The Benefits of Boredom

jack in the grassI read a quote a few days ago that bothered me.

However, I agree with it 100%.

The quote comes from the book Essentialism by Greg McKeown:

“One leader at Twitter once asked me:  ‘Can you remember what it was like to be
bored?  It doesn’t happen anymore. . . . .by abolishing any chance of being bored
we have also lost the time we used to have to think and process.” (pg. 68)

If we’re honest – we can see ourselves (and definitely our kids) in the above description.  We get fidgety when we have down time:  in waiting rooms, in line anywhere, traffic, kid’s practices, games, performances, at work, at home, on vacation, during meals, during television shows, and so on . . . .

It is soothing to reach for our electronic devices to address our boredom.  Forget commercials, we can bypass them with TiVo and On Demand.  We can escape pain and problems by entering into virtual video worlds.  Being online replaces face to face contact.  Multitasking is the norm.  Feelings of guilt surface when we attempt to relax and do nothing.

The quote about boredom got me reflecting on my own childhood growing up in the seventies.  What did we do when we got bored?

*Some TV, but we only had 5 channels (one being UHF), so a lot of playing outside, sandlot sports, creating imaginary worlds with friends, and riding bikes at all hours.
*Board game tournaments with my brother (which usually led to a fight).
*Hours of air guitar and air drumming in hopes of being recruited to be the fifth member of the group Kiss.
*Drawing from memory:  cartoon characters, super heroes, movie and TV stars.
*Building larger than life card castles.
*I hunted for empty soda bottles that I could redeem at the convenience store for 5 cents.
*Bought, collected, and traded sports cards and Wacky Package stickers.
*Reading for hours (okay, it was mostly comic books – but that still counts)!

The great thing about boredom is that it can lead to creativity, think time, rest, socialization, innovations, playfulness, and reflection.

Thousands of years ago, the prophet Isaiah penned this timeless message:

“In repentance and rest you will be saved,
In quietness and trust is your strength.
But you were not willing.”         Isaiah 30: 15b

It is incredibly difficult being still.  Try sitting quietly for just 3-5 minutes and discover how uneasy you feel.  Try going somewhere without your phone and panic hits.  Try journaling your thoughts and ideas – and see how quickly you get distracted.

Next time you feel bored, welcome it as a friend.  Attempt being still and being in the moment.  Reject always having to be busy.  Take a long walk or bike ride. Try reconnecting with people socially.  Call someone on a rotary dial phone (now I’m really dating myself) 🙂

Please comment below:  What is your favorite childhood memory of what you did when you got bored?

About David Rische

Christian, husband, father, grandfather, principal, teacher, writer and encourager. David lives in Keller, Texas and has been in public education for over 19 years. He enjoys family time, biking, reading, NFL and MLB, magic, board games, movies and making people laugh.
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15 Responses to The Benefits of Boredom

  1. Gail Rische says:

    Playing with all my dolls, playing with paper dolls, coloring, playing “store”, riding my bike, playing softball/baseball with school kids and neighbor kids, jumping rope, playing hide and seek, playing jacks, throwing a ball against a wall by my house, roller skating, jumping rope, need I go on and on…..READING……don’t think I was bored much!!!!!! 🙂 🙂


  2. Gail Rische says:

    Forgot—-playing lots of board games and card games…….


    • David Rische says:

      Great stuff – I remember paper action heroes instead of dolls! I also remember throwing balls against that same wall! 🙂


      • Rob Rische says:

        My favorite boredom was at the cabins listening to the stream, the sound of the afternoon rain, the occasional sound of a horse, the sound of a gentle breeze thru the forest, the sound of a cabin door closing or opening, the soft noise of a chipmunk or bird but most importantly the sound of peace and stillness 🙂


      • David Rische says:

        Couldn’t agree more Rob. Those are still some of my happiest memories. Watching the movie “Grown Ups” the other night reminded me of that’s how it was at the cabins – we were always outside, creating and discovering new adventures, had no electronics whatsoever, and learned to love the outdoors.


  3. Dawn Lemmel says:

    Living on a lake in Minnesota, we would swim, ride bikes, chase salamanders, sell lemonade, play cards, build forts and tin can with string intercom systems, jump in piles of freshly raked leaves, literally try to dig a hole to China, and play Capture the Flag….among dozens of other things! Thanks for the look back and reflect moment, Dave!


  4. Helen Stratakes says:

    Went climbing in the rocks behind the house. Sat outside my window on the roof and listened to the coyotes. Laid out on the deck and looked at the stars. And always made up a great story starring me to past the time doing dishes.


  5. Stephanie Lucero says:

    I would record myself reading on my tape player and listen to myself reading books over and over again. I would also play jacks (yes, jacks!) and dance in my room to my radio! Those were great times!


    • David Rische says:

      No wonder you are such a great reading teacher Stephanie! Never played jacks, but I gave marbles a try. The whole radio and dancing thing explains why you are such a Song Pop expert now! 🙂


  6. Tina Molhoek says:

    It seemed as if the whole block would gather after dusk to play “kick the can” in my
    Cul-de-sac. My girlfriends and I perfected our hopscotch strategies daily. And there really is nothing sweeter than hunting for lightning bugs.


  7. DPS says:

    My sister and I would break dance on cardboard in our cul-da-sac, practice the Dirty Dancing lift, fight, listen to my pink boombox and record songs, & ride bikes or fish with my Dad. I miss being bored and you’re right about embracing it. I have to plan “do nothing” days for my daughters and make them be bored 🙂

    Great blog!


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