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.

Why Can’t I Do What I Should Do? Skill VS Will

A tricolour Basset Hound.

A tricolour Basset Hound. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

We all have tasks which we believe we “should” do if we desire to achieve some goal. If one knows what one “should” do and believes one “should” do it then why is it so hard for one to do it?

Does one know how to do it? Whenever one has a gap between actual and desired action or performance, a great place to begin is to ask oneself if one knows how to do the task. A great test to see if someone has the required knowledge and/or skill is to ask, “If someone offered a million dollars to compete this task, could I get it done somehow?” (Note: hiring someone else to do the task and pocketing the rest of the cash is not an option.) If one could complete the task given a significant incentive or coerced to complete the task to avoid a significant harm or punishment, then one knows what to do and how to do it.

GETTING ADDITIONAL TRAINING WILL TYPICALLY NOT BE HIGHLY SUCCESSFUL IN MOTIVATING ONE TO COMPLETE A TASK! Teaching someone how to do something better which they already know how to do but choose not to do, is usually not very effective in motivating someone to do what they don’t like to do. So what’s missing?

longhaired Basset Hound

longhaired Basset Hound (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Does one have the will to do the task? Is there significant internal motivation to satisfy a need or desire to complete the task? We all are able to sometimes do things we really are not interested or hate doing. Why can we do these sometimes and other times we are unable to rise to the occasion? Denying a natural need or desire to go against one’s natural motivation and choosing to act in a way counter to one’s nature requires resilience and willpower and comes at an emotional cost. Studies have shown willpower requires significant energy and if one expends all of one’s highly limited willpower reserves, one is unable to overcome one’s natural resistance to self-denial of one’s internal motives or base desires.

Dr. Steven Reiss, PhD has studied human motivation extensively and has created a motivation theory which categorizes basic human motives or desires into 16 common motives. You can read more about Dr. Reiss’s theory at If one doesn’t fully understand and appreciate what drives one’s internal motivation/desires, then one is easily blocked and frustrated. When we don’t get our needs satisfied, we tend to get frustrated and this too is draining. Frustration and willpower are tough to power at the same time. Unfortunately, frustration outlasts willpower and we give up as we run out of mental steam.

In many situations one may wish to “fix” or “educate” someone who is not meeting one’s expectations in a personal or business relationship through teaching them the “error” of their ways or selling them on a new path to personal wellness. This will be successful in the long-term if the client or subject is internally motivated to use this new knowledge or skill in a way which satisfies a significant need/desire. It’s news one can use. If not, the behavioral change will at best be temporary and under stress, the client/subject will typically revert back to natural behavior based on personal need satisfaction.

Determining if a performance gap or failure to adapt to a change is a resulting from a lack of knowledge/skill or a lack of will is often the key to determining the lasting effectiveness of any performance improvement intervention. Too often we try to teach a sheep to sing and end up frustrating both the sheep and the teacher. There is an apt coaching admonition which says, “A coach cannot want a player to play better than the player wants to play.” It’s typically best to hire the best players one can find and afford and not try to teach sub-par, unmotivated team members to success through coaching and training. If someone simply does not have the will to do what s/he knows how to do, then until s/he finds an internal motive to do the task which is greater than the natural resistance, the odds of successful behavior until completion are small. We each chase our own hybrid of motivational carrots.

Why are you not achieving your full potential? What are you forcing yourself to regularly do things which fizzles you out even if you are good at doing them? Is frustration holding you back from peak performance? Are you chasing the right carrot for you?

A Reiss Motivation Profile® can be an excellent starting point on life’s motivational marathon. If you would like to discover what naturally motivates you, please send me an e-mail at and we will schedule your personal RMP consultation.

Basset Hound

Basset Hound (Photo credit: Philippe Guintoli)

Learning to use your strengths to satisfy your needs/desires is a surefire way to live Fired Up!

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