Frustration is Your Brain’s Check Engine Light


Seeing your check engine light suddenly come on can be very frustrating.  Did you know your brain has a natural check engine light?  It’s the feeling of being frustrated.

Whenever you feel frustrated, your brain focuses your attention on the fact that you feel something you value is being denied. Whenever we don’t get our needs/desires satisfied to the levels we want, we get frustrated. It indicates something is judged to be “wrong,” based on a value judgement,  using your values/needs as the standards of “right.”   Frustration provides internal motivation to change your frustrating situation in some way.  The stronger your value/need/desire is to you, then the more intensely frustrated you may feel if you believe your need is being denied or your value is being violated. If something doesn’t naturally matter to you, then it is unlikely to be a source of frustration.  No one situation will generate frustration in all humans.  We are each unique in our values/needs/desires.

For example, let’s say you are on a family vacation driving trip when you notice your check engine light has just come one.  One person might be frustrated because s/he highly values the family time and fears that the engine issue will cut down on the enjoyment of the family’s vacation.  Another person who has a high sense of honor or duty may be frustrated because s/he now feels guilty for not having the engine inspected prior to taking the trip.  A third person may feel frustrated because they desire a sense of order and have planned the entire trip down to the minute and view having to stop and have the engine looked at by a mechanic as an unwelcome change of plans.  The same thing happened to all of these people, the check engine light came on.  Each of them experienced a varying degree of frustration as a natural reaction to the situation based on his/her value judgment.  The key difference is understanding that each individuals frustrated reaction was the result of his/her own strong needs/values/desires.

Dr. Steven Reiss, PhD., is a recognized expert on human motivation and developed 16 Basic Desires Theory. He created the Reiss Motivation Profile®, which is a scientifically valid  assessment tool to measure our 16 individual needs/desires we all share to varying levels as humans.  A great way to understand more about human motivation is to read his book, “Who Am I?”

As a Reiss Motivation Profile Master, I was trained by Dr. Reiss to help people understand what matters most to them and what they need to feel satisfied with life and to avoid frustration.  By completing a Reiss Motivation Profile®, you will discover which of the 16 basic desires drives your behaviors and can be the source of your greatest frustrations.  Once you understand your frustration check engine light, you can create strategies to effectively reduce your frustration and return yourself back to enjoying the trip down life’s highway.

Frustration is a warning, just like your check engine light.  If you leave it unaddressed, then you risk being stuck on the side of the road or worse.  Your brain is not designed to tolerate long-term frustration and so it is best to know how to try to reduce frustration before it becomes a more significant issue which impacts your well-being.

If frustration is lighting up on your mental dashboard?  Perhaps a better understanding of your needs/desires and values can help you stay on the road to success, improve your productivity and increase your sense of well-being.

For your Reiss Motivation Profile® online assessment: Contact me at and I’ll arrange for you to complete a Reiss Motivation Profile® online.  Together we will conduct three 45 minute tele-coaching sessions to review your results and to discover what matters most to you and create strategies to increase your sense of well-being.

Your Reiss Motivation Profile® and three personal coaching consultation sessions are only a total of $988.00 US.

Understanding the Individual Millennial

So-called “Millennials” are rumored to be about to take over, save or ruin the world as we know it depending on which faddishly popular study of demographic trends one chooses to believe. Sociologists, demographers, marketers, political advisors and more are positing and profiting from differing broad stereotypes of an ill defined grouping of people based on birth years.

Here is one certain fact about “Millennials,” they are younger than some people, older than some people and are each living a life which will hopefully allow them to expire at a ripe old age. Some will seek education, employment, relationships, families and satisfaction. Others will to varying degrees seek other desired lifestyles and success measures. As they experience life, they will have some shared experiences which will form some common ground of culture, but they will each interpret these experiences through their individual values lens. Nothing will matter to everyone equally and absolutely.

