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Do you have childhood memories of long car trips (sitting in the back seat looking out the window when not arguing with a sibling); or visits to certain older relatives who could only deliver chin-chucks and pointless advice about how to be a nice person? Wasn’t it boring?
This type of boredom probably welled up from strong emotions of being trapped and lacking control. Can we call this situational boredom?
In situational boredom you will also feel anxious and restless. Most of all you will be absent in your mind, as you daydream about other possibilities in that moment in time. Now let’s move beyond the instance of situational boredom to more enduring forms.
Engage with curiosity during retirement
Suppose your job is not satisfying you, or your weekends seem to be devoid of desirable activities and you find yourself looking at the clock or reading the newspaper with neither enjoyment nor enlightenment. The aim is to try something radically different from your routine. Here are some ideas you can try out that may help you escape this entrenched form of boredom:
- Look at your neighbourhood in a different way. Linger to look at flowers, drink at a new coffee shop, walk down an unfamiliar street.
- Listen more closely to a friend’s point of view that you disagree with. Try to build a bridge of common beliefs, as you question your own.
- Do something that makes you feel uncomfortable. An example a friend gave me is learning to skate or rollerblade backwards. No thanks, but it sounds challenging.
Inside these three examples the word “curious” is embedded. Hence curiosity may be the antidote you need for your boredom.
The examples above are nothing more than a sample, but there are many more to try out and test to see if they suit you.
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Retirement is certainly a time when you can feel bored. After all you have seven days a week at your disposal. But if you open yourself to curiosity life in retirement doesn’t need to have you pining away under a cloud of boredom. Those first few years of retirement are too precious to waste.
You now have plenty of time to re-define your activities and re-orient the way you spend your day. Finally, the probability of sitting in the back of your parents’ car or being press-ganged into visiting a great aunt has been severely trampled on by the march of time.
Exploring your unmet needs
Productivity is a concept that undergirds our capitalist society. Hence, we immerse ourselves in the language of goals, strategies, measurement and achievement. You might ask: where does boredom fit into this framework? It can’t.
Isn’t boredom defined by not having goals at a point in time? To be bored means that you have no concept of the benefits of your boredom, as they will almost certainly unfold in the future, but at an uncertain time. As Walter Benjamin the philosopher said:
“Boredom is the dream bird that hatches the egg of experience.”Walter Benjamin
I think he was saying that it’s through that process of idleness, unhurriedness and inattention that you can gestate new ideas based on your experience. Boredom can lead to great outcomes, it’s just that you can’t say precisely what they are or when they will occur, nor can you measure them along the way.
As a retirement coach, if I have a client who is chronically bored, I could utilise the sort of behavioural techniques that I mentioned earlier by encouraging them to become more curious. That would lead to a set of activities but this would not suit everyone.
There is a second approach. It exhorts the client to sit with their boredom and find its connections to unmet needs in their life. You are perhaps not sure what I mean by “unmet needs”. Let’s take a detour, a second and final one.
As individuals we have needs (or values) that, if not satisfied, can build up negative emotions. As straightforward examples, you may have a need to be:
- Relevant and useful to the world.
- Socially connected with others.
- Challenged in order to achieve certain goals.
I think it’s easy to see that a person who needs to be socially connected, but is isolated and alone, will face severe emotional problems over time. How can a coach identify a need like that? It’s about asking good questions in order to listen carefully to the answers.
Over time, the aim is to get them to identify some of their unmet needs, then encourage them to sit with their boredom to see what the dream bird can hatch in time. That egg will give insight into how they can meet those needs.
Retirement: You won’t know what it is like until you get there.
Dr Jon Glass is a retirement coach. More information and contact details can be found at 64PLUS.com.au.