Last week an article on languishing in the NYTimes caught my attention. Authored by Adam Grant, a professor of management and psychology at the University of Pennsylvania, he named languishing the new emotion of 2021 and referred to it as the “neglected middle child of mental health”. Its not as bad as depression or burnout, but it is taking its toll as the pandemic wears us down.

“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”. *

Put another way, languishing is the absence of well-being. People are having a hard time staying positive, healthy and well. Prolonged periods of languishing can lead to impaired focus and low levels of motivation. If this sounds like you, you are not alone.

What are the implications of languishing?

One client who is in the early years of her career, recently returned to work after a maternity leave. She was excited about regaining adult thinking time and the prospect of seeking out a new leadership role. After a year of working remotely and juggling childcare, she’s finding it hard to actively pursue her career progression goals, and stay healthy and motivated.

Women aren’t the only ones languishing. A client in his 50s who has spent over 20 years successfully growing with the same company, is starting to question his commitment. It’s been hard for him and others like him to admit that he isn’t happy when he has the privilege of being gainfully employed. But it turns out, that’s not enough.

What will it take to regain a sense of well-being?

A professional association invited me to speak about how leaders can influence well-being at work. They related the challenge of focusing on their own well-being when they feel the weight of responsibility for everyone else on the team. Some members expressed feelings of guilt for being check-out, tired, and needing a break.Yet by the end of the talk, there was a sense of relief and some optimism. Shared experience and learning from each other was a healthy step in the right direction.

Here are some well-being basics:

  • Do a daily check-in. Keep track of your current well-being, notice differences and what contributes to small improvements.
  • Give a name to what you feel. Write it down and share it with a trusted friend or colleague. The research shows that simply naming it can help to tame it.
  • Schedule uninterrupted time. Turn off distractions and use scheduled time for thinking, planning and brainstorming. Honour it the same way you do time for meetings.
  • Focus on small energizing goals. Pick up an activity you’ve been missing or start a new one, but make it manageable. And make it meaningful to you. Walk, meditate, write, doodle, dream.

Committing to big transformative goals is challenging during these uncertain times. Start small and watch that languishing doesn’t become a new habit.

What else can you try to improve your well-being?

My younger client decided to set up a short-term learning goal rather than making a big career move this year. She’s investigating a leadership course of interest and looking forward to re-engaging through learning.

The senior leader I’m coaching has decided to focus more of his energy on mentoring others and worrying less about his next career move. He’s realizing what’s more important to him is taking purposeful action aligned with his values.

To help assess and track your well-being, we’ve developed a new Career Well Being self-assessment tool. Contact us for a consultation call and a complimentary copy.


Career Well-Being Program – a new four-month coaching program with a focus on making your well-being a priority and coming up with a plan. Learn how to respond more effectively to high stress situations, with a view to doing things differently, being compassionate with yourself and others, and letting go of whatever is beyond your control.

Positive Communications in a Virtual Workplace – customized for your leadership team, this workshop gives participants a chance to look back at lessons learned and best practices for virtual communication, with tips for overcoming obstacles and key principles of positive and respectful communication. Co-facilitated with Stephanie C. Mitchell, Communications Coach and Speaker.

* To read Adam Grant’s article, click here

“Work on you, for you.” ~ Anonymous