I’m one of those people who are easily bored.
It doesn’t mean I am boring or that I get distracted easily. I have a lot of interests and I don’t sit around with nothing to do for any length of time.
It has had certain implications in my life though, such as…
- I got bored with my major in college at the end and had no idea what to do instead
- I don’t always follow through with things
- I don’t dive deeply into a subject
- And since I don’t go deep, I don’t develop my thinking
- I have loads and loads of hobbies and interests, but I am not that masterful at any
- It leads me to snack too much
So what can we do about our boredom? How do turn it into an opportunity for growth?
Let’s examine the problem of boredom a little more closely.
The definition of boredom
Boredom has zoomed into the spotlight. There is a great amount of research being done on the subject. Canadian psychologist John Eastwood interviewed hundreds of people and came up with a definition.
Boredom is the unfilled desire for a satisfying activity.
In other words, you want to do something that really engages your mind and emotions, but you can’t find it.
It could be that you don’t have something that uses your mental abilities, but it’s also that you don’t CHOOSE to use your mental energy. It might be that something feels too difficult, too easy, not interesting enough, too routine, or just tiresome.
The result is that you disconnect from your task and activities.
And you feel bored.
This definition sums up my own situation really well.
For me, boredom tends to come from a few specific directions, and it basically comes down to that I don’t feel like my mental or emotional energy is engaged. I don’t feel that surge of motivation and inspiration that fires me up.
I get bored of anything I do on repeat. The same foods, the same routes, the same activities, over and over.
I just want to scream.
As I mentioned above, I tend to shrink back from going too deeply into the details of anything. I know a little about a lot, but not a lot about a little.
I’m always racing to the next idea before I have fished into the current idea.
It’s not all bad though. Having lots of ideas and interests can help creativity since it depends on connecting many things together in new ways. The problem is I often don’t stick around quite long enough to get those connections built.
The uncomfortable feeling
According to Eastwood, when you’re bored, time slows, we lose our focus and have a hard time finding any meaning in what we are doing.
Does any of that feel familiar?
It does to me. I have a solid relationship with boredom, although it’s a wee bit dysfunctional.
Eastwood points out that the problem is that all this makes us uncomfortable, and we are notorious for not handling our uncomfortable feelings all that well. We want to get rid of it as soon as possible.
So we tend to turn to activities that distract, numb, and suppress these uncomfortable feelings.
My own personal favorite is to start snacking. It cures boredom quickly and distracts me from having nothing that feels worth doing. Unfortunately it’s a bad habit that leads to weight gain.
Or we play games, get lost in social media scrolling, or turn to drugs and alcohol. I engage in some of this too.
We do this to distract ourselves when we should be concentrating on what’s at hand. The homework, the research paper, the book we want to write. All these slow activities that need deep concentration.
So the problem is not really the boredom. It’s what we do when we are bored.
Those of us that get bored too fast even risk dying early. So it really matters that we take on our boredom and not resort to unhelpful behavior patterns.
Boredom is a signal
Like any emotion, boredom is not bad in itself. It carries a message for us if we choose to listen.
It’s telling us to find a way to use our mental resources better. In other words, get out of your ruts and routines that lead to stagnation.
Our brains are screaming out to grow.
We must learn to listen and to DO something about it.
Our minds learn what we teach it. Not the other way around. If you always want to turn to food, the internet, or substances when you are bored, that’s what you are training your brain to do, and so you form a habit that’s tough to break because you are filling needs.
Engaging in these behaviors doesn’t train your brain to focus and concentrate on what is before you. So you never get any better at focusing, you get worse.
Our minds are our tools and whatever we do, it learns and makes a habit.
So, let’s start listening to the messages our emotions are sending us and not run from them at the first sign of discomfort. That teaches our brains the wrong thing.
Boredom is on the rise
Measurements over the past decade show the boredom among young people is rising. (Boredom typically peaks around 18.)
It probably is for the rest of us too.
So, if we don’t take this problem on we lose the chance at reaching our potential.
Boredom isn’t something you want more of, but it can teach you what you need to do if you listen, and it’s this that I am really interested in.
I want to be able to cure boredom, not just distract myself from it with easy fixes. I want to be able to pull in my mental energies to what I am doing even when that little feeling pops up.
Whenever we have a weakness, we can use it to help us grow as we learn to manage it.
And boredom is a perfect place to begin. Because when we cure out boredom, we put our minds to work, and that’s ideal for creating tremendous growth.
Here are a few practical steps towards curing boredom.
Start asking yourself what it is that you do want to do. What sort of project or activity would make you feel more fulfilled. Or if you have your task already laid out that needs to be done, then ask what would make it more enjoyable and fulfilling.
There is almost always a way if you have enough creativity to find it. Just keep asking yourself what would help you feel more interested in what you are doing.
Give yourself a new challenge
I love a challenge. I look for them and I tend to get bored if I feel like something isn’t challenging me. So, I’ve finally understood that I must give myself challenges. I don’t need to rely on the outside world to hand them to me. I can create them.
This might take the shape of various projects like books, artworks, or health challenges.
It dramatically changes the game for me. Now I have something to strive towards. It makes even boring tasks more interesting.
What you tell yourself
I use this technique too, and I find it’s a huge help.
I tell myself that I am excited about what I am doing, that I look forward to it, and that I will learn a lot. Repeatedly.
I take charge in calling up my excitement and energy through this. And it does work. I experience far more excitement about what I do and life in general thanks to this.
There are many other things you could tell yourself as well that could help create more attention and focus.
Find your inspiration
The most powerful inspiration is inside you. It’s your love and caring for what you do. These no one gives you. You create it yourself.
If you need more, then find what gives you energy and motivation. Get down deep to the bottom of it, don’t rely on auto-pilot. Notice what creates emotion in you and do that again and again.
Become your own inspiration pro.
Working through resistances
This is not always that easy.
But often we have resistance to doing anything creative.
It locks us into our boredom because we fear something about creating. So our fear holds us back. It could be a worry of failing or not being enough. We resist these feelings too, and we keep ourselves from doing things we love, that would be deeply satisfying.
The most important thing is to start watching yourself, what you do, how you feel, and what you tell yourself. All of this matters when trying to deal with any feelings or behavior.
You can learn so much about yourself as you become more aware. You can learn to recognize when you have unfilled needs, like the need for an engaging activity.
If you feel you are bored too easily, you are not alone.
I struggle too, and the digital lifestyle has not made it easier. It just numbs and distracts away the feeling instead of dealing with the emotion.
Your boredom can be turned into a catalyst for massive personal growth if you let it. Listen to what it is telling you. Ask questions about it. Feel it.
Think about what you most want to do. What is it that you are looking for?
And always remember, this life is yours. You get to decide how you are going to live it. So make sure that if you are bored, you know how to create useful challenges for yourself.
And you will find never-ending growth on your own terms.