How to Navigate the Messy Middle

Whenever we set out to accomplish something we usually start out 100% inspired, motivated, excited, strong, hopeful and eagerly anticipating success. Then somewhere in the middle of our goal we CRASH. This is where things get uncomfortable, uncertain, hard. Self-doubt, fear, and negative self-talk creep in. Welcome to the Messy Middle!

Being a long distance runner, I experience this all the time. I also see this with people I coach. Regardless of the race distance or goal, somewhere around the middle you start doubting yourself. You may start asking questions like “Why I am here all by myself when the rest of pretty much every one I know is at home still sleeping?”. Why am I doing this? A few years ago, I ran a 5k with one of my twin girls. At the end of the race, I asked for her thoughts. She said, “Mommy, it is funny. At the beginning, you are like woo-hoo I am running a race! In the middle, you are liked what am I doing here? At the end of the race, you are so proud and happy you stuck it out”. Her thoughts were right on point.

The middle is where things get messy. When you’re in that Messy Middle, you want to BAIL. Maybe you actually do bail sometimes. I know I have. But, once you push through, all those initial feelings of optimism, motivation, excitement come flooding back.

Below are some strategies, some tools to help you take control of the Messy Middle and reach your goals.

  • Remember your WHY. Always go back and look at your purpose for pursuing that goal. When you keep your reason at the fore front, you can tolerate any how.
  • Think about how success is going to FEEL like. What is it going to feel like to say I did it! I finished that race. I finally lost the weight. I conquered my alcohol addiction? I quit smoking? I beat my sugar addiction? What will the finish line feel like? The power, the joy, the pride! The bragging rights!
  • Focus on the moment. Sure, it might hurt more at Mile 10, but we are still at mile 6. No need worrying about how you are you going to survive the rest of your life without sugar, let us just focus on today. Let us not anticipate how hard it is going to be. Think about the one little step you can do right now. Just put one foot in front the other. Just worry about making one good choice today. Just one more mile. Don’t borrow worry from tomorrow.
  • Slow down if you have to, but do not quit. Breathe. Take stock. Think. How can you make this work? What are the stakes? What is it worth to you? Winners don’t quit and quitters never win.

The Messy Middle is where you will make something of your goals and dreams OR where you will lay them down to die. The choice is yours. Understand the power of that decision. If you repeatedly allow your dreams to die when you get to the messy middle, not only will you not achieve the particular goal you are after, but it will also impact your ability to succeed in the future. If you are constantly setting the same New Year’s resolution year after year to finally get in shape, stop drinking, quit smoking, whatever it be, then you know what I am talking about. When you bail on yourself, you are practicing failure.

Brene Brown in her book, Rising Strong said:

The middle is messy, but it’s also where the magic happens

Whatever you do, do not quit. I challenge you to power through that messy middle. You can do it. It’s always worth it when you get to the finish line.

Coach Yaje

5 thoughts on “How to Navigate the Messy Middle”

  1. Right on point sis!! I remember my first half marathon, it was extremely hot and humid….I started off with enthusiasm but then half way through, my give up urges were outweighing the carry on ones. I has to strongly will myself into staying focused and remember why I was running in the first place….your words kept playing in my head…’your main goal as a first timer is to finish the race’. So I just slowed down my pace and made sure I completed the race. The number of times I find myself in that messy middle!! It takes shear determination, discipline and practice to get yourself out of that realm once you are in it.

  2. Absolutely true Yaje! The finish line is tough, but it is worth it. Thanks for the kind words of motivation!

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