All of us have experienced “boredom” at some time or another. That terrifying purposelessness that invades like a virus impacting all parts of life –personal and professional. In this article, I would like to put forth my thoughts on the feeling or state of boredom and the power it can provide in our life.
Firstly – What is boredom? Is it a lack of enthusiasm or interest, a state of feeling dull or a belief that everything is tedious? In fact an interesting quote that I came across states – “I’ll die of boredom if I live that long.” So whatever it means, one thing is for sure, everyone would want to avoid boredom perhaps even more than plague.
As an observer of studying leadership behaviours, I must admit the recent spotlight on a few leaders’ lives, has evoked curiosity & intrigued me to ponder ‘what drives a leader, anyone actually, to foray into newer and newer areas incessantly?’
- Is it personality driven – lots of people like flamboyance and change.
- Is it driven by strong leadership behaviours like business acumen – a lot of leaders swiftly spot opportunities, have an appetite for high stakes and the courage to dare.
- Is it success driven, after all success in any area drives more of the same.
The drivers of human behaviour are many and broadly classified as elements of whom we are -our personality & preferences and where we seek to go – our vision, desires etc. However, in the myriad of so many probables that drive our life, could “boredom” also be a critical one?
Exploring this further, lets look at how boredom manifests itself. For many, it evokes lethargy or a sense of ennui, a passive withdrawal, a lack of desire to stretch. Visualise a disengaged employee – most likely giving poor or reduced productivity & little or no creative output. And while disengagement is a huge issue that all organizations struggle with, most look at initiatives like – fun at work, gratification gimmicks, events, etc. to counter this. While this works in the short term, boredom has this great propensity of creeping back into mind’s crevices and taking charge. Even a manager who tries the route of holding ‘development conversations’ with such an employee , may achieve little success.
On the other hand, boredom could also evoke behaviour of restlessness – perhaps this could be the case for leaders like Vijay Mallya. This restlessness could lead to a desire to do something big or different, travel the less trodden path & take risks – perhaps to an extent when ground reality becomes invisible and unusual bouts of success mar the sense of objectivity. Such leaders could demonstrate unusually high energy & enthusiasm. Typically, in organizations, these behaviours are more visible at leadership levels, largely because we havent evolved to the extent where non conformist behaviours are encouraged or even permitted at lower levels.
Thankfully, there is a lot of interesting research that is now being conducted to understand boredom. Psychological Scientist, John Eastwood (York university, Ontario), says, "Boredom is to be in a state of longing for activity but unaware of what it is that one desires and to look to the world to solve the impasse. "Other researches point to the possibility that people experience boredom out of an inability to know what they are feeling and what it is they really want.
So why is boredom so powerful?
Possibly for the same reason as any feeling is powerful if understood correctly and leveraged well. So, whether it is a disengaged employee in an organization or a restless leader itching to do more, both have the power to tune into the feeling, understand it through exploration, and search for the solution to stir them to another loop of creativity, joy, and success.
Also, while all feelings have to be dealt with by understanding the cognitive responses and patterns, boredom requires us to intently listen to that little ‘inner voice’ we all have. We know – our greatest needs, our strongest values and motivators, our deep beliefs and our real vision. Inner voice is human’s greatest resource, a tool that guides us to our truth. Finding this can be the most powerful experience.
While more research in the coming years will undoubetdly help in alleviating boredom, let’s please not “die of boredom.”