Choose Your Hard: Embracing the Messy Middle to Overcome Challenges in Life

No matter what it is that you are trying to create or transform, the myth of a successful journey is that it starts with an idea, is followed by hardship, and then has a gradual and linear rise to the finish line. But no journey, especially an extraordinary one, is linear. You must enjoy the messy middle; you must enjoy the process, even when it is difficult.

This is why you need to choose your hard and decide what you’re willing to forgo in order to achieve your goals. 

The reality is that the middle part of the process is crowded, chaotic, and anything but linear. It’s full of turbulence, a continuous course of ups and downs, packed with uncertainty and struggle.

What does the “messy middle” entail?

At some point in the journey, we all inevitably come to a place where we think, “I’m not sure what to do next.” or worse, “I’m lost.” Maybe the inspiration and the optimism have faded a little, or maybe they have worn off entirely. You’ve made decisions to get to where you are, and now you have to respond to those decisions. There is a strong temptation to second-guess and overthink what to do next. This is the messy middle.

In our obsession with doing it all “just right,” taking time to lean into being and waiting for the messiness to be resolved can feel countercultural. We desperately want to get to the part where we’ve figured it all out, are seeing results, and have evidence that we’ve made all the right decisions.  

Embracing the messy middle requires you to choose your hard.

It’s in the messy middle that we face our biggest challenges. This is where the blocks and fears live. Yes, beginnings are hard, and it can take years between feeling the pull to pursue a project and actually getting started. But it’s in the messy middle that we have to deal with the problems and manage the stressful situations to reach our goals.

That’s when we can’t ignore our mindset struggles anymore because they’ll eventually block our way forward. It’s when you have to try things you’ve never tried before and learn things you can’t do yet, or you won’t get to the next stage. 

This is when you’ll need to choose your “hard”: whatever is difficult about a project has to be dealt with, or you won’t be able to create it. So do you want to give up because it’s difficult, or do you wish to persist and choose to show up consistently to fulfill your purpose?

Learn to enjoy the messy middle so you can grow and transform.

Indeed, it’s when you keep going and keep digging that you unlock your potential and grow. You break through the blocks that have been holding you back. You understand your projects like never before and then surpass thresholds you’ve never surpassed before. Ultimately, you become better, and braver in the process. This is where you grow and transform.

Now is the time for you to show up for yourself every single day. Put in the effort, get comfortable with the uncomfortable, and embrace the messy middle.

Takeaway: Choose your hard path in life.

Grab your journal and take some time. Look to 2023 and ask yourself: What do I want to do? What do I want to be? What are you going to decide is worth the effort to be in the messy middle, for however long it takes, to get to the place you need to get to in order to fulfill the dreams that are on your list and in your heart?

Keep these things in mind as you try to accept the messy middle and reach your goal:

  • “Everything is hard; it’s just a matter of what you think is worth the effort.” Brianna Wiest, 101 Essays That Will Change The Way You Think.
  • You get to choose your hard; so what hard are you going to choose? You choose the hard that’s going to get you to your dreams.
  • “We overestimate what we can do in a year, and we underestimate what we can accomplish in a decade.” Matthew Kelly
  • Everyone has things that “could be” something, but not everyone actually sits down and does the work.
  • We often wait for the feeling of inspiration, but you’ll never feel it until you sit down and do the work. 

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