© 2019 Pat McAndrew

  • Pat McAndrew

The Importance of Boredom



When you were kids, do you ever remember getting bored? I have many a good memory of times when my siblings and I would wrap up one activity, sit ourselves in a circle, and “make up ideas.” Sometimes, we got so bored that “making up ideas” was an idea of itself to relieve ourselves from the momentary lull in the summer day. Occasionally, it did not take long to come up with the next fun escapade that awaited us, but sometimes it would take an immensely long time, especially when certain ideas weren’t jiving with everyone.


I never truly realized the importance of those moments of boredom. Granted, I was just a kid so of course I wasn’t think, “Hold on! Brother and sisters…this boring moment truly is something, isn’t it?” But those moments allowed me to think outside of the box, to think creatively, and come up with ideas that I otherwise would’ve glanced over had my days been blocked out and scheduled to a tee. The ideas I came up with were not groundbreaking to say the least, but my siblings and I discovered amazingly creative ideas that entertained us for hours. (Has anyone ever made mud soup? I highly recommend doing so. It’s amazing! But don’t eat it. It’s kind of like nature’s easy-bake oven, except again, don’t eat it. Then again, you probably don’t want to eat anything coming out of an easy-bake oven either).


When I was a kid, I always saw boredom as a bad thing, and up until recently I thought similarly. I also felt it was time being wasted that can be used for more entertaining or more productive purposes. However, I’ve come to discover that those moments of boredom are more crucial than most of us believe.


In Sherry Turkle’s Reclaiming Conversation: The Power of Talk in a Digital Age, she quotes, “When we let our minds wander, we set out brains free.” When we are bored and let ourselves be bored, our minds wander. We begin to think, brainstorm, and create. Thinking is a very underrated skillset and much more difficult than many of us believe. It requires in-depth focus, attention, and concentration on a single thought or task. And how many of us really do that nowadays? Carl Jung, the renowned Swiss psychiatrist and psychoanalyst, has this great quote from his collection of essays, Jung on Active Imagination. He states, “Right action comes from right thinking, and there is no cure and no improving of the world that does not begin with the individual himself.”  But what is right thinking? Let’s not get all deep now! Although “right thinking” is up for interpretation, Jung is essentially saying that we need to help ourselves as individuals before we are capable of helping the world. I believe that boredom is the pathway to” right thinking”. Boredom can be a way to fuel creative ideas that cannot only help yourself, but also help your fellow friends who may be in sticky situations.


“Yadda, yadda, deep quotes, yadda, yadda. Where’s the meat? Show me the beef!” Why I write this article is because people are rarely bored anymore. Or, rather, I shouldn’t say they are rarely bored. People still get bored as much as they always have, but now that boredom is instantly fixed with the easy access of technology. Why be bored when you have a wealth of information, entertainment, and contact with friends at your fingertips? Surely technology can consume hours upon hours of our attention, and often times it does. Rare are the days where we can let our minds wander. With attention spans becoming shorter, it’s growing increasingly difficult to embrace boredom. It takes a decent amount of mental energy to just sit in a chair and do nothing, but think. Isn’t that amazing?


I want to try and make it a point to be bored. As a theatre artist, it’s in these moments that ideas come to me. It’s in these moments that we allow space into our minds in order to generate new and exciting ideas.


As I often like to inspire my readers in some form, I decided to look up some quotes on boredom. “Oh, they will like quotes on how boredom makes you more Zen and such and such.” Boy, howdy, was I wrong. I stumbled upon boredom quotes like, “Boredom is the root of all evil,” “The two enemies of human happiness are pain and boredom,” and, “I can excuse everything but boredom. Boring people don’t have to stay that way.” Oh boy! Not what I was expecting!


I think it’s important to distinguish between boredom and being boring. If someone is boring, this could mean that they have the energy sucked out of them. They need more passion in their life or perhaps they need to feel more fulfilled. Or perhaps they are always in a negative state and no fun to be around. I’m not talking about the importance of being boring. That would be a sad post. I’m talking about the importance of boredom. This does not mean the importance of sitting around all day and doing nothing. What I am saying is that we should take advantage of moments when we may be bored. We should take that time to think, reflect, and be creative. We must utilize that time so then we can spring into action on the next important task. Do not be bogged down by the busyness that society has made a social construct. Take time to breath, think, experience, and continue forward. Embrace boredom because it is a rare gift in this technologically-fixed world.


To conclude, I’m going to throw yet another quote at you, this one by Abraham Maslow. He says, “Children do not have to be taught to be curious. But they may be taught, as by institutionalization, not to be curious.” Let your mind wander and explore and don’t let someone or something else control your daily life.


As per usual, let me know your thoughts below. Do you embrace boredom? Is it important or something we should try to avoid?


Pat