An Antidote to Life’s Frustrations

“An effort made for the happiness of others lifts us above ourselves.”
~ Lydia M. Child (1802-1880) Writer

Have you ever gotten so mired in frustration and overwhelm that you just can’t seem to move beyond it?

When life brings you down, it’s easy to become excessively focused on all the things that seem to be a source of frustration. And it is all too easy to become completely immersed in the feeling of dissatisfaction itself. When we do, this fixation is like a magnifying glass through which every problem or challenge we have expands to several times its normal size until it all feels too utterly daunting to move at all. And this orientation seems to somehow draw all manner of setbacks and further difficutly. As the old adage goes, “when it rains, it pours.”

It could be that the way we tend to act when we are already feeling beaten contributes to the negative cycle. Or perhaps that when we are so intent on seeing all the things that we feel rotten about that even things that would normally be no big deal suddenly feel incredibly heavy. In any case, we all have days where what’s going wrong seems to take up more of our attention than what’s going right and life just feels like one [email protected]#n thing after another.

At times like these, I’ve found that the best thing you can do is anything that allows you to go beyond yourself to be of service to another human being. It may seem somewhat naïve and Pollyannaish to presume that forgetting all your troubles to go help someone else would do much, if anything, to change the situation. How could something so simple and totally unrelated to what is going on 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 kid and have heard it often over the course of my life. Yeah, yeah, I would think. But whenever I act on that guidance, I find myself surprised and delighted by how things turn out.

The other day, I awoke to a list of “to do’s” so long that I had to drink a few more cups of coffee just to read through it. Quite a few 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 wasn’t going to help. And then I recalled something that happened the night before.

Our air conditioner began to sound a lot like an old Volkswagen bug stuck in an idle. The repairman arrived in the late afternoon – after spending hours on other people’s rooftops in triple digit heat. But he managed to patiently and thoroughly check our unit and found 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 handed me his bill and went on his way. But he didn’t. He stayed and gave me numerous tips on what I could do to keep the air conditioner running efficiently – and even did some maintenance he really didn’t have to do – which led him to discover and fix potential problems that would have soon become costly repairs. In gratitude for his excellent service, I told him I would put in a good word with his boss.

So I picked up the phone. I passed along my appreciation and thankfulness to his manager for both the technician and the company. The woman on the other end of the line was delighted to hear the praise and eager to recognize the serviceman. It seems making that call not only lifted my spirits, but hers as well. This burst of positivity gave me new energy and a sense of lightness that extended to all my other activities. And I have a feeling it may have inspired the woman I talked to do something that lifted others up as well.

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 huge – 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.

Image credit: visualpanic

About Diane Bolden

Diane Bolden is passionate about helping people actualize their brilliance in a way that inspires others to do the same. In addition to being the author of The Pinocchio Principle ~ Becoming the Leader You Were Born to Be, Diane is an executive coach, speaker, yoga lover and mother of three. Join Diane On the Road to Real, visit her Synchronistically Speaking blog, follow her on Twitter;, or visit her YouTube channel for more.