I like to answer some question on www.quora.com, usually questions relating to the mind. This article is the response which I gave to a question on boredom. In this article, I attempt to explain how we can either go into ourselves and shrink in the process, or we can expand ourselves and become more enriched in the process. To view the original Quora article here.
Boredom is a common feature of modern life. Most people are bored, in one way or another, but why?
If we take a young child, for example, in one way they get bored quickly, however, in another way they are really happy with very simple forms of entertainment. A very young child, for example, will throw away the toy and play with the box and every parent can tell you the pain of having to sit through the 25th replay of a kiddy cartoon, in order to appease that child, who never seems to bore of watching the same show over and over again!
So what’s happening with these young kids, which is not happening with us?
Well various things are happening. Probably the biggest thing is that for the young child everything is new. Whenever we try something new it tends to feel pretty awesome. Whereas by the time we have grown up, we have already experienced a wide variety of experiences, so very little is new or exciting. For those of us who are more than 30 years of age, life offers very little in the way of new and exciting things to experience.
Another factor, with young kids is that they tend to focus in on one thing rather than many things. Why do they do this?
They do this because their little world is very small. For a long time, their world consists of mommy and daddy and their siblings and possible grandma and granddad. This is fine when you’re a kid as you are finding your feet, but naturally our focus must broaden out as we mature. Now while it’s great that our focus broadens, it’s also true to say that our focus diffuses. I don’t know if you have ever had a really absorbing bream, well actually I’m sure you have had, but maybe you don’t remember it. Anyhow, when you have an absorbing dream, especially one of those awesome beautiful dreams, where maybe you see some fantastic scenery or you’re in some fantastic setting doing something fantastic, you will notice on looking back at this kind of dream, that it completely absorbed you and yet upon waking it suddenly dissipates. Well this is the kind of focus which young children have. They become utterly absorbed. Now we have a much bigger life as adults, but often our focus is dissipated, and so we feel lazy and lackluster and somehow our heart isn’t in most of the things which we are doing.
Another consideration is that we tend to focus too much on externals. It is natural for young people to broaden their focus, in order to grow and develop; however, a stage comes when this becomes counterproductive, for the reasons stated above. In the natural maturation process, as we become older we start to develop context in our lives. Our experience allows us to put things into perspective and we tend to appreciate the little things more and more.
Often young parents, for example, will be in a hurry to get the kids ready for school and to prepare them for exams and bring them to the dentist and tennis practice and the 101 things which parents have to focus on with their kids. When we compare this with their grandparents, often the grandparents have the most fun simply hanging out and have fun with their grand kids!
This is a good example of appreciation, as a consequence of maturation. So to some degree we can become less bored as we become older, and normally we do, however, this is now challenged by the busy, techno focused lifestyles which most of us tend to live.
I have lost count, how many time I have had a conversation with someone, as they recount the old days when people where more sociable and were happy to hang out tougher. Why is it today that with so much technological advancement, we are so bored and stressed out with our lives?
Largely because our focus is extremely dissipated, thanks to an overly complex lifestyle, with far too many duties and activities to perform. On one level we lack any kind of dossing time; we are too busy doing stuff:
“I’ll be there in a minute I just have to update my Facebook profile, finish my snap chat and pay the online bill, just a minute!”
Yep, we are all too busy, and with this we lack a focus, which makes us feel dull and bored. Also because we are too busy, it is difficult to relax, instead we feel like we always have to do something, but the something which we have to do usually feels more like an obligation than a pleasure, which in turn makes us feel more bored and taciturn!
So what to do about it…can we cure our boredom?
Well yes we can!
Ok, so we can’t turn back time and become little children again, nor would we want to, after all little children can’t wait to become adults!
Why is it that little children want to become adults, anyway?
Little children want to become adults because of an inherent belief that something great is about to happen. We must also must remember while kids enjoy their childhood, they are also prisoners to their guardians. At no time do they have freedom to do what they really want to do and they presume that upon reaching maturity they will undergo the nirvana of living a free and independent life!
So we want the focus of young children combined with the freedom of adulthood!
There are ways in which we can do this. While this is a vast subject here are a few of things which you can do so as to relieve boredom:
1). Take Some Time Out for Yourself: Too many people are stressed out, fulfilling endless obligations, both to themselves and to other people. They have bills to pay, family members to visit, kids to raise , college courses to attend and so called leisure activities, such as the gym, which are in themselves just another in the long list of obligations which they must pogrom. So learn to take out a little ‘me’ time. Spend some time in the cinema, or watch the TV, or go for a walk on the beach or read a good book, or do one of the many things which you could do which doesn’t require an obligation. Where you are not learning a new skill or have to be responsible enough to show up. Even joining a pub quiz group or going for tennis, could be an obligation if you are expected to turn up twice a week for the foreseeable future. So ‘me’ time means chilling time. How about meeting up with an old friend and just hanging out. Remember how we all used to just hang out, and had fun angling out, after all we are human beings and hanging our together is what we do best!
2). Pick a Regular Activity or Hobby Which Sharpens your Mind: In point 1, I emphasized ‘me’ time as a way to get away from it all. But one obligation, which can be good is focusing in on developing a skill to a high level. This is different from attending to endless obligations, rather what we are talking about here, is habit number 7 in Stephen Coveys “The seven habits of highly effective people”, whereby we work at perfecting something. So say you like bowling, as in you really like it. Well take it up a notch and go deep into it, attempt to master it. The Zen Buddhists emphasize the importance of going deep into something, so that you enter into it. So rather than just getting good at something, you attempt to master it. Also mastering something is subjective. For example, you might not be the best bowler on the planet, but you can become the best version of you, the best bowler that you can be. This is a never ending process, but it does sharpen the saw and make you become a sharper and better you.
3) Give a Damn! Start giving a damn. We are so surrounded by inputs, endless media telling us about mayhem all over the world, doom and gloom, updates about movie stars and music heroes, from all over the world, which really probably don’t matter much in our lives. Sporting events, which are hyped up which again mean nothing to us! So this all creates dissipation!
Have you ever been shopping for a major event or festival like Christmas or thanksgiving, for example, and found yourself wondering why you’re doing this? I remember countless times, back in Ireland, walking around the supermarket a few days before Christmas, listening to “it’s a white Christmas’, for the sixteenth millionth time, as all the supermarkets start playing old Christmas songs form the 31st of October (Out with Halloween and in with Christmas. Then out with Christmas and in with Easter. Out with Easter and in with summer holidays. Out with summer holidays and in with kids go back to school. Out with kids go back to school and in with Halloween!). Anyway, spending loads of money on enough food and drink to feed a small village in Africa for a week, and thinking to myself, why am I doing this? Have you ever had that feeling?
Well all of this creates dissipation!
So start giving a damn. Pick one thing or one person that you care about and out some effort into it. Pick out an orphanage and go visit. Pick out an old person and spend some time with them. Pick out a sport or a club, which you like and make time to support it. Pick out a person whom you like, respect or love and spend some time supporting them.
Give a damn and see what happens!
Good will happen because you are focusing on something which is important to you!
So to summarise the causes of boredom are manifold but these three things:
Taking time out for yourself, sharpening the saw and giving a damn, will really help you to become less diffused, more focused and at peace with yourself.
Hope this helps.