Hunger and thirst may be uncomfortable, but they have a life-saving function: motivating people to get up and find sustenance.
Likewise, boredom has a critical role: preventing us from lives of mediocrity. Just as a bike will fall over if it is not moving, we will fall into boredom if we do nothing. But getting distracted because we’re bored is like riding a bike in circles just to avoid falling over. Instead, we should pick a pursuit and peddle toward it.
Like hunger and thirst, boredom is not an enemy but a strategic ally. It is meant to encourage us to pursue more because it knows we are capable of far more than we are doing now.
The real enemies are the distractions spying on our tendencies and preferences so they can infiltrate our psychology, undermine our potential, and shred our plans.
Boredom whispers, “You are capable of more than you’re doing.”
Distraction answers, “But it won’t be comfortable.”
We must not let our enemy mislead us. “All warfare is based on deception,” Sun Tzu said.
Opening a distraction box because of boredom is like buying a train ticket to an unknown destination. Who knows where we will go or how long we will be gone.
Why? Because distractions can never satisfy, so they drag us away longer than we planned as we keep waiting for them to live up to their promises. Yet the words of the preacher still ring true: “The eye is not satisfied with seeing, nor the ear filled with hearing” (Eccles. 1:8b).
Too often, instead of allowing boredom to motivate us to do something productive, we try to numb its influence by allowing ourselves to get distracted. Instead, when boredom knocks, we should welcome him inside and ask for advice.
However, we must not confuse the voice of boredom, which beckons us to become something better, with the vice of distraction, which drags us to death by dillydallying.
Boredom will suggest that we learn something new, but not just anything: something useful. Distraction will debate us into doing something different, specifically from whatever boredom said to do.
Researchers have studied a psychological state of satisfaction known as flow. Flow, unlike an adrenaline rush from a roller coaster or intense ending in a film, is a lingering and unfading enjoyment of an activity. Flow comes from focused mental and physical involvement in an activity, not mere observation. Most people find flow in hobbies like music, exercise, writing, art, athletics and other difficult but rewarding activities pursued for their intrinsic enjoyment value.
These researchers are about 3,000 years behind the finding of the preacher who realized that passive consumption does not create a meaningful life: “Wherefore I perceive that there is nothing better, than that a man should rejoice in his own works; for that is his portion” (Eccles. 3:22).
Flow’s lingering satisfaction comes only after a struggle to get started but lasts even beyond the activity’s conclusion. Finishing a task creates a sense of satisfaction and allows guilt-free rest.
Getting enough rest is important. However, boredom does not usually happen because we are tired from a long day of working, but because we are tired from a long day of shirking.
A life of true adventure awaits only those who venture further than their futon.