than now, therefore it is used to protect and reaffirm – it becomes like a giant, old suit atop the present day self, hiding inside. If you’re a future-focused person, you are occupied imagining a time that is not right now, and wishing it was right now – for a majority of your life. A future-focus often creates dissatisfaction because you are constantly trying to catch up to the next goal. Today will forever, fall short.
If left unchecked, both of these dynamics also deny the value of the present and what it has to teach you. It forgets the magic and newness of today, right now – and how this moment is different than every one before it. It’s a version of controlling the outcome of right now vs. accepting it as something unknown. And what you can’t see from the present moment, is the battle to control– is trivial. You’re fighting a reflection. The real battle is to be won – outside – in the world. Where you show your skills via uncharted experience.
• There’s a Buddhist principle called the 10,000 things, about the path to enlightenment. In your lifetime you will have 10,000 events that will enter your life to teach and change you – and in order to grow, you must allow them to affect you. You must accept them and move through them, and grow wisdom as a result. And acceptance of something out of your control is the only way to achieve and overcome. By accepting the truth, deciding what is best for us, then taking the necessary action, we are guided by our highest ethics. That is how we acquire lessons and grow stronger – by confronting things. By moving through things that are sometimes scary or uncomfortable – that we don’t like or want to be true. And to do that, we must not block them. We must maintain a place of openness – of listening.
When we get stuck in not liking things or wanting them to be different than they are, we ignore them. We choose not to accept our own hand in the matter. That we have choices we can make when we confront the truth. When you ignore this ultimate control, we believe we can exert OUR way over reality – that the path, the fix, must bend to our way. It’s like we put on blinders that say, “My way of thinking and feeling about this thing is right – and it better fix itself.” This is how we get to one of the 10,000 things and we do not evolve – we do not learn, we do not mature. We refuse to let the thing affect us – we choose to not confront it, not move through it, and instead control it by our own means. To try to control the 10,000 things by denying them, refusing them, believing your own way is better, is madness. It is not listening to truth.
So if you are frustrated and dissatisfied with life right now, somewhere you are not accepting the truth of things and instead you are fighting their existence. And if you are wishing you were somewhere else, you are undermining the value of your present moment. This is not to rub your nose in it! It’s pretty average and common. The instinct is coming from an unconscious habit created by ego. And I don’t mean you’re an egotistical person – we are all driven by ego: the thinking brain that labels you, “I” and separates from the feeling, energetic body.
Think of it like you’re in a rowboat. You can either spend time rowing toward the beautiful shore, enjoying the sun, or you can hate on the boat and the choppiness of the waves. You move farther when you’re rowing, and you see more around you – like the faster currents – over there. By spending today in dissatisfaction, you stagnate and bring lack to your life’s creation: you alter the whole. Overtime, it captures a ratio of your lifetime and with that, alters the places you eventually reach. Plus, with preoccupation, you grow blind to all the obscure windows of opportunity in today, right now.
Part 2: The Why
Resistance creates frustration and discomfort. Refusal creates ignorance. Both of these are negatives that we inflict on ourselves. And as previously mentioned, it’s unconscious. It’s usually where we have been hurt: somewhere old. A place we don’t want to be vulnerable, and so we grow stiff as a habit of repetition. Often these habits are so old that you cannot see them anymore. You don’t even notice that they’re there. That’s what this episode is about: beginning to NOTICE the ways you are being – your patterns, your “isms” – so that you can choose to change them. It’s all about awareness, and openness.
That’s why quiet, meditative time is essential to your happiness. Mindfulness is about witnessing the subconscious patterns: your fears and worries and all the base-level survival mechanism thoughts. We create focus so you can bring them to light and align ourselves, quite literally. When you calm your brainwaves, you reduce the chatter and the zig-zagging electrical chaos. You bring back your brain’s balance, rhythm, and harmony. It is with harmony that it becomes easy to align to our highest values and self. Kind of like noticing your most base level of self is groaning and complaining, and working it out like a knot. When you’re moving in a thousand directions inside – it’s impossible to hear your highest self talk.
