Languishing – an Old Fashioned Word

There is a name for the blah

This week an article in the New York Times caught my eye. There’s a Name for the Blah You’re Feeling: It’s Called Languishing and it was penned by Adam Grant, author of several best sellers and  Wharton’s top-rated professor for 7 straight years. As an organizational psychologist, he is a leading expert on how we can find motivation and meaning, and live more generous and creative lives. He began noticing how he, along with friends and colleagues, were finding it difficult to concentrate, and some complained of fuzzy brain. Their spark had somewhat dimmed.

“It wasn’t burnout — we still had energy. It wasn’t depression — we didn’t feel hopeless. We just felt somewhat joyless and aimless. It turns out there’s a name for that: languishing. 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. As scientists and physicians work to treat and cure the physical symptoms of long-haul Covid, many people are struggling with the emotional long-haul of the pandemic.”

I think languish is an entirely appropriate word to describe these times. I look around and see lives on hold, the bounce gone from their step, and although manageable, still, some anticipatory angst as to what’s around the corner. Grant suggests a few helpful tips that can be helpful should you find yourself living at a lower light. This is the one I liked.

Focus on a small goal

The pandemic was a big loss. To transcend languishing, try starting with small wins, like the tiny triumph of figuring out a whodunit or the rush of playing a seven-letter word. One of the clearest paths to flow (see below) is a just-manageable difficulty: a challenge that stretches your skills and heightens your resolve. That means carving out daily time to focus on a challenge that matters to you — an interesting project, a worthwhile goal, a meaningful conversation. Sometimes it’s a small step toward rediscovering some of the energy and enthusiasm that you’ve missed during all these months.

I love “just-manageable difficulty” and I will try it myself and let you know my experience. I am not languishing this week but I certainly have had days when the description fits me.

As for flow:

it is that elusive state of absorption in a meaningful challenge or a momentary bond, where your sense of time, place and self melts away. During the early days of the pandemic, the best predictor of well-being wasn’t optimism or mindfulness — it was flow. People who became more immersed in their projects managed to avoid languishing and maintained their prepandemic happiness.

I find flow when I am immersed in something I love doing. It can be making slide shows with my photos; riding my bike in a beautiful and scenic area; listening to certain music; weeding in the garden; researching information, sometimes writing and many times reading. And always doing my Wellspring Webinars.


Note 1:) Thank you Adam Grant. Here is the link to the article.  Sadly you may not be able to access it if you aren’t a subscriber of the NY Times.

Note 2:) We had a spring snow today. This might be a relative of a soft day in Ireland when it is grey and drizzly. They sound rather poetic, but…yet, these photos were taken on Sunday on one of my favourite walks at Dow’s Lake in Ottawa. Sometimes this and sometimes that.

Note 3:) Many thanks for coming by. I appreciate you and I hope you stay safe and find some flow in a “just manageable difficulty.” See you next week. Warmest wishes, Trudy

3 replies
  1. Jean
    Jean says:

    Can I say bulls eye Trudy.This is the perfect word for how these days feel lately.I feel better just having a word for it.Iam mostly faking it with projects these days but now I know,I am just languishing! I will carry on and hope soon things are fun and interesting.I know they will be.Take care of you.

  2. Susan Rogers
    Susan Rogers says:

    This hit the nail in the head. I found that making future plans rekindles a feeling of optimism. For example I made a reservation for a luncheon at The university club for next Friday, signed up for a foreign affairs seminar in Washington, D.C. for a year from now, going to visit friends in Vermont for a week in this June. It’s day to day planning that has the brain a bit fuzzy.

  3. janice
    janice says:

    I found that nyt article useful Trudy because yes, joyless, aimless, stagnant, empty have all been feelings I have experienced over the past 14 months though it didn’t happen all at once and it isn’t present all the time. It helps to name it as languishing and to work with a ‘just-manageable difficulty’. There is always something to flow with even if I lack the energy in the moment. As always, thanks for sharing this. love to you, Jan


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