Adam Grant – How to stop languishing


Earlier this year, Adam Grant hit the Zeitgeist with the word “languishing” (There’s a Name for the Blah You’re Feeling: It’s Called Languishing). The word describes the feeling of being joyless and aimless that most of have been experiencing over the past 18 months. I remember receiving links to the article from all over the world – typically with all caps and exclamation marks (“THAT!!!”, “ME!”, “Must read!”).

From zero to 100 in one New York Times column

I’m glad that he followed his discovery up with a TED Talk on how to deal with that feeling. The short version is:

  • Master something: Find something that you like where you can make tangible progress.
  • Be mindful: Dedicate your time and attention to one activity, rather than playing time confetti and spreading it across multiple things.
  • Do stuff that matters to others: Don’t just do it for yourself, but make a difference for somebody else. This can be as little as spending time with somebody.

Spending time at the intersection of these three will help you address the feeling of languishing. This very much resonated with my own experience. Over the past winter I got back into chess, which addressed the first two buckets. But chess became a lot more meaningful when I started playing with a friend every Tuesday. It suddenly became a lot more meaningful as it helped us maintain and nurture our friendship despite him being on the other side of the US.

But have a look at the entire TED Talk. It’s 16 minutes well spent: