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Moving the needle from languishing to flourishing

Updated: Dec 3, 2021

The pandemic has been quite difficult for everyone. And, yes, there are very serious and pressing health, financial, and societal issues that we must address, but there is also our mental and emotional health to consider.

To begin, there is languishing. Occasionally, we might not feel very miserable and lack the vocabulary to articulate our stagnation since we are not completely burned out. It's difficult to explain, but strangely, most of us are rather certain we are going through it.

It's sort of... meh. As if life were meh. Flat, dull, and uninteresting, a barren desert between flourishing and sadness, a general state of non-thriving.

“I'm feeling depleted. I'm struggling to take a breath. Every day is the same for me. I'm not sure how much longer I can put up with this.”

It’s understandable for people to be experiencing this prolonged feeling of emptiness and lack of direction. Lives are on hold, there has been unimaginable human suffering across the globe, and hopes and plans have been upended.

Are you languishing or living?

The ‘meh’ feeling that encompasses languishing, is universally recognised, but such is life. People will experience languishing to varying degrees, and it will impact some more than others. Arguably, do we not all experience it to some extent, every day?

No doubt, languishing is a very real feeling. As many point out, although symptoms may not be clinically significant, they can become a risk factor for developing future mental illness. After all, if it is the ‘middle ground’ of the mental health spectrum, then it is very possible for it to tilt the wrong way and lead to anxiety and mood disorders. Many of the symptoms of languishing — lack of motivation, difficulty focusing, brain fog, boredom — overlap with depression. The key thing is determining to what extent these symptoms are interfering with your daily functioning.

Some people misinterpret languishing to be a ‘safe’ state rather than understanding that languishing is a risk indicator for mental illness. Most people, as they go about their daily existence, are not thriving. But that doesn’t mean they are depressed . You wouldn’t say you are languishing simply because work is boring you one day. You have to look at the bigger picture and think about the length of time you’ve been feeling a certain way.

Early Sign of Burn Out or the Step to Flourishing?

On the surface, languishing may not seem to be much of a concern. After all, we all have days where we can’t concentrate or just need to get through the day. However,signs of risk can be missed and as a result, individuals fall through the cracks of being noticed. They are most likely to be high performing achievers, holding responsible positions, who have become accustomed to managing their outward appearance. Keeping it ‘together enough’ when people are noticing.

Your days are carved up into bits and bytes. You celebrate breadth rather than depth, quick reaction more than considered reflection. You race through your life without pausing to consider who you really want to be or where you really want to go. You’re wired up but you are melting down.

Most of the time you are just trying to do the best that you can. When demand exceeds your capacity, you begin to make expedient choices that get you through your days and nights, but take a toll over time. You survive on too little sleep, wolf down fast foods on the run, fuel up with coffee and cool down with alcohol and sleeping pills. Faced with relentless demands at work, you become short-tempered and easily distracted. You return home from long days at work feeling exhausted and often experience your families not as a source of joy and renewal, but as one more demand in an already overburdened life.

You walk around with day planners and to-do lists, instant pagers and pop-up reminders on our computers— all designed to help you manage your time better. You take pride in your ability to multitask, and you wear your willingness to put in long hours as a badge of honor.

If you can relate, read on to the very end to find out how to evolve.

Moving the needle from languishing to flourishing

In psychology, we think about mental health on a spectrum from depression to flourishing. Flourishing is the peak of well-being: You have a strong sense of meaning, mastery and matter to others.

Flourishing is the product of the pursuit and engagement of an authentic life that brings inner joy and happiness through meeting goals, being connected with life passions, and relishing in accomplishments through the peaks and valleys of life.

If we want to flourish, we must open ourselves up to experiencing all the good that life has to offer. We must commit to experiencing joy and delight, to finding meaning and purpose, and to offering ourselves what we need to remain healthy and happy. We cannot flourish if we do not take care of ourselves and consciously sustain our own ability to flourish.

With that in mind, below are some tips we can use to increase our sense of wellness and, hopefully, rejuvenate our drive for the things that make life worth living.