When your brain is thinking, you are in the analytical Beta brain-wave state. When you are stressed – brain waves turn into totally crazy out of rhythm, out of balance, too much and too random of electrical waves. So if you were to take an EKG of your brain – it’s be all over the place and covered with noise. That’s when we get into a state of narrow-minded, over-focused, obsessive compartmentalized survival thought processes. When you are calm and mindful, you move to the Alpha and then Theta state that feels like you are in harmony. It’s when you feel balanced, creative, and open. So quite literally, meditation and stillness is about synchronizing your brain waves to be orderly.
When you exist in Alpha, your brain waves look the way they’re meant to: pre-smart phone. And you are more efficient. You have clarity. With practice, you develop meditation like a skill. Think of it as an inner-alignment muscle. What happens when we don’t make a habit of cleansing our mind, looking at how we’re feeling – and what’s going on inside, is the subconscious continues to rule us – we are unfocused and therefore guided by the obsessive patterns. It keeps us stuck in invisible beliefs, so the goal is to get to clarity. To undo the frustrations with our lives, we must become a witness to the truth of what is, and what needs to be done. We must have the ability to listen, and respond. When we live in the subconscious fear/chaos mode, we overanalyze and tend to block out the truth of things all together. Instead all we can see is our fear, our judgment, and resistance.
Part 3: The How: THE TOOLS!
To begin, I want to invite you to examine where you are right now from the vantage point of the end of your life. What would you take with you if you were to die, today? What pain and worry would you still carry? Would you be ready to leave this life? What are you holding onto – where are you stuck? What lessons would you need to have learned? . Just take note of what is left unresolved – where you have conflict. Give it some thought. Are there things you would have liked to say to others, or things you would tell yourself? In what ways – would you realize you had wasted valuable time in your life? What would you regret? Would you hold onto fear? Would you feel remorse for anything? Would you wish you enjoyed life a bit more? Or spent more time with your family? Or traveled and tried more stuff?
Take notes from that perspective and take note of what do you need to work on, today right now. Really get into the mindset of your end of life wisdom and perspective and examine what you want to change about the way live your life – today, right now.
This is the most important part of the reflection: What can you learn from this person – now and how can you alter your present-day patterns. In concrete actions, even small ones. Alter something, starting today – in your habits – even if that’s just the perspective with which you approach things. Make that insight IMPORTANT to your trajectory, today. Right now. Learn from it. Allow it to affect change in you. Don’t brush it aside like, “Well – that would be nice but I gotta work.” Let it affect you and take it seriously. It’s not trivial, it’s massive. Keep it as part of you. If something speaks to you in this lifetime, bring more of it into your life because that’s a sign there is more for you to learn from it. You can alter your quality of life dramatically if you honor those inklings and insights and choose to adopt them into your behavior.
Keep decision-making from that wise place, where you see this life as a sum. Who is the person I choose to live as? What do I want to see when I look back on my lifetime? How can I act today – right now – that aligns with that sum? What are my ethics for being? What do I want to have right, throughout my life? What do I stand for?
Here’s why I want you to put a microscope on these little things of today – the shifts in behavior and shift of focus.
Your life is the product not of where you choose to go, it’s a reflection of how you choose to live in it today. How you conduct yourself in this moment. Your life is a snapshot of your way of being, right now. That is what makes up your outcome. Not the ideals or the goals you set, it’s the immediate approach you take to this moment, right now – today. And the good news is, that’s all you have to alter to change your entire lifetime. Isn’t that nutso? Just tweak your approach, today – make it better: more open, a little braver – and you already changed the future to come.
That’s why the tools are all small tweaks to your approach and your perspective. They are subtle alterations you make to your way of being. And that means, it’s best to bring them back again into your consciousness periodically. Basically remind yourself to practice this perspective on a regular basis. It’s easy to forget and lose our sight.
