How to Escape Toxic Dissatisfaction
Dissatisfaction grows in the gap between aspiration and reality.
Dissatisfaction that lingers in the gap between aspiration and reality defeats aspiration. You begin to think, “Why try?”
Dissatisfaction is boredom with sameness.
Dissatisfaction is self-condemnation for falling short of expectation.
- Thinking others exist to serve us.
- Making others responsible for our happiness.
- Frustration with the incompetence of others. (Accept people and go from there.)
- Disappointment that others aren’t as generous as you. When generosity has strings, it’s manipulation. Manipulative generosity results in toxic dissatisfaction.
- Displeasure with dumb people. Superiority always ends with dissatisfaction.
Roots of toxic dissatisfaction:
- Victimhood. Look at how hard my life is, and I can’t do anything about it.
- Distrust. Distrust pollutes your attitude and steals your joy.
- Negative expectation. You find what you look for. If you look for dissatisfaction, you’ll find it.
- ‘Yeah but’ thinking. ‘But’ is an eraser. You reached your goal, but we could have done better. Even an imbecile can say, “We could have done better.”
Healthy dissatisfaction motivates self-reflection.
When people fall short, leaders ask the Ben Zander question. “Who am I being that the eyes of my children are not shining?” (Replace ‘children’ with team, colleagues, co-workers, etc.)
Healthy dissatisfaction never erases past successes.
You don’t have to hate the past to desire a different future. At the least, you learned what doesn’t work. And that is no small thing.
Toxic dissatisfaction rejects learning in favor of perfection.
Healthy dissatisfaction makes room for celebration.
A leader who never celebrates is a narrow hole that no one escapes.
Healthy dissatisfaction cries out, “Keep trying.”
When does healthy dissatisfaction become toxic?
You’ve sure connected a lot of dots in this post!
Amazing how many leaders and followers live desperate lives that are grossly dissatisfying!
Thanks for your insights!
Thanks tooarbie. It’s a journey.
So true about “yeah but” thinking. And I like the comment – Even an imbecile can say “We could have done better”. I had a conversation this morning with a coworker that was going through their list of why something didn’t work out. I said; Yeah but… what are we doing next?
Thanks Ian… love the positive use of “yeah but.”
No matter how hard we try, we have to support the workers, players, students, etc… inevitably it comes down to them to get things done on their journey. Surely the “yeah but” happens quite a bit, we just have to culminate the end results or many people become dissatisfied. That little extra smile with a good job does wonders and yes there are days the eyebrows may frown with a sharp tongue comment…It happens!
When does healthy dissatisfaction become toxic? — perhaps when no action is taken, time turns dissatisfaction toward bitterness, and we get that (near to) paranoia going…
That’s brilliant, Ken. Inaction in general is toxic.
I am trying to understand how frustration with incompetence is toxic. Does this mean frustration from being dissatisfied with mistakes made due to lack of training is toxic? If so, I can understand that. Lack of training should never be overlooked when mistakes are made.
On the other hand, what good does it do for a team if repeated incompetence, even after detailed training, is tolerated?
Frustration builds not only when incompetent work product results in additional work to others, but eventually spreads when it becomes clear the incompetence is tolerated.
Thanks for asking, Hot. I wonder if I gave you the impression that NOT being frustrated was the same as accepting incompetence. My suggestion is to skip the frustration and simple deal with the issue. Frustration is only useful if it moves us to action. We might feel frustrated, but it’s best to keep that to ourselves. Deal with the issue without negative emotion.
It’s a mistake to believe our frustration is healthy motivation for incompetent people. Actually, we short circuit growth when people feel like they have to pretend they are competent.
Thanks much for clarifying. I agree. It’s best to deal with the issue. provide the training required and go from there.