Fighting Frustration

Two events have led me to extreme frustration over the past week:

First, en route from Scranton, PA to Boston, MA, I got lost. Not once. Not twice. Six times. A trip that I had pegged at taking about 6 hours ended with me stumbling in to my friends apartment at 9pm – 10 hours after leaving Scranton. It also didn’t stop raining the entire day. My feet looked like prunes from literally sitting in water all day.

Then two days later, as I left Boston and headed towards Maine. I got on a toll road, only to realize that I had absolutely no cash. I had somehow spent all my money the night before. So now I have to mail in a check for $1.25 to the New Hampshire Department of Transportation. And of course, I don’t have a checkbook with me.

Needless to say, both of these incidents made me very frustrated. Frustrated with myself for making completely boneheaded decisions. Frustrated that I was wasting time. Frustrated that I didn’t know what I was doing. And these feelings of frustration would just compound, leading me to make other bad decisions and only make things worse.

After not having any money to pay the toll, the frustration was overwhelming. The feelings from days earlier when I kept getting lost all came back and were completely clouding my mind.

So I stopped.

I just stopped. There was a Dunkin Donuts (of course, I’m on the East Coast) across the street. I went in, sat down, and wrote down all the things that were frustrating me. And that led me to realize that none of the things I was frustrated about were really that important and I had no way to change what had happened.

Earlier in the week, I read the book Letters from a Self-Made Merchant to His Son. Graham’s explanation of why he doesn’t waste time worrying is one of his many nuggets of gold:

Worrying is the one game in which, if you guess right, you don’t get any satisfaction out of your smartness.

Just like spending time worrying about the outcome of a situation, getting frustrated at things that you have no control over, no ability to change, is equally futile. You can only move forward and learn from your mistakes.

So now I obviously don’t let myself run out of cash. And I’m taking a bit more time figuring out where I’m headed each morning so I don’t get lost as much. More importantly, I’m not letting the frustration that comes from making stupid decisions build up to the point where I can’t handle it. I’m acknowledging those feelings, letting myself feel them, and then I’m letting them go. Because there is nothing I can do to change the situation. I have no ability to change the past. I only control my present thoughts and actions.

I’ve had plenty of mishaps on this trip. And I’m sure I’ll have plenty more. But these mistakes are part of the journey. They’re probably what I’ll remember most.

But getting frustrated with them isn’t doing me any good. So I’m learning to let that frustration go.