Tool 1: Me-Talk
This is an imaginary flashing light that I want you install into your mind. It will help you to notice when you’re blocking out what you should otherwise be open to. Think of yourself as having a new kind of warning light on the dashboard of your life.
This filter will serve you in noticing your ego-driven way of being, and checking that habit or keeping it in check so that you can resume a state of receptive openness. Often we block ourselves off from a LOT more than we realize. We stop witnessing and control: we claim our environment as an extension of us and our power – what we want it to be, vs what it could become.
So here’s the tool: Stop the me-talk. And instead, listen.
If you are asked a question – that’s different. But try to reserve it for asking alone. There’s a whole lot of Me-Talkers out there and they are recognized by a constant stream of, “I did —” “I have—” “I am —”. They usually respond with Me-talk in any conversation. It’s not just in instances of sharing experiences to relate to others. It’s always. What happens when you’re stuck in a state of Me-Talk is you lose consciousness, in a sense. You are no longer listening, you are controlling: planning ahead and waiting to tell your story. And that is a removal of your openness to learning. A lot of this instinct in us comes from insecurity – a want or need to please or to exert power. And that’s just part of socializing for sure. But it takes over – when we’re possessed by the ego, it controls us. We have it in excess. It is not intentional – it’s unconscious.
So this is a filter for you to begin choosing to receive more. Assume that everyone and everything you interact with has something to teach you. Yes, that there are a lot of times listening will drive you crazy – and guess what? Sometimes you learn a new lesson in compassion and tolerance. You will be amazed at how your ability to see – changes. I will bet you become greatly enhanced.
Tool 2: Ask your Grandma
It doesn’t have to be your grandma – it can be anyone in your life who loves you and whom you respect. Ask them to be completely honest with you and see what they would change about how you live your life. What would they tell you to do more of or less of? Listen to that person! Often when we get so bogged down in thinking and judgment of ourselves, we lose track of what we might need more of. The imbalance becomes our operating system. Ask someone or a few people close to you – people who are caring toward you but also honest with you. And commit to making a real change based on their advice. A small alteration. En masse, a little bit goes a very long way…
Tool 3: Take off the guardrails on this ride!
Think of this like the driving ride at Disneyland, when they put the bumpers on the car so you can’t steer to the full range and hit the edges: it’s super boring! They do it for little kids. Just like those bumpers, your resistance in life – blinds you and blocks you from a lot of great stuff going on. Look for resistance in yourself currently and begin leaning into those areas where you feel it occurring. Why? Because it’s a sign that it’s an area in which you need to grow. Keep a filter on your brain for an area that you have grown stiff – the keyword being resistance. Where am I blocking openness? What am I refusing to listen to? What others do I dismiss out of habit? What old beliefs are blinding me from considering possibilities?
The second half of this tool is to make one deliberate alteration to a resistant spot. Start small. Just with one thing – do it today or tomorrow. Find an old belief you have and choose to change it to the opposite – or at the very least, become open to the opposite. If you do not like that something exists, or if something is causing discomfort, choose to align yourself with a belief that’s opposite – deliberately choose to experience it as new, unexpected. Just witness it and don’t judge it. Honor it as valid enough to exist as it is. A lot of the time we get stuck in our ways and this is a trick to training in openness, pervasively. Practice with ONE thing that you have decided you hate or do not agree with. Whether it’s a person or a movie or a pastime or a practice. Literally choose to relax that muscle of resistance and choose to LIKE and RECEIVE the opposite experience. Force yourself to stay open to it – allow the opposite to exist as true.
Tool 4: Acceptance Ritual
99% of strength is being able to accept things you deeply don’t want to be true. Accepting that they are the way they are, and there’s nothing we can do to change that. I know it’s extremely hard to willfully accept things that hurt a lot: that confirm a tragedy or a loss, and seem impossible to live through. Things like leaving a relationship you know isn’t good for you, or understanding that there’s a condition in your life that you cannot change and you have to accept it. So this is a way to give yourself strength in moments of difficult acceptance.
