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An Antidote to Life’s Frustrations

“An effort made for the happiness of others lifts us above ourselves.”

~ Lydia M. Child (1802-1880) Writer

Do you ever feel so mired in frustration and challenge that you cannot see a way to move beyond it?

When life gets you down, it’s easy to become overly focused on all the things that seem to be a source of discontent.  And it is all too easy to become completely absorbed in the feeling of dissatisfaction itself.  When we do, this fixation acts as a magnifying glass, expanding to several times their normal size every problem or challenge we have until it all feels too entirely daunting to move at all.  And this orientation has a way of somehow attracting all manner of setbacks and further complications our way.  As the old saying goes, “when it rains, it pours.”

Perhaps the way we tend to act when we are already feeling defeated contributes to the negative cycle.  Or it could be that when we are so intent on seeing all the things that we feel lousy about that even things that would normally not bear weight suddenly feel incredibly heavy.  In any case, we all have days where what is going wrong seems to capture more of our attention than what is going right and life just feels like one d@#n thing after another.

At times like these, I believe that the best thing we can do is anything that allows us to go beyond ourselves to be of service to another human being. It may seem somewhat naïve and Pollyannaish to suppose that forgetting all your troubles to go help someone else would do much of anything to change the situation.  How could something so simple and cliché have any impact when you feel so overwhelmed that you cannot do another thing?

Like many of us, I was given this advice when I was a child and have heard it repeatedly over the course of my life.  Yeah, yeah, I often thought.  But whenever I act on that counsel, I find myself surprised and delighted by what ends up happening.

The other day, I woke up to a list of things that needed to get done so long that I had to have a few more cups of coffee just to read through it.  Many of the things on my list I had been procrastinating for some time.  But they had to get done, and putting them off another day was just going to make things worse.   And then I remembered something that happened the previous evening.

Our air conditioner began to sound a lot like an old Volkswagen bug stuck in an idle.  The repairman arrived at the end of the day – after spending hours on other calls that ran long and had him laboring on rooftops in triple digit heat.  But he managed to patiently and thoroughly check our unit to find that a plastic grocery bag had somehow gotten sucked into the fan.  As soon as he removed it, the air conditioner sounded fine.

He could have ended the service call and went on his way.  But he didn’t.  He stayed and educated me on what I could do to keep the unit running efficiently – and even did some maintenance he wasn’t required to do – which led him to discover and fix potential problems that would have soon become costly repairs.  I recall how thankful I was for his service and told him I would put in a good word for him with his boss.

So I made the phone call.  I expressed my appreciation and gratitude to his manager and explained that because of his exceptional service, I would definitely be calling that company again.  The woman on the other end of the line was delighted to hear good news and eager to give some recognition to the serviceman.  I soon realized that making that call not only lifted my spirits, but hers as well.  It was this burst of positivity that gave me new energy and a sense of lightness that I brought to all my other activities.

So the next time you find yourself feeling defeated, see if there is something – anything – you can do for another human being.  It doesn’t have to be big – just unexpected and uncalled for.  I can almost guarantee that it will do just as much for you (and maybe even more) as it will for the other person.

Copyright Synchronistics Coaching & Consulting 2010.  All rights reserved.

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