It has already been a couple of years since the inception of Enjoy the Process, and since its beginning, I’ve experienced so much in the short amount of time—new avenues of work and passions, new relationships, and new depths of faith.
The journey has been amazing and there is not a moment that I regret. There were many gems hidden along the path and of course many hardships as well, but it is the sum of both these polar experiences that does not negate one another, but rather together is the greater product of the entire journey.
And while traversing this path, most of the time the process has been a slow and steady growth, pursuing forward. Sometimes it was hectic and fast paced and you can only reflect after the fact. However, the common theme regardless of pace, is that there is an intentionality in moving forward, pursuing on, even in the times of “being still,” it is an active process of waiting and reflecting, rather than becoming stagnant.
The World Health Organization warns that stagnant or slow-flowing waters are prime breeding grounds for many insects, mainly mosquitos, which can transmit different diseases like dengue and malaria. It is evident in nature, that the most critical life-giving element of water, when stagnant can become a breeding ground for horrible life-sucking diseases. As nature is one of the best teachers, I definitely saw the parallels of the side effect of stagnant water and the stagnant life.
A stagnant life is hard to diagnosis, for it can seem like a forward-moving one. A stagnant life births when we lose the drive of living intentionally, when the life-giving flow ceases to exist. It can disguise itself as slow-flowing, which is subtly different than the active periods of waiting in life. Factors such as comforts, distractions, or illusions can cause this stagnancy.
Comfort is commonly sought out by individuals, coming second after physiological needs in Maslow’s hierarchy. While there is some value of tending to our extrinsic needs, there is more than ample evidence that intrinsic values provide more happiness to most individuals. It is easy for many of us to get caught up with tending to our comforts, despite having so much of it already. There is a delusion that we do not have enough and eventually, it seems as if we are moving forward adding to our comforts, but rather it simply becomes a trap to stagnancy.
Distractions are ubiquitous, especially with the onslaught of social media, on-demand entertainment, and more and more instant gratifications. Some of these distractions are harmless in and of themselves, sometimes providing good benefits, however the gluttonous indulgence of any and all forms of distractions is what prevents many from living the most fulfilling lives. Sadly, it takes something drastic to wake us up from the drowning effects of distractions and often times we lose so much of our most precious commodity, time.
An individual may seem like he or she is living a productive life, waking up in time for work, completing projects and meeting deadlines, going out afterwards to meet with friends to grab a drink, and occasionally traveling somewhere they haven’t been. It’s the “normal” routine that a good number of hard-working, high-achieving individuals pursue, and for many it ultimately provides the deepest meaning to life. Unfortunately, as studies and personal stories can attest to, it is evident that this attitude and approach to work is not fulfilling many millennials, and it is solely an illusion to our identity and our lives.
The stagnant life may seem okay on the surface, but in reality it is slowly breeding tiny “insects”, which can transmit fatal diseases to multiple areas of our lives such as our work, our bodies, and most importantly, our relationships.
Individuals are caught up in the illusion of finding meaning in their careers or making money and will jump on the hamster wheel running ferociously but getting no where. It is easy to become mindless drones, working endlessly with the hopes of getting somewhere, but without an intentional approach to the work that we do, that’s when our work and careers quickly become jobs that we hate, and ever so quickly do we turn to look for another ladder to climb or hamster wheel to run on.
Physical stagnancy has become an epidemic, literally. Western nations have now put a medical term to this—obesity. While there are few individuals who have genetic mutations causing obesity and require medical treatment, the vast majority have simply become physically stagnant. Again, there is a delusion that the movement in our everyday lives is enough to offset the detrimental effects of being sedentary and eating an overabundance of unhealthy, processed foods; however, our society is now seeing the consequences of this stagnancy. And the simple truth is that it does not take running marathons or $100+ gym memberships, but rather being consistent in some type of physical activity and being mindful of what we feed our bodies.
The stagnant life is most detrimental to our relationships. It is evident in families, friendships, marriages, and relationship with God. At least in my personal experience and network of acquaintances, there are so many broken families. Whether clearly evident through divorces and single parent homes, to more inconspicuous hurts harbored though silent dinners and cold bedrooms, there is no shortage of broken and hurt families. And as young individuals turn their attention and time to friends, the usual meet ups and repetitive hangouts can quickly stagnate to nothing more than spending time to get our minds off of different stresses. Stagnate marriages are most scary as on the exterior they look as if the relationship is progressing, as the busyness of simply doing life together replaces the intentionality of being more intimate with one another, loving more deeply and richly. The stagnate relationship may go on for years until it is too late to realize that a hidden disease has been transmitted to the core, resulting in hardness of hearts, insecurity, lack of fulfillment, leading to the ultimate death of the once vibrant and glowing relationship that started in a ceremonious celebration. The same goes for our relationship with God or our faith. It is easy to get caught up in religious activities, thinking that by participating or placing ourselves in religious environments will spur our love for a living God. Similar to a marriage, simply living together in the same house is not the same as facing one another, gazing into each other’s eyes, appreciating everything about the beloved, the good, the bad, and the mystery.
Like any good treatment, the preventative approach is best. It’s important to quickly identify what causes the stagnancy in our lives, such as comforts, distractions, and/or illusions. Taking intentional approaches to battle the causes, such as not getting lazy in comforts, limiting distractions, and actively being introspective, questioning the why of life in order to not get caught in an illusion, will help prevent stagnancies to occur in the first place.
Perhaps the subtle effects of stagnancy has already crept into different areas of life—the very reason why I am writing this piece. It is not enough to simply recognize and acknowledge that these harms exist, but rather, it is critical to stir up and unplug the clogs that slowly built up over time leading to the stagnancy. It is important to take a step off of the hamster wheel and reflect on where it is I am headed; to get off of my lazy ass and do something, and demonstrate some self-control on how much I gorge myself; and lastly, to be the first one to make the change in the relationship, no matter how difficult or awkward it may be, knowing that if nothing changes, the stagnancy will lead to a life-ending disease.
Although all these approaches are easier said than done, knowing that the rewards are endless can give some hope and power to pushing on—healthier bodies, a more positive self-image, more energy to tackle work and relationships, these healthier relationships providing more fulfilling and happy lives, and understanding that identity is not defined by the work that we do. Knowing that an active life, flowing like a stream of living water is the most vibrant and life-giving, most certainly makes it worth pursuing.
As I make these subtle changes, I’m excited to see how my journey continues to unfold. I’m excited to keep enjoying the process and continue to share and document these experiences, hopefully without ever growing stagnate in the process.