Man, do I know what it’s like to be bored and miserable. Been there, done that! Every day I dragged my bored (and therefore boring) ass along a 30-minute commute I know you’re jealous because your commute is an hour. You win to get to a bored looking grey building where I’d swipe my keycard with a picture of me looking bored on it after which I would would walk up some boring steps to reach my boring grey cube where I’d sit there for eight hours a day doing seriously boring work.
The one bright star was the people I worked with, but alas, that was not enough.
Then, I got to get back into my car and take a boring 30-minute commute back to my house where I’d be so catatonic from my boredom that I would liven up my existence by eating way too much expensive (albeit NOT boring, totally delicious) food, drinking way too much very not boring whiskey, going to the gym to engage in bombastically boring workouts to counteract the utter pleasure I just ingested, followed by entertaining myself with endless Netflix, Facebook, Google article searches, and whatever else I could find to distract me from how BORED I was with my life. I would even do online dating to find someone who would rescue me from my boredom, and guess what? All I attracted were people just like me, living the same boring life.
Are you bored yet? Yeah, so am I.
But there is a silver lining to the boredom. First of all, life doesn’t have to be boring. It’s boring because you tolerate living a boring life. But the flip side of boredom is that your brain is completely free to CREATE.
If your life is constantly engaging you, then you wouldn’t be reading this article are never bored. And if you’re never bored, you never have the need to get away from being bored. Hence, you never have the need to use your imagination. And therefore, you never create something new.
Boredom is an excellent catalyst for creativity! And creation! And CHANGE.
Ever been doing something you’ve super loved for a really long time, and then eventually you got… bored with it? That’s because even though you might have loved that activity, unless it provided constant variety and change within that activity, your brain gets used to it and therefore becomes bored. Same thing happens with workouts. Our brains are WIRED for creativity and change. We can’t thrive without it. We don’t grow unless we’re changing. Why do you think Apple comes out with a new iPhone every six months and you all rush to buy it? Because Apple knows eventually you’ll get bored with it, so they provide a new shiny object for you to play with before you get the chance to get sick of it.
Well played, Apple.
The same applies to your life. If you’re bored in your life, it’s time for a change. Welcome boredom! That free mind space gives your brain a chance to do what it does best, which is create. To come up with new and inventive ways to keep its own attention. Embrace your boredom and use it wisely!
So all right Heather, what do you suggest I do when I’m bored? you ask, annoyed. Well, that’s a good question. First, I’d propose that you look at the sum total of your life and ask yourself what is so boring about it. Are you doing the same thing every day? Are you hanging out with the same people every day? Are you doing the same tasks every day at your job? Are you doing the same thing every evening after work is over? Are you doing the same activities on the weekends?
Then I’d want to know what you would enjoy doing that would not be boring. And before you say “well Heather, I think skydiving would be really exciting but it’s super expensive and I can’t do that as much as I would like so screw you smartypants”, I’d ask you why you would think skydiving would be exciting, and then find a way either for you to move things around in your life so you could skydive every once in a while, or I would explore further to find out if there are other activities that you could be doing that provide the same kind of excitement as skydiving, but that aren’t so expensive (and for the record, skydiving isn’t expensive once you get past the first beginner level. I have a friend who has been skydiving for years and she only pays $25 a jump. Probably less than your average beer tab, bro).
The point is to find ways to get the feeling of excitement you are looking for – the means isn’t necessarily the only way to the end. You might get the same feeling of excitement from riding a skateboard down the highway, and that is super cheap.
The argument is, boredom can inspire creativity. Anyone seen Jackass? Those were some bored ass bros, and they found a way to parlay their boredom into a montage of TV shows and movies that grossed millions – just from finding creative ways to turn everyday ridiculous activities into inspired masterpieces for us to roar and pee our pants at. I’d say that’s pretty genius.
So next time you’re complaining to yourself that you’re bored and miserable, stop for a minute and ask yourself what you would like to be doing that would be amazing. Not something distracting like tv or video games or smoking pot, but engaging. Source the feeling you’re desiring rather than the task itself. Chances are, there are many ways to create that feeling of interest and excitement, from any number of potential activities. Use your imagination to come up with a plethora of alternatives that are viable for you to elevate your brain activity and sense of purpose and meaning.
Now, before you start screaming that my suggestions sound like an awful lot of boring work, I have another thought to share about boredom, in direct connection to the antithesis of boredom: creating your ideal lifestyle.