This is a ritual that has real power for a lot of reasons – but the main one is you make something more real in the world by ritualizing it. It’s the same reason that prayer works. All thoughts have a physical form – and that’s in the form of electricity. Your brain has lots of electricity that you can watch with standard medical equipment – like a heart monitor. We are full of currents –in our gut, our heart, and a ton in our brain. So when you focus on a thought, you literally create electricity with your thinking. And that energy has real effects. You can witness the energetic power of your own thoughts by doing an experiment with bean seeds. You plant two sets of them and tell one patch of them to grow and the other to perish. If you concentrate hard enough, they actualize it. I got that from my girl Pam Grout. If you want to read more about the energy we emit, I will put links to science at the end of the blog post. Regardless of beans – here’s a great ritual. What you do with this tool is materialize empowerment: you make it more real, in literal form. Things become less trivial when they have form.
First you are going to write, then read aloud a statement confirming what you are struggling to accept and then act on. For example,
“I choose to (accept this thing and act in alignment with self-love). Help me to do what I know is best for me.”
If you don’t like addressing nothingness, then lose the last part and instead say something affirming your inner strength – stating that you will not let you down.
“I choose to (xyz). I have the strength and I will help myself to use it. I will not abandon my truth. I will take care of myself.”
If you’re weary of new-agey stuff and/or freaked out by anything remotely resembling a religious ritual – I was too! No biggie. Just a heads up, you will totally feel awkward and stupid doing this at first, but that fades away a little more each time. Don’t take your appearance so seriously that it prevents you from practicing things that could help you. Don’t decide who you are and what you do – because you change everyday! Your goal is to retain openness and receptivity. Think of that as a gift you give yourself.
I recommend you do this in combination with prayer – like call on your own energy for more focus. I know that the word “prayer” usually means something religious – so if it freaks you out because of that, ignore it! Call it focusing. I just mean conscious focus or deliberate retelling of truth to your self in a ritual fashion– it doesn’t have to have any religious connotation whatsoever. You might be wondering, how does one pray? If you aren’t religious – like me- then you would need to know something like that, so no biggie. You can borrow my method or make up your own. For me, it’s talking to the sky, the moon, or bowing my head to the ground with my eyes closed, or lighting a candle and concentrating – then blowing it out. I like to speak to the universe but for me it doesn’t mean anything more than, “that which is above me and out of my grasp,” which is all inclusive. It doesn’t have to be a divine god or person you are talking to – it can just a higher truth, or just plain old reaching out to like-energy. What I’m saying is – don’t judge yourself while you do this. Make it honest, heartfelt, and allow yourself to remain open to the effects. Like, don’t talk yourself out of it all at once or criticize yourself in the process. Commit to a state of non-judgment and openness and let it go. That’s not too silly or too much to ask, is it? No.
Tool 5: Openness Meditation
When we get stuck in routines, we forget about the newness of each day and the unknown of the universe. In our sphere it’s just – get up, gym, work, home, Netflix. Where’s the magic in that for months at a time? I know. You can’t see it anymore. But there’s a whole lot of wonder out there once you get out of that repetitive system of thought, you remember that. You might be a very empowered and efficient individual– I know I think of myself that way, but you must step back and remember how small you are. How much came before you and how much is still left for you to realize. So this is a meditation to inspire you to step back and practice awe. To recognize everything that is out of your hands – that exists around you. This isn’t about abandoning control of things that are within your control, it’s a tool to use in the moments of frustration to remind yourself to step back and assume a receiving position. You don’t control everything and that’s a comforting thing.
Yes, you must act in alignment with what you want, but the other piece is remaining outside of struggle: maintaining a distance, a peace that allows you to receive and learn. It’s like remembering there’s a current that’s carrying you, too. Not just you rowing. Create openness. Calm readiness. Get back into your human body and witness the world as it affects you.
