Your Mess is Your Message (and How to Get Un-Lost)
I recently got an email from someone who feels “lost.”
After working her way up the fashion industry for a decade, in a role she thought would be her “dream job,” she ultimately found herself unhappy and miserable.
She made the brave decision to leave her job, and now… she’s clueless as to what lies ahead. She’s worried that she’ll never create a life that brings her joy.
Have I been there? Oh my, yes. Many times.
I spent several years striving for the finish line rather than savoring each moment.
I was always trying to get somewhere because where I was in that moment wasn’t enough.
When I felt unhappy and stuck, I was a pro at designing my life around micro doses of validation that gave me just enough affirmation to keep going.
I wanted clarity and purpose so badly.
I would obsess about it, journal about it, suffer in silence, avoid my uncomfortable emotions, try to force clarity, drink all the wine, and stress like hell when I couldn’t figure it out.
Then one day I realized that there was nothing to “figure out.” Nothing to “reach for.” Nothing to “uncover.” Nothing even to change.
Instead, my mess was my message. The challenge was learning how to embrace uncertainty and trust where I was.
Here’s what I mean:
1. GET COMFORTABLE BEING UNCOMFORTABLE.
Life is not a straightforward path. It’s filled with ebbs, flows, twists, turns, and unexpected detours.
My friend Dhru always says, “confusion is not knowing, but needing to know. The “needing” changes everything. The needing is where the anxiety and stress comes from.”
When we let go of the needing and learn to embrace our discomfort, we begin to trust the detours.
We begin to notice beauty in unexpected places.
We begin to see the hardships and difficulties as opportunities to find lessons and gifts.
And sometimes, we find what we were looking for, though it usually doesn’t come in the form we expect.
2. THE WAY OUT IS THROUGH.
Diving into your struggle IS the pathway to clarity.
So, if you’re feeling lost or confused, and you’re not sure what’s next, make your struggle your focus. Your purpose. Your project for right here and right now.
Own the discomfort, the uncertainty, and the messiness. Let it bother you, frustrate you, inspire you, and propel you forward.
How I stumbled on the “Choose Wonder Over Worry” message, for example, is through my own pain and discomfort.
My life took a turn when I stopped being a victim to the struggle, and started wondering, “How can I channel this tension into something useful?”
Which leads me to:
3. TURN YOUR MESS INTO YOUR MESSAGE.
“How can I channel this energy into creating something useful?”
Write about it. Paint your feelings. Start a series of poems.
Notice one thing every day that speaks to your problem. Turn those clues into a mosaic of possibility.
Start a dinner series around the topic. Create a “brave space” to talk about shared struggle. Seek out groups already talking about it.
Research how big the market size is for the problem. Design a product to solve for it.
Whatever you do, choose something that feels interesting and curious to you.
This now becomes: your path forward.
Let it be fun!
p.s. I just joined the one and only Branden Harvey on his podcast where we talked about worry, wonder, breakdowns, and breakthroughs. I’d love to hear what you think!