The Best Way to Fight Stagnation

Stagnation is a feeling you absolutely have to fight. Learn how to do it in this article.
The Best Way to Fight Stagnation
Sergio De Dios González

Reviewed and approved by the psychologist Sergio De Dios González.

Last update: 19 October, 2022

Feeling stagnated is never fun. Stop for a second and imagine you’re at a fork in the road with three potential paths. Although you have a good idea of which is the best one, you do nothing. You spend days, weeks, months, or years like that. You haven’t been able to fight the stagnation that’s holding you back.

Many people have experienced this at some point, some people more than once. It’s a feeling that tends to pop up when you have no goals. All your days are the same gray color, which can lead to intense anxiety. You block yourself and stay rooted to the spot because you don’t know what to do.

Feeling like You’re Swimming through the Muck

Psychologist Judith Duque Camargo wrote an article called “Carl Rogers, Theoretical-Practical Reflections”. In it, she talks about some of her patients who feel stagnated. One of them said that he used to be sure of things, but that now he moves around like a robot, and that his world shrunk to the size of the space around him.

Another patient said: “I’ve given everything to my husband and children. I didn’t want to have children, but I said yes. Now I feel alone, that my life has no meaning, that I’m old and have no opportunities…

A woman sitting on a couch in her home, thinking about how to fight stagnation.

It’s almost like they’re swimming in a pool filled with mud. No matter how hard they try, they just can’t find the way out. That’s what happens when you feel stagnated. You can’t see beyond yourself, as if you’ve lost all hope. That often results from a set of beliefs that weigh you down or fears that keep you from taking the next step.

When your work doesn’t fulfill you or you aren’t doing something you want (such as taking a trip, learning a new language, or becoming independent), your fear and insecurities could make you think “This is just how it is”. But the monotony and boredom that come with not enjoying your daily life can take a high toll.

Some Ways to Fight Stagnation

If you think you’re stagnated and have been for a while (six months is a good reference point), you should try to seek professional help.

Here are some ways to deal with it if it only manifests occasionally:

  • Take a deep breath. You may not have given yourself the time to think about what you truly want. If you don’t do that, it won’t be easy to make a decision about anything. This is how you get trapped in self-doubt and feel like you’re wearing away.
  • Remember what drove you. You made specific decisions for specific decisions. Routine, lack of motivation, and the bad habits you picked up along the way have made you forget that. Thus, try to remember what drove you. If you’re no longer feeling fulfilled by what you do or have made a change, maybe it’s time to make another.
  • Find your inspiration. Get in touch with people who inspire you, read books, watch documentaries, and get involved in new activities. Inspiration is something you have to go out and find. It’s also one of the best ways to fight stagnation.

When inspiration doesn’t come to me, I go halfway to meet it.”

-Sigmund Freud-

A man sitting in the middle of a wooden plank walkway over a field of bushes, with a lightbulb hanging over his head.

A Visualization Technique

There’s a specific visualization technique some therapists use with patients to help them fight stagnation. Doing it can help you become more aware of where you want to go and figure out what steps to take.

Start by relaxing, taking a deep breath, and closing your eyes. Then, visualize yourself standing in front of a door you’re about to open. Behind the door, you’ll find your future “you”. You can visualize yourself at 60, 70, or 80 years old. It’s up to you.

If you’ve visualized yourself at 70 and you’re currently 25, fill the gaps between those years. Start by visualizing yourself at 30 and jump forward by tens, until you hit 70.

At each stage (30, 40, 50, etc.), you need to ask yourself what you’re doing. Where do you live? Where do you work? Do you have kids? Are you traveling? You should also try to tell whether or not you have a partner, who you’re friends with, and how your relationship is with your family. At the end of the visualization technique, you’ll come to embrace your “70-year-old self”.

This technique will give you an idea of what you want. For example, if you see yourself traveling places or working in a business sector you have no experience in, you can start to make some decisions to help you reach those goals. For example, you can sign up for business workshops or start saving money for your next trip.

A happy woman standing in a field at sunrise, with her arms spread wide towards the horizon.

Taking Action to Fight Stagnation

Although there are many ways to fight stagnation, the single most important one is to take action. Don’t get stuck in your mind, lost in a sea of uncertainty, with no idea where the shore is. Start to take some steps and move towards your goals.

Stagnation can make you miss out on opportunities. Facing your fears and starting to make small changes with the help of a professional therapist will make you feel like you’re moving forward and pulling yourself out of that paralyzing pit of self-doubt.

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.