Feeling trapped? Some tips on moving through 2020’s messy middle

Any change meets with some resistance. We are, after all, creatures of habit. Now heading toward the end of 2020’s calendar, we still find ourselves in the “messy middle” of a pandemic and significant social unrest.

And it doesn’t feel good. Seeking the familiar and knowing what we can count on are difficult in this environment. And because of this, even though on a surface level, we are operating well, the stress of the unknown over time is still taking a toll on us.

In fact, many of us, as valiant as we feel, are suffering from a chronic loss of engagement, energy, or direction. How do you move through this messy middle when there are no clear answers in sight?

Strengthen your sense of direction

Decide what’s important to you over the next few months and plot your course. Are you thinking about retirement or wanting a healthier lifestyle? Wanting to make more room for what is most meaningful, now?

Whether you are seeking to write a book or to recreate the way you approach life, you must first clarify what that is so that you know where you are headed. You can choose a 3-, 6-, or 12-month period. Shorter sprints like this allow you to evaluate how you are doing along the way to course-correct without losing sight of the goal. Ask yourself questions such as, “What’s important to me, now?” “What would really bring a sense of meaning, fun, _____ (fill in the blank) to me at this time?”

Make room for what’s important

We have accumulated activities and commitments over this COVID year sometimes without realizing it. And over time, the sense of breathing room that presented itself in the first part of the year through restrictions has been replaced by busyness, once again. How did we do this to ourselves?

An easy way to triage this is to first list those activities and commitments that take up your time, now. Begin to triage by asking what’s important to the direction you have set and earmark those items. Be tough with yourself when it comes to deciding what should be eliminated or placed on the back burner. And remember, as you are just in the planning stages, it won’t hurt you to really trim down these items on paper so that your commitment load feels doable.

Meet your resistance

It’s hard to let go. Again, we are creatures of habit. Sometimes releasing those activities and commitments are tied up with concerns that we will let others down[PT1] . Or we may worry about what we may look like to others if we release these commitments. You alone know and will need to decide how to manage this and choose, accordingly.

If your resistance is centered around what others may think of you, be honest with them and share that you have overcommitted and find it’s time to pare down. Most everyone has been in this situation and should understand.

Celebrate small wins along the way

As you set out in the direction you have determined, remember to recognize your progress and celebrate. This should include the fact that you are caring for yourself and your priorities, moving closer toward something that is important to you, and any other marker that is tied to nearing success. When regrouping to meet today’s parameters and restrictions, we needn’t lose sight of what is most important to us.

Patti works with executives, business owners, and their companies, to elevate and support leadership at all levels. Reach her via email at Patti@PattiCotton.com.



  1. ^ Patti@PattiCotton.com (www.pe.com)

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