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Getting Unstuck In the Middle

If you have not faced any challenge or change in your life over the past year, I’m not sure how you avoided it. The last 18 months has been nothing but that for me. It’s been a weird and evolving period of space and time where I’ve thought more about what I’ve been doing and how I’m contributing to society. Accelerated by the pandemic and social/climate events worldwide, there has been more perspective-taking on how to move forward. So, I don’t think I’m alone in taking stock of our life and experiences. In 2020, we had a forced slowed down and even pause on our lives, which has encouraged everyone (myself included) to reflect and think deeply about how I want to be in the world. If you’re at a fork in the road — this might be the blog post for you. Welcome — I am here as well. Let’s see if we can help you work it out…

Fork in the [Vineyard] Road

Earlier this year, Manoush Zamorodi launched a helpful podcast series to help others at a crossroads in their life: The ZigZag Project. This project shared 6 episodes to encourage to think deeply about where they are and where they want to go. The project was designed to help listeners get unstuck and inspire them to move forward, with intention and purpose.

The ZigZag Project
The 6 steps for the ZigZag Project

From checking in with a self-assessment (1. The Pulse) to thinking about your future self (2. The Vision), I thought this project offers a simple way to stop and think about what we are doing. From brainstorming our wild desires of what we want to do (3. The Ideas) that best align with our values (4. The Match) — we can then map out where we want to go (5. Path) and by identifying how /when we can accomplish our goals (6. The Timeline). The coach in me LOVED this series — as it offered a space to reflect on these very powerful questions:

  • What is one word that describes your mindset right now?
  • How important is owning your work?
  • What do you want your work to look like five years from now?
  • What weird ideas do you want to work on?
  • What are you not willing to sacrifice as you zig or zag?
  • What would you need to give up to pursue a new idea?
  • What’s one thing you can do to research your path(s)?
  • What’s one thing you could try before committing to a big change?

If you are considering a pivot or transition in your personal or professional life, I would highly recommend this audio project and the homework assignments. I am grateful for this series as it has helped me, and some of my clients think deeper about their work. If nothing else, it can offer you some dedicated think time to ponder what is important to you now, and where you might go in the future. Additionally, some of these questions might be great for your team or organization to think about. For example, I adapted Assignment #2 for a team to think more about their future life at work: Visioning Exercise: Future Campus

That being said, getting unstuck is not a simple 6-step process. Sometimes you might be in that “murky middle” of transition for a while. This will bring about doubts, fears, and uncertainty. I know this to be true, as I’m still in this middle phase myself figuring out my best fit at work is. You are not alone, my friend. According to Kanter’s Law, everything looks like a failure in the middle. Just when the change is happening, you might doubt your goal, feel uncomfortable, or run into trouble — but don’t despair! This is where your motivation for change will be challenged. Hang in there — change and getting unstuck is a process we need to face head-on. [As my Aaptiv coach says: What challenges you, changes you.”]

“Everyone loves inspiring beginnings and happy endings; it is just the middles that involve hard work.”

– Rosabeth Kanter, Harvard Business School Professor 

In moments of doubt or difficult times during this hard middle, you might want to pause to reflect and ask:

  • Tune in to the environment: What’s changed since the beginning? Is the problem still relevant?
  • Check the vision: What’s inspiring to you now? Is the idea still exciting?
  • Examine progress: How will you measure progress? Can you find early indicators of success? 
  • Search for synergies: What is working for you now? Can this action encourage other steps?

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