This is a republishing of Shoulders of Giants. Twice a month readers use the timeless insights on passion, productivity, philosophy, and happiness from this newsletter to build towards the life they want.
👨🏫 Topic: Taking advantage of boredom
🔍 Quote: Paulo Coelho on how one wastes a life
📜 Passage: Joan Didion on doing more than just enduring life
Everybody experiences boredom. We usually see it as something dreadful we have to avoid at all costs. However, it doesn’t have to be a vain or negative experience. If you can recognize and exploit boredom, it can become a tool to increase your happiness and creativity.
There are two sides to how we experience boredom. On one side are the people who are less prone to it. They are often better at noticing signals of boredom and positively acting upon them. They become motivated to strive for new achievements, try novel experiences, and make a dull situation more enjoyable when they’re bored.
On the other side are the people who are very prone to it. They get bored easily and stay bored longer. These people usually experience negative outcomes when they’re bored. Things like a lack of motivation, attention deficits, unhealthy eating, poor mood, fatigue, and counterproductive behaviour. These behaviours are driven by the desire for pleasure and sensory stimulation.
The people who negatively experience boredom can make it a positive and fruitful experience by reframing it.
With technology at our fingertips, it’s easy to placate boredom by mindlessly scrolling social media, streaming a movie, or playing video games. However, managing boredom this way kills time and ironically leaves you more bored.
The best way to treat boredom is to use it as an opportunity and a tool. There are a few strategies for doing this:
Reframe the situation
Do this by being mindful of your thoughts and taking steps to challenge them. Look at boredom as a challenge to overcome rather than a threat to avoid. In this way, you use boredom to create productive and positive experiences.
For example, if work has become exceedingly dull, look at your quiet days as an opportunity to embark on an exciting project.
It’s about taking the signal of boredom and using it to spark a positive and productive experience by flipping the current negative experience.
Use boredom to find something you’re intrinsically motivated towards
When you’re bored, things that interest, satisfy, and challenge you will stick out and become extremely attractive—act on them.
That’s usually when people find their passions and create goals they want to achieve. If you choose to distract yourself in the face of boredom, it becomes impossible for your mind to lead you towards things you’ll want to pursue.
Personally, I always get insanely motivated to work on my goals and passions when I’m bored—which is writing.
Boredom is a clean slate that gives you the chance to find activities you’re naturally drawn to.
Treat boredom as a luxurious tool for recharging
It’s easy to feel the need to fill every second of your day with an activity—whether it’s productive or not. However, if you resist that feeling, periods of boredom can become moments of much-needed relaxation.
When you feel bored, put up with that initial restlessness, let your thoughts run, invite daydreaming, process your emotions, and bask in the peacefulness.
This sort of boredom invoked meditation will, at a minimum, refresh your mind in a world full of distractions and stimulation. At its peak, it will lead to new ideas that could shape your life for the better.
You drown not by falling in the river, but by staying submerged in it. - Paulo Coelho
Wasting your life doesn’t happen in a singular moment; it’s a drawn-out process that occurs over time.
It’s a slow trickle of days, each a little like the last, and each a little further from your dreams—each another day submerged in the river.
The best way to not waste your life is to not waste today.
I’m not telling you to make the world better, because I don’t think that progress is necessarily part of the package. I’m just telling you to live in it. Not just to endure it, not just to suffer it, not just to pass through it, but to live in it. To look at it. To try to get the picture. To live recklessly. To take chances. To make your own work and take pride in it. To seize the moment. And if you ask me why you should bother to do that, I could tell you that the grave’s a fine and private place, but none I think do there embrace. Nor do they sing there, or write, or argue, or see the tidal bore on the Amazon, or touch their children. And that’s what there is to do and get it while you can and good luck at it.