Looking back, can you think of a situation when boredom led to you making a breakthrough? You may have been doing something tiresome or repetitive. You may have been looking ahead and seen nothing stimulating on the horizon.
Boredom used to get a bad press. Today you will find many articles about the value of boredom. Some people yawn and yearn for the feeling to pass. Others let their minds wander, however, and begin to make their own entertainment.
Such people may do so by following one of the A, B, C approaches to dealing with boredom. They focus on appreciation, beauty or creativity.
They cultivate a sense of appreciation. They are grateful for what they have been given in life and focus on their assets – such as their relationships, talents and knowledge. They recall positive memories and count their blessings.
They focus on beauty. They may focus on something simple – such as a spider’s web – and wonder at its complexity. They may focus on something that inspired them – such as a painting or a piece of music. They may focus on when human beings perform at their best – such as when working together to create something wonderful.
They use the boring time as an opportunity to be creative. They may focus on their life philosophy – and how they can follow these principles in the future.
They may focus on their creative goals – such as writing an article, nurturing their garden or pursuing another activity. They may use their imagination to find creative solutions to challenges.
You will have your own approach to turning boring times into your version of beautiful times. You may focus on appreciating life, doing something stimulating or finding creative ways to reach your goals.
If you wish, try tackling the exercise on this theme. This invites you to do the following things.
Describe a specific situation the past when you converted a boring time into your version of a beautiful time.
Describe the specific things you did then to convert the boring time into your version of a beautiful time.
Describe the specific things that happened as a result of taking these steps.
Let’s explore some of the different ways to deal with – or even welcome – this state.
Boredom can give us to chance to slow down. It can help us to experience stillness. What to think about during this time? One approach is to develop a sense of appreciation.
Like many people as they get older, I get the chance to go to hospital and have treatments for illness. These include having MRIs and operations.
These processes can include long periods of boredom. They provide an opportunity for reflection and appreciating what I have been given in my life. It gives the chance to focus on my assets.
People who are happy often have a sense of gratitude. They count their blessings rather than count their burdens. Brother David Steindl-Rast is known for his work on gratefulness. He writes:
People want joy, they don’t want things … The root of joy is gratefulness. It is not joy that makes us grateful; it is gratitude that makes us joyful.
Gratefulness is the key to a happy life that we hold in our hands, because if we are not grateful, then no matter how much we have we will not be happy – because we will always want to have something else or something more.
One exercise I invite people to do during mentoring sessions is for them to clarify their personal and professional assets. Here are some of the answers that people give.
The Personal and
Professional Assets I have are:
A positive attitude … An encouraging partner … Two wonderful children … A beautiful garden … My creative drive … Some money in the bank … An appreciation of nature … The desire to keep improving … Some of my health … The benefits of having had loving parents … The experience of overcoming tough obstacles in my life.
If you wish, try tackling the exercise on this theme. Many of us already have many inner resources and talents that make up our true wealth. This exercise invites you to do the following things.
Describe your personal assets.
Describe your professional assets.
Describe how you can make good use of your assets in your personal and professional life.
Boredom gives us the chance to focus on beauty. You may choose to visit a gallery, take a walk in the garden or listen to a piece of music. You may enjoy a lovely meal or relive a beautiful memory that feeds your soul.
You may look at the simple things in life and have a sense of wonder. According to legend, Robert the Bruce was inspired by watching a spider trying to weave its web. The spider failed many times, but then tried and tried again until it succeeded.
You may wonder at the beautiful things that human beings can create when they are at their best. You may recall an act of compassion or a time when people have combined their talents to create something wonderful.
Piero Ferrucci is a psychotherapist who as written about the power of beauty. Sometimes he takes his clients to beautiful environments that provide solace and stimulation to the soul.
Piero has also written Beauty and The Soul. Below are excerpts from what he has written. You can discover more via the following link.
All of us, in one way or another, seek beauty. We know it brings happiness and wellbeing.
Some manage to see the inner beauty of people: generosity, intelligence, honesty. It is a beauty less evident, but deeper and more lasting.
Beauty can help us to heal, feel alive and open our eyes, says Piero. It can help us to reconnect with our feelings, connect with other people and discover new dimensions. It is more than an extra, it is a basic necessity of life. He adds:
Beauty, then, brings us back to the here and now. In the presence of beauty it is harder to be distracted. To follow the way of beauty means to live in a state of mindfulness that does not admit distraction or escape.
