Ever feel like you’ve been beating your head against a brick wall? Are you frustrated with where life has left you? You don’t have to settle for that feeling. You can end your frustration and find a new direction. It’s easier than you might think. Take it from someone who knew about frustration – Helen Keller.
Helen lost her sight and hearing before she could talk. Her early childhood was filled with extreme anger and frustration as she failed to grasp that words even existed. Beating her head on a door was not a metaphor for her but a daily reality.
Finally, at the age of seven, her teacher Anne Sullivan took her to the water pump behind her house and opened her eyes to a new direction using words. The new direction changed the course of history for those with physical challenges. Helen influenced millions in 35 countries, met every US president from Cleveland to Kennedy, and spoke and wrote tirelessly for her cause until her death just prior to age 88.
Here’s what Helen Keller said about how to end frustration and find a new direction:
Often we look so regretfully upon the closed door that we do not see the one that has opened for us.
Try these three ways to identify a new direction:
- Stop pounding your bruised and bloodied forehead on the door! Sounds easy and obvious. But we must never underestimate our ability to be blind to the obvious. Sometimes we even lie to ourselves. When life doesn’t unfold the way we hoped it would, we can become fixated on the closed door. For Helen Keller, the closed door was physical disability. For most people, it’s emotional, mental, relational, or spiritual doors that block their path. Do a self-inspection to honestly evaluate what is getting your greatest attention. If it’s the same frustration that’s had your attention for a while, it might be time to stop trying to force the door open. For your own sanity and for all those around you.
- Step back and look around you. Grab an ice pack, slap it on your swollen forehead, and see what other doors may be opening before you. Helen recognized over time that her physical challenges gave her a unique platform to speak to issues related to disabilities. It was only after she had stopped throwing her angry tantrums that she could see the open door right next to her.
- Seek input from others whose forehead aren’t bruised. It was Anne Sullivan who spoke into Helen’s life at the historic water pump where she first discovered words. For you it may be a mentor, pastor, or community leader who seems to have gotten clear on his or her own direction. Check out Keith Farrazzi’s excellent book Who’s Got Your Back? for tips. Do be careful not to seek input from your equally frustrated friends whose foreheads are just as bruised as yours. You can smile and empathize with their plight if you wish, but reach outside your circle to ask for help. Those candid conversation will likely give you an objective perspective that opens your mind to doors you never saw before.
A Real-life Example
I recently met a prospective teacher struggling to find a position. Throughout our time together, he kept mentioning journalism with great passion. As he shared how he was currently spending his time, I realized it was mostly leaning toward journalism. The more he talked, the more I realized how wired he was to pursue it. Finally, I stopped him and candidly asked, “Why do you want to teach when you clearly have the gifting and passion for journalism?” Frankly, I had already concluded that he simply did not have a natural gifting to teach. He seemed stunned to even be giving a new path any thought and then promptly returned to his reasons for pounding his head on the closed door of teaching.
That dull, throbbing frustration is trying to tell you something. Step back from your self-pity long enough to end your frustration and find a new direction.
Have you bumped into closed doors before? What did you do to find new direction? Leave a tip with a comment to help us all grow.