I’m bored. There is something about that statement that drives me nuts. Kids say it all the time and that’s not necessarily what I’m talking about here – although, yes, that makes me crazy too. I had a client come to me recently complaining that she was bored with her job. She was bored with her job but when I challenged her to consider why she was bored or to develop ways that she could become more engaged in her work, she immediately went on the defensive.
She had 1,000 reasons why there was no solution to her boredom. She was just bored and it was making her depressed. She had really committed to this feeling of boredom and was really struggling to see the situation any differently.
As coaches, we strive to demonstrate how these thoughts that we have are really just simple choices that we make on repeat. In reality, this client had committed to her choice to remain bored but she saw her boredom as a fact of her existence and not something she could control. She had made herself a complete victim to this boredom and boredom was winning.
This got me thinking about boredom, in general, and how this simple emotion can be indicative of so many larger issues. Most of us experience boredom from time-to-time but we rarely take the opportunity to learn from this emotion. Here a are few ways to reconsider your boredom and use it as a means for further self-awareness.
Choosing to be Stuck.
If it is important for you to be engaged in your life and connected with how you are spending your time but you often find yourself feeling bored, it’s time for a closer evaluation of things. For instance, if your current experience is “bored” and you want your life experience to be “fascinated” or “learning” or “being challenged” then you have the opportunity to take action to create that result. It’s just like when kids whine about being bored and we as adults snipe at them go outside, go read a book, go find some friends to play with, etc. We have all the solutions for the kiddos but when we as adults find ourselves bored, we often act like this boredom thing was just imposed upon us without our consent or involvement and there’s simply nothing we can do about it.
Boredom is caused by our thoughts! It is a choice we are making. Instead of choosing boredom, you could get to work brainstorming all the things that you could do to NOT be bored. You could get to work examining your thoughts that are making you feel bored. If you are thinking I’m so bored because I’ve been doing this job for 10 years you could consider some alternative thoughts that might make you feel differently I’m so glad that I have a job that is not full of stress and anxiety or I am working on finding new aspects of my job to develop and stimulate me. Those thoughts will yield feelings and actions that are must different that I’m bored. I am stuck. I am not taking action. When grown adults complain that they are bored, I can’t help but think – you are bored yet your level of engagement in your job, your family, your life, etc. is 110% within your control; if you don’t like it. Fix it. If you aren’t willing to take action to change your thoughts and fix it, accept that as your choice and shut up about it.
Overcoming Boredom Often Uncovers Negative Beliefs.
Choosing to not be bored is often the first critical step in self-exploration. If you decide you want more excitement in your life, you will likely be faced with options and choices that may drum up some negative emotion for you. Are you bored because you are afraid to go out and try to meet new people because you fear rejection? Are you afraid to set up a profile on a dating app because you aren’t happy with your body? Are you afraid to pick up a new hobby because you are worried you won’t have enough time and you will be stressed? All of these thoughts are motivated by fear and resistance to the unknown. These thoughts generate insecurities and negative emotions.
The fear of feeling those emotions is why so many people choose to stay bored. To stay stuck.
These thoughts are not fun and choosing to overcome boredom may require you to push through those thoughts—to feel the fear and do it anyway. Boredom and staying stuck is a hell of a lot easier than working through these feelings. That is the root of why so many people choose to stay bored and choose to stay stuck.
What Are you Making it Mean?
Even before you consider new actions and thoughts that might create a bit more excitement in your life, I always recommend taking a closer look at your boredom. What is going on in your brain that is causing you to feel bored? Are you thinking about how much you don’t like your job? Is there something you think you should be doing with your life instead? Or consider this: What is so bad about being bored? That is really the question so many of us need to examine. When you are “bored” what are you making that mean?
This is a more insidious kind of boredom. I think of it as Buffering in Boredom’s clothing. We all know those people who are constantly piling on the projects and dragging around to do lists a mile long. They say that sharks can’t stop swimming or they will die. While I don’t know whether that is true or not, I always think about that when I meet these people. They won’t stop moving or adding enormous projects to their plate. When I see this with clients, I always ask them what’s so bad about being lazy or bored? What’s so bad about not being busy? What are you making it mean if you are not busy? Why are you always telling yourself you are bored?
They say things like I just love to be busy. I hate being bored. I like to always be on the move. Then, as we continue to discuss it, the “shoulds” start to emerge. When I’m not busy, I just think that I should be doing more, I should have accomplished more, I should have finished this last week, I should be doing XYZ, etc. They have all these reasons why they are “behind” at life and why they have to be sprinting to catch up.
These people are shoulding themselves to death!
They are so afraid of what will happen if they stop swimming. They are afraid of those thoughts and feelings that come up when they stop franticly accomplishing things. They have all these negative thoughts and insecurities about their value that come to the surface when they stop. It’s like they have decided that so long as they continue to check things off their list and add new accomplishments, THEN they will be worthy. THEN they will be accomplished and successful. This belief is so toxic. Unless and until they sort through those thoughts telling them that they aren’t good enough as they are, this cycle will never stop.
There will always more things for the to do list and none of them will ever fill that gap, and the cycle will continue indefinitely.
For me, this rings very true. My resistance to boredom is often driven by negative thinking: You should be doing more with your free time, Why don’t you have more of a social life? Why don’t you have more friends? Why don’t you have a more engaging career or a more exciting job? Why can’t you find a hobby you are passionate about. It is because of these thoughts that boredom makes me uncomfortable. I am not resistant to boredom in and of itself, I am resistant to the feelings it drums up in me. Feelings of inadequacy. Feelings of lack. This is the root of my problem with boredom. These thoughts are why I try to avoid boredom. Being aware of those thoughts allows me to face them, examine them, and work through them.
No Sunshine and Rainbows
Life is not meant to be sunshine and rainbows 100% of the time. There are going to be days/people/projects/experiences that you aren’t going to love. I promise you. But those experiences that aren’t great pave the way for you to have experiences that ARE great. Yin and yang. That is the basic nature of this life. Expecting everything to be easy street will only set you up for a lifetime of disappointments. Believe me, there have been times in my practice when I had to deal with an issue that could easily be classified as “boring.” While I could easily find myself buffering with all sorts of other activities – I need to get a cup of coffee, I’m going to stop by to chat with so-and-so, I think I need a snack, etc. – it was when I was able to buckle down and commit to being fascinated with the topic that I felt truly rewarded. Being able to commit to learning something new and becoming an expert in something is rewarding and exciting – no matter how boring the topic. And besides, approaching those projects with fascination and the intent of getting lost in the work was so much more fun. I would sit down and say to myself, today I’m going to become an expert in this section of the Internal Revenue Code. Yes, it sounds totally boring but when I approached it with that mindset it was so much more explorative and accomplishment-driven. It wasn’t just another item on my list, it was another opportunity to improve myself and to learn something new from a place of fascination.
Growth and development are things I value at a very personal level and being able to recharacterize a “boring” project as an event in furtherance of my core values allows me to see the task with renewed energy and excitement. Making the most of the challenging experiences in our lives is the only way to move through them and make room for the good experiences in life.
If you find yourself feeling unfulfilled in your life or simply bored, ask yourself why you are choosing to feel that way and do you like your reasons? Why does it bother you so much to be bored? What does the feeling of boredom drum up in your mind? Whenever we find ourselves resisting a negative emotion or thought, even something as simple as boredom, it can be an invaluable opportunity to investigate and challenge some of your closely held thoughts, beliefs, and assumptions about your life.
Feeling bored with life? Take the next step. Allow me to push you to elevate and illuminate your true purpose. Coach with me and see how exciting life can be.