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7 Tips to Make It Through the Messy Middle

Anyone who has ever tried to do something outside their comfort cave has surely been to the Messy Middle -- that uncomfortable place in your goal work where the excitement of new beginnings has worn off and success is not yet in sight.

You know, that place where the work becomes work.

The Messy Middle is where dreams and goals go to die.

And often, they do.

When the discomfort of doing hard things becomes too much, it is very tempting to throw in the towel and go back to the comfortable life you had before you ever started working on your goal.

But throwing in the towel and quitting is a choice. It is something completely in your control.

And even though it is tempting to give in to the discomfort and quit, you can also make a choice to keep going.

Clients come to work with me because they are tired of getting into the Messy Middle and automatically quitting when things become hard. It is their conditioning and habits that keep them stuck here until they learn some new strategies to build perseverance that carries them through to the finish line.

Here's what I teach them:

  1. Discomfort is a sign of growth. If you're not feeling it, you're not growing. Our primal brain (the least developed part of our brain that is responsible for keeping us safe, alive, and lazy to ensure our survival) does not like it when we do things beyond the boundaries of our comfort cave. When we do, it sends us feelings of discomfort to try to get us to stop. Get comfortable with discomfort and know that it is just a part of the deal.

  2. Remember your why. Having a strong why or reasons behind what you are trying to achieve, is an anchor that will settle you when the waters get rough. We all work on goals for a reason. What are yours? What's in it for you when you achieve this particular goal? How will you change? How will it affect others? What personal meaning is involved? Return to these when you feel like giving up to encourage yourself to keep going.

  3. Remember that goals are met by completing a series of small steps. Thinking about the work ahead of you as a whole can be very overwhelming. Just focus on the next thing you need to do and leave the rest for later.

  4. Reward yourself. After you've completed one of your small steps, celebrate. Acknowledge what you've done and recognize that you are one step closer to the end.

  5. Don't beat yourself up. Needing to go slower than expected or finding out that something is taking longer than you thought it would is normal. Leave your perfectionism behind and rework your timeline. Making yourself feel bad will lead to nothing but quitting and it is not okay.

  6. Get support. Accountability works. Letting someone know what you plan to do and knowing that they will check in on you to see that it's done brings out the people pleaser in all of us in a good way. We don't want to have to tell our friends or coach that we didn't do what we said we'd do.

  7. Watch out for Shiny New Things. SNTs are distractions and new goals that are sent to you by your primal brain to try to distract you away from reaching the finish line. Don't fall for it. Instead, tell yourself that you can pursue the SNT after you finish this goal.

Using these seven tips will help you get through the Messy Middle and reach your goals.

Remember that the more you practice, the stronger your perseverance muscle becomes.

Jen Laffin is a Self-Doubt & Empowerment Coach for women, a master teacher, host of The Flight School Podcast, a possible thinker, and a recovering procrastinator. She teaches women how to get the results their inner critic is telling them they can't so that they can do the things that they've always wanted. To learn more, visit, or find Jen on Linkedin and Instagram.


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