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How to turn your frustration into action

Often we go through life feeling frustrated. This frustration is probably comprised of a bunch of things layered on top of another and, as a result, we usually fail to do anything about it. Often we may end up blaming someone and taking our frustrations out on those who have little to do with our real frustrations.

If you are from London, you will no doubt be familiar with #SouthernFail. Even if you have the fortune of not living on that God-forsaken train line, you will have suffered the angry rants of colleagues what seems like every morning (or afternoon, when the trains have finally ferried them to work). Some cope with it worse than others, and you may hear explosive expletives directed at “those inconsiderate*&(^&% train drivers”. I often wonder whether there’s a deeper, beneath-the-surface reason behind the force of the reaction.

Perhaps they are frustrated by the stress they are subjected to by their managers who is draconian about getting into work on time. Perhaps they are frustrated about the amount of work they have on right now. Perhaps they are frustrated by the fact that they spend hours everyday commuting to work to do a job they hate, making small talk with people they dislike, saving up for a retirement at 80 when they’ll finally be able to “live”, although probably not as the next financial crisis or WW3 (“The Trump Wars”) have wiped out their meagre pension pots they spent their youth chasing.

Or let’s take another less emotive subject — Brexit. Whatever your views on this are, and whichever way you voted, one undeniable fact remains. Campaigners on both side of the debate, but especially on the Brexit side, were tapping into a frustration of the people. These frustrations I believe were numerous, complex and valid — a stretched NHS, growing inequality, lack of jobs etc. But I don’t believe people who voted ‘Out’ woke up in the morning everyday and thought “God, if only we weren’t in the EU our frustrations will be solved”. Or even “God, if we got rid of those immigrants, my frustrations will be solved”. That is, until they were sold a narrative.

What I’m trying to get at is the fact that often when you think you’re seemingly frustrated about something, you’re actually probably frustrated about something else that has a more direct impact on your life, or a part of the issue that you relate to personally most strongly.

Let’s take the#SouthernFail example. You’re frustrated by #SouthernFail but to be honest there doesn’t seem to be a lot you as one person can do about it. Let’s go deeper. If you’re frustrated because you have too much work on and you’re stressing whether you’ll have enough time to finish it all by 5 so you can be with your kids this evening, have that conversation with your manager. Or prioritise your work and let some go. Or figure out some arrangement to work from home. The point is, once you drill down to what’s really bothering you, it’s possible to take action.

Last Sunday I went to I’m In’s first meetup at the Royal Festival Hall in London, where I co-facilitated a session on ‘how to turn your frustrations into action’, around the topic of social change. We each spent time interrogating each other’s frustrations to help drill down and clarify what was really bothering us. We then proceeded to brainstorm ‘little steps’ that we could take to tackle this frustration in our lives and communities, and group-sourced networks and skills to help turn this into a reality.

What seemed like an insurmountable frustration (and many of us felt powerless at the start of the meeting) turned into tiny actions that we could turn into reality in the next day or week (see my other post on using small steps to take action).

It was also exciting to meet ten great people, coming together under our shared desire be part of a community of people who want to be the change they see in the world.

text here.