Are You in the Muddy Water Phase?

“Every great change is preceded by chaos."

Deepak Chopra


Have you ever noticed that when you first go after something you want, or make the effort to change something you’ve wanted to change for a while, initially it can feel exciting and motivating?

You see some initial success… maybe even a lot of success.

You get some new clients.     

You write the outline for your book.

You take the first steps toward the really big goal you want.  

You clean up your email, you organize your desk, and you file all of your papers... you feel organized, productive, and on top of your day.

Then, wham. From out of nowhere, things feel chaotic. You slide back to your old way of doing things. Or you stop completely. 

If that’s where you’re at, you’re in what I call the Muddy Waters Phase.

One thing I’ve noticed in the years I’ve been coaching is that whenever a client makes a decision and a commitment to make significant changes in her life, initially things can seem to get worse before they get better. 

It’s just like what happens at the end of your driveway after there’s a long rain. The runoff of water and dirt collects in a puddle at the base of the driveway. The water in the still puddle looks fairly clear and calm. However, if you take a garden hose and spray away the puddle, all the mud and soil that collected at the bottom gets stirred up and things start looking pretty messy – until the water from the hose has had a chance to wash all the muck away. 

Big change can be like this. 

When you get started on tackling something you want to change, the mud and dirt start to show. Things feel messy for a while. 

As unpleasant as this may sound, going through the “muddy waters” phase is actually a very good thing. It means you’re starting to get to the heart of the matter. You’re on the right track. You’re getting your hands dirty. You’re doing the work. In fact, this is the only way to do the work. 

However, this is also the phase where most people are likely to quit. 

The Muddy Waters Phase is not the time to quit. It’s the time to lean in to the messiness. You’re so close to a breakthrough, if you just keep going. 

Look right at the chaos. 

Take the steps that scare you. 

Ignore the distractions.

Get support to help make the process easier. 

Eventually, the water will wash clean again.