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Limbo land is a place where you feel stuck – in life or at work – in a holding pattern of waiting, not knowing, and uncertainty. Your mind and body seem not to cooperate. You may even get yourself a free ticket to the anxiety and self-pity speed train. How can you make the most of this frozen moment of wellness, life, or career limbo?  

In this post, we explore how to find peace in limbo land, and make moves that lead to unexpected opportunities, ideas, and solutions. Read on to get your top tips on how to tackle a work or life standby limbo.

What is Limbo? 

The definition of Limbo is an intermediate state or condition. The word limbo comes from the Latin word “limbus” and refers to uncertainty or an uncertain period of awaiting a decision or resolution.

Limbo dare game
Limbo dare

Maybe you are deciding whether to stay or go from a relationship, job or place? Or are you waiting for a final decision on something that has been already been actioned? Or perhaps you know what to do but can’t bring yourself to actually do it? 

The Limbo Land Layover

Have you ever been on an unplanned layover? You don’t get to your destination because you’re held up. You can be the reason or external forces place you on standby. The limbo mindset sees you stumble as planned actions become frozen or feel as if they are.

When you set off on a journey you can do it in a planned way with a precise itinerary. You know the destination, have your tickets and set off. When you are in the passenger seat you trust your travel agent, the pilot, the captain or the driver. The flow depends on external forces. If your mode of transport then gets canceled or delayed the logistics get thrown up into the air. The unwanted layover in limbo land creates a reaction.

Limbo land sign post

If your journey is more of a back-packing adventure you may not know where you will end up – or even if you should follow the next track. You are in the driver’s seat and can’t really blame ‘them, they and the others’ if things go pearshaped. Your trip to limbo land can be because of indecision or fear. Or you may also feel very happy to sit on a beach for a while?

Limbo land can be a place where non-fulfillment, sadness, frustration, isolation or self-pity lingers. It can also be a stage when you can amass strength, energy and resolve to move to what comes next. Therein lies the issue: the Nextness. 

The Nextness Dilemma

Because the destination seems far away you start imagining things rather than enjoying a rare moment of stillness; you forget to live as you hold on that space between then or now and tomorrow. The art of appreciating the ’now’ or the moment is tested. You can, however, find space here to mindfully recharge. You can actually turn the limbo land layover into an appreciation of time well spent. 

Limbo - Dog all packed and ready to go
All packed and ready to go?

When you go somewhere, you may not have booked the tickets yourself. External forces are in play. Being in this space makes you fume inside, and the travel agent becomes a big part of why you hate this cruise. Being on the ocean isn’t your thing, you say to yourself, and as you realize this the actual travel sickness become more manageable, and you can make sense of the ship’s movements. The way into appreciating the journey is similar to how you can tackle a career or life limbo holding pattern. 

Career Limbo 

Career: Stuck In a Rut…

Move this metaphor to that job you feel stuck in. You are in career limbo. Perhaps you have done this particular profession for some years now, and everyday tasks feel as challenging as a two-day-old smoothie? Somehow you know what you aspire to do, but cannot find the energy – or even know how to get there. You start telling yourself that you wouldn’t stand a chance to get it anyway, so you stop looking at vacancies. The job satisfaction level is at an all-low, but the job pays the bills – so you continue. 

The overall greyness then seeps over into your life in general. Before you know it the holding pattern becomes all too apparent. Unless you start making alternative travel arrangements in your head and say stop you cannot move on.  

We get stuck between two choices when we have a desire to do something, but the fears — fear of the unknown, risk, failure, success — keep us stuck and unable to move forward,” says Larina Kase, a cognitive-behavioral psychologist and author of The Confident Leader (McGraw-Hill, 2008)  

Career: Waiting in Line…

Another career limbo stage is when you have applied to jobs, or have been offered one but you are on standby. You waiting for answers, reactions or confirmation to go. The holding pattern is driving you crazy, as you can’t plan.

You start asking yourself questions that make your confidence travel to less than desired places. The initial resolve of knowing what you want, how to get there, and what to do, start to fade. While it may feel lighter when you have the job offer – questions can still cloud your judgment – so you hold on tight not to send pushy emails, or bite the pillow in hope that a reporting date has been set.

Limbo illustrated smiling vs non smiling pictures over face.

Turning lay-over limbo into proactive action takes patience, mindfulness, and stamina. You can also reach out to polish that application, consider how to clinch the interview or tackle confidence issues – Talking to a career coach can be productive. 

Career Limbo: 10 Tips to Move On

If you are in a career limbo rut or waiting in line you can choose to do nothing. Or you can shake up the stand-still, and get into a mindset that recharges you. Here is how you can take action when you’re….

