#123 Boredom

Boredom is in essence your brain telling you that it isn’t getting enough novelty. And yet the more we train our brains to overdose on novelty, the more patently novel new experiences need to be to really satisfy the demands. This is what leads to endless scrolling on whatever platform people choose to inhabit.

Boredom is also relatively new, with the concept only evolving around the mid-19th century. The implication being that for most of history humanity didn’t know that boredom was an option. Can you imagine that? What would the world feel like without the concept of boredom?

Being in a low stimulus environment was possibly considered a positive. It meant you didn’t feel threatened. It also points to the reality that what we call boredom is a conditioned response – it is a choice at some level.

And yet, in a world in which we never have to be bored and where no one around us has to be bored, it is perhaps worth asking whether there might not be some advantage from embracing it. In psychology, as the author Rory Sutherland points out, the opposite of a good idea can be another good idea.

Studies suggest that boredom can actually have a positive impact on curiosity, creativity and exploration. By embracing boredom and just creating space for fresh thoughts to pop up, individuals may be able to cultivate a more curious mindset and unlock possibility.

Questions in the Image:

  • What is my relationship with boredom?
  • How often do I feel bored?
  • What do I do in response?
  • Is it something I want to go away? Embrace?

Want to Read More Around This Topic?

The Art of Possibility: Transforming Professional and Personal Life by Rosamund Stone Zander and Benjamin Zander (link to Amazon.co.uk). Whilst not directly about boredom, this book is an absolute gem. For me, boredom is in a way one of the doors to possibility so the next time you are bored pick up this book and open that door.

Nurturing Curiosity – Daily Practice: This is part of the Nurturing Curiosity series of tools, insights and questions designed to help nurture curiosity as part of our daily practice. In point of fact, every interaction we have is an opportunity to question what we are observing and how we and others are seeing the world. Also remember that questions come in many forms throughout our day. In fact, when thinking about boredom it struck me that in essence boredom opens the door on possibility – it is saying “nothing of interest right here right now.” What then might be possible? What might we notice about ourselves? About the world around us? How might we experience the world differently? What truly new thought might we have?

About Tom O’Leary

I coach, mentor and teach high performers to thrive by focusing on the choices we make.

In truth, our paths in life are paved by those choices. We can talk all day but to make our lot better we need to make the smartest decisions and then execute on them as best possible.

My view is that it is about slowing down to speed up. This means spending time being curious and contemplating what might be possible so that when we take action, we can bring all our energy and power to bear.

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