Handling Frustration

Frustration is an inevitable part of learning a new skill. At the beginning of the process, you can visualize what you want to do, but you can’t actually do it. The gulf between the two is a consistent and profound source of frustration. How you handle this frustration can make a huge difference for the people around you, as well as for your own continued progress on your goal.

The most common reaction to frustration is quitting. the vast majority of young pianists quit when they are no longer able to easily leap over frustrating hurdles. As soon as the frustration lasts beyond their ability to ignore it, they quit.

Beyond quitting, I see many strivers forge their frustration into anger, which they can take out on the people around them, on their surroundings (like slamming fists on that trusty piano) or on themselves. “I’m never going to be able to do this.” “I suck.” “I can’t.”

The key to handling frustration, though, is a different dialogue, and one that must be learned and repeated. Try telling yourself some of these, the next time you feel the frustration that comes with learning:

“I have consistently overcome frustration in the past.”
“I can do this, even though I’m currently unable to.”
“Frustration is a sign of learning.”
“The goal is worth the struggle.”

It’s too easy to let frustration undermine our progress, if we haven’t established a mindset that allows for sparring with the frustration itself.