Thursday, November 21, 2013

Whose fault is it that you are bored?

When you were a kid, there were two situations in which you might be bored. One was at home where there was no structure to long days off and you might complain that 'there's nothing to do.' If you were bored at home, it was your fault. The antidote was clear. You needed to change your actions (go outside and play - at least in the olden days) so that your attitude were change.

If you were bored at school, the rules were quite different. If you were bored at school, the consensus was that it was probably your teacher's fault. It was your teacher's job to engage you and interest you and supply you with activities. If you were bored, the teacher wasn't doing enough or wasn't doing the right things or was not supported by the right kind of system. The antidote was for the teacher to change or for you to change schools or systems so that you could be engaged enough to learn what you needed to learn.

The system pays teachers to engage students. That seems pretty straightforward. Of course, you might have had 'mean' parents like mine. They might have insisted that being bored was up to you and navigating the system was mostly up to you and that you already had enough brains and experience to do what you needed to do to dance circles around the system and keep yourself occupied.

Thanks Mom! Thanks Dad!

Because I had the 'mean' hands-off kind of parents, I learned that boredom was a choice. Yes, the teacher was droning on, but that didn't mean I couldn't daydream. My mind might not be occupied in the way the teacher thought, but it could be occupied.  It took years of intentional practice before I got the hang of it.

Sometimes I still get bored. Not very often but it happens. Generally it happens when I want to rest or to let myself off the hook for doing something part of me wants to do and most of me thinks is unnecessary. Sometimes it happens when I am getting bogged down in an activity I could do more productively or when I am busy avoiding something I am scared to do. Being bored is not restful, but it is great incentive to get back to work.

The kids whose parents told them it was the teacher's fault that they were not engaged? They're bored a lot of the time now. As hard as we try to make bosses accountable for how bored we are, they are often busy holding their bosses accountable for their boredom. The truth is this: engagement is not just a state of being that happens. It's a skill set that we employ to make stuff happen.


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