The other day, two very different articles crossed my desk on the subject or boredom.
First, one of my favorite dad blogs posted “Top 10 Phrases That Will Reduce a Parent To Tears” – sure enough in the number 8 spot was…. “I’m Boooored!”
Which got me thinking… why is it that these two words are almost always thrown out in a whiny, most unhappy context? Why, in today’s overscheduled world, aren’t kids doing back flips and celebrating the rare opportunity they find themselves free to exclaim, “I’m Bored!”
A friend sent the second piece on boredom my way via Fast Company. This article Want to Be More Creative? Get Bored! encourages us to embrace the “creative pause” that boredom affords. This piece echoed my belief that we need to flip the script and see boredom as an opportunity for game-changing Aha moments. When do you get your best ideas? Whether in the shower or zoned out on the treadmill, it’s often when we’re on auto pilot and our minds left idle that flashes of genius strike… reading The NY Times on your waterproof Kindle may actually cost you the next great idea!
One of my favorite quotes on the importance of embracing boredom comes from Steve Jobs. Arguably one of the most innovative minds the world has known, Jobs worried deeply about the future of boredom. In a conversation with Wired Magazine, Jobs said, “I’m a big believer in boredom. Boredom allows one to indulge in curiosity, and out of curiosity comes everything. All the [technology] stuff is wonderful, but having nothing to do can be wonderful, too.”
Often we equate boredom with unproductive, wasted time, or a failure on our part to provide adequate stimulation for our children or students. This mindset is most certainly conveyed to our kids, effectively teaching them to shy away from opportunities to let their minds take them away to stretch, explore, and create. Retraining ourselves and our children to not only manage boredom, but to seek it out and use it as a time to run wild and create is key to building problem solving skills for the 21st century.
While building in “boredom blocks” is sadly not feasible in most schools today, parents can be more mindful about the importance of providing these opportunities for boredom. Kids used to one activity after the next may initially struggle with the prospect of this unplanned play time (cue those 2 magic words!) – encourage your child to see this as an opportunity to dig deeper into a question s/he has, redesign a living space in your home with a new purpose in mind, find new uses for a household device… the possibilities are endless – and so are the places your imagination can take you!
I hope someday soon that the dreaded “I’m Bored!” becomes music to our ears!