3 Steps for Dealing with Frustration in Your Charity

Mar 8, 2016 | Downloadable Tools for Leaders, Executive Coaching Blogs, Workplace Communication

How to have the courage to get what you want out of life

A few years ago I was leading a project at a national nonprofit where I worked and my soul threatened to leave my body. This technology project went on for many, many, many months (and many months longer than I anticipated) and I was FRUSTRATED with a capital F. (There were often other F-words thrown in there during the day, and I’ll leave those to your imagination.)

I said, “Yes,” because I wanted to be helpful to the mission and it seemed I was the only resource who could really help.

I’ve since learned that when I agree to something merely for the sake of being helpful, I usually end up frustrated. Why? When someone asks for my help, I usually say, “Yes,” too quickly, without really understanding the full scope of the project, agreeing to deadlines, or setting expectations on both sides.

When I’m asked to help I need to ask a series of questions to see if I’m the right person to be helping and have the courage to say, “No,” if it’s not the best fit for me or the organization. I say, “Yes,” too quickly when I’m unsure of my own priorities first.

Frustration happens when we’re unsure of our own life’s priorities.

Many of us get caught up in saying, “Yes,” to other people’s priorities. We become unclear in what matters to us in life. And for those of us who work and volunteer at charities and B corps, we KNOW there are people out there who are suffering through life and need support from our organization, so we soldier on.

The best way to serve the mission is to become clear on your own.

There’s a better way to truly support a mission, support the recipients of your charitable work, and ultimately serve your own best interests: identify what makes you the best version of yourself.

As the kids say these days: You do you.

  1. Identify your values. Your personal values are a central part of who you are – and who you want to be. By becoming more aware of these important factors in your life, you can use them as a guide to make the best choice in any situation. Some of life’s decisions are really about determining what you value most. My top values are joy, creativity, individuality, and compassion. When I feel frustrated, I simply ask myself: which value is not being met right now? What could I do to make it better?
  2. Re-connect with your purpose. Or for some folks, you may need to determine your purpose. Your purpose can be found at the intersection of these four questions:
    • What do you love to do?
    • What does the world need?
    • What can you be paid for?
    • What are you great at?
  3. Determine your urgent and important work. Our lives tend to fill with non-urgent and unimportant work that masquerades as urgent and important. Once you’re clear on your values and purpose, your true work will emerge more clearly.

Apply this process to projects, too.

Admittedly not all frustration is so existential, but instead creeps up in day-to-day ways while planning a special event, working with volunteers, planning a product release, dealing with a certain co-worker, etc. etc. It’s real, nonetheless.

If you’re feeling the frustration build up with a project, simply turn these questions around to apply them to the project: what values does this appeal letter communicate? What is its purpose? What is the urgent and important work that must get done today to complete the appeal?

For your colleagues, ask them these questions so you can learn more about them: what is most important to you? What do you love to do at work and in your free time? What do you see as the most important that must get done as it relates to our organization’s mission?

Now it’s your turn.

What are some ways you’ve become clear on your life’s priorities and dealt with frustration?