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Putting Your Future on Hold

Putting Your Future on Hold

It’s taken you ten minutes to navigate through the automated customer service system. Ten minutes in which you’ve hung up and re-dialed twice. But now you’ve cracked the code and a real person has answered.

“Thank God,” you say. “Look, this is my problem.” And you start to explain.

“Hmmm,” the voice says. “I see. Let me just check something. Putting you on hold.” And before you can speak, they’re gone.

Dah-de-dum. Dum-diddle-diddle-dee. It’s the tinny music. Then the pre-recorded voice.

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“Thank you for your patience. We have installed a new, automated customer service system to serve you better. There are…forty-six…people ahead of you in the queue. Please do not hang up.”

And you don’t, because by the time you dial again, they will probably have fixed the chink in their armor that allowed you to reach a real person, and you’ll be reduced to listening to the menu options that have always changed…and the tinny music.


Yet, as much as we are infuriated by such systems, people put their own futures on hold all the time. How to they do it? By setting conditions that have to be met before they can move on. How do you know? Conditional clauses beginning with “if” or “when.” Listen, they’re everywhere:

If only I could get a better-paying job, I could save enough to go back to school and improve my qualifications.

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When I’ve paid off the loan on my car, I’ll see about looking for a better job.

If I didn’t have so much to worry about, I could spend some time sorting out my life.

If I had a more understanding boss, I’d be able to tell someone how frustrated I am.

Many of these conditional statements are circular. You need better qualification to get a job that pays more…but you decide you can’t think about going back to school until you have a better paying job. You need to get your priorities in order to lower your anxiety…but you can’t spend time sorting your life out, because you’re too worried. Other conditionals put your future in someone else’s hands:

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If my boss would only realize she’s got me all wrong, I could show her how good I really am.

When business is better, I’ll ask about a raise.

When things calm down, I’ll take a vacation. Only I can’t leave it all to the others to handle right now.

You’re on hold, waiting until the condition is met. How long will that be? Who knows? Until then, you can’t do anything. Or so you tell yourself.

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How many of these conditionals are real? Do you truly have to wait on them being met? Be honest with yourself. How many are excuses? Excuses for taking no action because you neither believe in the objective, nor yourself. Only it’s easier to set a condition and claim to be trying — really trying — to do what’s needed. “Only, you see, it’s like this. When…” That’s when you’ll do it. Then. When Hell freezes over and the tax authorities hand out free money in the streets.

If your life is on hold, ask yourself who put it there. Why are you listening to the canned Mozart? Why aren’t you doing something, anything, to turn those fancy dreams of yours into reality? Are you truly stuck…or are you afraid to try?

Dum-da-da-dee-dum. Diddle-diddle-dee-dum. “Thank you for your patience. Your entire future life is on hold right now. There are…two thousand, six hundred and…ninety-six…persons ahead of you in the queue. Waiting time is estimated at…nineteen point…oh-six…years. Thank you again for your patience. Have a great day…” Click. BRRRRRRRRRR.

Adrian Savage is an Englishman and a retired business executive who lives in Tucson, Arizona. You can read his thoughts most days at Slow Leadership, the site for anyone who wants to bring back the taste, zest and satisfaction to leadership, and The Coyote Within.

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Last Updated on January 21, 2020

5 Steps To Move Out Of Stagnancy In Life

5 Steps To Move Out Of Stagnancy In Life

In the journey of growth, there are times when we grow and excel. We are endlessly driven and hyped up, motivated to get our goals.

Then there are times when we stagnate. We feel uninspired and unmotivated. We keep procrastinating on our plans. More often than not, we get out of a rut only to get back into another one.

How do you know if you are stagnating? Here are some tell-tale signs:

  • If you have been experiencing chronic procrastination on your goals
  • If you don’t ever feel like doing anything
  • If you keep turning to sleep, eating, games, mindless activities and entertainment for comfort
  • If you know you should be doing something, but yet you keep avoiding it
  • If you have not achieved anything new or significant now relative to 1 month, 2 months or 3 months ago
  • If you have a deep sense of feeling that you are living under your potential

When we face stagnation in life, it’s a sign of deeper issues. Stagnancy in life, just like procrastination, is a symptom of a problem. It’s easy to beat ourselves over it, but this approach is not going to help.

