Earlier this summer, I enrolled in the Build Your Awesome Life course with bestselling author, podcaster, speaker, and creator Jon Acuff.
I’ve shared his work a lot this year because his book Soundtracks, January’s Book of the Month, was an absolute game-changer for me in so many ways.
When I got the opportunity to dive further into the tools he shares online and, in the book, it seemed like a win-win.
So, despite being uber practical (almost to a fault) and never having invested in myself that way before I signed up for his course.
At the end of our time together each week, Jon held a very generous Q&A session where we could ask anything we wanted.
The questions were different each session and ranged from how to write a book and get our work published, tips for setting ourselves up for success, how to stay motivated during tough times, how to make friends as an adult, weight loss, thoughts on therapy – you name it – nothing was off-limits.
When I finally got the nerve to ask a question, I’ll be honest with you, I was totally annoyed at what felt like a non-answer.
“How do you find clarity in the messy middle? I feel really good leaving the launch pad and know I can be amazing once I get to the Space Station. I struggle through the messy middle so often though I’m not sure if I need a new soundtrack or if my expectations are leading to burnout,” I asked referencing something he had previously shared with our group.
The first part of his answer was semi-helpful.
“Trying to figure out the messy middle is a very common problem. So common in fact, my next book will be all about the messy middle,” he said.
Great, I thought, answers are on the way! I hope I can wait the 1 ½-2 years it takes for the book to get published 😆
Then he said, “As far as finding clarity in the messy middle, I don’t expect there to even be clarity. That’s why it’s called the messy middle. That would be like standing in the middle of a swamp and calling it a swamp. You already know it’s a swamp. What you need to know is how can you realistically expect to get out of it.”
To be perfectly honest, I could not tell you a single thing he said after that because I was thinking, “Are you kidding me right now! THAT is your answer? Do you even know all the ways I had to cobble birthday and Christmas money together to invest in this course? Not to mention the scheduling rollercoaster I had to go through to make sure Piper had supervision while I participated in these Zoom calls and do my homework? And that is the answer you’re giving me?”
I’ve learned over the years though any time I have a very strong reaction to something I immediately know I’m dealing with some sort of fear or unmet expectations.
So, I took a deep breath and tried to assess why I was feeling the way I was feeling.
Ultimately, I realized I was upset because he hadn’t answered the question with simple tips, tricks, techniques, and tools like I thought he would or should.
In fact, his answer was so simple it made me feel stupid for even asking the question.
And while it wasn’t the answer I wanted, it was exactly the answer I needed.
One of my favorite quotes by Rigel J. Davidson is, “Learn to deal with people as they are, not who you want them to be. Life gets a lot easier when you stop expecting apple juice from oranges.”
Simply put, I had to remind myself to learn to deal with my current situation or lack of clarity as it was, not how I wanted or wished it to be.
Further, I knew life would get a lot easier when I stopped expecting clarity in the messy middle because clarity ultimately comes from action anyway.
Armed with a fresh perspective, I picked up a new journal and started asking myself a series of questions to help uncover what I truly wanted.
Not what I thought I *should* want based on hustle culture or the life of an uber-successful blogger with 12 years experience, a staff of 6, and a content management team on Instagram, but what I really wanted out of this season of life.
And it worked!
This technique has been so successful for me, I wanted to share these questions with you too in case you ever feel stuck or like you’ve lost your way while in the messy middle.
Before I share the questions to help you find clarity though, I want to help you set some healthy boundaries.
- It’s best to write the answers to these questions down when you’re not distracted by other people or things. So, give yourself the gift of a quiet space and alone time.
- There is no right or wrong answer, no proper grammar required, and no need to edit or judge yourself during this exercise – simply write down whatever you feel.
- When you’re finished writing, read the words on the page. Then be courageous enough to take the next step whatever that step might be.
Here are the questions I consistently ask myself to help find clarity…
- What do I want more of?
- What do I want less of?
- What’s really wrong?
- What do I need right now?
- Who do I want to be?
- What do I know to be true?
- How can I best support my future self?
- What steps do I need to take now to help support my future growth?
Truth be told, I was never one of those people who could stay focused and journal every day.
I wanted to be that type of person so bad though.
I wanted to be the person who started a fresh journal on January 1st and relished with pride as the last page was written on December 31st.
It wasn’t until I found the 5-Minute Journal that I actually became that person though.
At first, I was skeptical that you could answer the questions in 5 minutes.
In the past, I would spend 15-20 minutes journaling only to feel worse than when I started because every word sounded like I was whining somehow.
That all changed once I got the hang of the 5-Minute Journal and realized a little bit of mindfulness and intention each day goes a long way.
Thanks to the success of the 5-minute journaling practice, I’ve been able to turn a blank journal into a problem-solving tool and use the prompts listed above whenever I feel stuck or need help figuring something out.
I used to spend hours on the phone polling family and friends about the direction I should head next.
Since I’ve started journaling though, I’m learning to trust my intuition and judgment more and more each day and it feels amazing.
I truly look forward to starting and ending the day on our front porch, drink, and journals in hand, while Piper plays in the grass hunting lizards and watching the birds glide to the marsh to fish.
It’s become one of my favorite daily rituals.
I share these prompts with you because I know women across the country have played a significant role in The Great Resignation.
They’re relocating closer to family, reassessing old ways of doing things, rediscovering dreams they once held dear, and reacclimating to life post-pandemic.
It has not been easy.
But just because it’s not easy, doesn’t mean it’s not worth doing.
It simply means you must get clear on what you truly want in this current season of life and find a way to move forward.