June 16, 2008

Good day, team,

Last evening after dinner, as I was removing the dishes from the dinner table, I noticed my husband, David, staring into space. I asked him if he was all right. “Yup,” he replied. “Just spacing out for a minute.”

His response reminded me of a Boston Globe article I had read recently about the joy of boredom, by Carolyn Y. Johnson.

“A decade ago, those monotonous minutes were just a fact of life: time ticking away as you gazed idly into space, stood in line, or sat in bumper-to-bumper traffic. Boredom’s doldrums were unavoidable, yet also a primordial soup for some of life’s most quintessentially human moments. Jostled by a stranger’s cart in the express checkout line, thoughts of a loved one might come to mind. A long drive home after a frustrating day could force ruminations. A pang of homesickness at the start of a plane ride might put a journey in perspective.

“Increasingly, these empty moments are being saturated with productivity, communication, and the digital distractions offered by an ever-expanding array of slick mobile devices. A few years ago, cellphone maker Motorola even began using the word ‘microboredom’ to describe the ever-smaller slices of free time from which new mobile technology offers an escape. Social networks like Twitter and Facebook turn every mundane moment between activities into a chance to broadcast feelings and thoughts, even if it is just to triple-tap a keypad with the words ‘I am bored.’

“But are we too busy twirling through the songs on our iPods—while checking e-mail, while changing lanes on the highway—to consider whether we are giving up a good thing? We are most human when we feel dull. Lolling around in a state of restlessness is one of life’s greatest luxuries—one not available to creatures that spend all their time pursuing mere survival. To be bored is to stop reacting to the external world and to explore the internal one. It is in these times of reflection that people often discover something new, whether it is an epiphany about a relationship or a new theory about the way the universe works. Granted, many people emerge from boredom feeling that they have accomplished nothing. But is accomplishment really the point of life? There is a strong argument that boredom—so often parodied as a glassy-eyed drooling state of nothingness—is an essential human emotion that underlies art, literature, philosophy, science, and even love.

“Paradoxically, as cures for boredom have proliferated, people do not seem to feel less bored; they simply flee it with more energy, flitting from one activity to the next. Richard Ralley, a lecturer in psychology at Edge Hill University in England, has noticed a kind of placid look among his students over the past few years, a ‘laptop culture’ that he finds perplexing. They have more channels to be social; there are always things to do. And yet people seem oddly numb. They are not quite bored, but not really interested either.

“That means steeping in uninterrupted boredom may be the first step toward feeling connected. It ‘may take a little bit of tolerance of an initial feeling of boredom to discover a comfort level with not being linked in and engaged and stimulated every second,’ said Jerome C. Wakefield, a professor of social work at New York University and co-author of ‘The Loss of Sadness.’ ‘There’s a level of knowing yourself, of coming back to baseline, and knowing who you truly are.’”

Your challenge this week is to do nothing for a moment or two. Try not answering the next e-mail, the next phone call, the next request from someone who wants you to act upon something. Just try sitting still, doing nothing, and see what happens.

For my husband, those few moments of staring into space were a bit like a power nap: a few minutes to totally relax and feel revived afterward. If you’re like me, you may find that when you have your morning coffee, you just sit and let yourself wake up a little bit more. Going from being asleep in bed to waking for the day is a period of transition, and relaxing over coffee helps me move through the transition slowly and peacefully.

Perhaps you choose a time each day to just sit quietly for a moment or two.  Sometimes allowing yourself to digest all the information you receive helps you assimilate it better. You may find that giving yourself permission to rest for a short period of time is liberating. Instead of feeling guilty about not answering the phone, you can feel the freedom of not having to answer it until you decide you want to talk to that person.

We often give up our peace of mind by being busy all the time. Try just being rather than doing for a bit of time this week. Rather than being bored, you may actually enjoy a few moments of space, quietly allowing yourself to drift wherever the moment takes you.

Have a great week!


Kathleen Doyle-White
Pathfinders Coaching
(503) 296-9249

© Copyright 2008 Pathfinders Coaching, Scout Search, Inc., all rights reserved.