Saturday, April 09, 2016

Don’t try to change nature, follow it

Boredom is biological. 

As soon as we stop doing something purposeful, the mind begins to project unpleasant information on the screen of our consciousness. It’s an evolutionary safety device that’s served human survival for millions of years. 

Not just for protecting the tribe from giant animals, but also for advancing the tribe into the next generation. Boredom is what forces people to reach down deep and preoccupy themselves with a longing to change the future. 

And so, when psychologists report that a proneness to boredom can be linked to addictive, impulsive and unproductive behaviors, and that people highly prone to boredom are more likely to show increased symptoms of attention deficit disorder and depression, I’m a little weary. 

Because boredom, that feeling of blessed idleness, is the very experience that stops people from plowing the same furrow. It’s where curiosity and imagination and wonderment live. Boredom is what forces us to try to seek new goals or explore new territories or ideas. And that search for an escape could be risky, but that’s part and parcel of being a human being. 

We’re curious animals. We try things. That’s how we learn. That’s how we move the species forward. 

Consider the history of innovation. Most novel ideas are generated two types of people. Those confounded by chaos, and those bored by old routines. Pasternak, to use a recent example, was only fifteen years old when he created the most downloaded smartphone game in history. When asked how he came up with the idea, the teen programmer said it’s because he was bored at school. And now, he’s being courted and wooed by the biggest tech companies in the world. 

The point is, waging war against boredom isn’t the answer. It’s part of our makeup. And so, next time your hands run idle, don’t try to change nature, follow it. Align yourself with the flow of the moment. Stop resisting and start investigating. 

Because if necessity is the mother of invention, perhaps boredom is the father of it. 


Which evolutionary safety devices are causing you more harm than good?
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Scott Ginsberg
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