Here, I will share 5 steps to help you move out of this stagnation. They won’t magically transform your life in 1 night (such changes are never permanent because the foundations are not built), but they will help you get the momentum going and help you get back on track.

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1. Realize You’re Not Alone

Everyone stagnates at some point or another. You are not alone in this and more importantly, it’s normal. In fact, it’s amazing how many of my clients actually face the same predicament, even though all of them come from different walks of life, are of different ages, and have never crossed paths.

Realizing you are not alone in this will make it much easier to deal with this period. By trying to “fight it”, you’re only fighting yourself. Accept this situation, acknowledge it, and tell yourself it’s okay. That way, you can then focus on the constructive steps that will really help you.

2. Find What Inspires You

Stagnation comes because there isn’t anything that excites you enough to take action. If you don’t have a habit of setting goals, and instead just leave yourself to daily mundanes, it’s not surprising you are experiencing stagnation.

What do you want to do if there are no limitations? If you can have whatever you want, what will it be? The answers to these questions will provide the fuel that will drive you forward.

On the other hand, even if you are an experienced goal setter, there are times when the goals you set in the past lose their appeal now. It’s normal and it happens to me too. Sometimes we lose touch with our goals, since we are in a different emotional state compared to when we first set them. Sometimes our priorities change and we no longer want to work on those goals anymore. However, we don’t consciously realize this, and what happens is we procrastinate on our goals until it compounds into a serious problem.

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If that’s the case for you, it’s time to relook into your goals. There’s no point in pursuing goals that no longer inspire you. Trash away your old goals (or just put them aside) and ask yourself what you really want now. Then go for them.

3. Give Yourself a Break

When’s the last time you took a real break for yourself? 3 months? 6 months? 1 year? Never? Perhaps it’s time to take a time-out. Prolonged working can cause someone to become disillusioned as they lose sight of who they are and what they want.

Go take some extended leave from work. A few days at bare minimum; a few weeks or months will be great. Some of my ex-colleagues have quit their jobs and took months out to do some self-reflection. Of course, some of us might not have that luxury, so we can stick to a few weeks of leave.

Go on a trip elsewhere and get away from your work and your life. Use this chance to get a renewed perspective of life. Think about your life purpose, what you want and what you want to create for your life in the future.

These are big questions that require deep thinking over them. It’s not about finding the answers at one go, but about taking the first step to finding the answers.

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4. Shake up Your Routines

Being in the same environment, doing the same things over and over again and meeting the same people can make us stagnant. This is especially if the people you spend the most time with are stagnant themselves.

Change things around. Start with simple things, like taking a different route to work and eating something different for breakfast. Have your lunch with different colleagues, colleagues you never talked much with. Work in a different cubicle if your work has free and easy seating. Do something different than your usual for weekday evenings and weekends. Cultivate different habits, like exercising every day, listening to a new series of podcasts every morning to work, reading a book, etc (here’re 6 Proven Ways To Make New Habits Stick). The different contexts will give you different stimulus, which will trigger off different thoughts and actions in you.

When I’m in a state of stagnancy, I’ll get a sense of what’s making me stagnate. Sometimes it’s the environment I’m in, sometimes it’s the people I’ve been hanging out with, sometimes it’s my lifestyle. Most of the times it’s a combination of all these. Changing them up helps to stir myself out of the stagnant mode.

5. Start with a Small Step

Stagnation also comes from being frozen in fear. Maybe you do want this certain goal, but you aren’t taking action. Are you overwhelmed by the amount of work needed? Are you afraid you will make mistakes? Is the perfectionist in you taking over and paralyzing you?

Let go of the belief that it has to be perfect. Such a belief is a bane, not a boon. It’s precisely from being open to mistakes and errors that you move forward.

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Break down what’s before you into very very small steps, then take those small steps, a little step at a time. I had a client who had been stagnating for a long period because he was afraid of failing. He didn’t want to make another move where he would make a mistake. However, not wanting to make a mistake has led him to do absolutely nothing for 2-3 years.

On the other hand, by doing just something, you would already be making progress, whether it’s a mistake or not. Even if you make a supposed “mistake”,  you get feedback to do things differently in the next step. That’s something you would never have known if you never made a move.

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Featured photo credit: Anubhav Saxena via unsplash.com

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