I'd like to start this week's column with a one-question quiz.
Put on your thinking caps, because this is really going to tax your brains.
Here it is: Have you ever felt frustrated?
Don't think too hard, now.
Chances are, you're staring at your newspaper or screen, wondering why I'm asking such a stupid question. That's OK. I got the same looks when I asked it during a church class I was teaching a few weeks ago.
I had just come off a rough week at work and home. I had spent days — literally full days — in meetings at work. While they were productive, they were sometimes frustrating, too. (Have you ever attended a work meeting that wasn't?)
I came home each day mentally exhausted, only to face extremely busy evenings full of chores, children's activities and church responsibilities — like preparing a lesson. These were all good things, but they were tiring.
By the end of the week, I was fatigued and, yes, quite frustrated.
In an attempt to turn those emotional lemons into lemonade, I decided to focus my church lesson on frustration and how to deal with it. As I prepared — and, later, as I talked with the men in the class — I was reminded that I have a lot of work to do in this area.
Consider, again, that challenging week I had. I knew going into it that it would be a long one — I've established before that I'm no fan of meetings — so I was dreading it weeks in advance.
I mentioned to my wife and children more than a few times that we'd have to change our morning and afternoon schedules to accommodate some of the meetings. And I probably wasn't smiling as I said that.
In other words, I entered the week with a negative attitude, which greatly diminished my chances of getting through those long days free of frustration.
So what did that frustration cost me? First, I probably wasn't as engaged as I could have been during my meetings. I never tried to run them off the rails or anything, but I probably could have been a better participant. That was an opportunity missed.
Second, my negativity sapped me of energy. It's no coincidence that I'm more tired when I'm grouchy. I've always blamed the grouchiness on the exhaustion, but I think it really goes both ways.
Third, bringing those feelings of frustration home with me affected my wife and children. Have you noticed that, when you come home upset, it's not long before everyone else in the house is on edge, too? I'm sure I was not contributing to feelings of "love at home," as the song says, during my challenging week.
And fourth, my frustration cost me a chance to be a good example to my children. We're all going to have frustrating times in life. As parents, we need to demonstrate how we can overcome that frustration and not let it rule us.
I definitely failed in that task.
But as I pondered these things, I also decided that I'm not going to beat myself up about how I handled that week. After all, that would probably lead to guilt and — you guessed it — more frustration.
Instead, I've decided to turn over a new leaf. Rather than being the frustrated guy, from now on I'm going to make an effort to be a positive guy.
This will require major effort on my part, but I think it's important, so I'm going to do the work.
That means getting up every morning and imagining the good things that the day may bring rather than dreading the possible negatives.
It means counting my blessings — and I have so many — every day.
It means recognizing that things aren't always going to go my way, but that I can roll with life's punches and keep a smile on my face.
It means setting a better example for my friends and family — especially my children. I don't want them to remember me as the grumpy guy constantly muttering under his breath when faced with disappointments. I want them to recall my determination to overcome challenges with a spirit of positivity.
I'm just a handful of days into this change of mindset, and I freely admit that it's not easy. I'd give myself about a C-plus for my efforts so far. My natural tendencies toward negativity are strong, and I quickly slip into my old habits when feelings of frustration come along.
Fortunately, I'm surrounded by people who are patient with me, both at home and at work. I've got time to pull my grade higher, and I'm confident that I can.
In the meantime, I'd appreciate any suggestions or tips you may have to help me on this journey. Send them to me by email or leave a comment online, and I'll share them when I report back on this topic in a future column.
Maybe we'll all learn some things about overcoming frustration. And if more of us can move through life with positive attitudes, well, that can only be a good thing.