Last week, during a Zoom meeting, I patiently listened to a prospective client air his grievances about EVERYTHING, including his employer, its management team, and the people with whom he works. Thirty minutes later, when it appeared he had exhausted his list of complaints, I confirmed, "You're feeling some serious discontent right now, aren't you?" He nodded in agreement.
"Okay, then," I said, "If that’s the case, let's shift our focus to a discussion about what you want for yourself." His face froze as he stared back at me like a deer caught in headlights.
I continued, "Each morning when you awake, what are you focused on? What are you driving towards? What's your vision for what you want your life to be like in the next three to five years? And what are your goals? What are you working to accomplish in the next six to twelve months that will move you closer to that vision?"
After a long pause, he shrugged his shoulders and replied, "I don't know. I've never thought about it before."
He was directionless, and languishing because of it.
In his New York Times article There's a Name for the Blah You're Feeling: It's Called Languishing, Adam Grant describes languishing as feeling "somewhat joyless and aimless." He explains, "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. And it might be the dominant emotion of 2021."
Later in his article Adam goes on to say, "We now know that the most important factor in daily joy and motivation is a sense of progress." When you lack direction and are unclear about what you want for yourself, it is difficult to feel a sense of progress, and this puts you at risk of languishing.
When languishing sets in (because your internal navigation system is missing or is malfunctioning), you're likely to shift your focus externally. And in a futile attempt to regain a sense of control and purpose, you harshly evaluate everything in your outer world and begin trying to control it. All the while, ignoring the root cause of your unhappiness and discontent – your inner world.
It doesn't have to be that way. There are options.
Right now, especially after all the upheaval caused by COVID, one of the most common reasons people are languishing is their lack of excitement for what the future holds. If you're in a similar situation and perhaps find yourself headed down this path, one of the best things you can do for yourself is focus on reestablishing your internal locus of control and giving your life direction.
(1) Take inventory of where you are right now. Then, assess your levels of satisfaction with all aspects of your life.
"What do I want more of in my life? What do I want less of?"
(2) Do the same with your value and how you’d like to bring your value to the world and offer it up.
"Who am I? What do I stand for? What am I passionate about? What are my natural talents and strengths? How do those combine with my learned skills and education to make me really good at what I do?"
NOTE: In my 5-Step System for Personal Strategic Planning called Powerful Personal Planning, there are three pages packed full of questions like these designed to stimulate your exploration.
(3) Consider where you'd like to be in the next three to five years and craft a vision for that.
Your vision is a mental picture of your future self. It answers the questions, "Where am I going, and what's it going to be like when I get there? Who do I want to be? What do I want to have? And what do I want to be doing?"
(4) Then, identify three to five goals you would like to work on and accomplish in the short term to move closer to your vision.
(5) With a clear focus on what is and isn’t within your control, carve out a path for accomplishing these goals.
Incorporate these goals and the key behaviors needed to accomplish them into your daily life.
If you're here in the United States, you're probably preparing to celebrate our country's Independence Day with family and friends. As you disconnect from your normal day-to-day activities, I encourage you to reflect on the last year and a half and it’s impact on you and how you’re living life.
If you find that you're languishing and lacking direction in your life, it's time to get your copy of Powerful Personal Planning – a 5-step personal strategic planning system for living life on your terms.
Kick that languishing crap to the curb where it belongs