Ten Coaching Questions on the Path From Languishing to Flourishing


Thanks to Adam Grant’s May 2020 article in the New York Times, we now have a word to describe this malaise many of us are experiencing:

“Languishing is a sense of stagnation and emptiness. It feels as if you’re muddling through your days, looking at your life through a foggy windshield. And it might be the dominant emotion of 2021.”

The opposite of languishing is flourishing.

Martin Seligman, a founding father of the School of Positive Psychology, writes in his book Flourishing that five factors together contribute to flourishing.

  • Positive emotions
  • Engagement
  • Relationships
  • Meaning
  • Accomplishments

There is also a recording available of Seligman presenting on this topic at the Happiness and it’s Causes 2012 conference available to watch here.

Positive psychologist and professor Dr. Lynn Soots, writes:

“The idea of flourishing is not something someone either has or does not have, it is an action-based process of knowing that in order to flourish one must engage in practices that develop momentum in flourishing… In all instances something must happen for the state to be realized. Whether it is to reach out and make positive human connections, or to develop a sense of self-love, it is the process of un-sticking one’s self from a current state and taking action to grow as a human being.”

Flourishing is not a personality trait. It’s not a quality you have or don’t have.

Flourishing is a process that requires intentional action.

The good news is that it is no secret what it takes to flourish.

I collaborated with my colleague Kathryn McNaughton to develop some coaching questions to get you thinking about simple steps for moving from languishing towards flourishing.

  1. What are those activities that inject energy into your day? When we begin to up the percentage of time we spend in these activities, the boost we get flows over to every area of our life. What energy-giving activities can you add to your weekly routine? What can you do to prioritize these?
  2. What activities most engage you? You know you are engaged when you lose track of time and get completely swept up in what you are doing. What can you do to add more of these engaging activities into your day-to-day?
  3. Who are the people you most enjoy spending time with? Who do you want to connect with? What can you do to engage with or create a supportive community?
  4. Where can you go, or what do you do to get some moments of calm in your day?
  5. Where are you finding the balance between “doing” and “being”? What can you do to get more of that “being” time?
  6. What is one thing that would make the most significant difference in your sense of well-being? How can you implement that?
  7. What puts a smile on your face? When was the last time you had a big belly laugh? What can you do to bring some laughter into each day?
  8. What have you done lately that feeds your sense of beauty? What do you want to do?
  9. How can you begin to note your accomplishments each day? What simple ritual can you add that will help you notice all that you are achieving? Hint – read my article on this topic here.
  10. What is something unexpected and kind you can do for someone today?

I also encourage you to try some of the activities in this evidence-based guide, “How to Flourish,” produced by Harvard University’s “The Flourishing Human Program”. (Who knew Harvard had such a program?)

You can also learn more about flourishing from this article by Courtney Ackerman at

Bottom line. With the dial currently pointing towards languishing for so many of us, it’s time to take action to shift towards flourishing once again. Flourishing is something we all can build into our lives. Take a moment to reflect on a tiny, simple step to move forward today.

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