What is boredom to you? When I was a teenager I often found myself with free time and would complain to my parents how bored I was. The response I usually received was: “I am not your entertainer.” We live in a world of 24/7 entertainment and so it is common for us to seek out things to fill our free time. Even as adults, we all have to learn to deal with boredom. Most people tenaciously try to avoid boredom and in this day and age that is relatively easy. Boredom is avoided with smartphone use, games, and a never-ending playlist of YouTube videos. However, when we remove boredom, we remove a valuable part of our lives.
Forbes recently published an article explaining how boredom can become valuable time to boost creativity, engage in self-reflection, and re-evaluate. (1) These moments of boredom we try to hastily fill, similar to a painful cavity that needs to be filled. We grab our phones at stop lights, in restaurant lines, and during commercial breaks. This kind of behavior leads to a Pavlov’s dog effect where our auto-response to free, quiet time is to disconnect from life. Regarding boredom, one article stated: “The feeling is so aversive that people rush to eliminate it . . . I’m not going to join that war on boredom and come up with a cure because we need to listen to the emotion and ask what it is trying to tell us to do.” Later in the article, a possible solution is given: “Priming people to feel their lives have a greater purpose and meaning tends to make them less bored.” (2) This is the great psychological methodology of priming. When individuals feel that they have purpose in their life, they work eagerly and enthusiastically towards their goals and transform boredom into productive time in which to create and imagine. A sales and leadership executive from Forbes indicated the advantage to being bored:
“Saying we’re bored is our unimaginative way of labeling a lack of stimulation. The pace of our world today is astounding and we have gotten addicted to being entertained or busy 24/7 year-round. ‘Boredom’ allows time to quiet the mind and body. When you slow down, it not only affords the replenishment of your physical and mental energy but also allows ideas to flow freely, leading to innovative solutions.”
Imagine that! Boredom can lead to healthier behaviors like productivity, getting needed rest, and preparing one’s self for future success even though boredom has been stereotypically categorized as a space for bad habits to form. Boredom is not to be feared. It can be a wonderful friend rather than an enemy. The next time you’re bored, ask important questions:
1) Why am I bored?
2) Am I satisfied with what I am doing in my life and if not, how can I change it?
3) Is this a sign that I need to spend more quiet time or that I need to boost my productivity?
4) What am I going to do about it?
Build your goals. Build up your life! Leverage the difficulties life gives and use them to become empowered. Learn more about how you can do so here: