Do you ever feel like you’re working at maximum capacity on a goal but just barely maintaining your position? That you have nothing left with which to push forward and grow? But if you don’t keep working you’ll fly backwards like a misstepping runner off a treadmill?
Yeah, me too. Jonathan Fields from the Good Life Project calls this feeling stuck while working extremely hard the “unfortunate middle” and I think he’s onto something. The middle of any goal or project is where we get stuck. We’re just far enough past the chaos of early beginnings to get complacent, but far enough from our goals to be extremely stressed and frustrated.The middle is where we get stuck. Just far enough to get complacent but too far from our goals.Click To Tweet
The middle is not where we want to be. Here’s how you can move through the middle and stop feeling stuck.
The Middle is No-Man’s Land
It almost feels like we’re supposed to set up shop in the middle. Like we should just keep toiling away until the golden hand of success reaches down from the sky to pry us loose.
But no matter how hard we work, it seems we are not really getting anywhere. We’ve pushed past the steep learning curve of beginning something new. Along with it we’ve blown through all the enthusiasm that comes with a new project.
But we can see success! It’s just around the corner! It seems like everyone around us is being plucked from obscurity and dropped into the light so our turn must be coming up!
The problem happens when success doesn’t come. When we’re just stressed and anxious and working our tails off with no forward progress discernible. But we feel like we can’t stop or we’ll be jetted backwards into that beginners wasteland again. We’re feeling stuck, and can’t see any way forward or backwards.
Move Forward with Help
So how do we get out of that unfortunate middle? With help.
Here’s the thing. We always think we just have to muscle through on our own. The success stories we hear are from “self-made men” (or women). But that’s why they call them stories. They’re complete fiction.The success stories are of “self-made men.” But those stories are fiction.Click To Tweet
Nobody, but nobody, gets through the middle alone. That golden hand of success? It’s actually the hand of a mentor or even just someone farther up the road than you reaching back to help you up.
The reason why the middle requires so much effort is that it is the place where we forge the foundation of our future success. The beginning is where we learn what that foundation should look like. The middle is where we put in place the processes, systems, and even people that will help launch us to the next level.
But that foundation building takes so much effort that there’s nothing left for the launch. That’s why we need help.
How to Find Help Forward
Great, thanks Ashley, I know I need help! Well, you may know that you need a VA or nanny or housekeeper. But that’s just help manning the ship. You need help steering it too. To find help steering, you need people who’ve been through those waters before.
The mistake many people make is aiming too high. We try to get the most successful person we can find to be our mentor and then we’re disappointed when we can’t even get our email returned. You don’t need the CEO of Ford to mentor you. You just need someone a little above your pay grade to help you keep track of the big picture and supply you with connections and support.
So look for people on the B or even C-list depending on how far along in your journey you are. People in the lower echelons are easier to access, have a recent memory of struggling, and you will be much more able to trade skills or barter with them to entice them to help you.
If you’re able to entice a few of them to help you, you can build a strong web of networked connections from which you can spring forward.
Or Move Backwards with Grace
Maybe springing forward isn’t the best idea for you, though. Maybe you got more involved in this great project of yours and realized you don’t like doing it. Or it’s just going to require too much bandwidth that takes you away from your more cherished pursuits.
But now, in the unfortunate middle, you’ve set up a foundation on which other people rely, too. Whether it be your family relying on a little extra income, or that one employee you hired to help out, it’s so much harder to let go of something when others are counting on you to achieve success. This is where we start feeling stuck.
So how do we move backwards to the simpler times of the beginning, or quit our project altogether? By redefining success.
Remember why you wanted to do this project in the first place. Was it for financial freedom? Then you have to ask if it is really freedom if you’re miserable doing it. Was it to knock something off your bucket list? Then you have to ask whether it’s worth driving yourself to an early grave with the stress.
If people are relying on you now and you feel like you can’t move past that, then redefine success for them too. If money is the issue, then look for ways to downsize your life so you don’t need the extra income in the short term. That employee relying on you? Help her find a new job, provide great references, and remember that’s all you owe anyone. You don’t owe them perpetual servitude at the expense of your happiness.You don’t owe anyone perpetual servitude at the expense of your happiness.Click To Tweet
Life is movement, either forward or backward. There is no shame in going back if you’re happier there, need to regroup, or switch directions. There is also no shame in asking for help to move forward, even paying for it if necessary. Just don’t stay in that unfortunate middle longer than you have to. That’s not growth. That’s torture. If you’re feeling stuck there, make your escape plan as soon as possible.
Have you ever held on to a project longer than was healthy? How did you move through that unfortunate middle? I’d love to hear in the comments!
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P.P.S. This is article is part of my month-long series on goal setting. Check out the other articles in this series below!
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