Tea Reading. GIF credit:

Take your life back by taking a step back : the importance of having clarity of purpose

When people feel like they have no sense of direction, no purpose in their life, it’s because they don’t know what’s important to them, they don’t know what their values are.

And when you don’t know what your values are, then you’re essentially taking on other people’s values and living other people’s priorities instead of your own. This is a one-way ticket to languishing.

“Most people are living at such a furious pace that they rarely stop to ask themselves what they stand for and who they want to be. As a consequence, they let external demands dictate their actions.” - Tony Schwartz

Discovering one’s “purpose” in life essentially boils down to finding those one or two things that are bigger than yourself, and bigger than those around you, values that will determine your priorities and guide your actions. It’s not about some great achievement, but merely finding a way to spend your limited amount of time well.

Trim the fat

People find meaning when they see a clear connection between what they highly value and what they spend time doing. However, how do we find clarity amid the turbulence of work and life is often a mystery. We all wish we had more time to pause and reflect about small decisions and big goals--and everything in between. But since we live and work in a vortex of tasks, meetings, decisions, and responsibilities, we rarely get the chance to step back.

The starting point is to focus on what you want, not what you don’t want so you can attract that into your life. When you know where you want to go, you’ll start having a filter that will allow you to say no to certain friends, say no certain obligations, and say no to certain opportunities. Because deep down you know they aren’t contributing to your vision. The issue with most people is that they simply don’t go deep enough into their hearts and souls to find out the truth about why they want what they want.


Do this simple assessment to identify the most important value in your life and why: How am I currently spending my time Go deeper: list everything out as detailed as possible Does what I spend my time on excite or fulfill me Go deeper:Look at your list and highlight everything that excites and fulfill you If I could spend more time on things that excite me and fulfill me, what would that be? Go deeper: Look at what you highlighted as inspiration to dig deep into your soul to ask yourself what’d truly love spending your time on


Spend some time alone and get clear about what you want. Ask yourself if there is a gap between where you currently are and where you want to be. Why does the gap exist? Do I want to bridge it? If so, how can I bridge it? What are the actionable steps I can take? Where can I make adjustments? What small, daily incremental changes can I commit to?

You can't connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future."- Steve Jobs

From languishing to flourishing there is self awareness

One of our greatest challenges in changing habits is maintaining awareness of what we are actually doing. We’re so used to doing what we’ve always done that we don’t stop to question whether it’s the right thing to do at all. Many of our failures in performance are largely attributable to a lack of self-awareness. This helps explain why the consequences of bad habits can sneak up on us. We need a “point-and-call” system for our personal lives. That’s the origin of the Sustainable Habits Masterclass, which is a simple, self-paced course that will walk you through a 4-week process of finding alignment with your personal values (a reason to expend energy), confronting the reality of your situation, and then developing a plan of action, based in particular on the power of habits, to finally reduce the gap between the person we truly are, our values and the person that we are in our professional and daily life.

Words from the author

With everything going on, I agree that there are far more important things to consider than "productivity." Over the years, I believe that this specific term has gotten a bad rap due to the glorification of hustle culture and people working insane hours to achieve whatever it is that they want. That being said, I believe there is a difference between working mindfully to achieve a specific vision that you've set and created for yourself and working mindlessly and blindly for the sake of working.

I hope that we can all work smarter, not harder, so that we can make time for what is truly important. Time spent nurturing ourselves. Time spent with those who are most significant to us. Time spent meditating on life, our existence, and our meaning of our existence. Time spent unplugged, somewhere, anywhere as long as we are fully present. There are many things that we often overlook due to the busyness of life, and I hope that we can all spend more time on what is important and less time on what is not.

Finally, I hope this piece has given you a useful overview of languishing and a good idea of what you can do to enhance your own flourishing and that of your loved ones. 💕


If you’re at all curious:

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About The Author

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Hey, I'm Elsa. I’m a fashion marketing and management student and the creator behind The Real Planner. I create content such as planning and personal development tips for those seeking to design a meaningful and joyful life over this platform. 

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