Back when I still had a job, I would often spend time thinking about what I would be doing if I could be doing anything I wanted (i.e. instead of having to be available for my job). I realized that once I exhausted all the playing I wanted to do that I hadn’t been able to do over the last… forever… I wasn’t entirely sure what I might want to do with my time. I knew that what I did would need to have some purpose, some achievable, measurable, positive result (enter: writing and coaching!). But I also remember wondering if that inability to decide what I would do if I had all the time in the world could be a difficulty that many people came up against when considering what they wanted to do in the event they actually achieved their ideal lifestyle. Is it possible that we sabotage reaching our goals because we’re afraid that once we reach them… we won’t have anything else to reach for? That we – gasp! – might be… bored? AGAIN??!?!
I know most people who struggle either financially or just with hating what they do for a living, would scoff at this question and say something along the lines of “give me a zillion dollars and I’ll take that challenge!”, but it really is something to consider. Humans do not cope well with boredom. Boredom is like a mental vacuum and we always find a way to fill it. Food, drugs, relationship drama, fidgeting, work, hobbies. We are creative creatures, and if we find ourselves in a situation where our brains are stagnating, we become anxious. It’s very uncomfortable. And then, we take more drugs or eat more food or play more video games or get a job waiting tables or start shoplifting, in order to get rid of the anxiety. It’s a weird cycle.
In my coaching world, I often come up against people who have dreams of financial freedom so they can do whatever they want with their time, but then they turn around and do everything possible to make sure that can never happen (which is why I came up with my Destination: Paradise coaching program! No excuses, people!). And I’m not talking about spending every dime that comes into their experience, although that is part of it. I’m talking more about how they choose to spend their time. I have noticed among so many people (and it made me wonder if this wasn’t a mirror for myself at times) that the way they spend their time is in direct opposition to achieving any kind of freedom, financial or otherwise, at all. So why do people waste so much of their time doing things that will never get them to where they “say” they want to go?
And I had to wonder… if a person never achieves their dreams, then they always have a dream to aspire to. They can always tell other people “I have dreams, I have goals” – which is way more interesting than hearing “I don’t aspire to anything. I’m fine right where I am”. Right? Not to mention, if you never achieve your dreams or goals, then you always have a project to think about. You always have something to keep you busy, to give you purpose and direction in life.
Could that be you? Could you actually be telling yourself it is that critical that you watch that episode of Miami Vice before you sit down to your computer and write a chapter of your best-selling novel (um… yessss…)? If you actually make it to your goal, or achieve your dream…. then what? What will you do then? What will get you up in the morning? Doesn’t it follow that after you have written, published and sold your best-selling novel that – ugh – you’ll just be expected to write another one? Man, what a pain in the ASS.
I’m sure a lot of people would argue that they would just set another goal. Maybe. But isn’t it easier just never to achieve one in the first place? Aren’t we a species of efficiency? Isn’t not achieving any goal the quickest way never to have to set a new one?
Not having anything to do is often the reason people dread retirement. Could this be the same reason some people subconsciously avoid fulfilling their dreams?
I think I’m starting to confuse myself. But it was something that came up in my ponderings today, when I was reflecting on procrastination and self-sabotage and boredom. I see it all the time (and occasionally practice it). I know there are many reasons why people don’t achieve their dreams, and I know every single one of them ends up at the self. The only one ever holding any of us back from achieving our dreams is ourselves.
I just always wonder why we deliberately make things difficult for ourselves. I have a very good friend who actually laughingly admits that apparently her Higher Self has decided that everything has to be hard, and boy, she’s not kidding! Her life is a constant struggle, and the choices she makes are always the ones that lead her to more struggle. Why does she do this? I know it doesn’t make her happy to struggle, and I have often made suggestions to her that might allow her to reach her goals with less struggle, but she deflects me at every turn with excuses reasons why my suggestions just won’t work for her. Why do we deliberately live small? Is living large even harder perceptually than living small? Is that why we undermine ourselves?
So I challenge you to look at how you spend your time (and your money), especially if you’re bored a lot. We all have the same 24 hours in a day – how do you spend your time? How much of it are you wasting on dumb shit? How much of that time do you think you could round up and use for something that would move you toward your dreams? Is it possible to imagine you could channel that boredom energy into something exciting and purposeful? If God spoke to you now, and said “I’ll give you a million dollars at the end of six months if you do X, Y, and Z over that time”, would you do it, or would you say “you know what God, can I just finish this game of Tetris first? I’m kicking Danno’s ass!”
Think about it.