Do you feel stuck? Frustrated? Like maybe you are living a stagnant life?
Feeling Stuck = Feeling Stagnant
Yea, me too, friend, me too. By the time we reach midlife, we have learned (too often, it seems) that taking a risk can be dangerous. And painful. So, we unconsciously choose safety to avoid feeling terrible when disappointment crashes into our world.
Then we wake up decades later and realize that we are living a stagnant life.
The next step is usually an existential crisis: Why am I here? What is the meaning of my life? Have I made an impact on the world around me?
The Answers To Life Are Not In That Bag Of Potato Chips
Which can often lead to anxiety, depression, and too many empty bags of potato chips.
Yup, I get you, and I got you.
Here are my best strategies for pushing myself forward when I seem to be living a stagnant life.
Allow Yourself To Feel Disappointed
Most of us have been trained to ignore or block our emotions since childhood. We are particularly afraid of negative thoughts or heavy emotions. When unwanted feelings bubble up, we react with fear, denying our feelings or making fun of our vulnerability.
I will say it as long as the sun keeps rising: you need to feel ALL OF your feelings to have the whole human experience. So, when you feel like you are living a stagnant life, it’s essential to let yourself feel the disappointment that comes with feeling sluggish. And then give yourself permission to explore your emotions that feel uncomfortable.
Take A Quick Thought Inventory
We are going to need you to connect with your thoughts for this one. What triggered the feeling of living a stagnant life? Was it a work situation? Are you racing on the hamster wheel of despair, working for a boss who has the leadership capacity of a baked potato? I get it; having a human baked potato in charge of my work life would be TERRIBLE!
Other People Can Be Part Of Our Problem
Nope, the problem is not your work life. Okay, is it your personal life? Like your marriage or your romantic partnership? Are you struggling with a behavior cycle in your family? If you are dating, do you keep choosing the same type of boring or destructive person repeatedly?
To Stop Living Stuck, You Must Identify Parts of The Problem
At this point, most people have given up trying to find their stuck spot. It can be very frighting to intentionally look at the part of your life that feels stagnant. Most of us would rather stay disconnected from our feelings than spend time trying to solve why we are emotionally hurting.
Sorry, But We Need To Ask More (and Better) Questions To Stop Living A Stagnant Life
When you work with a coach, a common question you will hear is: How is being stuck benefitting you? And usually, we are offended by the idea that we are choosing to live a stagnant life.
I mean, who would choose boredom and daily disappointment? Spoiler alert: you do.
Your Brain Has One Job, To Keep You Safe
The truth is many of us do that very thing. We choose to live a stagnant life because it is safe. And our brain loves to keep us safe because if we are safe, we can stay alive to eat, sleep, have sex, and binge Netflix.
(Sneaky brain tip: Our brain likes to binge on entertainment because it keeps us from thinking about the reality that we are living a stagnant life.)
Help Your Brain Help You
Hard truth: the greater our emotional despair, the more tempted we are to numb with food, media, or substances. And when we “wake up” just enough to feel sadness, stuck, or maybe even a desire to expand our life, our brain will begin to fuss about how terrible it feels to leave our safe mental cocoon.
If we can understand that part of the reason we are stuck is because our brain resists change, we can try some entry-level actions to encourage change.
Try This, It Might Help
Make an appointment for a routine health checkup. If you are constantly fatigued, you will feel like you are living a stagnant life. Reminder: Fatigue is a warning sign; find out if it is a physical issue.
Choose better self-management. Better sleep, more exercise, less sugar/caffeine, you know the drill. Research shows that simple tweaks in our sleep schedule, nutrition, and screen time can boost mental clarity and give us a renewed sense of purpose.
Acknowledge that you want to change and will take the steps required to create the change. Many of us long for life change but stay in a cycle of frustration due to our low sense of self-worth. We will loudly cheer for a friend when they create change, but our inner bully trash-talks us into giving up.
Go backward to go forward. Spend some time thinking about when you felt stuck before. What do you remember about that circumstance? Is it like your current sense of feeling stagnant?
Now I need you to drill down into your memories; what did you do to jumpstart your life? Write down three things you changed the last time you felt stuck.
The One Big Commitment To Stop Living A Stagnant Life
If there could be one thing that I would recommend to anyone struggling with feeling stuck, I would encourage them to seek clarity. Clarity is that beautiful moment when you allow yourself to think and know the hidden truth inside of you.
Many of our daily thought messages result from other people telling us who we are. Clarity comes when we deconstruct those limiting outdated ideas about ourselves and replace them with present truths about core identity.
Yup, We Are Going To Talk About Your Childhood
As a result, we repress our authentic self to please those around us. For humans, staying in relationship is a highly desirable thing, especially if you are a small child who needs the “big people” to feed and shelter you. Often in adulthood, we unconsciously allow other folks’ opinions and thoughts keep us stuck.
We find ourselves living a stagnant life when we are afraid to rebel against other’s expectations.Midlife Is Magical
When we refuse to make changes out of fear of consequences, we stagnate. Humans are designed to expand and increase our knowledge base, including self-knowledge. Living in stagnation is often the result of ignoring our longings and desires, rejecting the guidance of our emotions.
To Stop Living in Stagnation, You Might Need Support
While choosing to change at any time is possible, it might take some strategy and help. Make sure you work with a life coach, a financial planner, or a medical professional if you need structure in those areas.
Quitting a job, ending a marriage, or starting an aggressive workout plan might be the solution, but you should take the time to invest in a supportive framework for best long-term results.
As a life coach, I believe that each person holds the key to their problems. When you feel like you are living a stagnant life, it is up to you to slow down and explore the unsatisfying parts of your life. I can suggest ideas or bring questions to reflect upon, but the reality is that YOU know yourself best.
Spend time seeking clarity, and allow yourself to be authentic and honest about what needs to be changed.
Once you have determined your goals, be cautious about who you share them with. Those closest to us can be triggered when we share our self-reflections. They might become emotionally threatened by our desire for change. If you are considering a significant life change, arrange for guidance from a qualified professional.
Melane Ann is a writer, blogger, and life coach. In 2020, she turned her experience in midlife divorce and creating a new life for herself into midlifeismagical. With a master's in Marriage and Family Therapy, Melane focuses on helping women over 50 navigate their relationships and commit to healthy aging. She and her new husband share 7 children between them. Melane jokes that she has a black belt in blended families! In addition to her writing, Melane works virtually with her coaching clients from her home office.