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7 Signs You're Languishing and How to Overcome It

Why Adam Grant says languishing is the “neglected middle child of mental health”

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Do you find yourself having trouble concentrating? Do you feel joyless and aimless, even though you still have energy? You might be experiencing burnout, or a phenomenon known as languishing.

In a New York Times article written by top-ranked TED speaker Adam Grant in 2021, Grant described languishing as “the neglected middle child of mental health.”

“It’s the void between depression and flourishing — the absence of well-being. You don’t have symptoms of mental illness, but you’re not the picture of mental health either.”

Ahead of his exciting first-ever Australian tour Adam Grant LIVE in February 2024, where he'll discuss procrastination, perfectionism, work-life and unlocking your potential, here are seven signs that you may be languishing, along with strategies to overcome it.

1. Difficulty Concentrating

One of the early signs of languishing is a struggle to concentrate. You may find it hard to focus on tasks or become easily distracted. This lack of mental clarity can hinder your productivity and overall well-being.

2. Lack of Excitement

Even with positive developments on the horizon you might not feel excited about the future. Languishing can make you feel indifferent to positive changes or events.

3. Joylessness

Languishing can manifest as a sense of joylessness. You may find it challenging to experience pleasure or delight in everyday activities that used to bring you happiness.

4. Aimlessness

Feeling aimless is a common symptom of languishing. You may sense that you're drifting through life without clear goals or a sense of purpose.

5. Decreased Motivation

Languishing can dampen your motivation. You might struggle to find the drive to pursue your goals or engage in activities that once motivated you.

6. Difficulty in Maintaining Focus

Languishing can disrupt your ability to stay focused on tasks. This can lead to decreased productivity and increased procrastination.

7. Reduced Work Engagement

If you're languishing, you may find yourself cutting back on work. Your professional performance and enthusiasm may suffer as a result.

Overcoming Languishing

Now that you've identified the signs of languishing,  a term first coined by sociologist Corey Keyes, how can you overcome it? Here are some strategies, including those mentioned by Adam Grant:

1. Name Your Emotions

Psychologists recommend naming your emotions as a first step in managing them. Recognising that you're languishing can help you gain clarity and understand what you're going through.

2. Find Your Flow

"Flow" is a state of absorption in a meaningful challenge or activity where time seems to disappear. Engaging in activities that induce flow can combat languishing. It could be a hobby, project, or even watching a compelling movie or series.

3. Set Boundaries

Create uninterrupted blocks of time to work on tasks that matter to you. Setting boundaries, like the example of no interruptions before noon, can help you maintain focus and boost productivity.

4. Focus on Small Wins

Start with achievable goals or challenges that stretch your skills slightly. Celebrating small victories can provide a sense of accomplishment and motivation.

5. Prioritise Mental Health

Recognise that mental health challenges, including languishing, are just as important as physical health issues. Don't hesitate to seek support, whether through professional counselling or talking to friends and family.

6. Encourage Open Conversations

Breaking the stigma around mental health is crucial. Encourage open conversations about how you're feeling and ask others how they're doing. Use "languishing" as a term to describe your state of mind when discussing your well-being.

7. Create a Supportive Environment

Foster an environment that supports mental well-being. This includes promoting work-life balance, encouraging breaks, and providing resources for mental health support.

In conclusion, recognising the signs of languishing and taking proactive steps to address it are essential for your overall well-being. By implementing these strategies, you can regain your motivation, find joy in everyday life, and move toward a state of flourishing once again. Remember that you're not alone in experiencing languishing, and seeking help and support is a sign of strength, not weakness.

If you or someone you know is in crisis and needs help now, call triple zero (000). You can also call Lifeline on 13 11 14 — 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.




See Adam Grant in person in 2024


If you're interested in seeing one of the world's leading authorities on work culture and work-life, don’t miss Adam Grant’s highly-anticipated Australian tour in 2024 ADAM GRANT – LIVE: Unlock Hidden Potential & Transform WorkLife. Tickets are selling fast (Some categories SOLD OUT). 


About Adam Grant


Adam Grant is a renowned organisational psychologist, bestselling author, and global influencer. As Wharton's top-rated professor for seven consecutive years, his expertise in motivation, generosity, original thinking, and rethinking has made him a leading authority in his field.


His five New York Times bestselling books Think Again, Give and Take, OriginalsOption B, and Power Moves have resonated with millions of readers in 45 languages. His latest book is Hidden Potential.


With hugely successful TED talks and his TED podcasts WorkLife and ReThinking, plus a substantial social media following and popular monthly newsletter, Adam Grant is one of the world's most inspiring thinkers and speakers.


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