The upside of boredom (and why we should all be bored more often)

Do you remember the last time you were bored for an extended period? The last time you didn’t have access to a phone to check your Instagram account for the 23rd time that day? The last time you weren’t within a remote grab from starting to binge watch what truly might be super high-quality entertainment on your Netflix, Amazon Prime or ex’s HBO account?

I can’t. 

I have to go to great lengths to try and find moments of silence bordering boredom.

In a way, that’s great. Who wants to be bored? If someone told 5-year old Mario that boredom would be a thing of the past once he reaches adulthood, well, that would have made the impending male pattern baldness a worthwhile and welcome tradeoff. 

I remember being bored as a kid. I would talk to myself, day dream and make myself the hero of whatever stories I was making up in my head. 

I would start projects that should have never existed, like when I used my chemistry kit to make and sell super highly-concentrated lemonade powder. 

Or when I started a neighborhood newspaper by copying and typing up articles from the city paper, which I then sold on a subscription basis to all the old ladies in my neighborhood. 

Or when I thought it was a good idea to invest my allowance into a commercial Bunsen burner so I could start a crime syndicate breaking into public bubblegum machines. 

Or when I was so bored hanging out at the horse stalls I decided to sell buckets of dung door to door. That was a good idea and a great business which was ruined by my mother’s completely irrational unwillingness to continue transporting the dozens of buckets I had sold to what was a fast growing customer base of a) above old ladies and b) the commercial deal I had made with the municipal church gardener. 

Or when as a six grader, I made a list of all the girls in my high school (5-13th grade) who I’d want to be my girlfriend, looked up their parents’ numbers in the phone book and then cold called them one-by-one to see if they’d like to go on a walk with me after school. One said yes, teaching me the valuable lesson that love is a numbers game.

Or when I’d buy innumerable amounts of condoms, which I’d then sell at a ridiculous markup to excited 9th grade boys about to go on their first exchange trip to France. To this day, grossly overselling the appeal us pimply faced German boys might hold with the Femmes of France has been the most high-margin business idea I’ve ever had. 

I digress. 

My point is, great things happen when you’re bored. Deep thoughts occur. Inspiration happens. Ideas happen. Creativity happens. Crimes get planned.

As an adult, periods of boredom have been few and far, but those were still when my most meaningful ideas and life philosophies happened. It’s also when I get to work through some of the hard stuff. When I get to chew on issues that I’ve been struggling with – evolving around uncertainty, fears and whatever else has been tormenting that pretty little head of mine. 

When I am bored, I read. 
I learn. 
I process information. 
I plan. 
I think ahead. 
I make decisions. 

When I am bored, it forces me to dig deep. Dig into the good stuff. Dig into the bad stuff. 

Being bored, while undesirable at the moment, is one of the most productive states I can find myself in. And, now I am terrible at being bored – forcing an almost instantaneous grab of whatever technological device might be within reach. 

I am not bored often enough. And when I am bored, I am bad at it so now I avoid being bored even more. That scares me, and I think it’s bad.

Because when I am not bored, I don’t go deep. When I am not bored, I don’t challenge conventions. Or myself for that matter.

I don’t get to explore the boundaries of my creativity, nor do I get to work through whatever demons are lurking in the back of my head.  

5-year old Mario would be disgusted, but here I am actively working on introducing more boredom into my life. 
Other than Instagram, there are no social apps on my phone. I should delete Instagram too. 

All social sites are largely blocked on my work and home computer. 

I am trying to lessen the time I spend having my iPhone on me. I went as far as ordering a Light Phone, but unfortunately, they don’t work in Montana.   

I spend most of my weekends somewhere in the mountains, in my camper, in a cabin, in a hammock or anywhere without cell phone reception. 

Next week I am heading into the mountains of Wyoming for a week of backcountry fly fishing. 

I don’t listen to music or headphones while running, so I can use that time to think and be bored. It’s most consistently boring time I have. 

In September, I am going to spend a month hiking the entire length of the John Muir Trail. 

220 mountainous miles without phone, Internet, social media and cats. 

In the winter, I usually walk to work. It takes longer than riding my bike or the bus, but it gives me a chunk of time to think and be bored. 

Even with all the above, I still am pretty much never bored.

When is the last time you were bored?
Where do you your deep thinking?
How do you generate ideas?
When do you process hard issues?

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