On boredom

How often have we seen children who are surrounded by toys and games and activities, but still sighing and claiming boredom? Or how often have we ourselves claimed boredom, been given a thing to do, and realised that it doesn’t help at all?

It occurs to me that boredom is not a function of “not having anything to do”, but a function of not being currently in the act of doing that one thing that you’d rather be doing above all others.

What this means is that if you have one thing you want to do more than any other current option, and you’re doing it, then you’re not bored; but if you have five wonderful things that you want to do equally … then yes, you do get bored. Because whichever thing you choose to do, there are four other things you could be doing, and the idea that you could be doing something else instead will detract from your enjoyment.

So the solution to boredom is not always to surround yourself with interesting things, but to either restrict your options, or find one thing among your options that you want to do more than the others. A child with one beloved toy is less bored than a child with ten equally beloved toys.

And perhaps one way of doing this is focus. If you have five tasks, and you’re able to focus on one to such an extent that the other four pale in comparison, then you’re probably not going to be bored by it. That takes discipline; and happily, that can be learnt.

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