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Even if You're Languishing or Dormant, You Can Still Find Flow

Many of us aren't feeling 100%. Here's how to get your flow back.

Key points

  • Languishing describes a psychological state between depression and flourishing.
  • Austin Kleon suggests dormancy might be a better term for the malaise many have experienced during the pandemic.
  • There are ways to try to experience flow states in your everyday routine to help you feel more connected.
Photo by Raphael Lovaski on Unsplash
Source: Photo by Raphael Lovaski on Unsplash

Back in July, Taylor Swift blessed us with her surprise album Folklore. As legend has it, she worked on this set of songs in secret at the onset of the pandemic. She threw herself into her work, and I was here for it. It was my favorite Swift collection to date, and I wanted to let people know, so I wrote a tweet about how Taylor Swift created a masterful album during the pandemic, and the rest of us... didn't.

I was trying to be funny and fresh, which sometimes works for me and sometimes doesn't, but my tweet received some pushback that now feels prescient. One response was that we shouldn't be comparing ourselves to Swift, who obviously enjoys an incredible amount of privilege. In other words, most people were just trying to survive and didn't have the time or inclination to be focusing on productivity amid a pandemic.

Languishing

I was reminded of my tweet after Adam Grant's New York Times piece "There's a Name for the Blah You're Feeling: It's Called Languishing." Grant describes the psychological state between depression and flourishing as the joyless and aimless emptiness and stagnation of languishing.

And languishing makes sense when we're thinking about our own productivity. I signed a book deal, completed all my edits, and launched said book during the pandemic, so I've been thinking a lot about productivity this past year. I'm also fortunate enough to have the luxury and privilege to concern myself with creative output instead of survival. So languishing made sense to me in those terms.

Many days it was harder than usual to find the motivation to cross things off my to-do list.

Photo by Mitsuo Komoriya on Unsplash
Source: Photo by Mitsuo Komoriya on Unsplash

Dormancy

But then Austin Kleon's piece "I'm Not Languishing, I'm Dormant" added a layer of complexity to the conversation. Kleon argues that dormancy might be a better word for the feeling many of us have of late. Perhaps it doesn't make sense even trying to flourish during a pandemic. As Kleon's metaphor goes, it's like trying to blossom in the dead of winter. Maybe we should be gentler on ourselves and try to fill up our cups instead of trying to pump out one surprise hit album after another.

Now that my book has been published and the dust has settled, I feel this dormancy thing. I'm reading and reflecting and just being, not struggling to flourish in the face of such prolonged uncertainty.

And it feels nice to take that time and give myself that space.

Finding Flow

If you're in a position where you need or want to think in terms of output and productivity, perhaps languishing is the word for you.

If you're more interested in making it to metaphorical spring before you blossom again, dormancy might make more sense to you.

But I'm glad we have both words to try to explain how we're feeling lately. And no matter what you call it, Grant's solution of finding flow states in your everyday routine makes sense as an antidote to feeling blah.

Flow is the optimal psychological state in which things feel effortless and time seems to fly by, our skills match the difficulty of the task at hand, and it doesn't have to lead to productivity in the capitalist sense of the word.

How to Find Flow

We can find flow by:

  • Immersing ourselves in a good book.
  • Organizing the garage.
  • Playing a game with our kids.
  • Writing in a journal.
  • Cooking a thoughtful dinner for our partner.
  • Completing a crossword or sudoku puzzle.
  • Walking around the neighborhood.
  • Tending to a literal garden.
Photo by Victor Malyushev on Unsplash
Source: Photo by Victor Malyushev on Unsplash

Every Plant Has Its Season

There's room for languishing. There's room for dormancy. But no matter what you're calling it, be gentle on yourself, and focus more on finding some flow and maybe not so much on the pressure of productivity.

Fill up your cup—practice connecting. Be curious and honest about how you're feeling these days.

Every plant has its season. We don't all have to flourish all at once. We don't all have to release our best albums during a global pandemic.

But I'm still glad Taylor did.

LinkedIn image: Tirachard Kumtanom/Shutterstock

References

Grant. A. (19 April 2021). "There's a Name for the Blah You're Feeling: It's Called Languishing." The New York Times.

Kleon, A. (26 April 2021). "I'm Not Languishing, I'm Dormant." Austin Kleon Newsletter. https://austinkleon.com/2021/04/26/im-not-languishing-im-dormant/

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