parking lot 2Sometimes we feel as though life has put us in the parking lot. We want to move forward but are somehow immobilized. We know what we want, where we want to go and have some idea of how to get there but somehow things do not seem to be working out for us.

This is what I call being in life’s parking lot. At this point, the affected individual is like a car that is in good condition, fueled up and ready to go but is just parked.

Being in life’s parking lot happens to every one once in a while. The reasons for finding ourselves in the parking lot vary and could be a result of personal decisions or circumstances beyond our control.

We may also find that we are parked in one area of our lives, while making progress in other areas. For example, one could be doing well at home and socially while the career is at its lowest ebb, or one might excel at school and struggle at home.

It is important for us to realize that being in life’s parking lot is perfectly normal and happens even to the best of people. It is also important to use that time wisely, then get up and move on with our lives. Do not waste time witch-hunting and pointing fingers at who you think is to blame for your circumstances. Rather than sit around and mope, use that as time out to rethink about life, wait for the next opportunity, mull the next move or step back and strategize.

Here are some ideas of what to do while parked:

1. Think!

Reflect on the situation and how you got there in the first place, then look at ways to get out of the situation. For example, if you have made a wrong career choice, reflect on where you want to be and how best to get there. You may need to acquire new skills, learn what opportunities are available within your current set up and how best you can benefit from them. Think of what sacrifices you may have to make to get back on track, or get counselling from someone who is a good listener and clued up on human resources so you can make a wise decision.

Whatever happens,  remember that you can think your way out of the situation. However, do not rush into quick fix decisions otherwise you may find yourself in a similar or worse situation. Use your time in life’s parking lot to “THINK!”

2. Learn!

Every experience in life carries lessons. Reflect on what lessons you can learn from the experience and how best you can capitalize on that knowledge so you do not fall into the same trap again.

You may be the sort of person who is prone to making rash decisions without thinking through them and this may be an opportunity to learn patience. Or perhaps people could be overlooking you because you are not assertive, hence this could be your chance to learn to speak up. It could also be an opportunity to learn new skills that will take you to the next level in life. Whatever the situation, don’t waste it. Draw some lessons from it and you will emerge from the parking lot a better person.

3. Grow!

Growth is the natural order in life. If you are not growing then you must be shrinking. While in life’s parking lot, see how you can use that as an opportunity for growth.

I remember once working at a place where I was grossly under-utilized.  No matter how hard I tried to apply myself, somehow, I got no satisfaction. The job was very well-paying but extremely  boring. Also, this was at a time when our country’s economy was struggling so my options were limited. After a few interviews I realized that no organization was going to pay me as well as my employers were. I had to sit it out while looking for a better opportunity but I could not afford to be idle. I used that opportunity to enroll and study for my Masters’ degree.

After completing my studies I told the Human Resources manager about my newly acquired qualification and his response was:

“Congratulations! Although you know your current post does not require a Masters’ degree, the best we can do is just put a copy in your personnel file but as long as you are here, you won’t need it.”

That did not deter me though. A few years later, I found new job that paid me well, made full use of my skills and required my additional qualification. Needless to say, although I was initially bored, being in life’s parking lot gave me a chance to advance myself and prepared me for my next step and dream job.

4. Be patient

No matter how brief our time in the parking lot is, it can feel like forever. Be wary of making rash decisions just to get out of the parking lot. Be patient. Don’t just settle for any solution. Think about and wait for what is best for you. Going back to my previous example, although being parked gave me a chance to study, it took me two years to find my dream job.

5. Enjoy life!

When things are not working out in one area, it can easily seep into and spoil other aspects of our lives. Don’t let this happen. Find a hobby and do something that gives you pleasure. No need to stop living just because life has put you in the parking lot. Remember, whether it is your marriage or career or business that is suffering – life still goes on. A hobby will help you to cope with the stress of what is not working out in other areas of your life. Blog, write poetry, learn a craft, design clothes. Do something!

When a friend of mine found herself in a boring job, she decided to revive her passion in fashion.  She would work during the day and design clothes at night. Her passion soon became a source of income and opened the door to a new and exciting career!

Finally charge!

Whatever happens, do not remain in the parking lot. Learn what you have to and get out. Get back on your feet and charge forth. Armed with lessons learnt from time spent in the parking lot, I am sure you will be a better person who is better positioned to tackle life’s challenges and achieve your goals.