At the risk of seeming a contrarian naysayer, I believe most Millennial myths are nothing more than over-generalized stereotypes and are not relevant nor should be acted upon in the workplace. Treating a group of employees differently based age is discriminatory no matter what age group one is attempting to work with. One would be rightly ridiculed for applying similar Millennial generational differences to any racial or other protected class. If one replaces the word Millennial in any typical generational difference claim, with any other protected class of person label, one would risk being thought racist or worse. The problem is not one of age, but of basic human understanding of individuality.

If an organization seeks to reap the benefits of diversity and inclusion though understanding, embracing and using individual differences, then why would it ever consider changing performance expectations, work environments or training modalities based on stereotypes? Isn’t the goal of inclusion to bring individuals into an organization and strengthen the organizational capacity by benefitting from adding his/her uniqueness to the merged assimilated organization’s culture? The richness of our differences allows us to benefit from the breath of our viewpoints.

Human intrinsic motivation per Reiss’ 16 Basic Desires theory, asserts individuals act in ways to satisfy individual needs and avoid frustrations. These needs are strongly genetic in origin and are individual in scope. They are formulated by about age 14 and do not change significantly as one ages. Understanding what someone else needs is the key to inspiring desired behaviors. I believe this level of individual understanding is crucial to benefiting from diversity through inclusion.

Leaders are challenged to meet individual employees as they are and who they are and first seek to understand what it is they need to experience well-being. Then though individual coaching/mentoring and appropriate cohort competency training, individuals are given the opportunity to both contribute to an organization’s culture as well as to assimilate into it. Stereotypes are shortcuts which often lead to misunderstands and non-inclusion.

Seek to understand each millennial you meet not as a stereotype but as an individual. Be very cautious trying to treat all millennials the same. Life has a way of smoothing out many differences over time. It’s called maturing or simply growing up.

Are We There Yet?

No statement can exasperate a traveling parent like a cacophony of whiny “Are we there yets?” continuously barraged over backseats by bored child-like passengers.

Everyone has agreed on the trip’s destination goal. Most travelers have at least some estimate of travel time and an estimated time of arrival, assuming all goes as planned. So, why is it often difficult to simply sit back and enjoy the ride? I have come to believe “getthereitis” is caused by a lack of measurable waypoints to mark the passing progress towards a goal.

As a pilot, we learn to fly by finding identifiable landmarks on the ground and we calculate how long it will take us to fly from waypoint to waypoint. If we are ahead of schedule we have more favorable winds, if we are behind, then the winds are slowing our progress and if we can’ t find the waypoint, we are lost. The pilot’s goal is to safely arrive at the correct airfield before the fuel runs out.

I primarily coach sales executives for my chosen profession. Sales organizations always have a revenue growth goal or sales budget which they use to track performance. Most often it is based on a monthly, quarterly and yearly calander. They often benchmark their progress against last year’s sales as well. The challenge for these financial mountain climbers is they often develop a pass/fail attitude which is similar to getthereitis. Sales managers often check the sales figures and whine, “are we there yet?” Meaning, have we achieved our sales goals yet? The problem is they have spaced out their financial waypoints too far and do not recognize their progress or lack there of, often enough. Every moment they are not at their sales goal, they feel like they are failing because they are not there yet. This anxiety can cause a hyper focus which can become counter-productive. Are we there yet? No. Then we must push harder. Sales getthereitis can set in even when performance is actually right on schedule. It’s like saying, Disney is still 300 miles away, let’s drive faster!

Imagine if your goal is to lose 25 pounds by Summer. A reasonable strategy would be to calculate a weekly pounds to lose goal and then track your daily weight. You can celebrate each ounce you lose and correct quickly for any plateau or minor gain. Most importantly, you can track your progress and see if you are on schedule to Bikiniville. This is a much more encouraging and effective strategy than weighing in around the first day do Summer to judge if you were successful or a failure. Tracking small wins and celebrating each success while correcting each minor setback is a proven success strategy.

Asking “are we making progress and are we on schedule?” are more effective questions than “are we there yet?” I hope my kids will read this post before our next vacation.

Do you our your team suffer from getthereitis? Maybe setting some milestones and celebrating each bit of progress can make your life’s journey much more enjoyable.

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