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by David N Johnson

July 20, 2023

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Remember when we took that enlightening journey into the realm of boredom together a few weeks back? (Here’s the link if you missed it.) Today, we’re taking it a step further. We’ve talked about the theory. We even explored the insights of science and philosophy and hopefully sparked some curiosity in you. But understanding is only half the journey, so let’s put those insights into action.

In case you didn’t read my last post on this subject (and didn’t click on the link above), let me paraphrase it for you. Boredom, once seen as a villain stealing away our time, can actually be a secret ally. It can spur creativity, lead to self-reflection, and give us the space we need to reconnect with ourselves.

The key is not to fear or avoid boredom but to embrace it. Sounds radical? Maybe, but then again, so is the idea of harnessing the power of boredom for personal growth.

Before we dive into the “how-tos,” we need to set some groundwork. Shifting your mindset to see boredom as a friend rather than an enemy is crucial. Keep in mind that the initial discomfort is inevitable. I still remember my first few attempts to consciously embrace boredom – the restlessness was no joke. But patience is our faithful companion in this journey.

Practical Techniques to Harness the Power of Boredom

So, let’s get down to the nuts and bolts of it all. How can we practically embrace boredom and channel it into something meaningful?

1. Scheduled Boredom: The How’s and Why’s

First up, let’s try scheduling some boredom into your day. Yes, you heard it right! I know it seems counterintuitive to plan for something that is usually unplanned, but trust me on this. By setting aside a particular time to simply “be” with your thoughts, you create a safe space for ideas to flourish. Overcoming the initial feeling of awkwardness is a challenge, I won’t lie. But it’s like learning to ride a bicycle – wobbly at first, but soon you’ll be coasting along effortlessly.

2. Digital Detox: Embracing the Silence

Next, let’s consider a digital detox. The constant chatter of social media, emails, and newsfeeds can smother the whisperings of our inner self. Try unplugging for a set period each day, or perhaps dedicate one day a week to go tech-free. The initial withdrawal can be daunting, but think of it as a mental cleanse.

3. Embrace Routine Tasks: Monotony as a Mental Playground

Now, let’s turn those monotonous chores into something meaningful. Doing the dishes or folding laundry? Perfect. Use this time to let your mind wander freely. These routine tasks can become a sanctuary for boredom to work its magic. I’ve always found that mowing the grass gives me plenty of mind time.

4. Mindful Observation: Seeing the World Anew

Lastly, practice mindful observation. Look at the world around you as if you’re seeing it for the first time. Let your senses soak it all in. This can lead to a deeper appreciation of the world around us, and sometimes, the simplest observations can lead to the most profound revelations. Personally, I commute 6 hours a day into NYC. I find this time invaluable as I practice mindful observation.

How to Interpret the Signals of Boredom

Learning to interpret the signals of boredom can be a game-changer. Boredom might be a sign that you need to reassess your current situation. But it’s also essential to discern when boredom is pushing you towards growth and when it’s tempting you away from meaningful pursuits.

Boredom is more than just an idle state; it’s a messenger carrying important information about your life. Here are a few other ways you can interpret the signals of boredom:

1. Indicator of Misalignment

Sometimes, boredom can be a sign of misalignment between your actions and your core values or passions. If you constantly find yourself feeling bored at work, it might mean that the job isn’t aligning with your interests or personal goals. In such cases, boredom serves as a signal for you to reassess your situation and realign your actions with what truly matters to you.

2. Cue for Self-reflection

Boredom can also be an invitation for self-reflection. It could be signaling that you’re not fully present in your life or you’re avoiding addressing certain issues. The stillness that boredom provides offers an opportunity to turn inward and examine your thoughts, feelings, and desires more deeply.

3. Warning Signal for Overstimulation

In today’s fast-paced digital age, our minds are often oversaturated with information and stimulation. If you find yourself feeling ‘bored’ despite the constant flurry of activities, it may be a sign that you’re overstimulated. Your brain might be craving some downtime to process and decompress.

4. Prompt for Creativity

There’s a reason why many great ideas come during idle moments. When you’re bored, your mind starts to wander, sparking creativity and problem-solving. Feeling bored might mean that your brain is ready to brainstorm and generate new ideas.

5. Sign of Avoidance

Sometimes, we might feel bored because we’re subconsciously avoiding tasks that we perceive as challenging or discomforting. It’s easier to label something as ‘boring’ than to face potential failure or discomfort. In these cases, boredom can be interpreted as a defensive mechanism that needs to be acknowledged and worked through.

Learning to listen to and interpret these signals from boredom can help us make constructive changes, whether that involves reevaluating our career paths, indulging in introspection, managing our cognitive load, stoking our creative flames, or addressing underlying fears. The trick is in being honest with ourselves when interpreting these signals.

Stories from the Front Lines: Real-Life Applications

To help you along, let me share a couple of stories from folks who have successfully harnessed boredom. Their candid accounts will provide inspiration and some practical insights.

1. Tim’s Digital Detox Journey

Meet Tim, a tech enthusiast who had been plugged in 24/7, before he decided to give the digital detox a shot. Initially, he was skeptical. How could he survive without checking his email, social media, and news updates every few minutes? However, as he spent his first day without screens, he found himself grappling with restlessness and anxiety. But he pressed on. By the end of the week, Tim noticed a significant change. He was sleeping better, felt more relaxed, and his mind felt sharper. Now, he practices a day of digital detox every week and swears by the power it has in helping him reset and recharge.

2. Lisa’s Scheduled Boredom Experiment

Then there’s Lisa, a busy mom and entrepreneur. She started scheduling ‘boredom’ into her day after reading about its potential benefits. At first, it felt strange sitting with nothing to do. But soon, she found that during these scheduled ’empty’ periods, her mind would begin to wander in fascinating directions. Lisa discovered that she could solve problems more creatively, and she came up with innovative ideas for her business during these sessions. As a result, Lisa has made ‘boredom time’ a permanent fixture in her daily schedule.

3. Sam’s Mindful Observation Adventure

Lastly, let’s look at Sam’s journey. A high school teacher, Sam began to practice mindful observation during his commute to work. He would turn off the radio and just observe – the weather, the trees, the people in other cars. Initially, it was just a way to pass the time. But over the weeks, Sam began to feel more connected to the world around him. He started noticing things he’d taken for granted before. This newfound awareness brought a sense of peace and contentment to his life. Now, his commute is one of the best parts of his day.

These stories demonstrate that harnessing the power of boredom is not just a theoretical idea, but a practical tool that we can use in our everyday lives. Just remember, like Tim, Lisa, and Sam, you may need to give it time and patience. But the rewards are truly worth it.

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As we wrap up this chat, remember that the road to mastering boredom is a continuous journey, not a destination. While each journey is unique, we all share the same potential to grow through our experiences with boredom.

Now, it’s your turn. Which technique will you try first? What’s your game plan? Share your thoughts and experiences in the comments, and let’s keep this conversation going. And stay tuned for future posts, where we’ll continue to explore the uncharted territories of personal development together.

Boredom isn’t a sign of failure or an enemy to be defeated. It’s a teacher, a guide, and, dare I say, a friend. So, embrace it, learn from it, and let it lead you towards growth, creativity, and self-discovery. You’ve got this!

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David N Johnson

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David N Johnson

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