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How marketers can move from languishing to flourishing

By Deanna deBara · February 2, 2022
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That unmotivated, disengaged, apathetic, and all-around "meh" feeling you've had recently is called languishing—and, for many, it was the dominant experience of 2021. (In fact, languishing was so common that Adam Grant's article on languishing was the New York Times' most read article of the year.) 

I can definitely relate. Generally speaking, I love what I do. But in 2021, it felt like it took all of my energy to get through the bare minimum every workday. I found myself distracted, depleted, and struggling to get through even basic tasks. And marketing myself and my business? Forget about it—I could barely handle the clients I already had.

Many of the pandemic- and burnout-related challenges that led to widespread languishing still exist. So if you (and I!) want to officially leave languishing behind, you need to be intentional about taking steps away from languishing and toward flourishing.

As a marketer, what exactly are those steps? Let's take a look at how you can move yourself—and your marketing efforts—from languishing to flourishing.

Identify how and where you're languishing…

It's important for everyone to make the shift from languishing to thriving—but it's especially important for marketers. Marketing has a direct connection to a brand's customer base. If a marketing team is languishing, it can come across in their work, and they may inadvertently pass that languishing on to customers, creating a sense of disengagement with the brand.

But you can't start flourishing if you don't know how and where you're languishing. Which is why, if you're currently struggling, you need to take stock of where you are now.

Toward the end of 2021, I took a good, hard look at how languishing was showing up in my work life. I realized that the way I was structuring my day wasn't doing my motivation any favors. So, I made some changes: for example, starting my day with a workout or a walk outside with my dogs instead of jumping right into emails. I'm already feeling more energetic, which is helping me get more done during work hours.

Deanna on a snowy walk with her dogs
Here I am getting energized on a snowy walk with my dogs.

Taking the time to identify how languishing is showing up in your work (and life!)—for example, where you feel stuck, where you're struggling to get and stay motivated, or where you feel like you're lacking creativity—will give you a jumping-off point to figure out where you need to focus your attention. And once you know what areas of your work (and again, your life) need attention, you can start to put together a concrete plan to get yourself to a better—and more flourishing—place.

…and where you're succeeding

It's hard to change for the better if you don't know what needs to change. But it's equally—if not more—important to recognize and celebrate where you're thriving.

Celebrating your wins can go a long way in boosting morale and motivation—and helping to shake that "meh" feeling associated with languishing. If you're struggling with languishing, make a list of all the things (big and small) you've achieved over the past two-ish years since the pandemic hit, whether those wins are personal (like starting yoga) or professional (like adding 5,000 new followers on Instagram). Then, in those moments when languishing has you feeling defeated or unmotivated, pull out that list and remind yourself of what an amazing marketer (and person!) you are.

I keep a tally of all my wins, both personal and professional, in a Google Doc. It's been an integral part of boosting my mood and reminding myself that I am, in fact, a successful person on days—which, in 2021, there were many of—when getting things done was especially tough.

As a marketer, keeping track of your wins also has a secondary benefit. Recognizing and celebrating where you're succeeding can have a ripple effect on your customers. When you're focused on the good, it will come across in your marketing efforts (for example, by making more of those fun, off-the-cuff TikToks your audience loves so much)—which will pass those good feelings right on to your customer, increasing engagement and positive brand sentiment.

Do a bad idea brainstorm

When you're in the midst of languishing, it can be hard to feel creative. You might feel like you just don't have any good marketing ideas for and maybe won't have another good marketing idea….well, ever.

But if you want to move from languishing to flourishing, you need to get those creative juices going again. So forget about coming up with good ideas for your marketing—and instead, focus on brainstorming bad ideas.

Commit to doing a "bad idea brainstorm" every day. Carve out a few minutes every morning to jot down marketing-related ideas, whether those are images for your next Instagram post, topics for a new lead magnet, or concepts for a larger-scale strategy to promote a new product. The most important part? Give yourself permission for most—or all—of those ideas to be flat-out terrible.

It may sound counterintuitive, but when you're feeling stuck, removing the pressure to come up with a game-changing marketing plan, strategy, or idea—and instead, giving yourself space to come up with any ideas at all, including bad ones—can help spark creativity.

For example, I recently brainstormed ways to boost my energy throughout the day. While most of the ideas were absolutely terrible (to give you a sense of how terrible, "mid-day headstands" was on the list), one idea—trying a cold plunge—actually worked out. I now do a cold plunge once a week at a local biohacking center, and let me tell you, nothing will wake you up and get you motivated to jump into the day quite like submerging yourself in 32-degree water at 9 a.m.

How many bad ideas do you need to come up with each day? According to author and entrepreneur James Altucher's idea machine concept, brainstorming 10 to 20 ideas every day will work your "idea muscle" enough to start generating some gems within all the less-than-stellar ideas—so aim for at least 10 ideas per brainstorming session.

Commit to one new marketing experiment per week

When you're languishing, work can feel like just more of the same—day after day, week after week. If you want to get out of that same old, same old experience, you need a pattern interrupt—and that includes in your marketing.

Trying something completely new and different can reinvigorate your excitement about work—which is the opposite of languishing. So, if you want to flourish in the coming year, commit to doing something completely new and different with your marketing every week, whether that's hosting your first customer Q&A on Instagram Live, testing a new format or template for your marketing emails, or redesigning your website. 

This year, I have a host of new business and marketing ideas I plan to try—and just thinking about those ideas makes me excited about the future of my business in a way I haven't felt since before the pandemic.

The more newness you infuse into your marketing practices, the more excited about and engaged with your work you'll feel—and the more languishing will start to feel like a distant memory.

Reconnect with your customer base

When you're elbows deep in marketing strategy and implementation, it can be easy to forget that you're marketing to real people. But if you want to reinspire yourself and your marketing, reconnecting with the real people you're marketing to can be a great way to do it.

Connecting directly to your customer base allows you to see the impact you and your work are having. And connecting with your customer base not only helps deliver a potent dose of motivation, but it can also give you more insights into who your customers are and what they need—which can help spark creative ideas for where to take your marketing in the coming year.

Find ways to connect directly with the customers you're marketing to. Run focus groups. Send out surveys. Ask for feedback. Listen. That connection could be just what you need to get rid of your professional languishing once and for all—and make this year a more vibrant, flourishing year, both for yourself and your customers.

Start flourishing

With the right steps, you can increase motivation and feel more engaged with and excited about your marketing work—and officially leave languishing behind to make this the year of flourishing.

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