There is no denying that we will be challenged in this life. We will be disappointed by other people. We will face financial stresses, romantic disasters, the occasional crisis of identity but one life challenge that we underestimate is boredom! Sometimes life can be tedious, even if you are a motivated, ambitious person. In every life there are tasks that are dull – no matter how rich or successful you are. I think that attending to your own washing, cleaning and cooking is a good thing. It anchors you to reality. Sometimes we can even be ‘bored’ by the people we love. Let’s face it, familiarity can breed contempt. How do you keep your life ‘fresh’? How do you cope with boredom? Why do we even get bored in the first place?
To answer these questions I looked to what other life philosophers say on the subject. I have recently been reading some articles by US life coach Scott H Young. Scott doesn’t believe that boredom is not caused by a lack of things to do or even a lack of things you want to do, but rather it is a symptom of other problems. He thinks boredom stems of five underlying conditions.
1. You are struggling to decide on your new direction
Scott believes that sometimes we are not actually bored, but rather we have not committed to the future. We are not yet sure what we want to do next and how we want to do it. I have covered that ground before. If you are bored try asking yourself what you believe in, what you are passionate about, what you really want. I suggest that you write down the answers to those three questions and then draw up a strategy on getting there. Make sure you include a timetable.
If you are bored I suggest you go to a library and write a new life strategy. Surround yourself with people who are learning and embracing the future. Their energy will help you overcome any feelings of ‘boredom’ and once you have your life plan (with deadlines and time tables, you will be back on track).
2. Your energy balance is out
According to Scott, boredom is not the same as exhaustion. Sometimes we can’t face work or a particular task because we have ‘exhausted’ the type of energy needed to complete it. That’s when it’s time to do something different to stimulate yourself into action. For example, I have times when I don’t feel like writing. When I’m in that headspace I need to go for a run. I’m not physically tired, but I’ve depleted my mental ‘writing’ energy. Sometimes we are bored because our daily activities are simply not varied enough. We are sick of the grind. We function best if our life is a mixture of physical activity, creativity (in some form), time with others, time alone and also time doing manual tasks that require little thought (like some housework). We need to mix it up to keep our energy levels right. If we are doing too many thoughtless manual jobs or too many creative tasks you will soon find you feel ‘bored’.
3. Your life has changed and you haven’t adapted to your new pattern
Have you ever left a job feeling depleted and exhausted and taken some time out, only to find yourself feeling flat and bored after just a few days? Scott explains that when you are busy you have a flurry of activity to shield you from ‘boredom’ or a lack of direction and when that is taken away, you end up feeling adrift. You could solve the problem by doing volunteer work or taking a new job, but make sure you are travelling in the right direction, not just repeating a bad pattern and hiding in work.
If your life has changed radically – you’ve lost a job, a partner, moved house, lost money, etc – don’t be afraid to take some time out and think. Do not be afraid of the boredom. I again suggest you ask yourself what you believe in, what you are passionate about, what you really want. Go to a library, approach this like a work task and write down the answers to those three questions and then draw up a strategy and timetable to get you there. If you are adrift, you are more vulnerable to feelings of boredom.
4. You are facing obstacles
Sometimes we get bored when we have to overcome obstacles. These may be little obstacles like waiting in queues, taking a long train trip, putting up with failing internet connections. I suggest you be patient and re-read your life strategy and goals. Think again about what you want, why you want it and what you will do to achieve it. This will help you stay motivated even when faced with the tedious little obstacles of everyday life.
5. You are frightened
Sometimes we find ourselves bored and lifeless because we are too scared to begin what we really want to do. Deep down your goal may be to write a book, start your own business, paint a wonderful painting or get really fit, but you are scared you don’t have what it takes to accomplish this. You think that this sounds incredibly hard and you wonder if you can ever really do it. Okay, accept that nothing worth doing is going to be easy. It is going to be a challenge, but unless you plan it out and find the courage to face it, you’ll never get there. It is alright to be scared. Believe me everyone is scared ahead of tackling a big project. Your fear is actually an asset. It will give you ‘nervous energy’ that will propel you to success. So again, write down your goals, create a life strategy and get to work!
Other tricks to overcoming boredom
If you need to, reach out to friends and talk about your plans. Sometimes talking to trusted friends helps you get your vision straight, but don’t use socialising as a way of further delaying action. Look at your to-do list every day and make sure you tick off just one item, before you get distracted by life.
Do something new – take a day trip to a new place, enrol in a new course. Stimulation can help overcome boredom, but again don’t use new activities as a way of delaying what you are avoiding. And don’t let distractions get the better of you. Don’t spend hours watching TV or playing on the internet because you are too scared to do what you really want to do.
Sometimes we end up bored because we have too much time on our hands and not enough time with other people. Maybe you want to start an online business, but you are already spending long hours alone and you know that your online business will further isolate you. How about volunteering for a charity then starting that online business? Volunteer to work in a local op-shop. You will have contact with others. Or offer to cook at a soup kitchen. You will be serving the community and getting a fix of fun and community. That may help motivate you to start the business, write that book or get fit. Most importantly believe in yourself. It is easy to have self-doubts and feel lost. Write down some positive affirmations and read them aloud every day. Know what your life goals are, mix up your daily activities between alone time and social time, between thinking and manual tasks. Never stop striving. Finally, don’t be afraid to meditate or pray or journal. This is basically doing some work on yourself. Leading a fulfilling, worthwhile life is hard. It doesn’t just happen! It is very easy to get despondent, or down-hearted or bored, but you can turn that around. You just have to work at it.
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ABOUT PAT MESITI
Pat Mesiti is a best-selling author, coach and educator in the area of personal development. Having built some of Australia’s largest people-driven organisations, Pat understands the power of harnessing human potential. He has shared the stage with some of the world’s great business minds and has sold over millions of copies of his books and materials.