We are here with our whole being. This is our kairos, as it was called in ancient Greece: The moment of opportunity, the timeless instant when revelation comes.
Beauty is the perfect medicine, says Piero. Its side effects are positive, rather than negative. This is certainly true when it comes to people. He writes:
Moral beauty is alive and well. In fact both kinds of beauty exist – outer and inner. The former is more obvious, more likely to attract attention, more immediate, gratifying and short-term.
The latter is subtler, deeper, usually needs more time to be perceived. And often it is not fully disclosed to the distracted eye. Physical beauty is a sprinter – it covers short distances faster. Beauty of the soul is a marathoner – it shows up over long distance.
Beauty nourishes the soul and may be necessary for our survival as a species. It is something we can focus on during our times of boredom.
One approach is to life is to get the right balance between work time and wandering time. Boredom provides the opportunity for letting our minds wander. This can lead to exploring, imagining and making creative breakthroughs.
Looking back at my own life, I used the six years spent working in a factory to explore ways of finding a job where I could help people.
During the time away from work, I threw myself into reading and learning. During the tedious work time, I thought about the possible ways forward.
This eventually led to studying at night school – sometimes before going on the night shift – doing voluntary work and then running therapeutic communities. The factory job provided the motivation and opportunity to explore how to find more satisfying work.
Cindy Foley is the Executive Assistant Director and Director of Learning and Experience at the Columbus Museum of Art. Below is a TEDx talk she gave on the benefits of boredom. Here is an excerpt from what she said.
I want to focus on an aspect of creativity that has been the catalyst for some of the greatest ideas in history… boredom.
As I was developing the Center for Creativity, I began asking adults to recall moments of great creativity from their childhood.
Story after story would recall fort-building, bridges across creeks, traps intended for younger siblings etc., but most of those ideas began from a place of boredom. These were kids forced to fill their summer with ideas all of their own.
As an educator obsessed with the diminishing creative opportunities for students in school, I am constantly considering the ways we as teachers can foster question development, curiosity and risk taking.
But as a mom with an 11-year-old and 8-year-old, I realize I may be hindering their creativity. We live in a society where children are used to being entertained by television, electronic games and overly structured time.
So I vowed, I would make way for BOREDOM … even if it killed me.
Joe Downing, author of The Abundant Bohemian, also makes a case for the value of boredom. Below is an excerpt on this theme from his blog. You can discover the complete article and more about his work via the following link.
The Value of Boredom
As a lawyer, I’m required to attend annual continuing education classes and recently I sat in on a two-day seminar on an area of my practice.
Although very valuable on the whole, there are inevitably two or three presentations that are too dry to hold my interest.
In one such presentation my boredom reached a point where my mind began to drift and I was no longer engaged with the activity going on around me.
And because I was in a situation where I couldn’t distract myself with Facebook, texting, email, etc., my boredom allowed me to drift into . . . my creative space. Ideas started forming.
I pulled out my notepad and began to explore an idea for a new short story. By the time the presentation had ended, I had a rough draft of some fiction that I was excited about.
In the state of boredom we are pushed to turn inward, to ponder, to drift, to contemplate, to explore.
And this is the place where new ideas, new solutions for our businesses, new directions for our art and our “ah-ha” moments are giving the freedom to show themselves to us.
Allow yourselves these moments. Let the discomfort of boredom be the small price you pay for the valuable insights and ideas that spring from it.
Boredom is the mental equivalent of a painter staring at blank canvas or a writer a blank page and wondering where to begin.
This feeling hovers be between soft anxiety and out-and-out fear. Don’t run away from it.
Boredom has a bad reputation, but can be a very valuable tool. Take advantage and use that tool. You might be surprised what gifts are hidden inside you waiting to be given voice.
Looking ahead, can you think of a potentially boring situation in your personal or professional life? What could you do then to be appreciative, enjoy beauty or be creative? How could you – in your own way – make good use of the boredom?
If you wish, try tackling the exercise on this theme. This invites you to do the following things.
Describe a specific situation in the future when you may want to convert a boring time into your version of a beautiful time.
Describe the specific things you can do to convert the boring time into your version of a beautiful time.
Describe the specific things that may happen as a result of taking these steps.