The Messy Middle
On Tuesday during a discovery call I was asked what I loved most about coaching, my answer?
"I love helping clients through the messy middle. Clients usually have a good idea about where they are and where they want to get to, but it's the middle that can be daunting, overwhelming, scary, confusing or hard - and I love helping them get through that stage to where they want to be, and often beyond. I also love seeing the lightbulb moments, the moments of clarity, the moments that mindsets shift and I know that magic will come out of that".
The prospective client, now new client, replied, "Wow, I love that. The others coaches I've spoken to all just replied with the same answer of 'I love to help people and see them grow', and I wasn't really feeling it, but you speak so passionately about it and I'm excited about working with you".
Honestly it's been a while since a client asked me what I love about coaching, I get asked about it in interviews for podcasts and as part of webinars and by other coaches, but rarely by new or existing clients.
My own coach I'd seen from the sidelines for years, I love her energy, and it was some of that energy that I felt I needed and that drew me toward her enough to reach out and ask her to be my coach - and I'm working on big plans with her, but firstly on my own energy and perspective. Because like my clients, I know where I am and I know where I want to be, and yet the messy middle feels confusing, and overwhelming and hard and daunting and scary. We can all find ourselves in the trap of the messy middle, it's how we move through it, past it and over it that makes the difference.
It also took me a while to reach out to a new coach, because part of me was feeling that I should know all of this stuff, I should be able to navigate my way through it on my own, I've done SO much training and development and yet I was starting to feel stuck. So I took a step, and it's making a BIG difference.
As I look back, most of my working career has been about the messy middle. I can get quite bored and frustrated with the now and I can see the possibilities of what could be, and it's the messy middle that excites me - the ideas, the creation, the trial and error, the failing fast, the learning and the discovery. It's the messy middle that got me excited throughout my in-house career, it's the messy middle that drove me to start The Chrysalis Crew, it's the messy middle that excites me about coaching - it's the unknown.
As part of some of my (in-person) coaching and workshops, I include the arrow break. And I can still remember the feeling and energy of my first one. The energy within myself and within the room. If you're not familiar with the break, and PLEASE do not try this at home, you place an arrow in your throat with the other end against a solid surface, and you walk into the arrow to break it. It's uncomfortable, it can be scary, yet the feeling of empowerment and exhilaration once you've achieved it is incredible. They key really is not to hesitate, it's just to take the first brave step, into the unknown and out through the other end - it's the messy middle. Many onlookers think it's the craziest thing in the world, along with the glasswalk and many other empowerment techniques, and yet it's a powerful metaphor.
Often we just need to take the first step. The first step into the unknown, the first uncomfortable, overwhelming, crazy, scary and hard first step forward that can catapult us forward to places we never knew existed.
Lockdown for many of us, has been and still is, a messy middle. One day we were fine, the next we were told it might happen and five months later we find ourselves wondering what's next? If any of you have the definitive answer on that then do please let me know! And whilst much of the what's next is out of our control, we can start taking the first steps so that we come out of the other end stronger and happier than we went in.
I've had so many ups and downs during lockdown I don't even know where to begin in explaining it, some great things have come out of it, and some not so great. Some things are in the pipeline and some things I've let go. Some things I still want to change and some I'm happy with. Some things I want to keep and some I can't wait to 'return to normal'. But either way, I know I can let this period control me, or I can take control of me.
You see sometimes we can choose to take the brave step into the messy middle and sometimes it's thrust upon us, and yet we can't really experience or create change without the messy middle. If things stay the same, we've not been through the messy middle. Because one thing is for sure, when you're in the messy middle, voluntarily or not, change happens - you're the one that gets to decide whether you embrace the change or resist it.
And from experience, it's always easier to embrace the change.
If you're an HR or People Leader and you're ready to explore how we could venture through the messy middle together, get in touch at kellyswingler.com