We live in a distracted world. Entertainment is always at the tip of our fingers. We never have to be bored anymore. Think about it; when was the last time you actually sat in a waiting room (or the bathroom) and did absolutely nothing?
Boredom is a thing of the past. It doesn’t have to be though, and I would even encourage you to implement a boredom practice into your life. There are some very positive benefits to this, including combating distraction.
When I say a “boredom practice” all I mean is that you simply need to consciously take time to do nothing.
What that might look like is this:
- Wait in the line at the grocery store without checking your phone
- Go to the bathroom without your phone
- Avoid getting out your phone when you are in social situations, even if you REALLY are bored 😉
- Avoid scrolling on your phone between work tasks, and when you get stuck on an assignment
- Leave your phone at home when you go exercise
There are many other ways we can practice boredom in our life, and these are just a few.
I will be honest with you though. If you are not used to being bored, this will be hard.
Even doing one of these things will take real concentration and effort. You will likely even find yourself reaching for your device out of habit. That will just end up showing you how addicted to distraction you are.
The reason why we are distracted
The number one reason why we are so distracted and addicted to our devices is that we have lost the ability to be bored. It’s not exactly a chicken and egg scenario either. Our devices TRULY have damaged our minds.
They are not 100% to blame, because we will often find ways to distract ourselves, even without a device attached to our palm.
With such easy access to information and entertainment, we have conditioned our mind to self medicate anytime we feel uncomfortable. But oftentimes the very thing we seek to numb our pain causes more discomfort because we see the happy pretty lives of all our friends and wish we felt better.
It’s a sick cycle, and one that is crushing our ability to master distraction.
A real life example of how this plays out
Okay, maybe not “real life” it’s a made up story, but you will get the idea.
Jim sits down to write an article for his blog. He pulls out his computer, flips it open, and then proceeds to start a new blog post in WordPress. Jim starts typing furiously. He’s inspired and feeling good. That is until he’s not. Eventually Jim hits a wall.
This wall causes Jim to start questioning what he has written so far. He can’t figure out how to proceed, so rather than sit in that discomfort he opens up his phone to scroll Facebook for a while. Thirty minutes later he looks up only to realize that he has a meeting starting in 10 minutes.
His morning writing session is now ruined. He didn’t finish his article, and now when he starts back up again later in the day (or the next day) he has to refocus his attention again to get in the groove, which will take longer since he was already stuck.
You see, we have conditioned our minds to distract ourselves, even when we have the best intentions. You might think checking Facebook in those down moments in line at the grocery store are harmless, but they really aren’t. They are conditioning our mind to react the same way ANYTIME we are bored.
If Jim had practiced being bored, perhaps we would have been able to sit through those moments of discomfort until he was able to push through and finish the blog. By being bored we begin to train our mind to not seek escape which allows us to focus for longer periods of time.
The solution is simple: Practice being bored. It doesn’t mean you have to ditch social media, although that would definitely help. Refer to some of my suggestions about not being connected and Why Your Business Doesn’t Need Social Media, ff you want further help and inspiration for this, read Deep Work, by Cal Newport.
This book was a game changer for me, and I think it can be for you as well.
If you want to master distraction in your life. You have to practice being bored.
Photo by Zach Betten on Unsplash