The last few weeks, I’ve been on vacation. I got to play a lot of videogames; write a lot of code; read, and just enjoy life.
By the very end of it, I was feeling pretty profoundly bored. I had all these things to write, all these new games to play, but there I was, barely able to give a damn about anything I wanted to do.
In fact, all my life I’ve been told off for talking about being bored. “There’s so much to do!” I’ve been told. I could do anything at all!
Being bored is often a manifestation of my ADHD; that my outlook with the world is wrong. I should be able to do any of those things, solve my own boredom. All those games, all those stories. Everything, that I could do.
In short, I’m the failure for not being able to fix it.
Humans are walking chemical supercomputers; filled with systems related to the acquisition of rewards. Eating food makes us feel good. Seeking the intermittent rewards of gambling. Interacting socially.
Experiencing new things. Overtly or implicitly, we’re driven by these feedback loops, chains of behaviour reinforcement that end with us achieving goals. Food, reproduction. Love, satisfaction.
I had a slew of new things; books and ideas and games. Why was I bored? Shouldn’t that be enough to sate the reward cycle, give me the dopamine high and result in useful output?
Multiplicity of New
The additional fact was, I’d spent most of my vacation at home. Lazing on my couch, at my desk. Rarely going outside. As new as everything could be, it wasn’t new enough. The reward cycle had been exhausted, merely playing games and writing new ideas.
Different things, same place, without any magic, or interest.
Begin with asking Why
It took introspection to notice why I was really bored; to understand what part of me was unsatisfied.
Stopping the cycle of “Should” is the first step; stop telling yourself how you should feel. Emotional self-abuse is noisy, condemning. Hearing over it is difficult.
Once I stopped “should”, I could hear that place was dull, that the excitement of the new was overpowered by exhaustion of the old. The stimulus-response was wrong, the dopamine wasn’t flowing, and I was merely spinning.
Leave the house with my laptop? That same drive crashes back, driven by the passions in my soul. Ideas roar forth, dancing upon my screen.
That one difference opened reward pathways, and all could open; boredom fades and achievement grows, merely by challenging my own lazy narrative.
The same concepts apply at work. Why aren’t I focussed, on task? Why am I watching deadlines, but unable to move?
My reward pathways are blocked. By what? What am I not enjoying?
It starts with the same first step; ignore the social narratives about duty, diligence, work ethic. Figure out exactly why I’m having issues. Listen in the quiet spaces, beyond the endless rush of should.
And keep asking why. Maybe I’m bored? Maybe I need a walk? Maybe I need a vacation? Remind myself that emotional self-abuse won’t keep me motivated.
Am I eating right? Am I exercising enough? What are the factors that are affecting my boredom, right here, right now?
My neurochemistry wants to reward me. It wants to make me feel good. I know that. My body wants to reward me for doing the right thing.
So does yours.
Let it. Figure out how.