One of my friends asked me this question recently, knowing full well what the answer was going to be. In fact, I have been asking this question of my patients and also in my seminars. It is an important question to ponder over, because it gets to the root of who you are. If you want life to be good, ask yourself this question: do you get bored easily?
Let’s first define what boredom is. It is a desire for stimulation and distraction. It implies that we are not comfortable with our thoughts and we have to have an external stimulus to distract us from our thoughts. Boredom is the result of trying to find the quick-fix: instead of addressing the cause of the boredom, we address the results, the superficial symptoms.
One of the things I have found in my experience is that our fast pace of life is increasingly contributing to the boredom disease. We are glued to technology pretty much all of our waking hours. Whenever we feel we are getting bored, we can easily whip out our versatile cell phones to ward off our boredom. I had discussed the problem of technology overload syndrome in a previous blog (In case you missed it, you can read it by clicking here.), which is an important contributor to this condition. How many of you have actually experienced a dull moment? Or do you instantly cure that dull moment by turning on an electronic device?
It used to be that when people would get bored, they would seek out social activities, and become creative with their brains. In this day and age, the ever present technology actually dumbs down our thinking. Have you ever noticed that your creative thoughts come usually when you are away from your computer, ipad, iphone, droid or other technology? At least I have. Some of my most creative thoughts come when I am driving without any music or other external stimulation, or when I am meditating, relaxing, taking a shower etc, when my mind can actually take a break from the constant bombardment of information. I remember reading somewhere that it is virtually impossible to have a really creative thought when you are constantly bombarded with information. Someone has aptly called this the crisis of attention.
People who get bored easily also tend to gravitate towards more risky behavior. Chronic boredom leads people to start abusing drugs, participating in activities that increase the adrenaline rush. These people thrive on the excitement these activities provide and when they cannot get the excitement, they get bored. Daily life becomes too dull and boring. Moreover, people who get easily bored have a difficult time keeping themselves entertained, leading to the need for outside stimulation such as provided by drugs.
A lot of us multi-task because doing one activity only is too boring. We have actually filled our life with so many activities that we have no choice but to multi-task. I myself am no exception. But what exactly happens when you multi-task? Do you think you can do more than one thing at a time? The answer is actually no. No human can multi-task in the true sense of the word, meaning paying attention to more than one thing at the same time. The brain cannot do that. What it does do is that it rapidly shifts focus from one task to the other.
And this is exactly what we try do when we multi-task. However, the more you shift focus from one task to another, the less attention you pay to each task. In fact, it has been shown that you actually do become dumber: studies have shown that you lose 10% of your IQ because of continuously shifting focus from one activity to another rapidly. You are 40% less effective in whatever work you were doing.
In essence, trying to overcome boredom by keeping your mind constantly stimulated by outside stimuli is causing you to become a less effective person.
Life becomes boring when you cannot even solve the problem of how to fill your empty time. Boredom comes because your little voice inside your head, the voice that is critical of things around you, does not like meaningful activities. It wants to be constantly entertained. Any activity that is associated with growth requires focused attention. And any focused attention will invite boredom.
How meaningful is your life? How bored do you get with your life, and what activities bore you? If you examine carefully, you will see that most of the activities that cause you to be bored are activities critical to accomplishing a worthy task. One of the main reasons people get stressed and look forward to the weekend or vacations is that daily activities do not provide enough stimulation; they are forced by circumstances to do them. How much time do you actually spend, of your own free will, to doing or participating in activities that will cause you to grow? Any worthy activity requires sustained attention and enthusiasm, which is sadly lacking in many of us, because we get too bored too easily.
This is the difference between activities that are instantly entertaining rather than producing some transformation in your life. Even a small transformation, such as learning a new skill, causes boredom. In fact, that is one of the best clues that an activity is going to transform your life – you become easily bored with it.
So next time you get bored, don’t fight it. A healthy dose of boredom is good for you. Let your creative mind take over.
Until next time. Be enlightened.