November 14th, 2015 Don Packett

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The dictionary definition states that to be bored is to “feel weary and impatient because one is unoccupied or lacks interest in one’s current activity”. Phrases like “bored to tears” and “bored stiff” conjure up imagery you wouldn’t want to include in anything you’re trying to do.

So I too always believed that boredom was a bad thing. Slay the bugger at every opportunity you can. But after recently listening to the Freakonomics podcast where they were interviewing boredom experts (episode and transcription here), I realised that boredom is relative, and needs to be treated as such.

Let me explain… There are 2 kinds of boredom:
1. State boredom (you’re bored in the current activity you’re in.)
2. Trait boredom (you’re someone who gets bored easily… oh look, a squirrel!)

Both are easy to identify, and once you understand which state you’re in (I know a lot of people who fit under the trait boredom banner, myself included) you can put into action a simple mindset shift around how boredom can benefit you.

I’d highly recommend you listen to or read the episode yourself, but thought I’d share 2 things that stood out for me. Stephen Dubner interviews, among others, psychologist Angela Duckworth and Heather Schofield who works with the Center for Global Development.

Angela Duckworth speaks to how we should see boredom as not the enemy, but a great measurement for how well we’re doing things, whether it’s teaching in a classroom, tasks that employees need to complete, etc. Boredom may actually have a useful purpose.

“We need that feedback to say, “Hey, you might not be learning very much right now. Notice that you feel this boredom and then see where that thinking leads you. Now what do you think, now that you realize you’re bored? What do you think is really going on?” “

Schofield shares this:

“Where people who basically don’t have a lot going on — keeping them occupied and keeping their brain moving — go into something of a stupor. And it becomes very hard to get anything done.

So that is to say that if I get you to work more, it would actually make you work even more because it gets you out of this state of boredom or mental retirement.”

So the key for me is this: Eradicating boredom in the traditional sense is like spraying poison on the lines of ants walking along your wall, but never finding the actual nest. Those little suckers will keep churning out. Find the root cause, understand the reason for it, and change your thinking.

Boredom is a measurement of how something isn’t working well. Use that information to your benefit and you’ll make great things happen.

Posted by Don Packett

Leader of my Free World • MC • Comedian • Legacy-buster • Eco-lover • Bird-chaser • Wannabe farmer • Curator of doideas.org

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