Dr. Bob Wright | May 8, 2018

Want More Out of Life? Learning is the Cure for Boredom

Do you ever feel like life has become routine? Maybe even a bit boring? I’ll tell you, there is one cure for boredom: learning.

Are you bored? Do you want more out of life? There’s one cure for boredom and it’s growth and learning. If you’re ready to get more out of life, stop tuning out and start jumping in. Boredom is easy to break out of, if you have the right tools.

Many people reach a point in their lives, whether it’s with their careers, their relationships or their social life, where they feel like they’re simply treading water and going through the motions. This is a sad place to be, where we’re not maximizing our potential or getting the most out of life.

Maybe you drive to work every day along the same route. You get to work and see the same people. You work on the same projects. Perhaps you’re doing well at work, but it’s starting to feel routine.

Then when you get home, you and your partner fall into a familiar pattern. Dinner, television, maybe scrolling through your phones while you sit on the couch.

This stagnation can happen slowly without us even realizing it. Unfortunately, when it happens, we start to feel unsettled, restless and unfulfilled. We get bored and start seeking a cure for boredom.

The Opposite of Growth: Stagnation

When we stop growing, thriving, and evolving, we become stagnant. Without new experiences and opportunities to learn, our senses dull. Our brain becomes less sharp. Our work and social lives suffer.

Often to counteract this sense of unfulfillment we turn to what Judith and I refer to as Soft Addictions. Soft addictions aren’t as obviously harmful as cigarettes, alcohol or drugs…but over time they can end up becoming just as deadly and certainly as deadening.

When you feel restless do you turn to your phone? A recent study showed people spend a staggering 90 minutes per day (that’s 23 days per year) staring at their phones! There are apps you can download to tell you how often and how long you spend looking at the little handheld devices. You might be surprised.

But, it’s not simply our smartphone use. Soft addictions encompass many different behaviors we use to zone out: television, shopping, eating and so on. Even healthy behaviors such as exercise can become soft addictions if we use them as a way to escape from engagement.

Wondering if you’re indulging in soft addictions? Take the Soft Addictions quiz here.

Soft addictions aren’t necessarily “bad” behaviors. Take watching a movie for example. Appreciating a great film is one of life’s pleasures. I love an opportunity to watch a movie and really delve into the deeper meaning and analysis.

But when we’re delving in, we’re engaged and turned on. We’re aware of what’s happening and we’re using it as a platform for further learning and personal development. That’s a far cry from binge-watching Netflix while you scroll through Facebook on your phone.

When it comes down to it, each new experience helps us form new neuropathways. In a study of bus drivers vs. cab drivers, the cabbies showed a greater cognitive response and capacity. Why? Because their brains were stimulated. They were experiencing new routes and routines each day. They had to adapt, react and evolve to each new situation. The bus drivers, on the other hand, were going over the same routes time after time. They weren’t learning from new situations.

The Best Cure for Boredom

Now, when most people get bored what do they do? They start planning a vacation. They look at travel as an opportunity to find fulfillment. People talk about wanderlust. There are magazines, blogs, and websites devoted to travel experience.

While there’s nothing wrong with travel, it isn’t a cure for boredom. In fact, if you aren’t getting to the heart of why you’re bored, you will return to the same state you were in before you went on your trip. Travel is wonderful for learning and seeking new experiences. It’s a fantastic opportunity to recharge your batteries and reset. But without a greater purpose and a set intention, your travel becomes empty—another soft addiction and method of escape.

Instead of trying to “get away” it’s far better to work on getting inside. When we start to really study ourselves, we experience more discovery and fulfillment. Learning is an important part of the pathway to transformation.

The good news is, learning is a lifelong process. We don’t stop learning simply because we finish a college class, or we take a professional or personal development course.  Learning can and should go on throughout our entire life. In fact, it’s a vital part of living a long and happy life and transforming ourselves into our best self.

When you understand how the brain works and what it takes to build new, lasting neural pathways, you realize that there is no such thing as a quick fix—and anything that offers one is misguided at best and fraudulent at worst. The odds are you’ve taken a class, been to a workshop or experienced some other type of learning situation that provided useful ideas about how to transform your life, or some aspect of it. You’ve spent a few hours or perhaps a few days absorbing theories and exercises that struck you as valuable or maybe even epiphany-producing. You’ve learned a lot about yourself and what you need to change, and you’re excited about putting this learning to work. Unfortunately, it’s one thing to learn a valuable lesson; it’s something else to put it into practice.
…Understand, too, that as a human being you have an innate drive to learn, to grow and to transform. We define learning as coming to know something new, and growing as doing something you’ve never done before. We all want to explore our capabilities, to keep improving our relationships, to achieve more in our careers, to find more meaning in our daily lives. Dr. Diana Fosha, a leader in the new field of interpersonal neurobiology writes that “People have a fundamental need for transformation. We are wired for growth and healing…we have a need for the expansion and liberation of the self, the letting down of defensive barriers and the dismantling of the false self… In the process of radical change, we become more ourselves than ever before, and recognize ourselves to be so. [This] overarching motivational force strives toward maximal vitality, authenticity, and genuine contact. Residing deeply in our brains are wired in dispositions for [transformation].
Most often the proof of this need manifests itself not in a deep desire but in its opposite. When we’re not on a transformational path, we are nagged by the feeling that we should be doing something more, that we’re missing out on things. We have a vague sense of lost opportunities. This is what the existential philosophers call “ontological guilt,” and we try to drive it out of our conscious mind through soft addictions: watching television, gossiping, texting, shopping and a hundred other things that distract us from the nagging voice in our head telling us we should be doing more.
–Transformed! The Science of Spectacular Living

The first step toward breaking out of this pattern and finding the cure for boredom is to start examining ourselves. What do we really want out of life? What can we learn about who we are, our deepest desires and greatest yearnings?

As we unlock the mysteries within ourselves and what yearnings are driving us, we discover more ways to get those yearnings met by connecting with others. Our experiences become richer and our lives become more connected with those around us. Instead of feeling as though we’re going through the motions, we start to live a life of more.

So, if you’re ready to break out of your boredom, take a look at the places in your life you’re zoning out. Are you engaged with those around you? Are you seeking new opportunities to learn and make discoveries, both about yourself and the world around you? Do you use your mistakes as a chance to grow?

Learning is a life-long activity but one that enriches our lives and leads us toward greater fulfillment. If you’re tuning out, it’s time to start tuning in!

For more ways you can discover greater fulfillment, visit our blog at the Wright Foundation. Download many of our courses at a special introductory price or join us for a free networking weekend, where you’ll learn important life skills to help you get more from each experience.

About the Author

Dr. Bob Wright is an internationally recognized visionary, educator, program developer, leadership and sales executive, best-selling author and speaker. He is a co-founder of Wright and the Wright Graduate University.

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The Wright Foundation for the Realization of Human Potential is a leadership institute located in Chicago, Illinois. Wright Living performative learning programs are integrated into the curriculum at Wright Graduate University.

Photo by Tamarcus Brown on Unsplash.