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Adam Grant’s Advice on Just Manageable Wins


If you haven’t read it already, Adam Grant published a great article on Languishing in the New York Times.

He offers a name for a very common feeling in 2021 of “state of stagnation and emptiness.” I don’t really think this applies to everyone, but I agree that one of the best ways to manage emotions is to name them

More than the diagnosis that American society feels stagnant, I enjoyed Grant’s advice to aim for small wins.

To transcend languishing, try starting with small wins, like the tiny triumph of figuring out a whodunit or the rush of playing a seven-letter word.
One of the clearest paths to flow is a just-manageable difficulty: a challenge that stretches your skills and heightens your resolve.
That means carving out daily time to focus on a challenge that matters to you — an interesting project, a worthwhile goal, a meaningful conversation.

— Adam Grant, Languishing

I often have to remind myself to seek out the “just-manageable difficulty” – smack in between boredom and anxiety.

On occasion I find myself picking overly easy challenges, which can feel boring. Research has found surfing to be a very reliable flow trigger, and I can attest that it never feels overly easy.

Not everyone has the feeling of languishing and I enjoyed the response from Austin Kleon. He bristled at the term and offered his own metaphor to describe an attitude full of potential.

There’s also a danger that when you hear a term that sort of describes what you’re feeling, or seems right, you’ll be satisficed, and say, “Good, enough,” accept the term, and move on.
I disliked the term “languishing” the minute I heard it.
I’m not languishing, I’m dormant.
Like a plant. Or a volcano.
I am waiting to be activated.

— Austin Kleon

How can you break out of a funk? I suggest taking an online class, learning new topics through podcasts, or tackling a 30 day challenge.

Commit to five minutes of a challenge today and remember to check back in afterwards to figure out if it was too hard to too easy.

You might also like The Most Creative Advice from Austin Kleonfive terrific ideas that inspired Austin Kleon, offerring unique and interesting ways to approach creativity.