Why Boredom Is Sexy
Each time I spoke to a friend, she said she was up to something new.
“I’m doing a crash course on the stock market.”
“I’m trying out a new fitness regime.”
“I’m creating Instagram content for my business.”
“I’m going for a vacation. Yay! So excited!”
I assumed her life was pretty exciting. Yet, it was ironic that she would often say to me, “Why don’t you write an article to help people like me overcome boredom?”
Why was she bored? Why did she behave like a five-year-old who can’t sit still despite being 31?
This isn’t a jab at my friend. After all, she isn’t the only one living the always-busy-but-always-bored life. What she’s going through is a sign of a larger pattern at play.
We have more options to keep ourselves occupied today than ever. We can go on vacations on a whim, shop online to recover from a bad mood, and watch Netflix and browse Instagram all day.
But if you scratch the surface, you’ll find that such activities are nothing but a means to escape boredom. Yet, the feeling refuses to go away. In fact, things have only gotten worse. Our craving for quick shots of dopamine has led to other side effects. Like mental health issues that were already peaking before the pandemic.
There’s nothing sexy about boredom.
Why Do We Get Bored?
“Boredom is found in the obsessive search for novelty. It’s a result of always pursuing the novel or the next shiny object, or repeating the same thing mindlessly.” — George Leonard
It’s ironic, but the spike in the number of options when it comes to keeping ourselves busy is one of the largest reasons for boredom. We can indulge half-heartedly in a task before jumping to something else. Thus, we can do 10 things without feeling engaged in any of them, and end up feeling bored.
Mindless repetition is another reason. When people simply go through the motions — while exercising, at work, or in their hobbies — they don’t get better results. Ever. They stay in exactly the same place for weeks, months, and years. Then they look for hollow ways out of this boredom: casual sex, Netflix, alcohol and drugs, and even incessant trolling on social media.
Boredom is no more avoidable than any other mental state. On the contrary, the more you try and escape it, the more it stalks you.
But that doesn’t mean it can’t be overcome.
How to Overcome Boredom
The first step is examination. Ask yourself why you’re bored. Are you stuck in a loop of mindless repetition? Are you avoiding what’s important by jumping from one thing to another? Or are you just lazy and lacking motivation?
Many people assume it’s the third option. But as mentioned earlier, if your actions keep yielding the same results, it won’t take long for motivation to run out.
At the same time, when you’re pursuing something important, the results won’t become visible overnight. You won’t shed 10 pounds, make an impact at your workplace, or turn your hobby into a side hustle, in the first month itself.
Such results are like the price of a good stock—almost invisible 99% of the time but shoot through the roof in the 1%. Over years, these rises compound to yield astronomical results.
So how do you stay on track when the going is slow? The answer lies in small wins. They’re the real antidote to boredom.
Small wins are exactly what they sound like. Once achieved, they set forces into motion that lead to more small wins. They turn tiny victories into patterns that lead you to believe that large victories are achievable. And when you believe a goal isn’t just attainable but also highly likely, you work harder to achieve it. Eventually, your pursuit turns into a self-fulfilling prophecy.
Examples of small wins for me include:
- Setting personal records while lifting weights.
- Getting responses from readers who say my articles gave them hope or clarity.
- A Twitter thread (like this one) getting traction in form of Retweets and likes.
By themselves, such wins are negligible. But they motivate me to keep going and pursue other small victories. In the long term, I’m almost a whole new person.
Pick up 2-3 important goals that will improve you as a person. Track your performance in a physical or digital diary. Note down all your small wins in this diary also. Take tiny breaks during your week to go through the diary.
Over time, these notes will serve as reminders of how far you’ve come. They’ll pick you up when you feel down. And they’ll set the wheels in motion for more small wins.
All this will put you on the path to mastery, which is what the mind truly craves. Not the external rewards, not the recognition, fame, and fortune… mastery.
Chinese Zen master Layman P’ang once said, “My daily affairs are quite ordinary, but I’m in total harmony with them.”
This sounds like a boring life, but it’s not. P’ang’s mindfulness enabled him to get better at whatever he did, smell the roses, and actually live the kind the life we all crave.
Boredom has always been a source of distress, but it has the potential for creativity, innovation, and growth. We just have to examine it instead of avoiding it like a plague.
And that’s why, boredom is sexy.
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