It is August 2020 and I'm in an empty classroom. I finish my presentation and close my laptop, the equivalent to walking off of a stage as a speaker during the pandemic. I just received high marks in the chat box from 500 veterinarians for an hour long keynote on work-life balance. In the past, I'd be full of adrenaline, ready to shake hands and mingle, but I exhale deeply, stare at the floor and feel nothing. I sit in the quiet classroom, the sound of the air-conditioners the only thing accompanying my blank mind. I open Instagram and begin to scroll as I walk the 100 feet to my house. And so it goes. And so it has went for the past two years.
I wasn't experiencing burn-out or depression, because I still had energy and hope. It wasn't until this last week that I had a word for it, thanks to an article from Adam Grant. It turns out, I was (and still am to a certain extent) languishing.
As Adam describes it, 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."
For me, it's when your purpose just doesn't feel very purposeful anymore. It is especially effective at delaying the start of my work days. While languishing, it's easy to allow our routines to be disrupted and for time to slip away on meaningless activities.
Discovering this chronic condition gave me a brief sense of "YES- that's it!" But that soon gave way to the question of, "So what can I do about it?"
At this point, researchers are still trying to answer that question. A good starting point is naming it. Naming our emotions can be a powerful first step in managing them. Saying to yourself, "I'm languishing," might just help you break that scrolling cycle and start working a few minutes earlier.
Next time you're in a state of languish, say out loud, "I am languishing," and go from there.
What excuses do you tell yourself in a state of languish? For context, here are some of my go-to's:
"I've already wasted this much time, why start working now?"
"Does anyone really care if I do this work?"
"I'm not sure what good it will do, but I guess I can try..."
"Industry cannot flourish if labor languish." - Calvin Coolidge