I remember as a child building a dam on the beach, attempting to impede a stream of water as it made its way to the sea. It was no grand project. All I wanted to do was construct my own little pool that I knew would eventually be washed away but I hoped, at least, to be able to admire my handiwork if only for a moment. But all was in vain and as soon as I'd fixed one breach another would appear. My sister came to help me as I was reduced to tears through frustration. She knew it was a hopeless exercise and persuaded me to join the rest of the family as they were building a more solid structure further down the beach with stones and seaweed. My tears vanished and my frustration evaporated as together we successfully completed our family project.
We all have our own pet projects and rightly want the satisfaction of saying "I did this". In passing exams, attending interviews or taking a driving test there comes a point when we are on our own and, in the final analysis, stand or fall on our own personal performance. Persistence and determination are admirable qualities yet stoicism can often verge on plain stubbornness and attempting the same futile strategies reduces persistence to plain stupidity. It's easy to learn from the beach where lessons are swift and fleeting but in the complex activities of our lives consequences are often far-reaching and sometimes far off. We are adept at finding a cause to fit an effect rather than facing our actions head on and instead of honing our skills of deduction, as we grow older, more often we learn obfuscation, simply masking our mistakes.
It seems to me that one of the root causes of our frustrations in life is our obsession with self-determination. With most obsessions its not what we do but why we do it that is the issue (obsessive cleanliness has little to do with being clean). We seek to take control of that in which we feel we have little control but all we are doing is building dams with beach sand. What we need to establish is what we can control and what we can't and if there is something we can't control we need to let it go because it will simply sap our resources. To make matters worse we often put our efforts into controlling something that doesn't exist: bearing grudges when no offence has been meant; imagining the worst outcome; chasing pots of gold.
For me the issue is one of agendas and deciding how the problem is going to be solved when I don't have the tools to analyse the problem in the first place. Before remembering the beach incident I pictured myself clearing autumn leaves. When its dry and there are high winds it's a futile exercise so is a perfect example of frustration. Before that I was thinking of seasons, which brings this discussion full circle. A wise man will do things in season. He will dig when it's the right time to dig, sow when it's the right time to sow. He has no control over the seasons and therefore takes no care that winter is coming. Likewise, the deciduous tree doesn't hold on to its leaves for fear of being exposed, it sheds them knowing it will grow more in the coming spring.
Going with the flow just means taking potluck with your life but taking control when you have none is worse. You will just go round in circles.