Has your career lost its luster? Perhaps you’re not miserable at work, but you’re not really engaged, either. You’re passing the time, or maybe you feel like time’s just passing.
You could be languishing.
In 2021, while pandemic fatigue and its ripple effects were widespread, organizational psychologist Adam Grant brought the concept of languishing to the fore in his well-known New York Times article, “There’s a Name for the Blah You’re Feeling: It’s Called Languishing.”
“Flourishing is the peak of well-being: You have a strong sense of meaning, mastery and mattering to others. Depression is the valley of ill-being: You feel despondent, drained and worthless. Languishing is the neglected middle child of mental health. It’s the void between depression and flourishing—the absence of well-being,” he explains.
And it’s not to be ignored. According to Grant, who’s spent the majority of his career studying motivation, languishing can cause you to operate below your full potential, dull your motivation and disrupt your ability to focus.
While Grant’s NYT article specifically addressed languishing in the context of the pandemic, the feeling is pervasive among mid-career professionals who find themselves in a career rut and wonder: Is this all there is? … Am I stuck in this career or at this company forever? … How did I lose my spark?
Dwelling on these unproductive thoughts can catapult you into a downward spiral. Taking action, however, can put you back in the driver’s seat—of your career and your life. One big U-turn is all it takes to put yourself back on the road to flourishing.
Finding Your Flow and Flourishing: The HAB Can Guide Your Journey
Psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, one of the co-founders of positive psychology, introduced the concept of flow in the 1990s, describing it as “a state in which people are so involved in an activity that nothing else seems to matter; the experience is so enjoyable that people will continue to do it even at great cost, for the sheer sake of doing it.” (PositivePsychology.com)
When you work with—rather than against—your natural abilities it’s easier to experience flow in your career. You find yourself in “the zone.” Time passes quickly. You love what you do so much that it barely feels like work.
Flow is an essential component of flourishing. How can you find your flow? The first step is developing self-awareness. Recognizing your natural talents and gifts. And then applying them—at work and in life.
The Highlands Ability Battery (HAB) is an objective, psychometrically validated aptitude assessment that can help you:
Understand What Drives You
The HAB can reveal a variety of insights that can help you recognize your strengths and use them in a way that will help you achieve satisfaction and harmony in your career and life.
It did for Megan, a senior VP at a regional bank where she had worked for close to two decades.
She liked her job. She liked her colleagues. She liked her income. But ever since the bank had been acquired by a national chain a couple of years ago, something felt stale … flat. Megan was languishing—and wanted to find the cause as well as a tenable solution.
After completing the HAB, Megan participated in a debrief session with a Highlands Certified Consultant, who helped tie her results together and into real-life applications, including actionable ideas to reignite her dulled spark.
One point in the feedback consultation revolved around Megan’s high score in Idea Productivity, one of five Driving Abilities measured by the Highlands Ability Battery. Driving abilities create a push to be used and therefore, demand expression. Unfortunately, not all careers, jobs, bosses or companies allow them to be applied at work, as Megan was experiencing.
High Idea Productivity renders Megan able to come up with innovative solutions to solve challenges and to generate multiple approaches to persuade, sell or teach. But the new management liked things done “the way they’ve always been done.” Unique and innovative ideas weren’t welcome, let alone valued or appreciated. No wonder she frequently felt bored, frustrated or discouraged at work.
Did Megan need to find a new job to feel satisfied and fulfilled? Not necessarily. While she wasn’t able to express her high Idea Productivity through her day-to-day work responsibilities, it didn’t mean she had to suppress or ignore it altogether.
Together with her Highlands consultant, Megan began exploring ways to use this ability in other activities at the bank, including participating in a special companywide initiative or joining the planning committee for the next philanthropic event, as well as in extracurricular outlets: volunteering for a for a local political candidate’s campaign … coaching a youth soccer team … creating original art or jewelry.
Drawing on this ability, Megan was able to brainstorm many opportunities—and immediately began looking forward to the possibilities to find her flow. To begin flourishing again.
