A Mental Health in Careers Moment: Recognizing and Acknowledging Our Collective Sense of “Languish”

Jamie Grant, C’98, MSEd’99

I know many exceptional faculty members at Penn, but one who stands out in the broadest sense, given his reach and impact through his work and advocacy, is Dr. Adam Grant – and no, we’re not related, haha.  I think the reason I’ve become such a fan in the years I’ve been reading his work and listening to his podcasts and interviews is that it often feels like his message is written or spoken to me as well as  the people I love, care for, work alongside, and certainly the students and alumni that I advise every day.

If you haven’t read Dr. Grant’s New York Times article, “There’s a Name for the Blah You’re Feeling: It’s Called Languishing,” it is worth your time.  Dr. Grant offers an insight into what so many of us are feeling, personally and professionally, especially through this passage drawing on a theory from sociologist Corey Keyes:

Languishing is the neglected middle child of mental health. It’s the void between depression and flourishing — the absence of well-being. You don’t have symptoms of mental illness, but you’re not the picture of mental health either. You’re not functioning at full capacity. Languishing dulls your motivation, disrupts your ability to focus, and triples the odds that you’ll cut back on work. It appears to be more common than major depression — and in some ways it may be a bigger risk factor for mental illness.

So what are possible ways to combat this limbo between depression and flourishing?  Dr. Grant suggests finding a flow state, looking for uninterrupted time blocks, and focusing on small measurable and attainable goals, among other strategies.  I have personally found these, and adopting an exercise routine that I maintain as strictly as possible, to help me.

If you are feeling at all this way, please check in – with the article, with your support people, with yourself – and please give yourself a bit of grace in knowing you are not alone.

By Jamie Grant
Jamie Grant Senior Associate Director, Engineering Jamie Grant