Embracing JOY to Reframe Frustrations

Guest Blog From The Desk of Darcy Bakkegard,

Lately, I’ve felt like “Frustrated” is my default emotion. Perhaps it’s because the news constantly tells us to be on high alert. Then there’s the unspoken race to do the most, be the busiest. Curated Instagram “realities” provide ample opportunity to see all I’m failing to do, be, and live up to. It exhausts me. 

Cause I’m quite certain I don’t measure up. I’m a (mostly) full-time mom of 3.5-year-old triplets. Doubt. Worry. Frustration. These are constants in my life. 

In the craziest moments, when the whining weighs and self-doubt abound, I tell myself to stop and look for the joy. 

And it’s always there, peeking at me in the shoes proudly put on the wrong feet “all by myself!”;  tripping me (literally at times) with messes made by healthy, creative, collaborative kids; wrapping me in giggles and silly voices and pleas for me to “hold you.” 

The joys gound me; reconnect me with what really matters and help me let go of the rest.

This struggle with balance, with burnout, with wanting to do more but not being enough emerges as I talk with (working) parents, teens, and college students. With all of them, I dish out the same old advice: Look for the JOY. 

When I’m not momming, I lead workshops for educators. As I listen to all the obstacles teachers face, I encourage them to do what I try to do in my day-to-day life: Look for the JOY. 

Whatever life is throwing at you, wherever you are in your journey, I ask you to do the same: Look for the JOY.    

~ A joyful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones. ~ Proverbs 17:22

Ok, so that’s easier said than done! And while looking for, seeing, and naming the JOY is helpful in and of itself, I realized that you can wield joy in even more powerful ways. You can use JOY to help you reduce stress and overcome frustrations.

From that realization, and my general belief in the power of CHOOSING joy, I created two simple graphic organizers. The first helps you highlight and capture what is moving you closer to your desired goal(s) as well as what’s slowing you down. The second was made specifically for education professionals, but simply replace “student” with another person//group (colleagues, kids, partner, neighbors) and it’s universal. 

By capturing both the joys that inspire you as well as the frustrations sidelining you, it reminds us that: 

  1. Our frustrations serve to amplify our joys. Without one, we may not fully appreciate the other. Like a ying and yang, they provide balance as well as perspective.
  2. Our joys give us the strength to address those frustrations. 

~ Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us. ~ Romans 5:3-5

Here’s how.


Find a quiet place and grab something to write with and on- perhaps one of the graphic organizers above or just a sheet of paper. Set a timer for five minutes and list:

Frustrations: What stumbling blocks have slowed you down? What’s getting under your skin? What’s limiting your ability to be the best version of yourself? 

Joys: What lights you up? Makes your heart sing? What are you grateful for? What helps you through or lightens your load?


Reread your frustrations. Circle 2-3 that are one or more of the following:

  1. Immediate- bound by a specific timeframe; 
  2. Fundamental- a root cause feeding other issues;
  3. Pressing- disproportionally weighing on you and blocking your joy.

Now reread your joys. What joys could you tap into to help you address a frustration? What resources –people, places, skills, opportunities– can you leverage as you work to find a solution?  


Write yourself a question to answer: How might I use/maximize (insert joy) in order to reduce/eliminate/mitigate (insert frustration) in order to (desired impact) ?

The question you write not only gives you a clear task to solve, it gives you permission to try more than one strategy.


Make a plan. What will you try first? Write and/or draw what your solution will look and feel like. Working backwards from your desired solution, write out a list of to-dos. Finally, set concrete deadlines, noting if anyone else can/must complete certain tasks. 

If it’s helpful, use The Educator Canvas to organize your ideas and anticipate potential hurdles.  

By embedding one or more joys into your challenge, you build in the boost you’ll need to take the first step. Armed with that JOY, your steps -however difficult- will be a bit lighter and your course a bit easier. 

And hang that list of joys somewhere you can see it each day. When things get rough, look to your joys.  

~ Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. ~ Romans 12:12 

Are you going to fear it or find the opportunity in it? Join me this fall for Reset, Rejuvenate, and Refocus. In three 2-hour sessions, we’ll identify and implement strategies to fuel greater work/life balance, reduce burnout, and increase JOY. Email Darcy Bakkegard for more information! 

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