Updated: May 6, 2020
This morning I told my wife: „I have to finish the new article today.“ “Have to?“ she asked... „But don‘t you like writing it?“ - „I do, but I‘m a little bit bored of it. Anyhow, I have to!“
I assume we all get bored... sometimes we get bored by the things we have to do, sometimes we get bored by what we see on television or the playlist we listen to, sometimes we get bored by other people or even our own thoughts.
Unfortunately (just kidding), there are a lot of interesting and exciting things going on in my life right now - at least to my interpretation of „interesting and exciting“. I just enrolled in a couple of courses on Psychology, I started running again after almost a month without regular cardio - as I mentioned last week: they’ve closed the gym - so I‘m doing city-runs three to four times a week which is extremely satisfying and exciting since on a 10k I can explore new neighbourhoods. I am also spending more time on learning Finnish at the moment and I have rediscovered the joys of playing my guitar. Above all that I have started to learn Python and Java... so yes, there are a few things going on that could easily keep me from writing and posting my blogs on time.
As you might have guessed, I usually put a lot of effort into not getting bored, both consciously and unconsciously. I would even say that I tend to get scared of being bored. I get scared of being bored by writing, I get scared that my relationships start to bore me, I get scared when I wake up and don’t have a concrete plan for the day.
It‘s not the best time to be in Shanghai these days if you‘re afraid of boredom due to the virus and the fact that most of the places you’d want to got to are still closed and you have to mainly focus on inside activities. I’ve recently met someone who had just moved here from Germany. He arrived here a couple of weeks ago without his little family since they have a newborn and his wife has to stay at home for a couple of months until their baby is big enough to take the flight from Germany. Yesterday I received a message via WeChat stating the following: „I‘m done. I want to go home. I hate this city. I am dying of boredom and I don‘t know how to help it.“ It sounded pretty devastating to me and I can fully understand it.
But here’s what I‘ve learned regarding why it‘s important to push through and fall in love with boredom: if we can‘t deal with the fact that things get bored sometimes and if we constantly search for new distractions we might not be able to reach our full potential in doing the things we want to achieve in our lives.
I have to be honest here: this thought has not been developed solely in my own mind. Let me share a passage from the book „Atomic Habits“. This passage reminds me to be more persistent and push through phases of boredom:
„Mastery is never an accident. You can win the lottery and become rich overnight, but no one has ever mastered their craft by chance. Whether we are talking about athletes, artists, or academics, the story is the same. If you want to fulfill your potential then you must practice a specific skill for a long time with remarkable consistency.“ - James Clear
In a recent blog post I stated a couple of things that I want to achieve in life. And there‘s no magic trick to it: if I want to achieve these things I have to work for them. If I want to be a writer, I have to write and I have to be on schedule with my writing. If I want to have that six-pack, I have to work out and go running on a regular basis and over a long period of time. If I want to be a good husband, I have to listen and be engaged in conversations and I have to keep up the good habits of doing the household and cooking besides other things. And if I want to be a good listener, I have to shut up and listen. Even if it get‘s boring, even if there are nicer things to do, even if I want to state my opinion instead of listening to someone else’s.
There are also a couple of important hints in the book of how to keep up with what you‘re doing despite the fact that it might get boring at times. What has truly helped me is to visualise the moment at the end of the tasks, e.g. clicking that „Publish“ button in the top right corner after finishing the new article and seeing it on the website or arriving back home and taking that nice shower after running or working out. The results matters. Arriving matters. Even if the process can be boring at times. Visualisation is a strong tool to help with that.
Another helpful thing I adopted is the idea of measuring success. You can‘t make progress if you don‘t measure it. One example: for developing good habits, including writing, sports, doing things in the household and being more patient and a becoming a better listener, I am using a habit journal and a tracker that I set up at the beginning of each month. One of the final tasks of my day is to make crosses or dots in my journal for the habits I followed or neglected. That can be really satisfying (or the opposite if I had a bad day)!
The final thought I want to share is that I found it to be really important to regularly „up the antes“ if you get good at doing something. This will help to keep certain tasks in life more exciting over a longer period of time. Research has shown that if the task you do requires a 4% higher skill level than your current one it will be more likely to follow and repent this task over a longer period of time. To make it a bit more tangible: imagine playing tennis or soccer with someone way below your skill level - you‘ll probably get bored very fast. The same counts for playing with someone who is much better that you. But if you find someone who matches your skill level or - even better - is slightly more skilled than you, chances are high that you will be much more engaged and try to give it your best...
If you‘re interested, here‘s the link to James Clear‘s book „Atomic Habits“ on Amazon (affiliate link):