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From languishing to flourishing

By Nicole Pokorney

Black woman sitting with eyes closed outdoors
No one can argue that the last two years haven’t been difficult for everyone. As we emerge from the pandemic and restrictions, people are experiencing the emergence in different ways. There are days that I find myself full of energy and zest, and then other days I feel drained and unmotivated to even do the things that once brought me joy. I was struggling with what was going on and searching for ways to ignite my passion for youth work and my pre-pandemic life. I did a lot of reading, listening, and writing in my attempt to unlock a remedy.

I found my answer in a February, 2022 episode of The Happiness Lab podcast. Psychologist and writer Adam Grant revealed the concept of languishing. Adam describes this feeling as the "middle child between mental illness and mental well-being", and that it can truly be described as feeling "meh". As I found myself with piles of work undone, phone calls not returned and, after a week of hard work, a bunch of emails that were not answered, I was eager to learn more. I could honestly acknowledge that I did not feel burnout -- as my job really is my joy -- but I was desperate to bring energy and meaning back to my role, and my life.

In Adam’s Ted Talk, How to stop languishing and start finding flow, and his New York Times article, There’s a Name for the Blah You’re Feeling: It’s Called Languishing, he continues to explain this emotion and state of “meh” and how we can get from languishing to flourishing. Flourishing is when “you have a strong sense of meaning, mastery and mattering to others”.

Here are a few of Adam’s tips:

  • Be able to name the feeling and understand the concept of languishing.
  • Participate in activities that give you flow.
  • Set small goals for yourself that you can achieve and feel a sense of accomplishment.
  • Create uninterrupted time in your schedule to focus on tasks and responsibilities.

For additional reading, Kayn Santl talks more about how to flourish in her blog post, Balancing work and personal life. She stresses how important it is for youth workers to balance personal and work life by setting boundaries for time off, having a support system, and finding your joy. 

What experiences and emotions have you had as you've begun youth programming after the pandemic? Where have you struggled with finding balance and joy in your life?

-- Nicole Pokorney, Extension educator

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  1. Thanks for your post, Nicole. This is something I can definitely identify with. I have had significant changes during the pandemic (like becoming a parent and some transitions in my work), so some of the things that used to give me joy such as evening or weekend events with youth are no longer as accessible. I find myself in a time of needing to find the new sources of purpose and joy in my work, and I appreciate the simple, tangible suggestions he offers. Thanks for naming this for us.


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