Languishing is a sense of stagnation and emptiness. It feels as if you’re muddling through your days, looking at your life through a foggy windshield. And it might be the dominant emotion of 2021. ~Adam Grant
Have you ever said something like the phrase “it’s so close I can taste it”? That’s kind of how I’ve been feeling about the end of the pandemic. The combination of vaccinations, warmer weather, and spring blooms makes me feel like I can almost taste the end of the pandemic. But, then I have to deal with reality, that we need to endure a little longer.
It’s hard to concentrate, it feels risky to get excited about 2021, and we continue to stagnate. I’m not depressed, but I’m also not thriving. Well, I’ve learned there’s a word for this: languishing. Adam Grant authored an article in The New York Times last week titled “There’s a Name for the Blah You’re Feeling: It’s Called Languishing.”
It’s been a grueling and exhausting year. I’ve had numerous leaders tell me that they’ve never worked harder than they have in the past 12 months. Just because you are in a leadership role does not mean you are immune from languishing.
What’s the antidote for languishing?
- Grant suggests a couple antidotes, like simply “naming it,” it’s languishing. Labeling an emotion is many times the first step to work through it. And, telling others that you are languishing may give them the means to name what they’ve been feeling as well.
- Another suggestion from Grant is to look for ways to create “flow.” That “elusive state of absorption in a meaningful challenge or a momentary bond, where your sense of time, place, and self melts away.” How to create “flow”? First, start blocking uninterrupted time on your calendar, at least several times a week for at least 90-minute blocks. Second, during that time choose a project you find interesting, a small goal you want to achieve, or a conversation that could be especially meaningful. Then both encourage a practice of time blocking across your organization and honor others’ time blocks.
- When I’m having a hard time concentrating, I practice something I learned from Chris Bailey in The Productivity Project called productive procrastination This seems to help when I’m feeling a little brain fog. I shift gears to something that doesn’t require a lot of thinking that I can accomplish quickly. This gives me the sense of achievement that I was craving but was not getting from my “thinking” work. I have a list of quick projects that require a little physical activity and not a lot of concentration, like organizing a drawer, updating some files, or dusting my office. Don’t just do this yourself, but encourage others to step away from their fog and do something different that will allow them to step back into their flow.
As a leader, it’s a bold move to admit to those you are leading that you are languishing. And it requires grace to allow others the space to deal with their own languishing as well. We will get past all of this, including our languishing, with a little, or some days a lot, of bold grace.