Flourishing Through The Murky, Messy Middle

We've heard of starting strong and finishing strong. But how about 'middling' strong?
Christi Hegstad April 24th, 2020

Pop Quiz: What do the following have in common?

– A 26.2-mile marathon

– A high-visibility project

– A significant goal

– An unexpected challenge

– A recovery (ie, from surgery or injury)

I have experienced all of these and, combined with years of coaching others, have noticed a common pattern:

As we start what will likely become a transformative experience, we tend to feel a blend of excitement and fear, exhilaration and exhaustion, “I can do this!” and “What was I thinking?”

As we near the end – the achievement of the goal, the finish line of the race – we often feel relief in seeing the light at the end of the tunnel, which may prompt a surge in energy (ever see a distance runner really kick it in at the end?) or a sense of let’s-just-finish-already.

And in between? At times, it can feel how a few clients once described it:

The murky, messy middle.

When I ran – er, shall we say ‘completed’ :-) – my first marathon, miles 14-19 felt like a slog. The starting line adrenaline had worn off, and the finish line was still too far to see.

When I underwent a major surgery, my recovery seemed to vacillate continually between “Hey, this isn’t so bad!” to “OH MY GOSH WILL I EVER FEEL BETTER?!”

But I did eventually cross that finish line. I did eventually heal.

And as much as I don’t like to admit it, it’s often in that messy middle – the slog, the plateau, the doubt, the two steps forward / one-to-twelve steps back – that the most growth occurs.

Our resolve strengthens.

Our grit grows.

Our values shine.

Now that I know this, I can redirect my mindset by asking different questions – some of which you may find helpful when you feel you’re plodding through a not-so-clear middle, too:

>  What are you learning? Whether your experience was planned or unexpected, welcomed or unwanted – find meaning in it. Take this a step further and actually record the lessons you uncover so you can refer back to them.

>  How can you flourish right now? Could you practice a different technique? Experiment with a new habit? Add a spot of joy? Clear away some of the excess or unnecessary? Change up your playlist – either the one on your headphones or the one in your mind?

>  What would make this light, peaceful, or even fun? Remember how enjoyable jumping in mud puddles was as a kid – before we were the ones doing the laundry and mopping the floors? 😉 How could you bring a sense of that enjoyment, messy though it may be, into your current situation?

Don’t wait until you reach the finish line to ask yourself these questions. Get curious. Experiment. Set a healthy and sustainable pace.

Because as the saying goes, we don’t need to simply go through challenges – we can grow through them.

Here’s to your flourishing – at the start, at the end, and at all beautiful and murky, messy points in between!

Christi Hegstad, PhD, PCC is the Certified Executive + Personal Coach for difference-making achievers! Clarify your vision, free up time, and confidently reach bold goals with meaning and purpose! Contact us today for coaching, speaking, and Mastermind opportunities, or click here and fill in the blue box to join our email community.

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