The Boredom Paradox

young woman sitting thinking about her problems looking away

I recently exchanged emails with a brilliant colleague about a dynamic that is frustratingly familiar to many brilliant people in their quest for a passionate and meaningful life. It goes something like this:

Your life is pretty good but you feel restless.  You sense there is a far more alive and passionate life you could be living, and your keen and active mind often generates inspired ideas for that kind of life – which you don’t act upon.

Either the ideas themselves are fleeting and seemingly insubstantial – they’re here and then they’re gone, like the light of a firefly at dusk – or they seem so big that you feel defeated by the sheer amount of work it would take to realize them. Or maybe you just don’t know where to start in bringing them to life.

And so you don’t do anything with them.  You keep living the same life you’ve been living and you feel…bored. Unfulfilled.  Underutilized.  Maybe a little cranky.

No two people are alike, of course, but I’ve learned a few things about boredom after decades of helping people create deeply fulfilling lives.  Like so much in life, boredom is a bit of a paradox:  it is both a call to change and a barrier to change.  Once you understand that, you can intentionally choose to follow the call and ignore the barrier.

Let’s look at the call of boredom.  It is the unexpressed desire for enlivening change which arises from the recognition that you’re not thrilled with where you are. As I wrote in March’s post (Making Peace with Desire), you are an extension of Source, whose eternal impulse to create is the very essence of desire.  Your desires are Divine inspirations to creatively express more and more of who you are.  They are natural, life-giving and essential.

So the feeling of boredom is a call to honor your desires, which is a really good thing. Yet it arises because you’re focused on your life as it is now, which isn’t exactly what you want it to be. And because of the power of focus – what we focus on is what expands in our lives – when you’re focused on what you don’t like, you expand – or continue – what you don’t like. That’s the barrier.

So the feeling of boredom stimulates desire, but the focus on what bores us keeps us right where we are.

Added to that is the lightning-swift tendency many people have to judge any desire they have as impractical, irresponsible, unimportant or just plain crazy, not to mention the crushing tendency to judge themselves as not having what it takes to realize their desires, anyway. And the energy of judgment, in any form and directed toward anyone or anything, is always diminishing and depleting. Always.

Talk about a barrier!

So if you’re a teensy bit bored with your life right now, where does that leave you…besides in good company?

It leaves you with a golden opportunity to create a new, self-loving approach that can help you follow the call of desire arising from boredom without getting tangled up in the barrier.

First, a few reminders of basic energy dynamics:

  • What you focus on, and what you accept as true, is what shows up in your life.
  • The way you feel is an indicator of the degree to which you’re in harmony with your true desires.
  • Your true desires don’t arise from your brain. They arise from your heart.
  • The energy of self-judgment will never, ever get you where you want to go.

With these in mind, your new approach to dealing with boredom looks something like this:

Make a Vow

Vow to suspend all self-judgment and to recognize, honor and cultivate your heartfelt desires.

Love What Is

Practice genuinely appreciating yourself and your life as it is right now.  The energy of appreciation is loving, expansive and in full harmony with your heartfelt desires. Appreciation turns boredom into acceptance, which is the opposite of resistance.  And I’m not just talking about acceptance of what is, but acceptance of your innate goodness and your Divine power to create something new.

Appreciate your brilliant mind and all of its wonderful ideas! It’s an idea-generating powerhouse.  But don’t force yourself into action until you’ve consulted with your heart. The mind creates options; the heart reveals true direction.

Rewrite the Past

And now that we’re talking about not forcing yourself into action, appreciate yourself for not having done so in the past. You weren’t lazy. You knew at some level that riding the waves of heartfelt desires is a far greater, richer and more fulfilling experience than analyzing options, making a logical choice and marching forward to its completion. Instead of making yourself do something just for the sake of doing it, you’ve been wisely waiting for the emergence of your true, life-giving desires.

Listen to Your Heart

Give yourself time and space to listen inward.  What is your heart of hearts whispering to you now? If you gave yourself full permission to want what you really want, what might that be?  It could be one of the options your mind generated, or it could be something completely different. It could be far grander than you’ve allowed yourself to imagine, or far simpler. Remember, no judgment!

If what you want feels “big” and seems as if it will require a lot of work, replace the word “work” with “energy and focus,” and remind yourself that the desire itself is your source of energy and focus.  Remind yourself, too, that you’re not in a race to the finish! Life is the ongoing experience – dare I say the journey? – of bringing desires to fruition, and with each realized desire new desires are born. Relax and enjoy the ride.

If what you want seems “small” and you’re disappointed that it’s not some big, life-changing desire, remind yourself that honoring any desire connects you with all desires and reinforces your sense of worthiness to be happy. Relax and enjoy the ride.

Trust Your Inner Guidance to Lead You Step by Step

Honor more and more of your authentic impulses, rather than all of your “shoulds.”  Be lovingly present with yourself and be willing to act on your intuitive nudges.  Follow your own energy. 

This will take some practice, especially if you’ve been in the habit of managing your life and your schedule tightly. Rest assured that impulses arising from true inner guidance are direct and simple, even if they’re a bit unexpected.

You might have an impulse to call someone you haven’t spoken to in a while, or go to a matinee instead of walking up and down the stairs 50 times to get your step count up to 10,000, or meditate in your garden for the first time.  The simple choice to honor these impulses moves you into the natural rhythm of your life, in which your timing is perfect for receiving the ideas and opportunities that bring your desires to life.

Oh, and these natural impulses arise only when you’re feeling centered and clear. So commit first and foremost to feeling as good as you can, as often as you can.

This is, admittedly, a much-abbreviated description of what loving yourself through boredom looks like. There is so much more that could be offered and explored about each element. And depending on how committed you already are to loving yourself through life, any one of them could seem, initially, quite foreign or challenging, or both. The exploration, understanding and following of inner guidance can seem particularly difficult in a culture that prizes cool rationality and logical, data-supported action.

Even so, I know you already know how to do everything I’ve just reminded you to do, because it’s innate to your Being.  You are meant to live an inspired and fulfilling life, and the beauty of boredom is that it’s meant to remind you of that.

Let boredom be your signal to fully appreciate who you are right now and all you’ve created and, paradoxically, let it also nudge you to get curious about which aspects of your brilliant Self want to emerge next.

It just gets better from here…

I’d love to hear from you! Please share your insights and questions in the space below. Thank you!

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  1. Mary on May 31, 2019 at 7:49 pm

    Suzanne, I love the way you’ve taken this concept of boredom and helped us explore what it is telling us. Thank you for reminding me that there is often a clue in something I don’t want to look at, and also for the reminder that I can love myself through anything.

    My two favorite tasty bits from your post:

    “The mind creates options; the heart reveals true direction.”

    “If what you want feels “big” and seems as if it will require a lot of work, replace the word “work” with “energy and focus…”

    Thanks for another great post!

    • Suzanne Eder on June 1, 2019 at 11:13 am

      Mary, I appreciate so much that you always take the time to read my posts and comment on them. I’m particularly delighted that one of your takeaways is that you can love yourself through anything. YES!! And the beauty of that is that life gets more ease- and Grace-filled as you do.

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