A former colleague of mine, Rita Peters, pointed out the frequency with which teens and tweens utter the dreaded phrase,“Mom, I’m bored!”
Boredom, it seems, is a major epidemic. But, of course, it always has been. Let’s face it, most things, except perhaps sex, are boring on the surface of them.
One thing that drives personal interest is some type of transformational experience, often at an early age. My young nephew Levi is fascinated by tractors because the size, the sound and the power of them blow his little mind. But, vitally, they are also associated with his grandfather’s attention and love. Tractors aren’t boring for Levi because of positive associations, and because they represent an unfolding world, one full of newness, learning and change.
When we find the word “bored” dropping off our tongues, it’s often because we can’t make connections between what we’re doing and opportunities for new experiences, expansion of existing knowledge, or some type of personal growth. That connection is often brokered by a relationship: a friend who gets you into jazz, a teacher who explains math in a way that makes sense, a group of students who open up the rich flavors of Ethiopia.
This sense of growth can also come about through a compelling experience: the kinesthetic possibilities of dance, the problem-solving challenges of entrepreneurship, the constant renewal of the written word.
I used to say that if you’re bored, it just means that you’re not paying attention. But that’s inadequate. To defeat boredom, you need a reason to look deeper, or a relationship that leads you to engage in the fascinating details of the world around us.