The Value of Boredom

We work hard to eliminate boredom, but should we? We live in a time of instant entertainment and gratification. I confess that I’m addicted to it. If I’m in line and realize I may have a whopping 30-seconds of standing still, my hand gets twitchy, instantly reaching for my phone to provide entertainment or distraction. It doesn’t matter what I look at on the phone, though it will surely be pointless nothing, my thirst for continuous entertainment gets satisfied. But again, is that a good thing?

Through reading Deep Work, I realize that an idle mind can be a beautiful thing. Throughout history, many of the deep thinkers were known for their habits that let their minds rest and wander. And, that wandering led to breakthroughs that changed the world. Einstein and Darwin were both known for taking long walks to improve their thinking.1

It turns out that problem-solving isn’t always best left to the conscious mind. Have you ever been on a walk, in the shower, on a drive, etc., and suddenly realized the answer to your problem? Have you woken up in the middle of the night and known exactly how to solve something? That’s because even after we consciously step away from a problem, our minds dwell on it anyway, looking for the solution.

And, so, we find ourselves back to seeking boredom. How can our brains creatively problem solve in our subconscious if our brains are continually entertained? Through the barrage of entertainment that we feed on, our brains have a steady diet of junk food and no room to make creative and complex connections that will lead to great insights. We need more boredom, more downtime, more pauses in our day. Maybe, like Einstein, we need a regularly scheduled walk that is meant to solve problems. We need to give our minds idle time, so they can expand to reach their full potential. We need more boredom.