Get back in touch with your meaning making machinery
Boredom is the symptom, not the problem.
When people complain about how there’s nothing to do and they’re going stir crazy sitting around the house all day, my bullshit detector goes off.
Because it’s not like there was this sudden outbreak of an airborne virus called boredom that forced itself into their lives, infected their immune system and now they’re helplessly stuck with it until some nerd in a white coat finds a cure.
Boredom is not somebody else’s fault. It’s a choice.
Boredom is a poisonous mood people trap themselves into when they’ve lost touch with their meaning making machinery.
If someone can’t discover new and exciting things about themselves and the world in order to stay engaged, then that’s a failure of curiosity and wonder on their part.
It’s kind of like those struggling, stifled entrepreneurs who complain about how there’s nothing new under the sun.
Excuse me, but have you looked at the sun lately? It’s a giant flaming ball of gas that’s eight hundred and sixty four thousand miles in diameter. If you can’t find something new under it, then you’re not looking hard enough.
You know who never gets bored? Farmers.
They can’t afford to be bored. It’s not in the job description. If they don’t tend to their crops every day, there is no harvest. Period.
What’s more, farmers know that all ground needs regular change and invigoration in order to stay fertile. If one acre of land needs fallow time to enrich it with real rest, so be it. They’ll leave that plot alone for a season or two and go plant something else on their acre across the street.
How are you rotating your crops? Are you varying your interests and pursuits to enrich your own land?
It’s an essential practice of thriving as a human being. People who consciously build a diversified existence with multiple life purposes, different centers of belonging and many meaning making activities, will always avoid the curse of an infertile field.
Ellis, the godfather of rational emotive behavior therapy, once wrote an inspiring book about recovering from problem drinking. His advice to addicts was, to avoid high risk situations that go with boredom, schedule normal activities that alcohol related chaos may have displaced.
He told his patients to literally write out an activity chart. Make a handy list of existentially nourishing activities and tasks that are guaranteed to provide you with the experience of meaning and joy. Keep it with you at all times. That way, when a craving, trigger or trauma approaches, you can execute some crop rotation when the pressure is on.
This strategy transformed my understanding of, and relationship to, the idea of boredom. Couldn’t tell you the last time I was bored.
The same can happen to you. As long as you’re willing to take responsibility for your own time and attention, there is no way your land will go infertile. Or if it does, you’ll find another plot to plant in the interim.
Louie, the standup comedian, filmmaker and philosopher, said it perfectly in his recent standup special. He told his daughters:
The fact that you’re alive is amazing, so you don’t get to be bored. The sense of wonder should replace your boredom and cure it.
Next time you start moping around whining about how there’s nothing to do, remember that it’s not somebody else’s fault.
Pressure is a choice, and so is the opposite.
Get back in touch with your meaning making machinery, and the harvest will be plentiful.
LET ME ASK YA THIS…
Have you discerned what will help prevent the experience of boredom from creeping in?
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That Guy with the Nametag
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