Today, I discuss stagnation: what it is why, why it’s terrible and how you can avoid it.

Table of Contents

  • What Is Stagnation
  • Why Should You Want To Avoid Stagnation?
  • How To Avoid Stagnation
    • 1) Always remember your goals
    • 2) Make sure your desires are realistic
    • 3) Voluntarily remove comfort from your life
  • Defeat Stagnation Through The Relentless Pursuit Of Virtue
  • Actionables

What Is Stagnation

“Every man finds his limitations, Mr. Holmes, but at least it cures us of the weakness of self-satisfaction.” – Arthur Conan Doyle

Stagnation is a “lack of activity, growth, or development.”

You stagnate when you do not experience personal, physical, or intellectual growth.

For example, if you’ve mastered a particular set of skills but fail to learn new ones, you stagnate. You still keep the mastery you have. Yet, you aren’t learning new things or innovating your current knowledge.

Stagnation does not mean falling back into bad habits or reversing the progress you have made. It means failing to push towards new horizons.

Why Should You Want To Avoid Stagnation?

stagnation prevents progress

A stale life is not progressing toward greatness.

Humans always crave meaningful endeavors. When you refuse to challenge yourself, depression and nihilism set in. The most comfortable man is always miserable; remember, comfort is simply stagnation.

We cannot accomplish impressive feats while stagnant. An idle man refuses to be innovative or explore his potential. Because he is inactive, life’s dynamic challenges will overcome and destroy him. You must learn new things or overcome past mistakes to achieve remarkable deeds.

For example, we all have flaws. A man who refuses to settle will work on overcoming or mitigating his weaknesses. Let’s say he wants to stop wasting his money. So, the man sets up a budget, reduces his spending, and better invests his money. Now, he has money he can spend on helping others or mitigating the effects of inflation.

How To Avoid Stagnation

Unlike other personal and social issues, inertia is not caused by rampant collectivism. Inaction is created by comfort and success. Stagnation should be overcome for the betterment of the individual and his community.

You avoid stagnation in three ways:

  1. Always remember your goals
  2. Make sure your desires are realistic
  3. Voluntarily remove comfort from your life

1) Always remember your goals

ideal self

You should always focus on achieving your ideal self.

Clear goals direct your actions, thoughts, and emotions to a virtuous end. Where do you want to be? What should you be doing at the moment? Look at your goals, and you will find your answer.

You stagnate when you don’t know what your next move is. Having straightforward life, monthly, weekly, and daily goals will prevent your inaction. But more importantly, understanding why these goals matter keeps you focused.

Develop aims that challenge you. Goals that can be checked off and discarded will not prevent your laziness. Simply saying you want to do X is nowhere near as powerful as saying you need to be Y.

A goal that can be achieved will satisfy you for the moment. A purpose that requires constant improvement will make you a better individual for a lifetime.

2) Make sure your desires are realistic

If your desires are too broad or too big, you will experience a sense of hopelessness. This hopelessness creates anxiety that will cause stagnation.

Therefore, once you pick goals, focus on ensuring everything is doable. Additionally, align your desires with your current needs and responsibilities. For example, I want to be in better shape, but I have several children and higher priorities. I can’t go to the gym for two hours a day. I have to stick to 30-minute home workouts and adjust my expectations accordingly.

So, never set your heights too high. Be realistic and challenge yourself. Additionally, reward your good behavior and reflect on your past deeds. Motivation to accomplish your goals will prevent stagnation.

3) Voluntarily remove comfort from your life

“Inaction is followed by stagnation. Stagnation is followed by pestilence and pestilence is followed by death.” – Frederick Douglass

So much laziness comes from comfort. When you are comfortable, you’ll desire a numbed existence where you don’t have to try. If you don’t have to try, you become comfortable, and the cycle continues. Thus, the best solution is to reduce comfort in your life so that you can keep the pressure on yourself.

The voluntary removal of comfort allows you to remember how everything you have is a miracle. Everything around us results from thousands of years of death, pain, and sorrow. Nothing we have was won easily; we will refuse to remain stagnant when we remember this. Why? Because stagnation is disrespectful to the people who suffered before us.

Remove comfort when you can, and you will ensure your mind remains sharp and capable.

Defeat Stagnation Through The Relentless Pursuit Of Virtue

women sprinting | avoid stagnation

You are capable of great things. Please do not forget this.

Stagnation is a common acceptance in our modern world. We are taught to tolerate our mediocrity and flaws. We are never encouraged to keep pushing and go beyond the comforts and ease we have known all our lives.

Every day must be full of new challenges and meaningful rewards. If you want to be successful and happy, you must avoid inaction. The world will not help you in preventing stagnation. You must be self-motivated to embrace your best self.

So get up and keep going. Believe in yourself, so you may achieve the impossible with reckless abandon.


  1. Do you feel like you’re stagnating? In what way?
  2. Who is someone you know who refuses to pursue anything meaningful? What are their stagnant lives like? Do you want to be around them? Do they seem fulfilled?
  3. What’s one bad habit you wish you could change? How would your life improve if you changed this bad habit?

Please remember that it’s important to do the actionables. You’re not on this earth to simply read but to do. To become an individual, you must act more than you consume.

*Image credit to Unsplash.