Refine or Refresh Your Career
Having a clear understanding of your natural abilities can help you find opportunities to refresh your current job, shift your responsibilities and perhaps take on new roles. The Highlands Company publishes a variety of customized reports detailing the definition and interpretation of your results for different applications.
One example is the Highlands WorkTypes Report which matches your natural abilities with roles and responsibilities that can be applied in almost any occupation. This report can help you:
- Refine and reprioritize your work by minimizing some roles and responsibilities and increasing your focus on roles and responsibilities that match your WorkTypes; and
- Refresh your work by identifying new roles or responsibilities you might find fulfilling.
Let’s say your abilities have a strong match to the “Research-General” WorkType, defined as “gathering information in any particular subject and reaching conclusions about what is discovered.”
This match doesn’t imply that you need to go out and find a job conducting research, but it does suggest that you might enjoy (and do well) gathering and sifting through relevant information for a specific project.
Use Your Abilities to Acquire a New Skill
Learning new skills is one way to combat the sense of languishing. While natural abilities stabilize around the age of 14 and generally remain accessible throughout time, skills can be acquired at any time. You might be required to learn a new skill to do your job … or you can choose to pick up a new skill for fun, intellectual stimulation or personal growth.
Understanding your natural abilities can inform the process. If the HAB reveals that you have high Design Memory, high Verbal Memory and low Tonal Memory, for example, can you take in new information through auditory sources—e.g., listening to audiobooks? Sure. But it might be less effective than if you were to rely on your stronger learning channels. And when presented with new material in an audio format, you might find it helpful to supplement what you hear by drawing sketches or diagrams (Design Memory) or by reading along (Verbal Memory).
Shift from Languishing to Flourishing: Create a Personal Vision
While the feeling of languishing can crop up a at any time in a person’s career, it is quite common during the Midlife Transition (between the ages of 38-45) and the Age 50 Assessment (ages 50-55), when feeling that your work has meaning becomes increasingly important.
These turning points, often accompanied by changes in the family (e.g., kids leaving home, parents becoming ill, etc.), can make you acutely aware of the disparity between the person you feel you are and the person you show up as in the world. This disparity can lead to stress, anxiety, depression … and languishing.
(For an expanded description of these and other significant transitions and turning points, read Don’t Waste Your Talent, now available as an electronic flip book.)
Overtaken by a sense of responsibility to pay the mortgage, provide for the family and save for retirement, personal fulfillment often takes a back seat during these years. This approach isn’t sustainable and can ultimately leave you feeling depleted and empty. It doesn’t have to be this way, though.
Developing a Personal Vision can help you create more balance and clarity around your career and life goals and thus feel reenergized and reengaged.
The Highlands Personal Vision coaching program takes a deeper dive into the eight elements of the Whole Person Model: natural abilities, skills, interests, personality, family of origin, values, goals and career stage. Considering these elements together under an umbrella of increased self-awareness gleaned from the HAB allows you to move from the Stress Cycle to the Balance Cycle:
Using long-term thinking to make inner-directed, meaning-driven and values-based decisions allows you to clearly envision the life you want to live—and to intentionally create a career that fits into that vision. Making the shift is worth it. You can’t flourish in the Stress Cycle. In the Balance Cycle, however, the sky’s the limit.
A personal vision gives you the self-awareness to reflect on the things that really matter most to you and to think about how you can weave them together to propel your future.
Your spark isn’t gone. It’s just waiting for you to rediscover it.
Learn more about working with a Highlands consultant to take the Highlands Ability Battery and Personal Vision coaching program, contact the Highlands Company today and take charge of your life and career.
Mardee Handler, Marketing Director for the Highlands Company and Career Exploration Coach at Mardee Handler Coaching & Consulting
“It’s never too early — or too late — to pave the right career path. Rather than leaving that path to chance, you can proactively create it by making informed, intentional choices along the way.
As a certified Highlands consultant, I enjoy empowering people of all ages and career stages to explore their career options with greater confidence.”