How to Move from Languishing to flourishing

Feeling unmotivated or restless? You could be in a state of languish

According to reports, many people are planning on switching jobs after the pandemic. Experiencing a global pandemic has led many to reflect on the things they value most and to question what they really want to do with the time they have left on this planet. Despite working hard, many people feel stuck in their careers and don’t see opportunities for career progression or skills development. Add this to the realisation that the company culture doesn’t, or no longer fits, with employees’ sense of what is important to them, a much greater appetite for remote working and prioritising work-life balance, it is no wonder people are looking to jump ship and explore options where they can feel a greater sense of fulfilment.

Could you be languishing?

In positive psychology, ‘flourishing’ refers to a state of mental wellness which is characterised by positive feelings towards life. When flourishing, we can function well on a mental, emotional, and social level. Flourishing is a state which many of us aspire to as it is where we feel most fulfilled and able to enjoy life.

In contrast, ‘languishing’ is a state in which there is an absence of positive emotions toward life.  Languishing is characterised by overall feelings of emptiness, or just not feeling anything at all. In other words, when languishing you may feel neither happy nor sad. Some people describe this feeling as ‘just a bit bleh’, ‘restless’, ‘unsettled’ or ‘stuck in a rut’. If you consider a mental health continuum with one side being ‘mental health and wellness’ and the other ‘mental health conditions’, then languishing sits in the middle. Although a person who is languishing may not exhibit major depressive symptoms, they are likely to feel low and experience psychological and social challenges.

Knowing what you want to stand for can increase your overall sense of wellbeing and life satisfaction

People who report having a sense of meaning or purpose in their lives, and who are guided by their personal values, tend to live longer, have greater life satisfaction and fewer health complaints.  When faced with significant challenges or adversity, people with a clear idea of their purpose, find it easier to focus on what is important.

Meaning and purpose means different things to different people and can be found in numerous areas of life or through engaging in different interests or pursuits, such as a profession, career, community or voluntary work, creative pursuits, hobbies or political, religious, or spiritual beliefs.

Deep down, how do you want to treat yourself, others, and the world around you?

To add a sense of richness, fulfilment and meaning to life, it helps to be aware of what is important to you. Values give us a sense of how we want to behave or act in this moment and on an ongoing basis. If we are clear on our values, can be in environments where we can express them, and set goals to live our lives in line with the things that are most important to us as individuals, then we are more likely to perform at our best and flourish. 

I find discussing values with my coachees, one of the most rewarding experiences. When people are given the opportunity to talk about what is important to them and how they would like to live their lives, I can see from their posture, the way that their eyes light up and the tone of their voice, that finding a way to live their life in line with these things, is what will inspire them to make positive changes and move forward if they are feeling stuck. This in turn motivates me to do everything I can to ensure that person is given the space and tools to reflect on how they can start using their values as a guide for goal setting and action planning in different areas of life.

Do you find it difficult to put into words what is important to you?

There are many coaching exercises that can help you to identify your values. These range from checklist exercises which provide you with a list of common values which you can rank in order of importance, visualisation exercises which encourage you to imagine how you would live your life if there were no obstacles in your way, exercises which encourage you to reflect on peak experiences or experiences that gave you a sense of meaning or fulfilment, through to psychological assessments which can identify the core values which you are most likely to seek out in an organisation and from the people you work with.

In researching this article, I decided to revisit one of the values checklist exercises and from the list of values provided, I identified my top seven values as:

  • Adventure – to be adventurous; to actively seek, create, or explore novel or stimulating experiences
  • Authenticity – to be authentic, genuine, real; to be true to myself
  • Friendliness – to be friendly, companionable, or agreeable towards others
  • Independence – to be self-supportive, and choose my own way of doing things
  • Order – to be orderly and organised
  • Self-development – to keep growing, advancing, or improving in knowledge, skills, character, or life experience
  • Supportiveness – to be supportive, helpful, encouraging, and available to myself or others

In hindsight, I realise that during periods in my life when I was languishing, this was because I made choices or found myself in situations where I couldn’t demonstrate the behaviours that I would like to stand for as a human being. From my experience, when these things are neglected, that’s when I may find myself in danger of slipping into a ‘languishing’ state.

So, you know what is important to you, but how do you move forward from there?

Once you’ve identified your core values, you may want to consider different domains of your life and reflect on how fully (or not) you are living by these values. For example, you may find it helpful to divide your life into categories such as: relationships; personal growth; leisure; spirituality; health; work; community and environment. Reflect on each area, thinking about the sort of person you want to be. Consider whether there are any areas where you feel that you are currently not acting consistently with your values. Think about what steps you can commit to taking in the short, medium, and long term to help you to move in the right direction.

Be flexible

However, whilst it is helpful to be aware of our values and to use them as a guide to the way we would like to live, it is also helpful to bear in mind that values are best held lightly. During times of extreme pressure or stress, if you don’t have psychological flexibility and ‘fuse’ with your values, holding them too rigidly, this could end up working against you. So, try to steer away from telling yourself that you ‘should’/ ‘must’/ ‘have to’ do something in a particular way.

Some suggestions for bringing more meaning to your life

  • Find a cause or organisation that matters to you and get involved
  • Experiment with trying out a range of new and creative activities and find something that you connect with
  • What are you truly passionate about? Consider how you can use this to help other people
  • Commit to spending quality time with the people in your life that you most care about

Do you want to develop as a resilient and inspiring leader? On my 1-2-1 Executive Leadership Coaching Programme one of the areas that we focus on is your core values. Values and cultural fit are critical to your engagement and satisfaction at work, helping you to be more productive, involved and interested. For more information, visit and book in a discovery call with me.

Mandy Murdoch – Accredited Coach, Coaching Psychologist and Consultant

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