Prior to the spring of 2021, there wasn’t an easily identifiable way to label the feeling that nearly everyone has experienced at some point during the pandemic: Languishing.
Languishing is the overall sense of “blah” that we’ve all experienced for short or long periods of time. It isn’t exactly depression or hopelessness, but it can express itself as a similar lack of energy or excitement for things that one would typically enjoy. Over the past year, this feeling has been broadly experienced due to our shared exposure to extreme and persistent stress.
Languishing applies to our personal lives as much as it does our professional lives–Because, let’s be honest, there is no such thing as “work-life balance” anymore. Anyone who has simultaneously juggled the three separate jobs of being an employee, stay-at-home parent, and homeschool teacher know that this is the truth.
This feeling of being alive rather than living has also permeated into the overall workforce.
Multiple recent surveys indicate that somewhere between 40-60% of American workers plan to leave their current company once the pandemic concludes. This reality may sound terrifying for managers and executives, but it will also create a new period of widespread renewal and engagement.
If you’ve contemplated leaving your current role during COVID or were laid off due to the economic fallout, this is an incredible opportunity to create a new reality that is meaningful and fulfilling for you. You don’t have to languish; you can flourish.
The behavioral changes that will result from the pandemic are only starting to be studied and understood. But you know it’s true. You think and behave a bit differently than you did in 2019; even if that means behaving similarly to the way you did then, but louder.
When re-evaluating your career, it’s important to avoid getting distracted by the base desirables, like being able to Work From Anywhere or making X% more money. Instead, take this opportunity to think about what you’ve discovered about yourself between streaming binges and reflect on what you value and why.
Take a pause and think long-term. What are a few things you want to be proud of at the end of your life? What do you want to achieve in your career? What do you need to do over the next 5-10 years to position yourself for that? Do you need to move, earn a new certificate or degree, change relationships, or learn new skills? Thinking bigger than the minimum salary and 50-mile radius filters on Indeed will help you identify what you actually want and need to do next.
Titles and bigger paychecks are great, but what gets you genuinely excited? What is a mission, purpose, or cause, that is meaningful to you? Does processing TPS reports really fulfill you? If not, changing to a company that processes SPT reports won’t make you feel any more fulfilled. The reality is you may need to make a more drastic and potentially uncomfortable change.
You may also need help and guidance to navigate these decisions. Life, career, and leadership coaching can be a resource for an objective third party to ask you the tough questions, force you to evaluate your priorities, and show you how to achieve what you want. But know this, everything you have ever wanted to achieve is within your power with the right will, attitude, and tools.
The current job market is fully in favor of the employee. You have endless options and opportunities before you. The challenge isn’t finding a job but rather finding fulfillment. When you find out what will make you feel fulfilled, you will be able to go after that next role, or you might be even be inspired to stay within your current organization. 2020 may have been about languishing, but with a few intentional decisions in 2021, you’ll spend the rest of your career flourishing.
Matthew Anderson of Leadership Coaching for Results has a master’s degree in conflict management, is a member of Mensa and a former consultant and in-house trainer to a Fortune 500 company. He’s the author of numerous nationally published articles and co-author of a book about resilience.