The checkout line at the grocery store was exceptionally long this weekend so I, like many others equipped with smartphones, started scrolling through Instagram rather than wait and risk getting bored. Boredom has a bad rap – philosopher Søren Kierkegaard went as far as to call it “the root of all evil” and while boredom can certainly have negative consequences, it can also be part of a larger constructive and creative process.
There are a few types of boredom, including the dull, but ultimately painless wait at the grocery store and a more serious, existential “what am I doing?” feeling of discontent. It takes some creativity and an open mind, but both can be reframed to work to your advantage. Philosophers, artists, writers and even scholars have explored the idea of boredom, and Peter Toohey in his book Boredom: A Lively History offers an insight:
“Boredom is, in the Darwinian sense, an adaptive emotion. Its purpose, that is, may be designed to help one flourish.”
Most emotions alert us to pay closer attention to something – anger may trigger you to ask yourself, “Why am I getting upset and frustrated? What can I do about this situation?” Boredom is the same trigger, urging us to consider moving on and learning something new.
If we can be aware of our boredom, we can think critically about the situation to explore if anything could and should be done about it. Instead of running from boredom into the comfort of distraction, we could learn more from leaning into it – daydreaming, exploring the uninterrupted time, contemplating why we’re bored or even exploring boredom itself. The time spent in thought could trigger new insights and ideas, or at least help us discern what makes us feel fulfilled. If our boredom is something we have the power to change, then what will that change look like? What’s the next step? Turn your boredom into a jumping off point, ready to propel you forward.
Bored in the car? Learn more about the budding research of boredom in “Am I Boring You?” a podcast from Freakonomics Radio.
Kaitlyn Boller is part of the GovLoop Featured Blogger program, where we feature blog posts by government voices from all across the country (and world!). To see more Featured Blogger posts, click here.
This topic immediately caught my eye! Really interesting read here. I think we’re definitely conditioned nowadays to have to be doing SOMETHING. Boredom teaches us patience and being in the moment.
Unfortunately too many people do equate boredom with doing nothing but they are not the same. As a child I was taught to sit and do nothing as well as to entertain myself. It seems that today we feel like we have to always be entertaining our children and having them do something. Is it any wonder that when they become adults that they are bored when they are doing nothing?