Struggling to Get Motivated? You Might Be Languishing

Struggling to Get Motivated? You Might Be Languishing – Here’s What to Do About It


At the end of 2021, a New York Times article went viral. The author, Adam Grant, had managed to perfectly encapsulate the feeling that so many of us were experiencing around the globe with one simple word. Languishing. 

At the time, it was all anyone could talk about. But although the conversation has died down, the feeling hasn’t. It’s still lingering in the background. And it deserves due attention.

This is your guide to languishing, what it means, how to spot it and what to do about it.

What does languishing mean?

Although that New York Times article brought the term “languishing” into mainstream media, the word’s long been used by sociologists to describe a state devoid of joy or wellbeing.

Coined by sociologist Corey Keyes in 2002, languishing represents a lack of motivation for the future. Instead, you feel stuck in a state of inaction. With no energy to look for a way out.

It’s no surprise that so many of us are experiencing languishing when we consider the collective trauma of the last few years. As psychotherapist Dr Ruth Allen commented on Instagram, “We spent two years not dreaming, right? Hope was dashed, a lot.”. It’s no wonder that we’re struggling to place our trust in the future again.

Languishing vs depression

Before we continue, let’s take a second to look at the differences between languishing and depression. Whilst languishing can be used to describe a sense of “blah” or a struggle to find a direction, depression runs a lot deeper than that.

Depression is far more chronic, and is often accompanied by a deep sense of hopelessness. So if that’s something you’re experiencing right now, I’d urge you to seek the appropriate professional support. Here are some options for Brunei and the UK.

Languishing symptoms – the signs to watch out for

My own experience of languishing

Over the last couple of years, I’ve had many a day (or week) where I’ve struggled to get going. There have been long stints where it’s felt as though all the motivation that I once had has vanished forever. In its place? An ongoing struggle to get moving.

Where I used to feel excited and energised to tackle work-related tasks and plan out the growth of my business, I’ve found a sense of “blah” instead. And alongside all of that, I’ve felt tiredness, unlike anything that I’ve ever felt before. It’s more than feeling physically tired, it’s tiredness deep in my soul. 

What really surprised me is that I know that this doesn’t stem from a lack of interest. I love my work and I love growing my business. Yet, something has still gotten me into a funk.

My clients’ experience of languishing

I’m seeing a consistent theme of exhaustion and overwhelm in my clients. They’re so tired of the Zoom meetings, the juggling act of working from home and the lack of social interaction with their peers. So much so, that it feels like their motivation has left them for good.

In its place is a lack of direction. They’re questioning why they’re doing it all and wondering if they’re on the right path for them.

Languishing treatment – what to do about it

When you experience languishing, it’s natural to feel the urge to make a drastic change. A new job, a new career, a new… life? It’s rarely the cure. 

Instead, try to start with some gentle steps to help you start moving forwards and feeling better before making any big decisions.

1. Go back to basics

When languishing strikes, this is always my personal “go-to”. I go straight back to the simple but effective strategies that act as my foundation for a good life.

Sleep 7-9 hours a night. Drink Water and eat healthily. Move your body. These are the basics we need to survive but they’re all too easy to neglect when we’re struggling to get motivated. 

2. Focus on one step at a time

When we decide to make a change, we start to imagine the outcome of that change. How will it feel? What will it look like? How will it affect us? So it’s natural to feel a sense of impatience. We want everything to happen, all at the same time.

But, instead, slow things down a little. Focus on building those basics up one small step at a time. And use that slow and gentle ladder to climb your way out of the tiredness and languishing, towards something better.

3. Get back into nature

Science has proven that time spent in nature correlates with our health and wellbeing. According to the University of Exeter, people that spend over 120 minutes (2 hours) immersed in nature each week “are significantly more likely to report good health and higher psychological wellbeing than those who don’t visit nature at all during an average week”.

Here in Brunei, we’re spoilt for choice when it comes to spending quality time outdoors. From city parks to beach sunset spots (my personal favourite) and tropical rainforests, there’s a wealth of natural resources to discover. Use this as your impetus to get out there and explore!










4. Give yourself some space

When your body (and soul) is this tired, it’s probably trying to tell you something. So give yourself the time and space you need to recover before rushing out there to finish that endless to-do list.

How? Set boundaries. If non-stop Zoom calls and deadlines are getting you down, speak to your company about it. When household chores are making you feel isolated and unsupported, ask for some extra help at home. Take some time to consider how the right boundaries could help you create some extra breathing room in your life.

5. Review your goals

The last few years have changed us all. If life isn’t looking quite like you expected it to by now, don’t panic. It might simply be that you need to check-in and review your goals for your new environment.

Instead of seeing your experience of languishing as a negative, let’s flip it into a positive. This could be the gentle nudge you need to reassess your values and their alignment, check in with your life-work balance and make some small changes to get you out of this funk. (Yes, sometimes just a few tweaks are exactly what you need to make a big impact!)

6.  Give yourself permission

How many times have you craved a break, an hour alone with your book, a long walk, a breakfast date with a friend… only to tell yourself you’re too busy and that you really “should be with kids/catching up on work/working out” instead.

It’s time to sign your own permission slip and give yourself what you need. Say yes to that dinner invitation (or no if that’s what you need right now).

Bonus tip: if you’re part of a company, can you “gift” your employees a morning off each quarter to take care of themselves?

7. Celebrate your progress

Long time readers will know by now that I’m a big fan of self-celebration. It’s what allows us to take stock, reflect on our progress and soak up just how far we’ve come.

Toxic productivity has us chasing every goal that comes our way before we even absorb the one that we’ve just achieved. So whether it’s a daily gratitude journal entry, a monthly review or a special gift for yourself, be sure to celebrate your progress. No matter how small it may seem.


This is the wake-up call you need right now

Get out of that rut, with a free clarity call to give you the very first step:


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About the author

Lisa is a mother, a business owner, a founder, and an executive leader. She's been through it all and has come out the other side to thrive. Now she's helping you to do the same! Learn how you can find clarity and support through her services for individuals and organisations.