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Frustration is a Choice

How do you respond to frustration at work? Workplace frustrations can range from not getting a promotion to seeing a budget item go unapproved or feeling upset that others are receiving special treatment and more.

Whatever the cause, you feel frustrated. While you still perform your job, your heart isn't in it. Many employees stay upset for a day or two and then things go back to normal.

For some though, it's hard to let go. Is it surprising that the employee's performance suffers and the business suffers as well?

How can we overcome this very human reaction when frustration directly affects your present and future?

I'm reminded of a very special dancer I knew while serving as the Executive Director of a professional ballet company. Let's call her "Gracie."

In a group of talented performers, Gracie stood out to me as the best. Her technique and artistic choices were flawless. She was a world-class performer, having been invited to dance at festivals in other countries.

Throughout the year, the ballet company would put on various productions. As a newcomer, I was learning about ballet and was surprised to find out that Gracie wasn't always cast as the principle role in these productions.

In my mind, the choice was obvious. Gracie was the best dancer, therefore she should get the lead.

I asked some of the behind-the-scenes people about this and they told me the casting was up to the production's choreographer. That person, the creator of the piece, might have a different vision for the role. He or she might prefer someone who was taller or had a particular look. It's a subjective choice.

When this happened, Gracie still had a role in the production but it was a smaller part. I would sit in the audience and still I'd see her excel.

This wasn't a case of her stealing the spotlight from the other performers, but rather using her talents to make the entire show shine brighter.

Later, I complimented Gracie on her ability to make any part so memorable. I also asked if she ever got frustrated when she didn't get the main part.

Gracie told me that when she would audition for a role, giving everything she had, it was indeed frustrating not to get the lead. Then she said something else: "Frustration is a choice."

She went on to explain that she couldn't control the choreographer's selection, but she COULD control how she approached her part, no matter how big or how small. Instead of feeling upset, she focused her energy on making the character memorable.

Gracie also said, as a dancer, her career would only last so many years. Why not make the most of every opportunity she had to dance? This mindset served her and the company well.

Her attitude also taught me an important lesson. You can easily get lost in a sea of frustration, but it's important to remember Gracie's attitude and her belief that frustration is a choice.

About the Author: Ken Okel speaks to smart leaders and associations who want to unleash employee production, performance, and profitability. He introduces them to principles learned from his careers in TV News, Disaster Relief, and running a Professional Ballet Company.

He is the author of the book, Stuck on Yellow: Stop Stalling, Get Serious, and Unleash Your Productivity and the host of the 2 Minute Takeaway Podcast. See and hear Ken in action at: www.KenOkel.com.