…Stuck In a Rut

  • Take a day to map things out. Put down on paper what is bugging you but also what is good.
  • Try to separate fact from perception in other words. Ask yourself:
    • Which parts of your job do you like? And, what aspects make you tick about working at your current company?
    • Can you change parts of the job?
    • What do you dislike about your current position, and what would you rather be doing?
    • Outside your job, what makes you tick? Is photography, art or volunteering for a charity more than hobbies – and can this translate into a need to transition into new paths
    • Do you need skills that can take you to a new level? What courses can you find online and how can you get more knowledge to actively get to a new place? 
    • Where do you see yourself one, five and 10 years down the road.

…In Stand-by Mode

  • If external forces are in play – can you contact them?
  • What preparatory steps can you take? Can you pack, learn more about the destination, gather information and read up on good-to-know tidbits?

Career Mapping

Being in standby mode can be frustrating, but you do have a destination. Proactive preparation will make time pass.

If the destination is unknown mapping out goals can be a way forward. Writing out answers will allow you to see the desired future. The long term view will help you project what to do short term to get there.

  • You may see that the job you’re in does not fit for what you can do anymore. Mapping gives you clarity to see if the solution is within your company or organization. Can you take steps to explore how a get a promotion?
  • Or perhaps you identify that is it time to go and move on. Are you undervalued, overstretched or have you become part of the furniture?
  • Maybe you need to ask yourself if you can let go of the fear of the unknown?
  • Reading tips: Why people get stuck – Psychology Today. Six ways to escape career limbo – Women for hire  

If you need assistance to map your career thoughts out, talking to a career coach can bring clarity, boost confidence and even bring you needed tools and tips.  

Life Limbo

Sometimes, we know exactly where we’re going. We have a plan, a purpose and, know the steps we need to take to get from here to there. But then other times, we’re not so sure. Limbo can be a space where you feel lost or unsure. Stuck between a rock and a hard space.

Your relationship, lifestyle or location can bring about thoughts. Maybe you have a vision of where you’d like to go, but no idea of how to get there? Or the vision still eludes you and you’re stuck in life and going through the motions?

Is Limbo Forever?

When you perceive to be in limbo it has a tinge of ‘foreverness’ about it. If you map it out over a stretch of time you can probably look back and see that you have been in such moments before. You got out of there, right? How did you do that? You can now see that the ‘foreverness’ is not real and that you have solutions within you that you can replicate now again. You can form an action plan, and evaluate how to take one small step. 

Limbo get-out motivational words.

That first step becomes the first of many. You start living again and move towards the goal you see the forming. Just like in life – we need moments in limbo land when we are storming inside to allow for the forming stage to take shape. We move onwards

Life Limbo: 6 Tips

To move on from the limbo lingering, there is no time like now. The frozen state is often created out of perception, assumption, lack of communication or fear of the unknown.  Take a look at these tips:

  • Mapping out what you know versus what you do not can be a place to start. You can put reality in one column and emotions or fears in another. Perhaps you need a third column for assumption – or even ghosts who can feel very real at times. 
  • Once you can see the real – you can make one small step towards talking – perhaps if you are in a relationship that isn’t where it should be – sitting down together can be a way to see if a link can be formed again? Getting help from a professional can be a second step. 
  • If wellness or fitness is what you feel stuck on – take a walk. Just one small stroll around the block. This can be the first step towards setting healthier habits. Soon you will get more energy, feel a bit happier and reward yourself with an apple rather than a cake. One small step gives the next. You get out of limbo by taking one step. One only.
Limbo fear illustrated by cartoon

Waiting for a knight in armour is rather unproductive, as they don’t seem to be around much in these days. You have to look at you, yourself and you to create a break from procrastinating.

Most of us know deep inside what we can do to make a move from the greyness – but postpone action as we wait for something or someone else to make ‘it’ happen. 

Time is now…

Limbo can be a timeline that goes on for some time. If you are in a holding pattern because an imaginary airport controller has not given you the signal to go yet – so be it. Make the most of the time to prepare, polish or make readjustments. 

Defying Gravity is to "Do or Do not - there is No Try' as per this quote by Yoda.

If that limbo land frozen state is in your hands, only you can push play to move on. Take a big breath, and do it — one small step. Self-awareness is the first step towards realizing that you can put ideas into action, or indeed be the reason why you are permitting yourself not to do anything. Have you thought about how your state of limbo affects those around you?

Why Doing Is Better

Doing is better than not and you are not alone. To get a way out of limbo land you can seek assistance from a friend, coach, professional or online course/tip.  

Shifting patterns, confronting hidden pains and taking action to attract opportunities takes guts, courage, and reaching out for advice. You can do this. You can feel, be and do good – every day. Sign up to our newsletter for inspiration.

Thank you for reading – and if you want to get more information about this article, coaching and just brainstorm in general feel free to drop me a line

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