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"Thursday Thinking"

©2019 by Weaving Futures. 

  • Carolyn Stuart

Bored and Brilliant

My last post Creating Space explored ways to create organisational spaces in which it is safe to discuss and share opinions. These spaces, underpinned by authentic relationships, offer both support and challenge, and are essential if we want people to grow. Continuing with the theme of creating space I now want to move from organisational spaces to personal spaces.

How are you creating space for your own growth?

There are lots of ways we can create space for personal growth. It might be through goal setting, devoting time to reading, attending courses, or having coffee with trusted friends.

But have you ever thought to allow yourself to get bored in order to create a personal growth space? Yep, you read that right, I am suggesting that you deliberately and strategically build a boredom factor into your life.

“Boredom inspires us to seek out new terrain and new approaches when our work or circumstances become mundane. It leads to exploration, variation, and innovation.”

- Joe Fassler

When we are bored we give our brain space to be creative, and to connect ideas. Think about when you have your best ideas. For me I regularly come up with great ideas during the spin track in a ride class - (for those uninitiated into the world of ride, the first five tracks are hard out riding that leave you exhausted and then you have the ‘spin’ track, an easy ride in which to recover before the last two tracks of the class). I’m guessing that the reason I have my good ideas during the ‘spin’ track is that I am so shattered from the first five tracks that my body goes into automatic recovery mode which leaves my brain free to connect ideas that have been trapped in the busyness of my life.

Unfortunately, in our busy digitally-mediated life we use our devices to fill every spare moment. I took this picture at the gym a few weeks ago.

I couldn’t believe that every person in the room was head down and on their phone. This was a perfect moment to be bored or to build a relationship with another human, and it was robbed by our need to be constantly entertained and connected.

(For the record I took my phone out of my gym bag, took the photo and then put it away again,before engaging in a conversation with the guy set up beside me - just sayin’)

The Industrial Revolution was the first time that Europeans had significant spare time. For the first time in history boredom crept into lives and then just as quickly came a great variety of new ways to be entertained; enter circuses, zoos, stage shows, and movies. Many tasks that people performed during the Industrial Revolution were boring, allow people’s minds to wander to creative places. It is no coincidence that the Industrial Revolution was an age of great invention.

Having time to think is important to the creative process. Anthropologist Jared Diamond in his book Guns, Germs and Steel, contrasts early Māori who settled in the warmer climes of the upper North Island of New Zealand with the Moriori who settled in the Chatham Islands. Ancestral Māori (both Māori and Moriori) were farmers. The Māori who settled in the North Island were farmers, but the Moriori, because of the harsh cold climate on the Chatham Islands, became hunters and gathers. A farming lifestyle enables food to be stored, which means people have spare time. North Island Māori, because they were able to store food created spare time for themselves which they used in artistic endeavours and refining their warcraft. Meanwhile the Moriori living on the Chathams spent their entire lives gathering food in order to survive. They had no spare time for artistic endeavour or to develop their warcraft. As a result they became a pacifist people, committed to solving differences through talking not fighting. This was devastating for them when the North Island Māori invaded their island. Communities need spare time in order to grow skills beyond those necessary for survival.

Futurists tell us that boring and repetitive jobs are the ones most likely to be overtaken by robots. I’m sure this is good news if there are boring and repetitive aspects to your job, but if we are not careful robots will take away another avenue for our creative endeavour.

As schools break for the winter holidays many people will be taking time off work to be with their families. If you are one of these lucky ones carve a boredom factor into your holiday. Go for a walk without your phone, travel in the car without listening to a podcast, read an entire book instead of skim reading social media posts, just sit and do nothing and let your mind wander.

If you aren’t one of the lucky ones getting some holiday time, join me in thinking twice before pulling out your phone to check emails or your social media feed. Do we really need to read that email within a minute of it arriving? Will our world end if we just sit during our lunch break and do nothing but eat? What will happen if while sitting on the train or bus we just gaze out the window?

May your week be one of being both bored and brilliant.

‘Till next time,