How to Turn From Destructive to Constructive Dissatisfaction

You won’t make a difference if you’re easily satisfied.

Yesterday I wrote, “Chronic dissatisfaction contaminates environments and teams.”

Pete asks, “… what if I am the one who is chronically dissatisfied? What’s the antidote? Cultivating gratitude for sure. Anything else?”

The value of dissatisfaction is the opportunity to resolve it.

Constructive dissatisfaction:

#1. Look within.

Sometimes dissatisfaction with others is an expression of dissatisfaction with ourselves. I’m learning that the more I celebrate my strengths/gifts and accept my frailties, the better I am at doing the same with others.

How much of chronic dissatisfaction is lack of self-respect, personal pain, or unrealistic expectations?

#2. Explore causes of dissatisfaction.

Vague dissatisfactions cling like mud on your heel. They can’t be resolved.

Write a dissatisfaction journal for a week. Record every dissatisfaction that comes to mind. After a week, look for patterns.

Everyone who tries to control things they can’t control ends up chronically dissatisfied.

#3. Practice optimistic dissatisfaction.

The chronically dissatisfied are pessimists.

  1. Stop caring about everything. You’ve forgotten your limitations when you care about everything.
  2. Identify something to do that’s within your control. Arrogance tries to control others. Humility controls itself.
  3. Explore next steps with a dissatisfaction buddy. “What are we going to do about this?” You’re doomed if you refuse to move from dissatisfaction to action.
  4. Aim for improvement, not perfection. If everything must be perfect, maybe you should pack up your toys and go home. “How might we make this better?”

Reality check:

Dissatisfaction is the spark of aspiration.

Seth Godin wrote, “For the creator who seeks to make something new, something better, something important, everywhere you look is something unsatisfying.

The dissatisfaction is fuel. Knowing you can improve it, realizing that you can and will make things better—the side effect is that today isn’t what it could be.”

How might we develop constructive dissatisfaction?

Bonus material:

Learned Optimism: Is Martin Seligman’s Glass Half-Full (PositivePsychology)

Learned Optimism (Book)

Making the Most of Dissatisfaction (Leadership Freak)