The gifts of boredom


Gifts of boredom – say what?  Gifts? Surely you jest!   I mentioned boredom in my post on the preciousness of our undivided attention.  

Boredom is taboo, to be avoided at all cost.  And nowadays, boredom is unbelievably easy to avoid. 

Years ago I remember commenting to a friend about the impending demise of conversation with the introduction of walkmans.  (Totally dating myself, I know!)  Three decades later, for the most part, impromptu conversation is over.  Sit on the subway – mostly silence in the drone of the tracks.  Restaurants – four people out for dinner, phones on the table, pinging and binging.  

I once bravely asked a colleague to put away his phone during a meeting because I found it distracting.  My apparently unreasonable request was dismissed and much to my utter surprise others at the meeting defended him.  Seriously?  What was so important that he could not disconnect for 15 minutes? 

It’s truly mind boggling how entangled we are with our technology.  It’s time to disentangle.

Boredom is the terrain through which we must trudge to get to excellence.  It is the price to be paid.  And if you want to get beyond excellence to true mastery then you must master boredom.  

In his book Mastery – Robert Greene notes “you must meet any boredom head-on and not try to avoid or repress it” if you wish to attain mastery.

Here’s the challenge as I see it.  Self-doubt, frustration, self-criticism and yes boredom don’t disappear just because you solved for them once-upon-a-time. Unlike learning to ride a bike where once you figure it out and practise a bit, decades later you can pick up a bike and pedal off, emotions circle back to haunt you. 

Every accomplished public speaker will tell you they ‘still’ feel nervous before a talk or presentation.  And yet, speak they do, despite feeling nervous.  Some routinely throw up before going on stage.  Some have learned to reframe nervousness as excitement. Nevertheless, nervousness remains, but the response to nervousness has changed. 

Every musician has banked thousands of hours (quite literally) of practise.  And if you believe the 10,000 hour rule (which persists despite being debunked) that is a lot of boredom to have to work through.  They hiked the path through boredom and found mastery.  

Greene suggests that you know you have mastered boredom “when boredom no longer signals the need for distraction, but rather the need for new challenges to conquer.”  Notice how boredom remains, but most crucially, it’s the response to boredom that has changed.

Please don’t be dismayed, you don’t have to trudge through 10,000 hours of misery.  I was once an aspiring musician with remarkably little innate talent.  And though I never achieved mastery despite hours of practise for years, I picked up a lot of strategic byproducts (or gifts) along the way.  The most profound of which was a willingness to take risks for future dreams, however unlikely.  

The path through boredom to mastery is scattered with gifts if you look for them.  And the best part is, those gifts are still there, waiting to be gathered.  Go find them.

Live life, love life, always,
Dr Karen

Life coaching helps you redesign your future, reclaim your enthusiasm and recharge your energy for life.