Human Resources and Workforce

Ways Languishing Can Impact Your Work, According to Adam Grant

If you want to succeed in life, you want that car, that house, and that career, but something is holding you back. You could be experiencing a feeling of languishing. It is making you feel as if it is hard to engage in activities that could bring you joy in life, one of the components of achieving one’s aspiration.

What is languishing?

After getting back from work, classes or going to bed, have you ever felt as if you were burning out, depressed or could not actually figure out what it was? That is what Adam Grant, a psychologist, said about languishing at a Ted talk. It is the feeling of not having energy, having no direction in life and it does not feel that happy to live your life either. A sociologist and author of Languishing: How to Feel Alive Again in a World That Wears Us Down, Corey Keyes actually created the term.

What are causing languishing?

A diverse range of situations could contribute to the feeling of languishing. As human beings, it is essential to have a purpose to reach happiness and peak performance in life. Thus, if you want to avoid the feeling, it is as simple as having a clear purpose in life. Here are some other factors that could cause it:

Prolonged Stress: Experiencing longer periods of stress, whether from work, personal life, or external circumstances, can lead to feelings of emptiness and stagnation over time.

Lack of Purpose: Feeling a lack of purpose or meaning in one’s work or life can lead to a sense of aimlessness and dissatisfaction.

Monotony and Routine: Engaging in repetitive tasks or routines without variety or challenge can lead to feelings of boredom and disengagement.

Isolation and Loneliness: Social isolation and loneliness, particularly in today’s digitally connected and yet socially distant world.

Uncertainty and Ambiguity: Living in a state of uncertainty or ambiguity, such as during times of transition or change, can cause anxiety and indecision.

Unmet Expectations: Feeling like one’s expectations, dreams or aspirations are not being met can lead to feelings of disappointment and disillusionment.

Ways It Could Impact Your Work

According to Adam Grant, the feeling of languishing could interrupt focus , dampen motivations and put you at risk of developing depression. This will have a great impact on your work.

Inability to Overcome Challenges

One of the most profound effects of languishing is the inability to tackle challenges effectively. When motivation dwindles, so does our capacity to find excitement and resolve complex issues. Consequently, problem-solving processes become protracted, hindering progress and efficiency.

Decrease Productivity

As motivation declines, workers tend to perform solely the tasks required to maintain employment status rather than going above and beyond. This results in reduced productivity levels, negatively influencing team output and organizational growth.


When motivation fades away, burnout often follows suit. Prolonged periods of low motivation can lead to mental exhaustion, disengagement, and decreased productivity. These symptoms can culminate in burnout, further compromising our physical and mental well-being.

Apathy for the Job

Another consequence of languishing is the emergence of indifference towards our jobs. Without motivation, employees may lose interest in their roles, resulting in barely minimum performances and dissatisfaction.

Health Impacts

Lastly, low motivation can manifest itself in various forms, including increased absenteeism due to factors like depression. Mental health concerns stemming from languishing can significantly impair our ability to function optimally in the workplace.

Coping With It

Adam Grant found through researchers that flow is what enhances the well-being of individuals. People need to be absorbed in doing an activity to produce the flow. It could be activities or hobbies such as painting, running, or cooking that make us feel like we are living in that moment. He also said in the Ted talk that watching Netflix is also a state of flow since it brings you into another world, but the temporary escape will not cure languishing.

Face the truth

Sometimes, being optimistic all the time and ignoring the negative things in life will not motivate us to get up and achieve that dream. Adam is against toxic positivity and encourages people to find the good things in life so that they feel that their lives are actually good.

Recognize the Emotion

Acknowledging and naming the feeling of languishing can empower individuals to take control of their emotions. Here are a few examples you could ask yourself:

  • Do I often feel fatigued or drained, even after adequate rest?
  • Have I been neglecting my own needs or struggling to find meaning in my daily activities?
  • Do I find it challenging to envision a positive future or set meaningful goals for myself?

For example, if you are feeling lonely, acknowledge it. “I’ve been spending a lot of time by myself lately, and I’m starting to feel really lonely.” Then, the next step is to take action to empower yourself and regain motivation by finding solutions. For loneliness, it can be reaching out to friends for a call, a hangout or doing activities with others.

Avoid Energy-Depleting Activities

Stepping back from activities that drain energy, such as excessive social media use before going to bed, can prevent getting stuck in a cycle of languishing. By steering clear of these drains, individuals can maintain their energy and create conditions that are favorable for overcoming languishing.

Set Small Goals

Setting small goals is essential, as they provide a clear direction and manageable steps towards achieving larger objectives. Taking small steps and setting achievable daily goals can help you gradually regain energy and enthusiasm. By breaking down tasks into smaller, achievable milestones, individuals can experience a sense of accomplishment, build confidence, and stay focused on making progress.

By understanding the relationship between languishing and work performance, we can better recognize the warning signs and adopt coping mechanisms to mitigate the adverse effects of languishing on our careers. Strategies such as engaging in meaningful activities, finding flow, setting small goals, avoiding energy-depleting activities, and seeking professional help can aid us in combating languishing and thriving professionally.

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