Think about the zeal you had for the first day of your job or your first day of school. Remember how excited you were? I felt that way for all my firsts, from the time I packed my school supplies the night before my classes began to the days I got up extra early to dress for my new job on Capitol Hill. Often, the luster of starting new things wore off when I got bored with them or they failed to meet my expectations. So even though I’ve spent years launching myself forward on faith and good intentions, I’m now training myself to focus more on what the end-game will be. What I gained from slowing down and becoming more outcome-oriented was a better understanding of one rule: I’ll never get to any desired outcome without braving the middle of it, and staying spiritually and mentally centered in the middle of any endeavor is key.
A few months back I left my job and started a public relations firm with a good friend. Both of those decisions–leaving Capitol Hill and taking on the rigorous work of a startup–sounded great from the moment I first started to consider them. But the instant I felt that eagerness to launch forward, I paused. Then I waited, talked it over with the few people I trust, and prayed a bit before moving forward, and those three practices helped me figure out whether I was being gutsy or acting impulsively.
And I’m impulsive.
That’s my main reason for developing my own mental toolkit to keep me balanced when I take on new things. So now, instead of looking at if I’ll survive something in the beginning, I force myself to think about how I’ll fare in the middle of it. Besides, I’ve already proven to myself and the world that I’m great at honeymoon phases. Coffee meetings, late-night brainstorming sessions; those things stir my blood in the best way. I do well there, and I feel there is value in doing well there. But what about when the idea is off the ground? That’s the test. The middle has always a test for me.
“Imagine you’re standing in a dark room holding a candle. You can see out into a sphere around you. You’re at the center of your observable space. And if I’m in a different location, I’ll have a different observable sphere. This is why we say that everyone is at the center of their own personal observable Universe.” –Frasier Cain.
It’s hard to stay centered in the middle of things because the middles of things are messy. Middles of marriages, undergraduate and graduate careers, negotiations, lives–all messy if not properly navigated. So yeah. It’s great that you’ve embarked upon something big. You’ve popped open your laptop and begun a story. You’ve walked down the church or masjid steps as a new bride. You’ve just received the paperwork for your new business in the mail. Big whoop. Now buttress and batten yourself for all the middles.
Right now I’m eight years into a marriage I didn’t think would survive and happily immersed in a business I wasn’t even sure my friend and I could get off the ground. Also–and this is most important to me–I’m smack dab in the middle of ironing out some issues that I’ve been dealing with for most of my life. I went into talk therapy with a hopeful outlook, but after the pleasantries were over and we got down to the crux of my problems it got hard as hell. I’m asked to relive things I worked hard to suppress. I’m asked to put myself back in the middle of harsh memories to dissect some of my behaviors and see what lies at their core. But I soldier through all that because I know that much like everything else, the core of it is the area to conquer.
If you dive into something and feel yourself sinking, remember that the beginnings of things hold a fond place in our hearts for a reason. Those things are anticipated and rife with good expectations. And endings? Endings are a bittersweet necessity because they make room for new beginnings. But all the rest is us in the middle, and that’s where the real work gets done.