• Sit outside in nature. Take slow calm, even breaths through your nose – try to breathe out for as long as possible. Observe the details of your experience.
Begin with your eyes closed. Take in the colors and textures you see with your eyes closed. And pay close attention to the various sensations around you. Take in every detail possible from the affects of your environment– what do you feel touching your skin? What are the smells and tiny sounds? Feel the air coursing through your lungs – notice the texture of that.
Now open your eyes. Keep the object of your focus gentle, allow your eyes to wander. What is the smallest texture you can see around you? Observe the same thing now but instead notice the light that is cast upon it. Now widen your range of vision but keep it non-specific: just observe the widest amount of area using your peripheral vision.
Now observe all the individual elements of moving life around you. The tiniest trail of ants. Or the birds. Or bustling people. But don’t attach to anything individually, just observe the energy flowing around you as a whole. Observe all the subtle movement of this blurry portrait of life around you. Watch life.
Now notice organic things that are giving you sensations. Take notice of the natural forces like the soft current of wind – of breeze blowing. Or the warmth of the sun.
Now shift your focus to any smells. How many different smells do you notice? Notice the quality of each as they come into your mind – one at a time. Don’t describe them with words, just observe the variation.
Now sit in a moment of pure anticipation: wait for something in your environment to affect you. Anticipate and wait for something new to enter your mind. Wait expertly. Maintain the vacant sense of openness. Sustain this state of “hold” for as long as possible. Allow yourself to stay here, mentally quiet, only moved by a cue that’s external. Curb the thoughts in your mind telling you to move or stop this. Just anticipate and enjoy the pause. Stretch it as long as possible.
The golden mean, also known as the golden ratio, is found in organic forms across the earth – it’s associated with a series of numbers called the Fibonacci sequence, the pattern by which all things grow. It’s the pattern that sunflower seeds spiral into, the arc of which creates the golden ratio. It’s the same ratio you can find in the growth of trees – how branches choose to divide. It’s also inherent in the shape of the human face, the proportions of the human skeleton. It’s in every flower, leaf, and snowflake. It’s the same ratio seen in spiral galaxies, weather patterns, and in DNA molecules. The reason I’m telling you this is to blow your mind and give you a sense of humble awe for something higher than your thinking brain. We are divine in our perfection because we are an expression of this totally divine, natural order.
I invite you to look at your life as something that has a perfect form and your job is simply to bloom. To continue upward and shed old leaves. To follow the path that gives you your brightest colors. We are the most ourselves when in a state of joy and love: it is when we are the most rational, capable, and clear – and it’s when we can give our gifts freely to others – we become infinite.
So approach your present moment with a balance of acceptance and empowerment. They both coexist equally – the acceptance piece just helps you stay on the truest path for your holistic happiness in life. Keep your head looking up at the world around you, and try not to let yourself get bogged down by the immediate track beneath you. If you are guided by only a result, you remove growth from the equation of life.
Let go of your decided path: stop judging today as bad or unfair, and instead look at it with open ears. Maybe it’s exactly as it’s meant to be for you to gather a particular lesson. What do you have to accept and alter so you can create some new awesome wisdom in yourself? Treat this as an opportunity. Forgive yourself the job of struggle. Practice relaxing your hold. Make joy an important part of living a successful life. All you can do is your best, and be as ready as possible to see gifts that come along. Trust that something has brought you to this moment and get better at receiving. Don’t ditch the present to live in the future or the past.
The capacity of your life experience is much bigger than you can know, today. Practice staying humble to the learning piece of living. Do not discount the power of the unknown. That’s how the most amazing change happens: from unexpected things that cross our path. Just start with the goal of openness and acceptance. The rest comes automatically with conscious practice. Start there and you have already changed the rest of your life.
I send you my love – and I hope you enjoyed this… don’t forget to smile!
The science behind the energy of our thoughts.
A book about meditation to reach deeper levels of brain waves.
Featured image via iStock