Are You Bored with 2020?

I certainly am. Funnily enough, it wasn’t the restrictions we faced early in the year, nor yet the endless zoom calls since then. It’s the fact it’s all grinding on so long, that the government response has been confused and inconsistent and that public debate is so negative and irrational.

Fortunately, I’m not bored with my day-to-day life. Being an HR consultant, I’ve had no time for that. But 2020 – what a tedious year it has become! Life feels muffled. It doesn’t feel vibrant or real. I have adhered to the rules and stayed socially distanced, but I’m very bored now by living life second hand....

Avoiding boredom

Thinking about boredom this week, I started to look at what the experts say about it. It’s interesting. Like so many challenging things, boredom may be quite a helpful emotion and we can use it as a learning tool from it.

So, what can we take from being bore for ourselves, our businesses and our teams?

According to psychologists James Danckert and John D Eastwood, boredom is the uncomfortable feeling of “wanting to do something, but not wanting to do anything”. It is not an emotion, but an ongoing cognitive process where we want to be engaged, but nothing seems to satisfy us.

Boredom tells us that we are not involved in what we’re doing, and we want or need an activity to engage us. So far, so obvious, but Danckert and Eastwood’s research suggests that boredom may have evolved to drive us forward rather than drag us down. Being bored can guide us towards fulfilling our potential and achieving fuller, more meaningful lives. In fact, being bored is a useful message that most of us don’t hear or if we do, we often misinterpret it.

Most of us want to escape the prickly discomfort of boredom. Instead of trying to understand what it is trying to tell us, we try to distract ourselves with external stimuli. Social media, junk food, use of cigarettes, alcohol and drugs are all common (and unhealthy) examples.

By looking outwards, we are not taking responsibility for ourselves. In a younger age group, boredom is linked with higher than average risk-taking; in the elderly, it can increase the degenerative process of ageing. Both groups are at particular risk of depression, for which boredom is generally a precursor.

People who are prone to boredom also experience higher levels of aggression, anger and hostility. They may lean towards extreme political views or engage in tribal behaviours. Danckert suggests that boredom may be one of the reasons for our increasingly polarised politics and aggressive public discussions.

Listening to and understanding our own inner state is the starting point for addressing the discomfort and suggesting a more helpful course of action. Mindfulness has been linked to lower levels of boredom.

Boredom is helpful because it saves us from stagnation. Like grit in the shoe, it keeps us moving forward and searching for a better way of applying ourselves and engaging in the world.

Can we avoid boredom? Here are some tips.

  • Boredom feels uncomfortable, but you make it worse by beating yourself up about it. Feeling bored from time to time is unavoidable, but it is not a judgment on your character or ability. Accept it for what it is,
  • Create a new routine Most of us need routine most of the time. Give yourself opportunities to break from the same-old, same-old. Try something new.
  • Boredom is not necessarily an absence of things to do. It is may arise when we struggle to find value or meaning in what we’re doing. Put quality of experience first and focus on goals that will give you a greater quality.
  • Use “boring” moments as opportunities to brainstorm. It’s a lot easier to cope with a dull reality if you’re able to use the time to explore possibilities within your mind
  • Avoid passive consumption. It is all too easy to binge on Netflix or drift aimlessly through social media. If you’re enjoying yourself, that’s fine, but treating yourself as a passive consumer may mean you are more likely to feel bored. You need to feel engaged.

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DISCLAIMER

Although every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of the information contained in this blog, nothing herein should be construed as giving advice and no responsibility will be taken for inaccuracies or errors.

Copyright © 2020 all rights reserved. You may copy or distribute this blog as long as this copyright notice and full information about contacting the author are attached. The author is Kate Russell of Russell HR Consulting Ltd.