“There are two kinds of discomfort: the discomfort of stagnation and the discomfort of growth.” – Brooke Castillo
Going through the motions, unsettled, restricted, lonely, confused, irritable, ill-at-ease, unfulfilled, searching, suffocating, longing, depressed, silently-suffering…
Do you know this bundle of feelings? At first glance this list resembles the criteria for anxiety or depression. This is also what it can feel like to be in the discomfort of stagnation.
stagnation [stag-ney-shuh n] noun
the state or condition of stagnating, or having stopped, as by ceasing to run or flow
a foulness or staleness, as one emanating from a standing pool of water
a failure to develop, progress, or advance
Stagnation with regard to personal well being happens when your ability to grow or thrive in a situation, circumstance, stage, or environment slows down and you experience internal discomfort or suffering. The energy or fire that keeps you mentally, physically, or emotionally lit, becomes dim or extinguished. The slower that internal flow of energy becomes, the more you experience the symptoms of stagnation.
I picture my son’s fish tank when the water becomes stagnate. The water was clean and clear at one time. However, multiple factors have contributed to the water changing – it is no longer the way it once was. The water is still water, but it is different now. It’s new state is dank and green – things have changed and it needs refreshed. It has maxed out on it’s available resources and it needs improved conditions that will enable it to regain equilibrium and balance. Something needs to be added or taken away in order for it to be clear again and in order for the fish to thrive.
It’s that way with people, too.
The Call for a New Equilibrium
You are constantly changing and evolving into a new, more colorful and more detailed version of yourself. You’re always toggling between stages of mastery and growth. Once you’ve mastered something or gleaned all you can from it at the time, then it is time for a change. This is the natural and normal process of personal growth and development as a human being. Who you are today is not who you will be tomorrow. Something will evolve within you between now and then.
Think of equilibrium as your own perfect rhythm. When your internal beat slows down too much and starts to stagnate, you fall out of equilibrium or rhythm.
There are many internal and external factors that can bring about feelings of stagnation:
- Mastery – You master something and you are ready for something new. How many times can you watch the same movie, reread the same book, or eat the same thing for lunch?
- Lack of fulfillment – What once peaked your interest has lost it’s luster; you no longer feel fulfilled in the same way you did when you began. You have grown and are ready for something new – i.e. a new goal, challenge, or purpose.
- Life Span Development – We all go through a similar series of stages in our lifetimes, from birth through older age. High school ends and you become an adult; you contribute skills and energy to your career and then discover new passions and purpose in retirement. If you stay too long in high school, or in your career, you become stagnate and need to move forward to regain balance with your new stage of life.
- Conscious growth – You discover something new about yourself that you weren’t consciously aware of until now. If you don’t take action to accommodate the new awareness as needed, but rather continue with the status quo, you may begin to experience stagnation over time.
- Unconscious growth – Something has changed on the inside but you aren’t consciously aware of what is different. You may start to observe subtle shifts in how you feel about once meaningful experiences. You may start to feel like your world is too small in some way which would be a sign of stagnation and the need for balance.
- Fear – You are afraid of the unknown and plagued with the “what-ifs”. You are unsure how the changes you desire and need will fit into your current environment or circumstances, or how others will see you, so you play it safe and keep it hidden.
- Environmental factors – You’ve stayed somewhere too long or something in your environment outside of your control has changed (i.e. most of your friends went away to college but you chose to attend locally; the altered environment triggers feelings of stagnation in you).
- Relationships – You believe or perceive that the shifts that you want and need for personal equilibrium are misunderstood by others so you choose to stay put and to not rock the boat.
- Life events – Life is busy and due to other priorities you put your need on the back burner hoping the right time will come…
- Lack of knowledge or resources – You don’t have the information or resources you need to make the changes you desire; you feel stuck and can’t see the forest for the trees.
- Limiting beliefs – You are holding false beliefs that keep you from taking action and moving forward. Old beliefs die hard. Sometimes you hold on tightly to old, unhealthy beliefs simply because they are so familiar. Familiarity makes us feel comfortable, even when we are suffering. Beware and be aware of your limiting beliefs.
Stagnation is not a curse, it’s actually a blessing. See it for what it is – a signal that you are ready to shift, change, or expand, in order to regain equilibrium and optimal flow in your life. Stagnation isn’t a problem – it’s an opportunity for growth into a more updated version of you.
Change is certain and the ebb and flow of your internal state will be in motion throughout your life. The more you lean into and investigate natural life signals like stagnation, the faster and more easily you will regain your equilibrium and return to flow. And, the happier you will become as you evolve into the person you were designed to be. Remember that it is a lifelong process.
Where in your life have you been standing still for too long? What do you want to do, think, say, believe, or allow yourself to enjoy, that will dislodge the branch that is damming you up from the inside out? What do you need to get there? How can you get it? Keep at it until you find your flow.