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BlogMindset & Personal Development

The Other Side of Frustration is Motivation

By January 25, 2023May 30th, 2023No Comments

I’ve taken up trail running this year.  I am doing some ultra races in addition to mountain bike stage racing.  I wouldn’t call myself a beginner due to my background as a mountain biker, but I am a beginner when it comes to making my feet do what I want them to do.  It can be frustrating!

When I moved to British Colombia about 10 years ago, I had been a Pro Mountain Biker for awhile.  And yet, on the local group rides, I was walking a lot of sections on the downhills because I had never ridden trails that were so steep and technical that they required full commitment. Once you started down a line (or section), you couldn’t just put your foot down or get off your bike. You had to be committed to the end and have the skill to not crash.  I remember seething with frustration that I couldn’t do it.

Frustration is important information that we can use to motivate us to be better or to learn a new skill. We feel the frustration because we wish we had the skill or state of mind that isn’t matching up with what is currently happening.  Instead of being angry about the frustration or over-identifying with it, you can try to recognize that this frustration is part of the growth process.

Over time, I worked at my skills for riding in BC and turned my weakness into one of my best strengths as a mountain biker.  And now, when I am on trails that require full commitment to trail run down a very technical section, I can almost have a light-heartedness when I feel the familiar frustration and impatience of wanting to to be better.  I know that frustration is okay and necessary if I want to get better.  It can fuel me instead of discourage me.

Having the emotional and mental flexibility when setbacks or frustrations arise can help.  In my mountain biking example, I used to tear myself down if I couldn’t ride a feature, saying to myself “you should be better than this, you call yourself a pro and you can’t ride that section, etc etc).”  Negative self-talk is not productive and does not help with long-term motivation. I’ve spent years practicing self-compassion so that when I get frustrated, I don’t tear myself down in the process.

On my run yesterday, I came to a rock section I couldn’t run. I was irritated that the skill was not yet in my skillset. Instead of saying something discouraging to myself, I caught myself saying, “That’s okay. I’ll get that section another time.”

Bottom line: frustration doesn’t have to be bad, but how we react to frustration can be motivating or it can tear down our confidence.  The good news is we have a choice on how we want to proceed.

You might like this past article I wrote if you enjoyed this topic! 

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